Site Update – 29/11/09

November 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

So I’ve been doing a lot of catching up this weekend, mostly to little or no avail. I’ve still got several games left on my shelf, most of them almost completely unfinished, staring me in the face. Adding to that, I’ve still got more to come through the post and several that I’m playing at the moment – and again, the chances of their being completed to a reasonable standard?

Let’s just say it’s not looking too likely at this point.

One of the games I’ve been playing is Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. It’s a Wild West themed first-person shooter, and from a technical standpoint it’s actually pretty good. The graphics look really impressive most of the time, and the gunplay mechanics are just great. The problem it has is in its story and characters, both of which fail on fundamental levels. Very simply, the two playable characters in the game are so completely unlikable that you don’t care what happens to them; hence, no engagement. The plot is also an absolute joke – cliched, sophomoric, boring. In other words, whenever there’s the story part of the game to deal with, I start falling asleep; whenever a fight breaks out, I’m glued to my HDTV.

If only they could have just given the player an open world, a silent protagonist, a faction system and prestige/reputation system something like in Sid Meier’s Pirates!, then Ubisoft would have had a real winner on their hands.

Edit: Also, Gul Dukat – or, rather, the actor who plays him – is in this game. For those who aren’t Star Trek fans, Gul Dukat was this really sleazy, slimy bastard from Deep Space Nine, portrayed by Marc Alaimo. He was a great baddie and probably one of the most memorable characters from the show. Unfortunately, he’s voicing one of the playable characters, Ray, here, and all I hear is Dukat. No, even Dukat had his good points, or at least he was interesting. Ray in comparison is just some dumb hick who you’re supposed to care about, but really don’t. Not Alaimo’s fault, of course; just bad writing.

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Site Update – 21/11/09

November 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

I just finished X-Men Origins: Wolverine this weekend and have found it to be a fairly entertaining experience. There are some small things that are quite forward thinking in that game, like the Statistics screen that tells you how far you off from getting certain achievements. The all-important combat mechanics are also very smoothly implemented, and the only flaw there is in the repetitive and unchallenging nature of the gameplay (which, if I am to be fair, is not an easy task to overcome given the genre). What I can’t forgive the game for is its level of bugginess that made me fail a boss fight a dozen times in a row and the constant re-use of level assets to pad out its length. That’s just not on, son.

I also watched Synecdoche, New York this afternoon. That film is a bit of an overlong mess, but in that way I think it helps reinforce the theme: of art imitating life, imitating art, devouring itself ad infinitum. It’s a touching film and just incredibly sad. I love it for its ambition and the way it beautifully expresses how we attempt to deconstruct and conceptualize our lives in such a way to have meaning, and the tragedy of never really being able to achieve that.

Speaking of meaningless human activity, I’ve started playing Borderlands. I’ve said it elsewhere, but I’ll repeat it here: it’s a rewards structure wrapped up in pretty packaging; it’s the gambler’s fallacy of believing in the possibility of something better being just around that corner – or, in this case, after completing that next quest. None of this, of course, makes it a bad game. What it does make it, is hollow. And the moment you realise the futility inherent in that type of gameplay is the moment you’ll stop playing and find something “better” to do with your time.

Or you can just shrug your shoulders, do like I do, and play for the sake of it. After all, what does it matter if you just think you’re having fun, anyway?

Site Update – 15/11/09

November 15, 2009 § Leave a comment

No post this weekend. Modern Warfare 2. Enough said.

‘Beautiful Katamari’ Xbox 360 Review

November 9, 2009 § Leave a comment

Seen Akira? Seen that bit where Tetsuo starts devouring the planet? Okay, well, this is kind of like that, but a lot less terrifying and a lot more humorous.
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Site Update – 01/11/09

November 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

It’s been a busy weekend. Friday afternoon, after catching around 2–3 hours sleep following a night shift, I carried my weary frame along to the Eurogamer Expo.

It wasn’t too bad. I got to play a few games myself but mostly ended up waiting and watching others at the booths. I also took the opportunity to listen to Mark Morris and Chris Delay, they of indie developer Introversion, talk about the problems they encountered in getting Darwinia+ onto XBLA. It was great to hear them talk, both funny and interesting, and I wish them all the best when it finally releases.

One game I’m retiscent to talk about is Heavy Rain. I watched people play the demo on the floor of the Expo, but, unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to play it myself. It’s my only real regret, to be honest, that I missed out on that. I have been criticising the game, perhaps unfairly. I’m trying to keep an open mind about the game, and to that end I have ignored most of the press and hype that’s being created around it. What I will say is this: it does have the appearance of a point-and-click adventure game married to some QTE action sequences, and I think that the narrative – somewhat of an unknown quantity at this moment – will have to be something quite special in order to compensate. Personally, I think the game looks to represent a retrograde step in terms of storytelling – but that’s just my opinion, and there’s every chance I could be wrong in that.

I’ve pretty much finished with Beautiful Katamari now, having finished the main game and completed as many achievements I can be bothered to get. I would have considered buying it, but then I saw the accusations surrounding the DLC – i.e., that Bandai had intentionally locked additional content on the disc and the “DLC” consisted of nothing more than an unlock key. Great job, guys, because you just lost yourselves a sale. A shame, really, since I really dig the tone and play-style of the game. Too bad Bandai decided to puke all over it with their corporate greed. (Sigh.)

Anyway, with that out the way, I’ve moved onto Batman: Arkum Asylum. Now that’s a high quality product! It really is such a well crafted, well designed game – and it knows its limits, which is important. To be quite honest, I’m too tired right now to go into massive detail, but I’d have no hesitation recommending it. It’s probably one of the best, if not the best, comic book superhero game I’ve played.

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