All About DAMSOG
I can remember a games journalist once writing that "3rd person shooter will never be mainstream", he was referring to the game "Brute Force" on the original xbox, how wrong he was! Since that statement gamers have been blessed with a plethora of 3rd person carnage, real world and pure sci-fi. When the original Gears of War stormed onto the 360 it was applauded for it's grittiness and storytelling, likeable characters and a fantastic backdrop on the planet Sera. The following two titles built a wonderful picture of a world in turmoil, an evil presence that lurked beneath your very feet, ready to spring up and eat your face should you drop your guard. Epic games built a world full of stories, war torn friendships and tragedy, took us through some truly terrifying moments and faced us off against some monstrous aberrations from the darkest corners of our nightmares. Fans of the series embraced the setting, the characters and the story, we even shed a tear when Marcus lost his best mate, we grew attached to the struggle of the COG trying to survive. Karin Travis wrote some wonderful books that fleshed out the universe to a much larger degree, eager fans snapped up every little detail.
Comparing the new game Judgement (or judgment if you prefer) to the older titles was inevitable, for a series that has such strong roots this new game fails to live up to it's predecessors in the most simplest ways, what went wrong?
1: The story.
Sure Dom is dead and Marcus saved the day (Carmine survived as well!) so that part of the story is done and dusted, but fans of the series deserve better than the simple offering coughed up by People can fly. What about E-day? Surely fans deserve the horror of that first hole in the ground opening up and spewing forth a bunch of monsters? The first reactions of the COG and Gorasni soldiers as the darkness descended? The series has a wealth of back stories to draw from so why do we get a simple chase down the monster and blow it up story line?
2: The Characters.
Baird isn't an unlikable character is the first 3 games, his wise cracking, smart arse comments (an obvious way to relieve the tension of their predicament) endeared him to many a gamer, he got the job done and was a pain in the arse to all those around him, a genuine character. Augustus Cole played the perfect side-kick for Baird, the books flesh out a relationship between the pair starting back when the Cole Train first enlisted, they looked out for each other and helped each other through the good times and bad, none of which is portrayed in the new game. There is no interaction between the pair on any other level apart from the obvious dialogue to drive the narrative. For a franchise that built such a strong bond between the main characters of Marcus and Dom it seems strange not to capitalize on this again, we know Baird and Cole are buddies but show us why! Give us the background to establish the connection. The new characters are similarly shallow, very little interaction during the game and horrid writing in the cutscenes (why are the character models worse than the previous games?) trickle feed us tiny tidbits of story in which we are supposed to fit all the pieces together in order to work out what the hell is going on. They could have focused purely on Baird and Cole and gave you random COG soldiers to help out, the additions of 2 new characters dilutes the already weakened story.
3: The settings.
A whole planet they have to work with and we get the same settings? Ambling down yet another back alley/burnt out building/industrial warehouse would be fine but we have been there and done that 3 times already! The lack of vehicle sections in the game (didn't notice that did you?) means the confinement of your surroundings gets tiresome very quickly. Why confine the game to just one city? Why confine players to suburbia when you have a whole planet at your disposal, open fields, sun drenched beaches, nasty swamps and dark holes in the ground? Oh and they used the same lost cat picture on the walls...we know you ate him.
4: The weapons.
There is an old saying that "If it's not broke, don't fix it", why then have they reduced your load-out to 2 weapons? Pistols are pretty much an afterthought here, why swap a primary weapon for a sidearm? What exactly was wrong with swapping weapons on the D-pad? We all knew that you can't bash something with a lancer, only rev it up first and slice your way to victory, why then make this an option? If you wanted to bash something like a ticker you had to swap weapons first, it wasn't broken but yet they fixed it, apparently. The chainsaw takes so long to wind up now it's pretty much useless as a melee weapon unless the hapless victim is crawling across the ground. The new weapons are OK but players will carry a lancer from start to finish, none of the new additions do anything special to warrant dropping the COG standard. What happened to the iron sights on the Locust rifle?
5: The AI.
It's broken to say the least. The rush tactics of the locust seem to be a simpler AI version taken straight from horde mode, you friendly AI is no better. In previous installments a Theron guard with a torquebow was an enemy to be feared, now he's happy to rush into the front line and get shotgunned at close range, they display none of the tactics from previous titles and rushing seems to be all they know. Halo showed us how dangerous decent AI can be, Gears wasn't far behind it but it's missing here, the simplified actions and tactics used by both sides is broken, it's not uncommon to see friendly and enemy AI units running around in a little circle together, amusing to watch, disappointing to endure. Larger enemies have adopted the COD routine, fire at you and only you unless your hidden, then they wait untill you pop out for another shot, Reavers are a classic example of the single minded nature of the AI enemies.
6: The multi-player
This will be short! It's missing everything that made this game series what it is today, limited load-outs, missing game types, omitted locust vs cog matches, none of it's here. Why produce a new game and then strip away everything that gave it longevity? When the short campaign is done you only have the multiplayer right? Why remove massive sections from the players? Where's horde mode? Where's beast mode? Where's locust vs cog deathmatches? Where's wing-man? The multiplayer is so lacking in content it's not even remotely funny, you would complain if it were DLC but in a full game is inexcusable.
