torstai 19. kesäkuuta 2014

E3 2014

Over a month between the last two reviews is a little hard to explain, but in my mind it needs no explanation; it just goes to show what kind of a rollercoaster I've been on lately. I have several drafts of reviews of newer games I've hadn't had the time to finish - the games OR the reviews, such as Watch_Dogs - and following up on what I've written thus far wouldn't make any sense anymore. The Tuska festival is once again coming up very soon, as well as my much-feared 30th birthday, so I can't guarantee a steady income of reviews for the rest of the summer, since my vacation time's all used up by then. But we'll see, won't we.

This year's E3 was wrapped up a week back, and it made modern gaming interesting again, after what I have perceived as a bit of a slump. Even Nintendo had interesting stuff on show in a game simply called The Legend of Zelda, which looked kinda like Skyrim on Zelda gear; the gameplay's supposed to be a modern take on the gameplay and general atmosphere of the very first Zelda games - hence the title, I guess - and that makes it interesting. The funny thing is, just a couple of years ago I wouldn't have given two shits about a new Zelda game, but now I'm a whole lot more optimistic. Give me one drunken, sentimental fit and the next morning I'll probably have a Wii U in the shelf. ...Nah. But, if The Legend of Zelda was from the least interesting end of the interesting stretch of games on show at E3, it must've been one hell of a show. Let's see what they had there, in alphabetical order.

Artist Matt Nava, who worked on thatgamecompany's critically acclaimed pairing of Flower and Journey, is at the director's helm of a new project called Abzû, which is being developed by Giant Squid Games for the PS4 and the PC. The teaser trailer doesn't tell us much about the game, but what we can gather is that the game is - perhaps inevitably - a spiritual successor to thatgamecompany's trilogy of games. Sounds and looks beautiful, yet minimalistic, there's this mysterious vibe to it which will surely emanate from the final product as well. I smell another sleeper hit coming. When, that we do not know, but the game will most definitely at least launch as a digital download, so it might not take that long at all. Six months at most.

Ever played Aliens: Colonial Marines? Hell, ever played any game licensed off Alien's butt? Well, there's another one coming by Sega, and this Alien: Isolation is supposed to whack their previous failure Aliens: Colonial Marines off the pages of history. What we have here is a first-person survival horror game, described by testers as one of the scariest games since the dawn of survival horror, somewhat influenced by the original Dead Space - the circle comes to a close - Outlast, and cinematically, the very first Alien film from 1979. As a fan of the Alien movies, including Prometheus which is no doubt another influential point here, I'm hoping for the best and maybe I'll even at least try the game out if it turns out better than your average Alien game. The game is slated for release on October 7th, 2014... just like a few other, much more anticipated games, so on second thought, Alien: Isolation had better be GOOD.

Arno's the new guy.
The new Assassin's Creed for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, previously codenamed "Comet" suddenly became vaporware. It was expected to be revealed at this year's E3, but that didn't happen, and there was no talk of the game - Ubisoft's only comment on the issue was that "they haven't forgotten", so perhaps there will be a new game for the previous generation of systems, announced at a later date, maybe it's a digital download which would explain the late announcement... OOOOORRRR they'll soon announce yet another, originally unplanned PS3 and 360 conversion of Assassin's Creed: Unity just to piss off those people who bought a PS4 or Xbox One months ago just to make sure they got their hands on those megasequels as soon as they came out. In all honesty, I'm not thrilled about Assassin's Creed: Unity. Both the cinematic trailer and the gameplay preview made me feel like I've been seeing the exact same ads and hearing the exact same hype every year since Revelations. Once again, they've been making this game since Assassin's Creed II - that makes it at least the FIFTH game in development since the final touches on Assassin's Creed II. It's always got to be greater than last year's game, since it's been in development longer, huh? If you can't smell the sarcasm, get yourself some nasal spray. Anyway, as I said, I'm not too thrilled, not by those politics, or the gameplay, or the game's setting. Four player co-op would be a neat thing to have, if I was into online playing in general; I'm still a bit sad that multiplayer's the key word nowadays, especially when it comes to a story-driven, single-player franchise, but on the other hand, they've been doing multiplayer AC for quite a while, so they already have the most essential bases covered and can hopefully focus on delivering a good single-player campaign as well. The setting... I've told you many times how I feel about the French, I'm not interested in the French Revolution schtick one bit, but again on the other hand, was I very interested in the Renaissance era back when I was first heading into Assassin's Creed II? Let's just hope for the best. The game is coming out on a very traditional date, October 28th, on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Guess which game is NOT coming when it's supposed to? Yep, Batman: Arkham Knight's been pushed all the way from early October to X-date 2015. The gameplay preview that was on show at E3 evoked all sorts of emotions; while others were all over how great the game looked and how vast Gotham City seemed, and the fancy utilization of the Batmobile, others felt that the game was getting too big, too technical and too action-oriented to really appeal to fans of the first two games. I'm kinda in a blender on this issue myself; I guess all my positive expectations were thrown out of the window the moment I caught the hint that the game was going to be delayed, by several months if not nearly a whole year. I watched the preview with a very sour look on my face and pointed out everything that sucked about it at first glance, and nothing more. ...Who am I kidding? Gotham is HUGE. I'm dying to get my hands on this game. I hope I'm still young when it comes out.

