A Gaming Deluge

It's been a while since there have been any big games but the past couple of weeks have had several big titles hit one after the other.

It's been nice to have some titles to get my teeth into even if it means I don't have time for other things for a week or so.

A while back we had the re imagined Bionic commando. It allows you to swing around in a 3d world on your bionic arm while shooting at people. The story is a bit thin bionics have been banned and everyone hates people with bionics. So to show that bionics are OK they bomb a city. Anyway the main character Nathan Spencer has been waiting on death row for being a bionic person since the previous game and the government now turn to him to sort out these terrorists. They give you your arm back and the game kicks off.

The bionic arm works reasonably OK but the environments despite appearing open are designed to funnel you down a set path. It never really feels completely natural they seem to have messed with the physics so it feels a little off. There are also invisible walls of radiation that kill you and often if you fall you die as well. Basically get set for a lot of frustration missing a swing and plummeting to your death over and over and also inadvertantly taking the wrong route and dying from radiation poisoning from going to high too low too left or too right. The weapons have a clip size of about 8 rounds and you get them very infrequently which is odd. The bionic arm can be used as a weapon (after some arbitrary point in the game where you remember how it works) which is a lot of fun. Grabbing items to throw at enemies throwing yourself at enemies and throwing enemies at each other does become the best part of the game.

The graphics are pretty and there are some glorious set pieces like the giant robot crab or the final boss fight jumping from one aerial enemy to the next to reach your target. The story is pretty rubbish a load of stuff about your missing wife no real conclusion and characters appear out of nowhere in a very haphazard manner.

All in all weighing the good and the bad it comes out as run of the mill.

Next up, the week before last saw suckerpunch's PS3 exclusive InFamous a open world action game where the main character can shoot lightning bolts among other things. It tugs on the morality thread again and again it's very very black and white. You play as Cole Mcgrath a bike messenger who inexplicably survives some horrible bomb that kills thousands and as a result gains electricity powers. As a result of the bomb the city you are in "Empire City" gets quarantined and thugs and other hoodlums take to the streets. By the time you recover from being blown up the city is a lawless wasteland.

Your basic abilities are to shoot lighting bolts and throw lighting grenades as the game progresses you add to that with other options but for the most part that is the mainstay. You can recharge your batteries by draining power out of anything electrical. You can also clamber up most buildings in a method reminiscent of assassins creed only with more x mashing.

When I played the demo it very much felt like the whole super hero thing was just a façade and you could have just replaced "Shoot Lightning bolt" with "Shoot Pistol" and "Shoot Electric Grenade" with "Throw Grenade" and you wouldn't really have noticed the difference while the full game does a slightly better with the pacing you still don't really feel super human. Crackdown did a great job of making you feel powerful throwing cars jumping buildings running faster than traffic, InFamous never really manages that. Cole comes off as an electrically themed Altair from Assassins Creed.

Still the game is pretty fun with a fair amount of variety the graphics are very pretty and the world fairly reactive to your actions. The progression of new powers and the ability to upgrade them gives a nice RPG feel to things and the story is passable if not anything amazing.

It's another game that makes a big deal about morality and choice. The game has so called Karmic Moments where the action pauses and you hear the protagonists voice debate whether he should cuddle the poor lost puppy for good karma or toast it with electricity for bad. It's not subtle and there is no option for a neutral middle ground.

The karma system effects how your powers upgrade as well as having paired bad/good missions you can only complete one side of that unlock specific powers. It also alters the path of the story and the reactions of the public to you. For for my first playthrough I played HyperEvil(tm) and by the end of the game when I became infamous (the top of the three evil levels) and killed a whole cargo ship of cute puppies the public would throw rocks at me and jeer me. I naturally turned round shocked them with electricity then drained their life force to fuel my powers. When I got to the goody two shoes level on my second play people would run up to me and take my picture or approach me for help also if there were enemies nearby they would start pelting them with rocks if I was nearby. It's a nice little touch.

