Monday, January 31, 2011

Dead Space 2

I feel the need to apologize to Dead Space 2.  It's supposed to be a scary game, but I was never, ever scared.  But I think that's my fault, not the game's.  I think.

See, I played it on the easiest difficulty setting.  As I never finished the first game, I was more concerned about making sure I actually finished the game and saw the end of the story than anything else; but I think that because I removed a great deal of the challenge, the stakes were never all that high.  I finished the game in a little over 8 hours and aside from a few jump-scares, I never really felt any dread

The thing is, now that I've finished the game, I suppose I could go back and play it again on a higher difficulty setting; but what's the point?  I explored the hell out of the game on my first go-round, so it's not like I would see anything different.  I'd simply have less ammo, less health, and tougher monsters; that elicits a big fat "meh" from me. 

Indeed, the more I think about it, the less impressed I am with the game than I was when I was actually playing it.  The game is atmospheric as hell, and is certainly a lot more colorful than the original - there were a few sections that reminded me a bit of Bioshock, actually, and I mean that as a compliment.  But when I think about it now, I realize that there's a great deal of backtracking, and most of the city environments aren't really all that interesting, and the story never really did anything for me. 

But, of course, I never finished the first game, so a lot of what DS2's story beats focus on didn't necessarily resonate with me.  It's too soon in the game's life to start dissecting the story without totally spoiling it, so I'll just say that the main character's frequent hallucinations (not a spoiler) and primary motivations didn't really mean anything to me. 

Ultimately, though, regardless of the difficulty, a game needs more than just monsters spawning behind you in order to be scary.  DS2 does a lot of things right, but it's missing something vital.

Friday, January 28, 2011

getting it back

So it's been quiet here at SFTC, and for that I apologize.  Things have been pretty quiet on the gaming front since my last post.  There wasn't anything new to play, and I wasn't necessarily doing all that much on the backlog, Steam sales be damned. 

But then Little Big Planet 2 came out, and then Dead Space 2 came out, and now the 3DS and the PSP2/NGP have been formally announced/dated, and I find that I've got some things to say.

LBP2:  I finished the single-player campaign earlier this week, and started to dabble with some of the community-made levels.  The game is as charming as ever, and the single-player campaign certainly did its best to illustrate what the game is capable of.  And it should be noted that the game's website,, is perhaps the best game-related website ever made - the ability to look at community-made levels on the web, add them to a queue, and then have the game automatically have your queue waiting for you the next time you log in - it's so elegant and well-made that it seems downright bizarre that it hasn't been done before.  If I have a problem with the game, then, it's that I don't think I'll ever have the time/patience/imagination to make my own levels, which makes me feel like my experience with the game will be artificially cut in half. 

Dead Space 2Finally got this via Gamefly yesterday, and I'm about an hour in.  I never finished the first game, though not for lack of trying, and so my first playthrough of DS2 is being done on the easiest mode, because I'd really like to make it all the way through and see where the story goes.  As the game is apparently very friendly in terms of incorporating previous playthroughs into new ones, I can see myself giving it another go on a higher difficulty level.  I'll say this - I'm loving the hell out of it.  I do scare pretty easily, when it comes to movies, but games don't really scare me - sure I'll get startled (like when the dogs jump through the window in RE2), but there's a big difference between being startled and actually being creeped out and scared.  So, then, no, I've not been scared.  And I wasn't scared in the first one, either - I never finished it because there were sections that were just too hard, or I didn't have enough ammunition, and I got frustrated and gave up.  The first hour of DS2 has been thrilling, however, and certainly startling, and there's been a few times where I've said things out loud that I normally wouldn't say.  I'm very much looking forward to diving back in.

As for the new handhelds...

I'm certainly intrigued by the 3DS, there's no doubt about it.  But I'm not really all that excited about the games that have been announced, and ultimately that's the most important factor.  Hell, right now I play my DS maybe once or twice a year, if a good puzzle game comes out, and I can't justify spending $250 on a snazzy piece of tech that I'm never going to use, especially since I'll be getting a Verizon iPhone 5 later this year.  And I really don't want to spend $250 just to play up-rezzed ports of N64 games, no matter how snazzy the ports are. 

Similarly, I'm very intrigued by the new PSP - very snazzy tech, and a more hard-core lineup of titles (I'm especially interested in that new Uncharted title) - but I don't know that there's any one must-have title out there that can help me justify the purchase.  And I'm already wary of Sony's ability to sustain a handheld - I was excited to buy a PSP, sure, but I got bored with it and sold it back within 8 months, and I haven't missed it at all.  And if the plan is simply to port over 360 and PS3 titles, well, that's not necessarily what I want out of my handheld experience.

I generally play handheld games either on the subway or in bed.  I never have the sound on, and I'm not really all that interested in narrative.  I want something to do for a few minutes here and there while I'm unable to do anything else.  My iPod Touch has been excellent at filling that void, and the $1 - $6 price point is very appealing.  So, again, it's hard for me to justify $300 + $50-60 per game, when the games they're offering are games I'd rather play on my HDTV. 

I still think I'll end up with a 3DS, eventually.  I think I can wait for the inevitable redesign and price drop, though.  The PSP2, on the other hand... I don't know.  The PSP2 is the machine I'd rather have, frankly, but I need to know that Sony can maintain a healthy game library for more than 6 months.  Otherwise, I'm just going to stick with the iPhone.