Just to comment on how Bethesda seemingly wants to piss people off - no, they did NOT announce Fallout 4, or anything remotely connected to Fallout, or even Dishonored 2. Instead, they formally announced the arrival of a PC-exclusive F2P multiplayer combat game called BattleCry. Yay. It's a cry, all right. Might as well mention new Battlefield and Call of Duty games in this same context, namely Battlefield: Hardline and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. And new Dead Island. And Far Cry. And Halo (and a Halo collection at that). And Homefront. And Metro. And Medal of Honor. Oops, sorry, scratch that last one.

To my surprise, Bayonetta 2 is STILL a Wii U exclusive, and to all those who ever wondered why because Bayonetta was never such a Nintendo-like title and the first game wasn't released even on the original Wii, Nintendo had answers. First of all, to our surprise, the game wasn't actually seen at the E3, but there was talk about it and at no point did system-specific censorship get mentioned, and also, it was revealed that all retail editions of Bayonetta 2 would include a Wii U re-release of the original game. Okay. Well played.

Admirers of From Software's work will get a whole new set of bones to pick with another spiritual successor to the original Demon's Souls - a PS4-exclusive by the name of Bloodborne, previously known as Project Beast. The funny thing is that I haven't had the time to familiarize myself with either Demon's Souls or Dark Souls just yet, but it goes without saying how intriguing I find those games by all the curses I've heard on the grapevine. This one has an impressive-sounding storyline - which to my knowledge wasn't a strong suit for the Souls series - and it's promised to have similar gameplay and a similar level of difficulty, so I'm sure Souls fans will, umm... "enjoy" the game. It's not gonna be out 'til 2015, though.

Don't know who that's supposed to be, but I'm betting on
bad ass. Dragon Age: Inquisition is on the way, fast.
So, let's continue with the magical date of October 7th. Since Batman: Arkham Knight is out of the equation, you'll go with Alien: Isolation, right? I doubt it, since one of THE sequels is coming. We have three reasons to doubt it: first, it was only supposed to come out on current-gen systems. It was clearly stated that the game would not run efficiently enough on the PS3 and Xbox 360 - that turned out a big ol' crock of bullshit. Once again, the announcement was made AFTER some of us had bought a new system, taking heed of a rare opportunity as they're still periodically sold out. The second reason is, the previous installment in the series was one of the biggest letdowns of the last generation, after a strong first outing. The third reason is, that the game still bears the same commercial mark(s) as the first game in the series, but it's made by a whole different group of people. The same people, but their agendas and attitudes have seemingly changed severely through the years, resulting in games that fans of the old have even deemed garbage. But, I believe - and hope - that now is BioWare's time to rise from the ashes, with Dragon Age: Inquisition. The game looks simply epic - and what's at least been flushed down the drain since the last game is the concept of one single city and hundreds of identical dungeons and forest paths to explore to your bored heart's content. The game is advertised as BioWare's biggest game to date, and the culmination of all things that fans have found most essential in BioWare's games since the initial rise of the company, such as character customization (race and class included), plot development dependent on player choices and even file import. Of course, since Dragon Age: Inquisition is the first Dragon Age title of the new generation, importing is not possible, at least not on the PS4 and Xbox One. To solve this peeve, BioWare has come up with the Dragon Age Keep feature, which is supposedly kind of like an interactive story in the vein of Mass Effect: Genesis, covering the events of both Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II. Remember, it's only months away - I have a Deluxe Edition coming up, myself, and judging by what I've seen, I think we're in for one hell of a fantasy role-playing treat.

