mardi 15 juillet 2014

Bara_Chat's 2013 Games of the Year

Looking back on what I tried to do a year ago while recapitulating the best games of 2012, I realize the idea of picking nominees and winner in a dozen different categories, while ambitious, was a tad unrealistic. I liked it at the time and I'm glad I tried it, but for this year I shall go in a completely opposite direction : short, sweet, simple. I'll simply pick out what I think are the five best games of 2013 and why they deserve to be there. While I'm here I will also point out a few honorable mentions and some other games I didn't have the time or money to try in 2013 but I plan to later on.

Best Games of 2013

5. Rayman Legends (PS4)
Now I'm cheating a bit here because the PS4 version actually came out in 2014, but it's basically a 2013 game since it was first released in early september of last year (NA). Anyway, I had to include it because it's in the running for "Best 2D platformer of All-Time". The gameplay is exquisite. It's a very beautiful game and it has astounding replay value in daily and weekly challenges. You can't ask for more.

4. Tomb Raider (PS3)
I first played a Tomb Raider game only 2 or 3 years ago when I tried the Tomb Raider collection. I liked the game, but couldn't truly appreciate what I was playing since it was more than a decade later. My guess is that if I had played that game when it was first released in 1996, I would have fallen in love with it. I could finally see why people were calling Nathan Drake "Dude Raider" when the first Uncharted was unveiled.
Anyway, this series reboot is almost on par with what Naughty Dog has done for last-generation gaming. Gameplay is very solid, the story holds up pretty well despite a few weaker spots and it looks fantastic. It lacks the charm of Uncharted (can't help but compare the two franchises now...) and its flair for Hollywood-worthy moments - although it had some - but it's a superb game in its own right.

3. Bioshock : Infinite (PS3)
Being deeply in love with the first Bioshock game - until very recently my "best game of the seventh generation" - and completely sold on that world-class reveal trailer a few years ago, I had HUMONGOUS expectations for Bioshock : Infinite. It was almost unfair to Irrational. I would've bet 100$ that it would run away with the 2013 GoTY award. It nearly did, as my top 3 games in 2013 are very, very close to each other.
Infinite almost impossibly delivered on the enormous hype they've gained before release. It's one of the most compelling and well-thought plot I've ever seen in a video game, practically on par with the first Bioshock and The Walking Dead (Telltale). It produced memorable characters (see picture above), varied gameplay and a otherwordly (literally) setting. It's not perfect though, but that's me being very picky. It's a great, great game. Being only third on this list speaks of the quality of the next two titles.

2. The Legend of Zelda : A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
It really does feel like I have to include a LoZ game every time one comes out. One could think it's because I'm unequivocally biased and so in love with the franchise that they could release a bag of poop and I'd still rate it a 9.2 out of 10. While it's true I have a bias, the games themselves are definitely almost always worth a sky-high rating. This one isn't different. It's very special. It's the successor to perhaps the best LoZ game ever (not by my LoZ standings, but I know it's atop many fans' lists). It had to be good.
And boy it is. Nintendo has mastered the art of merging old-school nostalgia with innovation. For example, at first I thought "Wait, so you have to pay to use items like the bow or bombs? And you have arrows/bombs, but an automatically-refilling magic meter?" But the process works magnificiently in both cases. Yes, it's fun to discover the boss-beating item in dungeons, but this does the neat trick of letting you decide which way - read : weapon - is more suited to defeat the boss. The game is a bit on the easy side, even with a couple of truly bamboozling dungeons, but you'll be having so much fun you won't really care.

1. The Last of Us (PS3)
Yes, you could see this coming from a hundred miles away. Yes, it has won numerous GoTY awards from magazines, websites and the likes. And you have heard all about it. The grim atmosphere, that clickers noise, the heavy storyline, the opening sequence, Ellie hunting, everything about Ellie, in fact, the beautiful, desolate world, throwing bottles to distract enemies, the characters you encounter, the list goes on and on.
Look, I don't need to sell you on The Last of Us, it's been praised countless times and will be praised even more when the PS4 version comes out. It's a masterpiece of a game. As the magazine EDGE pointed out, it truly is the culmination of everything (good) this generation has been about.

