Wednesday 13 May 2009

Ninja Blade

I’ve never been to Japan, and I’ve only briefly played Devil May Cry so I should be at a disadvantage reviewing Ninja Blade; but I’m still not an idiot. While I’ve never been there personally, I’m willing to bet that the Japanese government doesn’t have an elite squadron of ninjas, but even if they did I’m they wouldn’t be prepared to fire them out the back of a dropship several thousand feet in the air in the event of some bizarre natural disaster. Nor will they have such a group in the next few years. Think about it. Even if they did employ people with cat-like reflexes, agility that lets them run along walls and the ability to look at the world in bullet time, there are much better uses for them other than canon fodder:

- pilots
- decorators
- more dangerous pilots
- research subjects
- even more dangerous pilots
- pilots who can touch up the paintwork on Air Force One mid flight
- a funnier variant of a pilot

You see? That list took me about four seconds to think of. All I’m saying is that if I was in charge of dispatching people with such impressive abilities, my first idea wouldn’t be to drop them out of a plane into a room full of mutants armed with little more than a couple of sodding sticks. There’s a special breed of people for that job, Gene Roddenberry thought of it over 40 years ago. They’re called “redshirts”. All you need is some red tops, one person with a name worthy of appearing in a movie (such as “Jake Bullet”) who’ll survive and report back to you, and about eight people known only as something like “Hernandez” or “O’Reilly”. Yeah, they’ll certainly all die, but who cares? The mission will be successful. Eventually.

If there’s any kind of warning I need to give regarding Ninja Blade, it’s that if you already hate quick time events, don’t bother with it unless you want to develop a full-blown allergy, new found immunity and then another allergy all over again. Most of the game consists of random button presses as prompted on-screen and occasionally you get to walk around a bit. Oh yeah, avoid Ninja Blade if you don’t fancy spending most of you time stabbing giant penises. I have no idea what this problem is with giant penises, but pretty much all western interpretations of Japanese culture involves ninjas and penises. Great, throbbing, deformed penises capable of tearing down buildings. I’m not even doing justice to how predominant giant penises are in Ninja Blade. Seriously. I spent a while wondering if I’d get more of a kick out of it if I was a gay nymphomaniac.

I guess Ninja Blade is the game for people who don’t think they’ve played enough Devil May Cry (and really, they have) and also still enjoy cornering insects and pulling their legs off one by one. Unless you’re fighting a flying boss, all you do to anything bigger than yourself is quick time event it until it can’t run away anymore, then slowly cut its legs off with a couple of blunt swords. I know the story is about some weird insects infecting humans and turning them into horrific monstrosities, but considering the government is telling me to kill them one by one by cutting their legs off slowly and painfully, I was beginning to think I was the evil one.

Then I remembered that I wasn’t the one firing bolts of lighting resulting in another completely unnecessary quick time event, and dragging boss battles out for about an hour and repeating the same fucking routine over and over until eventually it worked properly. If you are fighting a flying boss, however, you’ll be delighted to know that the battle will be reminiscent of the boss hand thing in Super Smash Bros. on the highest difficulty setting. The only differences are that it’ll take longer because it’s just slightly higher off the ground and your ninja has a habit of occasionally getting caught up in his own awesomeness with a katana and as such will savage whatever direction you accidentally pointed him at for a few seconds while the boss comes up behind you and pulls your skull out through your colon.

I get a distinct impression that during the Ninja Blade design meetings, there was someone bouncing up and down in the corner repeatedly shouting “MAKE IT MORE AWESOME” without really giving any insight as to what they meant by “awesome”. As such, you’ll run along walls, plummet from the sky, fight along walls, fight in the sky and even (and I’m not joking):

- grab a freshly vomited motorbike out of the air at around 4000 feet
- ride it along a pair of coaches
- ram it down the throat of one of the giant asteroid worms from Star Wars: Episode IV and detonate it

I didn’t quite manage to finish it, but that’s not because it’s any measure of a long game, I was just a bit embarrassed about hacking giant penises during daylight and could only play it for a while during the small hours of the morning. I also have friends.

