Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The PC Gamer Showdown

On Saturday I took the train and a taxi to Stoneleigh park where they were holding the PC Gamer Showdown. The park itself is ganz huge and so was the exhibition hall. Upon display of my visitor booking info, I was showered with free gifts. A PC Gamer Magazine, A hugely detailed guide to COD5, A green Darwinian (yaay!) and a T-Shirt. There was actually more swag at another stall but it was the kind of swag you get at gaming tournaments which you have to pay for. I played many games at the various screens and most of the time it was the first time that I had played that game. So what that follows are nothing but first impressions:

Tiger Woods 09 - A complex control system makes for a complicated game which I wouldn''t play anyway because I'm not a golf fan. And it was on the Xbox. The wii is where this sort of crap really shines through. Stars: *----

Dead Space - Explore a mutant filled spaceship abandoned in an unknown quarter of space. I haven't yet seen the film but the gameplay seems pretty simple to me. You shoot monsters until you run out of ammo, then smash their faces until they die and then kick their bodies until you're sure they're dead. It might get repetitive but my 20 minutes of adrenaline-filled blood soaked combat were amazing. Plus there are some logic puzzles around the way. But nothing that is so hard as to actually make you drop the controller and have a frenzied thought sprinkle to try and work it out. Case in point: Prince of Persia. Stars: ****-

Mirror's edge - Here we go for another sophisticated game. I had never even heard of Ayn Rand's theory of Objectivism until I was introduced to Bioshock. Nor had I understood Valve's 'don't mess with nature' theme until I played Portal. Mirror's edge is of the same 'games are art' line. You start off in a dystopian city where information everywhere is controlled and monitored, freedom of speech is repressed. Y0u are a courier. You run from building to building carrying information in packets to pass on to recipients at the end of the mission. This involves heavy use of parkour and being shot at by policemen. Rather brilliantly I think, you are not given a gun, you must dispatch of the policemen by jumping on them or hitting them in some way. Btw, the original footage in the game trailer was the bit I played, how awesome it that!. Stars: *****

Army of Two - This is the impression of the game I was given from the media coverage/magazine reviews/what my friends told me it was like: Army of Two is full of mindless violence with no plot, bad AI and is just generally a rubbish game. I didn't actually realise it was Army of Two until about ten minutes into the game when I realised that my buddy had this awesome looking mask. The magic moment came in the second scenario I played, in which it is revealed that the whole storyline is based upon Eisenhower's military industrial complex. Even the two-player gameplay was delightfully intuitive. Salem went down in a firefight, so Rios dragged him out on his back to a place of cover while Salem provided covering fire. I really really enjoyed it. Oh, and it was made in EA Montreal, which makes me happy. Stars: ****-

FarCry 2 - Another title made in Montreal, this time in the Ubisoft studios. Unfortunately the guy showing off the game wasn't French-Canadian. But he did give me a free bag, so he counts as equally cool. I have no idea where the story for FarCry 2 comes from, where we left off in FarCry: Vengeance Jack Carver was a genetically-enhanced beast fighting his way around the Jacutan Peninsula. In FarCry 2 there's a guy who looks like Jack Carver (but isn't) without the genetically-enhanced "I've got claws and I can jump fifteen metres high" look. And he's fighting his way around some un-named African country. I laud praise upon the day/night patterns, the realistic fire, the High Dynamic range lighting and the complete diversion from Crytek's Crysis Warhead . All these things are great indeed. Shame it turned out that when you make a realistic game in a realistic country it takes so bloody long to drive everywhere. Still, it's not as bad as Armed Assault. Stars: ***--

Left 4 Dead - As much as I resent the phonetic spelling of the word 'four' in the title, it's a nice reference to the fact that this is in fact a four-player game. And it's made by Valve so even if they made a game which featured the recurring dialogue of a Russian Heavy describing the many uses of a sandwitch in killing sentries I would still love it anyway. Valve seem to be on a roll here, there was Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Portal, Team Fortress 2  and now Left4Dead. Gameplay is as usual excellent and full of adrenaline. The four-player co-op works brilliantly. The only question left to ask is 'When am I going to play Counter-Strike 2?'. Stars: *****

Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction - This was the last game I played and it's probably what made me leave after my five-hour-ish gaming spree. The textures are overwhelmingly bright and colourful. There's a distinct lack of High-Dynamic-Range lighting. This can be overlooked by the insanely high polygon count. The cartoon style actually surpasses Crysis in terms of visual excellence by fooling you into thinking you're just watching a very interactive CG film. This leads me onto my next point: the gameplay is nauseating and requires you to re-spawn again and again and again until you feel very small and powerless against the great button-mashing challenges which lay ahead of you. After jumping off the wrong cliff a countless number of times into the wrong sea I was compelled to do something better with my life starting at that point. So I quickly walked outside, called a taxi, called Peter, then realised that the thing I most wanted in the world at that moment was to go back inside and try jumping off the cliff one more time. Stars: **---

Motorstorm - Another PS3 title. I played only two or three races and lost all of them. I couldn't figure out how to change vehicle from my agonisingly slow monster truck to the cocky little ATVs who I was competing against. The controls were alien and unfamiliar. They seemed to highlight the problems of the wrongly-shaped PS3 controller. The graphics were unimpressive (not bad, but just not awesome enough to be good). The mud effects were irritating. And the gameplay was repetitive. I probably need more time sitting down in it's world but it didn't appeal to me. Stars: **---

Battlefield: Bad Company - I've heard many good things about Battlefield. Many of them I'm delighted were true. My prejudices of Battlefield were based around the (excellent) Battlefront series. Actually the two games are completely different but the objective-based tactics which make up it's core are completely unchanged. I saw another game like this one, Frontlines: Fuel of War. I ignored it. The witty comments by the members of Bad Company are completely justified and make them seem like real characters, not just AI helpers. Stars: ***--

Too Human - Because I was feeling adventurous and full of good spirit I decided to dip my toe into Too Human. It is universally acknowledged as a bad game which is fundamentally broken. And my conclusion after playing it for half-an-hour were that... It's a bad game which is fundamentally broken. I think the game designers were taking the mickey when the thought of letting the player wield the mighty shield of [insert well-known norse god here]. However I do think that as a story it has a lot of potential. Shame it was such a rubbish game. Stars: *----

There were loads more like a beat-em-up DragonBall Z game. A funny RTS which was more of a RPG whose name has eluded me. Dawn of War (I'm not sure which one) and some games like Sims 3 or Brothers in Arms which were announced or presented but I didn't get to play them. Anyway, it's late, I had a great time and I would definitely go again. Even if it means traveling to Germany. In fact, especially if it means travelling to Germany!

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