Filling an Empty Space

May 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

After the tragic loss of my Britannia Hospital review I feel somewhat deflated, and I cannot help but notice that empty space where my magnum opus of film criticism should be. Of course, I am joking. There will be other great works — the result of fine and nimble fingers, tap, tapping on an old and yellowed keyboard.

Anyway, ignoring all that flowery sheeeeyt above, the blog is looking a little empty for my liking. Unfortunately, this week, because of Bank Holiday Monday, there will be no video game reviews. Hopefully I should be able to pop-in one — maybe two — film reviews, depending on the speed LOVEFiLM gets a turnaround on my DVDs.

What I will be giving to you, today, are my impressions of two games that I’ve recently had the chance to play. Bare in mind, these are just impressions, not actual reviews, and so any opinion is malleable and open to change — as has happened on so-many an occasion.*

1) Gears of War 2: I was recently round a friend’s house, where I effectively said that Gears of War 2 was nothing but a distinctly average, dull game with no personality. I was wrong. Gears of War 2 does have personality; it has personality in its characters — which are surprisingly against type in some ways — and its levels. I’m still not particularly a fan of the Unreal Engine which powers the game, only because it makes things look too much like that Unreal Tournament 3. But — and I cannot get around this fact, no matter how hard I want to — the ‘look’ it gives does suit the game.

I previously described Gears as dull, and it can be — sometimes. The problem is that it’s a game that really needs co-op for it to feel alive. As a squad shooter — which is all about surrounding the enemy, using team-work, co-ordinating tactics etc. — it feels a little ‘dead’ if your only friends are the AI. Human interaction makes the game ten times better and without it Gears would seem quite a by-the-numbers experience. Of course, the problem with human beings is that they frequently rush through levels, never giving you a chance to explore and, for some reason, never have their headset switched on. Despite this, though, they’re still a damn site better than the AI — not because it’s particularly bad or anything, but because it lacks the human touch.

The multiplayer, aside from co-op, isn’t very good. Admittedly, I haven’t played through all the modes and maps but my intial reaction is that the Gears controls are too slow and awkward to react to the fast-paced nature of the games. It seems that most of the time kills are scored through lobbing grenades or close-combat rushing tactics. I hated this in Call of Duty 4 and I don’t like it much here, either. I was hoping the multiplayer versus modes would be an exercise in squad tactics and strategy, but it doesn’t work like that. It feels random and messy.

2) Fable 2: I really like the game world, the art style and the whole atmosphere and sense of humour of the thing. The intro to the game gave me goosebumps and I love the main musical theme for the start screen. The game, itself, is a bit boring. Graphically the world of Fable 2 looks incredibly beautiful and full of personality, but so far I’ve just been walking around, chopping wood, killing pathetically weak enemies and listening to the irritating chatter of the townspeople. Nothing really seems to be happening. However, I’m only really near the start of the game and so the main quest has barely moved forward, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the game gets a lot better as my options open up, more interesting quests appear and the main plot gathers speed. I should also mention that the game is quite dark: your sister gets murdered in front of you when you’re just a kid, and there’s stuff about little children turning into evil trolls. I know I’m a little bored at the moment of the game, but the general feel of the game keeps me intrigued; it really does have that air of a fairytale about it, but more along the lines of The Brothers Grimm as opposed to– well, I suppose all fairy tales are pretty dark, aren’t they?

There is one last thing I want to talk about, and that is this, this and this. Basically, the story is that a freelancer for EuroGamer, named Ed Zitron, trashed a game called Darkfall Online in his review, incurring MASSIVE DAMAGE to the game, leaving it with a anaemic 2/10. The review has come under dispute as a developer from Darkfall has accused Mr Zitron of making unfounded claims and unfairly criticising the game, given that, according to their logs, he only played for around 2-3 hours. I am not hear to dispute what Ed says at all, whether his judgements are unfounded or anything like that.

What this debacle brings to light, in my mind, is how ill-suited the traditional review format is when facing MMOs. My comments, posted here under the name ‘Ghost5786’, can be summarised simply as ‘MMOs don’t have an end, are open to improvement and development, and are too expansive for any reviewer to properly account for within the time they have to write up their witty analysis of the game.’

Others have also accused Ed of saying stuff that just ain’t true about the game. I have no idea over the validity of those claims. It does raise the question though — one which I have been considering for a while — whether it is more important to be entertaining or informative in regards to reviewing games. Obviously in a perfect world we’d have both, but, given a choice, would a reader rather something that were funny with factual inaccuracies or a cold, dry analysis, which was, nonetheless, correct and well-reasoned?

*This makes my opinion totally unchallengable and invincible to rational criticism, sorry, guys, because it’s my opinion. Nay-nay-naynay-nay and cue other childish taunts etc.

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