Obligations

Recently, a friend who had read my blog for the first time just the day before commented upon my reviewing style. The GOTM articles, in particular. Even more specifically, the most recent GOTM, where I deem Gears of War 2 to be my Game Of The Month.

Now, before I divulge too much, here's a little background on this person:
* He is a huge fan of both Gears of War and Halo, actually falling under the category of fanboy.
* He is not an idiot. He just has a huge ego.

The article to which he refers can be found here.

"I think in all honesty that you generalise when you should specify and specify when you should generalise."

This is a nice opening statement, and I don't even have to ask for an example.

"Like saying fable 2 is fable 1 with guns and a dog."

I replied that by the time I'd finished playing Fable 2, that is how I generally felt about it. This is the point where things started to get a little less than lovely.

"Well, I guess it depends what you're aiming for in a blog: a place to rant or a a place for actual assessment."

My GOTM are almost always written impromptu and are short little reviews that let me explain my opinions on recent titles that I've played, and people can take or ignore that advice. They are not intended to be rants. This post, however, can definitely be considered a rant. Because it's not a review, as such.

"[in] that statement against fable 2, you pretty much ignore that the game is open world as opposed to fable 1 in which you run along fenced off roads most of the time... and fable 2 is definitely less centralised around the story and more centralised in doing a whole lot of things within the world."

I'm sorry, I must've been playing a different game. Fallout 3 is open world. Far Cry 2 is open world. Fable 2 just has slightly wider "fenced off roads" than Fable 1.
Fable 2 IS definitely less centralised around the story, with focus put more towards other activities within the world. It's true. But as Ben Croshaw said here, the game is called FABLE. It should have to do with the story, especially given that Fable's story was of a decent standard. We don't hear stories about those medieval heroes who chopped wood for forty years to marry and live in a big house, do we?

"but then they can't differ too much from Fable 1, otherwise they'd pull a Far Cry 2 and only be using the name for the marketability."

Maybe so, but Far Cry 2 built upon the developing open world nature of Far Cry. But yes, Far Cry 2 was very different from the original. The big difference from Fable 2 is that it was (and to this point, still is) fun for me to play.

At this point, I'd decided I'd had enough of his fanboyesque talk of Fable 2, and mentioned,

"whatever works. It's my opinion on Fable 2, and there's no need to agree with it."

And this is where the bombshell drops, and brings me to my point (sort of).

"hmmm... sometimes, I think your opinion of things is influenced too much by your experience."

What I and all who I have mentioned it to take this to mean is that my opinion on a game is influenced "too much" by my experience with it.
I'm curious - does that mean I should rely on other people's experiences? I can tell you right now that I'm certainly not going to go asking any Halo fanboys for advice.
Or should I just act without bias, which means I can't experience the game in any way, shape or form, which means that I can't even know about it.

"Morgan's GOTM: *********

This game contains graphics and sound and is playable."


This person also mentioned that I couldn't have Gears 2 as my GOTM because I hadn't played the online matchmaking component of the game.
Sorry, I personally prefer to play with friends, rather than being matched with a random assortment of less-than-desirables.
Plus, if my experience with the other components of the game is enough to make me rate so well, why is he complaining?

And so, finally, we come to my question for you, the readers:

What is a reviewers obligation when reviewing a game, and where does that obligation end?

Untouched and Unloved

It occurred to me semi-recently that there are a lot of new releases around (shocking revelation, eh?).

What happens here is that with the larger amount of games all pushing for the gaming-season release (September onwards), we get a lot of products that could've benefited from a couple more months of development. We even get some that feel as though the developer never play-tested the game before shipping it. And so, we reach the point of this post.

Several games that I have had the "pleasure" of experiencing recently have struck me as unusual. The bugs and glitches render them almost intolerable, and in many cases the actual game just isn't (or doesn't stay) fun. Mercenaries 2 for the PC, Assassin's Creed, Red Alert 3, Spore and Fable 2 are all great examples. Perhaps I should clarify before I move on (if you know of these games, you may as well skip the list below):

Mercenaries 2 was a hugely flawed port to PC, with graphical problems, hindering controls and unchanged UI all contributing to the shit storm. It was so bad that Pandemic actually released a trailer advertising the first patch.
Assassin's Creed was amazingly good fun - until you had played for three hours and done everything unique in the game. Even when you finish the game and just wish to run around a city (one of the game's highest points, the parkour system is brilliant), there is a five minute unskippable cutscene followed by a five minute ride to the nearest city.
I was never a fan of any of the Red Alert or Command and Conquer games, having only owned C&C3. Having said that, I can spot that Red Alert 3 makes almost no change on Red Alert 2, other than to use the graphical "prowess" of C&C3. These graphics are outdated and don't look impressive either, especiall when two-year old titles such as Company of Heroes are leaps and bounds ahead.
Spore was one of those games that I'd been looking forward to for years, ever since a friend introduced me to a half-hour E3 demonstration of it in 2006. No game has ever disappointed me as much as Spore did. The entire game is a barely shrouded checklist that allows no deviation. Admittedly, the game was good for roughly four hours, until I got to the Space stage and decided to start a new creature.
Fable 2 is Fable 1 with a dog and guns added, and cool villains and weapons removed. The fact that Lionhead released a previous generation game without considering that perhaps times had changed is disturbing my faith in them. Oh and the ending is awful.

So we boil down to the real problem: did these developers actually play their games and decide that they were fit to release and sell for AU$100? Or did they try a game concept and assume it was fine? Perhaps the developer pushed them into releasing the game ASAP or maybe they just didn't care to play it.
All of these are fairly disturbing ideas, especially given that many of those titles listed were heavily marketed and seemed to be considered "big-time" releases.

I am curious as to what you think about all this, so post your thoughts.

Game of the Month - November 2008

Some of you may have noticed the blog has changed. If you haven't, I hope it's because you're a new reader and not suffering from long-term memory loss. Either way, welcome to the blog, which has recently suffered an aesthetic update.

As it's now the first of December 2008, I figure it's time for me to decide on my Game of the Month for November. If my memory serves me well, November has been a great month for my gaming pleasure.
I'd like to mention that I'm going to include a game or two that was released late October, as I didn't have a chance to play them properly in time for October's GOTM.

And so, the winner of October's GOTM is:

Gears of War 2

This is probably going to aggravate a lot of people, but let me explain myself.
Gears of War was a great console shooter, refreshing the clich
├ęd console shooter market. The cover system was one of the best ever seen and the gameplay was action packed and sustained. Multiplayer was entertaining, assuming you were playing with friends.
Gears of War 2 is one of the greatest sequels of all time, holding onto all the fine aspects of the first and building on them. The increased scale means that there is more to shoot at and more scenery to absorb.
The storyline, while not very original, actually felt like it developed the two main characters a little further, even if the new characters felt stilted. A particularily moving speech during the first act also sets the scene nicely, and gives the feeling that you're part of a bigger conflict.
The graphics are much the same as the first, but there are some stellar moments where we paused to observe. I won't say too much, but there's a particular lake with a particular fish in it. Very impressive.
Multiplayer has had a slight addition - Horde. It's a simple but enthralling gamemode where players work together to survive increasingly difficult waves of enemies.
This game gets a massive thumbs up. Actually, more like ten.


A special mention goes out to:

Left 4 Dead

A simple and awesome concept built on the Source engine - kill zombies, play with friends and play as zombies. Amazingly good fun, this game has very few flaws.
Its biggest problem is that there isn't much variety... you can play five minutes of each chapter and have experienced the environments, as well as the range of enemies and gameplay elements.
This is countered by the great co-operative play, and powered to infinity by the ability to play as the "super zombies".
Zombie killing. With friends. Make purchase now.


Fallout 3

This is one of those "I'm actually an October release" titles, but she's a beauty.
Bethesda's last game, Oblivion, is loathed by many. Said many also feared that Bethesda would tarnish Fallout with their strange ways.
Fortunately, it seems they haven't. The game still holds the feel that Oblivion did, the feel of a world not quite alive... the only thing is, it works this time around.
Regardless of what you thought of Oblivion, you should buy Fallout 3. Or borrow it off a friend - there's no copy protection on the PC version.



A resounding "eh" goes out to:

Call of Duty: World at War

I rushed to the shops eagerly on the day this was released, intent on savouring the gooey delights of another Call of Duty title. Perhaps I should've been a little more worried when all the advertising I saw for the game featured "built on the same engine as CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE" in the same size font as the game's title.
The campaign was interesting - I've never played a Pacific Theatre game before, so it was nice to experience something new. Although, as I said many times while playing, if the real life Japanese soldiers were as frustrating as their AI counterparts, I can fully understand why America resorted to nuclear weapons. The Russian campaign was hit and miss - a couple of missions that felt generic, as well as a few absolute masterpieces - the first Russian mission is a copy-paste of Enemy At The Gates, which is a good thing, and the last mission involves storming the Reichstag, ending in a very memorable cutscene.

Unfortunately, the fun ended there. My friends and I tried to play four player co-op LAN on the PC version, desperately wanting to attempt the unlockable mode at the end of the campaign (think Left 4 Dead and Gears 2 combined), but found that the game refused to connect all four computers. Sadly enough, we found a fix for this bug (which turned out to be a recurring problem throughout the PC community) on a website devoted to pirating games.

So, back to the store goes the broken game, whose entertainment value has passed.


A dishonourable mention goes to:

Fable 2

I'm sure I said nice things about it last month, but now that I got around to finishing it (that is a bad sign), I have something different to say.
In the first Fable, there were plenty of items of clothing to pick from, as well as a variety of weapons, many of which were still useful even when compared to the secret end-game weapon.
In Fable 2, there are less than ten different outfits, unless you count their counterparts for the opposite gender. The great range of customisation comes from the various dyes you can find and use on your clothing and hair. Unfortunately, many of the dyes look almost identical, and your hair will only change to natural hair colours. There are two weapons to BUY in the game, one ranged and one melee, which are more powerful in every facet than any other weapon. There is no uber-weapon at the end of the game.
Speaking of the ending, I have had failed relationships that have ended better than Fable 2 did.


Mirror's Edge

"Best Original Game Concept of E3 2008" is emblazened on the case. A bold claim, given that most of the games at E3 this year were sequels.
Mirror's Edge is a parkour (or free-running) game in which you play as some chick with a sister who jumps around a big white city delivering messages that never appear. All of a sudden, said sister gets framed for killing some important guy. To be honest, I didn't care enough to pay attention. By the time the story had kicked in, I was getting sick of the game.
Most games capture many players through their "'wow' factor", the intial wonder of the game's experience. Mirror's Edge attempts a different approach, immediately trying to aggravate you with a tutorial that loads to the beginning of the last portion every time you make the tiniest mistake (which is frequent, as some of the mechanics are unreliable). From there, the game proceeds to send you scrambling across incredibly linear rooftops, heading for an objective.
One great thing about this linearity is that when you do get killed/fall to your death, you can follow the exact same route as before, but with a prior knowledge of the path. Combined with linearity, this is Mirror's Edge's biggest downfall. It can be very difficult to figure out exactly where to go, as some items and obstacles pass in and out of interactability.

Remember Assassin's Creed? It had this simple yet effective parkour system that combined well with a third person view that let you see your awesome climbing skills and figure out a path before you were jumping over it for the third time?
Buy Assassin's Creed (or play it again if you still have it), choose a city, and run around the rooftops pretending to deliver packages to certain buildings in the game. It will be much cheaper and, more importantly, more fun.



Morgan

P.S. Guitar Hero World Tour is fun with friends. Until the drum kit broke.