Monday, 23 August 2010

Gamescom's from a gamers' perspective: 4 days of hands-on!

I've just come back from 4 very intense days of Cologne's Gamescom and there's really plenty to write about.

I'll give the perspective of a gamer that got in queue and played as much as possible during the event.
I'll just mention the games I saw and played, of course I didn't have the time to see everything (mostly because of queue times) but really squeezed a lot of stuff into these 4 days, mostly checking out the games I look forward to.

And so... the GAMES (by publisher):


Sony's space was the first I visited. There was so much stuff I wanted to check out and of course I also wanted to try Move!
Their space was really great: large, very creatively arranged and decorated, with tens of games to try out and a big staff to help you into the experience. The 18+ closed space was really great, with cool looking playing stations that resembled a bath rather than hospital beds and so on. Definitely the best and most creative looking booth/space of the fair!

Gran Turismo 5
What can one say about Gran Turismo apart that it's Gran Turismo, better and bigger than ever? It's just incredible to look at and great to drive, you really feel into a real circuit because there's so much detail and realism.
To me, the steering wheel is a must to really enjoy the experience. To all those that love the series and driving games is just a must have.

Infamous 2
Another sequel that looks like it's fulfilling its destiny. As Cole has grown up with more control over its powers and a deeper understanding of his actions so has the game: much more beautiful to look at, spectacular as far as special effects and powers go and with the same cool mechanics, refined and fine-tuned, already typical of the series.
Really sleek animations and a smooth, intriguing gaming experience. The game pace allows you to look at the outburst of power and destruction you unleash, which is quite spectacular.
The hands-on version at the booth still had heavy aliasing however that's certainly something they will smooth away since all gameplay videos shown featured a good anti-aliasing.



Killzone 3
Even though the made the characters a bit "lighter" (which is somehow a pity as it was something so peculiar of Killzone 2) the shooter experience is as great as ever.
The atmosphere and mood are great and you really feel into the battlefield, a really engaging experience.
Viewing it in 3D was really cool as well. I'm not sure about the quality of 3D (monitors and glasses) available at Gamescom, it would be nice to test these games on other 3D systems.

Little Big Planet 2
LBP2 is just a game you don't want to quit playing.
Already at the first level you get to use the new hook tool quite a lot. It allows you to progress through the levels since sometime jumping won't be enough (if you want to survive and go on). The pace is faster and the level design even more complex and engaging.
Levels are really rich with games within games that just add fun to fun.
The new create tools will certainly also set a new standard for the shared levels: with LBP the concept of Play & Create its at its best!!!

SOCOM 4: U. S. Navy Seals
A very solid shooter that seemed to well integrate the Move technology into it. Graphically speaking is not mind-blowing but definitely good looking and controls were easy to grasp.
The more tactical experience it will offer is certainly promising and will differentiate it from the other shooters. I'm also looking forward to a solid and enjoyable multiplayer!

Heroes on the Move
Really a great feel playing it with Move. Great response, funny to play and really good looking!
Definitely a title to look forward for Move users and for the lovers of the Playstation icon characters featured!



The Fighter
The game seems promising and didn't look bad although pretty basic considering what's on the screen and it still felt and looked a bit rough especially for the gameplay/move integration. Perhaps because of the calibration, the response between Move and the game wasn't that great and the character didn't really mirror your moves.
It's worth a second look once it's more polished.

Sport Champions
Another Move game that looks very promising. Nice and clear graphic, very good Move response and a series of different sport activities.
I watched various games and tried the arrow one which was really good: very responsive and smooth: definitely a more casual (but not that much) Move game that will be worth having.


Microsoft's space was a bit plain with just a series of playing stations (XBOX360 :P) on the walls.
Of course I'm not talking about the Kinect-part which was massive and with several booths were you could freely jump around.
I'm rather referring to the 18+ closed space that hosted Halo: Reach, Fable III and a series of other games (even though no one of those were mentioned on the outside, go figure!) among which Hydrophobia. (Other non-MS related hosted there were Shank, Star Wars: force Unleashed 2, Marvel vs Capcom, Enslaved, Castlevania: Lord of Shadows, Vanquish).

Halo: Reach
I haven't tried it that much since it's just a few weeks away from the release, however the shooting feel was good and responsive and definitely looks like a solid experience both for the co-op campaign and multiplayer.

Fable III
Take Fable II and make it better all around: very nice looking graphic with a less rough and cartoon style, more adult looking all around without going too realistic.
A real co-op experience with 2 players able to roam a world together with their own characters (and dogs).
Even more impact on the world depending on your choices. And the world will also be influenced by the choice and actions of the others you host into your game.
Very nice looking space to customize your character (a bit like Ezio's Villa in Assassin's Creed 2).
The possibility to create a unique character (with the pre-order) that will then give you a mission depending on how you created it sounds pretty cool!

Hydrophobia
A shooter-adventure XBLA timed exclusive that will also be released on the PSN later on. This is a downloadable game that could easily be mistaken for a retail: very nice looking, great water and very good physics, looks quite deep gameplay-wise.
The game focuses around water: this makes for a very peculiar gameplay and adds quite some tension (you can drown if you're not careful and go breath when you need to). The demo was really engaging, as said, you have to play smart and use water to your advantage in the different situations you'll find yourself into (you can shoot at electric cables to electrify your enemies or you can shoot at it to render it harmless for your own safety - or just do both one after the other).
Definitely a game to check out even because it will be a cheap one to snatch through XBLA and PSN and certainly interesting to play!



Nintendo's space was clean and cluttered with kids but not only!
I have to say that I'm guilty of not owning any Nintendo's console, however after the E3 presentation of the new Kirby I just had to try it out.
I also wanted to check Epic Mickey but didn't have a chance.

Kirby's Epic Yarn
Great style, fun gameplay, smooth and collaborative co-op. A great platform with a sweet flavour to it that will make me buy a Wii.
The level design is very well built and you can also interact with the environment, for example you can open zippers that will reveal hidden places, scrunch up towers to jump up and reach higher level. You can throw your companion against enemies or jump on it to go higher.
The style is very well done, original, solid and well integrates with the gameplay (makes sense to fold a tower made of soft fabric).