The cutscenes are all told in a lovely stylised comic book fashion with painted 2d images with a bit of motion which I though worked really well. The story is nothing amazing cookie cutter conspiracy mishmash it's a suitable background. The missions vary from brilliant to mundane like a lot of open world games there is a fair amount of sidequesting that seems a bit unimportant. One thing that can be a bit annoying is the lack of transport options you can't ride in a car (apparently they explode) so the only way from a to b is to run. Later in the game you gain the ability to grind along railway tracks and wires but still getting from one side of the city to another can take a while.

All in all it's a fun game well put together and enjoyable to play with the odd niggle here and there but for the most part well put together. You never really feel like a super hero thought and I think this is probably it's worst failing.

Finally Red Faction Guerilla which was out Friday on all platforms bar Amstrad CPC464 follow up to the PS2 games Red Faction and Red Faction 2 it is set on Mars which seems constantly rebelling against something or another. This time it is the oppressive EDF who are running the planet like some sort of slave camp. The main character Alex Masson arrives on mars to work as a miner and within five minutes see's his brother gunned down by an EDF gunship. He joins the goodies Red Faction a resistance movement and swings his magic force amplifying hammer ... for justice!

One of the much vaunted features of the original Red Faction games was the GeoMod technology the ability to deform they ground dynamically. Much of the game had puzzles where you could blast your way through rock walls to reach your target or destroy a bridge some enemy was driving on to. Red Faction Guerilla is the first next gen title and so they have added what they call GeoMod 2.0 this makes almost every building in the game and a lot of the things like bridges and other architecture destructible.

You can litterally go up to any building in the game and start smashing away at it with your trusty hammer and take chucks out of it till it reaches a certain point and falls down. There is no more indestructable parts that stop it just short of it falling down (though with the hammer you have to do a pretty thorough job of taking out all the supports on bigger buildings) and it works with a variety of weapons and even vehicles. It adds quite a lot to the gameplay when resquing hostages why go in the front door use the hammer to make a hole and go in the back or blow the front of the building off with remote detonators or why not just drive your getaway vehicle right into the middle of the building.

The whole destruction theme lends it's self well to the weapons and the mini games. There are your standard fight defend rescue missions as well as some driving challenges. Then there are the demolition challenges where you are given some set of tools and told to bring down a building within a certain time frame with extra points for doing it quicker. Some of these are very ingenious making full use of the physics and geomod tech. One I had to destroy a building by attaching remote detonators to explosive barrels and throwing them down a pipe to demolish a building at the bottom of a mountain. The next was using my hammer like a golf club to knock explosive barrels over a valley to a target. It's a wonderfully creative use of the playground they have put together.

The game world is another openworld set across several sectors of the Martian landscape. You have to free each sector from EDF control by taking out key building killing off various people and generally being a nuisance. As you gain control the populace moral improves and they are more likely to join the fight to aid you either converting people near you to freedom fighters or in the form of reinforcements. You loose this moral if the people are killed or you are killed but it's fairly easy to top up. You can drive a selection of mining vehicles and space age cars along the red dusty environment. In some respects this is a bit of a down side to the game you die fairly easily the enemy are tough and have infinite backup who show up after you slaughter the first lot. With the cover being destructible you often find nowhere to hid to regenerate your health and end up dying quite quickly. You often find yourself driving the same road over and over to finish some side quest off (main quests do a better job of autosaving just before the action kicks off and some of the side quest do to). Most of the landscape is pretty boring though so having to constantly drive the same desolate stretch of martian landscape does get tedious.

The buildings are fairly varied some of the smaller ones suffer a bit by feeling like they are made of sheets of ryvita with a metal frame. The bigger building do feel a lot more sturdy and smashing them down is great fun when they collapse in on themselves.

The weapons are well thought out. You have the EDF array of conventional firearms which you can steal and add to your armoury. The you have the red faction guns which you unlock and upgrade using scrap you get from knocking things down. These tend to be mining gear or demolition tools so det packs, hammers, a grinder that shoots cutting disks, rockets, arc welders, and eventually the awesome nano rifle which on a hit dissolves a chunk of the target or a whole enemy. All awesome fun.

