jeudi 19 septembre 2013

What Am I Playing Now - Part IV

When I wrote Part III of this feature nearly 3 months ago, I mentioned how "early" 2013 games like Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite were contenders for the best game of 2013 crown. While both are still amongst the best games of this whole generation, they were up against such excellent competition this year they had no chance to stay on top. That "excellent competition", you will have guessed, is Naughty Dog's The Last of Us.

While I finished that game maybe 6 weeks ago, its impact is too important to be ignored here. I'm not going to drag on for too long here, but let's just say The Last of Us will have a prominent role on the upcoming "Best Games of the Seventh-Generation" list.

Since I finished that epic, hype-shattering masterpiece (I'm not even exaggerating), I turned my attention to the third/fifth installment in Ubisoft's Triple-A franchise Assassin's Creed. After finishing, earlier this year, the good-but-not-excellent Assassin's Creed : Revelations and being, at last, intrigued by Desmond's story, I went ahead and bought Assassin's Creed III for 19 dollars at Costco, thinking it was a bargain. It was not. ACIII is by far the weakest entry in the series so far. The hero, Connor Kenway, is painfully uninteresting and very hard to root for. In fact, halfway through the game, I found myself rooting for the Templars instead of the Assassins. That's kinda problematic. Not only that, but the pacing of the game is completely off, the transition between cutscenes and gameplay was horrific and made the storyline very difficult to follow. At many points during the game I thought about abandoning it, only to fight the urge because I wanted to see how Desmond's story would eventually end... The ending was very awkward and off-putting, and not in a good way. I probably would have been better off reading the plot on wikipedia. Anyway, the game was somewhat saved by the solid gameplay and by the impressive amount of content (side quests, hunting, naval missions). Overall this game could have been a 4.5 / 10 and somehow ended up in the mid-6s range. Not abysmal, but certainly a long way off the quality of Ezio's adventures.

After that I played a game offered for free on PS+ a few months ago : Sleeping Dogs. This GTA-like puts you in the shoes of an undercover cop operating working his way inside a Hong Kong triad named Sun On Yee (Fun fact : if you google it you will eventually come across the Wikipedia entry for Sun Yee On, a real-life Hong Kong triad). The cop's story is interesting enough to take you through the 30 main missions this game offers, but he's pretty much a one-man-show throughout the game. The only other two or three interesting NPCs aren't exploited enough to make them stand out as much as they could. Same goes for the setting. Hong Kong looks very pretty in Sleeping Dogs, with tall skyscrapers and bright colored neons highlighting the Chinese and Western influences on the city. However, it's a bit dull. Sure, there are a few side quests available, random events triggered and a few favors to complete for people, but they get old quick and very few are actually fun. As far as the gameplay is concerned, Sleeping Dogs does one thing very well : hand-to-hand combat. Apparently influenced by some Tony Jaa's movie, the melee combat system is excellent, one of the best I've experienced in a non-fighting game except maybe for the Arkham franchise. But I have to say some of the in-combat QTE prompts weren't as sharp as I would have hoped, making for a few frustrating encounters. You have two kinds of experience points for the missions throughout the game : triad and police. Both will net you new skills as you reach levels depending on how badass you were (triad) or how well-behaved you were (police). There's also a "Face Meter" which fills up and levels up as you do favors for people. It's pretty much useless from a story standpoint, but it does let you buy better cars and "cooler" clothes. Overall I'd say it's a very good game. Certainly it's not as deep and complete as Grand Theft Auto IV, but the interesting story and melee combat system make it an enjoyable experience.

While playing Sleeping Dogs, I also finished a PSN game with an amazingly inefficient, yes still kinda funny, name : Bit.Trip presents Runner2 : Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. As it names suggests, it's an endless runner, meaning the character goes forward (in this case he goes right as it's a side-scroller) automatically and you have to jump, slide, attack or block to evade incoming obstacles and make it to the end untouched, or you'll have to restart (there's a least one checkpoint midway through every level). I think it's some kind of achievement when you can include a start-the-level-over feature in a game, yet still make it very enjoyable. It'll make you come back for more as you hunt for "Perfect"(collecting all golds in a level) and "Perfect+" scores (all golds + hit the target's bullseye at the end). It's also a great game for gamers who enjoy high scores, leaderboards and the sorts. Superb game all-around.

The "biggest" news of the past few months (since last entry) is me selling my Xbox 360 to buy a Nintendo 3DS and Ocarina of Time 3D. I just wasn't playing anything on the 360 except Forza Horizon (and Gran Turismo 6 is coming.), so I figured I should sell it for another console.

I hesitated about buying a Wii U instead of a 3DS, but it'll have to wait since there are not enough games just yet (Only two come to mind. Yikes...) to justify a 350$ hole in my budget. Anyway, I just started OoT3D but I won't be writing about it just yet. I also bought classic SNES game Chrono Trigger for the DS to play on my new 3DS. In fact, that game could have made the "Best Games I've Never Played" feature, but it won't! I'm 2 hours in and enjoying myself a lot. I usually don't love turn-based combat, but this one is fluid enough to keep things interesting. Great stuff so far!

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