But first, the obligatory reviews of what I've been playing.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
So, keeping with my traditional trend of 'not playing good games the year they come out', I picked up Arkham Asylum a few weeks ago. I've gotta say, I enjoy the free-flowing combat system. I can see why Sleeping Dogs used a similar style for combat. It feels really nice to shift from attacking, to countering, dodging and stunning enemies.
First and foremost, the voice acting for this game is just phenomenal. They retained the cast from Batman the Animated Series.
Welcome back to the 90s.
So what does this mean? Well, it means we don't have a gravel-voiced Batman for one. And for two, it means we get to hear Maniacal Mark Hamill as the Joker. I might be bias, as to having grown up with the animated series, but I feel like this Joker is better than the one from the recent Batman films. That's not a knock against Ledger, I just feel that Hamill encapsulates the insanity of the Joker better.
Anyways, the villains in this game are the real show stealers. Harley Quinn, and the Joker are as crazy as ever. Those two just nail pretty much every line. The parts that I'm enjoying greatly are the Scarecrow sections. They are so delightfully twisted.
Up next for me is the Killer Croc lair. So we'll see how it goes from there.
Continuing the trip through the magical year of 2009...
Ah, Borderlands. So, Gearbox's hybrid FPS with light RPG elements came when the brown and gritty cover-based shooters hit their stride. Now, I'm not saying Borderlands doesn't have a heavy dose of brown in it's palette, post apocolypitic wastelands tend to be that color, but it does have some nice contrasting colors occasionally.
The easiest way to sum up this game is "Diablo with Guns". I'd say that's all that needs to be said about the gameplay. And like Diablo, it's very light on the story, so here's the summation. You're a bounty hunter on a planet called Pandora searching for something called "The Vault". Nobody knows what's in it, but it's believed to hold untold fortunes. And there is your reasoning to play.
Currently, I just finished up in Fyrestone, and now have moved to 'greener' pastures.
Now, onto the crux of my post. There are a few mechanics that bug me in gaming. So I was pondering how I could 'improve' upon them. By no means am I saying my way is right, nor am I saying they're even that good. The things I bring up may not even bother some people, but I just felt like talking about them.
First thing's first...
You've seen them. All prettied up, high definition cut scenes that show sweeping vistas, or huge cityscapes. Then when you gain control of your character... the fidelity drops. I know this isn't THAT big of an issue any more due to graphical developments, but I'm reminded of the PSX era a lot with this one.
What the hell happened! He looks like he's made of Duplo!
The disparity of the graphics from cutscenes and in-game is sometimes jarring. Now, as I've said, this isn't as big of an issue now a days, but here's what I'd do.
I would make sure cut-scenes used the in-game engine and assets. This way, if you wanted to do something interactive with the cutscenes, like different character behaviors depending on how close they are to specific places. Example, explosion happens on screen. Old method would have you thrown back, or hitting the dirt. What if you want to hide behind something to protect yourself from the percussive force? What if hiding there is the only way to clearly investigate the blast zone, and thus, lends itself to an Achievement or item. If you allow the characters to have agency during the cutscenes, you aren't breaking immersion nearly as much. Half-Life was really good at this. Bemoan the silent protagonists all you want, but every event happened while never taking away control.
Lack of Customization
So another little personal gripe I have. I like being able to change things. I like having choices. In a game like Red Dead Redemption, a pretty straightforward game, I still had the choice of which outfit I wore, and how I got around. Marginal choice, but choice nonetheless. The worst offenders of this lack of choice though, are some JRPGS. I'm looking directly at you, Final Fantasy XIII. The game has no freedom of character customization (Face it, the modified Sphere Grid was streamlined with no real branching paths) and it felt like you were just there to observe.
Now, here's what I'd like to see more of. XCOM. I've been reading stories about how people have customized their soldiers in XCOM after famous people, friend, and family, allowing you to change name and appearance of the troops. This is something small, since it has no impact on the game, but it gives you, the player, a real connection to the game. Granted, this couldn't be done in an RPG where the characters need to talk to one another, UNLESS...
For the inverse, I cite Final Fantasy X. You could name Tidus whatever you wanted, but he was never referred to by name. If his name appeared in a text box, it was never voiced.
There was no way I was going to forget to post this.
Hell, the voice databank system is already in use in sports games! In older ones, you were referred to strictly by number. In MLB The Show 2011, I had the game referring to my created character by name. Yes, it may take a few more dollars in the voice-over department, but I think it'd be worth it.
Honorable mentions for customization done right: Saints Row series. From customizing appearance, to voice, to clothes and vehicles, this game lets you mix and match to your hearts content. The fact that it's crazy enough to let you wear a mascot head while wearing dominatrix boots and a cowboy vest as a dudeguy just shows how free it lets you be.
Second honorable mention: Alpha Protocol.
I bet this is getting old for everyone but me.
Not a full subject, but I'm sick of games with laughably short campaigns. I'm a primarily single player gamer, so if I drop $30-$60 on a game, I want to be entertained for an appropriate amount. I know this is a petty gripe, because I could always find a game that fits my needs, but still, it needed to be said. I feel a single player game should last at least 20 hours or offer so much variety that several replays are in order.
We don't all have to be like Disgaea or Star ocean (had over 120 hours in Star Ocean Til the End of Time for PS2 and my memory card got corrupted), bu some length is nice.
That's all I got for now. This post was in production for awhile, but then I got writers block. Glad i could finally finish it.
Any good concepts you have, or things you hate in gaming? Let me know!