Musings of a Gamer IX


1. Seeing Out 2011

I currently have my hands full with Modern Warfare 3 and Uncharted 3, which between them should fulfill all my multiplayer needs well into the new year. I also picked up a copy of Deus Ex Human Revolution for a price that I couldn't resist - new for £11 - and am far more excited to play it than I thought I would be. With three consecutive weeks of new purchases behind me (Arkham City - Uncharted 3 - MW3) it is probably time to give it a rest. As much as I would like to keep spending, I'm hoping to limit myself to just one more new game before Christmas. Skyrim and Assassin's Creed Revelations are the candidates, but I am undecided as to which I will plump for come December. I'll most likely pick up the other in January, that is if I haven't already caved and bought them both.

Like the man-child that I am, I will be answering "video games" when my wife and family ask if there is anything i'd like for Christmas, in the hope that I'll be able to catch up on some of the games that I have missed earlier in the year. Dark Souls and Sonic Generations would be perfect for the quiet Jan-Feb period, and I wouldn't mind having a crack at Aliens Infestation (DS), Rage, The Heist (PSN) and Dead Island.

To top it all off, Nintendo are releasing a Europe only Zelda Limited Edition 3DS in a couple of weeks, bundled with Ocarina of Time which, almost eight months after the console launched, remains the only 3DS game I am interested in. I figure if I'm going to buy one, then this will be the ideal opportunity as once I have lost interest (January?) I'll have the option to sell it for a decent return. That is assuming I'm able to find one of these limited bundles and that the price isn't too horrific. We shall see.

2. Uncharted 3 & Playing Devil's Advocate

I love Uncharted 3. I think its a great game, but if someone tells you its perfect you should punch them in their ugly face. The multiplayer is undeniably an improvement on its already excellent predeccessor, and as the series moves forward it is the area that has the most potential for growth. As much as I have enjoyed playing twice through the single player campaign, it doesn't quite reach the rare heights of Uncharted 2, which happens to be one of my favourite games of all time. As I have already waxed lyrical about the latest entry, I thought I might try playing devil's advocate and highlight some of my small gripes with Drake's latest adventure.

I found the pacing to be slightly off in the first third, and it definitely dragged during a second playthrough in a way that few parts of Uncharted 2 ever did. This issue is made even more noticeable by the excellent pace and mixture of gameplay to be found later in the game. There were also a few too many occassions where the cinematic charm wore thin, thanks to a handful of sections where frustration leads to death and you are forced to repeat what was once an impressive spectacle, but quickly turns stale. There were moments where I was left unsure of where to jump or clamber next and had to resort to trial and error, which is complicated by an unclear and ever changing definition of what distance Drake can fall without dying, leaving you unsure if a leap will kill you or if you'll land on your feet.

There was also an over reliance on dropping you into a bowl-like environment, where enemies will pour in from above and leave you scrambling. Anyone who has played the cruise ship chapter will know exactly what I'm talking about. And finally, after three iterations, predictability is starting to rear its ugly head. It would be nice if, just for once, that wooden floor didn't give way when you landed on it or your footing didn't crumble during a chase scene.

Uncharted 3 is not perfect, and I hope that this has brought a semblance of balance to the praise I have otherwise been lavishing. It does have some flaws, but It's still an outstanding achievement by a developer that is as confident as ever and is absolutley my game of the year thus far.


3. UMD Passport Program for VITA

This morning Sony Japan announced an initiative to allow PSP owners to transfer their UMDs to the upcoming PS Vita, which otherwise does not support the UMD format. New information is still trickling through as I write this, and you are probably best off not putting too much stock in my attempt to decipher Sony's all-Japanese announcement, but the gist of it is that you download an app to your PSP and fire up your old UMD, which the app then verifies. You can then transfer this information to the PSN store and download your digital copy at a discounted rate. Up to 200 titles are expected to be available for this service, with prices ranging from 500 - 1500 yen (£4/$6.50 - £12/$19.50), and the download may only be used by the original owner. As of yet, this is a Japan only service, though it seems logical that it will be made available elsewhere.

Although I am happy to see them offering some sort of support for PSP owners, something which the PSP Go was sorely lacking, this is yet another example of Sony doing something half right, half wrong. I am a strong believer in the neccesity of backward compatibility of at least one generation, something which the eventual move to all-digital will make easier to achieve. But for Sony to charge people to access the exact same games that they have already paid for and still own is a rather questionable practice and one that will not help a new portable that can count on facing an uphill battle. This kind of service could be an excellent gesture of goodwill to loyal customers, if for example they offered the opportunity to convert two or three UMD titles for free when purchasing a VITA. For some reason Sony struggle to comprehend such things and so rarely grasp the opportunity to create customer goodwill until its almost too late, or the moment has completely passed - see the long delayed PS3 price decrease in 2009 and a discount and games bundle for the PSP GO once it had alreday died on its arse.

4. The Return of Alan Wake

Alan Wake is one of the few Xbox exclusive that I have really enjoyed. It was never going to live up to expectations after such a high profile and drawn out development, but it was still thoroughly enjoyable and had a style all of its own, so I was over the moon to hear that Alan and his writer's-block will be returning as an XBLA title in Night Springs. A full trailer has been promised for the upcoming Spike Video Game Awards - a US flavoured show that I'm not even sure we get here in the UK - as well as some new information on the worringly quiet Metal Gear Solid Rising. Surprises have been promised, so it may be worth checking out the show if you have access to it.

Comments

  1. I think the encounter designs are one of the biggest steps back for UC3. I don't mind the combat arenas so much, but they felt better designed in 2 (compare the one you mentioned in 3 to the one where you fight in the train wreck or the beginning of Desperate Times in 2 for instance). I also loved the game though, but I agree it isn't without its flaws.

    That UMD program is strange. Like you said it seems partly good and bad...

    I am very excited to see this new Alan Wake game and whatever other trailers the VGAs have in store. I am not so excited to see these trailers be introduced by members of the "Jersey Shore" :|

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  2. I don't even like Zelda and that 3DS made me swoon. Damn.

    Uncharted 3 reminds me how important it is to have a RL friend around who plays things you don't. I should be watching someone play that while I take weed and root beer breaks, even if I'm ten miles past overwhelmed with my own library.

    Sony's two steps forward, one step back style of doing everything is so frustrating to watch and participate in. It's going to cost $5-$20 each to transfer a bunch of games that will be retailing for $5-$20 each. And they wonder why the pirate community dreams of them at night. Sony needs some of the incredibly out of touch old people who run their company to die or go home. No offense, incredibly out of touch old people who run Sony!

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  3. @ Trip - I agree, ND were a bit more imaginative in Uncharted 2 in disguising encounters with swathes of enemies as something more interesting than just fire fights where you are terribly outnumbered.

    Cant wait for more Alan Wake, though I could definitely do without Jersey Shore!

    @ thirdrail - I have yet to play a single Zelda, yet I still pre-ordered that beast within an hour of it being available.

    Uncharted 3 is an excellent spectator game, though I would urge you to give it a go yourself when you are through with Skyrim and Idol Master 2.

    Two steps forward, one step back indeed. I think thats Sony's corporate motto.

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  4. @toomanywires- Nintendo knows how to make great games, and the Zelda series is one of the best examples of this. You should have a great time with Ocarina of Time.

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  5. I'm definitely looking forward to giving it a go. It has been a long time coming

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