E3 2011 Performance Review: Operation Raccoon City shoots, then shoots some more

June 15, 2011 by

Honor your favorite series by hunting down and killing its main character!

Looks like Resident Evil‘s gone the way of Kingdom Hearts. With the future of its main numbered series of games in question, Capcom took the franchise on the “spin-off” and “spin-off on handhelds” route while the brass flounders about with what they need to do to make Resident Evil 6 a success. I offer one tip: Don’t make it like Operation Raccoon City.

At least don’t make it like its single-player mode. Or cooperative campaign. Or whatever it was I played at the Sony booth. It was called “cooperative campaign”, but I could’ve sworn I was just playing by myself. There was nothing cooperative about it, despite a few human beings playing the same game (maybe?) next to me. No team-up attacks, no recovering each other, no helping each other out in any sort of way at all. But then if we did all that we’d be playing a lousier version of Left 4 Dead then, wouldn’t we?

So, what makes it lousy? It feels just like we feared it would: SOCOM with zombies. The exact same controls, the exact same layout, even the exact samey-same way levels are laid out. Hide behind chest-high barricades, shoot braindead zombies, occasionally toss a grenade out or change weapons once in a while. The same cookie cutter template that was prevalent all over E3 this year. Is this the only way to revitalize a flagging franchise? Farm it out to the West and turn it into a shooter?

Resident Evil fans may be happy to play a SOCOM mod of their favorite series, that is, if they’re fooled easily by nostalgic throwbacks like a word-for-word recreation of the intro from Resident Evil 2 and a guest appearance from Kendo’s gun shop. Hunters and Lickers return, too. That’s cool and all if you like nostalgia-mining, but then the camera pulls back and there you are controlling some new faceless jerk no one cares about, who spouts macho curse words out in true cliched modern shooter fashion. Nothing feels very Resident Evil about that, and unless it comes from Marcus Fenix or Cole Train, I’m damn tired of it.

Maybe I’m burned so badly because this was the number one game I was looking forward to most at this year’s show. Maybe I just played the wrong demo. There was no “co-op” to be found in this co-op mode. Capcom’s booth had a different demo, a competitive multiplayer mode complete with an announcer shouting out the play-by-play. I didn’t play that one, but I doubt I would have really garnered that different an experience from it. Or maybe that really is the mode to play! It’s not like I ever touched Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood‘s single-player, and I love that game. So, I’ll try and keep a more open mind about this, but the fact that I knew exactly what Operation Raccoon City was going to be before even touching it left me disappointed, and maybe even a little disturbed. Am I that jaded or have games become that predictable?

E3 2011 Performance Review: Ninja Gaiden III babies it up

June 14, 2011 by

Ninja Gaiden, now namby-pambier

I can’t believe it.

What happens after Tomonobu Itagaki leaves Team Ninja?

They turn Ninja Gaiden into a casualized button-masher. A rep assured me they would keep the bone-crushing difficulty of the previous games, though the E3 demo indicated otherwise. Throughout the short one-level demonstration I button mashed my through each enemy easily. In previous games I would’ve been decimated immediately. Beating the previous games, even playing through half of them, was a badge honor. They were like playing fighting games, with each button press made a deliberate, conscious strategy. They (and the original 8-bit trilogy) were games to conquer. Instead I casually strolled my way through the entire level of this, mashing the Square button for each and every minute. The game even took control away from me to have Ryu Hayabusa perform scripted kills at random times. If I initiated those automatic attacks then I have no idea how I did so.

On top of that, QTE prompts were sprinkled randomly throughout each enemy encounter to keep things “fresh.” Quick Time Events in Ninja Gaiden. My god, have we come to this?

The only time that presented any semblance of difficulty was when the level got shrouded in fog and I couldn’t see an inch in front of Ryu’s face. Difficulty by visual obstruction, nice. That’s good when a game pulls pages from the Superman 64 playbook.

I managed to die once at the end-of-demo boss, a spidery mech with big glowing obvious metal legs to chop off. It did a big electro-shock wave thing that killed me. After that I just ran away each time it did that one move, ran back and button-mashed my way to victory.

Tell me this just a demo, and “it’s not representative of the final product.” Tell me Team Ninja just lowered the difficulty to ridiculous depths for the journalist crowd. Tell me Team Ninja had nothing to do with Metroid: Other M. Otherwise, I guess that’s yet another legacy franchise down for the count.

E3 2011 Performance Review: Kirby Wii delights, but also worries \:0

June 13, 2011 by

THE SWORD OF WADDLE DOO'S BANE, THE ULTRA SWORD

Kirby, Nintendo’s cute ball of murderous pink fluff, returns in a more traditional take than last year’s Epic Yarn. Less yarn, more difficulty and more friends find their way into Kirby Wii, a fun four-player action platformer that hews closer to Kirby Superstar and New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Though I only played with two other people for the demo, players can select Kirby, King DeDeDe, Metaknight and/or Waddle Dee. I played as Kirby, who seemingly has an advantage over the other players, since the little fella can vacuum up baddies and absorb their powers, adding more options to his arsenal, which the other fellows are stuck with their innate abilities (MetaKnight always has a sword). He also had a more important role to play as he was the sole character who could suck up obstacles and shoot them out of the way, and even summon a giant sword to chop away obstacles that got in all of our way at several spots in the demo level. Since Kirby’s the one hoisting all the weight, sucking down enemies and things and clearing paths, does that make the other characters — and players — feel inadequate? I felt kind of bad for my human partners, who just sort of flailed about as I did most of the “work.”

