Archive for October, 2012

Dishonored or Of Freedom and Irony

Posted in Played & Explained with tags on October 31, 2012 by Rabidgames

It seems like a paradox: Dishonored is not a ‘classic’ open world game in the veins of GTA or Skyrim, and yet it is – at least – one of the best sandbox games released in this generation. After the prologue and a rather conventional prison break, you are free to do things in any way you want. Alright, even the prison break gives you some options: Open fights, silent assassinations, knocking guards out without killing them, or avoiding any confrontation completely by simply sneaking around it – the choice is yours.

Later on, some magic happens, literally. Dishonored gives you only a handful of magical options you can acquire via finding runes, and at first glance, teleportation (aka blink), slowing respectively stopping time or a windblast don’t sound that great – but combine them, and you’ll have lots of fun. Try the combination blink, slow time, kill enemy who instantly burns to ashes (another awesome ability) … great fun! Or what about stopping time in a fight, possessing a guard and positioning him in front of his own bullet? Yes, you have less powers than in Skyrim for instance, but the combination of them leaves room for a lot of experimenting with bodies as your just reward.

To top all of this, Dishonored grants you the freedom over life and death: You can complete the game without killing anyone (and there are no stupid boss battles which break the immersion, dear Deus Ex: Human Revolution). There’s always a nonlethal way to take out another piece out of this Victorian game of chess. And the freedom does not stop here: The levels themselves are designed in a way that there are almost always at least two ways to reach your destination – and that’s only counting the architecture in Dishonored, not the various ways to sabotage equipment that kills your enemies or possessing rats or humans. Each level also features some side missions, lots of loot and collectibles to find and many books and notes to immerse yourself into Dishonored dystopian Victorian world.

Speaking of the world, it’s a job well done. Imagine electricity through whale oil, a deadly rat plague on the streets of your industrialised capital city and a police state that kills first and asks later. That’s Dishonored for you. A dark place where hope is lost – and it is up to you to reclaim it the way you see fit. However, your actions will have consequences – the more you kill, the higher your chaos rating, and the darker Dunwall will become. People around you will slowly start fearing you – or admiring you which feels even worse. The levels themselves will change according to your actions as well: Low chaos means less guards, less rats and less infected people. High chaos means more bodies to wade through.

One thing Dishonored does extremely well is presenting the characters and the world: No, Rabidgames does not need an explanation for everything. Think about the first Mass Effect – the Reapers were a mysterious threat beyond our comprehension (and not just Quarian vs Geth conflict on a galactic scale). Yes, we need a bit of that in each game! Dishonored gets it right – you’ll never get to know if protagonist Corvo Attano is really the father of the heiress to the throne, you never learn the motivation of the mysterious outsider who grants chosen ones magical powers: Is he the devil? An ancient whale god who seeks revenge for the slaughter of the intelligent animals? Does he want chaos or balance? And why is he highly amused if Corvo does not kill his prey? Above all, can we trust him? We don’t get a definite answer, we can only speculate.

Story-wise, Dishonored is just a story of a disgraced, pardon, dishonored royal bodyguard blamed for the assassination of the empress of a Victorian yet whale oil exploiting empire – at first glance. The game makes it pretty clear everyone has had good intentions at some point, but most of those guide you to the road to hell. And yet, the real strength is in the presentation of the story – even if you saw it coming, you still want to punish those bastards.

Dishonored’s narrative pace is also close to perfection: In your first playthrough, you sense some twists. You know the loyalists are not the knights in shining armour they pretend to be. But you don’t know when they’ll strike against you. After your first playthrough (Rabidgames chose high chaos), you see the pieces of the puzzle fitting together from the beginning, you know the connections between many characters – and you begin to see the underlying irony of Dishonored: A game which gives you tons of freedom makes clear you are nothing but a pawn, a tool to be used – on many levels. And this is simply great writing.

Rabidgames blinks: In terms of gameplay, Dishonored allows for immense freedom rarely seen in video games – and thereby, much fun can be had if you’Re the imaginative type. And the narrative reveals the exact amount of knowledge for us to think about the story, to interpret it – and if you take a look at gaming forums, you see proof that Arkane Studios got it right: People argue about many, many points. It is a shame that Dishonored will prbably be shadowed in most GOTY awards by already established franchises such as Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect or the stale and boring Call of Duty … but who cares if you can eliminate all guests of party from the shadows!

