Musings of a Gamer IV

1. LA Noire - A Spoiler Free Rant

LA Noire has been showered with praise since its May release. I enjoyed it in places, but I cant say that I share the unquestioned enthusiasm offered by the gaming press. I commend Team Bondi for aiming for the stars with their detective opus, and it definitely has its fair share of redeeming features, but my lasting memory is of a flawed game that was overly repetitious.

LA Noire boasts some great ideas, some of which are new whereas others are borrowed and refined, but I found the execution to be lacking. The aim is to gather clues and interrogate witnesses so that you may make an informed decision as to whodunit. Unfortunately, the way that you use evidence to dictate interrogations is extremely limited and often just guess work where your sleuthing is either right or wrong, with nothing in-between. I may have had a very logical reason as to why I chose to present a certain piece of evidence during a particular line of questioning, but if its not the item that the game has in mind, linked to the question that it wants you to ask, then you fail that part of the interrogation. What should have been a more subjective choice is limited by the games very rigid and limited logic. This is compounded by some heavy handed clues which made two of the true culprits blatantly obvious, and your subsequent detective work seem pointless.

On more than one occasion, I was put in the unenviable position of having to charge one of a group of suspects where I felt that none of them were the true culprit - either through my own intuition or thanks to one of the newspaper back-stories which can be found throughout the game. These cut scenes provide vital information on characters that appear later on in the story, but only the player, and not Detective Phelps, is privy to this information. This is a source of frustration later on as you are unable to use the info you have garnered from these sections and feel powerless to prevent the events that you know are occurring in the background, even when the perpetrator is staring you in the face.

I realise that many of these complaints are as much a limitation of video games as LA Noire itself, but they did put a real dampener on a game that I was expecting so much more of.

2. Early Summer Pick-ups

A couple of games have bled my wallet dry over the last month. Killzone 3 finally came down to a price I was willing to pay, and i'm glad that it did as it was exactly what I needed after too long spent toiling with LA Noire.  It continues to do the things its predecessors did well, but it feels like a tidier and more coherent package than the previous two games. I also picked up the premium edition of Final Fantasy IV on the PSP which I have earmarked for my flight to Japan in September. The packaging is quite smart and it comes with something that no self-respecting gamer should be without: a FF branded screen-wipe cloth. Since it arrived last month, there hasn't been a dusty screen anywhere in our house!

I'm currently making my way through Portal 2, both single-player and co-op. As much as I'm enjoying it, no game has given me such a sensation of motion sickness since struggling through the first hour of Sopranos: Road to Respect. My mind just cant take the testing! I have also picked up Battlefield Bad Company 2, on the cheap but over a year late. To round out the month, I recently received an unexpected cheque for £100 and am debating how best to blow it all on video games. I'm toying with the idea of buying Kinect and Child of Eden, but deep down I know its an awful idea and I'm better off waiting for the PS3 version. Still, that's not guaranteed to stop me. The other, more palatable option is to buy two brand spanking new PS3 games - I'm looking at Infamous 2 and Shadows of the Damned - along with one or two older titles like Crysis 2 and Ghost Trick. Decisions, decisions.

3. Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together

If you had told me six months ago that a PSP remake would be one of my two favourite games of the first half of 2011, then I probably wouldn't have believed you. Tactic's Ogre continues to claim significant chunks of my gaming time thanks to its addictive and deep combat, even though I don't have the foggiest what's going on story wise. Time seems to fly with this engrossing piece of gaming vintage, as i'm already more than thirty hours deep without an end in sight. Long may it last, and I hope the success of this remake paves the way for a new Tactics Ogre or Final Fantasy Tactics, perhaps even on home consoles.

4. Sonic at Twenty

Happy birthday to everyone's favourite Erinaceinae - Sonic the Hedgehog. He has had his fair share of ups and downs over the years, but for me no gaming character has more sentimental value than SEGA's iconic, blue mutha. Sonic the Hedgehog on the Master System was my very first video game, and one which I returned to last year and finally completed - an event twenty years in the making which you can read about here. I have very clear memories of playing it on a Christmas morning in the early Nineties and then upgrading to the Mega Drive and Sonic 2 a couple of years later. I was resolute in my staunch support for SEGA when most of my friends were playing Nintendo, as even back then I was a stubborn bastard.

5. Welcomed Back

I shall refrain from banging on about how much I love Super Stardust HD, as I already did that last week, but there are plenty of other things to shout about regarding Sony's PSN Welcome Back program. I thoroughly hated what I played of Dead Nation, but was best pleased with the beautiful Wipeout HD which has fulfilled my one racing game per year quota for 2011. The only downside to this version of Wipeout is that the soundtrack is not as memorable as some of its trailblazing predecessors, but that's nit-picking at what is otherwise an excellent game at a price that can't be beat.

Although I'm excited about the opportunity to be part of the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta, I can't say that I have been particularly impressed with my PSN+ trial. It is always nice to have some free games, but from what I have seen they aren't really the kind of games which I would take the time to play. The discounts are pretty hit and miss, but I am intrigued by the opportunity to buy Braid for £2 on the UK store. It has never really appealed to me, but I have heard so many good things about it that I suppose I cant go wrong for two quid. The only aspect of PSN+ which would make me even consider subscribing is the cloud save function. As someone who recently lost the majority of 3 years worth of game saves to an untimely yellow light of death, I can tell you it is a bloody good idea. Still, I'm not paying £40 a year just for that, no matter how much peace of mind it offers.

6. Japan Vs. England - The Result

Over the last two months my wife and I have been struggling with the decision as to where in the world to settle. We currently live in England, which is my home country, but we have also lived together in Japan, which is my wife's. We have felt torn between the two and haven't always seen eye to eye regarding where we should be. However, after much deliberation we have decided that we will remain in England for now, as we do not feel that we have fully explored our opportunities here. I still feel that one day we will make a permanent return to Japan, but right now is not the time to do it. We are both concerned with the mixed reports we keep getting on the levels of radiation in Tokyo, which is where we would be if we did move, as well as the less than rosy economic state.

However, we will be flying back to Japan for a holiday this September, where I shall once again be attending Tokyo Game Show as press. So expect plenty of TGS coverage, news straight from the show floor, drunken tweets and lots of out of focus photos this September, here at toomanywires-UK.


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