It's Dai Time

Katie & Scott & Simon & Cecily.

Tag: action

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

When I borrowed this game from work on Friday, I didn’t expect to beat it this weekend. But beat it I have.

I was relatively excited to play through this, as I had enjoyed The Force Unleashed despite its shortcomings. And while the strengths of TFU are still evident in the sequel, I feel like the game has now overstayed its welcome.

I spent about 5 and a half hours completing the campaign and that was enough for me, thank you. I beat it on easy, although I started the game on medium. I switched to easy halfway through the first or second level and I’m glad I did, despite the hit to my ego. The difference between easy and medium seemed like a chasm – on easy, your health regenerates if you don’t take multiple sources of damage in quick succession. In medium, it doesn’t. I’m not sure if the game is designed to be an optimal experience on easy, but I can assure you that I would have probably would not have finished the game and would have been much more frustrated.

Regardless, there were two primary things I enjoyed about this game: the cutscenes that told an interesting if rather shallow story in the Star Wars universe, and the areas where I got to kill hundreds of stormtroopers without breaking a sweat. Everything else felt a bit like slogging through a Dagobah swamp.

Boss fights, which were already a bit tedious in the first game, either got worse or my tolerance of them lowered. Larger enemies became a boring 30-second montage of the same saber-throwing repeated ad naseaum. Even the final fight of the game felt like the same 4 minutes of gameplay repeated 9 or 10 times. And let’s not forget that I had jumped from identical platform to identical bridge to identical platform for the 15 minutes prior to that in order to get there!

I did beat the game. I did deem it enjoyable enough to devote over 5 hours to it. But in the end, the entire experience was all a bit boring. Who knew that a game where you play as a Jedi could actually be boring?

Red Dead Redemption

I’m always a bit skeptical when games score as highly as Red Dead Redemption did on Metacritic, especially because I was not a huge fan of the critically lauded Grand Theft Auto IV. To add to my doubt, RDR is by the exact same studio that brought the world GTA.

So maybe my expectations, despite the game getting nearly perfect ratings, were lowered. In some ways, the game was exactly what I imagined it to be. In others, it completely exceeded what I expected.

There’s something intangible about the game that I absolutely loved. A feeling that I got, riding my tamed black stallion across the beautiful Western landscape, finding treasure, fending off cougars, and eventually stopping in town to sleep for the night or buy some bait for hunting. It’s one of the few games where the sandbox is a lot of fun to play in (as opposed to feeling like an environment to simply be admired or – worse – a hindrance to the fun gameplay you really want to do). There was nothing I enjoyed more than just riding around the vast landscape, occasionally skinning a coyote. This is the part of the game that took me by surprise and made me want to come back and play it night after night.

The rest of the game is what I expected from Rockstar. The storytelling is uneven, the characters exaggerated and hard to sympathize with, and the missions along the main storyline begin to blur together. There are sometimes lengthy bits of exposition that reveal no new insights into character and the main player character, John Marsten, chastises others for things that I did just a few minutes later. What’s more, most of the story is focused on John doing the vicious dirty work for less-than-savory characters in exchange for little or no information. And then, at the beginning of the next mission, John will complain about how he’s not really getting anything out of the deal!

These next two paragraphs are where I spoil the ending to this game in order to talk about how it is a brilliant piece of storytelling. There is a point near the end of the game, after Dutch dies, when I expected the game to end. It was the culmination of everything I had done so far in the game and most games would have ended the game with me returning to my ranch and reuniting with my family. But RDR doesn’t do that. Instead, the next few missions are a careful and beautiful means of pulling the player into the end of the game in an emotional way that hasn’t been matched by many games I’ve played.

The rancher missions are such a departure and so satisfying in an odd way. I felt like I had earned them, like after all the senseless killing and scheming and deception, I had earned the right to simply buy some cattle or teach my son to hunt or scare those damn crows from the corn silo. It felt like coming home. And yet, at the same time, it felt unnerving. There was no doubt that I was waiting for the other shoe to drop and when it did, it is both completely gut-wrenching and totally inevitable. The final Stranger mission is a nice denouement and, if I could condense the rest of the game to about 1/20th of its size, the game tells a really nice story.

Unfortunately, story-wise, I was forced to play through the rest of the game to get to the ending. Fortunately, I had fun doing it. When the credits rolled, the stats told me that I had played the game for a little over 2 days and 1 hour, and I wouldn’t say that I regretted a single minute of it.

Dante’s Inferno

Not a very long game, I finished Danteís Inferno late last night after about 10 hours of gameplay.  I unlocked a few bonus features, as well as the ability to play through the game again with all of my powers, although I donít know if thatíd be enough for me to rent it again.

Iíll say this: I had fun.  There were parts that made me a bit squeamish and there was definitely what Iíd deem excessive amounts of nudity and gore, but the actual button-mashing combo-unlocking gameplay was exciting.

Spoilers after the break.

Thatís not to say there werenít things I found annoying.  There were certain enemies that, without buying a particular combo, are frustrating to kill simply due to the amount of time it takes to wear them down.  There are certain jumping puzzles that, with the fixed camera, simply arenít fun; dying while trying to judge camera distance is never fun.  Lastly, the first half of the final fight with Lucifer had me spamming my ranged attack and using my healing spell for five minutes with little variation.  Was I doing something wrong, or was it really meant to be that boring?

Either way, it was a fun game to play through and the game works best when Iím feeling super powerful.  Other times, when I fail to make a jump because of collision I didnít know was there, the game feels stupid.

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