I’ve been trying to concentrate on just a few games at a time, now that I don’t have to push reviews out the door any more. It’s been great. In a year and a half, I had almost forgotten what it feels like to really get into a game. My gaming goals had shrunk down to counting my Achievements, with no real perspective on what I was experiencing. I often went through two to four games per week. The worst feeling was when I got to play something very cool and interesting, and just could not throttle back and take it in properly.
It’s great to be able to game without analyzing. Sure I’m always taking a step back, simply because I chat about games all day at work and need to be able to discern what we should learn from, but since I don’t have to write about them and grade them anymore, it does allow me to just enjoy myself, with no thought on whether this is two-star or three-star enjoyment. I still blog about games that make me think of something I think is worthwhile. Of course, that also makes writing about the games that much more enjoyable.
So what have I been playing for the past month?
Over the Christmas holidays I completed Gears Of War. It was disappointing, really. The graphics are indeed hot even to this day, but man, the level design and combat got really old by the end. It’s telling that I can’t recall how it all ended as by the time the game was done, I was too worn out to care, I just wanted it to be over with. Against this background, the fact that it failed to award me the Achievements for completing Act three and the whole game is a bit much. I’m planning to play through the sequel in co-op at the office, everyone’s saying it’s actually much better and not just because it’s very pretty. (I have played Horde already, it’s ace.)
More recently I finished up Penny Arcade Adventures Episode One. Good game, I will check out the sequel. Next I’m probably off to finishing Rez or checking out the new Tomb Raider.
I haven’t got much time on the Xbox as my wife’s been heavily into the Xbox Live Arcade board games, most recently Ticket To Ride. It’s a good version of the original.
One game we played together is Interpol. It’s a pixelhunt which tests your memory by asking you to point out given items from detail-ridden still images. It is strangely compulsive – we played it for a whole Saturday. My wife is currentlyin the top ten in the worldwide all-time leaderboard. I am so proud! The one negative I can think of is that the stupid story is worthless and manages to be on the way a bit, even though it’s mercifully skippable.
I have agreed to play through Kane & Lynch in co-op with a friend, as well. It’s something I’m looking forward to quite a bit, actually.
This weekend I’ve been sweating my way through Resident Evil 4 on the PS2, which I never completed. Naturally the arrival of the Resident Evil 5 demo prompted this comeback. After the initial shock of looking at a standard definition, last-gen 3D world (what bothers me the most? The blurry HUD), it’s still a great game. Surely no one does bosses better than Capcom – usually I’ve been within an inch of death and on my last clip of ammunition on my weakest gun when I prevail. I’m escorting the girl currently, and even that is fun gameplay, not an annoyance.
As an isolated moment of brilliance, the collectible bottle caps with the game’s character figurines on them, complete with their thin plastic toy voices (“Leon! Help me!”), were entirely unexpected. I hope to complete it shortly, then it’s on to maybe Okami. Or Final Fantasy XII. Or Transformers. Or…
On the PS3, I’ve been playing Fallout 3. I had to start over due to switching to a new PS3 and the game’s saves being corrupted in the process. Unexpectedly, it’s been better on the second way through. I haven’t had to repeat anything and even the actual scenes I’ve revisited, I have solved differently.
I hit level 13 last week and began to feel a bit bored, what with my character easily able to take down anything up to super mutant behemoths without fear of much anything. Then I upped the difficulty level and it’s like I was in my first steps again. Wholly welcome, now it’s thrilling and dangerous again and I’m getting more experience points for my trouble! Of course it would be preferable if I didn’t have to play with the difficulty settings to make it enjoyable, but I’m not really complaining. I am pretty sure I’ll complete the game.
Then it’s on to maybe Dead Space or Far Cry 2. Of course Killzone 2 is right on the horizon, as well, and Play has it on for an agreeable pre-order price. I’m looking forward to it mostly due to the fantastic art direction and the fact that apparently Guerrilla has shattered everyone’s expectations.
Dawn Of War’s single player campaign on the PC as the Space Marines was a great ride, upping the intensity and options just right, all the way to the final encounter with a Chaos Daemon. I went straight into the Winter Assault expansion, eager for some grunt management with the more numerous, but weak Imperial Guard troopers. It started off strong, but I’m now halfway through and beginning to have doubts. Swapping with the Eldar back and forth and all the ferrying of troops via tunnels and warpgates (in the Eldar’s case, ferrying their buildings, as well), and throwing these huges armies of the Guard and the Orks at each other… it just gets to be a bit much, with the fighting taking a backseat to playing a glorified taxi driver. I guess I’m looking for more structure and planning, whereas it’s starting to feel like grunt rushes. At least the scenarios are interesting and hey, who doesn’t love a Baneblade? Also, I’m currently defending a fallen Titan and trying to wake it up! The stuff of legends, surely. My next PC project is perhaps Dawn Of War II, even though the multiplayer beta didn’t excite me all that much.
Customer experience, done right
How come I’ve been spending this much time on the PC, you ask? I got Dawn Of War off of Steam, and Steam on the whole has been very, very good to me. It is precisely the experience I want as a customer. Along with Steam and the excellent Good Old Games, I can’t see myself picking up boxed PC games anymore. Both stores feature ridiculous weekend deals which you basically need to check out.
If you haven’t been to Good Old Games, do yourself a favor and go see them. They have an expanding library of the better PC games of yesteryear, updated to run on modern computers, with no DRM, for a low, low price.
Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do. I did like being able to log onto Games For Windows Live with my (Xbox) Live Gold account, but I did not particularly like the way it automatically logged out my Xbox 360 account at the same time. If you want me to play on your terms and your playground, you’ve got to stop shutting the door in my face.