Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 2014 Play Log - Day 15 to 21

15 - With all the hype (or at least all the talk on the podcasts) about InFamous Second Son coming out on Friday, I thought I should really give the original InFamous a try. This is one of those major titles that I never tried or even knew much about beyond "you're a guy with super-powers". What I played of it (basically the first few missions) was very interesting. You can't really call it a "3rd person shooter" because you're doing more than just firing a gun. Your character, Cole, is more like a wizard firing magic missiles or something. Add to that the ability to jump, suck energy from power sources to heal, and climb along ledges, and you get a unique experience that I wish I had tried sooner. It's telling, I think, that I'd rather play more of InFamous on the PS3, than do anymore on Thief on the newer PS4. There's still so much to enjoy from the "last generation".

16 - This was more of an experimentation night than a gaming night. Since I've had a PS4 and a Vita, I've been curious to see how Remote Play works. Back in the day, I tried connecting my PSP up to the PS3 and while it "worked" it wasn't anything I'd want to really use - mostly because the PSP screen is, to me anyway, very dark and hard to see. I've heard some of my podcasters talk about using their Vita's to play games from their PS4 over the Internet while on trips, and I was frankly skeptical that it would even work well in my own house. It only took a couple of minutes to link the PS4 and Vita and as soon as I did, the Vita mirrored what was on the PS4's TV output exactly. And since the Vita's screen is so much better than the PSP's, it looked great. As a test, I booted up Resogun. I wasn't too sure a) how well a fast game like this would handle wireless connectivity, and b) how well I'd be able to see things like the little human figures. The results of both surprised me - it was fantastic! Before long, it didn't even register with me that I was playing on the handheld system. Admittedly, the mini-thumbsticks kept snapping me back to the realization that I was the Vita, but they weren't bad at all. I do need to do some research on figuring out where the L2/R2 buttons are mapped to on the rear touch panel, but I was able to play pretty well anyway. I also need to try it out at a Starbucks and see how that works. Pretty fancy stuff! It's just sad that with the Vita struggling so hard against the 3DS and mobile markets, and knowing that most gamers probably have never and will never try this feature.

17 - After a trip to the Gamestop Public Library of Games, I returned Thief and decided to roll-over my credit to borrow Battlefield 4 for the PS4.

(It's all part of my plan to play as many New Generation games as I can without having to spend $60 apiece.) I go way back with Battlefield to the original 1942 incarnation that was designed almost exclusively for multi-player - something that hadn't been tried in a market of Medal of Honor and Call of Duty stories. I played a little back then, but only against the in-game 'bots. I got tired of it quickly since there wasn't a story to keep my interest. These days (since Battlefield 3?) there is a campaign included that tends to get more flak than a bomber squadron over a major city. I actually feel sorry for the programmers who work on these since the stories are always derided for being so awful. But are they really that bad? I'm "renting" BF4 for that campaign without any real plan to play online. I played the first "chapter" and it basically felt like being in an action movie - not a bad thing really. I got it for the big explosions and even bigger things falling all around me. It's a wild ride that I'm hoping I'll be able to finish before I have to return it. It's not the easiest thing to control (ie, aim) with a gamepad, but I'm doing pretty good.

18 - Well, yeah...I guess I'm beginning to see why some people have issues with the campaign mode in this game. The second mission in the story mode has "us" (my team) being briefed that we need to extract some "VIP's" from a hotel in Singapore before war breaks out with China. I'm instructed - explicitly - to "fly under the radar" with this one and "fire my weapons as a last resort". OK, I figure, cool. I can do a little stealth when I need to. Can even be fun. Probably do some sneaky take-downs, weapons will be silenced, just in case. Uh, no. As soon as we get into the elevator to go up to the "VIP's" room, Pac starts handing out weapons - big, loud weapons. When the elevator stops on the wrong floor, a bunch of Chinese spec-ops see us and start shooting! "I think we're at war with China," one of my squad mates exclaims. Crap. So much for stealth. What follows is a very violent fight in a skybar just under the room that our "VIP" is in, complete with lots of grenades. The good part here is I learned about using Burst mode on automatic weapons. Great for not running out of bullets too soon. I'd also like to thank the game designers for putting those really nice ammo crates all over the battlefield. Totally unrealistic, but very useful. The bad part is that the game insists on you clearing certain obstacles, usually kill a certain number of soldiers, before you can move on. We were in a firefight while Pac was trying to open a door...and I'm standing there with enough C4 to blow half the building up! But, of course, he couldn't open it until we dispatched every enemy from all four waves. (Contrast this with InFamous where I had a "goal" to unlock a series of gates by charging up the control panels. I opened the last one without having to take out the machine gun pit next to it since I could shoot over the container I was hanging from. A much more flexible design.) Then when we get to the room with the "VIP's", we ask "What's so special about them?" "They're very important people," we are told by our intelligence contact. Oh, boy. Anyway, I did enjoy playing "pin the C4 on the tank" before we could board our escape boat - except for the multiple times the tank either ran me over or shot me. So we all sail out of Singapore and an EMP bomb goes off, turning off all the lights in the city and frying all the electronics. Then Irish, one of my other squad mates, starts yelling at the other boats to follow us out to the US Navy ships. OK, a) how did they understand his English, and b) just how far can a bunch of sanpans sail before they run out of gas? And wouldn't the EMP pulse have fried the electronic systems of the boats (ie, alternator, spark plugs, etc). Well, at least everything in this game looks fantastic - a new level of cinematic immersion! (For me, anyway.)

19 - More BF4. I have to admit, this game looks amazing. And, at least what I played of it last night, nobody did or said anything really stupid. Except, why do I always have to be the doorman? I was opening doors all over the place. What, everyone's arms broken? Also, I didn't expect to be "driving" as much as I have been - cars, boats, tanks - but they do handle pretty well. The sea battle we got into after getting off the burning/sinking Titan aircraft carrier (That was impressive!) took way too long. It wouldn't let us get back to the Valkyrie until we destroyed all the enemy boats. What was really weird was hitting "invisible walls" in the middle of the ocean during the battle. Not quite a completely open world.

20 - Sheesh! I thought I'd never get to the airfield. I really thought I was stuck, getting killed over and over in that damn APC. I've got to be getting to the end of this story mode. According to the website that lists game lengths, it should only take 5 1/2 hours. I guess that doesn't include dying a lot and getting "lost" on where to go next. Well, now I'm in some Chinese Guantanamo hell-hole, armed with a prison-style shiv and taking orders of some radiation scarred Russian. I'll admit, I didn't see it coming.

21 - Ok, BF4 fatigue has set in. I'm going to have to put this one aside for awhile and do something else. I got out of the prison fairly easily, but the battles are just getting too similar. This really is the height of a mindless FPS. I think there's one (or two) more big battles and they are just a slog of trying to shoot as many enemy soldiers at as far a distance as possible...until it decides to drop another wave on me and my squad. I'll probably pick this one up again sometime in the near future on another "7 day rental", since I know there isn't much more I need to do on this story mission. I did notice that the main menu of the game lists Multiplayer above Campaign mode. That's got to tell ya something.

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