As For The Launch Titles

I have now tried Project Gotham Racing 3 and Perfect Dark Zero, both launch titles for the 360.

Project Gotham Racing 3 didn’t make much of an impression: it’s just as good as I thought it would be, no surprises there. On a standard-definition 4:3 CRT TV, the graphics don’t seem much better than on the original game on the Xbox. But the in-car view is excellent, the presentation is flawless, the cars handle well… this is very likely the one car game you need in your 360 library. Of course, the take on the car theme is very different from Need For Speed, and I don’t see them as competitors.

Perfect Dark Zero, Rare’s much-lamented 360 launch title, was something of a surprise for me. No, it’s not the Halo-killer it was set up to be, but I really can’t find reason for the kind of beating it’s taken in the gamer community.

The demo is good fun, presented very well indeed, it looks nice and plays well. Sure, it’s basic FPS action with secret agent overtones, but I don’t see anything wrong with that. The Live gamemode Dark Ops feels like a lot of fun, too.

There are plenty of nice touches. The comic book -like character design is cool, and they blend with the game’s (excellently) ragdoll-powered ultraviolence in a fine manner. The way the enemies’ body armor blows off as if launched by springs when shot is very satisfying.

Seeing that PDZ’s being sold for last-gen prices just about everywhere, I might have to pick one up.

As a sidenote, Quake 4 did not pass the demo test. It’s Doom 3, only without the pacing, the design aesthetic, the mood or the technical flair. I do not expect to see an Xbox-engine creak and stutter this way on the 360. Bleugh.

Xbox Live Arcade continues to be the main use for our 360. Yes, Hardwood Hearts and Geometry Wars, on a 500€ console. Forget about the processing power, the real generation leap is the Live connectivity.

Speaking of Live, Live Anywhere could be a really neat thing, once it matures. No, I don’t need to see what my friends are playing at this very moment once I’m on the go myself, but if I could, say, manage my character’s shopping while in commute, that could be cool.

Last night and this morning I’ve played some Total Overdose, an Xbox title that came and went with little fanfare. It’s good fun: basically Max Payne in Mexico, with more fun and less plot. The developers give me what I need, including instant access to missions via a menu, available at any time, without wandering aimlessly on the GTA III -alike map. There are cutscenes, but they can be skipped, as I have done. Needless to say, the plot is so basic that you get the hang of it regardless.

I find I’m having little patience for crappy stories these days. If you want to force-feed me a storyline in a game that doesn’t need one, at least either make it entirely skippable or integrate it into the gameplay in a way that doesn’t hamper my playing.

Car games don’t need storylines. Why do gunplay games need one? The Rainbow Six series are a fine example of what’s wrong: these games consist of separate scenarios, in which you kill terrorists. There is no need for a story, indeed, it takes away from the suspension of disbelief as you have to accept that there’s this global terrorist conspiracy with hundreds (thousands) of members you take down in successive missions. Please, cut the crap and pass the ammunition.

I really like Max Payne 2’s storytelling, but it just doesn’t cope with replay. I want to play out the action scenes again, not take in the storyline all over again. There’s the survival gamemode, but it’s not the same. Give me a separate story mode if I’m into that kind of thing and you really deem it necessary – otherwise, please, just the gameplay, in a separate “arcade” mode if need be.

For a positive example, Doom 3 does this well. There’s a story of sorts, but it really never gets in the way of playing the game. You can view the story bits in audio logs and diaries when you want to, but there’s no need to do that. The setup is so simple that the level design and the mission prompts tell you all you need to know. There are cut scenes, but they’re short and they don’t really force any bad drama on you: they’re there just to show you what’s going on.






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