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Borderlands 2 or Guns, Guns, Guns

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , on October 29, 2012 by Rabidgames

Yep, it’s all about guns in Borderlands 2. Yeah, there’s also different characters and various skills some vehicles and a chunk of story and some other gear, but at the end of a long Pandorian day, it’s all about the guns you find.

The biggest surprise is … there’s a proper story in Borderlands 2! True story. It’s nothing thought-provoking or ground-breaking, of course, but it kept Rabidgames entertained. Mind you, Borderlands 1 lost Rabidgames halfway through because the novelty of shooting yet another of the same enemy in the face faded off quickly … but back to the story of Borderlands 2. There, we find one fucking hell of a plot twist in there which is awesome – and in hindsight, it was foreshadowed. Good to see Gearbox eradicated the weakest spot of Borderland 2’s predecessor.

Borderlands 2 is populated with insane over-the-top characters once more. Among them are the 4 characters from the first game – they’re alright yet there are no real surprises in that department. Others return as well – Scooter, Ned, Moxxi etc. Unfortunately, Borderlands 2 walks down the road Saints Row The Third had also travelled – it’s just about crazy characters, not about credibility or even depth. The lowlight surely is Tiny Tina – think of a prepubescent Jar-jar Binks, and you got the picture. The antagonist, Hyperion’s fearless leader Handsome Jack, belongs to the same category – while the story about his diamond-laden butt stallion might be funny, his monologues becoming boring and annoying after some time.

The gameplay is basically the same again, with some twists. There are artifacts and class mods now, and grenades play a greater role. Weapons in general have more diversity to them. Vehicles are to be driven in Borderlands 2 again, and still, there below the industry’s standards. The levels (let’s just call those huge open worldish sectors levels) are way more diverse now – there’s everything from ice deserts to sand deserts, from a half-finished city to caustic pits, name it, it’s there. Bosses are bigger and badder this time around, and some might require some strategy (the final boss can be exploited easily btw).

Of course, Borderlands 2 ain’t perfect. The quest difficulty seems off sometimes: When a “tough” mission is easier than stealing candy from a Skag whelp yet a “trivial” mission turns out to be a battle to the last bullet – including a couple of hasty retreats – Gearbox might think about those difficulty advisers again. Let’s talk about a waste of time in Borderlands 2: time sensitive missions – come on, this is a shooter RPG, not a racer! And one more thing: If you expect Rabidgames to race against fucking time, please provide vehicle controls that make it possible.

Another issue is the spawn rate of decent weapon which is close to 0.2%. If a game such as Borderlands 2 revolves around loot, give us some fucking great loot! Rabidgames managed to loot 2 (two) golden items in one fucking 50 hours playthrough – and one of those is a shield! Yes, the infinity gun is awesome and stuff, but the drop rate is a bad fucking joke. Come on, reward players. And no, Rabidgames does not want to be forced to play co-op to get better loot, goddamnit!

One last thing is the new trend of worldwide censorship to appease the Australian and German video game fascist bureaucracies. Borderlands 2 is a victim of this as well. Remember the hilarious and gruesome death animations when you sprayed an enemy with elemental bullets in Borderlands 1? Or exploding heads after a clean sniper rifle hit? Good times, but past times. At least partially. enemies still explode into healthy chunks, and you find some limbs here or there, but the funny animations are completely gone. Admittedly, Gearbox has a point though: Violence does not make a game better. True. But reducing violence when trumpeting about releasing Borderlands 2 “uncensored” … that is a blatant lie. Just because you censor your games yourself instead of it being censored by old farts who have no clue what’s going on – and hell, maybe even if you have a point – don’t call it uncensored. Please! Borderlands 2 is censored.

Rabidgames keeps on looting: Even if your chances are slim, you still want to check the next area, the next boss or the next chest for some awesome gun which will kill everything in sight. Plus, there are four more characters, not just Axton. And if you’re still not satisfied, there also the rather tough True Vault Hunter mode, where you’re constantly underleveled and enemies are meaner and stronger. That’s precisely what we call value for money, innit?

Metro 2033 on sale!