Especially so during the boss fight, where I was only one granted a valuable bomb ability. I chucked bombs at the boss, who floated mid-air out of reach of everyone else, and everyone else croaked. I was the only left to claim victory. And yes, the adorable Kirby victory dance is back, as are hitching rides on friends’ backs and “kissing” each other to share recently-grabbed health items, just like in Kirby Superstar. It feels so much like the classic SNES title, it’s a wonder they didn’t just call it Kirby Superstar 2.

So, yes, a good time was had (finally!), but I do worry that players who don’t pick Kirby might get left out of a lot of the fun.

E3 2011 Performance Review: Final Fantasy XIII-2 doesn’t inspire hope

June 12, 2011 by

Abandon all HOPE

At first glance, I wasn’t even aware I was looking at Final Fantasy XIII-2. The incredibly bland character design of Serah and Noel, the new character who tags along with Lightning’s sister, made me think I was looking at some B-tier Tales game, not a AAA Final Fantasy title. But it ain’t the’ 90s anymore, so Final Fantasy probably belongs with the rest of the second stringers at this point. I doubt XIII-2, which now has More Stuff to Do than its predecessor, will change that.

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Up, Up and Straight Up My Ass – Thor: ODINSLEEP

May 24, 2011 by

Somewhere along the line during the last decade, Marvel realized that they were one of the most powerful players in Hollywood. Spider-Man was earning the kind of money comic book movies hadn’t seen since Tim Burton’s Batman, Bryan Singer’s X-Men had actually given superheroes a bit of class and critical respect, plus it seemed the public’s interest in superhero movies was like a cockroach, unfazed even after countless disasters like Daredevil, Elektra, X-Men: The Last Stand, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, The Punisher and Ghost Rider. (Spider-Man 3 was good, shut up.) Maybe it’s because Marvel got a boost from the titanic success of DC’s The Dark Knight, hinting that perhaps superhero movies weren’t played out yet, they just needed, y’know, quality in order to keep people’s interest.

Whatever the reason for Marvel’s Tinseltown clout, it had it, and it made it a desirable commodity. Disney purchased it and folded it into its diabolically diverse portfolio of entertainment companies, like Pixar, ESPN and ABC. Was it this new source of cash that gave Marvel the cojones to finally form its own production company? I don’t know, I’m no Hollywood insider! But that’s exactly what they did, charting a course beginning with 2008′s Iron Man to create an actual cohesive movie universe, with recurring characters and an ongoing storyline and everything. Finally, comic book movies would be as interconnected and impenetrable as actual comic books!

And so Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and, er, Iron Man 2 started to build up to… something! And that something is coming in 2012: The Avengers, Marvel’s version of the Justice League. But before that could happen, even more major players would have to be introduced, namely Thor and Captain America, staples of the superhero team. So now Marvel has the gall to ask America to pay $16 a piece (you want to watch them in IMAX 3D, right?!) for what are essentially prologues to the main event. Does Thor have any meat on its bones or is it a skinny shrimp?

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Grumplet – Source Code: Still Compiling

April 27, 2011 by

In a coincidence unseen since the likes of Dante’s Peak and Volcano, not one, but TWO body-snatching time-travel stories have been released within days of each other. You already know what we think of the other one. What about Duncan Jones’ follow-up to his big screen debut Moon? Well I’m getting there, hold yer horses~

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The Big Fat Bloated 3rd Birthday Audio Review + Now With Video!

April 13, 2011 by

My brothers and I got together last weekend to talk about something that’s been on our minds: The 3rd Birthday, the Parasite Eve series and what Square has been up to in general lately.

It was our first night together since Christmastime, so we were excited as hell to talk about this, and well, we started recording around 10 at night and we stopped around 2 in the morning.

So. We talk a lot! About a lot of things!

We cover the game with a fine-tooth comb from beginning to end, with plenty of (non-boring) tangents related to many other games (Resident Evil, Mass Effect, Illusion of Gaia, etc.) and ideas (sci-fi and art, etc.).

I was worried it’d be a rambling mess, but it’s kind of organic and coherent! Give it a listen why don’t you!

It’s in MP3 format, split apart into four segments (remaining two coming in the next few days) for palatable listening.

Part One.
Some Parasite Eve 1 talk and a lot about 3rd Birthday‘s premise and setting.

Spoiler Level: Low

Part Two.
All the gameplay and the entire plot up to the ending dissected.

Spoiler Level: HUUUGE

Part Three.
The entire ending under the microscope.

Spoiler Level: Monumental, and not just for The 3rd Birthday. PE1, PE2 and even Chrono Cross get spoiled.

Part Four.
Final thoughts, a lot of talk about recent and past (and future) Square games.

Spoiler Level: Minimal.

Hit the jump for “BEST OF…” video clips.

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