EA's space really had a lot of stuff worth checking out and I was able to get my hand on quite some stuff.
I couldn't see Mirror's Edge playing on the iPad but Faith's bag was my trusty companion during the Gamecom!

Crysis 2
The 3D intro was definitely impressive as well as the campaign footage (the same already shown at E3 but seeing it in 3D was quite cool).
The XBOX360 multiplayer demo however wasn't that impressive as far as the look of the game is. That said its various features seemed intriguing with customizable characters, varied and vertical maps and promising rank-up system. It moved smoothly and the map seemed well built with a lot of covers and routes to flank your enemies. You can also somehow modify the environment: breaking catwalks etc. to create shortcuts or cut your enemies out.

Dragon Age 2
It's named Dragon Age but honestly doesn't seem to have much in common with its predecessor. Quite different as far as gameplay goes, looks and feels much more like an action game than "Dragon Age". The story is indeed a sequel from the first chapter but everything else it's definitely not.
After Mass Effect it really seems that BioWare is re-defining Dragon Age as well, to make it more action and, probably, more console-oriented but it also featured the wheel dialogue system and you can chose to be aggressive, neutral or defensive (just like in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2).
The graphic still looked very rough, will it feature co-op?
Still a lot to find out but certainly not what I was expecting from Dragon Age's sequel.

Medal of Honor
The multiplayer (improved from the beta released weeks ago) feels a lot like Battlefield (after all it's DICE) so it's very intuitive to play but lacks the destructibility and has less wide spaces (only taking into consideration the BETA and Gamescom maps).
The map I played however looked well build, on multyple levels and able to give you a good advantage if you carefully chose the way to go (a couple of time I was able to flank the enemies and shoot a bunch of them from behind).
When you die you still just suddenly drop-dead (as in the beta), I don't know if that's just how it's going to be in the final game (feels a bit awkward) to offer "something different".
The classes and rank up seemed more fine-tuned, with more weapons etc., in the end it's a direct competitor of Call of Duty so it certainly needs to deliver to be successful.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
As for being HOT it certainly is! A driving game that will certainly be fun: great looking, fast pace and very smooth driving experience.
We just got into the action, having to escape police and win the race against other. You have to find the best route to get there first, avoid other other races weapons and try to eliminate them and the police with your own weapons.
It looked and felt really great, engaging and "explosive": certainly looking forward to it and to the online experience!

Star Wars: The Old Republic
I have to say I'm not a MMO or MMORPG games however I was very curious about this one: who doesn't like the Star Wars universe, after all?
The game does look good enough, there are interesting and different classes and there seems to be quite some room for nice team experiences.
The introduction we played showed an nice and well structured environment, you can of course accept side missions or not and depending on how you play your character you'll build a reputation and NPC will react to it and the same is valid for your companion characters. The presentation video pointed out that a lot of work went into dubbing so that all the dialogue will be spoken and there will be different talking tones depending on whether your character is more on the light or dark side of things.
The developers' aim is to make you feel like a character from the universe, I'll definitely follow this one to finally try a MMO after the big disappointment that APB was. The gameplay, level build and all other features of Old Republic looked and felt quite promising!


Blizzard's space was imposing with big screens that showed the awesome cinematics and trailers of Starcraft and WoW. However not being a WoW player and with Starcraft already installed on my pc what I was looking for (and took quite a queue to reach) was:

Diablo 3
The nice thing is: they just put you in front of a monitor and let you play. Different classes, loads of items, co-op playing: Diablo III it's simply a must have and just after a little time playing I didn't want to leave my character alone to let other attenders check it out.
Just as with the previous chapter there seem to be tens of options and items and the environment is really well built and complex. I played the monk and really loved how it moved and played: totally fun and engaging, that's all one needs to know!


Bethesda's games being all 18+ were shown in a restricted access area. Quite a nice poker of games that, luckily, didn't mean too long queues, apart from Rage's 1-hour long presentation (and 2 hours long queue x_x).

Brink
Very nicely impressed by it. The style is very cool in the right, exaggerated way.
The multiplayer was resistance against security and I played resistance. The customization options were many, very different and great looking (it only lacks female characters :( which would have looked super-awesome).
The shooting system was very intuitive and well done, easy to grasp, easy to play. Very good looking, smooth movements and animations. Good level design, you can climb and gain a position advantage to your enemies.
4 classes that are quite "classic", think about Killzone 2 with the engineer leaving turrets, the medic that heals etc. What it's nice is that you earn points every time you hit an enemy rather than just for kill and assists which perhaps makes the reward system a bit fairer.



Hunted: the Demon's forge
This was a nice surprise playable in the Fallout booth.
The game, scarcely advertised so far, is a full co-op (think RE5) set in a fantasy world.
The female character is an archer while the male is a Warrior, however both can use melee and ranged weapons and both use magic.
What I liked most is the strategy between the two players. The warriors goes melee while the archer covers him from a higher and more covered position but of course you can play your strategy however you like. While the path is mostly just one the environment is wide enough that you can plan your strategy however you like and exploit the various levels, covers etc. at your advantage. The characters can launch a potion to revive each other so you can do it even from a distance.
The controls were easy and intuitive and playing felt quite smooth. If you play alone you can take control of both characters so that you can actually guide the AI character too if you need to.
Quite engaging, for those that love co-op games (but not only) this is a must to check out!



Rage
First time Rage was shown to an audience and it was quite cool. Not only the video was intriguing, showing quite a lot of game but also the developer in the room explained a lot of things about the game development and features.
The game looked great: with a rich, post-apocalyptic feel, a very complex, multi-levels environment and a lot of details. It's a shooter, driving game with RPG elements.
Somehow you could put between Borderlands and Fallout talking about the style and game elements but that as far as the graphic and scenery complexity it blows both away. It's much more complex and deep than borderlands, it's not so RPG as Fallout.
idSoftware basically decided to start a new generation/type of shooters and they certainly can do it.

