Backloggin’ – 16/09/2012

Figured I should probably throw up a new backlog update post since it’s been almost over a month now since my last one, and I’ve made some good progress. Here’s how my stats are looking now:

The thing I’ve been pretty good at lately is keeping myself far away from the temptation and allure of buying new games, even with titles like Darksiders II and Sleeping Dogs releasing over the past month or so. I’m really happy with this, because it’s something The Backloggery itself has helped me overcome. I actually just shuddered at the thought of how many games I would have bought over the past few months had I not been introduced to BL, especially because I’ve had the largest sized disposable income of my life lately. So thank you, for that, Backloggery! Your addicting numbers and statistics somehow are hindering my gaming purchases, which is saving me a lot of money. And in turn, I’m focusing on what I already own, which is great.

So here’s what I’ve been up to. I’m going to keep each title summary brief because things would get a little overwhelming otherwise. Click the “read more” button there to jump into the juicy details…

Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death  (Steam) – I only just found out about the new Judge Dredd movie that’s coming out, oddly titled just “Dredd 3D,” probably to distance it as far enough as possible from that lovely Sylvester Stallone envisioning. Unlike that godawful “adaptation,” Dredd 3D is actually doing quite well on RottenTomatoes, and seeing the trailer got me pretty excited – as did the 90% RT rating, I won’t lie. I had been in sort of a PC FPS mood at the time since getting a few new upgrades to my PC, and I remembered I had bought the only Judge Dredd PC game ever made on Steam a long while ago. It only made sense to play the game in preparation for what might be one of the best movies of 2012!

And so I played it, and finished it. It look me about four hours, which even for a single-player FPS is short. The justification here is that Dredd Vs Death is a “budget title,” which explains the length I guess. But it also explains pretty much every other complaint I have with the game.

Dredd Vs Death isn’t bad. It’s almost there, but not quite – a few things manage to save it. First off, it’s Judge Dredd, and the voice actor they chose to play him in this game is just perfect. His in-game model is rather scrawny looking, and the way his mouth moves makes him look like some sort of disfigured muppet. But oddly, this combined with the voice acting creates this actually really charming caricature of Dredd that I kind of adore. This same sort of odd design also applies to everything around Dredd – especially the people. Good god, the people of Mega City One are some of the most scarily-modeled characters of any video game I have ever seen. Obviously there’s a shortage of mirrors in Dredd’s dystopian universe, because I don’t think any of the citizens in this game realize just how friggin’ creepy they look. Incredibly obese women on roller-chairs, old people that look like retired clowns, and all sorts of gang members that are just begging to be arrested due to their choices in apparel and facial… structure. I know, that sounds mean, but these people manage to be scarier looking than both the zombies and vampires featured in this game. Seriously, just watch this video:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvLnK0kOUh4]

Dredd Vs Death is an FPS game, but with “justice” elements that come with being a Judge. You can arrest people on the spot, regardless of whether they committed a crime or not – in which case, Dredd will make up some bullshit charge on the spot, which he’s really quite good at. Possession of a goldfish without a license? Wow, I’m impressed.

Other than arresting people though, it doesn’t have anything else new or particularly good to offer. The Lawgiver in itself is a really cool weapon to utilize, although some of the modes feel either under-powered (incendiary takes forever to burn enemies to death) or in some cases, just totally useless (ricochet). The levels are rather drab with pretty terrible pacing, and the end conclusion is pretty unsatisfying – but really, this is a Judge Dredd game, and that’s good enough for me. It’s a working, functional and sometimes fun experience, and also a mere glimpse at what a serious Judge Dredd videogame could be like. The Judge mechanics are actually implemented quite well, and it’d be great to see another Dredd title built-up from the little success this game did have. With the new movie coming out, who knows. A boy can dream, can’t he?

Rage (Steam) – It was a while back that I finished this one, but ultimately I remember exactly how I felt about it. When you play Rage, you get the feeling that some serious passion and time went into the development. The environments are vividly crafted and full of detail, the combat is enjoyable and satisfying, and there’s a good amount of side activities like racing and card games to be toyed with outside of the main story-line.

But ultimately, despite Rage’s impressive features, it never seems to find what it wants to be. A mash-up of elements from games like Fallout, Borderlands, and BioShock – Rage is like a small child who idolizes those classics and tries so hard to be like them that it ends up losing its own self-worth. It doesn’t have the narrative strength of BioShock, nor the compelling looting and exploration of Fallout and Borderlands. There are moments where Rage shines throughout the campaign experience – but it struggles to best any of the mentioned three, and as a whole just isn’t strong enough, ultimately let down by a largely mediocre story.