Posted in News with tags , , on October 15, 2012 by Rabidgames

If you are like Rabidgames, you might have passed by the dystopian shooter/hybrid/RPG Metro 2033 a couple of times, thinking “hm, looks interesting, should I buy it?” But until now, you haven’t.

Here’s some good news though. From 16 October until 22 October, you can buy Metro 2033 for £5.50 (it seems this offer only counts for the Xbox 360 version though). Sounds like a good deal to check out the game, isn’t it? Of course, there’s a hidden agenda: THQ wants us to acquire a taste for the upcoming Metro: Last Light … but that’s fair enough, isn’t it?

Rabidgames goes to Russia: Deals like this make the pondering over if to buy a game easier. The only question remaining now is “when to play this game when queue of games waiting to be played is getting ever longer?”

WWE ’13 or A First Impression with an Attitude

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , on October 12, 2012 by Rabidgames

THQ might be in some trouble financially, but it does not stop them from renting a posh club in Brick Lane and showcasing WWE ’13 for the world to see there! Oh, and there was free food and drinks as well to enjoy! Rabidgames did enjoy all of the above.

Oh, okay, back to WWE ’13. THQ allowed journalists to simply sit at a console and to do whatever they want. Well, basically everyone did things in that order: Play some random game of WWE ’13 first, check out the Attitude mode, have a look at the refined Universe mode, fiddle around with the many Create a Whatever options, and then it was back to playing some more games of WWE ’13.

Alright, let’s start with Attitude: It was about time to relive the time when Vince McMahon reinvented his company – and WWE ’13 pays tribute to the era which gave birth to iconic figures such as Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Rock. On a side note, it is rather strange that a PG oriented company, where wrestling, sorry, the sports entertainment sometimes resembles the Teletubbies, virtually relives its wildest R-rated years at the same time. Sorry, back to WWE ’13 again. In the showfloor demo, there was only access to the story titled “rise of the DX”. Thankfully, the heavily scripted Road to Wrestlemania is gone, and we get primary and secondary “historical” objectives to fulfill this year. By the way, the DX story consists of 12 matches with very different objectives (from win with a chair or win via DQ to hit the other guy with 2 signatures and a finisher). While there might be no unknown stories, it is still great fun to delve back into the past, getting to relive the stories which made great superstars such as The Rock, Steve Austin or Triple H. Furthermore, the Attitude mode unlocks dozens of unlockable content (ranging from Wrestlers to alternate outfits to extra stories for the Universe mode).

In WWE ’13, the gameplay itself is pretty similar to its predecessor, and yet, it can be quite challenging on normal! Well done, Yukes. Finally, we can control how we want our matches to be: You can now choose between quick, normal and epic matches. While a quick match is basically a squash, an epic match takes a long time and requires some tactical thinking. There are some cool new details as well: Throw HBK into the turnbuckle, and he’ll do his trademark flying around it, R-Truth shows his split-leg dodging, and so on.Remember the weight detection system (which was removed for inexplicable reasons)? It’s back in WWE ’13. Hooray. No more Mysterio bodyslamming Big Show! Speaking of the big folks, they really look like towers now.

The pin system has been refined as well: In WWE ’13, it’s possible to pin a groggy opponent after lifting him up. But careful – he can counter your pin with a pin of his own – which can be countered again! Sounds great, doesn’t it? Oh, and you can use a stored finisher to make escaping a pin easier, too. Furthermore, the limb targeting system has been improved – we can now choose between different moves here as well. There are also OMG moments now: Have finisher stored, watch out for that sign, lean back and enjoy devastating action! All those changes for WWE ’13 seem small one by one, but combined, they allow for a more fluid and intuitive feeling in and outside the ring.

