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Retroactive Posts: Spring Rundown 2012

May 8, 2013

(Originally posted on May 27th, 2013)

I’ve been working 40 hours a week lately, and when not at work I haven’t felt like writing anything up here, so here’s a quick rundown of everything I’ve been playing (or have played through) and some thoughts and opinions about them. We’ll start with more recent stuff first.

Diablo3BoxArtDiablo 3:

What’s good about it?-  The game oozes Blizzard quality. While it doesn’t do anything especially new or groundbreaking by terms of gameplay, what’s there is the best you could ask for for the genre.

Loot scales with difficulty, and while to level past ~lvl 30 you must replay the same content, the added challenge of tougher enemies, randomly generated content, as well as aforementioned higher quality loot, ensures the game feels fresh and interesting.

Hopping into previous chapters to farm particular sections is a breeze.

The double-edged sword of Battle.net allows you to join your friends or just see what they’re up to with the utmost ease.

What’s bad about it?- The always-online requirement of Battle.net asks that you be connected at all times. Unlike Blizzard’s recent release of Starcraft 2 which used the same system, in Diablo 3 there isn’t even a “Play Offline” option for when your internet cuts out. Playing single player and hitting spurts of lag sucks. Hard.

If you’re story oriented, playing with random folks or anyone who tends to spam Esc with reckless abandon can lead to missing out on story beats, so it’s recommended (if you’re into the story) to either find a like-minded friend, or play through once by yourself.

On harder difficulties, named spawn mob packs become harder than Act end bosses to down, and also have a higher chance of dropping good loot, which seems a little strange, but considering how easy it would be to simply reload the chapter containing the Act end boss to kill them repeatedly to get the good loot, I suppose this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

If I had to give it a rating?- 4 out of 5. It’s a sliver short of a perfect score, and only because I predict future frustrations of stormy weather and no internet where I’ll be dying to play some Diablo 3.

Other thoughts- The game has sucked somewhere in the ballpark of 45 hours from me since last Thursday (and keep in mind I work 40 hours a week). When I picked it up, I basically sat and played through normal difficulty in ~14 hours that night. Not many games can manage to hold my attention for that amount of time, and not many games are hard for me to find something to bitch about. By terms of gameplay design, Diablo 3 is perfect.

maxpayne3_coverart2Max Payne 3:

What’s good about it?- Exceedingly high production values. Everything from the graphics engine, to the animation, to the soundtrack, weapon reports and voice acting seeps quality.

Bullet-dodging, while ineffective more often than not, is just as satisfying as it was in Max’s hay day.

The game progresses through a wide variety of expansive (while linear), meticulously detailed environments with collectibles to find and the occasional person to talk to.

Excellent implementation of bullet time in multiplayer, where anyone caught in the line of sight of someone else in bullet time is thrust into it as well.

What’s bad about it?- Max is incredibly fragile, and while this was the case in the earlier games as well, there were no where near as many enemies vying to end you in those games as there are in this one. The enemies are great shots too, so you’ll find yourself in cover far more often than you’d like.

Which is another thing, the cover system. While it works well enough and its purpose isn’t lost by any stretch, when I think “Max Payne”, a cover system is the last thing on my mind. There will be periods in which your cover can be destroyed in front of you, causing you to need to relocate, but the vast majority of the time you’re able to safely sit behind a wall and poke up to pick off enemies in relative safety. Making Max Payne a cover based shooter wasn’t what it needed.

The game has very uneven difficulty spikes, usually due to the amount of enemies it tosses at you. If there are 3-4, you can feel pretty confident in coming out relatively unscathed. In later sections of the game, however, where there are what seems like 10 or more bullet-vested grunts flanking and gunning for you, the game becomes infuriatingly difficult. I must have died far more times while playing Max Payne 3 than I did playing Dark Souls. They’re two completely different types of games, yes, but when someone thinks of Dark Souls, they think of difficulty. Dark Souls doesn’t have shit on Max Payne 3.

The story, while gritty and dark as it may be, isn’t about Max Payne at all. He’s instrumental in the way it plays out, sure, but if you had replaced Max with any other dark and grizzled video game hero, it would have been the exact same experience. There’s no further insight into Max’s past, and there are only brief mentions of the goings-ons of the previous games. The story also isn’t told with a graphic novel narrative, and while the super glitched out style of the cutscenes found here is stylish, it doesn’t scream to me “you’re playing a Max Payne game”.

The multiplayer is incredibly generic by today’s standards. The gunplay is serviceable, and the character creation and loadout customization is detailed and well done, but when it comes down to it, Max Payne 3’s multiplayer is just yet another shooter with a unlocks/progression system. The gametypes are either standard stuff you’d find in other shooters (Payne Killer is Juggernaut from Halo, Gang Wars is a round based alteration of the Killzone 2-3 multiplayer).

If I had to give it a rating?-  As an action game I’d give it 3 out of 5. As a Max Payne game? I don’t want to think about it. It’s tough to say that, because the game IS a quality release. You can tell by playing it that the team looked at the earlier entries in the series and wanted to do a modern take on those, but the sad truth of it is that you can toss as much time and money as you want at making a modern video game; sometimes the finished product simply isn’t a good time.

Other thoughts- I think Max Payne should lay low for awhile. Remedy no longer holds the IP, so the prospect of the creators of the franchise coming back and making a true sequel is sadly just a waning thought.  Rockstar gave it their all, and they have a beautiful, excellent sounding product to show for it, but it simply isn’t the sequel I was expecting.
If you want a quality Max Payne experience, play through the first two games again. They’re dirt cheap nowadays.

From → Games

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