I’d still recommend it to shooter fans, because like I said – it does have its moments. The wingsticks – flying boomerang-like weapons that easily lop off heads when thrown – are immensely satisfying to use, as are all the weapons, really. The racing actually proved to be something better than just a distraction, and when the credits rolled I really did want more. Unfortunately, I doubt a sequel is in the works. Rage is a title that promised a lot and ultimately delivered – but the overall experience is rather underwhelming compared to what other shooters out there have to offer.

Crysis Warhead  (Steam) – Oh, this was a fun one. Explosions? Check. Angry British military-dude protagonist? Check. North Koreans? Check. Aliens? Check. Super-powered super suit? Cheeeeeeck.

The original Crysis – which I have not yet played – went with more of an open-ended, sandbox style approach to gameplay which some thought made the game feel too unfocused and even aimless at times. So with Crysis: Warhead, the stand-alone expansion released a year after Crysis’s rather immense splash on PCs everywhere, Crytek took a different approach. They aimed for a more focused approach to gameplay with tighter level design and less time in between combat. This lead to an experience that felt a lot more linear, nicely paced, and intensely focused – but with just enough breathing room for the player to still feel like they were in control.

And put simply? They nailed it. Warhead is thrilling at the best of times, but has a good enough balance between highs and lows to keep it from feeling overwhelming  – a problem that plagues other shooters like Modern Warfare 3 and Medal of Honor. The suit powers, while empowering, require you to still be on your toes and often play it safe. Because once you run out of suit-juice, you’re back to being a regular ol’ foot soldier – which usually doesn’t work out so well with Warhead throwing enemies at you constantly, always in groups. The fantastic gameplay is highlighted by the varied environments – you’ll go from lush jungle environments (a staple of Crysis since the beginning) to harsh, frozen wastelands and fittingly back again, while shooting up both soldiers and aliens alike. It’s a fantastic ride, and a great introduction to the Crysis series – which sounds weird, considering it’s not the first game in the series. But I definitely recommend playing it, especially if you haven’t played the series at all yet and are looking into playing Crysis 2  and eventually, Crysis 3.

DeathSpank  (Steam) – The only non-FPS title I finished on this week’s update. And you know what? I really liked DeathSpank. I’m going to explain why with a little story, so get a plateful of cookies and make sure you’re all nice n’ cozy.

One of my favorite games several years ago was a long since forgotten MMO called Dungeon Runners. It was an NCSoft title, back when they were housing a series of free-2-play titles like Exteel and Dragonica under the “PlayNC” moniker. Unlike those other two games though, Dungeon Runners was really a stand-out title. It was an MMO with a hub-world connected to hundreds of different dungeons, with gameplay that was largely similar to Diablo and used the same two-mouse-button control setup. But the best part? Dungeon Runners was funny. Clever. Weird. It poked fun at all sorts of normalities in the MMO genre, featured crazy weapons (giant pizza cutter, anyone?), and was generally lighthearted and fun. But it was sadly shut down on January 1st of 2010 by NCSoft because it wasn’t pulling in the money, apparently. A damn shame, because it was one of the finest free-2-play MMOs I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.

So what does all this have to do with DeathSpank, a totally different single-player game developed by Hothead Games and written by Ron Gilbert? Well, DeathSpank reminds me a lot of dear ol’ Dungeon Runners, and I love it for that. It’s got similar Diablo-esque gameplay, generally funny and witty writing, and it also pokes fun at video games quite often. When I figured out just how close these two games felt, I realized that DeathSpank would easily hold a special place in my heart, long-since empty after the destruction of demise of Dungeon Runners.

If you’re a fan of Diablo and you like funny things, DeathSpank is right up your alley. Hell, it’s up anyone’s alley. It’s accessible, intuitive, and paced well enough to hold your interest. I definitely recommend checking this one out.

The Darkness II  (Steam) – This one was a lot of fun, if not a little frustrating towards the end – although to be fair, I was playing on hard difficulty and that usually warrants frustration.

So what can be said about The Darkness II? Well, it’s a first-person-shooter, much like most of the other games in this week’s update. The key difference here is that the player-character, Jackie, hosts a sort of demonic creature inside of him. This ends up benefiting him, however, as he has access to two giant worm-like appendages with gaping mouths that can rip and tear into his foes. So while Jackie’s demon worm-buddies feast on whatever poor gang-banger happens to be in front of him, Jackie doubles the damage and goes trigger-happy on anything else he might have missed. When you’re playing the game, it’s sort of like quad-wielding – both mouse buttons fire either respective pistol, and the “Q” and “E” keys can be used to either grab enemies or smack them across the face using The Darkness.

