Rest and relaxation

It’s been a hard couple of weeks at work. I haven’t had time to play games, really, and I’ve been so tired that the brain hadn’t really worked for the last day at work. However, I took last weekend out of the schedule and just laid down on the sofa for two days, watching bad movies and playing videogames. It was sweet.

I played some single-player Flatout, Halo 2, Gladius and Advance Wars DS. I completed the Advance Wars campaign. I can’t applaud the game enough, it’s very good indeed. The difficulty was just about perfect, even though the AI does not convince. I don’t see how I could’ve beaten some of the harder missions against a human player.

I’ve mentioned Flatout before, but now I got down to playing it solo. It’s just very enjoyable, although the difficulty is a bit too high. Not devastatingly so, but enough to probably frustrate quite a few people. I’d prefer all games to be like Burnout 3, where any beginner with a pad can complete the races, but it takes effort to score well. Still, the physics-powered racing with beat-up cars in really atmospheric, run-down tracks is something of a unique experience. Much of it is down to the handling model, which differs considerably from the car game norm, but I’d say it’s for the best.

I haven’t played Halo 2’s singleplayer campaign until now. I played it in co-op for a couple of days, which didn’t quite convince me to buy the game. The single-player fares a little better, but I’m afraid it just doesn’t get up to the sublime levels of the original game. Part of it is down to the inconsistent technical quality: there’s pop-up, flickering, disappearing models, missing textures, shaky physics and so on. Bumpmaps are overused. Then there’s level design: the environments are somewhat cluttered. They don’t feel like the finely crafted arenas of the first game. Then there’s the story – while I’m nowhere near finished with it, I really dislike its dual-nature, especially regarding the protagonist.

Regardless, it’s a blast, but not as much as Halo was. The third instalment is eagerly awaited, make no mistake, and there have been plenty of really standout moments already. The actual grind of the moment-to-moment gameplay just doesn’t feel as satisfactory.

The weekend’s real champion comes in the guise of Gladius. It was little noted when it came out, despite scoring a respectable 80% on Metacritic. I’m into tactical battles and Gladius really rubs me in a good way. Good production values don’t hurt, and it looks like the game also puts up a fight. Still, progress could be faster; now it feels like an hour’s worth of playing doesn’t do much to your fighter school’s progress. The 3D models, animation and texturing aren’t anything noteworthy, but it’s all solid and the overall feel is elevated greatly by the careful animation of the character’s faces. The actual combat is a little slow and the menus are cumbersome. Otherwise a great experience so far, and highly recommended to all attracted to, well, turn-based gladiatorial combat! I know it grabbed my wife for the whole of Sunday. She hasn’t gamed six hours straight since last summer. I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not, but it was great to see her really get into a game.






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