Sunday, October 16, 2016

Running Out of Time

Having waited 6 years to finally play Alan Wake, I knew I didn't want to repeat the same with Quantum Break. After all, life is just too short to wait around. 

I didn't think Quantum Break would get a wider release on Steam let alone a fancy retail edition. When the timeless edition was announced, I knew I just had to get it despite costing more than double the Steam price. After all, the previous Remedy games distributed by Nordic were all stellar and well worth the money. I even pre-ordered it on Amazon when I couldn't get a confirmation from any local dealers whether they would stock this. Luckily for me, the amazon order got delayed in time for me to cancel it when I found a copy at the local store during the first week of release.

Somehow the events leading to getting the game is more interesting than the game itself. The game is still good but it isn't a timeless classic like the original Max Payne. I have loved Remedy games since the first Max Payne as we shared the same love for Hong Kong cinema. Selling off the Max Payne IP wasn't a total disaster when the property is in capable hands like Rockstar studio. It could have easily ended up like the Fallout series in Bethesda studios hands.

Quantum Break was the first time I felt Remedy games was trying to capture the old Max Payne magic again. Alan Wake was a great bold departure for the studio and although it wasn't as innovative as Max Payne, it was still one of the better horror games I have seen. The only problem I had with Alan Wake was I felt that the story was getting in the way of the game at times. Quantum Break has similar issues, in fact far worse considering this is science fiction and not a horror/supernatural story. The logic of time traveling is simply not explained or logical enough to lend the story credibility. 

I remember reading in the Max Payne manual that Max has the ability to slow down time in bullet time but don't ask how, just go along with it. Sure it's the easy way out but it works and in the end, nobody was really asking why bullet time exists. It felt like Remedy was trying to come up with a logic for how bullet time exists with Quantum Break. The game is fun when you get to play it in between the horrible TV show that was made in conjunction with the time. But I didn't fully understand the story because Remedy never took the time to lay down the rules of time-traveling in this story. It has choices that greatly affect how the story unravels so I'm definitely going to play it again soon. 

But finishing QB for the first time left me a little disappointed. It felt like it spent too long in development hell and ideas were never fully realised, the game is surprisingly short when you discount the TV show running time. I certainly won't mind having more levels of gun fights in this game but it's pretty clear than Remedy ran out of time and money making this game.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Let's Be Frank Here

One sure way to know if I played a great game is that I can't stopped thinking about it even after I finished. The game lingers on and I feel satisfied enough not to play another game yet.That happened with Alan Wake, I proceeded to watch the bonus material and subsequently finished the DLC episodes.

Unfortunately the same didn't happened with Dead Rising 3. Something was missing, that intangible factor that makes a game great.The game felt long and repetitive. Of course the same was said of Alan Wake but I certainly didn't felt that way. 

This new Dead Rising game removed the loading time in the previous games, providing a truly new experience for the series. Unfortunately, the city Los Perdidos that you are trapped in feels lacking in character. For sandbox games, the real star is always the city. If the city isn't interesting then your game isn't going to be very memorable.

The formula of finding other survivors and psychos is beginning to feel very routine now.  Each survivor will always have a quirky request before joining your crew but it always boils down to a lame fetch quest. The psychos are just as predictable as well. This series is in dire need of a new creative change of direction.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Times change, people change

Since playing on the PC, I have been experimenting with different genres that I simply couldn't on consoles as the games were too expensive. Even during PS2 heydays of piracy, I rarely explore outside my favorite genre and publishers because there were more than enough for me to play. Well, times changed and people changed - so true, these words uttered to me not too long ago.

That's why it was so refreshing to play the Tomb Raider reboot after all these different genres. The cinematic action adventure games are always fun to play because it doesn't have the grand scale of the RPG genre. You play one action set-piece then watch a cool cutscene before proceeding to the next. No boring conversation with NPC that last up to 40 minutes of just two people talking. Or spending 30 minutes looting every inch of each item in the room.
A lot of time is spent squeezing Lara through tight gaps. This gives you a nice view of her, well you know.

