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 And it is not, its gameplay is simplistic and out of date.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

Sunday, August 16, 2020

ASSASSIN'S CREED REVELATIONS (PS3)


 After 6 years, I finally completed the game

Why did it take me so long to finish it? Good question. First of all, there is nothing wrong with it. It´s a very decent AC game, with its strengths/weaknesses. I think the issue is what I call “gameplay fatigue”. I´ll explain:

Most games nowadays are somehow forced to have 15-20 hours of content. However creating new challenges is costly, hence most projects – particularly open worlds – create gameplay templates which are copy-pasted into each region of the game space

To be fair, they commonly add small twists to the cloned content: A new enemy type, a new fortress layout, different enemy combinations… but at the end of the day you can identify the patterns and they end up feeling less and less unique. This leads into a certain boredom that makes you feel unexcited to play more

This has happened to me in several games after 5-6 hours of playing. There is a point where you start thinking it´s all same old same old, and wonder if you shouldn´t try that other game in the library. In AC Revelations I played around 60% of the campaign until I became disinterested, and abandoned it for years

Thanks to the PS3 hard drive´s ridiculously small capacity, I had to delete all I could, plus finish any ongoing game before I could consider installing any new one, which eventually gave me the gentle push to complete it. I even went for a bunch of small trophies just so I could truly say “I´ve done all I wanted to do in this game”

Aside from this, like I said the game is very decent and if you like ACs you should enjoy it. It is the end of the “Ezio Auditore” trilogy, and it might be a good compilation of all that is good and bad of the IP up to that point:

On the plus side it´s a new and interesting location (Istanbul) and the team successfully built on top of previous titles to add new options, and discard those that didn´t completely worked out. There is a fair amount of variety of things to do (at least initially) and it does feel like a quality product in all its aspects

On the minus side, I felt the controls painful (high/low profiles never worked for me, plus mapping item selections on the trigger makes it to open unwillingly all the time). It features too many options for the player in my opinion (you end up not using many of them). And as usual in AC the story is just meh, good enough as a skeleton for gameplay but not as much as to make you really feel excited about what´s coming next

Anyway, I can´t help to think I would have enjoyed it way more if it would have been only 6 hours long, but that´s how games are made these days. Maybe that will change in the upcoming next gen?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

TITANFALL 2 (PS4)


I wasn´t excited enough to buy Titanfall 2 when it was released, and I think I was right to. But when given out for free in Playstation plus, I thought it was time to give it a try

Overall it´s a good game, done by an experienced team. A satisfying shooter, you clearly see that team had done others before (most team members used to be at Infinity Ward when the CoD modern warfares were done). It also has a fairly good level design, and a couple of relatively fresh unique selling points (mechs and parkour). I particularly liked the collectibles design - visible from the main path but you need to solve a little environmental puzzle to get them

On the minus side it´s not memorable. There is nothing absolutely new about it. If you are a hardcore shooter gamer you should like it. Otherwise if you only have time for “revolutionary” games (as opposed to “evolutionary”) you´ll probably experience it as falling a bit short. I actually stopped playing 2 years ago, and only thanks to the pandemic lockdown managed to finish it

Still, it´s a very competent shooter and easy to enjoy - particularly for that genre´s lovers

Sunday, June 14, 2020

THE HEX (PC)


I currently use Steam mostly for indie games. Quite often you won´t find them in any other platform. I believe The Hex is one of them. I knew about it from a long time, but the game premise wasn´t totally enticing to me: A group of videogame characters had to solve a mysterious murder. Still, I kept it on the wishlist hoping to give it a chance it the price dropped substantially

And it did. Then I discovered the game was way more than its marketing. The Hex is basically a metagame: A game about games. The murder is a mere excuse to put together 6 different mini-games, all tied up by a fictional game developer who went through different troubles while making all those games, the feedback he got on each case (often displayed on-screen as game elements) and how that affected the lives of the main characters

A bit confusing, isn´t it? Yes, that might be the case. Sometimes it´s a bit like those pretentious "auteur" 70s movies with references within references. Kinda like a videogame adaptation of "Six characters in search of an author". Still you won´t see many games - or entertainment products in general - willing to go that route, and for the most part makes you think about what it means to create games, how you relate to the character you control, and the creator of the game in general

Each of the mini-games are not great individually. Graphically speaking is ugly, and it´s clear they didn´t have a great budget for animation / art. But the main proposal works very well, and you can get a good 10 hours of varied gameplay that makes you think a little. You can´t ask for more