Monday 20 October 2008

Little Big Planet

Yes! I have news!


No, I haven't managed to secure myself a copy before the worldwide release, I'm not nearly important enough yet. Anyway, read on.

We've all been waiting for Little Big Planet for quite a fucking ridiculous time now, and now that the wait is almost over Sony realises that it might offend Muslims because they chose some music that takes some of its lyrics from the Qur'an. Just sit back and think about how stupid that is. I mean, fair enough, Muslim extremists are renowned for riots and call for blood when someone calls a teddy bear Mohammed (even though you probably know at least one Mohammed whose blood isn't being ordered for lunch).

Don't call me racist for even one second. I may not understand why they get so pissy about anything remotely to do with their religion but I do know that people get paid to choose the music for games and they also get paid to check it BEFORE IT GOES INTO PRODUCTION.

Oh yeah, the article is here; go read and spread ignorance and racism in the name of Sackboy.

Friday 17 October 2008


Just no. No. I'm not fucking playing it until someone starts paying me to do these.

It's a shooting game were you fuck around with the floor. Sorry, but that's not a USP, that's just lazy level design. If you ever want me to review Fracture, you better be brandishing a big juicy contract.

Friday 10 October 2008

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Just to be clear before I start, I was intelligent enough to play the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of Star Wars, full in the knowledge that the Wii version would at best be nothing short of gimmicky. And shit.

With that in mind, I got to play the game in all its Euphoria and DMM enhanced glory; I’m also now cynical enough about Star Wars that playing with the new physics was my main reason behind playing The Force Unleashed. So, as literally everyone now knows, you play as Darth Vader’s secret apprentice during the exact time that no one really cares about.

That’s a little too much story than is really necessary when you make a game that lets people fling storm troopers around “because they feel like it”. But it’s not just about flinging storm troopers around; you can also throw heavy things at storm troopers. Or launch storm troopers into orbit. Or smash them into the floor at astonishingly comical speeds. It’s so much fun that I decided to ignore the fact that all lightsabers act like little more than great big glowing bats (apart from when I cam across a purge trooper, in which case I began cursing this oversight with the intensity of a thousands women in labour).

I can’t think of much to say about The Force Unleashed, other than it’s generally very good for what it is. It’s a very linear action game with some basic RPG elements; cool physics and Jedi. I wouldn’t call it perfect, but it was good enough make me actually want to play through it rather than just try reaching the credits to write one of these in the hope that someone with a little too much money will read it and give me some of it.

That said, the auto-targeting system is just plain awful even by my low standards (considering I was frankly amazed by the auto-targeting in GTA IV and Crackdown). And when I mean it’s bad, I mean I think I may have seriously upset the person responsible for it, because in one particular part of level involving big explosive pieces of scrap and hostile tie-fighters, the obvious course of action was damn near impossible. While I could occasionally grab hold of one tie fighter and slam it into another, all my other attempts resulted in whatever I eventually manager to grab with the force either exploding instantly, or getting launched into the nearest wall no matter which direction I pointed. The only feeling this managed to provoke was that same feeling you get when grocery shopping; you know when you’re getting something out of a fridge that has mirrors and you don’t realise that they are in fact mirrors? Yeah, that same sense of eventually embarrassing futility.

Now that I’ve come to write about it, it has suddenly become painfully obvious exactly how simple the formula for The Force Unleashed really is: star level, have a fight, head somewhere else, occasionally pick up a couple of holocrons, have a bigger fight while you’re trying to do something else; then finish with a boss fight and do the whole thing again. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a certain something that means it never actually boring. Sometimes disheartening, like when you’ve had to repeat the same fight about 7 times because every time you clear some rooms, some bright spark decided it’d the game could be significantly improved by introducing more heavily armoured imperial forces while you’d rather be looking for mountainous piles of bandages and cotton wool.

So, ok, it drops the ball a couple of times and yeah, it does concentrate on all the action intensive crap from the prequels, but I’d still hold it as one of the best Star Wars ever games made. Although that may be because it takes turn-based combat and exiles it to the deepest, darkest depths of some long forgotten ditch on some moon somewhere. Hell, if they actually finished Knights of the Old Republic 2 and used some real combat without using any frankly bewildering babble about how the roll of a virtual dice you can’t see decides whether you die or do a little bit of damage, then I’d happily dub it my favourite game of all time. Holy crap, that really hurt my brain.

But someone at LucasArts decided that they really don’t like me, so it was never to be.


This isn’t about the back catalogue of LucasArts and how they’ve made some brilliant games, some shit games and just occasionally missed the mark of perfection by a margin so slim it’s only worth mentioning to stop more intelligent people taking the piss out of you. This is supposed to be about one particular game, The Force Unleashed and so help me, the only tangents I’m willing to go off on are ones that are funny.

