And also: Killzone 3, Torchlight (XBLA)

Welly welly well:  yesterday was extremely productive on the gaming front.  After I finished Dragon Age 2, I ended up also finishing Killzone 3, and then sunk some serious time into the XBLA version of Torchlight.

Killzone 3:  Firstly, let me say that I did not care for Killzone 2.  It might have been pretty, but that was all it had going for it, as far as I’m concerned.  The controls just felt weird, although I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not really all that used to the PS3’s controls when it comes to shooters.  But even so – it felt stiff and unresponsive.  The story was muddled and convoluted.  I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing, and eventually I just gave up.

(I might also add that the main reason why I bought Killzone 3 in the first place, since I’m not really a fan of the franchise, is because Amazon was offering a $20 credit towards future purchases, and there are going to be a lot of future game purchases this year, and every little bit helps, and there are too many commas in this sentence, and for that, I apologize.)

The good:  Killzone 3 is, if nothing else, absolutely jaw-droppingly gorgeous.  It felt, at times, like someone stuck a gritty shooter into a Final Fantasy cutscene.  It’s true that the game can be a bit too brown at times, but overall the environments are nicely varied and detailed and really just look phenomenal.  The controls are a lot easier to manage than in KZ2; everything feels quick and responsive and precise.  There’s a nice variety of things to do; I know some people are tired of turret sequences, but I still kinda like ’em, especially when they’re done well.  (See also:  Bulletstorm.)  Surprisingly good voice acting, even if the script is a bit ridiculous.  It would be fair to say that it can sometimes take itself a bit too seriously, but it’s never awful.

The bad:  The difficulty level is all over the place.  I played the game on the default difficulty and got my ass kicked left and right; or, alternately, I was killing dudes left and right with little to no fuss.  The enemies can, on occasion, soak up even more bullets than in the original Uncharted, which is ridiculous – how many times must I shoot a man in the head before he stops getting up?  Also – if the enemies and I are using the same guns, then it seems awfully unfair that I can’t hit anyone from more than 20 yards with an assault rifle and yet I can still be one-shot-killed from across the map by that same rifle.  I must say, this game got me as close as I’ve come to breaking a controller in about 25 years.

Torchlight:  I’ve played bits and pieces of the PC version off and on for the last year and a half; I don’t really game on the PC very much and so I haven’t really sunk my teeth into it.  But in any event, I’m familiar with the game, I knew what I was getting into, I wanted to support the developers, and I really want to play online co-op in the forthcoming sequel.   The XBLA port is surprisingly good; the controls are, for the most part, excellent.  The menus can be a little cluttered, but they’re still effective.  The only thing that seems a little off is the number of unidentified loot drops; I’d say that at least 80% of what drops requires an Identify scroll, and that seems a tad high.  This will be a fun time waster for the foreseeable future.

>shootin’ stuff

>The floodgates are starting to open; good games are starting to trickle forth.  Let’s pick up where I left off.

1.  I finished Stacking.  I’m not 100% finished with it – I still have a bunch of hi-jinks to do and a few special dolls to collect – and I hope that if the release calendar dries up a bit, I’ll find the time to go back and do those things.  It was wonderful and charming and unique and clever and everything I’d hope it would be.

2.  We had company at one point over the 3-day weekend, and so we got in some 4-player You Don’t Know Jack, which is really the way that game should be played.  The game can be played with the buzzer controllers from Scene It! (another fine trivia game), so if you’re short on regular controllers (or if your buzzers are collecting dust), break ’em out.

3.  I’m starting to get very excited for Dragon Age 2, so I decided to dive back into my PC’s version of Dragon Age: Origins, which I hadn’t picked up in months.  I’d tried to play the first game on the 360, but the game was ugly and the controls were weird – it was as if the game wanted you to believe it was an action RPG, but it wasn’t at all an action RPG – and gave up.  And then, of course, Steam had the PC version on sale, which I quickly bought… and then didn’t play, either.  Anyway, whatever; I finally finished the prologue and now I recognize where I am from my first playthrough.  The game definitely feels better on the PC, but it’s still not quite what I want.

4.  What I want, really, is much closer to what the Dragon Age 2 demo appears to portend.  I played it last night, and, lo and behold – it actually is an action RPG, where button presses correspond to real-time actions, and it looks great and plays great and borrows just enough from the Mass Effect 2 playbook to pretty much guarantee that I’m going to love the hell out of it, assuming I have time to play it.

5.  I ordered both Bulletstorm and Killzone 3 from Amazon, because I am an idiot and figured that the $20 credits I’d get for ordering them would come in handy for all the must-have titles I’m going to be ordering later, conveniently forgetting that these two games were still full price.  Which to play first?  Well, the 360 was already warmed up from the DA2 demo, so I figured I’d give Bulletstorm a go.  And it went pretty well, until the game locked up on me in the second chapter.  So then I switched over to Killzone, which is jaw-droppingly beautiful – it can seem like you’re playing a first person Final Fantasy game, with guns – and that was fun, although the PS3 controller can feel like an alien artifact when it comes to shooters, for me.  And so I got up to a certain point where I kept dying, and I decided to switch back to Bulletstorm.  And as it turned out, the game had locked up for me at the exact moment before the game starts becoming… the game, with the scoring system and the craziness.  And once I started I couldn’t look back.  It took a few minutes to get used to the controls again – KZ3 and the PS3 controller had messed me up – but all I can say is, Wowee Zowee.  Fun as hell.

6.  Finally, because I am an addict, I bought Bejeweled Blitz for XBLA this morning before I left for work.  I’ve been playing Bejeweled in some form for at least 10 years now, maybe longer, and I’m pretty good at it.  Let me rephrase that:  I’m fucking awesome at it.  I’m an average gamer in most things, but when it comes to Bejeweled I am a genius.  I generally score in the 200K-300K without boosts without really trying, I generally end a week’s tournament in the mid-500Ks, and my all-time high is in the 900Ks.  So, please consider my expert opinion when I advise you to KEEP your 800 points in your virtual wallet and DON’T BUY BEJEWELED BLITZ FOR XBLA.  It SUCKS.  The control scheme is totally fucked up and unintuitive and there’s no option to change it back to the original, vanilla scheme that was featured in Bejeweled 2.  I understand that playing Bejeweled with a gamepad isn’t as elegant as it is with a mouse, and I further understand that Blitz places a special emphasis on speed, and as such I can at least conceptually appreciate that they were trying to make the control scheme quicker.  But it doesn’t make any intuitive sense, and as someone who has played more games and sunk more time into Bejeweled than probably every other game combined, ever, I shouldn’t have to feel like a goddamned novice when I’m playing a game I’ve already played a thousand times.