Fallout: New Vegas
I'll be honest, this is just not for me. While Killzone 2 could almost cause motion sickness when you played it (I loved it by the way) in Fallout: New Vegas your characters keep going on a rail. No walking or weight feel: nothing of nothing, to me this is just like breaking the illusion, I can't feel into it.
Add to it the dumbest IA ever that run against you while you shot them with a shotgun... ah, I said. Just not for me.
For the Fallout lovers out there, it's probably more of what they like, sorry I can't be very informative on this one :P!


Square Enix's space had some similarities with Nintendo's one: clear and clean looking, well organized.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
There was a video showing at Square Enix' Gamescom cinema every few hours. The intro video is obviously mind-blowing.
It's a stealth game with a lot of action, environment interaction and the ability to chose your strategy and route to the mission goal.
It's set in a not so distant future as far as time goes, 2027 but in a very heavy cyberpunk vision of the future with nanotechnology being very advanced and characters (well, not everyone of course but definitely the heroes or villains) that are a mix of human and cyber tech.
As far as the graphic compartment is concerned the gameplay footage didn't look particularly impressive but weapons, the different ways you can approach the environment and so on were definitely captivating. The live demonstration showed some interesting features: definitely to check out!


Namco Bandai's hot spot for me was

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Being hyped for quite sometime by Ninja Theory's new game I really wanted to try this out.
The combat system is very cool, nice moves, very smooth, easy to grasp controls. Steady frame-rate.
The platform part of the game (jumping around the map) felt pretty guided but it could be because the start serves as tutorial: still, it was quite cool to play with all the crash and bang going on as you proceeded. I wasn't able to reach the point where the characters meet but I'm really curious to find out more the co-op play this features.
Very nice mood and style as well as color palette although not particularly impressive graphically. PS3 and XBOX360 versions looked pretty much the same.


Lucas Arts. I was upset there was nowhere to check out my favourite disciple at the fair... until I entered Microsoft's "Halo & Fable" booth and found 2 stations that featured it: my marvel!

Star Wars: the Force Unleashed 2
again, it's the first one bigger and better. Very high quality graphic, very smooth, wide spaces, ass-kicking powers! The moves are spectacular, the animation smooth and acrobatic.
The disciple, atmosphere and anything is just heroic and you really feel powerful and at the center of it all.
It's very easy to control and move and very satisfactory when you unleash your powers!



THQ, I loved Red Faction: Guerrilla so I was looking forward to the next chapter

Red faction: Armageddon
Features Mason's grandson in a quest to find out who's killing all Mars' inhabitants.
We were shown a gameplay video that was really amazing: imagine what you can do when you can break and destroy everything around you... and then re-build it! In fact this is a new ability of the character: things can be rebuilt so, for example, you can blow up a containers' door, enter, rebuild it to hide yourself inside, locate all the enemies around you (with a sort of rader) and then break out and wreak havoc!
There is also a new magnet-based weapon that can dispose of anything built of metal in quite a few shots.
Definitely the worthy successor of Guerrilla this new chapter looks even more complex, with more and more intriguing weapons and therefore strategic possibilities and an evolved Mars to explore!


Valve's Portal 2 was one of the games I absolutely wanted to try out. It was just a video but a quite awesome one!

Portal 2
First of all it looked amazing and very high resolution so it probably was the PC version. Unfortunately because of the noise (terrible noise) and the lack of subtitles it was hard to follow the bits of dialogue featured, however the images spoke loud enough.
The graphic was really excellent, super-clean, super sci-fi style. Physics was also impressive as well as how everything looked smooth and polished. A super platform that will really engage the player to find the best way to reach its objectives!



Konami's Castlevania had its own stand but I actually played skipped the queue and played for quite some time

Castlevania: Lord of Shadows
The graphic featured a heavy aliasing on XBOX360 however the game combat was smooth and easy to grasp and the interface very nicely done. I had some slight trouble with the camera since sometimes it was hard to rotate it to the direction you wanted (when I needed to touch the life spring, for example).
I found it funny that you had to hit your werewolf enemies multiple times to get rid of it but launching a dagger would make them explode as big blood balloon.
The middle-boss fight looked a bit too staged but was still nice.
It certainly didn't look as spectacular as GOW is both for the environment and action however I think it can be a nice game to play.


Sega had no booth at Gamescom 2010 but Vanquish was available to play at the Microsoft's "Halo & Fable" booth, unfortunately you had to be lucky enough to enter and find it out 'cause it was not advertised anywhere.

Vanquish
Talking about coolness! The character moves are really great and spectacular and controls are smooth and responsive. It really isn't hard to see the hand of Bayonetta's Plantinum Games behind the combat system and animation.
The combat experience really run smooth, with good graphic, great response and a series of moves that really make you want to experiment. For example if you engage an enemy in melee and start punching it with fists you can keep pressing the button and the fists become faster and faster so much that you don't even see any more.
While the cover/slide system may remind of Gears of War this is much smoother and refined. There are several weapons you can carry and chose depending on the situation and the map looked open enough to allow for some tactic: taking vantage points and so on.



Ubisoft had several games at the fair but the only one I decided to queue for (and luckily it wasn't too long a queue) was:

Assassin's Creed 2: Brotherhood
As you can imagine this is a sort of expansion for Assassin's Creed second chapter. What's new in the game is that you still control Ezio but also have a bunch of other assassins that come with you.
I can't say much about how this feature work though since we could only try the multiplayer.
The video showed the new chapter start which felt a bit awkward with Monteriggioni under siege and no one that had noticed the many siege towers approaching...
Anyway, as far as the multiplayer I tried. There basically are 8 characters and was an all vs all. You are given and objective, which is one of the other player and you have to assassinate it. Of course someone else is going after you so you also have to avoid being executed. While the idea sounds nice it didn't feel particularly engaging since you basically have to approach your objective and then execute it just pressing a button.
The characters only differ for the appearance (since there can't be characters that look the same) and then there are 3 sets of skill you can chose depending on the special abilities you like most.