The Universe mode was a beast in WWE ’12, and it has grown in even more this year! It is now possible to have three major leagues at the same time (sadly, there are no inter-promotional rating wars … sigh, if we had our good old GM mode back …), players can define which stories will be featured in their universe (and influence their outcome), and there’s also a statistics hub which highlights tons of data: titles won, weeks of title reigns, Royal Rumble performances etc. Plus, you can have shows whenever you want! RAW on Monday, ECW on Tuesday, whatever you want to create on Wednesday, a WCW PPV on Sunday? It’s all possible. Oh yes, Rabidgames will certainly spend most of his time with WWE ’13 in the WWE Universe once more …

While most of the Create modes are more or less the same, Create an Arena has been largely improved and enhanced: In WWE ’13, we can now create everything from the titantron, the lights, video walls to the ring itself. The popular Create A Wrestler mode has a special novelty as well: In WWE ’13, players can choose a body part which will be able to take quite a beating. On the downside, another body part will have to be weaker though, so beware. There are also many new moves to choose from. Another popular feature will be back in WWE ’13; you can create titles again. And this time around, those fancy, shining titles can even be used in the Universe mode!

While all of the above sounds great, the star of WWE ’13 is an old friend who will return: Special Referee matches. Fuck yeah! And it’s not just the same stuff from the past, no, there’s a special referee bar which increases when you do proper ref stuff but decreases when you forget your impartiality and, let say, hit one of the guys with a finisher. Even better, you hit him, and when he dares to strike back at you, an official, you can now disqualify him. You bet the Special Referee mode will be awesome when playing with friends (oh, the bittersweet betrayal).

So, all is well with WWE ’13? Unfortunately, no, not really. Long hair still looks ugly, some moves still hail back from the PS1 era, and sometimes, the collisions are not properly calculated (yep, hitting someone literally IN the head is still in). And for some reason, some prominent characters (Hunter Heast Helmsley, Daniel Bryan come to mind) don’t look like their real life counterparts. Also, WWE ’13 seems a bit too fast for its own good. It’s alright if cruiserweights like Rey Mysterio or Sin Cara are lightning fast, but giants like Khali should be slower for sure. And of course, there’s much DLC stuff around the corner once more … But at the end of the day, it’s rather nitpicking. Rabidgames means, Special Referee will be back in WWE ’13, so the world’s, Yuke’s and WWE’s wrongs are forgiven (well, not turning Punk heel, and Sheamus, don’t get Rabidgames started with that booking desaster)!

Rabidgames smells what WWE ’13 is cooking: And it smells good! The look back to the glorious Attitude era, a deeper universe mode where we finally can make decisions, many, many small additions and improvements … and fucking Special Referee is back!!!! 2 November can’t come soon enough, and that’s the bottom line!

Sleeping Dogs or Pork Buns for Life

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , on October 11, 2012 by Rabidgames

The fine Asian treat called Sleeping Dogs stuns your senses (especially when accompanied by a pork bun). For many good reasons.

Number one: Activision are retards. Shunning a game (called True Crime Hong Kong back then) just cause it might only sell some 100.000 copies when instead focussing on that outworn RPG light WoW stuff (now bigger and better with pandas) and that patriotic popcorn series Call of Duty … what about innovation, folks? What about risk? Establishing a new series is seen as incredibly hard these days, but even now, it can work (look at Borderlands, Just Cause, Dragon’s Dogma etc.) – so Activision, it stuns Rabidgames to see how pathetic you have become. Mind you, Sleeping Dogs isn’t the first instance where Activision got it wrong: let’s not forget the brilliant Brütal Legend!

Number two: If you expect something like a GTA clone in Asia, you’re wrong. Sure, there’ s shooting in Sleeping Dogs, there are car chases, and it’s an urban open world. But that’s about it. The pace is completely different (there are entire missions without any form of violence), the world feels different, and the fighting couldn’t be more different: If you insist bringing up GTA, Sleeping Dogs is a distant relative because of some shared genetic traits – and yet, if you look for parents, it is quite likely the Yakuza series would not be able to prove its innocence in a paternity test, while the last two Batman games might be the caring mother (or the other way round, whatever disturbs you less). Why? While the shoot-melee ratio in GTA might be 39-1, it is 2-7 in Sleeping Dogs. Plus, if you’re tired of New fucking York, or of another generic American city, Sleeping Dogs is a welcome relief. Hong Kong feels different (not only because of the left-way traffic),

