Musings of a Gamer XVI
Journey is a simple yet beautiful game. With its haunting soundtrack, impressive use of colour and a basic yet incredibly effective multiplayer it has struck a chord with gamers, becoming the fastest selling game in PSN history. It’s over in a flash and does suffer from a second half that is far less interesting than the stunning first couple of levels, but even still it is one of the finest PSN games since the days of Shatter, Flower and Battlefield 1943.
As much as I'm still enjoying Journey, I have no great urge to write about it. Much like Flower, it is something best experienced not necessarily discussed. It is a game that will mean different things to different people and is near impossible to write/talk about in any real detail without sounding like a pretentious twat. I'd definitely recommend downloading it and experiencing Journey for yourself.
2. Mass Effect 2 and the Best of the Current Gen
I have finished my second run-through of Mass Effect 2 and am now ten hours into part three. ME2 is deceptively linear, but I love the simple premise of collecting allies and then earning their trust, and I find that it offers a perfect balance between dialogue, character development and action. As far as endings go, Mass Effect 2 has one of the best, keeping you on edge throughout the final mission without having to oversell the fact that the lives of your crew hang in the balance.
This second playthrough further convinced me that Mass Effect 2 is one of the top 3 games of this, the seventh generation, alongside Uncharted 2 and Red Dead Redemption. I dwell far too much on such things - I fucking love listing stuff - but even with all my daydreaming powers I can't settle on a complete top five. One to three is easy, but there are a handful of games that could slide into those last two slots. Shatter, Metal Gear Solid 4, GTA IV, Skyrim, Assassin's Creed 2 and Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions all warrant serious consideration. I best take the day off and give my top five the attention it deserves. I suggest you do the same.
Last week, SEGA instigated a significant scaling back of its Western operations, as offices were closed, jobs lost and games cancelled. SEGA announced that their focus outside of Japan will be limited to only proven IP's - Sonic, Total War, Football Manager and Aliens were highlighted as the core franchises moving forward - and that there would be a shift towards digital titles. This will likely herald the end for localised games such as the Yakuza series (fuck) as SEGA increasingly come to rely on "safe" and often uninspired favourites, instead of looking to fresh and exciting projects such as the Valkyria Chronicles,Vanquish and Binary Domains of the last couple of years, all of which unfortunately underperformed at retail. May I suggest that fans of such series invest in a good kanji dictionary as it seems unlikely that they will see the light of day outside of Japan. I would imagine that this all but kills off any chance of a Shenmue 3 and it could even hinder the arrival of Jet Set Radio HD this summer. A sad day indeed for all involved.
4. Recent Purchases
As if Mass Effect 2-3, Journey and my backlog pile (Dark Souls, Deus Ex, Saints Row etc etc.) weren't enough, I thought I could probably do with a couple more games to keep me occupied. Binary Domain finally bottomed out at £15 so I went ahead and picked up a copy, even though I know it'll be a good month or so before I move onto Yakuza cyborgs. I wanted to play BD from day one, but its timing was appalling, being sandwiched between PS Vita and my Mass Effect-athon. I also downloaded Super Stardust Delta on the Vita. It's good fun, but is not demanding my attention the way the PS3 original did. I have also found myself rejecting the touch controls, choosing to go with the traditional set-up instead, which probably defeats the point of having SSD on the Vita. It’s a worthwhile download for fans of the series, but just don't expect too much.
Finally, I invested in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. I had been putting off getting a standard copy in the hopes that the Limited Edition would drop to a more reasonable price if left for a couple of months. Last week, it finally hit the price I was willing to pay for an oversized box - £50 - so I went for it. I'm really looking forward to revisiting the PS2 Metal Gears in HD, particularly Snake Eater, as well as playing Peace Walker for the first time. With all these games in place, I think it's time to cool off on the purchases and actually get round to playing the games I already own. Fortunately, the next month or two look relatively quiet for new releases, so there's a decent chance it might actually happen.
5. Orbis & Reliable Sources
As I'm sure you are aware, Kotaku, citing "reliable sources", last week posted information about the PS4, which is to be known as Orbis. It is unclear whether Orbis is a project codename or if this is the final moniker. Anyway, the name is the least interesting part of last week's revelations that offered a Christmas 2013 release, which seems reasonable, and suggested that there would be no backwards compatibility with the PS3, which is frustrating but not surprising. The hardware specs were eye opening, pointing to a powerful and expensive piece of kit that will likely be another loss leader for Sony.
The final revelation, and I’m taking everything in that Kotaku article with a pinch of salt, is that the system will contain software that will either penalize or perhaps even lock-out gamers who choose to buy used games. This concept seems rather fishy to me and, depending on the extent to which it withholds content, would be a costly mistake for a company that can't afford it. You don't succeed in business by punishing your customers; you find out what they want and why they want it and then build a product around that understanding, one that will benefit both parties. I can see some sort of online pass as part of the hardware that, for example, limits multiplayer to new copies, but the prospect of used games being significantly locked-out is, to my mind, absurd. Hopefully, we will learn more in the coming months as fact is separated from fiction.