Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Absence due to video game fever

I haven't posted much in the last week, obvoiusly.  It's not because of work or family concerns, but because I've been knee-deep into Mass Effect 2.  I'm just about ready for the final fight, but I'm going to scour the galaxy for every scrap of adventure I can find.  Not out of some need to be the most powerful guy in the galaxy, but because the game is just that damn good.  Bioware has been putting out great games for a long time now.  I tore through the classic Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale games in the late 90's, loved Neverwinter Nights (but wasn't as crazy about NWN 2, even though it was still a decent game), and have been eating up the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games.  Plus, they've already announced the next chapters in both franchises for early next year, not to mention the expansion for Dragon Age coming out next month.
Bioware epitomizes what I love about western CRPG's: choice.  Both Mass Effect games and Dragon Age have a dizzying array of ways to craft your own story beyond just playing the game as a good guy or a bad guy.  The interactions between your character and your party are nothing short of amazing.  The characters have depth not really seen in most eastern-influenced RPG's.  The mark of a great game is after you've beaten it, you want to start it back up again with a different character (or in the case of Mass Effect a different style of the main character).  Dragon Age was that way for me.  I played through each of the background storylines before I selected the character I was going to go through my first play through of the game with.  Once I was done, I went back and continued with another character.  As long as Bioware keeps this trend up, I'll happily be their lapdog. 
I didn't get much done this last weekend.  My wife and I went out Saturday night to catch a movie and go out to eat, and her folks were in town.  However, I did find time to beat Bayonetta and then do some wheelin' and dealin' down at Gamestop.  First off, let me say that Bayonetta is a fun game.  Everything about it is slick, polished, and oozing with style.  If you enjoyed the Devil May Cry series, you'll likely enjoy Bayonetta.  That said, there were a few reasons why I traded it off as soon as I finished it.  The first is that the story was goofy.  It's not a matter of poor translation of themes from east to west.  There aren't any themes that are obscure to western audiences.  The story wasn't cohesive at all.  It jumped around all over the place.  It really took away from my enjoyment of the game.  Plus, about three-quarters of the way through the game, the style of the game shifts away from the button mashing combo-builder to wild car chases and even air combat style game.  It really threw off the pace and feel of the game.  By the time I got into the last 3 or 4 stages, I was sick of the cut scenes even.  Even with these gripes, I still enjoyed the game.  I'd give it 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend picking it up, but I'd certainly either rent it or pick it up once it drops in price. 
Along with Bayonetta, I traded in my PSP and the games.  I simply didn't turn it on anymore and figured I'd turn it into some credit towards other games that I'd end up enjoying more.  I came home with the Classic Rock Track Pack for Rock Band, LEGO Star Wars the Complete Series (which is the 3rd time I've picked up a SW LEGO game, once for the PS2, once for the 360 and then now), Brutal Legend, Darksiders, Resistance 2 all for the PS3 and then got my pre-orders for both Heavy Rain (PS3) and Dragon Age: Awakenings paid in full.  Not too bad of a haul. 
I played the Heavy Rain demo before deciding to pre-order it.  If you have a PS3, I HIGHLY recommend downloading it and giving it a shot.  The control scheme takes some getting used to, but before long you'll have the hang of it.  It's gorgeous.  The character animations are among the best I've every seen.  For those who don't know, it's a mystery game played from the vantage point of four different characters: an old private eye, a reporter, a father trying to save his kidnapped son, and an FBI agent.  It's got that dirty/gritty look found in movies like Seven.  It boasts a storyline that with change with your choices, and if a main character dies, the game continues on without him/her.  I'm really looking forward to it.
As I look at the calender, there's a ton of games that have piqued my curiosity on the horizon and on into next year: Final Fantay XIII (even though I won't be picking it up at launch after all, I know I'll pick it up in time), God of War III, Metro 2033 (I wish the English translation of this book would hit before the game), Splinter Cell: Conviction, Super Street Fighter IV, Red Dead Redemption, Lost Planet 2, Neir, Modnation Racers (the beta is fun, but they still need to add some polish to the game to make it a great kart racer), Max Payne 3, Dead Rising 2, Gran Turismo 5, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, Batman: Arkham Asylum II, Crysis 2, Dead Space II, Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 3, and of course, Diablo III and Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Even though the down economy is forcing fewer games to be released and to be spaced further apart, which is pushing some games back to way later in the year, the future still looks pretty damn good on the video game front for quite some time to come. 

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