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Nerdtales
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Metal Gear Solid 4

January 3rd, 2009 by Marcel

Reading mittense’s review of MGS4 reminded me, that I wanted to write something about it for a long time. But I am a lazy bitch so I am taking his review as a basis to elaborate a little bit further.

At first, I have to agree, that the gameplay as a whole feels good and at times is awesome. The fear-ring is a very nice idea, the camouflage works very well and the combat is finally up to speed with video game standards. But still, the gameplay is heavily flawed and feels awkwardly uninventive. With the integration of a weapon shop that you can access any time in the game, even during boss battles, the game got way to easy. Huge ass boss? No problem, just buy the rail gun and some ammunition for it an you’re good to go. Out of ammo? Nevermind. In-game money is almost never an issue.

One could argue that you’re given the choice in which way to play the game and use it’s functions. That is true but I think there should be at least incentives for the player to play in a certain way which would suit the game better than others. The only thing that you get from MGS4 are some poorly presented medals at the end of the game. Apart from that the game never cares how you play it. You can run and gun as you want, there are no consequences except an alarm here and there, but there is an everlasting supply of ammo so nothing to worry about. The game wants to be a stealth-action game but never cares to act like one and set the rules like one.

What I didn’t expect MGS4 was to be this short. Yeah, when you count the cutscenes in it is at least 20 hours long. But without them the time you actually play is no longer then 7-8 hours. This pretty underwhelming. The ratio of game/cutscene is just too far off even for an entry in the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Some of the cutscenes just drag along for minutes and you hope they give you new information or advance the story but none of that happens. I don’t know who decided that this should be considered fun.

This brings me to the most disappointing side of the game, the narrative. Actually for the first couple of hours (and in this case also bosses) I liked the story pretty much. The narration is centred around a theme about war and warfare and their consequences for the people in it. This a nice change of tone and with Snake’s shape being representative for it a melancholic one, coming from earlier entries in the series where the fate of the world was the main focus, MGS4 is more personal, at least for the first couple of hours and bosses.

While there are neccessarily some ties to the main story archs of the MGS series, you first have to fight 4 warbeasts, girls that have been captured and tortured in warzones when they were little and that have since become traumatized and full of hatred. I really loved that part. Especially whenever I finished one of them, they lost their armor suit and became vulnerable little girls with tortured souls. What an awesome representation of real world conflicts and consequence. Shure, still a little bit over the top, but awesome nonetheless. At this point I thought MGS4 might really set a new milestone in gaming narratives. But my joy didn’t last long. It first became shallow when the back story of the girls wasn’t told via a short cutscene but just throught talking. Then, after finishing the 4th of the sisters, the narration suddenly changed. Oe might call it a full conversion because the main theme that was presented until here just got tossed away and didn’t matter anymore. The game was back in the old over the top MGS routine with villains Snake has fought for 40 years now and story archs coming from the first entry of the series.

From that point on I always had to have Wikipedia opened for all the hints and in-jokes because although I’ve played all of the former games, it is just not possible to remember every bit and detail, which you actually must to get at least something out of MGS4’s story from this point on. If anyone would ever write a detailed plot synopsis of MGS4 alone it would probably read like Tolkien’s Silmarillion - on speed.

I can’t get into much detail here, because it is obviously impossible, but MGS4 now desperately tries to finish and resolve every story arch since the first game. And compared to the first half of the game it really isn’t that good any more. Sure it is epic and a lot is being explained, but it is way too much and a couple of times cheap tricks are used to get some storys explained the fastest way possible (the weapons dealer?). At the end of the game the narratives are at it’s worst, when everyting (including Snake’s fate) resolves in a happy end. The game even betrays one of Snake’s core themes, getting a job done - no matter what, at that point and thus denies it’s own inner logic.

I once read, MGS4 is a flawed masterpiece. I think it is flawed and not a masterpiece. MGS2 is still the best game in the series because it is the most balanced one between fine gameplay and over top but in itself logical narration.

Resistance 2

December 14th, 2008 by Marcel

I liked Resistance. Probably because I love first person shooters. Resistance didn’t have many faults. But it also wasn’t very inventive. And it lacked the polish that seperate awesome games from the “just good” ones. Still I liked it.

In Resistance 2 you leave the battlegrounds in England, which are now overrun by the beasts, and head to the United States to fight against the extinction of the human race. The gameplay has been slightly altered. You can only carry two weapons at a time which makes up for some difficult decisions at some points in the game as some weapons are better suited than others. Although the right weapons are usually placed around in the area that you’re in. The weaponry is balanced very well and the controls support the overall good feeling. Unfortunately it may take some time to get into the controls when coming straight from playing some XBox games. The PS3 controller feels a lot more nervous but this is just a minor complaint and not exactly the fault of the game.

