Resistance 3, Ico, Rage

I just want to see this written down in one place.

October 4:  Rage.  (Dark Souls.)

October 11:  Forza 4.

October 18:  Batman: Arkham City.

October 25: Battlefield 3.

November 1:  Uncharted 3.

November 8-11:  Skyrim, Modern Warfare 3.  (MGS HD collection.)

November 15:  Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Saints Row the Third.  (Need for Speed: The Run, Halo Anniversary.)

Fuck.  Me.  Depending on your personal tastes, that’s at least 7 potential GOTY contenders coming out in the next 2 months.  I know that I’m never going to play Dark Souls, and I kinda don’t really give a shit about Modern Warfare 3, and my enjoyment of Battlefield 3 will be directly proportional to the number of close friends on my friends list who are also playing it with me, but still.  Fucking hell.

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This post is long overdue; since my last post I’ve finished Resistance 3  and Ico, played an hour or so of Shadow of the Colossus, and spent about 10 hours with Rage.  Plus a whole bunch of iPhone stuff.

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It’s been exactly 1 week since I finished the campaign and I’m already starting to forget what Resistance 3 was like.  Part of that is because, well, I’ve been super-busy and I’ve been playing a lot of stuff, and there’s only so much that the ol’ brain can hold at one time – but I suppose it’s also because the main thing that went through my mind throughout the entirety of R3’s campaign was that it was basically Half-Life 2 without the gravity gun.  Not just because there’s one level which is straight-up Ravenholm, by the way.  And I suppose, in a strange sort of way, it’s a sort of compliment – if you’re going to steal, steal from the best, and there really aren’t that many HL2 clones out there.  And to its credit, while R3 doesn’t have a gravity gun, it does feature one of the best weapon arsenals I’ve ever played with.   Every weapon is unique and powerful and levels up with repeated use, which is a fantastic incentive to not just stick with one thing (I’m looking at you, Gears 3 Lancer).

Resistance 3 also looks terrific; I’d have to see R3 and Killzone 3 side-by-side to do a proper face-off, but my gut says that R3 has a staggeringly good lighting engine, whereas Killzone 3 felt a bit crisper – I think I’d said at the time that K3 looked like a playable Final Fantasy cutscene.  You know, now that I’m looking at that K3 post, I can definitely say that R3’s campaign was infinitely less frustrating than K3’s was.  R3’s campaign is well-paced, well-designed, never overtly frustrating or unfair.  I suppose there were a few times where I felt like I never had enough ammo, but considering that I seem to feel that way in a lot of games these days (especially Gears 3 and Rage), maybe that’s more reflective of me being a wildly inaccurate shooter in general.

Certainly worth a rental, although if the release calendar above is any indication, I suspect everyone’s going to have their hands full over the next few months.

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Ico probably deserves a post of its own.  If I had the time, I’d give it.  As it stands, though, it’s just gonna get sandwiched here in this mega-post and I’ll have to come back to it when I finish Shadow of the Colossus.

I finished it in a little over 5 hours – which I think is an appropriate length.  It’s a little strange for me to have been looking forward to playing it for 10 years and then end up finishing it in 2 sittings, but, well, I didn’t own a PS2, so what are you gonna do.

It’s an astonishing experience.  That’s a strong word for a game that feels more like a poem or a dream, but that’s really the only word that seems to apply.  The gameplay holds up – there’s nothing about this game that feels dated or outmoded except maybe the stationary camera (which, to its credit, never gets in the way) and the combat (only because it eventually can feel like an annoyance, like in the first Prince of Persia game, although I have more to say about that later).  It is so delicately atmospheric and textured and just warm and it inspires any number of feelings that most games never even think to touch on.  It’s been said for years that the way Ico runs with Yorda is the sort of thing that melts your heart – Ico is hard-charging, Yorda is taller but more delicate, and so you feel the push and pull in the controller’s feedback – but even the save mechanic is moving and evocative – the way Ico just collapses into the couch, and then Yorda sits next to him, hands almost touching.

The part that really gave me chills, though, was right towards the end.  SPOILERS BELOW.  It’s hard to talk about spoiler warnings for a 10-year-old game, but then again, this package was intended specifically for people like me who’d never played either Ico or Shadow, so if you’re like me, consider this your warning.

***HERE BE SPOILERS***

All throughout the game, Ico is protecting Yorda from these shadow creatures.  Who they are and what they want with Yorda is a mystery, but then, everything in the game is a mystery; you go with it.  Anyway, at the end of the game, Ico returns to re-rescue Yorda, and he finds himself in the very room where the game started – a room filled with these large hollow stones, stones which would appear to be similar to the one that Ico was imprisoned in at the beginning of the game (and then subsequently escaped from).