Honorable mentions

Ni No Kuni : Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
Gran Turismo 6 (PS3)
DmC : Devil May Cry (PS3)
Metro : Last Light (PS3)
Battlefield 4 (PS4)
Brothers : A Tale of Two Sons (PS3)

Games I couldn't play for some reason but that I'll definitely try later which could have ended in the running for GotY 2013

Tearaway (PSVita)
Pokemon X/Y (3DS)
Super Mario 3D World (WiiU)
Assassin's Creed IV : Black Flag (PS4)

vendredi 17 janvier 2014

A brand-new PS3 has arrived.

Last time I announced, with much sadness (insert doge meme here), that my old, fat PS3 broke for the last time and that I will have to look around for a new one. After a few days' shopping, I came across a deal at a very well-known electronics store I usually dislike. But for one of the increasingly rare times in the past few years, I swept my principles aside and bought a brand-new PS3 there. It's the Uncharted 3 bundle 250gb PS3. I got it for 225+ taxes. Since it comes with a One-Year PS+ membership, I figured I "saved" a future 50$ expense when I will inevitably renew my membership anyways. And I will probably be able to sell the controller (I already have three) and the copy of Uncharted 3 : Game of the Year (I already have the collector's edition), so that's an extra 50$ in my pockets. Considering all that, I'd say it was a good deal.

Sadly, for some odd reason, many games (but not all) I've played in the past 2 years didn't save on the PS+ online storage. I don't understand why, but I got all my saves from The Last of Us, but none from Borderlands 2. I will have to restart a few games, but none will take more time than Borderlands 2, on which I had probably over 60 hours, if not many, many more.

Overall though, I'm glad I got that new, "SuperSlim" PS3.

lundi 30 décembre 2013

My PS3 broke for the last time.

I've owned a "fat" MGSIV-bundle 80GB (upgraded to 500GB) PS3 since 2008. It has been my main companion in gaming-related activities (i.e. : gaming). This evening, it got the infamous Yellow Light of Death (YLOD) for the 4th or 5th time in the past 18 months as I was just done playing the highly-anticipated Gran Turismo 6. Now the dude I usually go to for that repair charges me 50$ for a YLOD, but I'm done paying more and more for that same console which keeps breaking down.

So I've decided to retire that very console and buy a new PS3. Now, since I don't have 200$ laying around and considering the fact I've bought a PS4 at launch, I can't justify buying a brand-new console just yet. I will buy that next PS3 new, probably a Slim/SuperSlim version, which breaks down waaay less often. When? I don't know, but I hope I'll have the money soon enough as I have many games to finish on that console, mainly Zone of the Enders HD Collection, Katamari Damacy, Dark Souls, Ni No Kuni and the aforementioned GT6.

I was mildly pissed when it happened, but I'm certainly not going to complain about it when I have a Wii, a PS4, a 3DS XL and a PSVita lying around.

lundi 23 décembre 2013

What Am I Playing NOW - Part V

Since I got a PS4 a few weeks ago, you would think I would play on it non-stop, that my PS3 (my main seventh-generation console) would only gather dust. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. While I enjoyed three different games during that time on the PS4, I still spent more time on the PS3, trying to clean the slate before the big games arrive in spring.

These past few weeks I played mainly through Puppeteer, a very pretty and entertaining platformer which takes place in a theater setting. I say very beautiful because I think the artistic design is as impressive as anything I've experienced this generation. The game itself is longer than you'd expect - I would estimate around 10-12 hours to go through the seven acts - but it always fits the purpose of the story. As this game takes place in a theater with, curtains, acts and a "live" audience, you'd be entirely right to think that it would be focused on the storyline. The plot itself is not revolutionary, but it is delivered masterfully by the rich characters and fantastic voice-acting. The gameplay is sadly not as superb as the character or artistic design, but it is solid enough and offers the player a unique control scheme based around the use of "Calibrus", a pair of legendary scissors your hero use to do basically everything from slicing enemies to traveling at high speed through fabric. You also collect heads as you go along (your head - you are a puppet, and I should've mentioned that earlier - has been taken at the beginning of the adventure by the main enemy, the Moon Bear King), and those heads have unique abilities. However, these abilities are basically useless for the main storyline, as they only serve to open bonus stages (one per curtain, three per act) or to shower you with gifts like stars (the "coins" of Puppeteer). Overall, it's a pretty entertaining and charming game, and definitely one of the best PS3 exclusives of 2013.

