Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Playlist – 9/29/2012

If you weren’t excited about any of the previous fall releases, be prepared because the holiday release schedule has officially started. With few exceptions, the next few weeks are back to back releases with NBA 2K13, Dishonored, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Need for Speed Most Wanted, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Assassin’s Creed 3, and Hitman: Absolution.

Borderlands 2

Playing through Borderlands 2 is like going through the three acts of a movie or play. The first act drags on with its tutorials, the story is a slow burn, and I forgot just how MMO-like the game was with its missions: Go kill five bullymongs, shoot 10 skaggs in the mouth, pick up these three engine parts. But once you hit the second act, get to Sanctuary, and starting interacting with characters from the first game, who now have voices and personalities, the gunplay and story pick up pace and it hits its stride with action. Despite spending 90 hours playing the first game and its downloadable content packs, Borderlands 2 felt long at about 35 hours. As I played on I felt like I was approaching the final confrontation with Handsome Jack, only to find another act left. I could see myself replaying Borderlands 2 similar to people go through the Diablo series multiple times, trying to find the best loot, and taking down the raid boss that opens up when you beat the game.

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man is a weird game to control. Besides it being a decent movie-tie in game, and a Spider-Man game, I was initially confused about how I wanted to play this game. It plays like a third-person action open-world game, swinging from building to building through the streets of New York, collecting comic books, stopping petty crimes, taking pictures, and defeating mini-bosses. However, you play the entire game behind Spider-Man’s shoulder like a third-person shooter. It even has a reticule on the screen for aiming. Usually if there is some amount of aiming needed in a game, I’ll play it with mouse and keyboard. There are various reasons why you could play something with aiming with a gamepad, but the precision of a mouse is still unparalleled by anything else.

After the first few missions in the game, though, I quickly found the auto-aim negated any need to aim. One of the first things you do in The Amazing Spider-Man is battle a giant robot in the middle of central park. In one section of that fight, you need to shoot your webbing at its joints to keep it from moving. When using the mouse, I would aim at one leg of the robot, then the auto-aim would kick in and turn me around 180 degrees to fire at a different leg. I couldn’t turn the auto-aim off because, hey, PC port, so I figured why fight against the aiming when I could use a gamepad to take advantage of it. Not only that, because of the web rush mechanic, anytime I actually needed to take a moment to aim towards a ledge or certain spot, I could enter a sort of slow-motion mode and take the extra time I needed to line it up. It’s a weird design choice for Beenox to make a third-person action game with the camera set over the shoulder, but playing with a gamepad, it works well enough.

Black Mesa

I never finished Half-Life. In fact, the furthest I got was the point when you exit the facility and start fighting the military force. I tried to go back and play it after going through Half-Life 2, but the texture quality of characters and the environment was something I couldn’t ignore after enjoying the fidelity of a Source engine game. Luckily, thanks to the free release of Black Mesa, I can now enjoy it on the same level of any other Source game. Well, most of it anyways. In order for the team behind the mod to get it out to release, the Xen levels are still missing from the game, which makes up about the last fifth of the game. I’m conflicted, though, as to how far I should play through Black Mesa. The team behind Black Mesa said they will release the Xen levels at some point in the future, but I’ve heard from others that those levels aren’t particularly well designed and aren’t worth playing. Despite that, I still feel like I should play them, as they were part of the original Half-Life. I want to play more Black Mesa, but I feel like I should put it off, or at least pace myself, until the development team officially releases the Xen levels and integrates them into the game.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

To borrow a phrase from another franchise, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is the game Transformers fans deserve. While its predecessor, War for Cybertron, was the best Transformers game to date, and probably the best thing in the Transformers franchise in the last 10 years, Fall of Cybertron focuses tighter on the narrative and pacing and excels because of it. The first two levels have you play Bumblebee and Optimus Prime, which while sounds great, are probably the most boring and uninspired levels in the game. Bumblebee’s level is just a tutorial, and Optimus Prime plays like a very general third-person shooter. It’s not until you start getting into the later levels with characters like Cliffjumper, Jazz, Jetfire, Decepitcons like Soundwave, and a combination of Combaticons that the variety and pacing picks up. The pacing culminates in the final level where you rapid-fire switch between Autobot and Decepticon about every five minutes, taking on almost every aspect of the battle. This is one of those games where you sit down with the goal to play only a few levels and find yourself 10 levels deep, teetering near the end of the game.

It’s a bit unfortunate, though, because the game is a third-person shooter and every time you step out into sight, you’re reminded of that. Despite the lack of cover system, I had to continually hide behind walls and debris to keep from dying, even on normal difficulty. It approached Max Payne 3 levels of dying. You can switch between angles of which arm to shoot from, but the shooting is still clunky. Oftentimes I would be behind cover with only reticule over an enemy and still be hit. That being said, the constant variety in gameplay, range of characters, and narrative thread featuring the Dinobots make this a great game, even if you’re the most casual of a Transformers fan.

Game Deals

Amazon has the downloadable PC version of Sleeping Dogs for $29.99. No promo code necessary.

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