|Posted on January 22, 2014 at 1:10 AM|
Let’s Talk Vidya Games
In the film and television industry, everybody takes two weeks off during the holidays. From before Christmas to after the New Years, it’s always two weeks and it is glorious. Most people travel, some go home for the holidays (ok, most if you’re living in LA) but I…I played video games.
Well I also wrote a feature script and half of a second one so I did that also, and I watched a ton of screener DVDs, but I also played video games because I work so much that playing games is limited. I usually see movies because movies I don’t have to invest as much time. So for two weeks…I had that much time. I had to. I had games stacked and still not played. So here’s a rundown of some I played.
The Last of Us
I already wrote a ton about The Last of Us, but yes I beat this game again and, yes, it's every bit as great as I remember playing it the first time. I technically started it in November, but seeing as how I now had time off, I ran through the rest of it in one day and beat it again. I won’t say much other than that it was far more replayable than I expected. Certain small “optional” scenes were new this time, and I just saw a video called “Ellies jokes” which I didn’t get through either of my two playthroughs. So I think a third play is in order.
In other words, my choice as this beauty being my favorite game of the past ten years stands. Though there are some games that certainly come close, it's just that spectacular.
Batman Arkham Origins
Great story…clunky game. That’s what I took away from this third title in the Batman Arkham series. Before I go on, let’s just put the first game, Arkham Asylum, in a bubble. It’s not part of this discussion.
You put it there. Ok…
I see the second game, Arkham City, and this third game, Arkham Origins, as two sides of the same coin. On one, you have City, which is polished, plays great and is a lot of fun, but is held down by a piss-poor story that seemed more interested in putting in as many rogues as it could rathe than tell a good narrative to make it work in its universe. It has good moments, but nothing that ever fully comes together to have an interesting story.
Arkham Origins, however, has a spectacular story. It understood that restraint can actually go a long way, and it did it masterfully. Unfortuantly it’s essentially the same world as Arkham City, meaning there’s little imagination in its design other than adding Christmas lights because it’s set around Christmas which really doesn’t play a part in the game at all. On top of that, it’s buggy and glitchy and the camera hates you and it’s overall clunky every step of the way. The best parts are the great boss battles, and it can easily be seen that most of the time and effort in the “polish” department was put in those.
As it stands, I actually like it more than Arkham City because I like what it sets up for itself and it pretty much nails it in the story department and overall pace, but both I see as games that just missed the mark: City in story and Origins in gameplay polish (seriously, you could have warned by that once I go after Firefly that I have no control for the rest of the game to do anything and it just takes you to the end resulting in something that feels rushed and half-assed).
Fans of the series will still eat it up, but the fourth game needs to do a lot different. Story. World. Keep the fighting. New gadgets and so on. Just an overhaul of the design and maybe a new engine, this one really showed its age in Origins.
Final Rating: Six frustrating camera angles out of ten
Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus
I love the Ratchet and Clank games. I have for over ten years going back to the first one on the Playstation 2 and more specifically, the awesome one on the PS2, “Going Commando”
This last hurrah for the PS3 Ratchet and Clank game, “Into the Nexus,” starts well. The graphics are solid, though a bit of a downgrade by comparison, and the voice acting and writing is still wonderful. Best of all is the controls are as smooth and silky as ever, almost like riding a bike on how easy it was to just jump right back in to them.
it’d a budget title, make no mistake. I paid about 12 bucks for it on sale somewhere for Black Friday, but I knew what to expect and an extra 5 or so hours of Ratchet and Clank is better than none at all, right? For the most part, though certainly different in many ways, it was a great experience and reminded me why I loved the series to begin with.
But then came the other part: glitches. The game has been getting some flak for that, however I wasn’t all that concerned. Games have glitches sometimes, I usually just move on. As long as it’s not a game-ending glitch or bug, I’m cool with it.
As long as it’s not a game-ending glitch or bug….
To make a long story short, I encountered one glitch that removes all your weapons. There’s no solution. I never heard back from Insomniac or the message boards at the Into the Nexus website about a solution, the only one that seemed to be viable was to start the game over entirely.
So as a result, I can’t really review the game. What’s there and working was enjoyable (love that jetpack) but that glitch was also something that is “there” and if a game is made in a manner to where you can’t beat it…then can you say it’s a good game? I don’t think so.
