Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the second-last blog post about games for this year. I've decided I'll do a separate blog post on the tragedies and successes of the year on the business and legal side of gaming. People want to hear about games, and no point flustering them with stuff they don't care about. So I present to you, part four!
Before Christmas is definitely the most exciting for us gamers. The biggest releases of the year are expected to come out, and developers bank on the holiday shopping season for a majority of their revenue. Without Christmas, gaming may not even exist. So, to be grateful to the government for making this a holiday (my opinion on religion is an entirely separate blog post), I will now talk about games released in October and do November in a later blog post. It's a rare case to see a noteworthy title released in December.
The first game on the docket was a successful reboot a franchise desperately needed. And it seemed to work out well. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is its own game in many regards, but shares some key similarities with previous Castlevania games. Exploration is a legendary concept for this franchise and LoS has a lot of it. There's ample opportunity - and reward - for going back through the grueling puzzles to collect necessary upgrades for combat later on. The game will punish you in the later levels if you don't explore, especially with the great combat system on par with God of War 3. The combat system here takes what makes God of War 3 made great, and gives it a twist - the use of a shade system. Shadow and Light serve different purposes with each combo, and learning the effect of each is essential to being successful in game. The wide variety of combos gives the player an option to mix up battle stances a bit. For the very passionate fans of this franchise, this game is a worthy treat. The story, including the ending, caught me by surprise - and I expect more surprises if I ever get around to the downloadable content coming out next year. Honestly, and also a surprise to many people, this is the first Castlevania game I have ever played for more than ten minutes; the other one was Castlevania 64. Ten minutes into trying it, the console I was playing on crapped out. I took it as a sign.
People have come out and said the single player experience is dying; I have to disagree wholeheartedly. One studio has been making great games entirely meant for a great story - gameplay comes second. Not that Ninja Theory's games are terrible, but some feel their games are too easy. This is especially the case with their release this year, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The premise is an apocalypse has happened, and two prisoners must venture to California. The combat here is beyond easy; you'll die once or twice and that's only because you'll forget to watch your health bar. Otherwise the story is what matters here - like the studio's other games, it is engaging and at the end I felt a small sense of accomplishment. Play this if you want great voice acting, believable characters and some humourous glitches that see Monkey disappear entirely within a cutscene. Just one thing: does someone at Ninja Theory have a thing for redheads?
Beards. In the month of November, these facial beasts were grown and shaved, to the delight of same and the dismay of others. One game, though, pushed the envelope of beard epicness. The beard is what people talked about when the cover was shown. It was just so... awesome. Too bad the game wasn't up to snuff. Another reboot this year, Medal of Honour followed suit with its own rendition of how they interpret modern warfare. Instead of a fictionalized war, this takes place in Afghanistan - where we all know what is currently taking place there. The game itself isn't bad - if other modern warfare games weren't released this year, MoH would be a quality game. The issue lies with how similar it is - or dissimilar it's trying to be - from Black Ops and Bad Company 2. To the game's credit, EA employed DICE to work on the game's multiplayer. This game, right now, is completely overshadowed by Bad Company 2: Vietnam and Call of Duty. There isn't much left to do with the modern warfare genre, and I can't blame EA for trying to capitalize on the trend with an established franchise - what studios refuse to believe is that CoD can't be beat. With a short campaign, limited multiplayer modes and the growing tediousness of the modern warfare genre, MoH was lost in the grind and even an epic beard can't save it.
Nintendo is legendary in the industry for its great franchises and fans of these franchises were spoiled in 2010. Both Other M and Super Mario Galaxy 2 were successful, both in reviews and sales, and Nintendo should be commended. Another franchise had gone missing for a couple years, but came back this year with something special, Kirby's Epic Yarn. This game has to be the cutest game I've ever seen. I'm not usually one for having a soft spot for games, but one can't deny how truly unique this game is. Both Good-Feel and HAL did a hell of a job and I can't wait to see what they do for a sequel (please make a sequel). I really want to play this game, and I have ever since it debuted at E3. There's just been too many other releases this year and sadly it got lost in the fray. My reason is obviously not justifiable, but I promise I will get around to it eventually. I want to play as a tank made of yarn! What the two studios have done with this game is so pretty and so unique that a few gaming publications gave it graphics of the show at E3. And I can't blame them. Usually it would go to how realistic a game looks, but rarely does a treat like Epic Yarn come by and steal the hearts of all. A common theme with Nintendo's releases, especially this year, has been a massive focus on gameplay and story has been set aside. This game is no different and it's an experience all in itself. Kirby loses his ability to suck in enemies since everything is made of yarn, including himself, but he can transform into anything given the situation. Epic Yarn is the second-best game for the Wii released this year, behind SMG2, and should not be denied by the Nintendo faithful.
