Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Uncharted 3 Review

Pros:
+++ Great Characters
+++ Outstanding environmental variety
++ Co-op multiplayer is much improved
++ Moderately difficult
++ Djinn/Tripping/Rub’al’Khalil sequences
+ Competitive multiplayer is slightly improved
+ Best looking console game, period
+ Improved melee system in single player
Cons:
-- Middle act is completely irrelevant to the storyline
-- 4 hours shorter than Uncharted 2
- End “boss” kind of sucks
- Most of the best sections are only 5 minutes long

Amid Sequel frenzy 2011 Uncharted 3 was perhaps the game most deserving to be made. Uncharted 2 remains a wonderful linear game and is pretty long relative to most others. 12 hours of Nolan North and humorous clich├ęs alongside very entertaining combat sequences. Uncharted 3 isn’t really all that far off from 2 either. Personally I don’t think similarity to another good game is a bad thing, and Uncharted 3 does do enough to diverge from the previous game.

However, Uncharted 3 is about 4 hours shorter than 2 and it’s the content gap that hurts it the most. Maybe somehow they could have come up with some reason for the pirate section to exist with another few hours of gameplay. Or they could have extended the plane sequence so it wasn’t just a really cool minute or two. Sure it doesn’t make that much logistical sense, but if you can outrun trucks with horses and transfer truck to truck why not give Drake a grappling hook to transfer between planes. Think about it.

Unlike Uncharted 2 this game can actually be fairly challenging at spots, which is always nice. Additionally the “Crushing” Co-op modes are often insanely hard if you really want to play a hard version of a typically easy game. The enemy AI is much improved. They move less predictably and the heavy machine gunners in particular are much more agile than they were in Uncharted 2. Simply being able to move about the environment freely adds a tremendous amount of replay to multiplayer and co-op in this game.

Almost every 3rd game is worst than the 2nd in the sequel trend so for this game to be just a bit worse is fine by me. It’s one of the few games I’ve actually purchased at full price near release, and I didn’t feel gipped in the slightest. I look forward to whatever Naughty Dog decides to do next, as long as it’s not a 2.5 D Platformer. Nolan North may be overused but I still love that bastard.

Final Score: 9/10

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Vanquish



Pros:
+++ Extremely smooth and intuitive gameplay
++ Wide variety of ways to dispatch your opponents
++ Wide variety of opponents to dispatch
++ Superb last boss fight
+ Designed to be speed-run and thus very replayable
+ Extremely Difficult
+ Excellent Graphics
+ References Starship Troopers Numerous Times
+ “Low Gravity” sections are fantastic
Cons:
-- Extremely Short
- Environmental variety could be better
- Scarce handful of game modes/difficulties

Vanquish has, as previously said, possibly the best gameplay for a single player shooter ever produced. So then, why did it sell so poorly? One could obviously point out bad marketing or what have you, but really the appeal for a short, hard, replayable shooter is limited. That is, if there is no multiplayer component. Due to the nature of Vanquish’s combat I can’t critique that lacking as if you are any good at the game you can be largely invincible to any mortal’s shooting ability. Things move so fast in Vanquish it is very hard to hit them without the handy bullet time mechanic.

At the same time, managing how much of that you have left is integral to playing well at harder difficulties and especially the challenges, overheating can be and often is a death sentence in various areas throughout the game. It is this selfsame mechanic that can pose a challenge to new players that actually makes the game remarkably fair. A lot of shooters have a good deal of randomness, whether due to overcomplicated scripting or chancey AI behavior, but in Vanquish if you die it’s most likely your fault. There are quite a few one hit kills in the game but every one of them is foreseeable, even the first time you notice that giant “fricking laser” headed towards you.

Unlike Bayonetta, Platinum’s other stellar genre piece, there aren’t really any super bullshit QTEs in this game either. Those that are present are easily doable on the first try and most of the time if you fail them you only get penalized as opposed to dying horribly. If there were a clear ingame ranking system then your success would not oft be ruined by cheap deaths. As a result this game is fun to play over and over, despite the short running time.

Vanquish is a bit tricky to time appropriately, first clear could range from 4.5-7 hours and later clears could be as short as 45 minutes. Such is the nature of a game built with speedrunning in mind. The challenges could take you anywhere from ten to several dozen hours, if the internet is any judge, though I suppose I was one of the “lucky” ones in that regard. The main reason why the length is a bit of a downer is thinking about what the game could have done with 5 more hours. Instead of being a masterpiece it’s simply an excellent shooter that could possibly have a promising future, despite atrocious sales the first go-around.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Challenge Musings

Challenges are basically wave based survival modes, but instead of nearly infinite waves there’s just 5 and they’re often absurd relative to whatever you’ve faced in the actual game. Challenge 6 is the height of this insanity and naturally the one most sane people simply aren’t capable of doing. Personally I had a lot of trouble with the very first challenge (I did the first 5 blind) since I just wasn’t used to fighting the “Bogey” boss with any other intrusions and very little support. I did adapt, and beat challenges 2, 3, and 5 on the first or second try.