Runic Game had a little but welcoming stand, unfortunately just side by side with Razer,'s disco stage however people didn't get discouraged by the unbearable high music and queued up to try the second chapter of their Torchlight series.

Torchlight II
Many complained about the first Torchlight for not being co-op, well, the second chapter is co-op! The graphic is brilliant as in the first chapter, colourful, nice models.
There were two classes to try out (of the four that will be in the final game): a melee and ranged one, you can play as male or female and slightly customize your character.
You can choose a cat, dog or ferret which are all very cool looking. There a lot of action that goes one with many enemies to dispose of with your weapons or powers.
This will be a nice one to play before Diablo III releases :P!



GENERAL NOTES:

UP: The fair was really great, a lot to see and try out, well organized.
There were a lot of people but the space is huge and you never ended up squeezed in the crowd (well, maybe before they opened door if you wanted to be among the first to enter, however not that much in that case either).
The room temperature was also good: you could go around wearing a shirt without sweating, corridors however were a bit hotter.
Also reaching the fair via S-Bahn was very fast and comfortable, from the main Cologne station it's just a stop and there's plenty of trains every few minutes.

UP: 3D games were cool to check out hands-on: Crysis, Killzone 3, Gran Turismo 5 and King's Bounty, among other. Unfortunately there was no WipeOut 3D, I asked and they explained they were experiencing some trouble with the 3D monitor so they had to take it away.
Probably though they give their best on larger monitors, those at the fair were probably around 22/24 inches.

So-So: Lots of nice goodies, lots of shirts but no female ones (I'm talking about those that were being given away not the ones sold there). The Crysis 2's I heart New York shirt is pretty cool but I also like the Portal 2 ones.

There was a little stand selling gaming-related stuff (Blizzard's shirts but, again, no female ones) and some action figures but I would have liked more.

It would be nice if publishers would also bring some special goodies for sale, you know, things like those included in special edition that you cannot get anywhere but buying the game or at this fair (what about LBP goodies or shirts, for examplE?).

Square Enix also always shows its action figures but they only sell them online (perhaps would be too much trouble bringing it at the fair? However they were advertising they just opened their European shop.

Down: too much noise! My gosh some of the booths were more noisy than a disco.
Honestly I really don't feel it was fair. The Microsoft booth was "dwarfed" by the Red Dot Games one that hosted DJs with noisy music and smoke and all and the MS staff basically had to shout into your ears to explain about Fable III's new feature.
Checking out Torchlight II was also a pain in the ears as they were just near the Razer booth which seemed to be in direct competition with the Roccat one to see who had the loudest music.

While I noticed teenagers were captured by the deafening music like bees from honey (or rather free t-shirt and booth babes) the fair is about GAMES, people that want to PLAY games and be able to LISTEN at what game character SAY, to listen at the preview videos and so on.
Not a problem if they want to turn part of the fair in a disco, next time just put Razer, Roccat and whoever else isn't interested in GAMES and listening at them somewhere separated: attendees and staff will warmly thank-yuo!

Down: well, this is a bit of a girlish complain: not enough female character! While I do understand that implementing female characters can mean a lot more textures and models (like for Brink, although they'd look super-cool) for something like Crysis it would only be just one model (more or less) and what about Killzone 3 too? It would be nice if other maker would follow the example of S.O.C.O.M 4!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Transformers: War for Cybertron

I do like the Transformers as a concept so I was curious about the game.
I tried the PS3 demo and immediately found the multiplayer very interesting and fun so, given also that it is a full co-op and me and my fiancé are avid co-op players it was an instant buy.



The Single Player campaign can be played by up to 3 players, either friends (closed game by invite) or online with casual buddies.

During the story you play both as Decepticons (first) and Autobots (through the end) which is nice and you have four different classes to try out (Leader, Soldier, Scientist and Scout as in the multiplayer) although only 3 and sometimes 2 of them are available at the same time.

The story isn't particularly "amazing" but good enough and the game really is challenging, the gameplay is varied enough and you also need to fine tune your strategy against the different bosses.
If you're playing alone or with only another buddy, as I did, the third character is sort of useless in that he doesn't do much in terms of kills etc. but it's useful as a guide and often takes the enemy attention (and bullets) without ever dying which can come in handy (and very handy when you're alone) so you can definitely use the NPC for your strategy.

If you like to play it in hard mode I strongly suggest playing alone or with friends as resources are pretty scarce so you want to share them evenly with your mate, also, it's important to co-ordinate and always pick the scientist when available (the curing weapon is really helpful in hard mode).

If there's something I have to complain about is the ammo/life supply, in hard mode they are very scarce in many places and highly concentrated where you don't need them at all so you end up craving for ammo (even though you're very careful about not wasting them) or having to leave them behind 'cause you've got plenty already (and usually all this abundance is just before a door or whatever that will close down and become inaccessible afterward.

The Multiplayer is very solid and quite entertaining.
It has good variety with four classes (quite different and that you need to play differently) each of which has different usable weapons, abilities and abilities-boosts you can combine as you prefer to fine-tune them to your own game style for that class.
It's also got several unlocks for each class and many challenges that give you additional experience points.

The soldier is the toughest character and easier to play, so to speak, as it requires less strategy. The scientist, on the other hand is very weak but it's also the only one that can fly which allows for a quite different gameplay.
All in all, obviously every character had their strategy but be warned that if you start with the soldier you'll be "spoiled" by his high life points and you'll really find it hard to manage lower life points characters like the scientist afterward.

One of the most intriguing aspects is the ability to play both in robot and vehicle style, every class has its own vehicle with different weapons mounted on it.
The robot/vehicle transformation is really a breeze, very well implemented and done and definitely adds a lot to the game experience.

The maps (8) are more or less the same style, you don't have snowy landscapes, forests, sea etc. since Cybertron is "just" an hardware world however they indeed are varied.
They are also well build with two or even three levels and weapons, life cubes and ammo well scattered throughout the map.
There is no weapon that gives you an unfair advantage, they are all well balanced and quite different to use.
The Challenges points aren't particularly rewarding however the kills indeed are, they can grant you several points depending on the weapon or ability you used to perform if or even more for weapon/ability combos. You also get points for ending kill streaks, for killing the same enemy repeatedly or when in low life and so on so earning experience points isn't that hard although maxing all four classes will require some dedication.