I also just finished Contrast this past week, a PSN game for the PS4 which was - and still is - offered for free to the PS+ subscribers. You play as Dawn, a woman who can only be seen by a little girl named Didi, and you have the ability to shift in and out of walls using your own shadow and other objects'/people's shadows to move around. As Dawn, you help Didi discover what exactly is going on with her dysfunctional family - and actually help said family - through a series of 3D/2D puzzles. The ability to shift into walls is the focal point here, and is interesting enough to carry the game all by itself. Otherwise, the gameplay is a bit clunky and is subject to glitches at some points. Some puzzles, like the one where you have to repair an pirate ship attraction for a circus, are well done enough that you see the potential in this new gameplay mechanic, but the puzzles are wildly uneven and hinder the fun of the game. The game last about 3 to 4 hours, depending on you puzzle-solving skills and whether or not you're committed to finding all the collectibles. Overall, it's a solid game solely on that shadow-shifting gameplay mechanic, and I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel - or spiritual sequel - in the future.

Back to the PS3, I just started Katamari Forever, which has to be one of the weirdest games ever. I'm not sure I understand exactly what the point is, but basically you have to roll around with a Katamari (a ball upon which everything sticks) and form the largest possible ball, which will become a star. Why? Because your father, the King of All Cosmos, has destroyed every star for some reason. If it seems to you as a peculiar setting for a video game, you're entirely right. But so far (I've done 3 stages only), it's pretty entertaining even if I suck as I'm still getting used to the controls which use, almost exclusively, the two joysticks. More to come on this strange game.

Finally, we'll finish on the 3DS, where I've only just got the Master Sword in the new game The Legend of Zelda : A Link Between Worlds. It's a well-known fact for everyone around me that I LOVE the Zelda franchise, which I consider to be the greatest videogame series ever. A quick glance at my personal "Greatest Games of All-Time" rankings will tell you that much, as 3 Zelda titles occupy the top 10, including the #1 spot for, obviously, Ocarina of Time. This new title, A Link Between Worlds, is the sequel (a rare moment for a Zelda game) to A Link to the Past, the wildly - and widely - loved SNES masterpiece. A few hours in, it has become quite evident that Nintendo has pulled it off, creating a whole new game in a very familiar setting. Since I'm really not done with the game, let's point out the two most interesting gameplay features - so far - this game is offering. First, you'll gain, very early in the game, the ability to merge in - and out of - walls as a painting, which, as you might suspect, opens up the game quite a bit and makes for very interesting puzzles and combat strategies (you can't stay in wall forever, you have a gauge to consider). The transitions are seamless and very satisfying to execute, unlike in Contrast, where it often gets clunky. The second will be a real surprise to anyone who has played many Zelda games in the past. Most of the series' beloved items, like the bow, the bombs or the boomerang, are not found in dungeons as usual, acting like a clue to which item will be required to defeat the dungeon's boss. No, they're all at your house, available for rent from a merchant named Rovio. What you have to do, then, is rent whichever items (all of them if you want), for a price between 20 and 100 rupees, you'll want to use. You can keep the rented items as long as you please, unless you die, an event upon which Rovio will take his items back and you'll have to rent them again. At first I thought I wouldn't like this feature, since I've always loved finding items in dungeons, as it felt like a tremendous accomplishment. But so far it has proved to be another great idea by Nintendo, basically asking the player to plan ahead and keep a lookout on his rupees count in the case he dies. A Link Between Worlds, after a few hours, is shaping to be a real winner and clearly among the best games of 2013.

samedi 7 décembre 2013

Seventh Generation Review - Most memorable moments

The 8th generation has - mostly - arrived and it's time to look back at the rather excellent Seventh Generation slowly leaving us. Last time I reviewed what I perceived to be the best franchises of this generation, and Bioshock took the proverbial cake in a very, very close fight with Portal. This time around I'll look back at the most memorable moments of the 7th gen. There will be mainly in-game moments, obviously, but there will also be a few industry-related events which captured my attention and deserve to be mentioned here. There will be no rankings involved, although some will definitely be more "important" than others.

The Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare campaign
Regardless of the general feelings towards what the Call of Duty franchise represents today, no one can argue the importance Modern Warfare had. Much has been said and written about the now-omnipresent multiplayer feature, so I'll skip over that. What I'll remember most about it is the campaign, which is still the best I've ever played in a military FPS (and that's saying something). I specifically remember, as most everyone who played this game will, three moments.
  • The first one is the "All Ghillied Up" mission, which had me holding my breath from A to Z. As I was crawling around listening to Captain McMillan, I was constantly thinking : "I can't believe I'm doing this, how the f*** did they achieve this?" And basically every military FPS has tried to emulate this mission since, including all the other Call of Duty games I've played. It shows how important it really was.
  • The second one is your character dying when the nuclear bomb hits. As I was witnessing Sgt Jackson slowly agonizing, I kept thinking what games had taught me for the past 15+ years : Your character never dies. So obviously something was going to happen soon to save me. But nothing happened. You simply died. 
  • The last one, while not as epic as the first two, was one of the most enjoyable and captivating missions ever designed. I can't remember the name, but you're in the AC-130 raining death upon your enemy via your black-and-white screen while receiving orders through radio. It's pretty darn amazing and copied 19748927 times since. It's no wonder CoD4 stands tall as one of the most important games of all-time.
The PSN "outage"
I don't know what to call that "event" exactly. I've read terms like "Security breach", "Intrusion", "Hack" among others. No matter how you call it, it was a big mess, as Sony acknowledged sincerely. Since I wasn't (and still isn't) much of an online gamer, it didn't affect my playing time on a day-to-day basis, but it was still a bit freaky that a company as large, as powerful and as seemingly untouchable as Sony could be hit like that. While it didn't affect me personally (apart of hooking me on PS+, which they offered for a sizable discount after the outage), it did beg the question of personal information security in this new day and age.

The Bioshock : Infinite reveal
Rarely - if ever - have I been more hyped for a game. And it all started with this trailer and this gameplay video. Still epic years later.

The first platinum trophy
Some people will likely remember their first achievement or first trophy (depending on which console you preferred at that moment. For me though I had to log on to to remember which trophy was my first (2x multiplier from LittleBigPlanet), but I really didn't need it to identify my first platinum. It was the Fallout 3 platinum trophy. I have to admit I needed help (from the Internet) for a few of them, notably the one where you have to find and defeat the 5 Super Mutant Behemoths in the game, but I loved the game so much I didn't really care about extra hours spent roaming around. And it has to be said I only have 12 platinums, so I kinda remember all of them a little bit. But the first one was extra special.

The LittleBigPlanet introduction
Opinions might differ on LBP's real worth in the gaming industry (I personally think it's an awesome piece of work), but few - if any - can deny the quality of the game's introduction. It's such a happy moment, I couldn't help but smile, amazed by the beauty and happiness of it all. Obviously, the narrator himself, Stephen Fry, played a large part in its charm - the British accent does help. Anyway, while I was guided through the main features of the game, I once thought something along the lines of "Hey, this intro will soon end. No! I don't want it to. It's way too much fun. Don't end!" And that says it all.

The Bioshock "plot twist"
I won't go into too many details in case someone still hasn't played the game - and if that's the case, close this window and go play it now - and plans on playing it. Bioshock is one of the most beautifully crafted adventures ever conceived. And, for me, it all starts with the storyline, exquisitely written mysterious. When you reach the confrontation with Andrew Ryan and discover the true meaning of your presence in Rapture, you probably won't believe your eyes nor your ears. I clearly remember being frozen, jaw on the floor and not knowing what to do or think. Remarkably executed.

Telltale's The Walking Dead
All of it. Every single second of it was just amazing. The most amazing part is, I went in thinking : "Oh this thing was free (1st episode) on PS+, let's try it" with absolutely no knowledge of the game, the comic books or the TV Series. I finished Episode One in a flash and immediately purchased the rest. I just couldn't wait. I'm the kind of gamer who usually - meaning 90% of the time - doesn't play for more than an hour at the time. But playing this, I just HAD to finish the episode if I started it. I finished it in about a week and it won my Game of the Year award for 2012 over games like Borderlands 2, Dishonored and Journey. All of which were pretty epic. Anyway, now I have started the Comic book series and it's yet another very enjoyable experience.