Number three: If GTA is a Scorcese movie (which it is not) Sleeping Dogs is a John Woo movie (which it is). Again, don’t expect a rags to riches story, don’t expect the sometimes subtle satire which made GTA great. If you like the hand to hand combat in Hong Kong flicks, if you like classic slow-mo Woo shoot-outs, you’ll like Sleeping Dogs. Actually, if you enjoyed Hard Boiled or Infernal Affairs (and yes, the original is better than the westernised Departed), this is your game. So yes, Sleeping Dogs IS different. Of course, if you still insist on it being a mere GTA clone because of an open world, fighting and crime, you might say The Godfather and Lethal Weapon are basically the same, too …

Number four: Sleeping Dogs is fun. It is light-hearted and yet grimy fun. Not a violent buddy sim like GTA IV, and not over-the-top like San Andreas or Saints Row, Sleeping Dogs sits somewhere in the middle, keeping a straight face while delving into the triad underworld. But it also gives its competitors a lesson to learn – variety is the key. If you showcase a diverse mix of melee fighting, including hilariously gruesome environmental fatalities, driving and racing, placing bugs or activating cameras, shooting and the odd just go somewhere without violence mission – Sleeping Dogs pulls it of. Granted, the races are rather boring and the shoot-outs happen a tad too often in the last quarter of the game, but the overall pace of Sleeping Dogs is spot-on.

Number five: Where many games fail, Sleeping Dogs nails it. Yes, Rabidgames is talking about the story. Even after you beat the final boss, it keeps unfolding – and leaves you guessing what really happened. While the game also has problems to show Wei Shen’s twisted loyalties during the campaign, it becomes even more puzzling afterwards. In hindsight, it makes you wonder who was the puppet and who was directing the strings.

However, there is some dog poo in the game as well. The racing missions tend to be a matter of the right vehicle – if it’s faster than the others, you win automatically. If you go there with the wrong vehicle, you’re fucked. Another aspect where Sleeping Dogs doesn’t deliver is some side characters, especially the girlfriends – they’re there for 2 missions, and then, they vanish (some return 10 hours later but you might have forgotten them by then). Yes, there are some explanations in Wei’s phone but it does not feel satisfactory.

Rabidgames bows his head: Sleeping Dogs is a refreshing Asian dish with the exact amount of exotic spices. True, some ingredients could have been more refined, but for a new opening, Sleeping Dogs has broadly delivered.Enjoy your pork buns.

The Eurogamer Expo 2012

Posted in Gaming these days ... with tags , , , , on October 1, 2012 by Rabidgames

Yes, Rabidgames was there once more. And yes, the hall was more crowded, the queues were ever longer, but hey, the games were still interesting. Oh, and some proper organisation would be good. How is it possible that a press pass is sufficient to avoid the queue on Saturday, yet on Sunday, it ain’t, so Rabidgames had to join the plebs to queue for entry? Come on!

Unfortunately, Rabidgames didn’t make it to any Developer Sessions in 2012. Queuing one hour to get in seems a bit excessive (last year, 20 minutes was alright). Also, Rabidgames gave a flying fuck about all multiplayer demos, or over-hyped popcorn titles likes Black Ops 2, Halo 4, Resident Evil 6, or basically all beat ’em ups … because they’re not Mortal Kombat.
Whatever, here are Rabidgames’ highlights – and some downlights – of the Eurogamer Expo 2012:

Assassin’s Creed III
Thankfully, it was a proper singleplayer demo this year. Or rather, two different demos. The first one was your usual Assassin’s Creed stuff – infiltrate a structure, sneak around, fight a bit, escape. It’s more of the same, nothing special, yet definitely refined. However, the second demo featured the naval warfare which will make a debut in Assassin’s Creed 3. And boy, is it fun! Steering a ship through the waves, navigating into the correct position to sink ships … hell yeah!

Borderlands 2
Actually, Rabidgames didn’t play it at the Eurogamer Expo. It’s just the game is simply amazing which can’t be stressed out often enough. Buy it, play it,

Devil May Cry aka DmC (for whatever hip reason)
Well, to tell the plain truth, the gameplay is boring as shit. It’s your ordinary h’n’s stuff as you’ve seen it bazillions of times. However, the concept of the hostile city (or whatever it is) which tries to kill you, and the many fighting options at your disposal are interesting. But then again, who wants to play as a Twilight rip-off emo?

Dishonored
This game looks amazing. Tons of possibilities, from sneaking to sending swarms of rats to possessing enemies to the good old-fashioned shoot-out. Yet somehow, Dishonored feels like a Victorian Hitman game. Is that bad? Not necessarily.

