From the trenches

Gratuitous Space Battles

I’ve been playing quite a bit lately, but nothing in the lot has really ignited me enough to write about it. It does feel like a shame to not at least note down what these games are, if only for the fact that they’re worth playing.

007 Blood Stone

Bizarre’s possibly last game is a great Bond experience. It falls short of being a great game, if you take out the Bond trappings – actors, writers, plot, and the best action sequences from the past two movies. But those trappings are there and you know you love them if you’re playing this game in the first place. I enjoyed my two nights with this game a lot, even though it is rather skinny and even though the driving sequences never shed their trial and error design. A rental, then.

Need For Speed Hot Pursuit

Despite making driving games for a living, I never could get into driving online. It’s such a merciless affair. If you’re not at the top of your game, you’re driving alone and feeling miserable, and if you’re at the top of your game, you’re feeling miserable because the others are not playing along. It’s so easy to spoil the experience for others. Criterion makes Hot Pursuit a close-knit team sport – cops versus racers, contact very much encouraged, a scenario you get immediately. It just works. This is very much the current-gen Burnout I was left wanting in Paradise.

I canceled my Xbox Live Gold account late last year ago due to simply not playing anything online. This is the first game that makes me regret that. Luckily I can always get it for the PS3.

Dawn Of War II

I don’t like real-time strategy. That strikes me as odd when I think about my love for Ground Control, Company Of Heroes, Homeworld and Total War. It’s the old school I can’t stand – Starcraft, Warcraft, Command & Conquer and, yes, Dawn Of War. I’m such a Warhammer geek that I really tried to love the original Dawn Of War, but I couldn’t get past its genre tropes.

Dawn Of War II blows those tropes off their hinges with its carefree marriage of action RPG loot and leveling with RTS mechanics. Its streamlining of the futuristic war machine into just four squads at a time works well, allowing you to concentrate on just one screen’s worth of information at a time, effectively micro-managing your squads. The RPG elements make you intimately familiar with those squads. The plot I couldn’t care about, but my commanders I love.

The Last Stand co-op mode is the only RTS multiplayer mode I’ve played more than once.

Gratuitous Space Battles

I keep coming back to this game whenever I want to play something for under half an hour. You build your space fleet, give it commands and then just watch what happens. It is a thoughtful process as you encounter new scenarios and try to figure out which changes to your so far successful design would see you through.

The new campaign mode adds a lot of challenge and complexity, which I’m not sure I actually like yet. The human authored fleets you’re fighting against seem to be decidedly above my level so far.

Final Fantasy XII

I will finish this jewel of a game. It keeps getting better, the story captivating in its maturity, the mechanics flawless and still deepening, the world breathtaking. If you haven’t played it, it’s worth getting a PS2 for. The visuals absolutely stand up to the best today has to offer despite being last-gen.

Bayonetta

I’m not sure what I think about Bayonetta. I want to love it, but it’s a bit much and I didn’t finish it. Maybe I’m just getting old, my fingers unable to take the beating for more than one level at a time.

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