At this moment I’m debating on returning it with just setting it aside for a bit and coming back and restarting the whole thing later. I haven’t quite decided yet and I have another week to figure that out.
Final Rating: One game-breaking glitch out of none
A Link Between Worlds
You know Zelda games. You’ve played them. This one is no different so you know what to expect going on. The trick to a good Zelda game, though, isn’t necessarily originality, but in design and making the design elements work and be fun. There will always be a “Zelda” and a “Link” and an “Ganon” and a “Triforce” for the most part, and this one has all those things…kind of…but what makes the Zelda games great is the sense of adventure they put inside you. They give you goals, a sword and say “better go do it” and you know what? You better.
Along the way you find other things to do, from side quest to mini adventures and so on, and go on your fetch quests to find the special-somethings to beat the bad-thing. It's a formula refined for decades into something always familiar and sometimes limits what the series could do or where it could go, but this one shows you can blend both nicely.
On paper, Zelda games sound bland and awful, don’t they? But then you play them, and you get sucked in to it and all that you can do. In the case of A Link Between Worlds, a “sequel” to one of the best Zelda titles ever, A Link to the Past, you’re going pretty old-school. Where to go, what to do, how to fight, how to use your items and abilities to explore the world, it’s pretty non-linear (especially after Skyward Sword which is pretty badly designed if you ask me. And you are, you’re reading this, right?) and is just fun. A lot of fun. So fun you don’t want it to end.
I ran roughshod through this game and I regret it. I should have spaced it out, but I couldn’t tear myself away from it. I haven’t been as sucked into a game since, well since The Last of Us early in 2013, but before that I’m thinking…ummm….Red Dead Redemption maybe?
It’s a brilliant game and shows that Nintendo, when they want to, really knows how to give people what they wanted (I don’t think anyone really wanted Skyward Sword). It’s a great blend of the old and the new, and also makes great use of the 3D on the 3DS on top of it, arguably the best 3D use that little system has to offer. It;s easily one of my favorite Zelda games, but a good Zelda game is a good Zelda game, and this one is certainly a good one.
Final Rating: Three Triforce pieces out of Three
Assassins Creed Black Flag
I’ve never been a huge Assassins Creed fan. In fact, one of my earliest blogs online was how I just couldn’t get into them (you can read that here) and how there seemed to be a constant sense of breaking immersion because the people simply didn’t act like real people around you. You can do just about anything and kill anyone but if you sit next to some monks, all is good because of hoods and stuff.
But Black Flag just scratches that itch. Oh, I still have a ton of problems. The controls still make little sense, the fact you either walk slow or run as your only speeds is as annoying as ever and the game still can’t find the balance between “free running” and “precision platforming” that has you running and jumping and standing in places you really don’t want to be - a lack of control for the freedom to go anywhere versus trying to control exactly where you want to go.
So in retrospect, I suppose it's best described as this: all the new stuff is great, all the old stuff that still tries to hang its hat on the lopsided, badly-made and archaic Assassins Creed games of old...not so great. It's kind of stuck in this weird area of wanting to be its own thing and do something new but held back by "essential" things from the past that feel dated.
You see, Ubisoft games tend to have their own style and it’s grown and grown into its own sort of “thing” the past few years. The worlds are open, you have to “open up” locations and “viewpoints” or “towers” to find where collectibles are of which there are too many to feasibly get in one play through. The Far Cry games, especially the third and the AC games are essentially the same type of gameplay for the most part, only one in first person and the other third.
Black Flag is essentially them going “Screw it…just…here…here’s a bunch of shit in a big open world to see and do now go explore.”
And THATS the itch I love. For the same reason I like Zelda games and RPGs, options to do a variety of things, find secrets, collect items, engage in battles at will and trek across the world to see what there is to see. What’s over the next horizon or in that weird cave? Let’s go find out.
So Black Flag didn’t really fix some of the problems I have had with the Assassins Creed games, mainly the controls, but it added enough new content and stuff and has the standard gorgeous graphics and solid writing to more than make up for it. The good far far far outweighs the bad. Finally. Not that I hated the past games, though I couldn’t wade through the blandness of the third title, but here the game sets it all up for you to just have fun, and that’s all I ask.
Final Rating: Eight "Arhs!" out of…errr….something. Arh!