All About Noct
The incoherent ramblings of a failed game developer with a Peter Pan complex, chronic insomnia, and an unhealthy obsession with George Lucas .
How great is (new) Mortal Kombat? So knock-down ,drag-out, kick you in the crotch eff-tastic that I want to take it behind a building and get it pregnant.
So good I slept for 3 hours last night (Midnight-release)... I'm about to start holding my eyelids open with paperclips, (Clockwork Orange) my back is in screaming agony at my desk right now, and it was all worth it. If Ed Boon was standing in front of me right now I'd open-lipped kiss him on the mouth. Ok, probably not, but he definitely deserves a hug.
I'm not going to give a proper review as I've only played it for about 5 hours, but I just cannot overstate how fantastic it is in every way. A couple of the characters feel a little nerfed to me (Liu Kang especially), but everything else is just perfect. It looks gorgeous, it plays outstanding, there is a metric ton of content (hey look, I didn't say Kontent, oh wait, damn...), and I absolutely LOVE the story mode. I don't want to give anything away so I won't get into where it goes, but it is hands down my favorite story mode in any fighting game, ever.
The only negative thing I could even come up with is that I don't really care for the X-ray moves. They are cool looking the first few times, but I don't get the charge out of seeing them go off that I do like an Ultimate in SF4; they just slow down the game play too much and annoy me really. But it doesn't hamper the game play really, just kinda irks me. Speaking of SF4, this is essentially the same exact formula that was. They have gone back to when the series was at its best (MK2), updated the graphics, crammed as much content as they possibly could into it and sent it out the door. There's no real innovations here, and that is a beautiful thing. I would have preferred a little more active involvement with the backgrounds (ala DOA), but the game is just amazing.
I was feeling a little wishy-washy about it after playing the demo, and I wondered if it was going to hold my attention this time, and in case you couldn't tell, it does, in spades. I want to state a public thank you to NeatherRealm Studios, this IS the Mortal Kombat fans have been waiting for since part 2.
So I finally succumbed to my desire to play SSF4 in 3D and plunked down for a 3DS the other day. A couple of things worth mentioning to anyone considering buying one.
First, the hardware design is sketchy, at best... I started out with a Pre-Owned (Gamestop) system, and realized really fast that these things are not going to hold up very well over time, or to any heavy/careless transportation.
I didn't notice until I got it home and started playing on it, but the used one I bought had pretty deep cuts/grooves marring the upper screen. Not coincidentally, they lined up perfectly with the border of the lower screen. Googled it a bit and found a lot of other people making similar complaints. It seems that the raised border of the lower screen presses against the upper when it's closed. I don't really know if the damage happens from standard use or if you have to put a good amount of pressure on the system when it's closed, but either way, that's a pretty serious design flaw.
The next issue I came across was with the 3D slider. It's on the right-hand side of the upper screen, and is situated vertically, with the max 3D setting being at the top. Well, apparently it loses its "grip" over time, because I noticed that when I jostled the system around a bit, or just opened and closed it a few times, it slowly started creeping towards the bottom. Obviously you can just slide it back up, but I wonder if over time that's not going to become a bigger problem...
At any rate, I decided these issues were not worth the money I saved buying used (Like, $25 I think...), and I promptly returned it and bought a new one. Of course, the sales girl tried to claim that she didn't see the damage, or else they wouldn't have taken it in. Full-on baloney if you asked me, my wife noticed the damage sitting next to me on the couch, so take heed if you intend on buying one used from GameStop. I'm trying to be super-careful with the new one I got; I bought screen protectors and a cleaning cloth that I'm keeping folded up in it to prevent damage, which kind of sucks... I don't really relish the idea of having to be this careful with it; it is a portable system after all...
In lesser, but still annoying issues, they for some reason moved the power button to the face of the bottom section, and replaced where it was on the DS with a Wi-Fi switch. I'm sure I'll get used to it, but I keep hitting that Wi-Fi Switch on the side trying to turn on the system, and it's annoying.
Also, the face buttons on the bottom screen for Start, Home and Select are like, hard to the touch, flush to the system, and feel like you have to really press them to get them to work. Not that I have had any trouble using them really, but it feels awkward and sort of unresponsive as is.
I know the battery life has been already been complained about all over the place, but it's definitely a problem. After a full charge I played for maybe an hour and a half, and the indicator was already lower then half. It seems like 3 or so hours of straight play (with 3D) would crush it, and that doesn't sound that good to me...