Storywise the game developes quite slowly. A little bit too slow in my opinion. It takes a couple of missions to actually understand why the fight has moved from the UK to the US and how the story from the first game ties into Resistance 2. Also, story and the game itself are not very consistent. Nathan Hale, the player’s character, is the product of an experiment to use some strenghts of the virus, that is the reason for the existence of the beasts, for human supersoldiers. While the story evolves, Hale’s condition gets worse. Unfortunately this declining condition isn’t represented in the game itself. Even when Hale is almost dead at the end of the game there are no limitations to what you can do. Unused potential I’d say.

Still the game is thrilling. At it’s prime, Resistance 2 blends a lot of different shooter concepts in to one. The big scale combat from the Call of Duty series, the duck and cover cambat from Gears of War and the perfect balancing from the Halo series. Most of the boss fights are awesome. Especially one in the middle of the game where you have to fight a gigantic monster, tall as a skyscraper. Imagine you’d fight Godzilla and you get the picture. Too bad that the final boss fight is rather disappointing. Too easy and too short. Also there were situations where I was tempted to throw the controller out of the window. When hordes of those stupid zombies run towards you and your AI buddies do nothing but standing around.

See, the AI of opponents and teammates is a mixed bag. Sometimes it works and squadmates are really helpful. But other times you happen to be in situations mentioned above. Also the AI of the opponents can get quite unfair. Imagine standing amidst a big battle doing nothing. In such moments the AI won’t care about you, there is not one shot directed at you. But as soon as you’ll fire the first shot all hell breaks loose and everything is shooting at you as if your squadmates don’t exist. Now imagine there are 30 zombies running towards you and 3 teammates, your teammates doing nothing and the AI only attacking you. Not much fun.

A big plus in favor of Resistance 1 was it’s artwork. The idea to let you roam through the England of the past was good and well executed. Although Resistance 2 is set in San Francisco of the 50’s, the idea of the first game is soon left behind. Now and then you’ll hear a radio station or wander through abandoned towns, but the overall concept has shifted to a more scifi inspired setting. Nothing wrong with that but the setting of Resistance 1 was really unique and I missed a similar execution here.

Technically Resistance 2 shows what’s possible on the PS3. It looks pretty awesome and there is never a moment of stuttering. Enemies are very detailed and at times super huge. Really, there is nothing more to ask for in that regard. I didn’t have the time to play the multiplayer portion. But judging from the first game and the flawless technical execution in Resistance I have no doubt that it works well.

Really, if you love shooters and have a PS3, get that game. It has everything you’d expect from a good first person shooter, has just a few minor shortcomings and is overall a fun experience although it doesn’t reinvent the genre. Just make sure you’ll play it on the hard diffculty setting to make it challenging.

Gears of War 2

November 24th, 2008 by Marcel

The game came two days ago in the mail and I had a lot of fun during the weekend. So much fun that I finished it already. The graphics are even more than awesome. From all the games I have seen on the 360 as well as on the PS3 this one is so far the most astonishing. Gameplay is almost flawless with a few problems here and there, especially during the sections that include vehicles, where the controls feel a little bit clumsy.

Unfortunately the AI doesn’t keep up with the quality of the rest of the game. There are often moments where squadmates stand in the middle of the battle and do nothing but watching what I do. Which can be frustrating when you are fighting against Reavers, Grinders other big Locust forces. This makes the game hard in an unfair way. But then this doesn’t happen too often so it may be annoying at times, so Gears of War 2 stays fun until the end.

GoW 2 is definitely bigger and more badass than it’s predecessor. Huge boss fights. Over the top sections like riding a Bruback and wreaking havoc with it. Tough and engaging fights against hordes of Locust foot troops. The only thing that really fell short was the story. But there will be a third entry to the series which hopefully takes care of that.

My Wii is sold

November 24th, 2008 by Marcel

Nintendo really has put up a nice system, but unfortunately not for me. Most of the games do nothing for me. And the games that do won’t see a sequel in the next year or so. Metroid, Mario, Zelda - these are the games I love Nintend for, not the casual stuff to which the focus seems to have shifted. So I said farewell to the Wii for now.

A Trip to the Games Convention

August 20th, 2008 by Marcel

Europe’s biggest gaming expo starts tomorrow, but the press has the privilege to gain access today already. Now, to be fair, I am not really a member of the press, but it is always good to know somebody who actually is. He asked me yesterday and I accepted reluctanty as I am not a huge fan of conventions like this. More on this and the games I got to see may be read below. Totally ws by the way.

Continue reading ‘A Trip to the Games Convention’

On educational gaming

July 3rd, 2008 by Marcel

There is something that I like so much about games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, beyond the fact of getting a glimpse of the feeling of having an instrument as penis replacement, and that is to (re)discover awesome songs. Sometimes these are songs that I love dearly but haven’t listened to in a long while. Other times I didn’t know of them before.

