I like games... and tattoos. Yes, those.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Diablo 3 - first impressions

Diablo 3.

We've waited 11 years. Seen countless trailers. Heard countless rumours.

And finally... on May 15th 2012... we went to Hell. Willingly.

But was it all worth it? Honestly? I still have mixed feelings about this. I didn't rush out and buy the game at midnight launch, which turned out to be a good thing as I received it as a birthday present a couple of days later, but in the meantime I was hearing all the Error 37 horror stories abound on the Internet.

When I finally sat down to install it, it was with a mixture of trepidation and delight... who knew what evil programming minions and errors I might encounter?

Surprisingly however, it installed first time, and when I booted up to play, not one error graced my screen (apart from me forgetting my login for my Battlenet account). And the only error I have since received has been when the Battlenet servers went down for maintenance. Irritating certainly but not unexpected.

Moving on however, what were my reactions to the actual game? Well first up, the lack of an offline single player mode is completely ridiculous, and would immediately lower my score of the game if I was actually rating it in this piece. It might not matter to countries where the infrastructure supports continuous high-speed Internet, but in countries like ours where so few have that luxury, it really doesn't work. I'm lucky in this regard, but I'm also not the only one, even with privileged Internet access, that feels this way. Be that as it may, it is something we knew was coming, and we can protest it all we like, but it seems that Blizzard are not about to compromise in any way.

I'm intent on finishing the game's campaign completely alone (without friend co-op) in my first playthrough, because I want a chance to get to grips with my feelings about the game overall without it being clouded by another's perspective. I'm not sure if this is wise or not, but well, there are so many character classes to choose from that I don't forsee this being a problem later on.

Speaking of character classes, I'm playing as a Monk. A female monk, although this isn't usual for me as I normally play as a guy - go figure. I tend to steer clear of magic users overall, and I'm not into religious, self-righteous characters that go around smiting in the name of whichever deity they worship (remember Casavir in Neverwinter Nights? Geez that guy was annoying!). I normally play as a rogue in most RPG's and the Monk to me was the closest I could get to. The complete lack of character customisation did however annoy me, especially since for many gamers, this is such a big part of playing an RPG. Who wants their character to look like everyone else's?

Gameplay wise I'm enjoying Diablo 3 so far. The story is typical of many RPG's - go here, find this, defeat that bad guy, and the isometric camera (which I enjoy) gives you a good view of the battlefield. That said, I'm not really convinced yet that it's a game I'm going to come back to over and over again... For the single player campaign anyway. Maybe that will change as I get further in, and the allure of playing as another character class is always there, but I remain dubious and unconvinced so far.

Of course, I'm not as many hours into this game as say, Yoshichan, who finished it in 12 hours and 29 minutes. Not that I really see the point in rushing to finish a game like this, but hey maybe that's just me...

Anyway, I'll post my final verdict here in a couple of days. Until then, I've got a one way way ticket to Hell...

Ok, not really one way, that just sounded cool.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Video Game Review Show Template

Let's get one thing straight here... I'm not asking this question because I have some big unannounced videogame show I'm not telling you about. If I do - I'll let you know upfront, simple as that.

I'm asking because I recently came across a new Australian videogame show called New Game Plus and was wondering what specifically it was that made it fall flat... It has all the right elements, and maybe it will get better, but it's first episode was definitely sub-par.

And here's why:

  • The intro sequence is all over the place, way too busy and somewhat random.
  • The hosts, who definitely know their stuff I'll give them that, tend to mumble on camera in their studio links and ramble on until I became bored and lost interest.
  • The "studio" segments look like they were shot in someone's lounge. Not the comfortable, "I'm inviting you into my home which is really cool and videogamey" look, but rather the "we're on a budget and couldn't afford a studio" look.
  • The reviews have a host talking over footage, or with a tv playing in the background, but it appears to be a live read (not pre-recorded) and they at times stumble or pause for inordinately long periods of time. Stumbling is fine in a live situation, or when the person is on camera, but not over footage which has no visual reference to the "um, uh" for the viewer.
  • The female host is the mobile reviewer. Because, you know... girls only play mobile and casual games... Barf! Stereotypes people! 
  • Mic's on the outside of their clothes! Seriously? You didn't have one sound person who told you to run that ish inside your t-shirt? That's professional yo...
  • And lastly (that I can think of in retrospect any way) they faded to black while the hosts were still talking. Not rambling on - saying goodbye to the viewers... Fail.

Hopefully New Game Plus will get a bit better - I have only watched the first episode, and I see that there are 3 in total thus far. There's always room for improvement and I'll hold thumbs for them.

Having hosted The Verge, and worked behind the scenes on it for so many years, I know the challenges of producing a show like this, and sometimes you simply cannot please everyone no matter how hard you try.