The machine also weighs a lot more than the old DS, and my hands are definitely cramping up playing it. The only really comfy way that I've found to play it for a stretch was to recline on my couch and prop it up on a pillow on my stomach.
Next, this thing is painfully slow to do anything compared to the regular DS. It takes way longer to turn on, longer to shut down, and I've read reports that it loads (old) DS games much slower than the actual DS did. Nothing game-killing here, but again, it's a portable system, so, speed of use is pretty damn important to me.
On the positive hardware tip, the control is absolutely spot-on. The analog is comfy and works great, and this is now officially the first time I've ever opted to use an analog stick for a SF game, which speaks volumes. It's disappointing as a PSP owner to buy another system with only one analog stick, but I doubt there's going to be a ton of FPS on this system anyways...
Lastly, I just want to mention the eye-strain of the 3D. I noticed it quite a bit for the first few hours, and it never "hurt" my eyes really, more like tired them out a bit. But, I can happily say that by day two, I didn't even feel it anymore, and I've kept the 3D at the max setting the whole damn time. So, thumbs up on the 3D.
As for the games... I know these are the launch titles and all, but talk about slim Pickens. I don't really remember the last console I bought that I struggled to find more than one game to buy that looked even remotely interesting to me. I bought SSF4 and Lego Star Wars, and I really doubt I'll be buying anything else from this lineup.
As far as those games go... like the system, it's a mixed bag. SSF4 is just outstanding in every way possible, and outside of the totally static backgrounds there's not a single bad thing I could say about it. It has all the DLC included in it; the new "dynamic view" game mode is great; it's just a fantastic game in every way. That said... it's still SSF4, which I have already played to death...
Lego Star Wars is nice, but again, I've already played 487 Lego games, and there's nothing new here. Actually, there's a
bit less; this one feels very watered down compared to the past few Lego titles I've played. Although I must say, playing the space battle sequence in 3D makes it worth the price of admission.
I'm pretty happy with the system over all, and the built in stuff is all VERY cool. The Augmented-Reality games, 3D camera, etc, all work better than I expected and are a blast to play around with. The only problem is, I'm already feeling the same way I did about the Wii... This thing is being carried by its gimmick, and has very little software to back it up or even warrant a purchase of it right now. The 3D is really cool for sure, but it doesn't really add anything to the games I've played, and once the novelty of that wears off, I'll be holding a more expensive, crappier designed DS with a pathetic software lineup.
Can't say as I can really recommend buying this thing right now. That is all.
I've gone game crazy! (GameStop's "Power-Saver" sale helped)
In the past week I purchased (PS3) Crysis 2, Home Front, Fairytale Fights (to play with the lil woman), Arkham Asylum GOTY Edition, as well as (DS) AstroBoy, Moon, and Jedi Alliance. (I also finally bought all the DLC for Marvel Vs Capcom 3 yesterday). I'm going to kind of do a big mash-up review of all of it, so this is going to get lengthy. So, if there's anyone even reading my stuff anymore (doesn't so much look like it these days); this is going to take a few minutes to read through…
To start with.… Crysis 2! I'll say it again, because it deserves it… Crysis 2!
Crysis 2 is just staggeringly good. Extremely precise control, interesting storyline, intense battles, excellent AI, white-knuckle scripted sequences, and quite literally, the hands-down BEST graphics I have ever seen. The only complaints that I could even come up with would be weapon selection, as it feels a bit lackluster, and the stealth game play doesn't quite work out the way I would like it to. They put a ton of emphasis on playing stealthily, but all that really seems to make a difference to that is whether or not you're cloaked. If you are not cloaked, enemies can spot you from a hundred miles away as long as you are on the same plane as them. (for some reason, they can't figure out how to look up). It bothers me when I'm crouching behind a bush that should completely obscure the AI's view of me, and yet they will start firing from half-way across town and actually hit me.
All things considered though, the game is just incredible and should be on every FPS fan's shopping list this year. (Early GOTY contender in my book) I never played the original so I have no basis of comparison, but this one has a nice RPG feel to bits of it, and while it's not really "open-world", it does an excellent job of making you feel like it is. Massive maps and tons of ways to approach every encounter remind me of my early days with Halo when I would joy in the sheer number of ways to fight the same battles. There's a bit too much hand-holding for my tastes on that stuff (you can toggle your visor view and get tips on snipe points and alternative paths and what-not), but it's still a blast to play regardless. This is one of those rare games that I am actually looking forward to finishing so I can start it over again. Simply put, this is one of the best FPS I have ever played; right up there with Killzone 2 and Halo in my book.
