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So About Them “Videogames”, October 2014

October 16, 2014

おっす! ゲームの時間だ!
One thing I think about quite a bit now having gotten a little older is how I see games now versus when I was a kid.
I feel like I’ve grown into a snobby jerk in a way, especially when it comes to graphics. I care how things look, but when I really think about the information I’m intuiting from the screen in order to do well (or as well as I do) at a game, I don’t really pay that much attention to the graphics.
I’ll save the silly “I only see the code.” Matrix quotes. The best way I can think to explain where I’m coming from would be how before with video games, you had to use your imagination a bit. You would see a couple dots and have to imagine it’s a plane flying through the sky firing square missiles at its enemies, or in earlier shooters the environments may be primitive squares and blocks, but what you imagine is far more detailed.
But now that has reversed. We don’t need to use our imagination anymore, and instead I find myself more focused on finding the visuals that are important in all of the dust and lens flares and any number of things designed to make it difficult to see what you’re doing in order to play the game. In some ways, visuals have become an obstacle.
A good example would be Call of Duty: Ghosts (since that game basically gets everything wrong). The visual lexicon or whatever you’d call it in that game is atrocious. In multiplayer, if a player is standing motionless in the distance, the graphics are so muddled with unnecessary detail, and the player models blend so nicely in with all of that environmental detail, that unless he or she moves, it is practically impossible to tell at a glance that they are there.
I of course don’t want games to become a collection of flat shaded walls and huge neon green player models, but as games become more and more detailed thanks to hardware that has become more and more powerful, from a gameplay perspective, I don’t think better, more realistic graphics are always beneficial.
Anyway… Here’s some of what I’ve been playing:


(Speaking of visuals in games…) When it’s looking its best, the game looks astounding, with some nice, high resolution texture-work, dense, detailed environments and slick lighting, but when it’s looking its worst, Driveclub looks pretty rough. Level of detail pop in, paper models for things like trees in the distance and flat looking terrain. For a game that runs at 30 fps, I feel like the visual trade-off isn’t as jaw-dropping as it should have been, or at least not consistently so.
It’s also a pretty shallow package. You get a Career mode with a tree of events which unlock as you complete the ones prior, and as you progress you will unlock new cars and paint jobs for those cars, but the track selection feels rather limiting, as all of them are the same sort of two lane street courses that feel identical to one another to drive on, but with different visuals.
The handling model is more sim-like than you might find in say, a Need for Speed game, but it’s far more arcadey than you’ll see in something like Forza or Gran Turismo. Your vehicles aren’t likely to spin out if you take a turn while accelerating too aggressively, and in fact, a tap of the hand brake button is often beneficial in whipping your car’s rear around a tight turn.
You gain respect points for running clean lines around the track, doing flashy things like drifting and drafting, and in general, driving well, and these points are what levels you in the progression system and unlocks new cars to drive. It’s great being rewarded for driving well, but this system also penalizes you for driving like an ass, banging into your fellow racers and/or the track itself.
I’m unsure why the game has any sort of penalty system however, because the points that are deducted from your overall respect tally aren’t all that noticeable, and since the rival A.I. is so drone-like, and almost every track is so narrow, contact is often difficult to avoid, and having an A.I. driver slam into your rear, causing you to careen off of the track and take a point/speed penalty is very aggravating.
Race A.I. is always a nightmare. Either you have rubber-banding, and you feel like the other racers are constantly looming around you regardless of how well you’re doing, or you don’t, and every event becomes a Time Trial at a certain point. With Driveclub, it’s the former.
The gist of my feelings for Driveclub are that it’s a perfectly serviceable racing game. The handling model and the track selection cause the game to fail to appeal to my personal simulation or arcade racing tastes, and while the intermittent appearance of one-off challenges laid about the tracks is novel, the act of taking your eyes off of the track and the cars vying for position around you to look at a score to beat and then put your efforts into besting it often leads to mistakes in the race itself, costing positions and potentially the race.
It’s a decent racing game, but it isn’t going to replace all of the other racing series I’ve been enjoying for years now. I’ve put less than a handful of hours into Driveclub, and no part of it is drawing me into playing more.