Doom 3
You could test the remake in 3D. It’s interesting. The 3D. Doom 3 was, and still is a bland shooter. If you like it, fine. Rabidgames doesn’t.

Fable: The Journey
Who wants to be the controller? Not only does it look retarded when you do stuff in public, try something like mimicking to cast spells for more than 2 minutes, and guaranteed, you’d be exhausted after one hour of doing the same movements again and again and again and over and over again. Meh.

Far Cry 3
Technically, it’s a sandbox survival shooter. And most definitely, it’s a strong GOTY contender. Think of Just Cause’s tropical setting (although a tad smaller) and the survival mechanisms of Red Dead Redemption. Breed them. Far Cry 3 would be the smart yet extremely violent kid. The demo highlighted the many tools, vehicles and possibilities the game will offer. Hunting deer with a crossbow (you can even attach a grenade to the arrow), skinning animals, flying around in a glider, liberating outposts, crafting a shitload of stuff … or just good old plain yet pleasantly crisp shooting – comes the end of November, Far Cry 3 will offer all of the above – and more. For hours.

Hell Yeah!
An undead rabbit who happens to be a prince of hell, insane killing moves and tons of fun. What’s not to like?

Hitman Absolution
It’s tough. As expected. And folks, Hitman never was – and probably never will be – a shooter. Don’t even try to play it like that. Then again, it’s fun to watch you die. Please continue.

Metal Gear Revengeance
Yikes. This abomination looks like an ugly bastard breed between Final Fantasy XIII’s fighting system and some slightly more testosterone Bayonetta on crack. It defiles the legend, the iconic name Metal Gear. In terms of hack’n’slay, Devil May Cry is way better. Yikes.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2013
It almost feels like the glorious Pro Evolution Soccer 6. Almost. The new defense system (copied from FIFA) is not really Rabidgames’ cup of tea, but what can you do. oh, and please Konami, goalkeepers. You must know about it. FIX THEM!!!

Tokyo Jungle
This insane rollercoaster ride of awesomeness alone is a reason to buy a PS3! Seriously! If you’re not convinced, check out this animalistic trailer:

TombRaider
Young Lara is the protagonist of a survival adventure now. Thank fuck! Gone are the days of the boring old Tomb Raider system (copied to death by Uncharted & Co.). Will it be enough? We’ll see. It’s a good fresh reboot at least.

XCom: Enemy Unknown
Fuck yeah, X-Com is back. Plus, this game is the living proof turn-based strategy games are alive – and they can work on consoles!

ZombiU
All of a sudden, Nintendo welcomes adults. Ha! This game  peaked Rabidgames’ interest. Although playing it was testing Rabidgames’ patience. Queing for 20 minutes to join another queue for an hour to queue for another 15 minutes … Nintendo, you’re awful. How comes there were only 5 consoles with ZombiU? Oh yeah, the game itself. Actually, it’s rather underwhelming. If you’re proud of your motion control, how comes you can hack at zombies one way only (up down, up down etc.)? Have you ever played Dead Island? And that bulky (though light) tablet controller hybrid thing? Give Rabidgames a break! You use the touchscreen for sorting inventory (which can be done faster by using a standard controller). You can also use it to look around – but, why pressing L1 to move the tablet controller around “realistically” when moving the right analogue stick would do the same trick? Good question. Does anyone know the answer? And then, why do we have to use the touchscreen to fire a sniper rifle? Why using a fucking sniper rifle on a small screen when you have a fucking huge one as well? Fuck knows. While the London after a zombie apocalypse setting of ZombiU might sound interesting (although it’s hardly original), the gameplay is rather stale, and the tablet iseems to bei nothing more but an expensive gimmick indeed. Shame!

Rabidgames deems: Apart from the obvious GOTY contenders, you know, the likes of Assassin’s Creed 3, Borderlands 2 Dishonored, two surprises stand out: XCom is amazing (and craps into Syndicate’s face when it comes to the revival of a beloved series from the past). And Far Cry 3 is incredible. Also, the next couple of months will be expensive. There are too many games, not enough money, and worst – how are we supposed to have time to play all the great coming games? Till next time, Eurogamer Expo!