Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Musings and Happenings

While I escape the depressing clutches of uni work, both academic and tutoring relating, I find myself playing a vast variety of games lately. Some of these are new. Some of them are very, very old. It is interesting which of these games I have enjoyed more than others as it says something (at least to me) about the design of games today versus that of yesteryear.

As I expected, Shogun 2 was fantastic. It is probably going to be my favourite PC game of the year. It is polished and refined, something you would expect of Creative Assembly after returning to their roots having learnt everything from the previous iterations of the Total War series. For three days straight I put in roughly 28 hours and completed a domination campaign. I have not spent that much time on a game since I was 'addicted' to WoW in my second year of uni. To clarify what I mean by addiction in a gaming sense, I mean simply playing a game for an unhealthy amount of time, ignoring more important aspects of life. This includes people and housework. So, for three days I did just that, but at the end of it I didn't feel as 'bad' as I used to when I would do the same thing in WoW. Shogun 2 is ... almost a spiritual game, reinforced by the sometimes calming music and zen-like attitude the game forces you to have towards warfare. However, having said that, there is nothing more awe-inspiring than watching your armies march into battle in what is perhaps the best looking RTS game currently on the market. I swear I could listen to the sound of 3000 ashigaru trudging towards their doom forever.

But then there was Bulletstorm. I guess I should have expected the game to be what it is, but me being a fan of the old UT series and of Painkiller still had my hopes up nonetheless. This game makes me want to facepalm so hard that I swear my face would be nothing but a bloody skull by the end of the game. Kill with Skill? Really? Is this really the selling point of this game? There is nothing skillful about the killing in this. It is not hard, nor is constrained by time in any difficult sense of the word. A typical killing scenario involves popping your head over your chest-high wall, looking for a dude to leash, leashing him into the air towards you, looking around for 10 years to find something to kick him into (seriously, you have so much time to do this it isn't even funny) and finally giving him a blast of generic gun type B to assist him on his merry way. Congratulations, here is 500 points. I'm sorry, but this is not killing with skill. It's killing creatively, I will give you that, but when you do it over and over and over again it gets incredibly dull. It's not a bad game by any means. It's just not as good as it COULD have been. Then there are the quick time events, in particular the 'react quickly to this to get points' ones. I shit you not, something will occur and the speed that of which you press a button to automatically look at whatever it is the game wants you to look at will reward you some bonus points. The first time this happened I thought it was a joke, that was how stupid I found it. Then it kept happening. You also can't jump. Yeah. Yahtzee sums up the game pretty well in his Zero Punctuation review of it, mainly it being stuck between the (actually) skillful and fast paced days of old and the retardedly slow and console-like FPS games of today. If you want a clearer picture I recommend watching it.

... can you actually see what is going on here? Yeah, me neither.

Which brings me to my next chapter: games of old. I have been playing an uncanny amount of Doom lately for one simple reason: it is incredibly fun. The amount of media attention and articles revolving around oldskool FPS games of late (something I am quite happy to see) has inspired me to revisit some of these titles again. Doom was the first on the agenda which I actually found rather challenging. Putting it on Ultraviolence and wading straight in, I found myself on occasion being caught off guard by the odd imp or hellknight and almost (almost) jumping out of my seat. I will even admit I even died a few times. Now, to properly bring attention to the gravity of that statement I will inform you of two things. Firstly, I am using a mouselook mod called ZDoom which allows you to use a mouse and look somewhat along the wonky Z axis that Doom permits. Doom was not originally designed for mouselook, so being able to use a mouse gives me an enormous advantage. Secondly, if you have ever played Doom you will know that you can move at almost the speed of sound. So an experienced FPS player dying in Doom with these two aspects in their favour is, at least to me, telling me just how difficult this game really is. Certain sections I found myself just running through to get away from the hordes as I didn't have the ammo or the health to deal with them. Which, and this is important, was actually fun as well. Having to go from Rambo in one room to Houdini in the next reminds me of the importance of resource management (health, ammo, weapons, armor etc.) in these types of FPS games, something that is lacking in almost every new one being released today.

Never fight a drunken hobo weilding a boomstick

I have also recently jumped back into Half-life again after my last nostalgic audio post. While very different from Doom in terms of game play, the concept of resource management is still the same. If you simply want to get through the game you don't need to kill everything, but finding additional pickups may require you to do so anyway. As anyone who has played it will know, the game is constantly throwing new situations at you which are either combat or puzzle based. A good balance between the two (which the game pulls off) makes for very engaging game play that can keep you immersed for hours. Which is what the series is essentially renowned for. Also like Doom, it is not a piece of cake. Many a time I have found myself stumbling over a cliff face in a firefight frenzy or getting flanked by soldiers. Usually stupid things that I would usually check for but have forgotten that a game as old as Half-life has implemented. It is good to see I can still get just as much a kick out of these games as new ones being released today with all their fancy flair and poise. Perhaps even more so...

Blue is a terrible colour. Here, try some red on.

Sif not shoot everything with a shotgun.

Finally, on a much different note, I am slowly putting the pieces of a League of Legends frag video together. So far only two of us have actually submitted any replays (using LoLReplay, an excellent third party recording tool) but hopefully I will have roughly 2-300 clips of various LoL occurrences by the end. An awesome section, a humorous section and possibly a failboat section (which will be both awesome and humorous) will probably suffice in terms of video chapters. I will probably think about it more when the time comes to actually edit it. In the meantime I will entertain myself with smaller projects such as the following:

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