Challenge 4 is the first weirdly difficult challenge. I thought it was somewhat luck based at the time; however after clearing it and 6 I’ve come to understand that there were other methods I could have used to limit luck’s role. Still it only took 2 tries of getting to the final wave, though I did have to plan out a method for beating it and maybe got a little bit lucky myself on only spending an hour and a half there.

And on to 6, that enormous pain in the ass that’s just so satisfying. I do not consider myself a masochist but I suppose if I had taken more than 5 or so hours on it I would have trouble denying that. Challenge 6 consists of no less than 3 bosses, 7 minibosses, and several dozen regular enemies any one of which can kill you in at most a couple of hits. It takes at least roughly 20 minutes to clear safely the first time and every time you fail you have to start all the way from the beginning. By the end of this journey you’ve memorized every enemy’s spawn location and initial behavior and are confident that you might be able to beat God Hard only dying say, 400 times.

Much better Challenge 6 Video: Can’t criticize this one much, I suppose if I played exactly the way he did I could cut my time down to 7-8 mins, but damn that would take forever.

Prior to starting Challenge 6 I read this thread, didn’t watch any vids or anything. Oddly, I think the videos would have made me worse aside from introducing the idea of using the LFE gun as much as possible, perhaps little scraps of information are more useful than everything all at once.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Brass


You don't reason with intellectuals. You shoot them. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

I recently got the platinum trophy in Vanquish and was thus inspired to write another plan post. While timewise it only took about 25 hours a decent portion of it was fairly grueling thanks to Tactical Challenges. The "tactical challenger" achievement/trophy has a .45% completion rate on giant bomb, keeping in mind the only people there are those that care about that sort of thing. Additionally we have this thread for comparison. So, it's safe to say that only a few hundred players out of the ~350k copies sold of the game have done it. I will say I didn't just go in blind on the last challenge and had a general idea of what to do, but the skill required for execution is amongst the highest for anything I've ever personally done.

Additionally the luck component is fairly low, maybe 15-20% It's one of the few things where I might not have the reflexes in a few years to do it. The exceptionally stingy fellows at ps3 trophies rated it at 8.8 and 9.5. For reference Dark Souls has a 7.5, Demon's Souls 8, Resident Evil 5 5.5 (I had a lot of trouble with this one personally, El Gigante on Professional is a pain in the ass), and Bayonetta 6.5 (all of the semi-challenging platinums I have). The only games I've found that are equivalent to 9.5 or higher are Star Ocean 4, Wipeout HD, and Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. I don't care too much about achievements or the infinitely dumb accumulation of points, but exceptionally hard but fair trophies are always something I go after.

More references: RE5 Demon's Souls Bayonetta NGS2 S04 Note: I suppose Star Ocean 4 is still the big fish since Ninja Gaiden is done in pairs, though if you scale for sales they're all roughly in the same ballpark.

Vanquish


Surprise Surprise, first game on the list is the latest played and the freshest in my mind. Japan has this mystical ability to produce the absolute best gameplay for almost any genre, even if it's outside their norm. Dark Souls is easily the best action RPG gameplay, Vanquish is easily the best shooter gameplay (other flaws aside), and Bayonetta is easily the best character-action gameplay. Yet predominantly Japanese games are stale and archaic, though that's not to recuse Western developers and their propensity for making the same game over and over. Speaking of which...

Uncharted 3


Oh my old friend Uncharted, still lots of fun but definitely a retread of the previous game. Still by far the best shooter single player experience of the year and leaps and bounds ahead of CoD, Battlefield, etc. I may beat the game on crushing prior to this review, but mayhap not.

Uncharted 2


A stunning reveal! Widely acclaimed as the best linear-action game of all time, "25 perfect review scores" and all that jazz. I love it myself, though in retrospect it is pretty easy. The train level remains one of the best experiences to have in gaming. Actually the first "wow" game I played on my PS3 since I was alternating old games and new games for a while.


Killzone 2

Speaking of games with repetitive, samey gameplay... Actually, Killzone 2 gets pretty fun about halfway through when they start tossing good guns at you. Even playing on Elite the latter half of the game is relatively entertaining. The first part is still a bit of a slog after the first go around, but all things considered this is still an excellent single player experience with some of the best FPS bosses ever created.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena


I've only just started playing this game, though now perhaps I'll have the motivation to finish it. The first rendition was an excellent mix of first person melee and shooting, though I'm told the second degrades to standard shooter gameplay for the latter half. We shall see...

Unfortunately due to playing almost exclusively difficult games for the better part of a year I'm forced to reconsider some of my former opines. God of War II may have the best tuned normal mode in existence alongside some very cinematic bosses but the harder modes basically just boil down to tedious pattern recognition rather than tests of skill a la Vanquish or Bayonetta. While I would have given it a 10 a year ago I'm not so sure now, 9-9.5 sounds more appropriate. That's not to say I don't love Kratos and ripping people's heads off, but a bit of perspective always helps.

Challenge 6 ~ Obviously a speedrun, my clear was 27 minutes though I could probably grind it down to 15 if I really tried. You'd think this guy was the best ever or something but it's not all that far off from how I played. In my opinion he wastes the LFE at the start and the Lock-on Laser on the first bogey. Also a few lucky moments that are hard to explain to someone who hasn't played it, but after failing a few dozen times for hours you'll pick up on it straight away.