Sunday, June 13, 2021

DONUT COUNTY (PS4)

Donut County was one of my wishlist games. That means I´m not so interested on it as to buy it full price, but if at any point it´s on sale I´ll consider it. I found it very cheap recently on PS4 and I thought to give it a try

It currently holds 75-79 in metacritics depending on the platform. That makes you think it´s a good game but not memorable. I believe I know why: There is practically no challenge. Even if you try, the worst thing that´ll happen is not progressing. The game will wait patiently until you find the next step. This is against the classic design approach of punishing players so they appreciate better the triumph of overcoming the challenge

Donut County plays in another league: There are no difficulty levels, the main mechanic – a sort of reverse Katamari Damacy – don´t feature a timer, and you can almost go through most levels just moving the cursor randomly. As such, you can finish it in 2-3 hours and becomes an easy platinum. I am not convinced that´s such a bad thing. Some gamers don´t want any trace of hardcore challenge at all, and appreciate relaxed experiences without rubbing on their faces how bad they are

The story is cute but shallow, much as its visuals, and there are little options for replayability. All in all it´s a good indie game for those on the opposite spectrum of From Software (Souls series). Won´t change your life, but it´s honest in offering a new mechanic, wrap the game around it but don´t drag the game beyond of that mechanic´s limits


Sunday, May 16, 2021

FAR CRY 5 (PS4)

 

Wow, more than 15 years since I played Far Cry 1 (Crytek). Since then, the IP went to Ubisoft, I played the Far Cry 2 demo – didn´t like it – then ignored the saga until this last one came out

Why Far Cry 5 in particular? I was mostly intrigued by the game world – a USA county controlled by a doomsday cult. Not only because it resonated on me as an allegory of the Trump administration, but also because it´s unusually daring for a game to set such violent franchise in a real and “civilized” country (those are usually set on fictional third world nations)

Anyway, the IP has evolved since the Crytek times. Now it´s an open world – quite typical on Ubisoft – but retains some of the original characteristics: First person camera at all times (even when driving) to promote immersion, some emergent gameplay and the possibility to approach challenges in multiple ways. It adds some Ubisoft-flavored elements, such as lots of player tools (weapons, skills, team mates, customization, etc) and a bigger focus on storytelling

Overall it plays well, and sells the fantasy. The shooting is satisfying, the villains are iconic, the world is believable and full of content. On the other side - as most Ubisoft games - the missions are mostly template repetitions, priority C bugs are not uncommon and I don´t think all systems work together smoothly: Sometimes you die not knowing really why, team mates often make weird decisions on certain situations and it´s not uncommon to feel unfairly treated by subsystems working together leading to unexpected outcomes. Special mention to the death cam, a 10 years old ragdoll I am surprised they kept in the game

One good thing in general of Ubisoft games is that the game is not particularly difficult, the challenge is normally on finishing all content instead. I personally recommend Far Cry 5 if you like FPS open worlds and get immersed in an interesting setting



Sunday, April 18, 2021

DEAD SPACE 2 (PS3)

 


I´m not a Survival Horror fan, but if I get my hands on one of those games at a reasonable price I´m not against them. So was the case with Dead Space 2. Can´t remember how I got it but it was back in my time in Frankfurt/Crytek and I was either free or super-cheap. And since I am trying to finish all pending PS3 games before Sony shuts down support/servers on that console, I finally finished it

It is a great game for sure. It currently holds an 89-90 in Metacritics, and in this case it´s probably worth it. The gameplay is perfectly adequate for the genre and claustrophobic levels, the art conveys the story goals and intended mood, the story is gritty and gore and generally it plays well. It is a rounded product, where all elements work together and add value to the whole. I didn´t play the multiplayer though, I think my game code was used previously since my copy was second hand

On the minus side I don´t think the dismemberment tech was really core to the gameplay as you might expect, and I don´t feel it as an evolutionary sequel (meaning it tries to do better than the first installment) but instead solidifies the same ideas and scenarios. I also have some minor concerns about the in-game technology plausibility (such as the telekinesis and stasis) but c’mon, it´s a videogame. It´s all for the fun

A pity the IP is dead now. I think Visceral was a very expensive studio for EA (it was Bay area based) and Survival horror are niche games that won´t sell more than a couple million copies despite having devoted fans


Saturday, March 20, 2021

SERIOUS SAM 3 BFE (PS3)

 


I´ve had Serious Sam 3 installed in my PS3 for - easily - 6 years. Not 100% sure but it was probably free on Playstation Plus, thought I could give a try, played 2-3 hours, got bored and let it rot. It has been a major inconvenient because the console´s HD is limited, and I´ve never been able to store more than 3 games simultaneously. I should´ve deleted it a long ago... but I have a closure problem

And that´s the reason why I decided to finish it now. Since the PS5 is out, the PS3 will be discontinued in a couple of years. Multiplayer modes won´t be available, trophies un-obtainable anymore... So I thought let´s get rid of SS3 once and for all, even if it´s not my cup of tea. And it is not, its gameplay is simplistic and out of date. But funny enough, that might be the reason why it can be very interesting for today´s audiences

Although the starting point for all of them were common (Doom/Quake -> Shoot monsters mindlessly), for some years now shooters have evolved to become more and more immersive, make players feel like they are some combatant type: Military (CoD, MoH), space soldier (Halo), secret agents, etc. Serious Sam is an IP which based its gameplay on pure craziness: Big weapons, weird monsters, dozens of them, all coming for you, shoot-kill-repeat. And they stuck to their guns (pun intended) while others went into the simulator experience. That´s why it kinda feels fresh, because they haven´t evolved at all, and now their approach feels truly one-of-a-kind

