Most of my gaming time recently has been spent playing Lord of the Rings Online, Portal 2 (again) and a little TSW thrown in for good measure. However I have also been spreading the love around a bit and have found time to play a few other games that I wanted to talk about. They have all been out for a while, are all very different, but as usual I've only recently found the time to play them.
First up is XCOM Enemy Unknown, the new version of the classic X-COM. I was a fan of the original all those years ago, and picked up the game on the recommendation of some friends. It certainly manages to evoke the same feeling as the original, and the battles can be tense and nervy, especially when a character you have spent some time building up faces danger.
I like the new two-phase combat model system and the combat cinematics that lend the strategy more of an action feel. The graphics evoke the old game without seeming dated, but are by no means spectacular, apart from some of the lighting effects. The new base-building game is interesting, but ultimately very limited.
I like the game, but it just lacks something. I don't find myself particularly wanting to boot up and play it. I think it's partly down to the incredibly cheesy storyline, delivered by some awful voice-over work, but mainly I think it's because the gameplay seems very repetitive. Each battlefield is pretty much the same as the last, and tactics are limited overall.
I have to admit to being a little disappointed after all the awards and great reviews the game received. I'm sure I'll get round to finishing it eventually, but the fact is I'm enjoying other games instead right now.
Which brings us on to Batman: Arkham City. I picked this up on a whim after seeing the game of the year edition on sale on Steam. I really enjoyed the first game, and in fact after only a short time playing the sequel it was easy to remember why.
This is a good looking (if rather dark) game, with some fantastic animations and an impressively detailed open world setting. The thing that grabbed me initially was the combat, which felt visceral with great feedback. The controls are easy to pick up and within minutes I was knocking seven shades out of gangs of crooks with impressive combo attacks.
As well as the intuitive controls the combat is helped by an incredible animation system that manages to seamlessly move from one context-specific attack to another. It looks and feels perfect and I actually found myself whooping in delight during some of the fights.
The story is pretty interesting too, for a Batman game at least, and the more open world allows you to choose whether to follow the main storyline, take part in various challenges, run side quests or just explore and give criminals a hard time.
The same things that made the first game great are all back (detective mode, the plethora of gadgets, etc) but they are all done better.
The opportunity to play as other characters such as Catwoman and Robin was also very welcome, and each character played very differently to the last, with different styles of combat and different abilities to call on.
The only slight misgiving I have about the game is that some sections are a pain to get through (for example, the flying tests of Ras al-Ghul). These are unskippable sections that have to be completed in order to further the main storyline and are made more difficult by their lack of connection to the rest of the gameplay. There were just a couple of these sections but they did feel like an exercise in perseverance rather than anything else.
That's just a minor quibble though. Arkham City is an amazing game and I can't believe it took me this long to get it.
The final subject of this post is a game I'd heard a whole lot about but had no interest in whatsoever - DayZ, the free zombie apocalypse survival mod for soldier-sim Arma II. I was encouraged to play by a couple of friends, and seeing as one of them gifted me Arma II during a steam sale and the mod itself is free I gave it a go.
So, first impressions were not good. The graphics are fuzzy, the animations awful, the game is difficult with no instructions and a massively steep learning curve. It's also amazing fun and an experience quite unlike anything else with one caveat - you have to play the game with some friends.
Played solo the game can be frustratingly tough, boring, slow and aimless. Played with friends it can be the most fun and intriguing adventure. After just a few days I had a whole slew of stories to tell, all of which had been generated by players rather than the game's storyline (which is non-existent).
There was the time one of my mates killed another player whilst looting a shopping mall. A couple of minutes later there were sirens blaring and a couple of cop cars driven by other players had pulled up outside. "Come out McDinkle, we know you're in there" the tannoy blared. "You'll never take me alive copper!" my mate replied over the in-game local voice channel as he charged out and was gunned down mercilessly.
Then there was the time another friend managed to run over himself in his own truck, breaking his legs in the process. He spent the next three days lost in the woods, unable to walk, and slowly crawling around starving to death whilst trying to avoid zombies. All to the sound of our laughter at his plight over voice-coms.
Oh, and I'll never forget the time a friend and I found some abandoned helicopters outside a small town. I crashed mine into a tree, whilst my friend ejected whilst he was still on the ground. He somehow survived, but the chopper, gathering speed, just rolled down the hill through a horde of zombies and crashed into the wall of a power station. The smoke plume could be seen for miles.
And then there was my visit to a shopping mall for supplies. A friend was driving a Hilux we had mended, and I was in the passenger seat. We avoided the zombies on the outskirts of town and reached our goal just in time for another player to poke his head out of the mall and shoot me right through the windscreen!
All that happened in just my first few sessions and it was so much fun to see how the emergent gameplay and scenarios gave us moments that could never be scripted and will never be repeated. I am now awaiting the standalone DayZ game with baited breath, and hopefully that version will eradicate the cheating that goes on in the mod version.
Right that's all for now. Sorry about the long delay since the last update. I've been distracted due to children with chickenpox and managing to break my toe! I've also been looking to move away from Blogger to Wordpress as part of my ongoing quest to completely ditch anything related to Google. More on that some other time!
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