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Friday, August 7, 2009

Prototype, fucking Prototype...

Fuck where to begin. Prototype the newish open world game from Radical Entertainment makers of Hulk Ultimate Destruction, well I just played through this game. I have mixed thoughts on it. One minute it's fun as shit to run around the city jumping super high and throwing cars at helicopters then consuming some soldiers in a very violent manner. Then all of a sudden it's a game that suffers from loose awkward controls that seem to be fighting against your every move. One minute your a super badass slaughtering untold numbers of mutants, then all of a sudden you're so fragile could fall over when anything even touches you. Overall I liked and fucking hated this game at the same time. I'm not discussing any story stuff because I don't feel like it and there would probably be spoilers if I did. But I did like the story and I thought it played out well. It's what made me keep playing.

Briefly the positives. When the game is going right it's just a blast to play. Combat is okay and you have a large number of moves available to you. One complaint I heard a lot was about the weird way you had to press buttons to get some of the moves to work. The only thing I noticed was when you need to hit X and B (square and circle on the PS3, I played this on the 360) at the same time. But it's only for a few moves and except for using one of these moves at one part in the game I never needed them. I guess you'll never need them either so you shouldn't let that steer you away from this. Besides that the controls work, for the most part. I also liked that the whole city is available to you from the beginning of the game. You can go to any part and not see any kind of loading except at the start and end of a mission and that loading is not long at all. The graphics do suffer for this as they do in most open world games but the character animations especially for Alex are fantastic.

Now when the controls work it's great. When are they a factor? When you need precision movement mainly during the timed events you can do during the course of the game. You have timed foot races where you need to touch orbs placed around the map in a set amount of time. War events where you team up with the military or the infected to fight the other side. Kill events in which you by yourself need to kill a set amount of enemies in a time limit. And finally you have the glide events, you just need to glide and land on a marker some distance from where you start. Any other time I can fly and run around stopping and turning on a dime no fucking problem. Just doing really cool amazing things to get around. Then when I start a timed foot race all of it goes to shit. Alex Mercer (The guy you play as) just starts saying "fuck it" and does whatever the hell he wants during these. Not going in the direction you press or not gliding when you need to. Before you go "Well you must just suck" I'll offer this. I platinumed all the events so they can be done but it's frustrating. I don't know how many times I'd airhike and Alex would just fly off away from where I pressed. The war events are equally annoying. Mainly because they're timed and on some of them you can't use your powers at all. Two come to mind where you are disguised as military and you have to use a grenade launcher. Fuck they were tough. To platinum them I had to constantly spam the lock on to slow down time. It's would be like doing one second of fighting in .8 seconds. If that what Radical had in mind for you to beat it that's bullshit because I think I fucked up my left trigger doing it. But these war events are so random in the spawns you can be so close but one last enemy will spawn to far away for you to get to them. Now the solo Kill events aren't that bad but the lock on makes fighting lots of guys at once kind of bullshit.

When you lock on to a enemy in Prototype the game slows down to allow you time to start fighting. Well for me this would throw of my timing. It took me about half the game to get adjusted to it, but the lock on in general was still a problem. When you hit the left trigger it locks on to the biggest threat on the screen, not the biggest threat near you. So if you're looking at a soldier all the way down the street and a tank is right behind you but out of site the lock on will get the soldier way far away as the tank owns your ass. You can select to either toggle lock on or have it to where you need to hold down the left trigger to keep the lock on. I usually like the toggle method but in Prototype it's shit. Usually in a game with toggle lock on when you kill the enemy targeted the lock on stops. In Prototype the lock on switches to the next enemy on the screen no matter how far away he is and this can fuck you up. I switched to holding the trigger and had better luck. But a big thing to me with this is the camera. When you're locked on moving the right analog stick which usually moves the camera switches the lock on target. When you're using toggle it can switch you all over the place when you instinctively go for the right stick to swing the camera around. Sometimes when you have to run from an enemy you're locked on to the camera can't keep up and you end up losing sight of the enemy. This is prevalent during boss fights. Not a problem when you have just a boss but most times the boss has helpers with it so you'll end up losing your lock on to the boss and targeting a minion. Bullshit.

