Obscured View

A few chosen words on the world of video games

Archive for July, 2009

Killzone 2

I read this great review from a British reviewer regarding Transformers 2:

“…and nothing happens very loudly about a hundred times.”

This is exactly how I feel about Killzone 2.  I don’t think I’ve ever been more indifferent to a game than this one.  It’s got a really nice (although mostly brown) visual style, decently responsive controls, the always required dramatic and expensive intro movie… and the only thing I could think while playing it is…

meh.

It’s like they’re trying really, really hard to make this an involving game, and just missed the mark.  I really just didn’t care at all about the plight of the troop your character is in.  There’s the typical assortment of bad-ass marines, the retired marine that’s now a commander, a grumpy sergeant, a sci-branch woman who feeds you info… sound familiar?

I think the lack of intriguing mission setups hurts KZ2 a lot.  You’re just dropped into things with very little view into the big picture of the war.  It feels like I’m doing very mundane things rather than amazingly epic ones, but a lot of that is because of the lead-in cinematics, which just try way too hard to be cool and edgy.  I mean 90% of FPS games these days have missions like KZ2 has — escort the convoy, take out the AA gun, destroy the comm link, etc.  This game has all the right components, but it’s just so…

meh.

Now that said, the game does pick up the pace as it goes along.  Combats get more interesting, with more enemies, better combat environments, and more interesting new weapons to play with.  There’s also one really good moment involving a ship falling out of orbit.  It’s the only cut-scene of the game I didn’t at least once consider skipping outright.

But in a $60 game that’s supposed to offer a lot of value, it comes up short if you’re the co-op and single player type gamer.

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On Mac gaming

Over the years, my game playing habits have changed.  I prefer console and hand-held to computer, except when it comes to MMOs or RTS games, which still just work better on computers than anything else.  Every other kind of genre is debatable, IMO.

In my house, we’ve drifted away from Microsoft-based computers.  I have three PCs in the house, only one of which is currently plugged in and operating on a regular basis.  The other computers in the house are all some sort of Mac — an old iMac, a new iMac, and a MacBook.  Almost exclusively, the Macs are used on a daily basis.

When it comes to gaming on a Mac, you’re really kinda screwed.  Or at least, you were.  With the Intel macs at least you can bootcamp your Mac into a Microsoft based OS and run most games.  However, it’s not really ideal.  You want to be able to just run games on the Mac with native support.  Just because I use a mac doesn’t mean I don’t like playing games on it.  I give major Kudos to companies like Blizzard that continue to fully support the Mac.  At least I know (or I hope I know) that I’ll be able to play Diablo III and SC2 on my Mac in the upcoming year.  Or so.  Whenever they actually release.  Someday.

Eventually, I’ll think I know I’ll be able to play them.

Some other major publishers say they support the Mac as well.  They offer versions of their games on the Mac with the little Mac sticker and everything.  However, most of these games aren’t through native support, they’re through emulators.  Many of them use Wine or Cider to create a bubble of PC emulation goodness that encapsulates the game so that it kinda-runs as if it was really running on the Mac… but it’s not.  It’s emulating a PC running within your mac OS, but not as well as Bootcamping would.

Support via emulation is not really true support of that platform.  It’s more of a PR goodwill gesture towards the vocal minority that utilize the platform.  It’s a sticker for a box.  It’s maybe a bullet point.  The publisher can legitimately say “we support gaming on platform X”, but they leave out the * that would normally follow with a multi-paragraph fine-print disclaimer about how the support is via emulation, and that use of said emulated product can cause distress, crashes, mental confusion, intestinal complications, and death.

There’s always death in there, right?

To be honest,  I’d rather be snubbed outright by publishers.

Me: “Hey, do you have a mac version of <game XYZ>?”

Publisher: “Mac?!  You game on a mac?  <laugh>  Are you an idiot?  No, we don’t support the mac.”

That’s at least genuine.  I almost want a sticker on products that says “native mac version” rather than “runs on a mac” because I don’t really know what that means anymore.  It could be a half-truth, which is not what I’m interested in experiencing.

So really publishers, either truly support the Mac… or don’t.  I’m good either way, but when I decide to take the plunge and buy a game specifically for the Mac, I’d like to know it’s been fully tested and built for the native OS.

Too much to ask?  I’d like to hope not.

