Sunday, July 28, 2013

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Well, I played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 a while ago, might as well review it.
I didn't play CoD4 before I played this, and after having done so, I really don't think it would have made much difference if I had. It starts off with a series of flashbacks to Modern Warfare, essentially recapping what happened in CoD4, but still telling you nothing about the actual plot of the game. There's a lot of military-style music in this game that sounds like it was copied out of Metal Gear Solid 2 (I know saying that one military game copies music from the other is like saying that Chrome copies Internet Explorer by nature of having the feature of browsing the web, but there's a LOT that reminds me of MGS2 in this game)
The controls are nice, and pretty much everything a shooters controls should be. Not at all spaced out, very intuitive, and easy to learn and use. There was a fair bit of repetition, and the game was a bit short, clocking in at around eight hours of play time. That being said, I enjoyed every minute of it. Call of Duty gets a whole lot of flack from one side, and the other side over-rates it. I'm somewhere in the middle. I really like it, I like its controls, the characters, the gameplay and the story, but it has a few issues. For being touted as a "realistic shooter" some of the textures are low-res (Especially ground ones), while others can take a while to load in. The loading-screens are hybrid load-times and cutscenes, so unless you're in a hurry you'll probably not be bothered by loading times (Although they'll sometimes start playing even if you're just reloading a save from the checkpoint). The swapping from character to character can be a bit confusing at times (Mainly due to the fact that you swap between about four or five. It'd really help to play Modern Warfare before you start controlling Soap, just so you know who he is), but I tended to ignore it because I was having a whole lot of fun. I preferred the stealth sections to the outright action-based ones, mainly because I like Metal Gear Solid a whole lot and partially because it was more fun (And a bit more intense) sneaking around an enemy area, moving right past armed guards and letting them live than it is to kill everything, because I could imagine their superiors chewing them out when they found out that I'd crawled right past them and they didn't notice!
Now, the similarities to Metal Gear Solid: first thing is that you at one point see Soap Mactavish from CoD4. You serve alongside him, and at one point in time another character from CoD4 shows up and helps you out for the rest of the game. Also, the opening music is, like I said above, very similar to the opening of Metal Gear Solid 2. The menu-theme sounds like the title-screen to MGS3, and like I said, the stealth elements exist. Remember when I said that you find a character from CoD4 somewhere in the game? Well even after playing CoD4 I still didn't understand how he got to where I found him, and after that he joins your group.
And now we must address the infamous "No Russian" mission.
At one point in time you infiltrate a terrorists group and accompany himself on a rampage through an airport. You can easily get through it without killing any of the civilians, but about the time that Russian SWAT shows up, you can't proceed without killing them, which is probably the most... Okay, "shocking" isn't the right word, nor is "controversial"...... I think that "jarring" fits better. At the point where you realize that you can't proceed in the game without killing the cops in that level... It's definitely the most jarring moment in the entire game. Infinity Ward touted "dynamic AI" as a feature for this game. According to Wikipedia, one of the functions of this is that "The player cannot depend on enemies to be found in the same locations as a previous play-through because enemies will behave differently each time a level is played."
I'm not sure how true this is, considering that every time I re-spawned at one checkpoint during the mission in Brazil these same two enemies would run out of a building, jump down and run across a patch of grass. This was every time I respawned.
And here we come right into something else: I'd say the game is a little on the short side. Although that might be a good thing, because it doesn't over-stay, or really does it pad the gameplay out too much (although I did have to replay a few missions over and over). I'd say that you could probably finish it in a shorter time-period than I did if you were a bit more skilled with the game than I was. All in all, I'd say it's a good game. You're definitely meant to play Modern Warfare first, and MW3 soon after. It's definitely meant as a package deal, but I'd suggest playing other games in between them in order to break it up, otherwise they might start to grind a bit. Like I said, I actually liked it, despite ragging on Black Ops II in the past. I'd give it a 9.0* rating. It was by no means my first FPS (Or CoD game for that matter) and it will be by no means my last. One thing I have to criticize is the lack of bots in multiplayer, when Perfect Dark had bots in multiplayer nearly a decade before (IDK, but Goldeneye might have had them too).
Someday I might get around to Call of Duty: Ghosts. After playing this I'm actually fairly interested in the series. Enough to get the last game in the Modern Warfare trilogy anyways.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