shadowofmordorbox1Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Assassin’s Creed traversal, Batman combat. If that sounds good to you, you will very likely find some amount of joy in Shadow of Mordor.
What Shadow of Mordor does differently, and what largely drew me into purchasing a copy, is the Nemesis system. Very early on you’re introduced to this system in which you can see the interconnecting hierarchy of the Orcs (or are they… Uruks?) in in the world. If you interrogate pretty much any Orc during combat, you can discover the identity of any enemy in the hierarchy. Interrogate specific Orcs, or sometimes, notes left in the world, and you can learn any enemy’s specific strengths and weaknesses.
Why this is interesting, is because even high ranking enemies in the hierarchy can sometimes be killed instantly by certain means (such as a headshot from the bow), but they could also be immune to say, melee combat damage. This makes it very useful to seek out your enemies and interrogate them to learn what you can before treading into enemy territory.
As time passes, lower ranking Orcs will fill the empty spots in the hierarchy (most commonly left by you taking out the Orc who was previously in that spot), and they will also fight among one another.
They also roam around freely much like you do, which can lead to you stumbling into multiple enemies of varying rank.
It’s a fun system to interact with, and is easily the biggest appeal of the game (which makes the previous generation versions shocking to consider, since they lack this system).
The game on the periphery of the Nemesis system is a pretty typical open world game. You have your Story missions and your Side missions and your collectibles, and while the combat is a ton of fun to participate in, as I happen to have loved the Batman combat quite a bit, and you unlock a good number of unique abilities that make you feel quite powerful, the Assassin’s Creed-esque movement I found to be much less fun. Much of the irritation comes from the control. Holding the X button is how you run, and it is also how you leap up walls to climb. What this leads to is trying to run from enemies, or trying to catch those who are running from you, and accidentally clinging onto everything in sight. It’s a somewhat minor irritation in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a common one nonetheless.
The manner in which it handles failing missions is also a huge bummer, and reminds me of Burnout Paradise (before they later fixed it in a patch), where when you fail a mission, there is no “Retry” option given, so you load back at the nearest tower and are asked to run all the way back to the event in the world to give it another go.
The story and setting are both the typical Lord of the Rings fantasy stuff, which I personally don’t find all that interesting, but it is presented well with some top notch voice acting, music and visuals.
While there have been several new series this year which have seemed much like a proof of concept above anything else, Shadow of Mordor goes to show that you can have your big fancy ideas in your big budget game without the rest of the package suffering because of it.


I have also been tinkering about with WoW’s big 6.0 patch they’ve put out leading toward their release of the new expansion next month, and while there isn’t enough there to keep me interested at the moment, they have made huge changes to the way most classes play. Remember having to download a bar mod before just to be able to cram all of your abilities on the screen? What would you say if I told you that you’d be using no more than ten abilities in the vast majority of your fights, if not half of that?
They’ve updated most of the character models and added some new interface features, but the biggest change for me though; the one that put a smile on my face is the removal of Hit and Expertise stats from the game. (!!!!!!) Gearing up characters is going to be far more exciting now that so much time and effort isn’t spent worrying about actually hitting what you’re swinging at.
Smash Bros. for 3DS is out also, and I’ve put a little bit of time into that, but there really isn’t much to say about it other than it feels a lot like Brawl did. There are cool new surprises in there for those brave enough to play through Classic mode on the hardest difficulty, and there are a couple interesting choices for characters in the roster, but that is largely the same game that preceded it.
Advanced Warfare is out here in a few weeks, so just for the sake of tradition, I may write up a proper review for that, or I may simply talk about it in the monthly article. (A lot of that depends on whether it is worth the effort of writing about it or not. Fingers crossed.)
I’m out for now though! The Fall Anime season is trucking along, and I’m tickled to tears to be able to get back to my backlog. Fun times, they’re ahead of us.

From → Games

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  1. Spitz’s Year End Wrap Up 2014 | Spitz's Soapbox

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