Anyway, so he gets back to the room, and then he fights a seemingly endless supply of shadow creatures.  It took me a little while to notice that with each creature I killed, one of the stones would light up.  And then I noticed that each of the creatures I was killing had horn-like features around their heads – very much like Ico himself.  AND THEN I STARTED GETTING CHILLS ALL OVER MY BODY, because it occurred to me that these shadow creatures were probably the ghosts of the other horned exiles who’d been imprisoned in this castle, and THEN I realized that it isn’t that the creatures were trying to kill Yorda before – it’s that they were in love with her, too, and wanted to bring her back to her world.

***HERE END SPOILERS***

I could be wrong about this theory, of course.  The game is intentionally vague about a great many things.  But I love that it let me come up with that idea, even if it’s wrong, because it changed the entire context about what I’d been doing.

Anyway.  I’ll have more to say about this when I get around to finishing Shadow.

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As for Rage.  I’m about 10 hours in; I’m a few missions into the 2nd disc.  I’m enjoying it.  Firstly, the hyperbole surrounding the graphics cannot be overstated; it looks phenomenal.  It looks next-gen, frankly.  Yeah, the textures get a little blurry if you stand up close, but when the game’s in motion and you’re running around (or driving around, as the case may be), it looks stunning.  It feels like a more-linear Borderlands, and not just because of the similarities in setting.  The shooting is great, although as noted above I’m apparently a terrible shot, and I find myself running out of ammunition even if I’m well-stocked going into a mission.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the game, for me, is how downright pleasant and happy a lot of the game’s NPCs seem to be.  Granted, I just got to the 2nd city, which seems to be a bit darker and the boss-man is kind of a jerk, but even so – everyone’s real eager to help and explain what’s going on, and they’re all unusually supportive and friendly, and I guess that just seems odd.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I guess I figured people would be a little edgier and suspicious?  Not that past id games have featured much in the way of NPCs before.

Anyway.  I’m hoping to wrap that up this week.  My rental copy of Forza 4 should be arriving soon, although I may just end up sending it back; the reviews all seem to say that it’s the best one in the franchise, but perhaps a little too similar to Forza 3, which I must admit I’m a little burned out on.  Next week is Batman and from there on out it’s non-stop madness.

the Gears 3 campaign

Again, sorry with the lack of posts of late.  As the release calendar is finally showing signs of life again, I expect to be back here on a much more regular basis.

I’m not in any position to review Gears of War 3, as I haven’t touched any of the co-op or multiplayer features, of which there are seemingly dozens.  I’m not a multiplayer guy, and I suspect by this point – it’s been over a week since the game’s release – I wouldn’t last more than 30 seconds in any sort of competitive match.  I do intend to play some of the co-op stuff, though, someday.

I did finish the campaign, though, and so while that’s only maybe 1/3 of what’s on the disc, it’s the 1/3 that I knew I was going to play, no matter what.  And I’m of two minds about the experience.

On the one hand, it’s the tightest, most polished, and most evenly paced Gears experience yet.  I’d be hard-pressed to find an Unreal Engine game that looks better, too – Bulletstorm‘s color palette clearly influenced Gears 3, which is much appreciated, as the world is now no longer (only) brown and grey.   Most importantly, the combat is as satisfying as it’s ever been.

On the other hand, sweet Jesus, I am sick and tired of elevators that require 3 power sources to be turned on before they work.  The sound of Marcus Fenix whining “Revive me!” like a petulant toddler having a temper tantrum was only made worse by my companion AI who would often walk right past me without, in fact, reviving me.  I started the game with a Lancer, and I finished the game with a Lancer, and while I used a bunch of other weapons throughout the campaign, I never accessed anything truly new and exciting to use – and those giant catapult monster things, while new for the series, are not exactly “new”.  And while the game’s ending was refreshingly devoid of any stupid cliffhangers, it’s not as if the narrative really mattered.  These characters were not all that likable, and the world that I saved was pretty much on the verge of total collapse anyway; if there are any civilians left, their homes were most likely destroyed and they probably don’t have any jobs to go to and it didn’t look like there was any clean food or water around.  So, hooray.

Also, Cole Train’s bizarre hallucination in the football stadium?  What.  The.  Fuck.