This Tomb Raider reboot borrows elements from other games in the genre but still manages to stand as something different. I love how the platforming is not so straightforward anymore as each area is big enough that the path forward isn't obvious. The gun fights feels borrowed from the Uncharted games but without the bad melee sequences included.

There are new ideas that are never fully developed as the game progresses. Early on you are taught how to hunt wild animals to feed Lara but once the fire fight started, there is no more emphasis on this part anymore. Suddenly Lara doesn't need to feed anymore in order to heal, she just needs to stay out of the bullets way.
Other times are spent rappelling Lara around like Spider-Man on impossible lengths that should have broke her arms off

Another thing is each area introduces a different relic to hunt. First you could be sniping old charms hanging from the tree then in another area, you are burning scrolls off the wall. How is one supposed to keep track especially it never made clear when you reached a new area.

These nitpicks aside, this is still one of the best games I played this year. I finished Dead Rising 3 before this and I have yet to blog about that one. It's hard to write about a game that didn't leave a lasting impression on me. It's certainly not outside the genre that I'm accustomed to so it was a surprise that I didn't like it. Perhaps my expectations and standards are higher after experimenting with new genres.

The Tomb Raider reboot reminded me that there are no substitute for my favorite genres after all. I guess you could say, the more things changed the more they remained the same. This is what I believed, maybe more so than how people changed over time.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Horror Drag

Alien Isolation is a game that will interest fans of the horror genre or the Alien franchise. I happened to be fan of both so this was another game I wanted to play on my PC. The only thing I wasn't keen on was the first person view but upon finishing it, the first person view felt like the right choice. 

I feel like having no weapons in a horror game like just an easy and obvious design choice in a horror game. It doesn't work most of the time like how Shattered Memories have proven. Alien Isolation thankfully didn't adopt this approach but for most of the time, you didn't have an effective weapon against the Alien. The problem is once you get the flamethrower late in the game, you feel invincible as you can stop the Alien from attacking you. 

There are obvious pacing issues with this game, it drags far too long and ruined some of its goodwill and credibility earned with a bad ending. Some of its climactic moments occurred in the middle of the game making the end parts of the game a bit boring by comparisons. While RE4 was also a bit too long for its own good, the end parts were never boring thanks to Mikami's sense of pacing. In Alien Isolation, I thought the game was ending in several different instances before the actual end of the game. 

Aside from the bad ending, there are no bonus content upon finishing the game. Well there are survivor mode and maps but those are not related to the story mode. Thankfully the pre-order bonus included 2 DLC episodes based on iconic moments from the original Alien movie. I recommend playing the movie DLC after finishing the game but I can imagine there are fans only played these episode without bothering with the main game. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Superior One

War. War never changes.

Except he wasn't talking about the console war which changed quite a bit over the generations.

I remember during the PSOne/PS2 era, I didn't have a PSOne yet and most of the RE games and MGS took more than a year to reach the PC platform. I was never really a PC gamer by choice, more like a PC user by circumstances but let's not get into that here. Eventually when they do get ported, these games didn't looked any better on PC than on the 32-bit systems. That was when it ran like it supposed to if it's a "good port". There were no DLC back then so you weren't getting additional DLC for free like you normally would for late PC ports these days.

Then you have the infamously bad PC ports like RE4 and DMC3. These PC ports were ported long after its console release so it wasn't like there wasn't enough time to make a decent port. I never experienced these ports myself but heard enough to know they weren't good PC ports by any means. It certainly was a good time to own a console game if you liked console games and certainly hard not to feel like the superior one. 

Then the tide started to change sometime during the PS3 generation. PC ports no longer run and looked like it's console siblings. Most of the time, the PC ports looked superior and is released on the same day for all major systems. The most notable game being Tomb Raider 2013 which didn't have the luxury of releasing on the PS4 system yet. So the old generation console version and the PC port looked worlds apart from what I read. I was lucky enough to avoid the old console version and managed to pick up the PC version on the cheap during the recent Steam sale. 

