2011 – A year in games – Part 5

Continuing on from the previous post. Here’s the last of the games I played last year:

Rage

Even before I started playing, I had already seen the examples of the texture streaming problems on PC with early drivers and automatically expected them with the PS3 version of the game. The first thing you see is a huge vista once you enter the game world proper and I can understand the artistic value of wowing the player, but there’s always the conflict with the abilities of the streaming system to keep up. It’s impressive how detailed the environments are and at times I felt sorry for the artists that had to go through and texture everything – it’s like nothing is instanced!

I played the game through on hard which lead to needing to replay some sections of the game after very quick deaths due to sections that were supposed to represent surprises during high tension periods of the game, but those deaths just lead me to saving more often after any long period of survival. I also had to wander off to youtube for a video of killing one of the first large monsters since I was coming to the conclusion that either he was indestructible or I was in the wrong place too early.

The shooting part of the game is great fun when you’re not getting instakilled. The gun upgrades and more especially the wingsticks made it much simpler to fight groups but there was still a lot of hiding to recover energy and sniping with the more deadly bullet variants that you can buy. Most of the time you’re not overwhelmed with enemies but when you are it can get quite intense and it feels like there’s a slightly uncanny valley in the controls where they differ from your other FPSs.

The driving and racing sections seem like an odd thing to tack on since the only real requirement for the cars is the long drive between mission areas. I did actually enjoy the driving competion areas in the game – they allowed me to reminisce about the first time I played Motorstorm. However, it took a while for me to discover that the list of challenges actually scrolled since there was nothing that indicated it, well, until I got to the second major stage of the game and thought I couldn’t go back to the first part and started worrying about aim for the 100% driving event completion trophy. The addons that you earn for the car in the game itself also seem to be redundant, but that could be due to playing the specified stages with specific cars then gathering and spending points on car addons leading to long periods in between using your everyday car.

I’d say Rage is worth playing to keep your FPS badge on your FPS-player-card, but if you only have time to play one FPS from my list, make it Resistance 3.

Battlefield 3

For me, Battlefield 3 is definitely the best looking of the 2011 shooters. The underlying Frostbite engine tech allows for some beautiful results and I think it’s going to make a solid foundation for EA’s future titles. The actual plot of the game is delivered in such high quality cut scenes that I think you can actually recognize the actor that one of the characters is based on. I find it difficult to think of a time in the gameplay where the visual quality dropped – maybe some of the facial close-ups during the game were leading towards the uncanny valley, but there’s not much else to complain about from the eye department.

That said, I didn’t enjoy BF3 as much as the other shooters due to a difficulty that I’d rate as damn hard with a sprinkling of irony and evil. Playing on the harder setting, I found myself getting killed more frequently than I’d expect, especially on a highly orchestrated tank level where you have to run from point to point while under heavy fire. I’ve also discovered that behind a stone wall isn’t a sufficient place to hide since bullets can somehow sneak through. I’ve heard from a fan of the multiplayer that they’d seen similar unbelievable deaths there too, although apparently that issue has been patched out of more recent versions. Similar to Rage, there’s a few too many bits where the element of surprise ends up killing you. The other major aggravation was the difference in the controls between Modern Warfare which defined my muscle memory and BF3 itself – a few too many times that I crouched when I wanted to sprint or jumped when I should have crouched.

Some of the sections are pure FPS candy: door at either end, lots of mid height walls and pillars to hide behind and a great supply of bad guys to shoot with realistic feeling weapons. There’s even one of these bits with no lights except for torches – very hard but good fun. It’s definitely a game for the shooter aficionado to provide a fully rounded experience of the genre.

The Baconing

I’ve been a fan of all three of the games in the Deathspank series. Each one comes in for about £10 and takes a solid 10 hours to play. The whole series has featured well balanced RPG-lite gameplay, a lot of funny stories for each of the side quests, with lots of random sub-plots and comedy accents – as you can expect when Ron Gilbert (of Monkey Island fame) is involved. The whole series has been loosely based on a set of thongs that you’ve needed to find, find again and then burn. Knowing that there’s a sufficient amount of play in each one spread over lots of missions means that you can get a good run going and do quite a lot of the missions in an hour sitting with a strong feeling of ooh-just-one-more-mission.

The Baconing is something I now pick up from time to time as I try to complete the Very Hard version. The big problem is that death leads to a loss of cash and I died several times leaving me a bit skint to stock up on weapons. And I’m always hoping there’ll be a new version soon too!

