Saturday, November 22, 2008

Currently Playing

Got a bunch of games in my queue right now, none of which I'm particularly near finishing, so I thought I'd do an "in-progress" kind of post.

Left 4 Dead (XBox 360): Awesome. Just... awesome. It makes my jaw drop roughly once a minute and I'm starting to get muscle fatigue around my mouth as a result. Some observations though: as you start to learn the levels the game becomes about speed-running, and I'm not yet sure whether that's an evolutionary step in the gameplay or the point at which ennui sets in. Also it's obviously focused solely on multi-player, and I can't say I've ever gotten more than ten hours out of a multi-player first person shooter before. This may be a first, I guess.

Rock Band (XBox 360): Finally out in Australia. Drumming is excellent and the handling of the vocals is several iterations better than the horrible Singstar franchise. Guitar is a bit lame though, due to an unappealing on-screen interface, a peripheral that pinches my fingers, and punishingly short timing windows. Playing with four friends is great, but the game feels poorly structured as far as progress and incentives are concerned. Luckily it's fun just playing, incentives or no incentives. Also it's clear the developers loved what they were making, which is something it shares with Harmonix's previous efforts Guitar Hero 1 and 2. Neversoft-developed GH3 didn't have that and it's that faceless-corporation direction the Guitar Hero franchise is going in that's really turning me off that brand.

Fable 2 (XBox 360): Not a fan. I can't get attached to the main character, who wanders mutely around the countryside expressing himself solely with corny poses while every NPC has rather excellent voice acting. I can't get attached to the NPCs, who will watch you kill their entire family in horror but then offer you gifts once you dance a saucy jig for a few minutes. The customisation system is shallow, and you end up picking clothes based on their stats rather than what they say about your character. The much-vaunted moral choices are poorly handled, especially compared to something like Mass Effect, and often boil down to "do what you're told, or be a petty jerk". Despite a lot of really well-implemented features, the whole package feels deeply artificial and I have serious doubts I can be bothered playing to the end.

Final Fantasy III (DS): I started this six months ago, I'm about three quarters of the way through and I can't bring myself to pick it up again. The graphical updates are nice, but the "job system" has been poorly grafted onto the original game, giving you little real incentive to play with the different jobs and in fact actively punishing you for changing class. The late game suddenly opens up the map but offers poor direction about where to go next and again can punish you for exploring with the sudden introduction of crushingly difficult encounters. The combat is painfully dull and considering that's most of the gameplay that dullness is a real problem. Despite my gripes it's still a great remake, especially considering the age of its roots, but not a real contender compared to some of the excellent modern RPGs on the market.

Age of Booty (XBox Live Arcade): Yar, me hearties! Age of Booty is real-time strategy dumbed down to its lowest level, where you control one ship and attempt to capture enemy ports with or without allies. It's effectively one-button control, ideal for casual players. It should be awful but it's a heap of fun and pretty much exactly right for the low, low asking price. Local multiplayer for up to four players, or you can take it online to battle the intertubes.

Overlord (XBox 360): Played the first level of this, loved it, borrowed it from a friend, and now it's just waiting until I'm done with Fable 2 or something so I can give it the time it deserves.

Travian (PC / Browser): Actually I've been playing this for a few months. A very hardcore real-time wargame that advertises itself as a casual-friendly city builder. One campaign lasts roughly a year of real-time. An excellent game providing you know what to expect; a very frustrating game for those looking for a casual experience who get eliminated by the cutthroat tactics of the real players. I'm loving it.


juffles said...

Also it's obviously focused solely on multi-player

Not just MP - CO-OP MP. You know - something you can play with a couple of mates instead of needing 20+ people.

It's been that bloody long since a 'real' FPS even bothered with co-op multi that I'm slavering over L4D like a punched nun. The last one I'm aware of, other than the excruciatingly slow Rainbow 6 series and buggy-like-a-buggy-thing Hidden & Dangerous was....Quake 2?

Greg Tannahill said...

Halo 1 through to 3 heavily featured co-op multiplayer, as did Gears of War. I understand Resistance 2 has a meaty co-op mode too.

SPLastic said...

Halo and Gears are both much more fun with a friend - Halo for the comic elements, Gears for the run and gun action.

Crackdown had good co-op, but it wasn't very popular.

Call of Duty: World At War had the most disappointing co-op I've ever seen - Treyarch released the PC version in a state where LAN co-op would not work at all.
Sadly enough, a game-cracking website had a fix for the LAN problems up before Treyarch did.

Fable 2 doesn't feel as... great... as Fable, but that may be because better RPGs have come along since then.

Overlord was brilliantly fun for a while. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Greg Tannahill said...

I tried the co-op in Crackdown and it was interesting but just so un-focused. Each individual player is so powerful that it really didn't feel like you were co-operating in any meaningful fashion.

Greg Tannahill said...

Oh, also, Juffles, punched nuns don't slaver. Rigorous testing does not lie. And Rainbow Six should always be spelled with the word, not the number, because it's using "Six" in the sense of "leader" - ie you're the leader of the Rainbow unit.