But, moving on to review shows in general - what is it that a good videogame show should have?

Community links?

Over the years we've tried many things, some of them successful, some not so. But amid the glut of web review shows out there, what makes you sit up and say, "Wow! That's an awesome show!"

Your thoughts?

And while you're thinking about it - Max Payne 3 is released next week. I can't friggin' wait! Going to be dividing my time between that and Diablo 3...

Anyway, here's a pretty trailer. Enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Prototype 2 Review (Radical Entertainment)

Prototype 2 was a game I was incredibly excited about when it was announced, mainly because I felt the first one was extremely underrated. 

The original Prototype was released in 2009 and followed the exploits and subsequent carnage of Alex Mercer, infected by the Blacklight virus which in short, turned him into a supermutant with amazing shapeshifting powers, but which turned pretty much everyone else into zombies.

Prototype was released around the same time as the PS3 exclusive game Infamous, and in many respects was overshadowed by this game which featured a similar superpowered protagonist named Cole. Additionally, Infamous's narrative was vastly superior to that of Prototype's but what many failed to acknowledge was the fact that Prototype was, quite simply - fun.

Yes, I won't deny it - there's nothing quite like plummeting from a forty story building into a crowd of zombies, turning your hands into gigantic blades and then going ballistic slicing them all up in an explosion of gore and body parts.

Somewhat violent? Well, ok yes. But a insanely fun stress reliever of note.

Why am I recapping all this? Well, when Prototype 2 was announced, I salivated in anticipation of what would hopefully be another underrated sleeper hit.

Sadly, I was wrong.

The plot in Prototype 2 centres around James Heller. He is hellbent on avenging his family who were killed during the initial outbreak of the Blacklight virus, and he blames Alex Mercer. Mercer infects Heller with the virus, and of course Heller begins to transform into the same kind of "subject" as Mercer himself.

What is this you ask, ye who hath never played the first game? Well, basically you can (and must to complete certain missions) consume NPC's that contain information you need. Not only do you then have access to their memories, but you can also shapeshift into their form if you need access to restricted areas without raising suspicion. 

An added bonus to this whole shapeshifting thing is that you can unlock and gain powers such as claws, tentacles, blades and so forth which contribute to you becoming a kickass killing machine!

Now that I've made this sound awesome, lets get down to the horrible truth.

Yes, Prototype 2 is, on many levels filled with awesomeness. But on others it just falls horribly short.

Whilst Radical Entertainment has definitely kept the same style as the first game, there is a sense that everything is visually and narratively all rather flat and one dimensional. 

Blood spatter looks like bad particle effects, textures at times look low-res, and whilst the animation, particularly the combat animation is very well executed, there is really a sense that Radical were just going through the motions.

The characters were overly stylised, particularly in contrast to the flashback and memory cutscenes which are superbly produced, often featuring real footage.

Additionally the story is largely irrelevant. To be fair, this was much the same in the first game, which is perhaps why Infamous crept out ahead upon their release. This time around however I had somehow hoped that the writers might take up the challenge and produce a game that not only entertained us with it's somewhat mindless combat, but which also stimulated out love of storytelling and provided us with a reason to engage further in the Prototype universe.

Ok, so the story isn't so great, but the combat must be awesome right? Wrong again.

Gameplay wise it thankfully doesn't let you button bash, but the controls are also not as nuanced as many other games of this genre. To harp on the same point when it comes to Infamous's sequel, Infamous 2, the combat isn't as quick and exhilarating but it makes for a more precise and satisfying experience.  

Prototype's controls feel a little more rough around the edges, and the movement, whilst animated smoothly, is somewhat imperfect and lacking in control.

Prototype 2 is enjoyable but sadly infinitely forgettable. If you need to zone out a little and have some fun, well look no further, but once something better comes along (and with May being such a big release month that situation is fast approaching!) don't expect to return to this one any time soon.

And on that note, sit back and enjoy this rather fantastic Prototype 2 film, that a little birdie told me was filmed in Joburg... 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tim Hulme and Natasha Kruger Brilliance

This isn't strictly game related, but hey, it's my blog and I can write what I like!

I recently embarked on a rather interesting project with some friends in the fashion/beauty/television industry, the amazing photographer Tim Hulme and a good friend and fantastic makeup artist Natasha Kruger. Although we still haven't put the full project together, the first round of photos is ready, and I must say I am blown away by how spectacular they look.

Here's just one of the amazing images by a talented team.

Reviews in various places

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have heard that I'm not only writing an opinion column for NAG Magazine now, but also for Gamecca Magazine, as well as the gaming and tech website Girl Guides.

Head on over to the latter two (both online) to find my reviews of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Catherine and Silent Hill: Downpour.