For example, I was never a fan of The Rolling Stones. In fact I disliked them, just that I wasn’t clear myself about the reason. Guitar Hero II featured “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’”, GHIII had “Paint It Black” and now Rock Band has “Gimme Shelter”. And all of them are totally awesome. Those rythm music games are indeed a very good education on the history of rock music.

I wonder how many people, who listened to rock just occasionally before, have discovered bands for themselves to like and listen to more often. Probably a lot. To be honest, everybody who doesn’t feel for “Don’t Fear The Reaper” must be dead inside.

The Land of Opportunity

May 5th, 2008 by Marcel

Over the last days I had my fair share of playtime with GTA 4. I am over the 30 hours mark and still only got 47% of game yet. At least according to the ingame statistics. Usually I would’ve already given up, as my patience is not very strong with overly long games. But not so with GTA as it has so many little details that make you come back over and over again. I don’t want to spoil anything of the story here now so I’ll describe the stuff in general.

The main missions are vary varied and consist of every thug job you could possibly think of. Now it’s in the nature of things that the number of different mission types is still at some point limited. So a general critique on repetitive mission design could be valid. But it is not. Unlike what Ubisoft for example did with Assassin’s Creed, Rockstar knows how to keep the missions feeling new and fresh, even when you have to replay them because you failed at the first attempt. Ubisoft went the cheap way and everything is always the same including the voice acting. Not so Rockstar. When you retry a mission, the lines spoken by the characters now are different from the lines spoken before. The more crucial missions mostly have at least two ways to solve them, although you often read them up in some internet forum afterwards just to let yourself know what an uncreative idiot you were for not doing it the other way.

The design of the city also helps of pushing the feeling of repetitiveness away, as the surroundings in form of traffic patterns, streets and available cars make even very similar missions quite different. And when you’re not doing any of the main missions, the game still has a lot to offer. Actually I should say the city has a lot to offer, as the city is the game. You’ll meet a lot of different people in Liberty City, some of them might become friends often depending how you acted before. You can meet with them, go to a club or play pool, or you can just do some work for them to get some money. It really is up to you, but you’d miss a huge portion of the game if you ignore it. The character design is awesome and there are 2 people that I’ve met till now that I really like.

And there is stuff, that you can do, which I haven’t done yet because I am not overly interested in it. For example surfing on the game’s internet. Dating with random people - there is an internet dating service. You could also just explore the city by car to find stunt spots. And lots more that I just can’t recall at the moment. At some points it is really breathtaking as you just don’t know what to do first. But then the game gives you the freedom whatever you like most. Like getting a private dance in a strip club. Pro tip: ask for another dance two times and a surprise is waiting.

I am back, bitches!

April 29th, 2008 by Marcel

The screen is still black but that is the first sentence you hear when you fire up the latest entry in Rockstar’s long going series. Actually a guy was screaming that while getting spanked by a dominatrix, but still a fiting intro. My last weeks were stuffed with work, LotRO and usual lazyness. But this game is just too good to be silent about it. At least the first 30 minutes were. The main character is Niko Bellic, a guy from Serbia, lured to the US by his cousin Roman to find his luck in a new world.

That’s where I am right now, haven’t played much yet. In fact the first couple of minutes are introductory sequences to the game world. Still I got a good look at what the game promises. The cutscenes look great so far, the voice acting is great and Rockstar also worked on the mimics. They’re not “Mass Effect perfect” but they’re good nonetheless.

The basic plot is set. Cousin Roman is a fuck up who likes to gamble and thus owes money to a lot people I wouldn’t want to owe money to. He seems to have a cab business and problems to score with the girls, fat and strange that he is. GTA IV starts like every other entry in the series before: I am at the bottom and have to work my way up meeting all kinds of strange people. And normal people, like the girl Roman’s secretary tried to hook me up with. I fixed a date with her over the cellphone, a pretty neat tool, where you can call all the people you know the number’s of and also receive messages and so on.

Now forgive me, I have to play on.

Audiosurf on Black Metal

March 20th, 2008 by Marcel

So for the last weeks Audiosurf has made some heads turn around. As always I am late to the party so that it took me until yesterday that I finally bought the game… on Steam, where else? My buddy Phil called it an interactive equalizer. What you do is actually riding your music. You point the game to an MP3 you want to play and the racetrack is developed according to the song structure. Now I am really bad at explaining such things. So why don’t you just watch the video I made. The song is Immortal - My Kingdom Cold. The song misses the last 45 seconds but I was to lazy to merge the first 4GB movie file with the last bit.

Click here to see the video

By the way I am not creative enough to come up with the idea of those gameplay videos. All the credits go to fellow shacker Matt Burris with his blog on MattPlays.com.

Titan Quest in Motion

March 19th, 2008 by Marcel

A couple of days ago I fell for Shackhype and purchased Titan Quest Gold off of steam. You can’t do that much wrong for 12 Euros. It’s fun clone of Diablo. But I wrote this post actually only to test the video capabilities of this blog. Tell me what you think.

Click here for the video!