Homefront was a lot of fun, but excruciatingly short and lacking in innovation of any kind. It's an incredibly straight forward corridor shooter with very little to get excited about in terms of graphics or game play, but the story is top-notch, the drama is great, and as a fan of Red Dawn, I enjoyed that it was taking place in the same universe. (You actually even see "Wolverine Stadium" at once point.) The major drawback to this title is that you literally play follow-the-leader for almost every moment of the game… I get it; I'm supposed to follow the other dude… you don't need to have "Follow" text hovering over his head for EVERY second of the entire experience. I breezed through this game in about 4 or 5 hours, and had very little incentive to play it again afterwards. The amount of cut-scene type situations that you have to sit through and conversations you must hear were all great and dramatic the first time, but seeing as how the graphics are pretty dated, once I heard the story, I had zero interest in playing through it again. This game had one of the fastest trade-in turn-around times in my entire gaming history. I literally bought it Wednesday afternoon and returned it Thursday evening. A great title if you can get it cheap, but I warn anyone to avoid it at full price at all costs unless you're in it strictly for the MP (which I can't/won't comment on, I'm not a MP fan)
Arkham Asylum on the other hand is just awesome in every conceivable way… I don't need to cover the game itself since everybody and their mothers knows how great it was/is, (so nice I bought it twice! I also have the launch 360 version) but the PS3 GOTY edition is an entirely different experience. The Joker levels are a blast and shockingly different then the Batman ones; I was expecting a mere model swap, but it actually plays as a totally different game with the Joker. There's a bunch of new challenge levels for Bman, and more importantly, this edition supports 3D (old-school Red-Blue 3d, not stereoscopic or whatever you call them new-fangled TVs), and it is AWESOME! I wasn't expecting much, as I had never read any reviews of this version, but it is just fantastic! I assumed it would be limited to a specific game mode (like the challenge fights or something), but quite the opposite, it's the entire game, and I cannot overstate how awesome an experience it is in 3D. I've played my share of 3D games using this technology in the past, and they were all just awful (Rad Racer and 3D World Runner on NES come to mind; awesome games, but the 3D was just terrible).
I suspect it has something to do with the muted color schemes of AA that it works so well, but whatever the reason, it is intense. There isn't a whole lot of stuff "flying out of the screen" at you, but the amount of depth it gives everything is so freaking cool I can't even describe it. At times I'll sort of forget it's in 3D when I get caught up in the action, but it never gets in the way what-so-ever. Even "detective view" works well in 3d, and actually makes that view a little less painful in my opinion. I always hated using it in my first play-through as it made the intense visuals, well, kind of suck… I still dislike how often you have to walk around in that view if you're looking for secrets, but it's definitely less painful with the addition of 3d to it. I looked at some reviews of it online this morning and was surprised to see most reviewers kind of pooh-poohing it. Nobody is really trashing it per-se, but they are all hung up on it degrading the visuals and not adding enough for the loss. I just can't disagree with this more. Maybe it's because I'm somewhat colorblind, but I don't notice any loss of visual quality to the game in 3d, quite the opposite. Simply put, this is the single best use of Red-blue 3D that I have ever witnessed, movies included. This game has totally convinced me that I need 3D gaming; I'm going to go look at a 3DS next time I get paid… (Paid $20 for this due to GS sale)
Fairy Tale fights I won't bother rambling about because it's just not very interesting. Not a bad game really, and the wife is enjoying playing it with me, but the controls are wonky, it's tough to see what's going on a lot of the time, and the whole thing just handles very counter-intuitively. I do dig the visuals of it very much; it has an over-the-top gore-filled Tim Burton-esque kind of vibe going on, and that is really the most interesting part of it. That said, I paid $10 for it (used), so it was worth the mild amounts of fun we're having with it.
