Friday, November 30, 2012

Being lazy

The XCOM review is done and has been done for over a week.  I'm just too lazy to proof it.

I've been trying out Hawken, during the latest closed beta.  That game is really cool.  Again, I'm not normally big on online games, especially shooters, but I'm alright with keeping a trio of Hawken, Tribes and Guild Wars 2.

Hawken is great because it nails the feeling of being inside a mech.  It's difficult to describe in words because there's so many touches here and there that go towards the experience as a whole.  You have actual gauges in the UI for your boost fuel and armor level and such.  Every step you take, hell every action you take, the screen moves.  It bobs up and down, to and fro.  When you take hits, your sensors and screens fizzle up and eventually crack.  It's very stressful, just as it should be; you're inside a metal box that is about to become your coffin, after all.  There's even a boot sequence for some gametypes.  When you first spawn, your mech takes several seconds to start up.  And you can see and experience its various subsystems booting, one by one, from your movement to your weapons.  The sound design is excellent too.  You can feel every step you take, and the sounds outside your mech are all muffled.

So, Hawken is already excellent on account of its amazing user experience.  But the gameplay is actually solid, too.  The reason I'm not a fan of multiplayer shooters is because in the case of many of them, encounters end as quickly as they start.  It's all about who sees who first.  In Hawken, there are actual battles, because even the lightest mechs can take some punishment.  I got into a pitched gunbattle with a mech twice my size the other day.  It was scary as hell, but the encounter wasn't immediately decided by our loadouts and location relative to each other.  It was decided (mostly) by skill.  Outmaneuvering him, ducking from cover to cover I was able to keep up pressure and eventually take the big guy down.  It was awesome, until he immediately came back to that exact spot while I was repairing and got his revenge.

I also kind of got back into the Sims 3, mainly for Seasons.  I'm hesitant to call it 'comfort food', but I always return to the Sims sooner or later, only to get bored of it after a week or two of intensive play.

I started Zone of the Enders yesterday as part of the HD Collection.  I forgot that it came with the Metal Gear Rising demo.  I tried that as well.  MGR seems pretty cool.  I like how fragile you are.  In actuality, Raiden can only take a few hits before he's in the red zone, so every encounter feels like it has weight, and you're encouraged to learn how to parry and dodge as quickly as possible.  It's actually kind of like Metroid Other M in this way.  The basic combat is fun enough, but the zandatsu--being able to slice and dice however you like--stuff was hit or miss for me.  The concept itself is great, but the controls are just hard to work with in the fast-paced scenarios you get in this game (and any Platinum game, really).  You have to hold L1 to enter blade mode, and then hold and release the right stick in the direction you want to cut.  It sounds alright on paper, but more often than not either I don't do well making it a definitive release as opposed to simply easing off of the stick, or the game doesn't do well discerning a release from an attempt to cancel a slice, which at best ends in a combo pretty much fizzling out, and at worse the enemy basically gets a free potshot while you're fumbling with the stick trying to aim the slice.  And that's just with one slice, don't get me started on all that rapid filleting you see in the trailers.  The final boss of the demo basically says "think fast!" and gives you a chance to go to town on the boss with blade mode.  It was just as the opportunity closed that I realized what the game wanted me to do.

It might be something I just need more practice with, though.  I really really like the concept though, and when it works, it works pretty damn well.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Well, that didn't go so well.

So, today it came to my attention that I have failed spectacularly to accomplish one of my goals for this year, which was to not buy anywhere near as many games as I bought last year.

Last year was crazy.  It was absurd.  I bought so many games.  The fact that I was settling into the swing of things with PC gaming (and by extension, Steam), combined with the fact that 2011 was an unreasonably good year for games meant I bought far more games last year than I did any other year of my life.  It got to the point where it was starting to feel like irresponsible use of my money.  I bought Dark Souls when it came out, but didn’t even take the shrink wrap off until a month later.  Ultimately, the 2011 total for “games bought” is at 37, and that’s counting the bundles as individual listings.

Today I pre-ordered Hitman: Absolution, bringing the 2012 count to 37.  Whelp.

Anyway, I’m not a fan of the new PlayStation Store.  It might just be that I don't feel like having to get used to something new, but it doesn't really feel like an improvement to me, functionally or aesthetically.  Apparently people thought the previous storefront was really ugly, which I disagree with, but that's neither here nor there.  At least it was organized, which is more than I can say for this one so far.  When you have two different categories named "Hot titles" and "Top titles", there might be something wrong.

I got Assassin’s Creed III in (hence my having to deal with the new PS Store, as there was a bunch of DLC to download), and so far I’ve played through about 75% of the main story.  It’s really good.  It’s ridiculously big, for one thing.  Not just in terms of its sandbox, but in terms of gameplay variety.  There is so much to do.  So, so much.  But it has…issues.  There are places where Assassin’s Creed III is pretty much bursting at the seams.

Because it’s so damn huge of a game, I’m also having trouble approaching the review.  There are so many facets to discuss.  So much stuff that I’m going to have to just outright not even mention if I want to keep the review size reasonable, even if it’s stuff I really want to call to attention or give or dock Ubisoft credit on.  Just sorting out all my thoughts on the game thus far is difficult, so expansive is the Assassin’s Creed III experience.

But before that, XCOM.  The XCOM review is a little over halfway done.  The main thing is the combat, which I haven’t written about yet.  I’m still thinking about exactly what it is I want to say about the combat, and how I can effectively put it to words.  If you had asked me what my GOTY would likely be maybe three weeks ago, I would have said Assassin’s Creed III.  Today, my answer is still….Assassin’s Creed III.  But as I continue to sort out my thoughts on AC3, if there’s one game that can contest it for GOTY, it’s XCOM.

Or Hitman.