Friday, January 18, 2008

Getting Back On Track  

If you read my blog regularly, careful observation of the last few posts will reveal that this week wasn’t exactly peaches and cream for me. That said, I had a little turnaround late this evening and things are looking up. On that happy note, I’ll stop my e-moping and get back to what you come here for.

(..And what is that, again?)

(Okay, I know this is cheating but here’s a quasi-repost from something I put up on the GameCritics forums)

So, I haven't spent much time with the ol' PS3 since I dropped an uncomfortably large stack of cash on it, but I 'm a big fan of most of Naughty Dog's work, and I figured there was no way Uncharted: Drake's Fortune would let me down.

So wrong.

Truthfully, I’m completely shocked at how weak this game is. The graphics are pretty cool, don't get me wrong, but underneath all the shiny stuff is a simple formula cribbing off of Tomb Raider and a whole lot of generic shooty action games. Shockingly, I discovered within the first few minutes that this game isn’t even an adventure game; it’s a piece of crap third-person shooter disguised as an adventure game.

Honestly, I’m offended at how much shooting is in this game. There’s so much, I can only describe it as childish. Hordes of African bushmen/pimp mercenaries come pouring out of every damn crevice in the caves and ruins I’ve been through so far. It’s ridiculous. To top it off, the main bad guy is pretty Aryan-looking, his second-in-command is Hispanic, but every generic dude I’ve mowed down has been black or African. I’m not sure exactly what this message is supposed to be, but it feels pretty racist somehow.

I’ve died a ton from excessive gunfights too, and this is only through chapter 5. I can't even say that the AI has been taking me down fairly, either. The sheer number of enemies you encounter is unreal, and their main purpose in the game seems to be to flank the player at any cost. Dudes spawn in back of you, they come climbing over cliffs, they pop out from places you’ve already cleared, and from everywhere... it's just stupid.

As for the rest of the game, it's highly MEH. Level design is pretty anonymous-tomb-like and grindingly linear, with some non-puzzles every now and then. (Light this torch? puzzle solved.) There’s some ledge-grabbing and shimmying, and some wonky-looking jumping that doesn't feel dialed-in at all, but none of this stuff can hold a candle to the recent reinventions of Tomb Raider or Prince of Persia by any means. It seems to halfheartedly try, but I'm having a hard time that the dev team was really trying to go there.

I was considering having Drake's be my next review but I’m seriously questioning whether I’ll even finish it at this point. It’s just too much of a slog to get through insipid ambush gunfights just to see more sub-par rock-jumping areas. Checking it out on Metacritic, I see many of my same complaints echoed almost word for word, yet not a single critic seemed capable of giving it less than an 8. 8 isn’t average, people-- it's pretty good. This game is not an 8. Based on what I’ve seen so far (and granted, I’m not all that far) I’m thinking somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 seems more appropriate.

In multiplayer news, the wife and I are steadily going through Trauma Center: New Blood on the Wii. It’s exactly like the first game which is basically good since I liked it, but the developers have gone completely off their rocker because the game seems completely designed for two players at all times. The difficulty of even the beginning surgeries are orders of magnitude tougher than what the first game attempted, and the first game was known for its player-crushing difficulty, on the DS at least. We’re having fun at the moment, but this is one game I would’ve chucked out the window if I had attempted to do it alone.

Finally, I just have to throw out another recommendation for Omega Five on Xbox Live Arcade. It looks great, it plays exactly like one of my old favorites (Forgotten Worlds), it has multiplayer, and it’s really well put-together. Practice really pays off in this game, and it’s gratifying to be able to see my skill improving every time I play it. Not all shooters are so welcoming in this sense, so although it’ll chew you up the first few times you play it, patterns begin to emerge and the game isn’t nearly as heartless as it first appears. Even better, after logging an hour of gameplay, the game gives you an extra few credits to continue, which is always appreciated. Without a doubt, this is one of the better Arcade games to come down the pipe in a while, and it’s one of my favorites overall.

Nothing new to report on SIFT at the moment, but I’m going to do another big push and send out some more submissions this weekend. However, I had taken the time to whip up an original short story this week that I had planned to enter in a small contest. Oddly enough, the contest seemed to have fallen apart before I actually got a chance to enter. Not sure exactly what was up with that, but the end result was that I have this little story sitting here and no real venue for it, so odds are that I’ll post it here this weekend. Keep your eyes peeled.

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