The multiplayer with the four different classes and the various maps is entertaining and varied enough that you will keep playing it for quite sometimes and it's certainly "refreshing", so to speak, as it's not the "usual" war-like setting (not that I have much against it but changing style every once in a while is cool).



The Escalation mode is also intriguing and fun to play.
You can play it with up to 3 friends although only playing characters will enter the field (there won't be any NPC) and you have to fight 15 waves of enemies.
They start slow with the little spiders and weaker robots and every wave, obviously, becomes tougher and harder to fight.
Kills give you points that you can spend on life, ammo and additional weapons and grenades. You also have to unlock doors to have more of the map at your disposal and reach rooms with shields and more powerful weapons to be bought.

The little squares you get when killing robots fill your ability bar, just as in the campaign. Is very important to pick your characters carefully.
I can certainly suggest Arcee (cloaking and shockwave) and Ratchet (turret and shield) if you're playing in two only (but also do include them in any larger team).

I have to say tough that playing it in only two is very hard but still fun, we have reached wave 11 so far but have good chanced to improve our score!


Conclusion
This is definitely a game worth picking and playing, it's very well done and it's really fun in all 3 modes: co-op campaign, multi-player and escalation.
Definitely a solid 8.5.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Requests to developers

Games grow ever more complex and complete, yet, sometimes the end-users run into smaller or larger choices that somehow do spoil the gaming experience.

Of course, I'm not talking about bugs, those are just that, things to be fixed, but rather about how some things are implemented or some choices that maybe aren't that big a deal for a developer but that can be a bit or very annoying to some users.

So, based on personal experience and "issues" I've had I've compiled this little list for developers, little forethought that can improve users experience (sometimes even a lot!).

- Subtitles everywhere (in game, in cut-scenes etc.)
while nowadays the quality of dubbing in games is certainly superior to what it used to be some years ago the truth is the original voicing is (almost) always superior.
Just think about Uncharted 2, the voice was recorded together with the action, something that even a great dubbing cannot replicate.
Not to mention original actors are usually chosen with great care while for dubbing sometimes choices are more limited (due both to time and money restrictions).

Also, for some languages (in places where game audience is small as well as the money that can be invested) dubbing isn't available so people have to do with the original voicing and subtitles.

Also do not forget there are deaf/half deaf people, for them the subtitles is the only way they can access a game dialogue.

Yet, there are games where subtitles aren't available everywhere.
An appalling example is Ratchet & Clank that only have subtitles for cut-scenes and not for the in-game dialogue. While the in-game dialogue isn't that relevant it still is part of the game, so why no sub-titles?

Marvel: the Ultimate Alliance 2 is another example with the subtitles only available for single player but no multiplayer, however give the amazing sheer amount of bugs in the game that was probably just one of many.

- Well paced subtitles
this isn't actually something I have run into very often, however if you've got Splinter Cell: Conviction you know what I'm talking about: a few sentences that vanish after like a couple of seconds making it impossible to really read it.
I find it pretty amazing that no one noticed this issue for such a big title.



- Separate audio settings for voices/FXs etc.
It's become a habit to separate the audio settings for Music and effects in game, however not every game includes different settings for actual effects and voices making it a real problem.

When I play Red Dead Redemption I really feel like I'm going to become deaf: the shooting is very loud while voices are very low which means you raise the volume to hear the dialogues and then your eardrums are hurt by any sudden shooting: bad feel and bad experience.
This is particularly nasty when using headphones and can easily cause headache if you don't pause the game every ten second to raise and lower the volume (quite annoying!).
This is something that would also be very useful in Ratchet & Clank where the weapons sound really is noisy and it's practically impossible to hear voices while you shoot.

On the other hand there are games that already do it: Demon's Soul for example or Transformers: War for Cibertron: 2 thumbs up for them!



- Easy/fast way to mute players or send messages in-game
Multiplayer is becoming hotter and hotter with many games including such an experience even when they are mostly conceived for single players (see: Uncharted, Splinter Cell: Conviction etc.).

Things very useful to have are:
- easy/fast way to mute players. While I understand the value of talking in-game I really find it annoying to listed to kids bubbling their stuff or people putting their music at high volume.
I really can't understand what drives these people annoy others but the point is there are annoying people so please, let us mute them fast and easy (still have to find how to do it in Transformers: War for Cybertron)

- ability to send messages in-game.
Playing Red Dead Redemption lately it was really a pain when I had send someone a message and had to do so through PSN messaging system. It wasn0t annoying because I had to use the PSN messaging system but because I had to go look for the person among my recently met players and then send him/her the message, there was no way to just click a button in-game and have the PSN message window appear automatically (unless I'm dumb and blind).
Yes, there are headphones etc. but not everyone speaks the same language, you know, especially in Europe ;)!



- Non-locked saves
Please, p l e a s e, PLEASE!!! Or pretty please with sugar on top, if you prefer: make the saves copy-able to an external device.
Really, consoles aren't everlasting and they are subject to failures!!!
If you do play games yourself you probably do know how frustrating it is to just lose all your game progress, especially when you're about to finish a game.

This is also particularly true when one is after trophies and maybe was just missing a few that, however, will require a complete walk-through to get again (and yes, while Killzone 2 is a pretty amazing game playing it for the third time from scratch gets boring).

Many games nowadays have a very high re-playability value so that's not very "smart" to make saves unloackable because once one loses everything the re-play value is lost.
A fitting example is Heavy Rain. I'm 70% done with still some different paths to experience, I'm not into it right now though and if I lose my save (PS3 dies etc.) I'll just have to replay everything from scratch: meh.

On the other hand there are very loooong games, such as Demon's Soul, for example: if you lose your character progress, that's really excruciating!