The vehicles have a nice selection too small fast buggies big mining vehicles trucks enemy transports. You also get to drive the walkers big mechanised engines of destruction that can plow through enemies and buildings alike which is fantastic fun.

Graphically it's pretty good the various districts have distinct looks and feels. Some of the environment away from the odd scattering of settlements is a little samey. The destruction is key to the game it's main feature and it works beautifully story wise it's fairly light the main emphasis is on using the tools provided to smash stuff up.

It's a fun game with some niggles the Geomod stuff works beautifully and really adds to the game experience. All it all it's a fun game a little light on involvement the story never really draws you in but big on destruction.

Well that about wraps it up this friday another pseudo super hero game comes out Prototype which looks like it will be a lot of fun. After that most of the releases seem to be october-november ish with bioshock 2 assassins creed 2 Brutal Legend and the new COD:Modern Combat 2 among others scheduled around that period.


Mr Matt of Evil, have you played Prototype yet? I picked up a copy at the weekend and can't help but be rather impressed... Its like they went round their office going "So if you could have any super power what would it be?" collected the results and then created the single hardest video game protagonist I've come across.

Seriously, within 5 minutes I was throwing tanks at helicopters before I'd spent any upgrade points. Other than that seems like a fairly standard sandbox game with a messed up story which may not completely suck. :)

Nibbles's picture

Yes indeed I have played prototype it does certainly give the feel of being a complete badarse leaping small ish buildings in a single bound and then landing on a passer by and using their still twitching corpse as a skateboard.

There is a lot I like about prototype the impression of power and the sheer fun of running up buildings leaping about gliding or just doing the strange pogostick repeated jump thing to traverse new york. I like the ability to hijack vehicles including helicopter various tanks and steal the military's weapons and the ability to assume the form of other people by eating them is quite fun if a little underused in the game. It gets used in a couple of missions to great effect and then in base infiltrations but it feels like it could have been used more with some more elaborate infiltrations perhaps.

Some of the combat has an odd difficulty curve the military goons are not really a challenge if you can get close enough they are chunky salsa in seconds even the super soldiers that turn up later go down pretty easy with a few careful slashes and dodges. The mutant hunter things are quite annoying they go into this unblockable undodgable attack that wipes out most of your health bar and there is nothing you can do about it with their tendancy to mob as well it makes them a bit of a pain in the arse such that the long range weapons become the most effective whiparm to keep them at bay.

Being able to destroy military bases and Hives to suppress military and virus activity for a bit is a nice touch though as the game progresses it becomes less useful. Strike forces go from "Damn it not more copters to deal with" to "ooo free helicpoters!"

The web of intrigue memory harvest thing is a facinating idea but one that feels a bit off as far as telling a linear story goes since you are picking up pieces of multiple threads in a fairly random order. Even when assembled you can't play the sequence in one go since it isn't organised thus. It's nice to see people try something a bit different though.

Evilmatt's picture

Like the child I am as soon as I'd unlocked the shield the very next thing that happened was me running through traffic send cars/people/trees in all sorts of directions... Entertaining! :) The combat difficulty spike sounds a bit like the templars in AC. The only opponant where the counter attack wasn't gonna be enough.

Tbf I tend to only loosely follow the story in games (even when its actually quite good as in Bioshock) so I am sure the web thing will be a giggle. I am a fan so far 'cos it gives me a good reason to arbitarily consume passers by and I swear I could live to 100 and never tire of that!

Nibbles's picture

those aren't passers by they are ambulatory health packs ;)

Evilmatt's picture

The whole patsy move is quite ammusing being able to repeatedly go around in the military base going "It's him it's alex mercer!" watch the protesting goon get gunned down by his colleagues the do the same thing again when it's recharged to the next guy in line

Evilmatt's picture

Genius! Like the old "Who did this?" not me guv, I'm just an innocent yet oddly armed monk. Again from AC (it may come as a shock to learn that I am looking forward to AC2 quite a lot).

I shall be listening to my aching muscles and duely sitting in front of the telly with Prototype later on, hopfully, no definitely causing grand scale destruction on the quite poorly rendered streets of NYC.

Nibbles's picture