You're built up to be this super badass dude with all these powers and can destroy all kinds of shit but you're frail as shit. You can regenerate health but only half way. You have to consume enemies to raise it to full. You lose health really fast. When you're fighting a few enemies it's not a big deal but when the numbers are large, which is often you lose health way to fast. You can consume enemies for health but an attack from an enemy will knock the consumed target out of your hands, even in the middle of a consume animation. This can lead to cheap deaths and feelings that the game just doesn't want to let you do what you want to do. Any explosion can knock you down. Now I know it's a freaking explosion from a missle or grenade or whatever but you're suppose to be super powerful. Can't he just sometimes shrug the blast off? Hunter infected can knock you over just by bumping into you. This sucks ass during kill events involving infected. You're trying to slaughter civilian infected but they always spawn one Hunter that can jump from far far away to knock you down then combo you as you stand up. Kill him and another comes in to replace him. It's takes Alex so long to get up it's painful and then you lose the event.

Over all I liked Prototype. I would of liked to see things done differently and hope if they make a sequel they fix this shit. I bought this when Amazon had a deal of the day for it at 40 dollars and feel like that's a good price for this game. I put about 30 something hours into it all together playing through the story, finding all the Orbs and Web of Intrigue targets and getting platinum times in all the events so I feel I got my moneys worth out of it and I still need to play through it on hard mode. If you see it for 40 or cheaper I'd say get it. At 50 if you've played it and liked it then go ahead, you'll probably spend a lot of time with it.

If I was Activision I would of released a demo of the first prologue level. It was fucking awesome and they'd probably have sold a lot more copies of the game.

Prototype - 8.5 out of 10

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl

I was a little late playing this game. My old computer couldn't handle it so I had to wait until I had a new PC. Late last year I upgraded and was finally able to play this game plus a couple other ones I'd been waiting to play. It's been awhile since I've played STALKER so some of it may be foggy but I'll try to review the best I can.

The story starts off with you unconscious being dropped off by another Stalker. You wake up and have no memory of who you are or what your suppose to do. The only clue you have is on your pda a simple message, "Kill Strelok." The setting is the area surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The original accident of history happens but after that in this games time line people started to repopulate the area then another accident happens followed by only the most desperate people trying to survive in what they call "The Zone." Many of these people are known as Stalkers. basically they're treasure hunters, or mercenaries. Using violent force to get what they need to survive life in the Zone. I'm not going to go into the story anymore because to me it was actually well done and I would hate to ruin it for anyone. But eventually you're off on amazing and fucking wonderful adventures. And I mean that. STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl (After this just known as Stalker) is one of the absolute best games I've ever played.

The best thing right out of the gate for this game is the environment and the NPCs. You really feel like you're in the Zone. Weather effects like rain and wind are made very well. The landscape of the different levels in the Zone are all different and original. You know exactly what part you're in without having to look at your map. The feel of being in an irradiated wasteland is brought through in drab colors and just an overall depressing atmosphere. The way this interplays with the NPCs adds even more immersion to the game. From the very beginning when you meet Sidorivich in his vault door concealed office all the way to the very end you meet some very well done NPC characters. Most of them have nothing to add to the overall story but that isn't important. Walking through towns you'll see other Stalkers just sitting around talking or listening to another Stalker playing the guitar. One complaint about this I have is all the voice overs for the atmospheric NPCs are in Russian. I have no idea what they're saying. I would of liked to see the subtitles play for these people. All the story people you talk to speak English, but with a Russian accent.