Onto the DS… I got Jedi Alliance on sale for $17, and it was worth that, but I am having some mixed reactions about it. I am a SW fanboy of the highest order though, so take any praise I give it with a tiny grain of interstellar salt. Anyways, the story and graphics are great, as is the sound design. All the voice actors from the show voice the characters in the game, which is always a welcome touch, and while the graphics are nothing mind-boggling, they are quite good for the DS and probably pushing that hardware about as far as it can go. There is a very nice selection of characters, and you get to pick your "team" prior to every mission, and while the combat itself stays the same, you'll get different team attacks based on your team choice (like MvsC or Rival Schools). It manages to make the game a lot more interesting as some minor changes occur depending on your selection; you'll get dialogue variations, and some small changes to the action (QTE) sceenes.
The game itself is broken into 3 different **** of play. There's insanely easy "puzzles" that either ask you to draw a circle/triangle (yeah, really), or tap on a spinning symbol to stop it at certain intervals and "line it up". These feel very tacked on and the game could have really done well to just dump them all together. I'm sort of ok with them when they are used to break up light saber action, but on the levels where you're controlling a droid and 90% of the level is clunking around and doing puzzles, they are simply a chore I'm trying to get over with as quickly as possible. Whoever thought I wanted to control C3Po in a Jedi action title should really have his or her head examined.
There are also QTEs, which I normally loathe with a passion, but they are actually kind of fun here, albeit extremely frustrating at times. Rather than just have you click a button, it shows a path on the screen that you must draw with the stylus to get the Jedi to perform a certain action. It looks cool and it's a fun little diversion from the regular battles, although it moves pretty quickly and at times seems unresponsive. Couple that with the fact that some of these sequences can take 5 minutes or so and you have to start them over if you miss one and they can get pretty frustrating at times.
Lastly is the light saber battling which (should be) the meat/bulk of the game. This works pretty well, but unfortunately there just isn't enough of it for my tastes and it has a couple of glaring flaws. For one thing, this entire game is controlled using the stylus, which is all well and good, except that all of the visuals are also on that bottom screen. The top screen is relegated to your useless HUD and (no BS), still photos of some stars in space… This is just not a good idea… You are obviously obscuring your view every time you interact with the game, and it goes as far as making you hold the stylus on the screen just to walk around. These things really could have been mapped to the control pad with no issue, and the light saber battling would be great on the bottom screen if you know...the action was on the top one! Add to this that the battling itself is done by tapping the stylus on the screen, which seems like a blown opportunity if ever i've seen one. how about, oh I don't know, sliding the stylus in sweeping arcs, like...swings of a blade?! Duh, but anyways, so you tap to attack, fine... The problem here is that the engine is based on attacking high, med, and low, which you accomplish by tapping on the enemies head, torso or feet respectively. Problem is, we're often talking about models that are maybe an ich high at best, and often WAY smaller then that. So, the gam rapidly devolves into just frantically tapping on the screen and hoping for the best. There's some marginally cool team-up attacka and such, but none of it is particularly well done or exciting.
Lastly is my biggest complaint and one that drives me absolutely BATTY. This game is just not a portable title. Each level probably takes a good 15 minutes or more to play/walk through, and there are no save points of any kind. Meaning every time you play, you must finish the level, or dump your progress and start all over again next time. Now, I don't know about the regular user of the DS, but I use mine in 5-10 minute bursts while I'm waiting for someone or outside smoking a butt or whatever… Taking away the ability for me to play in short burst effectively ruins the game from my point of view. The amount of times where I'm going to sit and devote an hour of gaming to a DS title are very few and far between…
You couple the length of the levels with the load-times (some of the worst I've seen on DS) intros and exit cut-scenes (which are un-skippable), and I am simply going to stop playing this game until a day where I'm stuck in bed or at the in-laws or something… Lame.
Moving on… Moon! (DS) I've only just started to scratch the surface of this title, but I'm enjoying it quite a bit so far. Got this one for $6 (used), and it's a really well made little game. It's created by the same dev team that made Dementium, and it shows. It has great mood, nice design, precise controls, and engaging game play (so far). It's a bit of a throwback to FPS of old (kind of reminds me of Doom or something a lil bit), but it's fun and plays well. I'm a little disappointed with the enemy encounters so far, but I'm only about a half-hour in, so I'm imagining it's going to progress beyond hovering orb-bots at some point. All in all, from what I've seen so far, this is a really solid title.