Final Fantasy Type-0, previously released exclusively on the PSP and only in Japan, is getting an HD makeover and heading to the West on the PS4 and Xbox One... and even as the most stubborn Final Fantasy fan in the world, I'm not sure what to think. I didn't even know much about the game beforehand besides its name, so I headed to Wikipedia to educate myself some. What's obvious is that although it's set in the utterly boring XIII universe, it has quite enough classic Final Fantasy elements in it to make me interested. Also, the gameplay is described as the simple action-RPG style of Crisis Core, which I liked very much (although I can't immediately imagine that sort of game on a big screen). The ratings are distinctively awesome - even though all of the ratings come from Japanese publishers, who are known to be unexceptionally biased when it comes to Final Fantasy, especially (and ironically) the newer games. I smell sushi, but I'm still intrigued. My conclusion is that I'll buy it, sure as shit. But, will I like it? That's up to time to tell.

With information on Telltale Games' Game of Thrones adaptation still tucked well under wraps, as well as Gears of War 4, the most interesting parts of the G-department are a couple of remakes. Grand Theft Auto V is finally coming to the PC - "yay" - as well as the PS4 and Xbox One. Another "yay", although all of this was utterly expected, and I'm even glad on the PC players' behalf. Kind of interesting that console players can actually sell their last-gen copies and import their save files to the newer versions - what an impressive stunt to skyrocket 'em sales. Tim Schafer himself is directing a complete remake of his greatest directorial hit, the 1997 point 'n' click classic Grim Fandango. I'm guessing that whichever the way the remake goes, it's probably gonna be Double Fine's best-selling work to date.

The new Killer Instinct, exclusive to the Xbox One, is getting a sequel. Kinda sad that the first one is the most interesting Xbox One title in my books. No Kingdom Hearts III, unfortunately, but as consolidation, we finally have an HD remake of Kingdom Hearts II - coupled with Birth by Sleep and another cinematic "version" of Coded - coming up on the PS3. I recently played through the remake of the first game and had a hell of a time; I almost crossed the line and headed straight into Kingdom Hearts II, but decided to wait 'til they announced a remake. They made the announcement a little sooner than I expected, and scheduled the game for 2014. I hope we're talking about a worldwide release date this time around.

Not one, but two Tomb Raider games are coming up. Never thought I'd be excited about just one new Tomb Raider release, 'til last year's reboot. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is a sequel to the digital megahit from a few years back, named Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, and the sequel to the Tomb Raider reboot is called Rise of the Tomb Raider. Not much is known about it, but the teaser tells me we're in for perhaps an even more realistic and down-to-Earth game than its predecessor. Can't wait to see how this plot thickens; if I never thought I'd be pissing myself over a Tomb Raider game, I sure as hell didn't think that I'd ever consider the franchise to be Square Enix's current flagship.

He's back. With friends. And he owes me a lunch - I spilled
it across the floor once I heard the news.
Out of the purest blue: LittleBigPlanet 3. I mean, what the fuck?! OK, I might've fallen from the wagon at some point, but I never heard one word about this game before the E3. I sincerely thought the franchise was done for, and if Media Molecule were still around, they must've been working on some whole new project. But, that's not the case - LittleBigPlanet 3 is not only coming, but it's coming soon. November, to be exact. Any levels that were created in the pairing of the PS3 classics can be played with overhauled graphics in LittleBigPlanet 3, and the gimmick this time around is the addition of three whole new characters with different abilities to accompany Sackboy or Sackgirl on their trip. I'm pretty sure this game will rock. Case closed. See you in November.

As a new IP from a studio that has never made one game to impress me, CI Games' action-RPG Lords of the Fallen might not be as fascinating as Dragon Age: Inquisition, but it is fascinating, by its title and dark concept art alone. Also, it's directed by Tomasz Gop, who worked on the Witcher games - now I don't have experience from those games myself, but I've read my homework. Lords of the Fallen hits us in late 2014, and I hope it'll do it good.

I probably don't even need to name the game I was personally most expecting to see at this year's exhibition - hell, they didn't either, but 'til proven otherwise, this game is called Mass Effect 4. Rumours of the game have been circulating for two years, and BioWare still didn't have much to show, though if my memory serves me correctly, just a couple of months ago they stated that they were actually halfway done with the game, which in turn at least led me to believe that they would have something to show for it besides some random landscape videos. They looked awesome, no doubt. OK, so what we know about Mass Effect 4 thus far, is that it's a whole new game and will probably not even be called Mass Effect to separate it from Commander Shepard's story. It will play out more like a traditional RPG, and it was revealed at E3 that it will run on the Frostbite engine used in Dragon Age: Inquisition. So, here's to hoping that latter game will rock... again!

