Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's not a time for kids really, Christmas

Christmas Fighting Game
I do like Christmas. Lots of lovely holiday to catch up on games, punctuated at regular intervals by stuffing myself silly with food and booze, and meeting up with family. And the weather's so bloody cold nobody thinks bad of you for staying inside all day. I've had a couple of weeks off so far, mostly dominated by Fallout 3 which I'm enjoying more now than when I started (due to the incredibly amateur way I have ordered things for publishing I think the post about that won't have gone up yet. I am great at this, me), but still feels oddly hollow, like I'm just ticking off quests so that I can say that I've done them. Still, do them I will. And every now and then something happens that I enjoy a lot, such as killing everyone in the Republic of Dave for not letting me vote.

I have also managed to get a few hours on co-op Gears of War 2. I really enjoyed playing through the first one's story campaign because I did the whole thing with a friend. So far (just on the second main level at the moment) it's good, though doesn't feel as focussed to me - each encounter feels engineered to provide a different combat experience, or introduce a new weapon or element. Which is an odd complaint, I know - they would have been mauled by critics if they'd just left it as 5 levels of the same run and gun action as the first. But nevertheless it feels slightly "bitty".

While visiting family my Lego mad nephew found out that his uncle worked on a game based around Bionicle. At the time I hated the stuff, but looking at the sets he's been given by Santa, it seems that they've started to make some real effort with them. Anyway, the bits and pieces of information I could remember from five years ago paid off, and I was able to wow him with my knowledge of Toa names and elements. Then I got told there is a Bionicle game on the Lego website which is much better than the one I worked on, which might have been an innocent but cutting remark, if I didn't view our game as the worst thing I've ever done. So I just laughed along and later added another five seconds to my internal "how long have I spent feeling bitter about those six months" timer. Seven hours so far. You could play Bionicle from start to finish seven times in that!

Just before Christmas Free Radical Design went into administration, which must be a blow to their hard working staff. There are interesting stories coming out now, though, which often happens in these situations - people who kept quiet before for fear of losing their jobs are telling all now that they have nothing left. I'm sure the good guys will have no trouble finding new employment.

Right, I'm off to hunt through online sales and see if there are any bargains. I was expecting Left 4 Dead to be cheap by now, so I could add it to my pile of as-yet-unplayed stuff. But it doesn't look like it.

PS - Game of the year (since every website and blog is contractually obliged to provide such a thing) was Fable 2. Everything I was expecting it to be and more.

PPS - The banner image is from Kristmas Kombat, which is about the true meaning of the holiday season. No idea if it's any good, I just liked the picture.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mediocre-At-Best Company, More Like

Battlefield Bad Company
Hello chums (the seven of you that StatCounter informs me reliably visit every day). I've been a bad blogger again. I know. I had the best intentions, but work and home life still conspired against me. Whatever time I got to jot down thoughts on games I had been playing and news I had been reading, resulted in bullet point lists. I put the lists into blogger for editing into proper posts at a later date, but I never really found that editing time, and when I did, the posts were so out of date it started to feel a little pointless. So, in the New Year I'm going to try again. Honestly. But before then (and probably during then, since there are a few of them) I'm going to do a quick editing job on the handful of posts I'd already written, and publish those (unless the editing job consists of "what the hell was I thinking?" and I delete it). Just keep in mind that some of these are quite old. And now on to your scheduled content...

I had been playing Battlefield Bad Company on the Xbox, borrowed off a colleague. It was something that I'd been interested in, but had always thought might not be worth shelling out for myself (what with me not really being into playing endless hours of zero sum competative multiplayer). I was right. When your first bullet point issue with a game is "not sure if I'm enjoying it" you shouldn't be too surprised when you stop being bothered to play as soon as something else comes along (I think it may have been a Lego game that stole my interest).

The player can die in the single player, but if you do you just respawn slightly back from the combat with full ammo again. Given that I spent a lot of my time in firefights running low on ammo, it ended up with the very odd situation of dying being a blessing, since I'd get restocked in both health and weaponry, and any enemies I'd killed would stay dead. I'm sure there's a good game to be made around the high concept of killing yourself to progress, but this isn't it -  the resulting missions became a monotonous slog of taking out a few enemies, dyinging, walking back to the combat, and repeating.

The open levels are probably great for multiplayer, but were bad for single player. They are pretty but sparse, and the levels drag on for ages. Each one is a series of combat set pieces in a small area of the map, linked together by a boring journey to the next rendezvous point.

The guns and explosions are very nice. Great sound effects. Cutting down trees with explosions & gunfire is ace, especially in the rare occasions when a falling piece of foliage lands on and kills an enemy.

The USP of blowing up buildings is cool, but limited. You can't totally flatten a building, and buildings that will be needed later in the mission are impervious to damage. Buildings have pretty much no furniture in them so by midway through the second level I was getting confused and a bit lost going between identical looking shells of buildings, trying to remember which one had the heavy weapon I needed to pick up in it.

A major game crime in my opinion - No subtitle option. So late at night with the sound turned down to avoid waking up my wife, and the jet engine in my 360 blaring, I can't follow what the characters are talking about in the cutscenes.

And in a similar vein, there's also no brightness setting. Seriously, fuck off with "adjust your TVs settings for this one game", I'm very clearly not going to do that and screw up the settings for every other game I play am I?