From Russia With Love, a retrospective on my first impressions

From Russia With Love is a third-person shooter based on the James Bond movie of the same name. I picked it up a while ago because people said it was good, and I would have to agree with them. I played the PS2 version, but stopped about the time I got Metal Gear Solid 2 in the mail (That's the ACTUAL Metal Gear Solid 2, not MGS3 with an MGS2 catalog sticker on it)
This game was released in 2005 for most consoles and most regions, being released on the PSP in 2006 and in Japan (Inexplicably exclusive to the PS2) in that year as well, a few months after the release of Casino Royale. A game known as Phoenix Rising (A title that was originally going to be used for Everything or Nothing) was intended to be released, starring the likeness and voice-talent of Pierce Brosnan, but it was canceled in favor of this one. It stars Sean Connery as James Bond, and while the character-model looks like him from that film, the voice is Connery's modern one, rather than clips from the movie. That's just nit-picking though. First, I'm going to have to compare it to the other James Bond TPS I've played: 007: Quantum of Solace.
For some reason the PS2 version of QoS was received better than the rest of the games were. I haven't played the other versions of it, but I have to say that I really didn't enjoy myself a whole lot when playing it. For one, the cover-system is annoying in certain places, and some of the stuff you have to do didn't appear in the movie, and the rest of it is mildly confusing and grindy. Plus it cuts out the chase-scene and just makes it into a cutscene.
Now, in FRWL, you're doing a whole lot of stuff that has little to do with the movie, but the game is at least fun. Looking back, the game reminds me of MGS3 (To an almost suspect degree), with its camera-control and stealth, as well as the aiming system being a little off. Like most TPS's, FRWL takes its aiming-system from Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, and like most games that followed Splinter Cell, does most everything that TCSC did a whole lot better. There's a lot of stuff that happened in the game that didn't happen in the movie, but like the Harry Potter games that EA made, they make the game a whole lot more fun than if it was just a straight adaption of the film. Like I said before, the aiming is a bit off at times, to the degree that ammo is sometimes wasted, and not having enough ammo will sometimes kill you. If I remember correctly, I stopped playing the game out of a combination of frustration and the arrival of Metal Gear Solid 2, and I haven't gotten back to the game since. This was the last Bond game made by EA before the lost the license to Activision, who went on to make Quantum of Solace, Goldeneye Reloaded, 007 Bloodstone and 007 Legends. The EA branding might make gamers wary nowadays, but this game was made during their heyday, with games like Chrono Cross, Chrono Trigger, and the Harry Potter series under their belt, back before the DLC policies of Mass Effect, the publishing policies of the EA Sports games, and the DRM policies of Sim City. All in all, I'd say it's a fun game. I'll have more to say once I've finished it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The World Ends With You: A Retrospective