In my books, to be quite frank, Hideo Kojima's genius has been debatable in the recent years. OK, yeah, what he does usually turns out quite awesome, but everything that comes out of the guy's mouth nowadays turns to shit on its way to my ears, starting with how I think he deliberately insults fans' intelligence time and time again. We've been waiting for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain for a long time - hell, just giving us a release date would be nice, since Ground Zeroes has been out for quite some time now. "Well, I think this game is too big to be completed, so I think we'll just cancel the release." Yeah, very funny. The release date, please. "Well, I know you all want this in 2014, so let's say December 31st." Enough with the fucking jokes, seriously - this kind of shit has been going on ever since Metal Gear Solid 2 hit it big 13 years ago. We didn't get a release date, we got some vintage self-loving and backing out on one's words, but in turn, we got some good-looking gameplay videos and an awesome trailer for The Phantom Pain - and when I say awesome, I mean it, 'cause as cinematically talented as Kojima is, Metal Gear trailers have always sucked; the games have instead sold themselves. When it comes to the game's graphics, I'm actually thinking of trading my PS3 version of Ground Zeroes for a PS4 version and getting The Phantom Pain for the PS4 after all... if they don't cancel the release, that is! Heh. Heh. Heh.

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings "interquel" Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is looking better all the time... and more like Assassin's Creed all the time, which is not bad as long as they stick to the actually functional AC formula! I have this game on pre-order, which is kind of weird since I rarely trust new IP's, much less from such low-profile developers as Monolith Productions, and even less from a "licensed" game. This game has the equal potential to suck royal hobbit balls as it has to be the new Batman: Arkham Asylum. The game's out on October 7th.

Mirror's Edge 2. There, it's mentioned, let's move on to another game besides Tomb Raider that I never thought to be THIS excited about: Mortal Kombat X. The 2011 reboot of Mortal Kombat blew the bank; not only was it the ultimate Mortal Kombat experience, but in my mind the greatest one-on-one fighting game ever made, it's still on periodical rotation whenever I'm feeling brutal (read: quite often). New trailers and gameplay previews for the game are coming quite steadily, although the game is slated for release no earlier than 2015. There's some new features such as more interactive environments than before, some completely whack new characters to join the classic fold that at the very least includes Scorpion and Sub-Zero, and gruesome Fatalities - all the things we'd expect from a great Mortal Kombat game. Can't wait to FINISH THEM!

Nate's gone Joel, all brooding and grey. Awesome.
The Order: 1886, the whole new IP by Ready at Dawn - who worked on the God of War series at one point - is coming up later this year after all, despite being pushed back to 2015 at one time, and I'm ecstatic. The whole concept behind the game and the reputation of the studio do wonders to the hype. Last but not least on my list of awesomeness is Nathan Drake's return (and farewell?) to the fold with Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Things haven't been looking up in the Uncharted band camp since the first teaser trailer for a new Drake adventure emerged ages ago, as series creator and director Amy Hennig resigned from Naughty Dog recently, and the game was rumoured to have been cancelled. It was apparently just restarted from scratch, and it's designed by Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann who worked on the first two games and co-created The Last of Us - which, on the other hand, is now on its way to the PS4 as a remastered version. Seeing who's at the helm, I consider Nate's potentially final adventure a huge overhaul from the disappointing Uncharted 3 already, and the vague trailer tells me three important things: it's dark, almost as dark as The Last of Us by the looks of it, it features a somewhat aged Nate, and Sully's still around. I think it's safe to predict that Uncharted 4 will be the PS4's final breakthrough game, when it comes around some time in 2015.

That's my list of E3's best. Have a nice weekend, and all you fellow Finns have a nice (and healthy) midsummer's party.

torstai 12. kesäkuuta 2014

REVIEW - X-Men 2: Clone Wars | GEN | 1995

GENRE(S): Action / Platformer

In early 1995, Sega published their second exclusive X-Men game for the Sega Genesis. X-Men 2: Clone Wars, it was called, and it was received fairly well - best out of all 16-bit X-Men games that had come out thus far, in fact. Just like its predecessor, the game was a very simple, arcade-style action platformer that was perhaps gratuitously faithful to the diversity of the source material, when it came to having several characters that genuinely differed from each other in gameplay. However, absolutely everything else about the game apart from the solid cast was incomplete, and X-Men 2 ended up an even less memorable game than its predecessor in my books. Not total dung, but nothing to celebrate about either. Non-surprisingly, the biggest fault here is boring and repetitive level design. The playable characters' simple lack of aptitude follows up as a good number two.

