It's Dai Time

Katie & Scott & Simon & Cecily.

Tag: ps3 (page 1 of 2)

Army of Two: The 40th Day

If you like fist-bumps, a ravaged Shanghai, and hints of beastiality, do I have a game for you. Hunter and I started playing AoT:tFD when it first came out (January of 2010) and finally beat it. It’s a fictionally preposterous game and a relatively standard shooter with cover mechanics otherwise. The things that make it stand out – the moral choices, the gun customization, the mask customization – are more satisfying the more emotional investment you put into them.

The moral choices are kind of absurd. They’re so often a clear choice between moral and immoral, yet the outcome vignettes seem specifically to twist your choice into something different that, as a player, you feel a bit insulted. They’re interesting attempts at storytelling, but the fact that they don’t affect anything other than the vignette directly afterward weakens them to these one-off moments that almost are there to trick the player into feeling bad about their choice. One choice we made, though, concerning a really cool kid with a helmet, will always stick with me.

The gun customization is fun, but surfaces a problem we ran into often. It’s very hard to know whether we should keep upgrading our current gun or to buy a new one. The base stats of the new gun may be worse, but it’s hard to tell what upgrades may be available for it without buying it. Also, there are several parts that seem to have in-game effects that aren’t mentioned in the actual upgrade menu. Lastly, the fact that there are only auto-save checkpoints mean that customizing your gun (which can take a while) and then dying means you lose all the customization work you just did.

That said, walking around with a gold-plated shotgun with a bayonet attached to the end and a silencer (what?) is pretty pimp. So, there’s that.

Mask customization is by far the most satisfying thing that I experienced in the game. Being able to create a mask on the game’s website using a mouse and shapes meant that we were able to take Salem and Rios through the game wearing Buddy and TOBOR masks (from the MySims franchise, don’t you know?), making our sarcastic buddy romp through a devastated Shanghai go from simply weird to a Kafka-esque level of absurdity. Making the masks took a few hours to get the details right, but it was more than worth it. Going through the game with the default masks would have made it half as fun.

It’s a wacky game. The overall plot was unintelligible to us, the dialog was funny but hard to hear over the loud and constant gunfire, and certain sections of stages seemed to have an infinite number of enemies. But we got to blow up Shanghai and play rock-paper-scissors whenever we wanted. So. You know. That’s that.

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?

Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

I actually finished this game the same day I finished Puzzle Agent, but didn’t feel like writing two summaries in one day so I put it off for a long time. I’m backdating this entry so it falls on the correct day I beat the game, but having waited a good three months, I’ve forgotten most of my impressions right after finishing the game.

In general, I remember never being disappointed in the game. It was a Ratchet and Clank game that did what I expected: relatively unpunishing but solid shooter mechanics, lots of weapon upgrades for a large arsenal that ranged from practical to silly, and a moderately humorous storyline. Having been a fan of the R&C series for a while, there was nothing in this game that turned me off the series.

The only complaint I might lay against it is that for a game that seems to not subscribe to lengthening the game by making it more difficult, the difficulty of certain portions of the game are uneven. I remember a few boss fights and on-rails jumping puzzles being unusually hard. Even so, it never felt like the game was being mean.

Like other R&C games, I still suffer from falling/drowning deaths every once in a while when the game doesn’t adequately show depth/collision on the edge of a platform, but because death is usually quite innocuous, it was never a huge deal.

So there you have it. It was a fun game and I’m glad I beat it. I almost immediately started Crack in Time, the next R&C game, so it certainly kept my appetite for the series both fed and hungry for more.

Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain is an interesting game. I almost hesitate to call it a game, but that’s me being a little bit snarky and not giving it its due. It is a game. And there are points where it is really gripping and emotional and – dare I say it? – fun. But then there are points where the game becomes tedious and dull and somewhat inexplicable.

The game bounces between three types of scenes: intriguing choices (the most fun), quick-time-event boss battles (fun at first, but get kind of old), and mundane “normal” tasks (which get old really fast). In terms of story (what I would consider both the game’s greatest strength and its biggest weakness), I found that the first 75% of it was entertaining and interesting.

But then. But then the game reveals its big secret, and it…is disappointing. All of the gameplay and story leading up to this point has been split between four characters investigating and tracking a serial killer. All of a sudden, with the reveal of who the killer is, the motivations and gameplay that I had done with one of the characters was thrown into complete chaos. There are choices I had made that now made no sense with my newfound knowledge. Whereas a twist in a movie is set up and supported by all the writing before and after it, the fact that the game allowed me to do things that I felt like would have been completely out of character simply due to a lack of knowledge made me feel kind of cheated. What’s more, the scene in the clock shop seemed like an outright lie.

In terms of the individual chapters, I found the choices that were presented were seldom actually meaningful. I would be interested in playing through Heavy Rain again not so much from a player’s perspective but more from a designer’s perspective. I’m interested in how many of the choices I made during the game were essentially fake choices; things that may have affected a line of dialog or a short cutscene, but not had any lasting effect.

The interest is also in a sense of testing the game’s edge cases. What happens if I let any or all of the four main characters die? Can they die before they are scripted to? Does shooting the drug dealer change anything? Does not kissing Madison change anything? Does the fact that Madison can call either Ethan or Jayden mean that I can essentially fail at playing one of the three investigative paths and still save Shaun? Does any of this gameplay affect anything meaningfully other than the end cutscenes?

Personally, I found Ethan’s storyline the most interesting (it’s supposed to be, right?), but I also really took to Norman Jayden as well. I really liked his ARI investigation scenes, but there were only two of them. I wished they had given me more of that. While I liked the archetypes presented in the characters and from scene-to-scene enjoyed the way the game was able to get me to feel a large range of emotions – lighthearted joy, suspenseful fear, nervous anticipation – I found the overall story arc left me with questions and seemed to be a bit messy.

Maybe it had to be in order to make it interactive or there were just lines or scenes that I misunderstood or missed, but here are some things I was confused about after the game ended: why would Ethan blackout and end up far away with an origami figure in his hand? What was the relationship between Madison and Norman? Why would Scott even think about helping Kramer when he’s having a heart attack when he has no problem burning Madison alive later? Why does everyone mispronounce origami?

A few UI hitches: the moving, rotating icons are cool-looking but a functional disaster. It makes it hard to see what choice is attached to what icon (especially given how similar Circle and Square can look) and – in some cases – even can cut the choices off off-camera. This would be OK if I had forever to make choices, but the game forces your choices after a set amount of time in some instances. And let’s touch on camera angles for a second; it is never a good idea to suddenly switch camera angles a complete 180 degrees when I am walking relative to the camera. It means that hitting left now walks me in the completely opposite direction, which is very frustrating.

So, in the end, I don’t know what to make of Heavy Rain. It was an enjoyable ride, but that’s what it mainly felt like: a ride. It felt like a long movie where I was forced to hit play every five seconds to continue watching. And while the movie was entertaining enough, hitting play that many times is bound to get tedious at some point.

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