A quick update.

There have been a few games out recently now that we’re out of the Summer fallow, but to be honest I’ve not been doing much gaming. Between work and well… just work to be honest.

Anyway, I’ve re written this intro five times now and I can’t make it sound right. So bugger that, and let’s talk about some of the games I have been playing.

Gears of War 3

If you want a good time it’s hard to go wrong with Gears. Oh it typifies pretty much everything I loathe in the current crop of action games, but there’s something compulsive in the Gears of War series. Maybe it’s the fact is knows exactly what it wants to be and sticks to it. Maybe it’s the fact that while it doesn’t break new ground any more, it does tread its turf with extreme competence and authority.

It’s just a really well put together game, and provides a few hours of mindless fun. There isn’t much more of a point in talking about it- you probably already know if you want to grab it or not, and if you don’t know then I suggest you grab Gears of War one or two first as the changes between them are relatively minor. I will say this though; Gears 3 is certainly the best of the series.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Anyone who’s dug back in my old posts will know I don’t like Deus Ex. It grew on me slightly when I tried to play it again a few months after making that post, but I still think that it is hugely overrated when considered in today’s market. It has aged very badly.

That put to one side Human Revolution is an excellent game, providing a variety of challenges and rewards all wrapped up in a very neat, extremely pretty package. The graphics quality is high, but for some reason everything is tinted orange. Fallout New Vegas did the same thing and wouldn’t you know- when you mod the marmalade off the camera the game looks fucking gorgeous. Human Revolution has a similar mod, and the effect is the same. Why do developers keep doing this? It’s like painting a beautiful landscape and then covering it in Roses wrappers.

One aspect of the game that really hammers its score though are the boss fights. Aside from being totally unnecessary, they are also phoned in- big time. There are four in total, and not to give away too many spoilers all of them are crap.

First off, if you didn’t pick up any combat augmentations (like me- I play stealth and non lethal), these fights offer very little mercy. There is often nothing to actually complement the upgrades that you do have, which means you essentially need to use some really cheap tactics to get ahead. Also, if you travel light and don’t have much in the way of grenades e.t.c, the fight gets even worse. To the developers credit though, the boss arenas as least have a good spread of weapons and ammo.

My biggest gripe out these boss fights though is that they are totally, utterly inconsequential to the story. You don’t even know their names until the cutscene before the fight, and one boss’ name is never even revealed. There is such a broken, ragged disconnection between the narrative flow of the bulk of the game and the boss fights that it’s truly unnerving.

Eidos Montreal actually outsourced the boss fights to Grip, but even then I would have expected the writers to make use of them as characters. A boss fight should represent an apex of the story, a climax or convergence of plot points. These are just tripwires in the narrative. If you want an example of a boss fight done well as a narrative tool, look at anything by Hideo Kojima. Bosses are established (in some cases recurring) characters with names, histories and personalities. Sometimes one or more of these aspects are terrible, but they are always present. The fights are always interesting, requiring you to think up new tactics and adapt to unique situations. Again, sometimes they are not good, but they are usually memorable little stories in and of themselves. Best of all, when they die they are not shoved back into nowhere and never mentioned again. They are characters and their deaths are as key to the story as their lives were. Hell, Psyco Mantis pops up in MGS4 after being killed in MGS1. And Ocelot? Christ- he’s the axle on which the plot of the entire bloody series turns. He’s as much a main character as Snake.

And who are these nameless goons in Human Revolution? No one. They are totally unimportant. I’m not joking when I say that if you cut them from the game all together, practically nothing needs to be changed. Jensen can get shot by a random mook, or caught in a grenade blast or something. The only contribution to the plot is when the first boss, for some totally insane reason tells Jensen where to go next. Why does he do this? No idea. It’s not like he’s had a change of heart and is trying to atone for his sins or something- he tries to kill you moments later. Okay, maybe he’s trying to coax Jensen closer, but wouldn’t he just lie?

Aside from that though, the rest of the game is exceptionally good and a lot of fun to play. Well recommended.

Tropico 4:

Very little has changed from Tropico 3. There is now a more structured campaign a mode, a few more buildings and some minor changes to the way edicts and policies are handled. The graphics have had a minor update too.

If you enjoyed Tropico 3, you’ll enjoy Tropico 4. But you may feel cheated by the price tag for what really amounts to an expansion pack. Give the demo a try though; it’s better than Tropico 3- just not by much.

Dead Island:
This isn’t what I wanted. I wanted a good, serious, narrative driven zombie survival RPG. What I got was Borderlands with zombies in it. I can’t really say Dead Island is bad, but as I’ve said before in this blog many times, I loathe games that are reliant on multiplayer. It’s just an excuse for the developers to put less effort in, and I believe that Dead Island really makes my point for me. Playing alone, it is nothing more than a sequence of fetch quests. Even when I tried playing it with Betamax I was bored shitless. It isn’t a bad game, and it has many good points (the graphics are nothing short of spectacular) but it totally and utterly failed to engage me on any level. So little effort was put into the way the story was told and the quests to complete that it was almost painful. It was obvious the devs thought ‘parties are going to skip these sequences anyway, so why have them?’ A complete waste of £30 for me, but if you dig the multiplayer co op element on games then you’ll probably have a good time with it.

Love and peace y’all.

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