Backloggin’ – 03/08/2012

Okay, so here I am for this week’s update, on-time and on-top of things! Ideally, I’d like to put out a weekly update Friday or somewhat close to Friday, but I know I won’t always be able to adhere to that. But, whatever. Here’s what I’ve been up to in video games.

Time: ~26 hours // Level: 39

Yeah, yeah. Of course this game is still on here. At an average ~80 hours completion time, why wouldn’t it be?

In last week’s update, I mentioned I had kinda sort of lost interest in Xenoblade, but that was definitely not the case this week. I feel like the game has picked up considerably more steam since I started it – so with every hour I put in, the better and more epic things become. This is definitely one of those games that just requires a burn-in period before things really get good, so I’m glad I’ve stuck with it.

I made a good amount of progress this week (close to four hours alone yesterday), but I’m still nowhere near even the halfway mark, and that seriously still blows my mind, especially because right now the game’s story is already feeling pretty climactic and intense.

So yeah, still lovin’ this one.

I’ve always wanted to get into the Assassin’s Creed franchise of games, and oddly enough, the first game in the series was always the sole obstacle discouraging me from investigating this series. AC1 follows Altair and his fellow jugular-puncturing, rooftop climbing hooded buddies, although it’s mostly him doing all the work. Teamwork comes later in AC: Brotherhood (I’m assuming).

The first Assassin’s Creed is an odd game to write about, because although it was critically acclaimed when it first released in 2007, it’s now been totally trumped by the other games in the franchise – which was already easy enough to do. I still find the high ratings quite hard to believe, because this game is one of the most formulaic games I’ve ever played – but I guess at the time of release, everyone was so infatuated with the slick animations and open-world environments to care. Seriously, though. If you want to see just how repetitive a game can be, I’ll point you straight in the direction of this one. Here’s the game in a nutshell:

  1. Enter new town.
  2. Talk to Assassin Bureau guy
  3. Do investigation missions (minimum 3, all of which the core mission-type objective never changes)
  4.  Go back to Bureau guy
  5. Listen to what he says, blankly stare at the screen while the pointless dialogue continues, possibly mash the A button while you wait.
  6. Get the hell out of there and track down your target
  7. Kill him. (by the way, this is the only non-static part of the formula)
  8. Go back to Bureau guy
  9. Go to new town
  10. (repeat 7 times until the end of the game)

Despite the formulaic nature, I really wanted to finish Assassin’s Creed – because the most interesting thing about it is the sort of sci-fi mystery that unravels slowly as your progress through the story. You, the player, aren’t actually playing as Altair during his time period – but rather, re-living the past as his descendant, Desmond Miles. Why? Well, Desmond doesn’t really know either, he’s being forced to do so after being forcefully apprehended by a large electronics development corporation of sorts – and that right there is what kept me playing through this game. I so desperately wanted to find out just what the hell was going on.

Unfortunately, like the game itself, the conclusion is shallow. It’s just one final “LOLWUT” moment that feels like prep for a bigger and better sequel, which was Assassin’s Creed II – the game many consider to be the true, realized potential for the series. That one picks up right where AC1 leaves off, and I’m guessing provides some sort of kick-off finale to the first, which is what I was looking for. So, I’ll be starting that one up at some point.

Overall, though? Assassin’s Creed is nothing special. It’s overly formulaic, and what it does do well has been perfected by other games since – so by today’s standards, it really falls flat. If you can put up with it, though, I guess it would be the best place to start in the series – it is, chronologically the first game, after all. But I know many who would be quick to hit the eject button on their console of choice once they discovered Assassin’s Creed’s dark secret – and I can’t say I never considered doing the same while playing though it.

Next!

I finished up F.E.A.R. late last night (early morning, technically I guess), and overall I thought it was pretty great. It’s getting harder and harder for shooters to really impress me these days – but F.E.A.R. is an unmistakable gem, a shining accomplishment as both a shooter and a horror game. F.E.A.R.’s gunplay is easily some of the most satisfying I’ve ever played in recent memory. The game features a bulletime system known as “reflex mode” in which, as you might expect, things get slowed down, bullets become recognizable, and everything sounds so distorted and awesome, which is easily the best part of the combat. Without it, the guns feel overly spastic and enemies can take you down within seconds if you’re not careful – but activating reflex mode, turning that corner, and blasting your previously unaware foe with bullets is immensely satisfying. Shells fly, blood clouds spout, and screaming ensues – honestly, I had more fun with the bulletime in this game than I did with Max Payne 3. It just feels a lot more impactful, especially because most combat in this game is reasonably close-quarters.

And then there’s the scare-factor of F.E.A.R. – the thing holding the wonderfully satisfying combat together and sealing the deal. F.E.A.R.‘s empty office buildings and dark alleyways set the stage for some of the most frightening ambiance in video games. There’s no jump-scare tactics or BOO! moments here – F.E.A.R. is a game that embraces the psychological vein of horror, similar to what’ll you’ll find in movies like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. The game takes a profound joy in just generally creeping you out and keeping you on your toes, simply by utilizing otherwise subtle atmospheric elements like audio-based ambiance and lighting. The game toys around with your mind, and you’ll very likely be in a state of, well, fear during most of it – but the genius of F.E.A.R. is that when you break down the number of scares during the game, the bulk of it isn’t exactly frightening – it just tricks you into thinking it is. Most of the time, you’ll be roaming around various environments, shooting possessed soldiers – who sometimes sound genuinely more scared than you – and occasionally investigating deeper into the story by finding voice recordings or data. Still, during the whole course of the game I found myself on-edge – simply because F.E.A.R.’s atmospheric tension wraps you in mixed emotions of paranoia and madness – up until I played this game, I never really thought about how creepy offices can be at night, once everyone has left for the day, once every trace of humanity has vanished. Eugh. Creepy stuff.

Just another day at the office.

F.E.A.R.’s story is an interesting one, but the way it’s told is rather shallow, and it’s possible to miss the whole thing if you’re not paying attention during voice message playback and data recovery – which is easy to do when you, the player, are extremely uncomfortable and paranoid of your surroundings.  The conclusion is pretty cool though, and the last two seconds of the game before the credits rolled cracked me up – if you’ve played it, you’ll know what I mean.

If not though, F.E.A.R. is more than just worth it to play through, and I’d definitely recommend it. It’s a great example of why I love first-person-shooters so much – F.E.A.R.’s twisted, chilling atmosphere just couldn’t be replicated to the same effect in any other genre.

That’s it for this week. These five still remain on my summer to-do list:

  1. Xenoblade
  2. Metroid Prime
  3. Rage (PC)
  4. Assassin’s Creed II (PS3)
  5. Infamous 2

-rav4ge

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: