Thursday, May 26, 2016
So let's get this straight. I couldn't find any TMNT continuity that this story fits into and I know my TMNT better than most. The story is your basic TMNT affair. Shredder and General Krang are laying siege to Manhattan with some mutants(duh!) to distract the Turtles from their main plot... you guessed it, to make a portal to invade Earth! The story is so generic for the game, I swear it's been recycled from almost every version of the TMNT. Despite that it's... ok. The whole General Krang thing made me think this was part of the ongoing 2011 TMNT comic series, but April makes references to the 80's and 2001 TMNT animated series too in the game, hence why I can't seem to work out which continuity it fits in... so I'm sticking it in the Elseworlds pile. To put that in English... it's it's own thing using the familiar names and elements.
Going to get this out of the way now, the visuals in this game even on PS4 are designed well... but has a bland colour palatte. The art designed is based on my favourite ongoing TMNT comic artist, Mateus Santolouco... but the colour palatte doesn't do the art style justice. On top of that combat becomes a clusterfuck with all the attacks going on and it just looks messy and incoherent with all the motion effects on the weapons. This game visually just doesn't do the TMNT justice and it's baffling that PlatinumGames made a game that looks like this, even MadWorld was visually more interesting.
If you expected new gameplay from PlatinumGames... you must have been dropped on your head! TMNT has used the same template they've used for Transformers Devastation and Bayonetta... and it somehow doesn't feel as good this time around. While each Turtle has their own fighting style, they all feel the same to play and with 4 Turtles on screen... you may end up forgetting which one you're using. It gets worse with the dodge mechanic feeling sluggish and the A.I of the other Turtles seems to range from super violent... to super stupid! Hell the A.I. in general seems to be really bad across the board.
The game has 9 levels, each is explorable for collectibles and has a boss. It's quite simple and is a problem too. The level design is very bland and generic and to make matters worse, the colour palette is terrible! I know I already mentioned it, but it just looks so flat and nothing pops against it. Anyway, the basics of each level is complete a bunch of random missions until the boss gauge is full and get to the boss. It's actually surprisingly linear and doesn't hide it either. On the plus side, the missions do go by really quickly... but you can get a lot of empty areas that makes you wonder why they didn't just make a 2D side scrolling beat 'em up. You do collect items to use but outside of the power ups and pizza(used for healing... a doi!), you won't use them. There are collectible comic book covers too... but they do nothing!
The boss fights kinda suck. No seriously, they are not as good as they looked in the trailers. The enemies deal way too much damage and they have health bars that would make Super Star Wars blush. Pretty much unless you've mastered 30fps dodging, these fights will be very difficult and go on for a really long time. The bosses are just damage sponges, especially on higher difficulties! Think that's bad? There are secret boss fights that randomly show up in the middle of a boss fight, yeah it has no defined trigger either. This is annoying since there are trophies linked to these and the secret bosses can up the difficulty further, though it is cool to see Bebop and Rocksteady team up together.
The game's upgrade system is pretty bad. You earn points that are used to upgrade the special skills called ninjutsu... because ninjas! Almost all the ninjutsu are usable by any Turtle so you can just load up whichever ones work best for you. These range from AOE attacks, to boosts and even healing. Problem is that all it does is reduce the cooldown time. You also get charms to equip that don't make you any stronger either! All the charms do is stuff like better drop rates or status ailments to inflict on enemies. The charms can be upgraded with scrolls you get from enemies, but you'll realise it's a grindfest for nothing really quickly. The charms are useless in the long term. Yeah, this game doesn't want you to get stronger at all.
This game is definitely built around it's multiplayer, yeah... now everything becomes clearer! The multiplayer is online only and each player chooses a Turtle and is matched up with players using the other three. Unfortunately for you, I don't play online multiplayer unless I can do it without a subscription fee... so I can't give you the nitty gritty. The game is built around randomness and repetition, so I bet you can guess how it goes. As I've said before, a game must stand on it's single player and multiplayer is a garnish. I bet most people will experience the secret boss fights online!
This is where I nitpick, so buckle in folks. The game runs at 30fps, which is frustrating for this type of game. Games with an emphasis on fast action gameplay should be running at 60fps, especially on PS4! This game is only 9GB! This isn't a hardware issue since last year's Transformers Devastation ran at 60fps on all versions of the game and was 12GB, so what happened here? Also it feels WAY more repetitive than Transformers Devastation and this game were build on Bayonetta's foundation. The missions may be random but they are the same ones, regardless of stage. The items are so damn useless outside of power ups and pizza because they don't really do anything substantial. Yes they do damage to enemies, no they don't do enough to justify the time wasted and the damage you'll receive trying to use them. It's also a 6 hour game! Most people hate short games, so add that to the list.
So in the end, the TMNT franchise has another mediocre game under it's belt. It seems PlatinumGames is either losing it's flare... or Activision got them to shit this game out in time for the new cinematic abomination's release... which makes much more sense! The gameplay is not up to PlatinumGames standards at all. It's repetitive and short at 6 hours long with the claws of online multiplayer sunk deep into it's flesh! Throw in damage sponge bosses and all the other problems and you get a game that just feels like another lazy licensed cash in that can only really be enjoyed by the most extreme TMNT fans... except me because even though I'm a TMNT fanboy, I'm also a seasoned video game player. Wait for a price drop on this one guys, or better yet... play TMNT Turtles in Time for SNES or MAME instead.
Monday, May 16, 2016
Story telling has definitely learned from The Last Of Us. The Uncharted PS3 trilogy were great stories too that focused on action, one liners and cliches and that's fine... but Uncharted 4's narrative has grown up. There's more character depth, better pacing, a way better 3 act structure and well... it proves that Naughty Dog are ready to make CG animated films. If you're coming to Uncharted 4 for it's story, you won't be disappointed.
Basic story without gushing or spoiling is that Nathan Drake's long thought dead brother Sam is back and is in trouble and the only way out of it is to find the pirate treasure of Captain Avery. Nathan comes out of retirement to help his brother in a globe trotting adventure filled with all the action beats you know and love. I REALLY want to go into spoiler territory, but I must restrain myself. If you love Indiana Jones and other adventure movies, you've got yourself a pretty good idea.
While the story has improved through leaps and bounds... the action is still crouching behind a chest high wall and taking some advice from Assassin's Creed. Uncharted 4 still relies on chest high wall gunplay, but has opened itself up to the option of stealth as the optimum approach to achieve. Personally I found myself torn between the 2 gameplay options constantly. Because I wanted to enjoy the story, I kept wanting to just go Rambo on the enemies... but I kept trying to be stealthy as well because it seemed like that's what the game wanted me to do(the other characters kept insisting on it for crying out loud!) and in the end... I haphazardly stealthed my way through until I was caught and killed the enemies I saw as in the way to my next checkpoint.
When you're not killing mercenaries, you're climbing and jumping across stuff. Unfortunately after 9 years... it's still clunky. Nathan still controls weird when moving and he still has a random jump arc... but climbing has actually improved with Drake being able to grab grips within arms reach instead of mashing the X(Cross...it's not the letter, it's a cross!) to move... but it's still the optimal method. To try something new, Nathan now has a grappling hook to swing across gaps and solve environmental puzzles and stuff. This is an item that should have been in the series from day one! The grappling hook does add a new flare to traversing the environment... but also has a purpose in combat! Swinging around on the rope to get an aerial melee kill or just get behind them is the obvious choice, but using it to shoot from this is my favourite method. Yeah, I like to swing around shooting the enemy like a gun toting Tarzan!
As like all good Indiana Jones inspired games, solving puzzles are here and actually require some thought in a few of them. Again, Naughty Dog has gone to the extreme to make these extravagant and I love some of the creativity behind them. These are some of the best in the series and are very thematic to the whole pirate thing. There's also a healthy amount of them too. There's also a couple of vehicle sections too and they even have a couple of chase scenes too! I swear, this game really feels like an interactive spiritual successor to Indiana Jones.
God I hate the PS4! I keep getting brought back to talking about visuals in it's games! Ugh! Uncharted 4 is absolutely GORGEOUS! In terms of realism in games, this game manages to be on the upswing from the Uncanny Valley, but didn't quite hit perfection unfortunately. The vistas, the character textures, everything just looks like it belongs in a museum(I keep being drawn to Indiana Jones don't I?). Couple this with such a magnificently scored music composition and it's a perfect storm that The Order 1886 and Quantum Break(this one really loves swimming in the Uncanny Valley) wish it could have achieved. That said... I kinda think Ratchet and Clank on PS4 does look better aesthetically, but fidelity goes to Uncharted 4.
The game is surprisingly long. I've beaten the previous games in 5, 7 and 9 hours... but this one took over 13 hours! Yeah, 13 hours if you focus on the story and skip on the collectables. The game is very meaty with collectables and even with a 13 hour story, it doesn't feel long or drawn out. The collectables have been expanded to not only treasure hunting, but journal entries, notes and even extra dialog moments that really don't add much to the story, but add to the character depth. If you're a completionist, you'll either love or hate all the extra collectables.
Uncharted 4 is a fantastic game. It feels like a Hollywood blockbuster and even with its dated movement mechanics, it still is an action packed game that's fun and epic. I enjoyed the game almost as much as Ratchet and Clank for PS4. What the game does new is well implemented and it's story will keep you playing until the wee hours of the morning. If you're curious about the multiplayer... I don't really like multiplayer and I believe a game must stand on it's single player and multiplayer is just garnish. Regardless, single player is the main product and it's great. A must buy for all PS4 owners.
So Star Fox Zero is a polarizing game. On one hand it looks like a Star Fox game... like a HD remaster of Star Fox 64 to be precise. On the other hand it's over extended reach towards "innovation" makes it hard to enjoy or even get into the game. Couple this with the bloated hype and dishonesty of most reviewers who forgot they've had tons of opportunities to adapt to the controls(like a year at various events!) and you get a game that disappoints older fans who think the series peaked with Star Fox 64(I fall here) or "good" if you are an unapologetic fan(like my brother) who are just glad a new game exists.
Star Fox Zero is in essence Star Fox 64 on the outside and a muddled mess on the inside... kinda like Leather Face from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The controls are what killed the experience for me... it's just terrible! Nintendo is normally known for intuitive controls, but they really dropped the ball here. Just to warn you, this may get a little long and ranty. Your basic controls are close to being right, but they are questionable mapped. The biggest issues are the motion control aiming and the right analog stick functions. Let me tell you right now that the right analog stick functions would have been better off being mapped to the buttons since it controls the tilt angle of the vehicles as well as boosting and braking. Then there's the motion controls... oh dear! This was the proverbial nail in the coffin. The aiming instead of being controlled by the right analog stick like any other logical control scheme(or better yet just left as it was in Star Fox 64!), is exclusively controlled with motion control that just don't work with that bulky gamepad. Aiming is extremely fidgety because of the motion controls and the sensitivity being both too sensitive... and not sensitive enough! How is this possible?! It also doesn't help that the game's view is split between 2 screens and you're expected to focus on both at the same time. Having a cockpit view for precision aiming while a great idea in theory, just doesn't work here with the motion controlled aiming. It's kinda amazing how Splatoon uses motion controls right for aiming and yet Star Fox Zero managed to cock it up.
Despite the controls, Star Fox Zero really tries to capture what made Star Fox 64 the masterpiece it is. It's still mostly an on-rails shooter and you still progress by beating levels and looking for hidden paths with a few arena battles thrown in for dog fights. The boss fights unfortunately are quick to remind you that those rotten motion controls are here to stay and ruin your fun. Boss fights like to take the camera away from you and make it really hard to pilot with either screen's view. On the plus side, each stage isn't too long and it's replayability is still a draw if you're somehow able to let Stockholm Syndrome set in and adapt to the awkward controls.
Even if you are somehow able to click with the controls(assuming that click isn't your sanity breaking), there's one fact you can't escape... the level design is boring and bland! Yeah, it's very boring to play because of it's bland visuals and uninspired level design. Everything just ends up blurring together to the point that the only moments from the game that stuck with me are the ones that induced rage! I know that people will throw out something stupid like "But they were limited by the genre!" and I say Nintendo lost that excuse with the implementation of motion controls! The level design is just so boring to play through because of the lack of challenge(outside of the split screen focus and the god awful motion controls) the stages posses and even the enemy layout wasn't thought out very well either.
The vehicles you use each have their own problems to make matters worse. The right analog stick functions ruined the Arwing and it's Walker mode controls like a shopping trolley with 2 broken wheels(one in the front and one in the back on the other side) while trying to go up hill! The new Gyrowing is so damn slow, only used once in a stealth mission and controls terribly. The Landmaster is the only vehicle that isn't ruined completely though. It actually works well with the control scheme surprisingly... except the precision aiming focused bosses and it's ability to fly kill an almost fun couple of missions.
The bosses are just so boring and frustrating to make the negatives just keep stacking up! The forced lock on in most of the boss fights make it hard to manoeuvre and having to use the not so precise aiming just don't make the encounters fun in the least! You'll spend most of your time fighting the controls and not knowing which screen to focus on. This gets to a piss boiling point against the final fight with Andross. When I finally beat the game I didn't have a sense of accomplishment pour over me, instead it was me moaning out of displeasure saying "Finally I'm done! Back on the shelf to never touch again!" and I probably never will play it again in single player.
The only slight positives to the game revolves around two things... The amiibo and the Co Op. The amiibo give you a SNES Arwing that kicks the nostalgia up a notch at the cost of homing shots or a glass cannon black Arwing that looks awesome, but is fragile... on the plus side, it's shots are double strength! You really need to be careful with either amiibo though because their negatives will bite you on the arse really quickly. Now Co Op can actually be the only time you can have any fun with this game. In Co Op one player is controlling the vehicle while the other is the gunner using the precision aiming. This actually relieves some stress since you can concentrate on one thing while your partner does the other. It's so good not to constantly shift focus and you actually start to have a small iota of fun. If you must play this game, play with a friend and switch duties after each stage.
Star Fox Zero is not a good game at all. The motion controls are terribly implemented and are hard to adapt to, assuming you can even do so. The graphics, level design and bosses are just so bland and boring and make the game feel more like a slog instead of a fun time like Star Fox 64. The only positives are not enough to justify the purchase one bit! Yes Co Op is fun, but how often will you be able to play it? Even the replayability of the game is unappealing because of how heavy the negatives weigh. The best way I can sum the game up is that it can be symbolized by Leather Face. It's wearing the face of Star Fox 64, someone we love dearly... but underneath is a psychotic murder intent on destroying you and everything you love... but he does have a cool chainsaw! I just don't like this game and it's not worth the purchase at all.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
I went into Ratchet and Clank on PS4 a bit skeptical. When I heard it was a movie tie-in game for the upcoming movie, I was thinking "Oh God, who has Sony hired to ruin this game?" and then I found out it was Insomniac Games themselves and I remembered QForce and All 4 One and later Nexus... and I was slightly relieved, but still was expecting a shoddy product. Thankfully a AU$54.95 price tag(Normally games are AU$99.95 in Australia) convinced me to buy it day one and boy... what a surprise.
First of all, WOW! The visuals are absolutely gorgeous! I mean sure, it ain't no The Order 1886 when it comes to realism, but graphically it's vibrant and highly detailed. I'm not one to focus on graphics, but these blew me away. This is the first time that a game on PS4 actually made me say "This is truly a PS4 title that is next gen!" and justified the purchase of a PS4... at least on a visual standpoint.
So the story is told through the perspective of an incarcerated Captain Quark explaining his side of the movie's story to a criminal called Shiv Helix. An interesting way to do it if you ask me. Having Captain Quark narrate every so often while playing was pretty neat. The story itself is a bit different from the original though, but still follows the original plot. I guess you could say it's the same skeleton, different skin.
As mentioned earlier, the story is based on the film's story. Now unfortunately I haven't seen the film(not available in Australia until July sadly) so I can't compare the two, but the game does feature footage from the film at key moments throughout the game. Things is... the quality of the film snip-its are noticeably different to the in game engine's cutscenes. It's not Quantum Break's uncanny valley bad, nowhere near that. It's just proof that video games are still decades away from reaching that fidelity.
I guess I have to go over how it plays huh? Well I could just easily say that it's identical to the PS3 entries in the series and call it a day... but I'd be really lazy if I did that I suppose. It's a 3D platformer and a 3rd person shooter hybrid with a bigger focus on the shooting this time around, even more than other games in the series due to the sheer number of enemies that show up at times. Just like the other games, you travel from planet to planet and complete objectives, explore the stages hunting for secrets and blow stuff up. Same old, same old for the series.
So if you're a Ratchet and Clank fan, you probably want to know about the weapons right? Well this game's selection is more focused on celebrating the past then giving us something new. There are only a couple new weapons with the standout being the Pixeliser that turns enemies into 8-bit pixel blocks with a shotgun style blast. There are a bunch of old favourites that returned that should make people happy too. I'm personally glad the Groovatron, Mr Zurkon, Agents of Doom and of course the Sheepinator made a return. All the weapons level up like normal as you use them and you can upgrade them with Raritanium(that's not that rare really) to make them even more powerful.
There are a couple of sections in the game that aren't just shooting galleries. Clank gets a couple of minor puzzle sections to break up the action, but there's also the Hover board races(just like the original, but harder to make your own shortcuts) and a couple of aerial combat segments that remind me of Star Fox all range mode missions. They do break up the monotony of just blowing stuff up, but man do I wish there were more aerial segments! Maybe I just need to play more Star Fox 64 to satiate it?
Golt bolts are back to unlock cheats that are... ok I guess. They unlock other things like visual filters and the ability to change the appearance of stuff like bolts, your ship and your head. Usual stuff for the series, but they added another collectible to the mix in the form of trading cards called Holocards... oh joy! Holocards are an annoying collectible due to it's extremely random nature. On the plus side, you can trade duplicates in for new ones you don't have so it's not too frustrating. The problem with Holocards is that you need complete sets for collectibles drop rate increases and to unlock the Omega versions of weapons for Challenge mode(it's new game plus). Also the Ryno blueprints have been replaced with holocards, but are found just like the Gold Bolts within the stages and it plays music while firing just like some of the other models. I just love that so much!
So the game treads a lot of old ground, but is that such a bad thing? The Super Mario franchise does it and it's still beloved 30 years on, so why not Ratchet and Clank? There isn't too much to criticize in the game except one thing... the game's slow movement and 30fps frame rate! A lot of modern gamers are constantly complaining about frame rates and resolutions and this game's 30fps make it feel slower than it's PS2 counterpart... and it is! Yes, you can fix the speed with an unlockable cheat... but it takes a long time to get the Gold Bolts to unlock, even if you actively hunt them down as early as possible using a play guide. The speed and frame rate can become tolerated, but it is a glaring flaw to a fantastic game in this modern era of gaming.
Now I actually went back and played through the original for comparison(on PS2 to be precise). Wow the original aged badly! The controls and gameplay is much better on PS4(the PS2 version has no strafing!) and the visuals, even for PS2 standards are really bad! As for content... the PS2 has far more story and stages for sure, but it's far better in the reboot. The reboot has a better told story and far better level design, but it does seem to be less funny than the original. I think when it comes to the humor, it's two different types of humor and the PS2 version just has more opportunity to use it. Also a huge number of characters from the PS2 version don't appear in the reboot. It's no big loss, but that's my opinion.
Ratchet and Clank for PS4 is ultimately a mostly graceful remake. I loved every minute I've played of it(3 playthroughs is proof of that and I got the Platinum Trophy too!) and despite the 30fps frame rate and speed issues, it's a fantastic game. Old Ratchet and Clank fans will love the nostalgic and new stuff, while newcomers will have a great starting point for Sony's major mascot to enjoy. The game could be considered a little short on a normal playthrough admittedly(5 hours on my second playthrough), but it's a game that's meant to be completed... not blazed through in an afternoon. The game just proves that tons of content doesn't mean a better game(which other companies should learn *cough* Ubisoft! *cough*). It's a cheap, fun game and was the most fun I've had with my PS4 so far in the short time I've owned it. Just go buy it... Go now!
|The original console looked best.|
I got my first of many Xbox 360's back in 2006 with Dead or Alive 4 and Dead Rising, months before getting the superior Wii(Ooh poking the bear early!). When I say first of many, I really mean it. I have gone through 4 OG model Xbox 360's before I got an Arcade model with the HDMI port. So I went through 4 Red Ringed Xbox 360's for a couple years, like most Xbox 360 owners.
Now the console was awesome in design(unlike the S and E models) because it still looked like a gaming console, but could also blend in with an entertainment unit(assuming you're into that kinda thing). The thing is loud(not Dreamcast loud, but loud enough) and overheats in the summer(at least the original models did) and worked better standing up over laying on it's side. I used a 20GB hard drive for many years until I started playing Final Fantasy XI Online and upgraded to the 120GB one I still have today. I do love the controllers for the Xbox 360 too. Sure they aren't the best(Gamecube is best to me), but they worked well and were perfect for the games that Xbox 360 was known for.
The Xbox 360 is where I did most of my online gaming over the years... and because of it I avoid playing online for the most part. The community I encountered online when playing on Xbox Live were the most foul mouthed, racist, ignorant and unfair group of people I've ever played with or against. Now there were plenty of people who were nice and I enjoyed playing with, but they were far and few between unfortunately. I ended up giving up my XBL Gold after Halo 4 came out because I got fed up with it. I hardly played games online anyway and preferred the single player experience overall.
As for the games, they were the weakest part of the console sadly. The exclusives for Microsoft's Xbox were more plentiful vs the Xbox 360, so it's exclusive library was sparse. I loved a few of the exclusives like Lost Odyssey, Dead or Alive 4, Blue Dragon, Halo Reach, Halo ODST, Tales of Vesperia and Alan Wake... but there were so little made that as the years went on I just played the Xbox 360 less and less in favour of the Wii and PS3. Now Xbox 360 did have one advantage most of the time... better builds of games! Throughout the life of the Xbox 360, many games performed or looked better on 360 over the PS3 and I always bought the version that worked best. This got less and less as developers worked out how to program for PS3 however.
Now as for my Xbox 360 today? I haven't turned it on since Tomb Raider was a new release and was the last game I have played on it. It's not that I don't love my Xbox 360, it's just new games keep coming out on Wii U and PS4 and I just haven't had the urge to go back and play my unfinished games. It's just sitting under a dust cover for now, but it will get another day in the sun if more and more online only games get released and I have more free time.
So that's my thoughts on the Xbox 360. It wasn't a bad console at all and I had fun with it every now and then. It was the go to online multiplayer console and had a library of games it shared mostly with PS3. I don't regret owning a Xbox 360, but it is depressing how the PS3 and Wii managed to be more appealing to me. Now will I ever get an Xbox One? Not until it has full 360 backwards compatibility with the games I own and it has a game that finally makes me want it. I hope when the Xbox 360 becomes a retro gaming console, it is remembered fondly.