I can understand there are sound reasons for locking saves but I also imagine XBOX360 and PS£ programmers are smart enough to find a way-out and make "hackers" or smart-asses harmless and players happy.
Really, just think about it: How many smart-asses are you "handcuffing" and how many regular players are you upsetting? I'm pretty sure the latter are many, many more and I'd say it's the latter that should really be your primary concern, right?

- Differently named saves
For those kind and smart programmers/developers that DO actually allow us to put our saves in a safe place (yeah, I've learned by past experiences and I have a tiny PS3 USB key in one of my PS3 USB ports all the time) I do have one more request: could you kindly ^_^ name saves in slightly different ways?
When I go and save my Red Dead Redemption progress I can basically only save 1 save rather than multiple, the same was Biochock 2, but it would actually be much more useful if we could save different progress, or maybe the saves folder as a whole!


- Avoid "tricky" trophies
Ok, this only happened once but it was painful, I played InFamous hard from the very beginning, but the beginning wasn't actually early enough.
Well, those of you that run into this know what I'm talking about. Basically to get the trophy for having played InFamous hard you had to switch immediately after the game starts to hard mode.
The point is you were immediately sucked into the game so it really wasn't that straightforward to go and check those settings.

If you want to do something like that (not just the same thing, you know, simply something that could be compared in flavour), please, just prompt a message or window asking if one wants to switch to hard mode so that one doesn't miss a game-long trophy for a couple of minutes of non-hard playing at the beginning!


- Show "hidden" trophies after the 1st walk-through
Many people like to platinum or max the achievements of a game, it's a way to show they truly like the game and did 100% of what could be done.
While I agree some trophies (story-related) should remain hidden to avoid "spoiling" players I don't get why others should.
Truth is people interested will just check the lists posted online since it's quite impossible to guess a hidden trophy with all things that can be done in most games so why don't developers just reveal all trophies once the first walk-though is over?
That would be quite convenient!



Well, that's certainly not all that could be asked but already quite a few things, hopefully someone will take them into consideration, I think it's good feedback from players!

p.s.: note that my examples usually mention fairly recent games but obviously they aren't based on these games only, it's just that these are the ones I remember exactly about!

Happy Gaming!
Ivy

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Controllers: in the end they're all quite pricey!

Many frowned at the announced price for Kinect set at around 149$ but truth be told it isn't much more expensive than Wii controllers or SONY's Move, in fact, if you think about it, it probably is the less pricey.

Don't forget in fact that 1 Kinect will serve everyone using the XBOX360 for any purpose.

Wii and Move controllers on the other hand have to be purchased in pair or even more for multiplayer and not only purposes.

The Move archer sport game, for example featured two sticks, which means 49.99$ (39.99€) + 49.99$ (39.99€) for one player only. If there are multiplayers games where you have to contemporary use two sticks, well, the price rises sensibly and quite easily.
If you put together a Playstation Eye, 2 sticks and the navigator you have reached the Kinect price and surpassed it.

The same can be said for Wii accessories since more or less the prices are the same than Move.

So, of course Kinect seems a tad pricey but it's a one time purchase while the other accessories will likely need to be purchased in multiples but before doing any calculation let's see the first Move releases and the required hardware for playing!

Ivy

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

An objective take on the E3

Now that Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony conferences are gone we can really look at their take on E3 2010 and, as gamers, rejoice about the months to come since all 3 have shown the audience great things to look forward.

Luckily for us European all 3 conferences were set at good times with Microsoft and Sony in the evening and Nintendo in the afternoon. (EA was in the evening too even if a bit late while Ubisoft and Activision ones were at late night for us in the EU).

I think that all in all they all showed something interesting for their user bases and with a good range of games and styles.

Microsoft (6):
MS's conference was probably the less "exciting" because we already knew about the exclusives Halo Reach, due in a few months, Gears Of War 3 and Fable III and the "usual" sport games were also quite predictable.

All these games are certainly highly anticipated by the respective franchise lovers and will fulfill the expectations however none of these did show something particularly "spectacular" as far as innovations are concerned and I wonder how the 4-players campaign in GOW3 will be handled: just like in GOW2 or with a new system (similar to Lost Planet 3, maybe?).
They were all bigger and better version of their predecessor so will certainly be enjoyable and enjoyed by many!

On the other hand we only saw a title for the new Crytek exclusive Kingdoms but nothing more and just a filmed presentation of Fable 3 too (again, seemed more of the same, so to speak).

As far as Kinect is concerned I think that they showed what what mostly expected: a peripheral for "alternative" gaming: sport, family games and dance.
Perhaps they spent too much time showing it but to be honest this was Kinect's E3 and they certainly have bet on it so it's just natural it was the center of the stage.

As for its appeal, I think that what they're trying to do it widening the XBOX360 experience to the whole family.
You have a X360 at home and you want to buy Kinect for your wife and kids and so on. At least, that's what I perceive as being their target audience for what they have shown.
It's hard to think they are actually targeting casual gamers with a 299$ console + 150$ peripheral vs Wii, it makes much more sense to "widen" the X360 usage to the whole family.

That said however the Star Wars Kinect game wasn't very impressive... although it was the only one that was trying to be a "real game" and perhaps there's more to it that was shown.

We also should not forget they presented the new X360 although the built-in wi-fi and larger HD aren't exactly WOW innovation factor and... is it slimmer?
More aggressive but not really "new" apart from the re-styling.

On the other hand it's always fun how they like to call Kojima on the stage to present someone else to present a Metal Gear on X360... he he.
By the way the new Metal Gear rising really looks cool and interesting, a game to look forward too, for both X360 and PS3 fans!


Nintendo (8):
It seems that people are really excited about the big N conference, I can just say: they finally showed an interesting line-up for gamers!
And tens of pretty girl with a 3DS attached to their belts :P.

They did mentioned NintenDogs(+cats) but then rather focused on the more interesting stuff: Zelda shown on stage, Disney's Epic Mickey, Metroid, GoldenEye, Donkey Kong and Kirby's Epic Yarn. A good lineup with different games for different tastes and definitely something that can be called "real games".
After all, no need to focus on Balance boards or something like that, those are things that you sell through TV ads rather than through E3 but show Zelda and you've won the conference hands off: at least that's what seems to have happened for the majority of journalists.