What we also have in The Force Unleashed is another problem with modern games that’s really starting to annoy me, and I’m certain I brought it up in Haze. You start the game as the evil Sith Lord’s equally evil S&M bitch who will quite happily maul legions of storm troopers if it involves tracking down and royally violating Jedi with your lightsaber and fists of force-imbued fury. Despite the number of times Darth Vader betrays your character, he remains oblivious that Vader is in fact the emperor’s S&M bitch and that’ll never change. The main problem I have with the story in The Force Unleashed is that it takes a perfectly evil Sith apprentice, and gradually turns him into another angsty Jedi teenager who decided to genuinely try overthrowing the empire. And yes, I do know that you can get an evil ending (heaven forbid someone makes a game with just one ending these days), but the whole story arc begs for a hero who’d rather shove his lightsaber up the emperor’s arse rather than taking Vader’s place as the biggest and baddest asthmatic S&M bitch.

If you can forgive the completely random auto-targeting, there’s a lot to like about The Force Unleashed and it really is worth getting; but I’m personally waiting for Fable 2 for some good old wholesome evil and corrupt gaming while I’m not too busy playing with my dog. If not, you’re an idiot.

Incidentally, if you’re on facebook, you could do worse than joining my group “Fable 2 will be good or Peter Molyneux’s dog will die”.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Too Human

After playing games for so many years, you’d think I’d have learned by now that it’s not actually worth looking forward to a game, especially one that’s been delayed for significantly longer than the train you were actually on time for. But, lo and behold, I made the newbie error of thinking that that Too Human looked totally awesome and that it could possibly be the most interesting and unique games I’ve played this year. And considering that the only significant interruption to the flow of almost dangerous level of mediocrity was Grand Theft Auto 4 (and everyone who disagrees can all go tape themselves to a Scud missile and learn what’s really “too serious”), it couldn’t be too hard for a game to grab that title.

Things started falling apart during the first cutscene, when I became quite aware as to why there had been such a public cat fight between Silicone Knights and Epic over the game engine. I seriously haven’t seen anything as inconsistent as the frame rate in Too Human since the first time I tried making ReadyBrek. Seeing as Too Human had been branded an action RPG, I forked over my hard-earned monies and gave it a wide birth on the understanding that everything would pick up later and I’d have weeks of fun while deciding to be a gallant and pure human knight, or load myself up on enough cybernetics to make the Borg queen say “Jesus Christ, mate, don’t you think that that’s a bit much?”.

But no.

Instead I got a sluggish, tiresome and repetitive Devil May Cry rip off that didn’t even have the healthy supply of hard rocking metal music thrashing away, accompanying images of a goliath, glowing hammer obliterating legions of evil robots. Somewhere towards the end a rather pitiful guitar solo showed up, but like I said in my Bully review, it’s like seeing a whale with a golfer’s glove glued to it. It doesn’t fit and all it does is make you wonder why anyone decided to put it there.

A big problem with Too Human is it makes my favourite genre sound like an excuse for schizophrenia and blatant laziness. You just know that someone tried justifying the slow pace of this “action RPG” by saying it’s an RPG and you have to sit back and take it in, but when asked about the lack of any kind of choice or penalty (for anything at all), someone very similar (but with a suspicious looking moustache and sweater) says that it’s an action game and no one who plays action games has the patience for that sort of malarkey.

So, with that in mind, Too Human managed to almost instantaneously label itself as completely fucking useless. Surely, such a long and complicated birth can have some kind of pay off; some kind of amazing physics engine that makes candyfloss melt realistically? Well maybe, but they made the massive mistake of making a game with absolutely no candyfloss, nor any opportunity to do so despite Norse Gods being renowned for their love of such a fabulously charming way of eating sugar. It’s the only explanation I can think of as to why it took so long to release the damn game, because even the combat (and it’s between 70% and 95% combat, depending on how much fannying around you do with different coloured armour and weapons) is nothing shy of painful; slow, sticky and with such a feeling of futility that makes you wonder if you’re actually in the middle of an MMO, furiously grinding away while your friends are all out kissing girls.

Call me a sucker for flashing colourful lights and other general shininess of sci-fi, because I was determined to see it through to the end; although it was also partly down to an overwhelming desire to not get beaten by such a shit game. Again.

Anyway, my advice is this: don’t bother. Yeah, it’s being marketed as the first in a planned trilogy, but on no circumstances does that give anyone the right to make a game with such a poor ending. Baldur sticks his sword through a table and goes off on a huff. There, that’s it, I’ve just saved you about 10 hours of your life. The whole idea seems drastically flawed… Norse Gods in shiny armour shooting and crushing robots is very cool; but how the bejesus do you classify someone as a Norse God? No one has any super powers, everyone can (and quite a lot do) die and in fact, one of them is blind. BLIND FOR GOD’S SAKE. Towards the end you get sent on a mission to assault hell. In theory, this should redefine “badass” but instead it’s just bland and dry, with the itching feeling that you’ve just figured out where all of Earth’s metal actually comes from.

I don’t profess to know much about Norse Gods or the logistics involved in fighting legions of robots, but I can guarantee you that when mixed with sci-fi and made into a game, the word “boring” should be lost in the deepest depths of the minds of anyone involved. Even if you can’t nail the action, The Lost Vikings proved years ago that you can make a brilliant game if you combine Viking mythology with sci-fi. Again, if you disagree, scud missile.

Whatever, it’s lame and takes a brilliant idea for a story, then gives it a vasectomy. Personally, I think they could have made a massive improvement if they had you play the game as Lt. Commander Worf and then threw in a bunch of driving sections from Burnout. Then bundle the game with a lighter and some sherbet.