My last purchase was Astroboy for DS. ($17) I'd heard good things about this game, and I've been trying to get my hands on a copy for a while now, but it seemed like people just weren't trading it in very often. Now that I found one, I can see why. It's a really cool little game. There is nothing even remotely innovative or fresh in there, and it redefines the term old-school (in good and bad ways), but I really enjoyed it. I blasted through it in about a day and a half just playing it for 5 minutes here and there, but I'll be back for more. It has some insanely frustrating bugs (features?) in it that really harken back to the old days of gaming, but it sort of adds to the charm/difficulty of it in some ways. It's VERY simple game. Basically, take Mega Man, remove any ability to gain new weapons, and stir that together with Life-force, and you have AstroBoy DS. You progress through 2d side-scrolling levels kicking the crap out of robots while trying to grab powerups that they drop, until you get to the end and fight a nice big boss character. The powerups work exactly like those old gradius/Life-force type games where you have a meter that fills up from which you can select to power up your weapons, flight speed, shields, etc. So, it basically degenerates into trying as fast as you can to power up your weapons while recharging your health/shields every so often. It's very simple, but works well and is genuinely fun. These side scrolling levels are then (sort of) changed up every so often with flight levels where you shoot an energy beam rather then punch and kick. These are actually more fun then the ground based ones in my opinion, but mainly just because it moves faster and removes the annoying platforming sections.
And that brings me to the bad… The platforming in this game is a royal pain in the neck. As I mentioned, it plays similarly to Mega Man in that you have to jump over bottomless pits, ride moving platforms, avoid spikes and energy beams, etc... The problem is, Astrotwerp has feet that are apparently made of ice. He literally slides about 3 inches when he lands, so accurately catching a moving platform means jumping from 3 inches back from where you want to just so you can incorporate the unholy slide. Astroboy can jump/fly to some extent, but that is just as difficult to judge distance with, and I spent more time at the bottom of pits in this game than anywhere else. Then there's the insanely cheesy bullets that the enemies toss around (in large numbers) they are extremely difficult to avoid even with Astor's powers, and you basically are forced to try and punch an enemy to death before it can get a shot off if you have any hopes of not getting hit. Not only that, but the bullets don't disappear after hitting you, so you can actually get hit by the same minuscule bullet repeatedly if you're moving. In my experience, I ended up just trying to compensate for this by always working towards refilling my health meter. This kind of waters down the game a bit since you're no longer dodging anything and just plowing through, but it was so difficult to avoid them that I really found no other way to succeed.
The other bug that drove me crazy was the hit animation. When you take damage, Astro shows this little pain-cringe sprite animation that takes a half a second or so to finish. If you get hit again during that animation, it starts again...and again…and again. This is maddening enough when its bullets doing it, but on several occasion I fell onto a bed of spikes and sat there watching helpless as a full energy bar slowly drained away. Maddening…
With all my complaining out of the way though, it really was a fun game that brought me back to my gaming childhood a bit, and I will totally play it again and again. There's nothing really special about it, but it reminds me of playing NES or Atari, and that's just fun to me.
Lastly, I just want to mention that I fell prey to Capcom's DLC scam on MvsC3 yesterday, and I still feel a little dirty about it. MvsC3 is a spectacular game; there is no denying that, but this nickel and diming nonsense has just got to stop already... I know I'm to blame as much as they are since I support it with my dollars, but it just really disappoints me that Capcom is going to degenerate like this. I've always held them in such high esteem, and now they are charging me for something that is on the disk I bought. That just sucks… I mean, I can (I suppose) get over the alternative costumes costing extra as they did with SF4, but the two "DLC" characters at 100k a piece are just a slap in the face. We aren't stupid Capcom; we know that 100k is not enough space to store a 3d model, animation, sound effects, ending graphics, etc… If you're going to rob me blind for something I already paid for when I bought the game, at least lie to me… Make me download a 50meg dummy file that deletes itself after it "installs". At least that way I wouldn't feel like I had no paid $70 just to complete the roster of characters that were already there when the dang game launched. Boo Capcom, Boo…
Finally, I just want to mention what I'll be going back for, since there really are a whole lot of great deals going on at that sale. I saw Enslaved for $14, Test Drive Unlimited 2 for $34, Black Ops Wii for $18, GoldenEye DS for $8, BorderLands GOTY for $19, SpiderMan Shattered Dimensions DS for $9, and Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom for $14. Those were all games I wanted anyway, so I have to go snag a couple at these prices. Probably going to go with Enslaved and TDU2.
Ok, back to Crysis 2. Game on!
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