I'm not a Zelda fan so I can't really understand all the excitement about this new chapter however the game seemed pretty nice and with interesting mechanics.
I don't think everyone can really expect big graphic/gameplay/effects leaps or improvements as long as there is no hardware advancement that allows for them.

Disney's Epic Mouse really looked interesting. They presented it as a carefully thought-out and interesting game, a real game for everyone to enjoy with its own peculiarities and mechanics: certainly something to look forward for Wii owners.

The Mario sports game on the other hand it's more of the same Wii-casual-stuff, a Wii-sport with Mario etc. etc. but Nintendo must have Mario on stage every year, that's it.

3DS was also unveiled and it will certainly be an interesting one to check out although I wonder about retro-compatibility as this has only 1 touchable screen (I'm not sure I didn't pay attention or it wasn't mentioned).

The last note is about myself since while I haven't got any Nintendo console yet after they showed Kirby's Epic Yarn I just have to buy the Wii... Yeah, that's the good of being a gamer girl, you can revel in such cuteness with no second-thoughts!
Anyway apart from the super-cute graphic the new Kirby also featured a very interesting style and the nice 2D platform mechanic that is always be fun so I'm certainly looking forward to it.

Sony (8):
To me Sony's conference was the most anticipated and also interesting if a bit difficult to follow for "buffering" problems.
I also have to say though that their very dark stage and a bit too serious mood didn't convey the same gay atmosphere of the MS and Nintendo conferences; next year, just opt for something less dark and a bit more sparkling, after all it's about games and fun!

I'd say they wanted to convey a more serious approach and show facts but the conference could have been a bit more "brilliant" even though I didn't really find it so boring and anyway Tretton's way of speaking isn't more important than the news and games shown.

Sony has really shown an impressive line-up of games and not just exclusive and the take on Move it's what I was hoping/expecting: something perhaps not as "innovative" as Kinect but probably more versatile as far as games are concerned and more easily adaptable for more "hardcore" games.

They showed great exclusives: SOCOM 4 (with and without move support), Killzone 3, Little Big Planet 2, Infamous 2, Twisted Metal, Motorstorm Apocalypse, GT5 (for real, finally), echochrome 2 together with Move compliant Sorcery, Heroes on the Move etc.
Not many were demonstrated on stage, true, but most were available at the conference for live play.
And anyhow all were shown with in-game footage which is important.

The support for PSP bit sounded a tad "forced" so to speak, like telling we don't have a PSP2 to show because PSP is enough already however they almost exclusively featured PSP3000 rather than the GO which probably means it wasn't a giant success and certainly didn't replace the more classic PSP models.
Truth be told anyway the PSP does have a great collection of games and the most important (first party) PS3 exclusive have almost always a portable counterpart: GOW, Motorstor, LBP, Ratchet and Clank, Modnation Racers.
And perhaps now that 3DS is out they'll take a look at its 3D screen and make a 3D-PSP2!

The coca-cola partnership also did not spark any interest for me, it's junk food in my notes so it's not something that interests me the slightest but I guess that business-wise it's something for them that deserves stage-promotion.

On the other hand the Kevin Butler moment was quite fun and Gabe Newell on stage a BIG surprise, it would be really nice to know what he really thinks after all the bad-mouthing about the PS3 however I'm also certainly looking forward to Portal 2 on the Ps3.

PSN+? Don't know, I want to check out the details but if it's not something that really has impact on the gaming experience (like X360 own servers) it's still interesting but not so exciting.
Still, it sounded like a good deal so for people that are a lot into gaming may certainly be worth it!

On the 3D side if there is a someone that can make 3D gaming a reality it definitely is SONY and they certainly are working to make it come true.
Not using the glasses would be awesome but that's probably not something that can happen in the very near future although there are those working on the technology already (and nope, it's not the same having it work on a DS screen than on a large TV).

Missing: The Last Guardian, The Agent (but them Rockstar hadn't shown anything at all).

CONCLUSIONS:
In the end I think we can safely say that SONY had the most impressive lineup as far as games quality, variety and technology (3D etc.) are concerned so apart from the conference itself that maybe wasn't particularly "brilliant" the truth is PS3 owners will only be spoilt for choice in the forthcoming months.
Their take on the Move device also seemed to please gamers since they showed it as a device even for real games and not just casual ones.

Nintendo raised the bar mostly because they actually focused on the real games this year and presented some very nice novelties (Kirby and Disney's Epic mouse) and actually responded to their core gamers requests.
They also presented 3DS which is certainly an interesting piece of news.

Microsoft seemed to "fail" expectations because they spent much of the conference on Kinect (not to mention the infamous poncho presentation) but actually also did show the next iterations of their exclusive and most important franchises (Halo, Gears of War, Fable and a new exclusive from Crytek) and a re-styled and more aggressive X360 finally with wi-fi and a large HD, so apart from the crazy dances etc. it wasn't so bad.

By the way and whatever you side, just enjoy gaming, there's something for everyone!
Ivy

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The 7 things Modnation Racers did wrong

While I really, really love modnation racers (see my review here: http://thechickgamer.blogspot.com/2010/05/modnation-racers-review-funtastic-game.html) after playing like 50 hours with it and finishing the career mode I can say I gathered enough experience to look at it from a more critical standpoint and highlight some of the things that didn't make it a "perfect" (or almost) game/experience.

1- Badly programmed AI for challenges that makes the game very frustrating
This is something that many complain about and with reason.
While the challenges do indeed add a lot to the gaming experience some are simply badly designed (I'm talking about some of the 4th/5th level).
Not only the challenges are hard on their own but the AI is simply ruthless, it's programmed to not make you achieve the final goal.
This also seems true in the first levels but ones you gain experience those challenges become easier but later in the game, when you already race as perfect as you can it's just a matter of being nuked to not get to the goal.

