Following a self-imposed fast, I've been gaming like a motherfucker.
We should pause here to consider why the standard simile for enthusiastically persuing an activity is "like a motherfucker". I suppose we can only assume that to address someone as a "motherfucker" is not only to infer that they're engaged in an incestuous relationship with their mater familias but also that they are doing so with great fervour and wild abandon.
STUFF WHAT I HAVE BEEN PLAYING
Batman: Arkham Asylum
In which everyone's favourite cosplay fascist bastard finds himself up against the combined might of the Asylum's inmates after the Joker so generously releases them all from captivity. If you've read the online review of this one, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is nothing less than the holy grail of gaming. Certainly the presentation is great and the voice-acting flawless and even the story - the mass Asylum escape being a pretty standard trope in the comics - is well realised. It's hardly surprising that the usual suspects of IGN, Gamespot etc went nuts over this game because reviewers seem to place greater emphasis on story, characterisation and atmosphere than ever before. As a somewhat long-in-the-tooth gamer I tend to find it rather odd as I never recall anyone running down Monty Mole for being 1-dimensional.
Monty Mole: Yeah, but what's his motivation?
Once you get past all the visual guff and the story, the game is pretty solid and is in some ways a Batman simulator. By the time you get all of the Dark Knight's gadgets you'll be chucking Batarangs, shooting ziplines and swinging around like Tarzan with a fetish for skintight black rubber. You'll do this a lot by the way. In fact you'll pretty much be doing the same thing over and over and over again.
Yep, in Batman you'll:
Fight a musclebound boss who does a charging attack
Fight a musclebound boss who does a charging attack, except that this time it's Bane
Fight a musclebound boss who does a charging attack, while fighting a bunch of normal guys
Fight a musclebound boss who does a charging attack, except this time there's two of them
Fight a musclebound boss who does a charging attack, except this time you're also hallucinating
Fight a musclebound boss who does a charging attack, while fighting loads and loads of normal guys
Take out a bunch of guys using stealth attacks
Take out a bunch of guys using stealth attacks except now they've got guns
Take out a bunch of guys using stealth attacks except you can't use gargoyles for cover
Take out a bunch of guys using stealth attacks except now they've got alarmed collars which attract others
Take out a bunch of guys using stealth attacks approximately forty more times
Needless to say, I didn't end up finishing Batman: Arkham Asylum because if I wanted a life of soul-destroying repetition I'd go back to working in Telesales.
Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage
This is a good game to compare to Bat's latest outing because like that game, FotNS:KR is a beautifully presented game based on a comic which features repetetive fights and bosses. There are however a key difference: rather than being constrained by the genre of roaming fighting games and rather than being constrained by the source material, developers KOEI have consistently tried to give the player more.
For those unaquainted with the source material, FotNS is (as one reviewer put it) a cross between Mad Max and He-Man. In a post-apocalyptic world a young martial-arts expert named Kenshiro fights against injustice wherever he encounters it. In this case 'injustice' consists of ludicrous mutant giants, a bunch of guys who are clearly our of their fucking trees and other fighters who's styles have exotic names like Nanto Suichoken and Nanton Seiken (Ken himself practises Hokuto Shinken).
The end product is nothing less than a love-letter to fans of the Anime and Manga. The generous cast of characters includes Ken, Rei, Toki, Mamiya, Raoh, Shin, Thouzer, Jagi, Heart and a generic but fun 'Outlaw' character, about half of which have their own 'Story' modes in addition to a 'Dream' mode which plays very much like KOEI's Dynasty Warriors series. It's the Dream Mode where it becomes clear just how much work has gone into fan-service as each character is presented with a vision of the future where they've taken a different path in life.
So (and this is where I lose just about everyone reading this), we get to see a future where Ken passed the mantle of successor to Toki, Raoh joined the rest of the Hokuto brothers against the Nanto, Shin turns against Thouzer, Jagi avoids a confrontation with Ken and becomes a hero in his own right and so on. Jagi's tale (aided and abetted by Amiba) is played purely for laughs and it's here where the writing really comes to the fore. As Amiba enthuses over collecting more warriors for his experiments, Jagi enquires "Just what is it with you and musclebound guys anyway?"
FotNS:KR came out a while ago so you may wonder why I'm still banging on about it. Well, that's because I'm still playing it! I'm not generally a completist but I'm determined to do everything which can be done on the game. The involves playing through with every character on all three difficulty levels and completing the Challenge mode and levelling every character up to the max. Thus far I'm up to 84 hours playing time.
