Archive for July, 2011

Duke Nukem Forever or 15 Years For That?

Posted in Played & Explained on July 27, 2011 by Rabidgames

Good things come to those who wait. Or so they say. We have waited 15 long years. So we should have gotten the best game there is, there was and there ever will be.

In theory.

In practice, we got a game full of amazing ideas, a game you have to love for its stupidity and anachronistic humour. But we also got a game that is technically outdated. Fuck it, if it wasn’t the honourable Mr. Duke Nukem himself, the game would have ended with solid 1 point reviews! For a reason.

See, Rabidgames loved the first hours of Duke Nukem Forever. There were good ideas, there was hilarious action, lots of different sceneries and it was easy to overlook the technical shortcomings. But the first sign of old age (or rather senility?) crept in early in a department where it definitely shouldn’t happen in a shooter: The shoot-outs are crap. They are all the fucking same! You enter a room, the first wave of aliens does the same. You shoot some, get hit and run away to heal. Then it is just rinse and repeat. Wave after, room after room. Add the fact you die after 3 hits while those damn pigs can take way more head shots – and that’s EASY difficulty for you!

One more thing:  The only modernised changes are for the worse: health repletes on its own (pretty standard now, but remember shooters 10 years ago?). Well, it might be a minor change for gameplay’s sake but it definitely takes away the good ol’ “fuck, only 3 health points left” feeling. Second, quick time events. Really? They don’t add anything to the experience. The third, rather Haloesque modernisation is that you have only 2 weapons at once … why? Someone, please, give me one reason to do that! This decision remarkably cripples the fun to be had because Duke Nukem Forever tells you all the time which weapons you have to use in which level – unless you want to keep one useless gun you rarely find ammunition for. Boring.

Speaking of boring: After the first couple of levels, which are genuinely fun (albeit some are just stretched versions of doing the same for 15 minutes, remember mini Duke riding the toy car?) the later levels are outright boring: As soon as you reach Hoover Dam, Rabidgames wondered if the devs ran out of ideas. It all looks, feels and plays the same until the end. Another problem: The boss fights get worse (the first ones are good though). Later on, boss fights are simply set up: Random big guy accompanied by random grunts. Kill grunts, deplete health bar of boss. Ta-da, boss somehow has a second full health bar. I mean, if this happens once in a game, alright, but over and over and over and over again?

Rabidgames says: The acronym actually means “Did Not Finish”. This game makes your heart bleed for two reasons: First, it is incredibly annoying (sometimes the boring kind of annoying, sometimes the pissed kind of annoying) in the latter parts and you really, really hate it! But then again, you also wonder how great it could have been become if just the entire game had been as much fun as the first couple of hours. The Duke may have survived for 15 years, but he has aged a lot. What a shame!

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L.A. Noire or the fine balance between story and gameplay

Posted in Played & Explained on July 7, 2011 by Rabidgames

First of all: It has been said a million times, and Rabidgames will say it again: L.A. Noire is not GTA V, it is not a sandbox game, you cannot shoot civilians on a killing spree, and causing havoc by ramming other cars or pedestrians is only fun for 5 minutes (or more if you decide to hunt a certain achievement respectively trophy).

And yet, it is fun.

However, it is only fun in context. The single aspects of the game are mediocre (driving, chasing thugs on foot) or just good (shooting, searching for clues, interrogating suspects) if you take them out of the bigger picture. It is the overlapping story which succeeds to put all the pieces together. The story starts off really, really slow with seemingly unrelated sequences – but at the end of the game, it all perfectly fits. Once again, Rockstar proves its real strength is story telling. There is plenty of noir in the game as well; the mood is pretty dark (especially if you play the game with the black and white filter – a great option), many serious topics are covered (racism, segregation, treatment of war veterans, drug addiction, corruption) and Mr Phelps hides a dark secret in his soul…

A distinctive trademark, which could be a game breaker for some, is the slow pace of L.A. Noire – one single case usually consists of maybe 1 chase and 1 melee fight or shoot-out; most of the time will be spent by carefully searching crime scenes, connecting evidence by yourself and exposing lies with all those pieces of evidence and carefully observing facial motions. You are forced to relax and think instead of mindlessly pulling the trigger again and again. While Rabidgames hails this change of pace, many people spoilt by video clips and movies with 24757 camera changes in one scene might get turned off a bit. Here’s the thing – if you still like watching Columbo or Dirty Harry, you’ll like L.A. Noire. If you prefer Crank or Daniel Craig’s James Bond however, well, let’s say it might not be your kind of game.

Unfortunately, the experiment, albeit a success, is not a perfect experience. Rockstar’s well known clunkiness in pedestrian movement is still present (or maybe doors should be wider), chases are always completely scripted (up to the point where you cannot hurt perps until a magical checkpoint), and even in a core department of L.A. Noire, there are issues: When interrogating perps, some connections are incredibly far-fetched. And in order to expose an obvious lie, you mostly have to accuse the suspect of lying. You can back out, yes, but that part seems a bit unfinished. And while the facial motion system is stunning, yes, it surely is – after 3 cases, almost all people you interrogate react the same way so it becomes easy to see if they lie. Honestly, there would be no unsolved crimes if lies could be detected that damn easily!

Rabidgames says: Rockstar dares to go an unbeaten path in mainstream games by mixing adventure, interrogations and classic gaming. The real art is making all those fragments work together: Rockstar – and Team Bondi, of course – do this by means of a compelling story glue. While the single elements of the game are not as great as they should have been after such a long time in development, L.A. Noire is still a satisfying experience.