Obscured View

A few chosen words on the world of video games

Archive for December, 2008

Saint's Row 2

There’s something nice about a game that doesn’t make any excuses for itself.  You just start playing it and you do whatever you want… as long as what you want is to do is more of the same things you did in the first Saint’s Row.

Sure, the cut-scenes are different, and you can change more about your character (why no import character from SR1?), but really, it’s the same game… in the same city, too.  I’m hard pressed to say immediately what’s changed.

You’d think the game would be a lot like the GTA games, but it really doesn’t feel like one.  It’s looser and more relaxed with itself.  Fratboy GTA, if you will.

This game was a purchase because it advertises co-op on the back of the box.  Like Resistance 2,  I thought it would mean something other than LIVE-only co-op.  Annoying.

Oh well, back to faking injuries for serious cash.


Was I supposed to read the manual?

My wife and I started playing Left 4 Dead co-op the other evening, and one thing hit me immediately about the game that I didn’t care for — a lack of game tutorial.

In some ways that’s fun.  I like the idea that the game starts right where the little cinematic ends — no explanation of anything why — just here you are, four survivors, tons of zombies… and GO!

So you jump in, and you’re on a roof, and… uh, wait, how do I switch weapons?  Use my flashlight?  (control flailing commences!)

This is not to say that there’s no tutorial stuff in the game.  There’s icons to guide you to nearby weapons and ammo, and hints to not do things that will set tons of zombies on you.  It’s nice that those are there, because some of them (like car alarms) you’d never even realize they were not just scenery until you got too close.  I just wish some of the basics would have been covered a bit more before I had to learn through experimentation while zombies are chewing on my head.

There’s another interesting aspect of the game that I guess was a conscious choice by the creators, and that’s the timing and immediacy of things that happen.  Perhaps I’m just too used to having a modicum of hand-holding and staging / reveal of things early on in games, but the first time a guy gets grabbed by a tongue zombie, there’s no build up, just suddenly someone is grabbed (from way far away) and you have to deal with it.  Same with all the other “special” zombie types.  I startled a witch?  So what?  Mind explaining why that’s a bad thing?  Oh, no? I guess not.  Ok, I’ll just dump bullets into it until it dies.

I equate this to having this fine bottle of wine, and instead of pouring a glass and enjoying it sip by sip, you just chug it.  Sure, you’ll still get the buzz and some of the taste, but it just feels like the wrong way to go about it.  Because there’s no value placed by the game on these unique threats, I don’t place any extra value on them either.  I just shoot more.

I’m wondering how much the game changes up through the different episodes.  I hope there’s more staged / setup rooms and more novel encounters, because right now it just feels like I’m going to get different looking areas with zombies in different amounts coming at me.

I went into L4D thinking it would somewhat map to what other games have done, and I wasn’t correct at all.  That’s not the game’s fault, but my own… and the marketing.  This isn’t a game about savoring any moment individually, it’s about surviving the chaos and getting through alive.

For someone that mainly plays solo / split screen co-op, I can’t say the game is worth $60 so far.  Best buy had it for $40 this weekend, which is why I picked it up.  It doesn’t feel nearly as value-worthy as Orange Box did in its breadth of features.

One lesson I’ll take to my projects: Make starting same-screen co-op less of a complete hoop jump.  Seriously, put the option on the main menu without me having to sign-in the other controller first… just to discover that you won’t use non-live enabled accounts (for same-screen co-op? wtf?!) for another player… requiring me to re-sign in with a “guest” account just to play.  If at anywhere in the game the PC roots of this shooter show, it’s in that kind of stuff.


Prince of Persia

I finished this game recently, and really, really wanted to love it.  I didn’t.  I liked it.

I think it’s certainly worth a play, but the ease of the game, compiled with the most interesting part of the game (combat) being only used in a smattering of locations, is disappointing.

The writing was very good, although I agree with the majority of reviews that the prince is more of a sounding board for the very wonderfully fleshed out Elika.  It’s funny, I went from playing PoP to looking at the new Uncharted 2 teaser, so there was some deja vu for a moment there — the same voice actor does both main characters.

My biggest complaint on the game is much the same as the main problem with Assassin’s Creed — you learned everything you can do in about 30 minutes, and although there were different looking areas to explore, the mechanics were never changed up as you progressed.

Is this the curse of creating games in which you can choose your own path through them?  Is this really better for players than a classic linear order in which the pressure goes up and up?

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