I think the tone they aimed for in Ninja Blade was “action thriller” but kind of missed the mark on account of deformed people stopped being scary some time before I Am Legend came out and made us question how they could be truly dangerous if they’re such big pussies that they can’t set foot in daylight. There’s also the fact that most of the action is so over the top that it goes right beyond corny and is just really funny. Speaking of which, what kind of city has “an emergency catapult” in it’s fucking sewage system?! It’s only possible use would be to make the Saint’s Row sanitation activity a lot less challenging, or conveniently enough, launching a giant insect into orbit. There’s also the ability to dress your uber graceful ninja/warrior/government agent up as the Queen of Hearts or a clown, which undermines pretty much every aspect of the game somewhat. I thought I could make the game more entertaining by dressing my ninja as a packet of gum, but that didn’t do the trick if I’m honest.

While not content with ripping off Devil May Cry and misrepresenting modern Japan completely, Ninja Blade spent and entire level missing the point of Snakes On A Plane; which is of course just to hear Samuel L. Jackson shouting “I’ve had enough of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane”. Instead it has you fighting some giant snake thing with god knows how many heads (maybe it was just three, but I’m sure I shot a few off on my way to the plane and cut a few more off while on the bloody thing) while on the wing of a cargo jet.

Personally, I feel a bit ripped off by Ninja Blade. It was on my incredibly short list of games I thought I’d be interested in this year only to turn out to be Devil May Cry via I Am Legend by way of quick time events. If you really want to run through some ruined corridors to twat a few colossal penises with a blunt stick for a few hours on end, I recommend Ninja Blade. I’ve just discovered that there is in fact a way to use stealth in Viking: Battle for Asgard, so I say “fuck that” to Ninja Blade.

Thursday 7 May 2009

Duke Nukem NEVER

As I said in at least one of my older posts, I've had my own theories about Duke Nukem Forever. And by theories, I mean doubts. Twelve years in development, initials of DNF (commonly used in motor racing, meaning "Did Not Finish") and I'm sure I had some other points that've escaped me at the minute.

Anyway, whether you're aware or not, 3D Realms (the Duke's parents), just went tits-up and have conveniently and officially launched Duke Nukem Forever into the same hole most people are throwing adventure games into. My sources indicate that this hole leads directly to the seventh layer of hell. Pity.

This, in turn, essentially means that Duke Nukem Forever doesn't have Doctor in a Soap Opera's chance of surviving. Bollocks to Take-Two saying they're holding onto the rights. The rights are probably all that exist of Duke Nukem Forever anyway. At least it made me giggle that they've said while they'll be holding the name, they wont be paying development costs anymore.

Saturday 2 May 2009

Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard (and me, I guess)

As I now have a maximum of about three people even aware that I do stuff on the internet, I feel obliged to keep them entertained and/or informed. Actually, those few people should be quite aware of what I’ve been up to anyway – which is frankly a bit scary. Anyway, my point is that I kind of gave up writing my reviews quite suddenly when I realised it was a stupid idea and I should just go back to university if I ever want to be successful. Or at least make enough money to live on my own. Fuck it, enough money to run a car.

Well, one of the reasons I stopped was because I was trying to get my life in order and shit, and the other, more important one was that every game making its way through production was either a pile of wank or ANOTHER third person shooter using the Unreal Engine, or both. So I tried making a statement along the lines of: “look, you clinically retarded developers, we’ve played Gears of War, now give us something else”.

No one listened, and we still ended up with shit like an Onechanbara remake, a racing game that looked exactly like Forza 2 but cost about four times as much, and Wheelman. Nuff said. As I said earlier, I was planning on playing Banjo Kazooie Nuts & Bolts, but realised that it wouldn’t stop the trickle of [shit] games coming out this year and could no longer be arsed to do anything short of breathing.