Damn those clones

The tech-organic alien species known as the Phalanx has returned for another attempt at conquering Earth by manipulating their very own mutant forces. Several mutants have been captured and cloned for an army. Beast, Psylocke, Gambit, Nightcrawler, Cyclops and Wolverine, all of whom have thus far managed to evade capture, join forces with the unlikeliest of allies - Magneto himself - to drive them aliens back to the verges where they came from.

Can't see shit.
Let me start off by stating the obvious: I've played a lot of X-Men games lately, and even more games based on Marvel Comics. Genesis games in particular demand high concentration on details from me, and a lot of background research, 'cause almost every game I play on the Genesis nowadays besides some best-selling classics such as Sonic the Hedgehog and the earliest Genesis titles is a completely new experience to me. Might even be a whole new acquaintance. I was a Nintendo kid, and I didn't even know what was going on in the other 16-bit camp until my favourite magazine finally gave up to popular demand and started doing stuff on something else besides Nintendo back in 1995.

Most of the games I've played thus far have been games I'll never even think to return to again; just some odd Spider-Man games here and there. The X-Men franchise in particular has been a huge disappointment for me, 'cause it's got so much potential and without exceptions, the potential has been laid to waste as the developers have truly invested in some odd element of the game that will surely please a lot of people, but they've forgotten everything else that would please a whole lot of more people. So, I was doing background research on X-Men 2: Clone Wars before putting it to the grand test. Based on a pitiful total of two reviews, the game stands at a sharp 70 on GameRankings; that really isn't too bad by the usual retro standard of GameRankings. The game held fairly good averages on both MobyGames and GameFAQs, and the general "reception" part on Wikipedia told me that the game has even been called one of the greatest Genesis games ever made. Of course I was psyched up; every bit of prejudice I might've had, dropped out one by one at each word I read. I poured myself a long, cold drink, and was fully prepared to finally break this franchise, and this whole marathon, above the usual crappy average.

Now, as I said, I've played a lot of bad games during the last year, but you could say that after all that hype, X-Men 2: Clone Wars is one of the biggest disappointments I've had to deal with. It's superficially fancy, it has a good cast of characters (on paper) and a good story that will surely pique the curiosity of comic book fans, but that's where the fun ends - when we start going into the practical things, such as gameplay and level design. I'm hoping this pattern will break sooner rather than later, but it certainly does not happen here, and I sincerely do not see what's so great about this game, or even essentially new compared to its predecessor. To me, it's the same old, in a slightly more beautiful wrapping. Maybe that's what mattered. Don't know.

The level and enemy design take the usual easy ways out, but in turn, the playable characters are extremely well detailed. The environmental effects such as the initially prominent snowfall are quite neat, as well. The music is of the typical, unimaginative and repetitive fare, not much to say about it.

Whoa. Ass.
The game plays out almost exactly like the previous Genesis title, only there are more playable characters and their abilities are a whole lot more diverse, to the point that some of them are sure winners, while some are completely useless. For example, Cyclops and Gambit are excellent characters to use due to their ranged attacks, and not only is Nightcrawler faster than everyone else, he can climb walls - once again, his teleportation ability doesn't have much sensical use at all, it's used for a strange sort of offense rather than actual teleportation. Sadly, my favourite X-Men - Wolverine and Beast - get the short end of the stick here. Beast's special move is a slow and heavy ground pound attack that has no use at all against the fast and well-ranged enemies, and the range of Wolverine's attacks is pathetic. This leaves Psylocke, who I've always perceived as an oddball character, perhaps due to her absence from the X-Men media most familiar to me.

The even initially uninteresting levels are extremely lengthy and your life bar extremely small. Even Wolverine's regeneration ability works up to three ticks of health. Enemies can pop up from the purest blue even in what's supposed to be a "tutorial level"; the title screen doesn't even show until you've finished the first level, and even accomplishing that much might seem impossible at first. There are no checkpoints, and no save system of any kind. There's no solid reason for me to blurt out my honest opinion, you can pretty much imagine it.

+ Good story
+ Nice graphics

- Boring gameplay and level design
- Too little health for levels this long
- Too many practically useless characters
- Not even a password system

< 5.8 >