Metal Gear Solid 4's ending
Truth be told, I never played a Metal Gear Solid game before I got my hands on my PS3. In fact, the PS3 model I bought was a Metal Gear Solid 4 bundle, so I kinda had no choice but to play it. And I have to admit I was intrigued because that website I used to visit in 2008 gave it a very rare (for that website) 10 out of 10. Anyway, MGS4 bamboozled me for a while because the story was extremely hard to understand (at least for me), but the end stuck in my mind for some reason. I particularly remember when Old Snake had to go through a tunnel filled with some sort of microwaves burning through his suit and his flesh. As he slowly crawled for what seemed like hours, I felt very uncomfortable watching this old man suffer like this and all I could do was press "X" infinitely. After witnessing that, you had no choice but feel emotionally attached with Snake. The following fist fight with Liquid was beyond unexpected and the hour-long ending cinematic confused me even more, but it sealed what I consider to be a very important game of the Seventh-Generation.

Bloodwing's death in Borderlands 2
In last year's awards, I pointed out how fond I was of Bloodwing following the superb original Borderlands and how actually pissed I was when he was killed by Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2. Anyhow, as painful and sad as it was, I have to say it was a powerful - and memorable - moment.

Many, many things in The Last of Us
This game was as close to perfection as any this last generation. I'm not going to say anything here you haven't read anywhere on the Internet or in magazines, as it was widely acclaimed by critics and gamers alike. But damn... it is a fantastic piece of work. You could point out more than a few very powerful moments, like the perfect ending or Ellie savagely killing David in the burning restaurant, but I found that the game and the characters felt more alive and real in the small details. The conversations, the one-liner, the way Ellie sits somewhere when you try to figure out something, all the little things together make for a fantastic, epic game.

Fus Ro Dah!
Fus Ro Dah, a Dragon Shout acquired in Skyrim which can be translated by "Unrelenting Force", is one of the most satisfying thing ever put in a video game. Most of us grew with Dragon Ball's Kamehameha as the ultimate attack, yelling it hundreds of time because it was such a thrilling thing to imagine, blasting people off with pure energy. I think, in a way, the Dragonborn's Fus Ro Dah enabled us gamers to experience the closest thing to a Kamehameha yet. When you finally get the whole shout, you can't wait to try it on people, animals, enemies, anyone! It's so powerful and savage, and now I want to play Skyrim all over again. Which I probably will...

First time going around the Nürburgring in Gran Turismo 5
Top Gear (UK, not that terrible US version) transformed me from someone who didn't care about cars to someone who reads EVO and Top Gear every month. And when you talk about exotic cars, sports cars or basically any car with any sense of speed, the Nürburgring is a must. So in Gran Turismo 5 I was pretty anxious to try it out. But it wasn't available from the start of the game, you had to unlock it by completing a challenge. And I didn't complete that challenge until much later. Therefore, the first time I "drove" on the Nürburgring was in A-Spec in a VW Polo race. Sure, a 100hp-or-so car doesn't sound as enticing as a Ferrari F40, but it worked for me just fine. Since the car wasn't extremely fast and very easy to handle, I could enjoy my ride around the world's most famous track. And it was a blast. I enjoyed it like I couldn't believe what I had just did. The track is so tricky, so long and so intense. Eventually I went around in other cars (GT-R, SLS, etc.), but that first time was unforgettable.

The M95 Sniper in Battlefield : Bad Company 2
In my many years of gaming, I've yet to come across a Sniper Rifle half as satisfying as the M95 was in BC2. I don't know if it's the "best" or the most powerful one in the game and frankly, I don't even care. Just hear the sound this thing makes. It's so violent, so powerful, so freaking manly, it feels like it could pierce through a meter of concrete without even slowing down one iota. As youtuber nickbunyun once said, I'm pretty sure you can hear it from other servers. Not only that, but using that sniper in BC2's multiplayer made me actually a decent Recon soldier. I'm usually not a sniping type of player in online shooters, I'm always a tenth too slow. With most gun types, it doesn't matter, but with a sniper, it makes a HUGE difference. In BC2, I was actually not bad with the M95, I even managed a few solid kill streaks. Sure, I was still way better as an engineer or assault, but that gun made me decent at something I was bad at... and that sound.

jeudi 14 novembre 2013

The 8th generation is upon us!