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I’m still slowly plugging away in Resistance 3, but I suspect that a lot of my focus over the next few days will be on the Ico & Shadow of the Colossus collection, which just arrived via Gamefly.   I was one of the few Americans who didn’t own a PS2, and not being able to play those 2 specific games was my biggest regret of that console generation.  (I’d also include the God of War games and maybe Final Fantasy 10 in that category, which is why I gobbled up the GoW reissue and why I’m hoping that the rumors of an HD remake of FF10 are, in fact, true.)  Last night I played about 10 minutes of Ico, which is obviously nowhere near enough to garner any legitimate impressions, but I was quite taken with the little bit I’d seen.   So that’ll be nice.  Of course, Rage arrives next week, too, and my PC copy of The Witcher 2 apparently received a gigantic update today that is supposed to make it a lot easier to get into, so…

weekend recap: poor impulse control

I started playing a lot of games this weekend, and that’s not counting all the stupid shit I bought on Steam.  And the sad part is – I don’t know that I’m ever going to finish any of them, not with Gears 3 arriving tomorrow.

Anyway.  The bulk of the weekend was spent with my rental copy of Resistance 3.  I’d not been a fan of the first 2 games – indeed, I only played about 5 minutes of R2 before boredom set in – but the reviews of R3 were positively glowing, and so I figured why not.

I’m enjoying it, for the most part.  It generally looks really nice – not as jaw-dropping as Killzone 3 but it’s got great lighting and terrific art design.  People move nicely, although their faces (outside of cutscenes) are a little weird.  The weapons are probably my favorite part of the game – every gun is immensely satisfying to use, and I certainly enjoy leveling them up as I progress.  Hell, I like that I keep leveling up even if I die repeatedly (which has happened in a few sections, unfortunately – so much so that I ended up moving the difficult down to Easy just so that I could finish it quickly).  The biggest drawback, though, is the friendly AI, which is either stupid, non-helpful, or just plain broken.  They don’t hit anything, and indeed sometimes they don’t even fire their weapons, even as enemies pour into view.  What makes this even more frustrating is that the enemies seem to know this, also, which is why they only seem to target me.

I’m apparently at the end of Chapter 10 (of 20), so there you go.  As noted above, I’m definitely not going to have a chance to finish it before Gears 3 arrives, and frankly I’m not entirely sure I’m ever going to finish it.  But I’ll hold on to it in the meantime; maybe it’ll be something nice to switch back to if Gears 3 gets frustrating.

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I also spent an hour or two with Dead Island, which I’m playing on my PC.  I’d been hemming and hawing about renting it for a while, and after listening to a bunch of podcasts I decided to forgo the console versions and just give it a download on Steam.  I’ve heard it compared to both Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising, but to be honest the game it most reminds me of is Fallout 3 – specifically in terms of the size of the world, the combat, and the questing.  I think this is a good thing.  It’s a bit clunky in spots, and the writing/voice acting is a bit off, but it also feels wildly ambitious and I feel compelled to give it a good effort.

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I’m still plugging away in Driver: San Fransisco, which I apparently haven’t written about here.  I like it!  It’s a bit frustrating here and there, but I love how completely batshit insane it is, and I especially love how the developers really took this lunatic premise and went all-out with it.  And I also appreciate just how much stuff there is to do, which goes a long way towards easing frustration with story missions or races or what-have-you.

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As for Steam sales… god.  I’m such a whore.  Picked up Darksiders and Mirror’s Edge for 5 bucks apiece – both games I’ve already played before on the 360 – and then I did the Star Wars mega-pack, mostly because we also bought the Star Wars blu-ray set and so we had it on the brain.  (Which I’m sure wasn’t merely a happy coincidence on Valve’s part.)  I did the first 5 minutes of KOTOR and turned it off immediately – it felt very clunky with a mouse and keyboard, and I didn’t want my memories of that game sullied by reality.  Also – the Star Wars: Force Unleashed install was something like 24 gigs?  WTF?

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I keep meaning to do another Subway Gamer piece, and I keep not having time.  So here’s a quick taste of what’s been keeping my iPhone busy of late:

Jetpack Joyride might be my frontrunner for most addicting game of the year.

Quarrel is a fantastic word game – anagrams mixed with Risk.  If it had online multiplayer I’d never turn it off.

Monsters Ate My Condo is… I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s a pretty insane little puzzler, good for quick 5 minute bursts.

Dragon Portals is something I downloaded for free the other day; it’s an intriguing take on the old match-3 formula.  Not sure I’d recommend it at full price, but for a free download it’s certainly worth checking out.