Two wasteland games in the same blog post. Who would've thought this could happen? One was purely meant for the story while the other is about slaughtering things and being absorbed into a very diverse yet glitchy world. With games set in southern California and Washington, D.C., Vegas seemed like an appropriate location. Obsidian certainly had fun making New Vegas and that is shown with the huge variety of quests and how obscure some of these are. You play as the Courier, a person carrying an important package. In the opening sequence, you get shot in the head and are left for dead. Recovered by a suspicious robot, the Courier must find out what the package was and how it could affect the ultimate conclusion: the battle for Hoover Dam. The story is secondary here - it is more about what Fallout does great: exposing the player to a massive and diverse world with colourful characters and a multitude of quests to tackle. One thing new is just known as Hardcore mode - where hunger, thirst and lack of sleep have an effect and may lead to death. This mode does a great job in really making you feel like you're in a wasteland and not a god like in previous installments. The first downloadable episode was just released called Dead Money; I haven't played it yet, but I do plan to someday, so I think I'll write a review for it. Fallout: New Vegas is "bigger and more badass" as CliffyB would say compared to the Washington adventure, and Vegas is given its own identity. It's a journey to get to the city itself, even though you can see in the distance from Goodsprings (the starting town). A massive patch was recently released promising to fix the constant issues. I haven't played Vegas in a while and I will try it out soon. Should you gamble on Vegas this holiday season? (Yeah, I went there).
Sega was once a prominent player in the industry, but after the failure of the Dreamcast the publisher went into disarray. Conceding defeat, they have played an important role as a publisher and benefitted greatly this year. Their exclusive partnership with Platinum Games still makes them relevant - something the company desperately needs - and as long as Platinum keeps spitting out good games, Sega is smiling. Hot off the developer's success early in the year with Bayonetta, a completely different game hit shelves. Vanquish, a game where the Russians are the bad guys (that's all that's needed), is a Gears of War game on crack. This game is explosively fast-paced; even blinking may cause your character to perish. The game was received favourably and the game was universally praised for its gameplay; the one concern I had was the length. Game Informer said this game could be completed in four hours or less. And there is no multiplayer option. The gameplay wouldn't really work for multiplayer, but Platinum could have included at least a co-op mode to increase the lifespan of the game. For the time you play it's a roller coaster ride but after the ride is done, it's disappointing. I'm not saying a short game is necessarily a bad thing, but if Platinum wants me to pay $60 for something they make, that's a big commitment especially in tough economic conditions. I have faith that if there is a Vanquish 2, or if Platinum comes out with another shooter, they will learn from the criticisms and make the game ten hours or longer. And maybe even include multiplayer! (Bayonetta 2, even though we know it's coming, is a fine substitute).
Oh PETA. So misinformed. I'm not here to demean organizations that say they serve a great purpose, but I can make fun of them for their lack of research. In a publicity stunt either out of boredom or to stay relevant, they made several parodies of games this year. Mario was one of those. I don't know why, I've been tirelessly trying to find why, but one studio is definitely not complaining. In fact they had the last laugh. The most frustratingly addicting game I've ever played, Super Meat Boy cannot be explained. It's a phenomenon all to itself and it prides itself on this fact; the game is truly unique. An arcade platformer, the player plays at Meat Boy himself, trying to save his love Bandage Girl from the evil Dr. Fetus. Yes, an evil fetus. Since this is an arcade game, it is relatively cheap, and worth your buck. There are so many levels to play and with a level editor coming to PC/Mac in January, that's just more incentive to play. Fans of the game have found a secret level editor anyway locked away in the code, but the level editor coming is an official mode. The game is being constantly supported with new content from Team Meat and there are so much stuff to unlock. The game will force you to rage the entire time you play, this is almost a guarantee; controllers will be thrown. Why I mentioned PETA is because they made a game called "Super Tofu Boy" which we talked about on my podcast (belowradarpodcast.podbean.com). Basically, you play as Tofu Boy trying to save Bandage Girl from a jilted Meat Boy. PETA did this because they thought it promoted something that are so fiercely against, but they were wrong: Meat Boy himself isn't made of meat, he is just a boy without skin. Team Meat actually added Tofu Boy as a playable character for the PC version of the game; to unlock him, all you do is type in "petaphile" on the character selection screen. How awesome is that?
I am quite pissed at LucasArts right now. They have done some great things in the past, and will continue to in the future, but the lack of a certain game has me raged. Even more than when I played Super Meat Boy, and that is something to accredit them for. Arguably the most anticipated fictitious game out there - Battlefront 3 needs to be made. Not the crap game that came out this year, the Force Unleashed 2. The first one was terrible - too short, gameplay rather stale, and the story was nothing special. The second game tries too hard to be a good game. And it's not a good game. It is far from, actually. The sequel is still too short, the gameplay is still rather stale, and the story is still nothing special. How this series has sold so much is beyond me - probably just the power of the Star Wars name working its magic. The new head at LucasArts publicly said the third game was to be canceled, but then reports contradicted that saying it was on track for a 2012 release. I am pleading to LucasArts right now to release Battlefront 3 and appease the growing number of us who are pissed at you. We are really pissed. Pissed I tell you.
So that's it! This blog post is getting rather long so I'll do one for just October and move onto November tomorrow. Have fun, drive safe (although you shouldn't be reading this while you're driving), and get as drunk as you can! Not that I am promoting drunkenness, of course.