Lest I forget to review games again, here we go with something I've been wanting to write for a while now.
I didn't really discuss the plot, but that's because it's so integral to the game that I didn't want to spoil it.. I didn't describe the gameplay in-depth, so I'll go into it here. Neku controls by using the stylus and touchscreen to move him around. A lot of the controls (Even outside battle) require you to use the touchscreen instead of the buttons, since the game was designed to be used equally by lefties and righties by default, which tends to annoy my muscle-memory of always pressing A to select something (OFC I might be confusing this with GTA Chinetown Wars, which also did that). On to the combat. In order to fight, you must equip pins. Pins level-up the way you do, except they have a cap as to how much XP they can have. Also, if you don't play the game for a while you get XP for how long you didn't play it, which can be easily abused by setting the DS's clock ahead a few years. However, even after XP farming my strongest pins that way the final boss was hard to beat. In fact, even the regular bosses were hard to beat that way! The combat consists of you moving through combo-chains as your partner via the D-pad or the face-buttons. As I mentioned before, the constant tapping of the sharp d-pad on my DS lite led to me developing a rough-patch on my left thumb, as well as some cramps (Partially due to the size of the DS lite and its stylus compared to my hands, and partially because of the gameplay) afterwards. Now, the partner combat actually requires you to pay attention to what you're doing on both screens rather that just paying attention to one screen at a time, which at first proved challenging, but after a while became second nature. Neku's combat consists of you touching the screen with the stylus in a way that activates the pins he's wearing. Depending on what brand your pins are they may get a bonus or a negative depending on how popular the particular brand is in each area of the Shibuya shopping district (an actual place in Japan, and as far as I can tell, is fairly accurate). Your health-bar is shared between Neku and his partner, and when both ends of the green bar meet, you're in trouble. Same goes for the enemies, they share an HP bar between screens too. It all works together seamlessly as soon as you get used to it.  The story is very compact, and by the time I was done with it I felt some combination of worn out and satisfied with it all. A sequel would be fine, but it doesn't really need one. I'd rather it end on a high-note than have a cash-in sequel for the 3DS just because it was the second top-selling DS game in Japan and the top-selling one here.
All in all The World Ends With You is a must-own title for the DS (And by the way, the title DOES get explained eventually). I have to say that it's probably my favorite DS game, the characters feel human (Despite strange proportions), the plot is interesting, and the game is altogether fun from start to finish. There was one part where you had to wear a certain pin around certain areas in order to increase its popularity (By the way, fighting with different brands of pins can increase their popularity there, although I never noticed any pluses or minuses for having more popular pins or less popular ones, despite the game telling me so) and that's the only part of the game that seems out of place. (The pin just slows Neku down and replaces one of your regular pins)
Now, I forgot to mention the food mechanics and clothing ones. Clothes require a certain bravery score to wear them, and you increase it by leveling up, which allows you more benefits that the clothes impart. Unfortunately, without spoiling anything, when your partners leave, so do the clothes they're wearing. On the flip-side, money pretty much comes easy, so there IS that. Food gives your permanent bonuses to your HP, Bravery, or certain other scores (If I remember correctly), so it's not a worthless mechanic. I enjoyed every bit of the game, even the Tin-pin slammer minigame once I got the hang of it.
See you next week with more reviews!

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

This movie is, hands down, the weirdest thing I've seen in my life.
The plot is this: Somehow, for some reason, Doctor Parnassus said that he would give the devil his daughter if he didn't succeed in taking five souls (Or so) to heaven via his imaginarium by a certain point in time. They explain why, and what led up to this via flashbacks later in the movie, but it's put together so strangely that I could barely understand it while I was watching it! In addition: Some of the plot ISN'T explained. For instance: Who is Heath Ledger's/Johnny Depp's/Colin Farrel's/Jude Law's character and why was he hanging from a rope on the edge of a bridge in London? We know his name, but even after re-reading the Wikipedia page TWICE after seeing the movie I can't begin to fathom what the point of his character was, or why he was there. It also stars a pre-The Amazing Spider-Man Andrew Garfield, and from the few of his pre-Spider-Man roles I know of I liked his performance in Doctor Who best (Less a dig on him and more a dig on this particular movie) After a while, more of the story is told by flashbacks to the beginning of Dr Parnassus's life. It only gets stranger from there on. The inside of The Imaginarium is bigger on the inside, and not in the harmless way of The TARDIS, it creates a world that (From what I hear) wouldn't seem that out of place in Silent Hill (Minus a few totally screwed-up things and plus a few incomprehensibly crazy ones). Whoever was designing the set-pieces in there must have been on some kind of hallucinogenic drugs, because everything about it seems like something someone would experience if they were using acid. (Which probably explains the opening sequence of Beetles Rockband and most of their songs) In order to compensate for Heath Ledger dying during production of the movie they used Johnny Depp, Colin Farrel, and Jude Law in the different dimensions of the Imaginarium. This is probably supposed to reflect that the character is a con-man, but until the end it just caused me to wonder why they kept changing actors. (This was before I knew Heath Ledger was in it, I really didn't pay much attention to the cast) I actually debated whether or not I was going to keep watching this movie, but I figured I could just pile more stuff onto it. The ending makes no sense, after the  Everything about the movie seems like someone would enjoy it more if they were extremely high, and aside from the art and set-pieces, there's nothing really of interest in the movie unless you like weird stuff. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a freaky and un-nerving ride from start to finish, and I only recommend watching it if you need to waste 123 minutes, although there are better ways to spend two hours. Maybe you could check out my YouTube channel instead?
All in all, I didn't really like this movie. I wouldn't say it's terrible, but it's not that great. I give it a 2.4* rating.
By the way, I thought I had scheduled this for yesterday, but I apparently didn't hit publish....