This generation is by far the worse, the PS4 is finally getting definitive/upgraded version of games PC users have long enjoyed since the day of release. But PS4 users are not getting these upgrades for free, you have to re-purchase these games again and start over. Even then, the definitive versions may not run as well as expected like the recent RE5 on the PS4. On the other hand, PC users get these upgrades for free most of the time. Not to mention the games themselves are already cheaper if you don't mind going full-digital via digital distribution service. 

So war has changed quite a bit, at least in terms of system wars. Sigh, I just want to play the best (or better yet, only) version of a game, is that too much to ask for? 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Wake is Over

Alan Wake is a game that I have always been interested to play ever since I knew about it. Years passed and I'm constantly reminded when I see the game at the flea market or when Remedy's new game Quantum Break came out. I remember when a master race acquaintance played the PC version of Wake and told me it was nothing special but my interest never wavered.

I just didn't know how I was going to play Alan Wake eventually. While I always admire the Xbox, I didn't like the idea that the exclusive games are usually shared with the PC platform. And I didn't exactly want to get a new PC either unless I absolutely have to. Finally when the absolutely became a reality, Alan Wake was the first game I actively hunt down.

I didn't want Wake to be the first game I played as it's a few years old now so I ended up playing Dark Dreams Don't Die first. D4 is interesting precursor but it's not exactly a complete game as it only contained two episodes in season one.

Alan Wake is my first PC game in what felt like a really long time. It's not as great as I imagined it to be, but I liked it as much as I thought I would. Alan Wake isn't actually a horror game much like how The Last of Us isn't really a zombie game. It feels like it was inspired by RE4 but it reinvents the survival horror genre much more that RE5 ever did. Wake delivers on some of RE5 promises from the early trailer like the dodge mechanics and the light/dark contrast. But saying Wake is a RE copycat would be doing it a disservice though.

The game is pretty hard as you are constantly out in the open woods. Therefore you can never use the "'Back behind the wall strategy'' to fight as you are exposed from all angles. This makes the combat harder than any horror games. A lot of the game's memorable moment loses it's impact because I can never get it done without a retry. This is just Normal mode and there are another two more difficulty modes to go (Hard, Nightmare).

Getting this game and finishing it was a dream come true. I'm still getting used to playing on the PC again but this has been a good start so far.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Extremely Expected

Kiwami was the one of my fastest purchase for the RGG series. While not exactly day one, I got it early enough that the DLC was still coming out for the game.

Why the rush to get this game? I wasn't that eager to play it and yet somehow I ended buying the game faster than most of the rest.  I guess it was the sentimental value, being a faithful remake of the game that kickstarted the series that is now 10 years old.

I find the decision to remake this game faithfully very odd but it also enforces the notion that there was nothing wrong with the original game anyway. The original game aged better than most so this was just a quick cash-in by Sega to fill the gap before Yakuza 6. There wasn't a fan demand to remake this game though I understand that many got into the series when it made the leap to PS3 generation. This remake lacks the wow factor as we have seen the graphics from the same engine used in RGG0.

The new story elements revolves around Nishiki's transformation during the time Kiryu was in prison. This started out pretty well showing the importance of the ring Kiryu gifted to Yumi. However, it ended pretty badly and I'm not fully convinced  how abruptly wimpy Nishiki turned into a stone cold gangster. Anyway seeing how Nishiki transformation played out made me glad RGG0 never actually tackle Kiryu or Majima's origins. The new cutscenes are inserted at the start of each chapter which can be very confusing for newcomers that never played the original. It's actually a clever gimmick to keep long time fans interested playing what is essentially the same game again.

After the success of RGG0, it was difficult to imagine how SEGA would top that. They didn't actually tried to and in a sense, mailed it in by churning out Kiwami. It's not a major disappointment as I make it out to be but in retrospect you learn to appreciate how special RGG0 truly was.