It’s a great setup, and there’s other notable mechanics thrown-in like executions you can preform on grabbed enemies, a leveling system for Jackie’s powers, and numerous weapons to get your hands on. And overall? It works. The Darkness II is a lot of fun, even though it’s quite short. It features the best comic-book style visuals I have ever seen in a game, the levels are nicely detailed and there’s a good amount of variation between them, and there’s even some boss fights in there that work pretty well. All of this mixed in with a rather dark (as the title might suggest) story of self-struggle with a crazy ending makes The Darkness II pretty easy to recommend.

I mentioned it frustrated me towards the end of the game though, which it definitely did. As you might expect, the game gets harder towards the end, and starts throwing larger groups of heavier-armored foes at you. The problem I had here was with the shielded enemies. These guys have riot shields which need to be grabbed before you can really do any damage to the guy behind it, and this involves damaging the shield a little bit, then stunning them, and finally, grabbing the shield away. Sounds simple, right? I had such a hard time getting The Darkness to actual grab the damn shield, and I have no idea why. It resulted in so many otherwise unforeseen deaths, that I ended up raging a little. I’m not sure what I was doing wrong, if anything – but that pissed me off.

But petty complaints aside, The Darkness II is pretty great. Totally recommended.

Wolfenstein  (360) – I can’t really give a complete thought-summary on this once, since I played most of it back in 2010 and just decided to finish it up recently, having realized how close I was to the end.

I can say that Raven Software is one of my favorite FPS developers, for games like this (sorta), Quake IV, and Singularity. Lately they’ve been doing a lot less interesting stuff – namely, CoD:MW3 map-packs – but I think they’ve got a good amount of talent over there, and I’ll most likely be excited about their next revealed project.

Why do I like these guys? Well, they have this evident respect for the old-style of first-person-shooters that shines through all of the games they make, Wolfenstein included. I can always count on their games being vibrantly colored with some of the best blood n’ gore effects around, fully-featured weapon wheels, and just good old fashioned FPS fun. Something they always manage to do right is the gunplay – in all of the three games I mentioned, the gunplay is consistently satisfying and brutal, and goddamn is it great.

Take Wolfenstein for example. Shoot a Nazi in the throat? Watch him grab at his neck in pain, blood squirting from the point-of-entry all over the floor while the makes just the most pleasant of choking noises. Like he’s gargling Listerine in the morning – just the best. And that’s just one of the smaller details that builds-up the gameplay here as something genuinely fun to partake in. There’s no shortage of enjoyable weapons to utilize either, from the classic MP40 to flamethrowers and particle cannons. It’s like World War II and the Quake games crashed into each other, and it’s great.

The whole thing feels like an R-rated Indiana Jones film – the American protagonist, seemingly infinite supply of Nazis, themes of ancient relics and occult powers. Yeah, that’s exactly what this feels like, all the way to the end boss which is about as crazy as you would expect.

The only real flaw here I can find is the hub-world design. Wolfenstein isn’t a linear shooter. Instead, you’re dropped into a scarred, trembling fictional town in Europe and told where to go. From there, you make your way around the city streets, fighting off occasional Nazi patrols, and eventually finding your designated mission waypoint, which starts up an instanced mission. After finishing the mission, you’re back in the town and off to find another mission waypoint.

The problem I have with this is that it’s basically backtracking with annoying Nazi encounters thrown in – most of which I ended up just running away from, because killing them was completely irrelevant to my mission objective. Backtracking creates the feeling of “been there, done that,” and that, in turn, makes things feel repetitive – something shooters especially should try really hard to avoid.

That solely is the only major downfall of Wolfenstein, I think. If it had been a linear experience, I would have loved it a lot more. Quake IV did pacing pretty damn well – although there was some backtracking – and with Wolfenstein, that previous experience is all thrown out the window.

I’d definitely recommend giving Wolfenstein a try though if you’re a fan of the series. It’s probably incredibly cheap at this point. Otherwise though, I’d go with Quake IV or Singularity if you’re looking to check out Raven’s portfolio.

So that’s it! Whew… I can’t afford delaying these things in the future. That was a lot to write about. See you next week!

Next…

  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PS3)
  • Kirby’s Dream Collection (maybe)

Leave a Reply

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

%d bloggers like this: