Wednesday, June 6, 2018

KILLZONE 3 (PS3)



Frankly I don´t remember how I got Killzone 3. It wasn´t a game I was particularly excited to play not even when it was released. Either someone sold it to me almost for nothing, or was left as "first come first serve" at the company kitchen. Anyhow it´s been waiting at my "Games to play" shelf for months if not years

Some weeks ago - after A LOT of time spent on open world games - I developed a need for some linear experience, so I gave it a try. I´m also trying to finish old games (i.e. PS3) before they become unsupported, servers closed and such. So I said "why not?"

Overall is a solid shooter, but there isn´t anything remarkable on it. The story is fine but can´t help to think the writers had to "revive" the baddies for the sake of milking the franchise cow (didn´t I finish with the Helghast in the second game already?), weapons are satifying to use and AI behaviours and scripting (both enemy and friendly) are adecuate. The scenarios are mostly ok - I presume they reused city assets from the previous game - and even they take you to some new locations for no good reason other than visual variety (which is not bad, though)

There is simply nothing bad on the game, if you like shooters you´ll likely enjoy it. But I struggled to find anything I could find memorable other than some cutscenes and a couple boss fights. In short, a nice experience but a bit of "was it really needed?" feeling. Since they made Killzone Shadow fall afterwards, I presume they made some good bucks out of it, so nothing to complain. Good business is good business

By the way, just when I had finished the campaign I tried to play MP and found out the servers were closed 2 months ago. Yay

Sunday, May 20, 2018

TACHYON PROJECT (XBOX ONE)





I don´t recall having played many dual stick shooters in my gaming life. Maybe a bit of Geometry Wars years ago. Thing is a friend and former workmate has a small indie studio called Eclipse Games, and he released some time ago Tachyon Project, his own interpretation on this genre

In short, it´s very similar to Geometry Wars but with an extra RPG layer - You can choose between different weapons, and some powerups. It´s a dual stick shooter that plays well, the balance is adecuate and it´s definitively enjoyable. To add an extra twist there is a short story and some replayability options. After finishing the campaign, I even spent some time grinding achievements, they´re reasonably easy to obtain

The price is cheap, it´s fun and you´d be helping a small studio. If you´re interested in the genre I personally recommend it

Sunday, May 13, 2018

MAD MAX (PS4)


Thanks to my PSplus subscription I got Mad Max for free. When it was released I was moderately interested in the game since it´s based on a movie IP I mostly enjoyed, but not so much as to buy it. But if it doesn´t cost a penny then what the hell

The game enjoyed good reviews but not superb. It was criticized for being repetitive, but it does have enough gameplay findings to make it enjoyable. I think both points are accurate:

On the plus side, I appreciated how the world and gameplay fit the IP core elements. You do feel into the Mad Max world, and even though the character model is a bit generic you feel like playing the leading role of one of the movies

Car fights are fairly good implemented, and some of them are challenging. The game characters are also very consistent with the IP: Post-apocalyptic punk enemies, crazy visionaries, desperates of all sorts, lone survivors, helpless kids, people who lost everything and expect very little from life... The story itself is not particularly punchy, it´s just a kick prior to let you free-roaming, not unlike most other open world games

And to be honest, the game is a completionist paradise. There are all sort of collectibles and you´re properly informed where to find them and when you have completed a location. It is much appreciated and probably the reason I decided to finish the game

On the minus side well, it can be indeed repetitive mostly on optional goals. Main missions have some variety or enough eye-candy scripted events to make them stand out. But anything else (camps, scavenging, races, etc) feels like a copy-pasted template dragged around all game areas to fill up content as cheap as possible

The combat system is a decent clone of the Batman´s series melee fights, and thanks to not being over-used it does serve its purpose better than it did in Ryse (works better when it´s supposed to fill up 30-40% of the total gameplay time, but if you try to stretch it longer than that it starts to feel repetitive). Still I´m not too hot about combat because:

  • It didn´t feel completely responsive, some UI prompts were actually not usable until animations had finished
  • The camera often left enemies outside from my view
  • The “Fury” subsystem – a damage buff you get after doing certain combat actions – often triggers too late in the fight, and not because of the player´s direct decision
  • After you´ve obtained all upgrades, combat prowess is irrelevant since you don´t get any more rewards. I don´t think the progression design had the end-game in mind-        
I can´t be sure about it but I suspect the game loops were originally conceived to be more punishing but the final balance lowered the difficulty: The game does contain one of the distinctive elements of the IP - Food/Water/Gasoline are scarced – and the player is supposed to manage them. However in the shipped gameplay you practically don´t have to worry about them at all. I think the designer who conceived them was left heart-broken to favor a more “casual” approach

