Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mini-reviews (of games past [of this year])

Just got a hold of the (hopefully-good) new Ghostbusters game. I'll be playing and talking about soon (they even got Walter Peck, the Big Government-humping, Environmental Protection Agent From Hell to return!), but for now, I'll be blogging a little bit of a few titles that I've played during this year, before joining the team (much love, homies).

Saints Row 2
Volition | THQ

I never got to check out Volition's title until very early this year, and one thing's for sure, it was five times the game the odious Grand Theft Auto IV ever was. In fact, not only was Volition's"pompous" Would you rather? ad actually quite prescient, it's not hyperbole to say that literally everything was better, right down to the in-game shopping; whereas in GTAIV I was deciding what one of four or five chintzy hats to place on Niko's head, in SR2 I weighed with heavier decisions: ninja, or pirate? Or naked with a flasher's trenchcoat?

Even the storytelling was superior, compared to GTAIV's of which we were all assured as "groundbreaking" by the mainstream gaming press; the reality I was instead struck with is that Niko is whiny, wishy-washy, and ultimately nothing special, especially compared to the outrageous Cockney sociopath I had constructed in SR2. Niko moans on about a violent past when he's not, paradoxically, semi-reluctantly shooting thugs in the face. The lengths my vicious Cockney friend goes for twisted vengeance, however, is already the stuff of videogame legend. Would you rather indeed.

Speaking of main$tream videogame reviewers, the disconnect between them and the gamers over GTAIV was suspect enough, but worse starts to occur when you compare the cudgels they brought out for SR2 to the loofahs they apparently used for GTAIV. But that's another blog post.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Uncaged Edition)
Raven Software | Activision

This game kicked ass. Fun, fast, stylish, rewarding action, feeling very much in the vein of old NES actioneers. Most of all, I'm amazed to see not just a movie-license game find success with me, a group of games otherwise notoriously shabby (hell, even the PS2/Wii version of this very title WAS in fact shabby), but that this is in fact a movie game about Wolverine. And I still like it.

You see, all this praise is coming from someone who believes Wolverine, with all due respect to his fans, is kinda...closet stupid. In my opinion, he never quite seemed that bad-ass for a guy who makes that his bread-and-butter; in cartoons he was too often laughably tackling and "hugging" his opponents rather than actually using the claws, and even in the comics his bad-ass-ness seemed more like pro wresting-style canned heat that promptly wilted whenever he ran into an actual bad-ass. Further complicating matters is his powers which, aside from excelling at raping common sense (well, moreso than even your average superhero's), is essentially just the ability to recover after a serious ass-whupping. Compare this to Batman, who'd rather just whip your ass instead. Right.

That's not the case in this game. Here he's a skillfully vicious monster that rightly causes the enemies to crap their pants in terror. Add to that some very high quality action direction from Raven and, well, they pull it off; I leave the game at least no longer a strident skeptic of the ol' Canucklehead. Other skeptics shouldn't take my word for it; they should watch the video below documenting the best of my first playthrough.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Monolith | WB Interactive

Yet another McShooter, of which this industry still has a glut going even years into it now, despite any past intra-industry grousing and finger-pointing; ("Too many shooters", hissed Microsoft of the PS3, a couple years ago. Et tu, Microsoft?). Real unfortunate, as the original F.E.A.R. was decidedly not shooter-routine, for most part; containing innovation ranging from its villains and horror setting to some fun mechanics such as its scripting tricks and slo-mo. This title, however, while still not technically bad, is regrettably McShooter vanilla, right down to, sigh, Quick Time Events and Knee-Jerk Collectibles, two of the Four Horsemen of the Mediocre Game Pile-up (alongside Tacked-On Multiplayer and Cynical DLC Schemes). Note to Monolith, although I understand it's far too late: I'd rather look for good scares and gameplay opportunities than "Intel Items" and button-mashing prompts.

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