So yesterday I received this in the mail :

(And then my cat tried to eat it).

So I got my first PS4 game! For a few weeks I went back and forth between this game and Battlefield 4 as being my first 8th gen game. I finally went, obviously, for Killzone. I still might get Battlefield before or around Christmas because it does look epic, at least the multiplayer component of it, which is basically what BF4 is for.

And, furthermore, this morning I received an e-mail from Amazon where they told me my PS4 would ship tomorrow morning (Friday)! I will probably get it by next Monday or Tuesday. I'll have more hands-on info when it gets here.

samedi 26 octobre 2013

Talking the Talk without Walking the Walk

In a previous post I mentioned how, around the year 2008, I started participating in forums and discussions on a popular video game website (for various reasons, I've stopped visiting that website nearly two years ago). Since that time, I've discovered many gaming websites, blogs, Youtube channels, magazines. My two main references for any gaming-related news, reviews, previews, random features, analysis, etc. today are the website GamesRadar and the magazine EDGE, although I still visit other websites from time to time and for a few years I read various publications on the gaming world.

Anyway, I realized recently that I've been spending quite a lot of my free time reading, listening, watching anything gaming-related instead of actually playing games. And it's not the first time something like this has happened. I remember that, when I was in university, I was very active on that gaming forum I mentioned earlier and I probably spent hours per day debating with strangers about games and sports (the website had a sports forum as well). Of course, I didn't have as much time to play games since I had to study, but even when I got home and had free time on my hands, I still spent many hours per week on that website instead of actually playing the games we discussed or argued about. And I didn't hate it at all. I loved reading other people's opinion on games, why they love or dislike certain games or genres (as long as the argument making some sense, not the "HAlo3 iz bettar than everyting it haz colord tanks you guyz al suk balz wit gay-ass Cal off doody" type of arguments).

It seemed to me illogical to talk about something more often than actually doing the thing. Then I started to think about it a bit more. There are certain subjects, hobbies or activities where it makes a lot of sense to spend more time talking about it than doing it. For example, if you like climbing, you might talk about it a lot with friends and people who do this activity with you, many hours per week, but you can't realistically practice climbing many hours per week if you have a regular job and other responsibilities (and it can get expensive). Another example is professional athletes. Certain sports, like American Football, require a tremendous amount of preparation per week for a 3-hour game, and a lot of it is off the field.

So the act of "talking more than doing" is not at all illogical in certain cases where the talking actually helps the doing a LOT. However, as far as gaming is concerned, it's kinda hard to justify doing so. But I honestly think it helped me being a "better" gamer. Not getting-high-kill/death-ratios-and-high-scores-better, but more capable of understanding gaming as an industry, as a "world" Understanding who the developers and publishers are, which games influenced others in the same genre and whether genres really should be a thing anymore, how JRPGs dominated a certain era, the development (a bit) of physics engines, etc. I'm certainly not pretending to know everything and anything gaming-related. Faaaaaaar from that, actually. Very far. I still consider myself a sort of novice regarding many aspects of the gaming industry, but I love to learn about it. I love reading interviews with Mark Cerny, the PS4 system architect, or Platinum Games founder Shinji Mikami. I think it's a fascinating, fast-growing and always-evolving industry.

Thinking about it, I kinda love the fact that video games are a bit more than a simple "hobby" for me. Considering all the time I spent on reading and watching all that stuff, I can safely say it's more of a passion, not unlike (even it's to a lesser degree) my lifelong passion for basketball. This situation kinda reminds me of what happened to me this week while talking to a colleague where I currently work (a bookstore). I was explaining to her what my field of study was (teaching), and while I was pointing out why I chose teaching as a career, it made me realize (even more) how much I love teaching. Same thing happened here. While trying to make sense of me spending more time talking/reading/watching games than actually playing them, I realized how much I like Gaming as a whole. A passion, if you will.