I can´t help to think the game world could have had some more visual variety. Don´t get me wrong, the wastelands look awesome and very detailed… but after 100 hours of playtime you get bored of the same dune/rocky mountain stravaganza. I know, the movies don´t go much beyond that, but I think they should have pushed the boundaries a bit more with abandoned cities, huge scrapyards, etc


Other than that, the game plays well, it´s fairly enjoyable and if you like open worlds or the Mad Max series you should consider it. And if you like both then it´s a must

Sunday, May 6, 2018

NINTENDO´S CREATIVE PROCESS

An interesting article over the commonly unknown creative process in Nintendo (click here):

“The thinking that guides us is: what can we do to pleasantly surprise players? It’s not that we’re consciously trying to innovate; we’re trying to find ways to make people happy. The result is that we come up with things other people have not done”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

CROSSING SOULS (PS4)


Crossing souls is an indie title developed by a small team in Seville (Spain). It combines several elements that make me want to purchase a game: Set in the 80s, featuring a group of teenagers (Goonies?), an indie developer, Spanish and cheap. So I decided to give it a try. I don´t repent it since they did more good things than bad. However there are some caveats for anyone tempted to buy it

Let´s start with the good things: The visual style is charming (a combination of pixel art and 80s cartoons), you get a lot of content for your money, the game mechanics principles are good (you can swap characters at will, each has some unique ability that forces you to use them all in not-too-difficult puzzles and exploration), and the spirit of those 80s teenage movies is well-represented (particularly at the beginning)

There were some things I found detrimental for the final quality: Even though the game only has 8 chapters, some felt as unnecessary padded. They didn´t help progress the story, characters or gameplay, it was more like "well, we need one more hour of gameplay so let´s get the player get lost in the woods for some time"

Also mixed feelings about the story: It starts very promising, homaging some movies I cherrish from my childhood and including plenty of pop references. But at some point they put all the focus on some (imho) not-needed Egyptian mysticism that only distances the player from believability, and loses touch from the world logic. This problem of stories that get crazy at the end happens from time to time in teams lead by story-crazy directors (maybe this was the case?), I call it the "Indigo prophecy" effect (if you played that game, you know what I´m talking about)

And one final thing: For a collectible aficionado such as myself, I found inexcusable the lack of replayability options when you finish. If you didn´t find all hidden secrets you need to start over again (not even sure if the ones I found are saved to your profile, even)

I believe this is the first game done by the team. If so, I think it´s very promising and I personally recomment it if you´re attracted to any of the elements I mentioned above. For future titles I hope they learned some lessons and I´m sure they´ll be able to achieve something remarkable

Sunday, February 25, 2018

HER STORY (iOS)


Her Story has been praised for its unique storytelling, and since it´s one of the aspects I´m commonly attracted to I purchased it for my tablet. Like I often do, I left it there for a year, waiting for its moment... which came in a recent trip

It is indeed new. Not even sure if categorize it as a game, since you just run queries on a simulated video database, looking for the clips that add new elements to the story. Some of them contain the highlights, and once you collect enough of them you´re given the option to resolve

In terms of mechanics I actually found the "game" a bit janky, since the tag system didn´t really worked for me, and you´re limited on a number of clips you can favorite. Also I couldn´t find a way to delete those, so I eventually have to use my mobile notepad to track keywords

The inclusion of real-life footage is a nice touch, not many games do that. It´s fairly short and certainly keeps you interested in the events behind, and since you need to extract them out bit by bit it felt a new territory to explore in terms of interactivity. If you are into new ways to tell as story - as I am - I strongly recomment it



Thursday, February 15, 2018

SPHEROIDS (PS4)


In short, Spheroids is “Pong meets platforming”. It´s an indie game made by a friend and former colleague, with a fairly small team. That´s where most of its merit falls, since it does look like it has been done by a bigger group of developers

Gameplay wise works smoothly: You jump and shoot a hook that destroys “evil balls”, tool that is later upgraded to allow swinging. Nothing in the game is really revolutionary but instead evolutionary, so the core systems feel natural by default. There are some mechanics to learn/master and enemy iterations, but nothing that requires much thinking. You just sit, play and enjoy without much trouble

You will find some story bits in between worlds, but don´t expect too much out of them. I don´t think the developers did either, they just provide an excuse for moving on, a quick chuckle and that´s all

The game difficulty is appropriate and generally well-tuned, with novelties here and there to keep your interest up. On the minus side I could have used some more checkpoints: Some sections where not necessarily difficult but became really tedious because you were forced to re-do a big chunk of the level multiple times

Being an 8bit kid, I found the visual style charming, mostly when the camera is distant. It´s a 4-5 hour game, which I appreciate since I can easily make that fit into my daily routines. Some may find the music a bit too-present, but I liked it. In short, if you like classic arcades with a twist you will enjoy Spheroids, and since it´s not expensive it becomes a great choice for any rainy stay-at-home night