Modern Warfare 3

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was the FPS I’d been waiting for all year. I’ve been a huge fan of the range of COD titles, maybe not so much World at War, but everything else since the first Modern Warfare. For me, my favourite part has always been the intense shooter gameplay. Although there’s not too much that’s new in MW3, more of the same is good enough for me, and it definitely brings the high standard of animation, gameplay and even the FPS defining controls and feel. I’m sure there was a plot, and I think it tied the trilogy of games together, but like Resistance 3, I really didn’t pay too much attention because I was too deep in actually playing it.

I’ve been a big fan of the multiplayer and MW3 brought the Elite analytics system allowing you to review where you died, how often you died there, and who shot you. I’m sure it tracks kills, but I moved on to the next game before I rediscovered the talents I had in the golden days of MW1.

For me, the defining difference between the two multiplatform heavyweights in Shooter Season 2011, was that in Battlefield 3, a building can fall down when it’s across the road at the end of the level, whereas in MW3, the building falls on you and then you fight through it! Similarly in BF3, cars explode, in MW3, cars explode as they fly past your head! Despite my lack of memory of the plot, all of the COD titles leave me with a nice warm feeling (except World at War) and I know MW3 is a title I want to go back and play through again.

Mass Effect 2

The Mass Effect series was something I’d heard a lot about, but I hadn’t tried the first before I managed to lay my hands on the second. I’d heard mixed reviews of the first, mostly revolving around the time spent in lifts in between stages.

If you don’t know it, the majority of the game is heavily based on hiding and shooting mechanics. It took me a while to get a handle on the 3rd person shooting controls which just aren’t as good as Just Cause 2’s controls. In fact I died a lot at the start just by being killed dogs that closed on me quicker than I could aim at them well enough to shoot. I hardly used the magic powers (bio-somethings) available in the game apart from the slow time one since it was good for shooting people more accurately. I let my companions get on with it and use their own bio-thingys instead.

The rest of playing the game is the plot progression. The game is cut scene heavy and you spend a lot of time in dialogue selection screens just trying to progress. Since your options can typically be positive, negative or neutral, you can select options that score you points that might affect something in future, or not. Despite the large number of cut scenes, the underlying plot of the game is that you start with a list of people to hunt down, you can find each one in turn, then do them a favour so they love you and then take all of your colleagues/pokemon to the endgame. Due to my completionist tendencies, I picked up most of the people listed and did their side missions to get them on side. I only failed one side mission and that unfortunately had a slightly negative result near the end of the game, though nothing as bad as a game over. I think discovering the skip dialogue button was a momentous occasion and massively helped with the rate at which I got through the game.

One other part of the game was mining planets for minerals – minerals which are used for building weapon and ship enhancements. You need to run a scanner over the surface of a planet and then a wibbly-wobbly graph tells you the concentration of each type of mineral at that location before you fire a probe down to pick them up. For full coverage to properly check a planet, you need to sweep smoothly across the surface. After a while I realized that the back and forth scanning pattern I was using was just me mowing the lawn on someone else’s planet, so I cut back on the time spent scanning.

Although Charles Bloom called ME2 a bad game combined with a bad movie, I just considered all the dialogue to be minimally interactive cutscenes and it was the hiding behind walls and shooting robots that I really grew to enjoy.  I’m still looking forward to trying ME3 despite whatever’s been said about the ending –  I’ve been trying to avoid those articles.

Dead Island

I think Dead Island was another game that was a pleasant surprise for me and definitely another of my top 3 for 2011. Although it was an add-on freebie with an FHM subscription and it was only a promo, (i.e. the manual needed to be found on the internet) I really loved playing this game, as highlighted when I got the 28 days of playing trophy without realizing that I’d been playing it that much.

I’ve never been a big fan of melee combat from a first person perspective ever since I first played Hexen. I’ve always thought it feels more like morris dancing (run in, hit, jog back) than actually giving someone a swift kicking. I think most of this comes mostly from not wanting to get hit in return combined with a lack of understanding of the reach of the character and the weapon. However, I found the zombies in Dead Island gave you enough cues to know when to run, or with a big enough stick, keep on hitting them before they hit you. Maybe a bit of dancing is required for the larger bad guys, but the limb targeting mechanism typically helps you out by allowing you to focus on knocking their arms off and then battering their heads.

The game has enough backstory and depth of plot to keep you interested and the interface to the todo list of quests is easy enough to use that you can see a clear progression in each play session. I’m really looking forward to a Game of the Year version that includes all of the DLC so that I can come back to this.

Fin

And that’s the lot (ignoring iPhone and PC games).

Thanks to http://www.yourgamercards.net for listing all of my trophies to help with this list.

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One response to “2011 – A year in games – Part 5

  1. Pingback: 2012 – A Year In Games – In Haiku form | dickyjim

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