Controls, well not a whole lot to say about them. They're good, standard FPS PC fare. At the right sensitivity the mouse aiming was smooth and responsive. I played with the sensitivity option set to around the middle of the bar. All your options in game are a button press away as most of your stuff is handled through a PDA you carry. Missions, maps and any conversations you've had are logged here. It also allows you to see the other enemies on your minimap.

Inventory is set up like a RPG in a way. You see the picture of your character then all you stuff, weapons, armor, items are all listed on the other side of the screen. Now this game has a weight limit for what you can carry, so you can't carry everything around with you. You have to plan out what you need in advance and hope you took enough ammo or healing items to survive. Now following the RPG look of the inventory I wish you had had a level up system of some kind. You're capped at 50 (I cant remember the measurement unit) units of weight and that never goes up. You can find an exosuit that lets you carry up to 70 but you lose your sprint when you wear it. At first I hated not being able to carry more. Being accustomed to games where you can carry tons of stuff I felt limited. As I went further in I realized it helped with the overall feeling of the game. I do still kind of wish ammo didn't take up weight. There is a little bit of character customization in this. You can find artifacts spread around the world. You pick these up and can equip up to 5 of them. They do things like give you more health or lessen the amount of radiation you build up and can even let you run for longer periods of time. Some of these have a negative effect on them as well. One makes you easier to bleed from wounds. Artifacts can form around Anomalies, which are areas with some distortion effect. One is like lightning and shocks you. Another, the Vortex is dangerous as hell and must be avoided. It swirls you around then you just explode. If you sprint at the right time you can run through it but more times than not I just ended up a bloody mess on the ground reloading a save. They last a certain number of in game days then can disappear or appear in a new area.

Next up, weapons and they're a bunch of them. You have your standard fare. Pistols, Shotguns, Sniper rifles, SMGs, Assault rifles and explosive weapons, grenades or a rarely seen rocket launcher. The weapons all feel good and have realistic accuracies. Moving and shooting make hitting stuff harder just as ducking down makes your accuracy better. You can find scopes to mount to certain Assault rifles which helps the aiming on them big time. I thing there was two different types of scopes. One only worked on certain guns and the other on a different set. That I really liked. Weather can affect our aiming too. Rain and wind can make you need to adjust your aim but not dramatically, but it's there. All the weapons have weight so you cant carry on of each with you to be a walking army. You can have a pistol, main gun and a grenade of some kind equipped to use the number buttons or mouse wheel to select. Because of weight that's about all you'll carry anyway. Sometimes you can squeeze a sniper rifle in but that depends on your loadout. It's best to learn what faction uses which guns. That way you can carry a gun that uses the same ammo as them into combat. Nothing sucks ass more than needing one kind of ammo but all the enemies are dropping is a different kind. Now some guns have special properties to them. Be it a simple silencer or an assault rifle customized to shoot super ass fast. You'll see guns with bigger clips or built in scopes and some other stuff. It's a little hazy to me because I stuck with pretty much a certain few guns through the whole game. But something that sucks is the guns can degrade from use and can jam as they get worse which to me is fucking awesome. Guns and armor degrade. Now this feature in itself isn't lame but you cant repair stuff. Once something goes all the way it breaks and is worthless. A little bit in to the game you find a fast firing AK-74 and it's totally badass all over the place. It didn't make it with me all the way through the game but I would of liked it if it. I found a good replacement but still. Another minor complaint are the special guns don't look different from the regular type of guns. Now I know this isn't space with a bunch of fancy guns but at least a different skin or something on the gun to show the modification. Except for the guns with silencers on them there isn't anything to show that they're special unless you look in the inventory.

This game has multiplayer but I didn't bother to play it. I don't think anyone does. But I've read it's just basic Deathmatch, team deathmatch and CTF.

In closing all I can say is the same I've said all through this. STALKER is a freaking awesome game that needs to be played. Shamefully I have not played "Stalker: Clear Sky" the prequel to this yet. I plan on doing that soon. Later this year the third Stalker game is coming out "Call of Pripyat" and it looks badass.

Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl - 9 out of 10