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Red Faction : Guerilla

I learned a few things playing through Red Faction : Guerilla.  Here they are:

  1. Driving on Mars sucks.  Maybe the designers thought they were being true to the spirit of colonizing a new planet when they designed the “roads” in Red Faction.  Maybe it was all a wry statement on the eventual doom of the EDF will have by your hands.  Hey, that can’t build a damn road, how can they control a planet?  In Mosquito Coast, Harrison Ford’s character believed that ice was civilization.  He built a giant refrigeration machine just to make ice in the jungle.  He should have brought a bulldozer instead.  Paved roads — now that’s civilization.
  2. All the vehicles that are on Mars will will be made by taking the worst and the dumbest from the cheapest auto manufacturer on Earth, moving them to China, giving them the Cherry car manufacturing plant, and then building really crappy transportation devices to quality Russian standards.  They can’t steer to save their lives, have horrible suspension, little weight, skid out on any pretense, and roll easily.  Again, the EDF is doomed to failure for not being able to make a decent car to drive around Mars with.  No wonder people on Mars are pissed off all the time and ready to revolt.  If my best option for transport is laughed at by a Yugo driver, I’d be pissed too.
  3. Mars has a breathable atmosphere without any explanation as to how or why.  There’s also no machine infrastructure in place to maintain it.  It’s just all good.  Who knew, right?
  4. Barbaric badlands raiders that everyone calls feral and fears all speak with a high British accent and are extremely technological.  Who knew, right?
  5. A jetpack shouldn’t legally be able to be called a jetpack in games unless you can fly with it.  It’s only a “jump enhancer” otherwise.  I’d hate to be the kid that asked his parents for the MarsCo EDF blaster troop jetpack, getting all excited about flying around and doing loops in the air, seeing the kids on the box and the ones in the commercial doing amazing things in the air… only to find at Christmas that you can now jump a few feet higher and then have to let it recharge for a while before doing it again.  I bet it takes like 23 D batteries too.
  6. Everything on Mars that is not martian made can be destroyed with a hammer.  That’s actually cool.
  7. Everyone on Mars has widely spaced eyes and massive chins.  Maybe that’s how they’re able to breathe on the planet?

What I also learned is that designers need to utilize their tools better.  If you give me a sniper rifle with the ability to see and shoot through buildings, make a mission around it please.  If the main character is a demolitionist, having a mission that involves blowing up something really massive kinda sounds… appropriate?  Is it just me?  Guns of Navarone, hello?

Also, placing safehouses in remote areas does make rational real-world sense, but simply serves to annoy the game player.  It’s not fun to drive in this game, yet I have to do it all the frigging time to get to any mission location.  If the jetpack had been a real jetpack — or better yet, you could capture and fly one of the EDF gunships — I would have a lot less complaints about the world layout.  As it is, the place is a maze, complete with invisible walls (bad!) and it’s not fun to navigate it when you’re trying to get to mission locations.

EDF engineer: “Ok guys, we’re done with this road, let’s move on to the next”

Civilian: “Uh, it’s like a goat trail… for retarded goats.  Couldn’t you… uh… you know… widen it a bit?”

EDF engineer: “Why?  You can easily fit up to 0.98 cars next to each other along this road. It’s clearly designated as two-way truck highway on the plan.”

Civilian: “There’s boulders all along it that capsize cars if they just so much as nudge them.”

EDF engineer: “Intentional speed bumps.  Keeps you yokels obeying the speed limit.”

Civilian: “And what about all the crazy hairpin turns?  You guys have more firepower than most nations.  Can’t you just blow down a few hills or someth–”

EDF engineer: “Look, I don’t tell you how to do your job–”

Civilian:  “Actually, you do.  You’re a dictatorship… a really lousy one at that.”

EDF engineer: “Oh yeah, that’s right.  We are.”

<shoots civilian>

Civilian: “Ow!  Screw this.  I’m revolting!”

<civilian gets in their Yugo wannabe and drives off>

Now there is a primal satisfaction in being able to smash everything and anything man-made to pieces with a big ol’ hammer.  I can’t deny that.  I also liked the balance of weapons and armor.  I felt powerful after a while but not unkillable.  I died if I was stupid (many times), and only a few times when I didn’t think I was.  I just wish there was more of a game built around the concepts and tools given to me instead of just a lot of little and mostly annoying side missions, a few very fun main missions, a handful of just OK ones, and a horribly unbalanced final one.  Any game that ends with a driving mission when driving isn’t the main focus of the entire game is not made of win.

And seriously, what’s up with those chins?!

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