Eventually I got my hands on Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard and thought it a fitting game to bother showing my virtual face on the internet again (presumably for people to ignore me and just have sex on said virtual face). I’d already had both the people in my hometown who’d played it repeatedly jumping on my love spuds calling it just another third person shooter and about as long as a wank on a train (maybe that last bit is just me). Before getting the chance to unravel from the foetal position and ask if it was at least funny, the discussion had quickly dwindled towards Call of Duty’s online awesomeness. So, my beloved audience, I cried. I cried long and hard.

Right, enough of that bollocks, back to business.

Indeed, Eat Lead is another third person shooter that holds your hand as you hide behind a wall and occasionally pop out to clean the arena of a few retards before moving on. There’s also the odd quick time event. But hell, it’s a parody of gaming, so setting it up as a third person shooter like every other bastard game in the last year or so is the right starting point, isn’t it? Isn’t it?! You know, being painfully aware of what’s wrong with the gaming industry and using it as a platform for taking the piss out of it? All that shit? Yeah?

Fuck it, let’s be honest, it could’ve been a bit more experimental and edgy. Nevermind, at least it had some decent gags.

Dammit. Because of those decent gags, I can’t really take the piss out of them, they did it for me. And they ripped on Red Steel, which earned masses of respect in my opinion (worthless piece of shit left me spinning around like a dog that’d just swallowed it’s bodyweight in caffeine), then went on to taking the piss out of unnecessarily complicated mission objectives in games aimed at people who think opening a tin of beans is mentally challenging.

What can I say against it? Anything I can think of gets thrown back in my face along with a message wrapped around a brick saying “it was a joke, dipshit”. I wont dare say it was brilliantly designed, but at least they had the common sense to veil shit design with a self-degrading gag.


Seriously, there’s a really shit checkpoint towards the end of the game that forces you to kill one of eight tentacles, then shows a pretty long cutscene telling you that you’re doing well and have seven left; and let’s face it, sod’s law says you’re going to die at some point between that cutscene and killing the last tentacle. So you’ll have to kill the first tentacle and watch the annoying cutscene again. Just as I think I’ve found something to get good and wound up about, it sticks some deja-vu into the repeated cutscene and makes me giggle. I also deliberately repeated "cutscene" for rhetoric effect or some cleverbollocks thing like that.

Let’s face it, Eat Lead knows it’s target audience annoyingly well and only dicks itself over on two things: it is shorter than something inappropriate on public transport, and no one thought to actually make the back catalogue of Matt Hazard games. All they had to do was leave some of the writers with some computing students for a few weeks and promise them free pizza while they worked. I know the point was that Matt Hazard isn’t an existing gaming franchise, but they could’ve at least re-skinned the games they were taking the piss out of.

Can’t really mock the controls for anything other than lack of imagination, but as we all know, third person shooters don’t need original controls. Too Human proved this quite well by taking away camera control and making melee combat about as vague as a mouse farting in a dark room flooded by a high powered fog machine. There’s also a complete lack of unlockable extras and fetch quests, but I don’t actually care because in my experience you need to have precisely no life to get all of a game’s unlockables. Key example; find me someone who unlocked the Spartan in Dead or Alive 4, then show me them doing something normal human beings do (like physically conversing with another human being or something). The same goes for all you freaks with the Security Helmet in Halo 3. Yeah, I went there.

Seeing as you’ll almost certainly finish Eat Lead over lunch, I can’t recommend you buy it, but seeing as the games industry is currently resembling the average American citizen (i.e., uninformed, retarded and slowly dying from a massive build up of shite in it’s veins), I definitely recommend you play through it in some way, shape or form. I mean, come on; it mellowed me out enough to remember that Star Trek Online is supposed to be out this year and got me to start writing again.

Well, kind of. If there’s still shit all worth playing, you wont hear much from me for a while.