Aside from this unique advantage, the game plays well, the weapons are satisfying and the MP was probably fun to play (the servers are deserted today). On the minus side, it was visually poor already at the time, the game is very limited in mechanics and surprises, you can sometimes get lost in the levels and the story is not only absurd but also an uninspired Duke Nukem rip-off (which in turns is also an 80s testosterone movie - not always funny - parody)

Nevertheless it is not a bad experience, just old fashioned. I wouldn´t be surprised if there are fans out there, but I think I´ve had enough of the IP for another 6 years. Or more

Sunday, February 7, 2021

ASSASSIN´S CREED ORIGINS (PS4)

 


As it commonly happens to me, I played Assassin´s Creed Origins when it was released for like 60-70% of the content and got bored. Admittedly my playstyle fosters eventual abandonment since I´m kind of a collector and get obsessed with finding every little location/collectible the game offers, ignore main/side missions and at some point it becomes so repetitive I put aside the game

Normally 2-3 years later I get the urge to finish what I started and give a final push to complete the story. This time – since I had done most of the heavy lifting already – I went for the Platinum. In total, 75-80h of playtime

Overall is a good game. If you are into ACs I definitively recommend it. Maybe it´s just me, but having the possibility of exploring the ancient Egypt is very appealing, not to mention to climb all those monuments without tour guides threatening your life

On the plus side, as mentioned, the game world is super interesting. Having played previous ACs, I think the amount of player tools (weapons, player actions, gameplay decisions) is probably better balanced that other titles, which had maybe too many of them. Visually speaking it´s remarkable, and it definitively sells the fantasy that you are living at that time, with lots of little graphic details

On the minus side, the story is not memorable as it often happens in open world games. A pity, it basically tells how the creed starts and why. But since you can pause story development at will to wander around the world, characters and plotlines can easily fall into oblivion. Aside from that, you will find the usual “template content” commonly found in Ubisoft games, and most quests are mere excuses to turn you – an epic warrior – into an errand boy

I guess ACs are games conceived to make you play for months. I think at this point of my life I favor games that offer 10-15 of high quality gameplay over those asking you to devote half year to them. But that´s just me. Anyway I even got the platinum, so maybe it´s worth those 6 months of your life 😊


Thursday, November 19, 2020

UNDERTALE (PS4)

 


One of the most prominent recent “indie darlings”, Undertale was praised as a contender for the GotY award back in 2016. Based on the videos I watched I wasn´t that hot for it so I passed. Thanks to Steam sales I got a PC copy and played a couple of hours, but again not super fan

Recently it was put on sale again but on PS4. I have a tendency to favor console versions because I am an achievement hunter, and somehow suspect they´ll be more permanent if obtained in a console. Just finished it and… well, my opinion certainly improved, but I´m still not convinced the game is that historical cornerstone as it was sold to me back in the day

Overall it´s a great indie game. You expect them to be risk-taking, unconventional and rule-breakers, and Undertale certainly is (but not a lot, I´d say). The fresher aspect of it is the possibility of finishing the game either by killing all enemies or sparing them. I wasn´t aware when I started that the ending would be so vastly different depending on that choice (being the “pacifist” run way more complete in terms of content) so I just killed my way through the game… to find out a slightly bitter end. The game mechanics are simple but imaginative - and you cannot expect much more from just one developer. The story has some interesting characters and the level design offers more variety than you can expect, wisely taking premises to a quick end instead of cloning ideas for the sake of cheap content. There is also a lot of unexpected details that shows caring for the project and the will to always surprise the user. You definitively feel the creators really wanted to go the extra mile to keep your jaws open

On the other side – and we might be entering subjective territory here – I didn´t feel engaged by the setting (a monster-ruled dungeon. Wow, never heard of that), the story is not that hilarious as the creator probably thinks it is, the monster roster is too hectic to have logic for my taste, and not a huge fan of the old Final Fantasy “Stop and fight, you just got attacked by an invisible pack of enemies” approach

Anyway, I strongly recommend the game especially if you´re looking beyond the mainstream experiences that most AAA games offer. It has its own flavor, charm and does try to do something different. Few devs do these days. Respect

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

GRAND THEFT AUTO 4 (PS4)

 


I briefly played GTA4 when released (2008) and it didn´t impress me. I always felt it was one of the weakest games on that IP. At some point I got a PS4 copy and left it rotten in the shelf for years. Just recently I felt my gta levels in blood being too low, and gave it a try. Guess what? I still think it´s the weakest I´ve played, but still enjoyable

I have to give that to Rockstar: Driving around the city feels hypnotic, you just focus on the traffic and let it flow. And it is indeed a more detailed world than the previous installments. Generally speaking it just works: You have your "good at heart who does horrifying things because of reasons" guy, there is plenty of content, the usual array of semi-comical characters and a fair amount of freedom to do as you please to whoever you choose

However, I miss something memorable. A unique selling point, if you will. There is nothing wrong in the game, it´s just that all novelties are meh. Sure, there are more graphic details in the city, and some standard multiplayer options... but that doesn´t feel a big jump for the IP. GTA5 for example allowed to play 3 characters at will, and a MP mode that felt unique

And the NPC friends, oh my god, so annoying! They constantly ask you for dates in the most inconvenient times. I kinda felt sorry for them, always rejected. And the mobile phone UI was less than efficient to understand the options you had, and how to trigger them

Some more: The radio stations seem to be based on B-side songs. The story and in-game economy are - commonly in the IP - absolutely not in sync: Your character commits all kind of crimes in the name of money, when your wallet is obscenely full. The story had some interesting moments but overall it wasn´t as satirical/funny as previous games 

But I did finish the game. Once you get into the rhythm you wanna see what´s next. I won´t try to get the platinum (as I did for GTA5) but I´ll try to complete the reasonably-accessible trophies. It´s not 5-stars shit, but sometimes 2 stars will do