Another oldie that I've turned my attention to. I'm not usually a fan of these strokey-beard racing games but this is probably the best I've played. I'm not sure I play them in the correct spirit though. I don't get as excited about buying a Bugati as I do about turbo-charging a Datsun.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops
Just got this one in the post yesterday and I'm still not sure whether to be impressed or not. Certainly the format of the game is quite clever, with the playable sections being the reminisces of a Black Ops soldier undergoing torture. Thusly, the story doesn't have to evolve in-game but rather through seperate exposition. This means that instead of plodding from area to area a la just about every other first-person shooter, you get thrown in at the business end of a variety of Cold War conflicts. Thus far I've attempted to assasinate Castro during the Bay Of Pigs fiasco, broken out of a Russian POW camp, engaged in all manner of mischief in Vietnam, battled a team of assassins on the rooftops of Hong Kong and even played as a Russian special ops guy fighting against Nazis.
I've always avoided the COD games for their reliance on multiplayer as their selling point over a decent single-player campaign. This gives service in every area though with generous single player, local multiplayer, 'zombie' mode and an entire COD take on Smash TV in the Dead Ops Arcade bonus game.
What I'm still not sure about is the utterly relentless nature of the game. Every section of the game is a chaotic, delrious firefight from beginning to end. From the get-go you move and shoot and move and shoot and die and restart and move and shoot while helicopters explode, buildings collapse and every last drop is wrung out of the horrors of war. It certainly feels realistic and it certainly gets the adrenaline going but it doesn't leave much opportunity to stop and smell the roses, with the exception of a short but obligatory stealth bit in Vietnam.
I'm pretty sure I like it, but it's not exactly a stress-reliever.
THE WISH LIST
Warriors: Legends Of Troy
The spiritual sequel to FotNS:KR which I haven't played simply because I'm still playing the latter game. Looks mightily good, Dynasty Warriors meets Fist meets ancient Greece with gallons of gore.
Looks a hell of a lot like Tropico 3 which was a hell of a lot like Tropico 2 but 'm such a fanboy that I'll probably get it anyway, although not at full price.
Slightly mixed reviews for this one so I'm 50/50 on whether to get it or not. Again, marked down due to poor voice-acting and story but let's be realistic: This is effectively going to be Zombie Flesheaters in as much as the Dead Rising series is Dawn Of The Dead. Anyone expecting Citizen Kane is probably missing the point.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3
Is this really the last version, Capcom? Really really? Well okay,,,
Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon
What is it with colons in the titles of games these days? Oh well, I'm very tempted by this latest installmwnt in gaming's most brainless franchise even if the last one was such a colossal disappointment.
With the solitary exception of MK3, I've loved every iteration of this series and I even buy into the whole back-story which Ed Boon or whoever has been foisting on an indifferent public for the past twenty years.
Red Faction Armageddon
Christ, I'm never going to get through all these am I?
Probably get around to purchasing this sometime prior to the release of the Xbox 720.
Mass Effect 2
And this one in the space year 2038.
Siege Of The Dead
And I'm still waiting for the best game in the world which doesn't actually exist. Dead Rising was the first game to take a step in the right direction, in that it trapped the player in a single (albeit large) location and tasked you with escorting survivors to a 'safe house'. The zombies weren't actually the device by which the plot was driven along, they were presented more as a massive inconvenience to be avoided or turned into so many steaming meatpiles. Unfortunately, everything else about the game sucked. For the most part rescuing people didn't actually matter and was something best ignored seeing as how the 'humans' of Dead Rising are possessed of the worst A.I seen in two entire generations of gaming. Possibly more. Add to that the ludicrous difficulty of certain bosses, the insane difficulty of the last 'extra' portion of the game and the time-dependent nature of your actions which made the gameplay rather linear and it was a case of one step forward, several hundred back.
What I want is an open-world game, similar to GTA in which Zombies are gradually infesting the city. The purpose of the game would be to rescue survivors and barricade locations. The safe-houses would start off small and gradually grow larger as the game progresses. Survivors would have tangible, usable skills and barricading would involve using whatever comes to hand, or travelling to other locations for supplies and materials. Starting off in a cabin in the woods, you'd need other people just to keep watch when you need to sleep. When the cabin gets overrun, you'd move to a larger location with its own peculiar strengths and weaknesses, right up to the culmination of the game in a shopping mall or similar.
Barricading and survival is something which is creeping in to modern zombie games. Dead Block, COD: Black Ops, Resident Evil 4 and any number of Flash games (usually Turned Based Strategy or Tower Defence) all have these elements but as yet there's no a single game I'm aware of which effectively replicates a zombie siege. Strange really when you consider that most Of George A Romero's movies have been about just that.
So here's to high hopes for Dead Island and for Dead Rising 3.