And it's definitely not a matter of "false impression" because when you can arrive (fairly easily) first unless you fulfilled the challenge requirements it's pretty clear that the game it's just programmed to make you fail, which isn't a very nice feeling.
So what? You simply have to try again and again and again until for a stroke of luck you arrive first.
When something is more a matter of luck than skill then there's something wrong with the design decision because a game should reward a player commitment and experience not him/her being lucky enough.

Ok, however there's plenty of very hard games, just think about Wipeout (although there is still a matter of skill rather than ruthless AI) but the point is, the challenges are necessary to obtain parts for your mods, karts etc. They are strictly linked to the Create part of the game so by not completing them you're also missing items for your own creation: perhaps this is the focal point: not being able to get all available parts.

2- No possibility to create TEAMs or invite friends to XP races
nowadays most games include an online/multiplayer part, even those that mostly focus on the single players campaign experience, such as Uncharted or Resident Evil 5, for example.

While playing online with people you have never met is fun the social part of multiplayer, sharing the experience with friends is VERY important.

I really find it stunning that Modnation Racers does not have a create Team feature and, at the very least, the ability to invite or join friends to and XP race (or join a friend to join an XP race together, like in Resistance 2 which featured a very effective team join system!)

3- Awful match-making (and region locked)
There are tens of messages/discussions online that talk about how awful the match-making of Modnation Racers is and it really IS that awful, unfortunately.
Waiting for 10 to 15 or even more minutes for a race to start because there aren't enough players in the same room is awful.
And no, it's not the lack of players (not just that, at least), it's just that the online players aren't put together, they are scattered across many different rooms that have to be filled.
So if you're online with a couple more friends you're very likely to end up in 3 different rooms with 2 players for each room and have to wait for enough players (4) to start a race.
Racing with more than 4 players (12 is the limit) is almost a mirage.

Also, those of us European that thought the situation would improve when the game released in the US were certainly disappointed that the game is region locked.
Of course the reason behind that is sound: to offer anyone a smoother and better racing experience, however, as someone pointed out they could just add and ON/OFF option for the region lock as is not that usual that gamers have friends in other parts of the world and want to play with them (just in private matches though since, you remember, you can't invite friends to XP races...).

By the way, it seems they are working to improve this so let's be hopeful (I have to say I just put the game apart until I heard any news about patches and/or improvements)

4- No highlighting original creations
I have to confess I'm a bit sick of Mario in every form and shape, maybe it's because I don't find it so charming, style-wise.
He certainly is an icon but an icon with his very own games and space.
Of course it's not a crusade against Mario as if you look at the first 50 pages (and perhaps more) or the most-popular mods you can hardly find any original creation.

In fact while it is cool to have the ability to re-create characters and sort-of fan-art mods (I did a J.T.Kirk myself since I'm currently watching the TOS) it would be much, much nicer if original stuff were highlighted in the modspot along with the most downloaded mods (Mario, Luigi, Spiderman, Ironman... who will be next?).
Someone (a moderator, PR) could look at the uploaded mods (s/he won't have to check everyone in detail, nice ones can easily be spotted) and maybe choose 3 original mods each week to focus on the really CREATIVE part of the CREATE side of the game, or just have people post their mods in an official thread for consideration as "original mods of the week".

5- Mix race XP and create XP
When taking certain decisions is not always easy to understand how they are going to affect the game, what kind of impact they will have etc. etc.
However it really wasn't a sound decision to mix race XP and create XP. Why? Because this game is first and foremost a racing game and the XP level of players should be based on how good they are at racing, on the fact that they have mastered the peculiarities of MNR karts and tracks and so on.
A player that has raced two times but is 30th level (which IS high) because s/he has done a Mario-clone mod IS ridiculous.
Racing XP and creation XP should simply be separated! And this is something that could be done even now since the racing and creation stats are separated already: why not make the change?



6- 250k trophy
Some trophies (or achievements) are really out of scale and this definitely IS one of those.
While no one should play to (just) get trophies they certainly play a part in the gaming experience.
In this case I really think that a 250.000 create points trophy is really a bad choice for 2 main reasons:
- 1: it's really VERY hard and nearly impossible to earn that much points unless you create a very popular mod (Mario-clone preferably... and there we go again). You need to have tens of thousands of downloads to earn that much points and that's gonna be almost impossible
-2: such a trophy won't make people be more committed to the create part but just look for other people to exchange downloads, ratings and so on.
Since the 250k mark is really too high people will just post in forums to earn create XP simply by asking other to download and rate their creation regardless of the creations quality and worthy.

This is really a "lottery" trophy, almost impossible to achieve without making Mario/spiderman etc. or without "exchanging" votes with other players.
If you think about it really doesn't stimulate to create because any player that just creates original mods and shares them on the quiet will never get it.

7- No direct contact with the creators
There's no official forum or other way to get in touch with modnation racers creators, the official forums are actually the playstations ones, different for every region and language which means it's very hard to see what other complains/suggestions have been posted already or if there is any communication from MNR stuff people and so on.

I think it's a pretty common practice for a developer to have a central communication hub where users can post their suggestions/complains and have everything so scattered won't certainly help gather such information in an efficient way.

Moreover there's no link from the Modnation Racers site to the official forums etc., you just have to google for them and realize it's the official playstation forums.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Flower....

Yesterday I show flower to a friend and I felt in love so much again...


This is one of the most amazing games I've ever played!

Flowers looks like a simple game, incredibly beautiful to see and listen to, but there is so much in this game.
It's a sort of spiritual path. From start to the end, where you need to put all your effort to achieve great results.
It's a path for freedom, for your dream and for an utopia.
An utopia that blossoms in your dreams and you don't need to kill anything, but only apply yourself to free your dreams.
There are many important things you'll find during your travel, an immersion into the darkness to find the light and rise high to the sky and swift again over the earth and run free and wild as only the wind can do.

The game is awesome, from the start to the beautiful ending.
Yes, it looks like it's short, but I think the game has a perfect length, because it's a very intense experience and thanks to some people, we are lucky to play this game and it's an experience that no one should miss.

Reported comment from my VG hero
Ivy