June 7, 2009

What I'm Playing - 6.7.09

Ah, this weekend was just too short, but aren't they always? E3 messed with work a bunch this week as a number of people were out either attending the conference or working it. As such, the hammer on our upcoming deadline didn't drop last week nearly as hard as I thought it might. Nevertheless, the deadline hasn't changed and there's still a lot of work to accomplish between then and now so I imagine things are going to get more busy as I expected. All that being said, I got to play a fair bit this week, so here's what I'm working on:
  • Infamous (PS3) - I played a fair bit of this this week, and just managed to finish it sometime yesterday (playing through the "Hero" storyline). Overall, I'd say the game is quite good, though it may be just a touch overrated in my opinion. I think it was a fun game with an interesting story, but there are a few things that hold it back from being truly great. I feel that Cole's power set is relatively mundane (most of them being electric versions of common weapons such as an automatic pistol, sniper rifle, grenade, and rocket launcher) and the sandbox setting of the game is wasted on very linear setups and repetitive side missions. That being said, there are a number of things the game does very well. The combat is always exciting and dazzling to watch, and moving is incredibly enjoyable. Grinding along power lines, riding atop elevated trains, and gliding through the air all feels incredibly kinetic and satisfying. In contrast to the side missions, the story missions are fun, imaginative, and do a good job of conveying the story, which is an interesting superhero origin story. As far as superhero games go I think I would rate it very highly in that it really makes you feel like a superhero running through the city, but as a sandbox, open-world game I just think it doesn't measure up to the competition. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed playing it, and will probably play through the evil plot line at some point, but I feel like the game could have been so much more.
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla (PS3) - I played a bunch of this in the middle of the week and I have loved it. I stayed up way later than I intended several nights in a row just trying to do one more side mission or take out one more high priority target. In my opinion, this game really gets what sandbox games should be about: freedom of approach. The game is all about giving you an objective and letting you decide how to accomplish it. The missions support multiple strategies for the player to employ and avoids missions with only one right "answer." I also tried out the multiplayer a bit and found it to be enjoyable, though it doesn't do anything incredibly original. The multiplayer has backpacks that give the game a sort of lite class system (each player can only wear one backpack at a time, which confers some special power) and there are an assortment of different game types including standard deathmatch, capture the flag, siege (an attackers vs. defenders game), and destruction (sort of like VIP, where the VIP scores for the team by breaking stuff). All in all the multiplayer is fun and seems to leverage the game's destruction engine very well, so I'll probably try playing with it a bit more in the future, but my focus is on the single-player experience.
  • Fallout 3 (PC) - After finishing Infamous yesterday, I was feeling a bit overloaded with sandbox games for the time being so I was looking for something more RPG-ish, and here's where I ended up. I picked up Broken Steel largely for the level cap increase, but also because I heard it cleans up what was an otherwise unfortunate ending. Unfortunately, it seems to preclude me from actually seeing that ending, but maybe I'll YouTube it once I finish the game. Fallout 3 was probably my game of the year last year, and it's still great to wander around the wasteland. I think the game really captures the closest thing to actual role-playing in digital form. It's all about really creating a character in that world and then acting them out. Whether you're a scavenger with a heart of gold, an evil assassin with a chip on your shoulder, or a no-nonsense merc out to make a quick cap, the game allows you to be whoever you want to be and do what you want to do. I find the most fun for me comes from imagining up characters I could create and what they're journey through the wasteland might look like. Everything in the game really seems to react to you as a character and the decisions that you make. For example, in my most recent play session, this one guy hired my to kill some other people and take keys from them. I found out that the keys apparently led to something awesome, so I went back and told him I was keeping the keys. He got mad and attacked me so I was forced to kill him. Unfortunately, my overzealous ally also opened fire and happened to kill an innocent bystander in the process. When I came back to that location a bit later, I talked to a character who was very close to that bystander and who was now mourning the loss of her dear friend, trying to figure out what to do with her life. I felt really bad about that, which was a unique and special experience. I'm sure there's more I could say, but let's just say I'm really enjoying my time with Fallout 3, even after 50+ hours, now that's impressive!
Well that's pretty much it for now. I'm planning to go to the DMV tomorrow morning to finally take my written driving exam and get my CA license, so I need to study my driver handbook and get to bed. That is, if I can exist the alluring calls of my games long enough to study. If not, there's always next week! Later!

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