All in all the game is a let down, missing content, broken AI and generic settings do nothing to attract new followers to this once great series, if anything it will turn them away. Fans are disappointed and I even heard one gamer remark that this was the "Jar jar" of the series, a mighty insult indeed. GOW3 wasn't that long ago, some of us were still happy playing horde and wingman or co-opping it through the campaign on insane, was there really any need to bring out this new title so quickly? and so lacking in content? Like angry star wars fans we are bitter, we deserve better than this, the Gears universe deserves better than what's being offered here. A recent article on GS stated that cynicism was killing the industry, can you blame us? We pay our hard earned dollars for products that are giving us less and less, games that rely on big names to drag in unsuspecting consumers to watered down products. We already know studios are in the game to make money, we don't like it, however, when we are taken for granted. We vote with our wallets and rubbish like Judgement is an example of how not to retain your fan base, rip them off, give them less, change the product and then tell them how good it is.....or was.
At long last I got some hands on time with STEEL BATTALIONS massive 40 button controller and I was impressed. Now let's get one thing straight, the game is rubbish but the controller, wow. The level of immersion was immediate, the number of buttons just to start the bloody thing made you feel like you were in the machine and ready for war. Just walking this lumbering behemoth around with joysticks, foot pedals and lot's of blinky switches was pure magic, pity the gameplay was such a letdown, I could have easily spent many an hour just having fun walking this thing around and getting used to the controls but my time was limited, it got me thinking though.
It was a big gamble to produce such a complex controller for one game but kudos for giving it their best shot, fast forward to today and with updated graphics/gameplay there is an opportunity gone begging. A lot of gamers complain these days about the sameness of modern games so how do you keep the masses happy?
Car racing games have their controllers, I have a my Logitech wheel and spend many happy hours flapping about in all manner of racing titles creating four wheeled mayhem. Stick on a motorbike game and? It's a crying shame that a set of handlebars aren't available for two wheeled racing, wouldn't need to do anything special but the immersion would be there. If the eyetoy/kinect has taught us anything it's that's gamers like to be comfortable when playing their games, we don't want to be jumping around our living rooms just to enjoy a story. However put my behind my steering wheel and I'm more than happy.
Is this a market gone begging? Motorbike handlebars are just one idea, any mech game can/would benefit from having a unique controller, shooters could have seperate hand sticks instead of tiny ones on traditional controllers, flight games teach us how much fun it can be with a unique controller and they don't cost the earth. These are but a few ideas but the mind boggles to think what may be possible. I think I just want my handlebars for starters.
Oh how the mighty have fallen, the much anticipated Ghost Recon future soldier hit the shelves and I raced out and secured a copy only to be bitterly disappointed. Here's why.
Firstly the graphics are terrible, washed out and blurred textures and colours. Grab yourself a sniper rifle and have a good look at the enemies in the distance, no faces. That's right, instead of a human face you get an alien pig face with little features resembling a human being, why put a sniper rifle in with that sort of zoom if your graphics engine can't keep up. Then there are the numerous and tediously long cut scenes, poor character models and ropey animations with even poorer lip sinc give the whole game a unfinished look, add a ludicruous storyline and you're complete. The "tender" moments of the reality of war are laughable and you will care little for any of the characters.
Gone are the tactics and planning of previous ghost recon games and no, I'm not referring to those god awfull modern warfighter games, I mean the "real" ghost recon games that gave you realistic scenarios and real tension throughout the missions. In an effort to make the game more accessible for everyone they have dumbed the game down to an almost on rails experience. The in-game hints tell you to flank enemies but with the linear nature of all the levels this proves to be somewhat of an impossibility, run to the next available cover and tag enemies is what we get instead.
Diamond formations, Oh my god what a joke, just because a bunch of soldiers form up in a diamond pattern we are supposed to swallow the fact that now the enemies can't hit them? It's laughable to see an enemy soldier firing round after round into 4 guys in "diamond" formation and not hit one of them, although they are now standing in the open with no cover! Gone are the squad commands too, now your soldiers run about cloaked right past enemy soldiers to get into position when you get spotted lying in the grass 100 feet away and cloaked! Enemy soldiers now have th ability to spot bodies through buildings and over hills, instant mission failure starts to grate when you have to reload a mission for the tenth time.
The missions are terrible, the pace is way off and the consant barking objectives to hurry you up are not befitting a ghost recon game. The story is weak at best, America saves the world, yet again. Did Tom Clancy have any input into this game other than lending his name to the title? The tiny linear maps gives you no room to improvise or adapt, follow the path and tag another group of soldiers, inspired? I don't think so. Time limits do not, I repeat, do not make a game more exciting or add tension to a scenario, they are the lazy developers way and no previous ghost recon game had them so why now? Breeching sequences are horrid because the camera confines you to "your" sector so if the AI fails to take a guy out in his view it's lights out for you, lazy and uninspired.
The multiplayer is rubbish, tiny maps combined with the ability to spawn onto team mates make the game play more like a 3rd person COD or GOW game. It's very possible for one team to simply hold the other team at their base whilst a one soldier on their team captures all objectives, don't think it's possible..have a go and you will see. Ignoring the objectives the other team simply positions themselves to cover the exits to your spawn, good luck getting out of there if you run into a switched on team that simply holds you in your base. The pace is wrong, tension is non existent and your left with...hell I don't even want to say what it is but it's not nice. Lag and drop out connections round out the dismal offering for online fun.
Ghost recon 1 was my first experience on XBOX live and it was great. Huge maps that gave room for every tactic in the book, not just sniping mind you, but flanking and rush moves as well. Weather effects added poor visability on some maps and this just added to the tension, lying under a tin roof listening to the "tink tink" of rain overhead untill somewhere in the mist a rifle barked and a team-mate went down was truly terrifying. I can remember some games with no respawns where 20 minutes elapsed before the first shot was fired, now that builds tension. Now it's all rush rush rush for this objective and now rush for this and....it's just not recon. As you have probably picked up by now I am not having a lot of fun with the new recon, I gave it a 2.5 on review and I stand by it. It's just not a recon game, it's something else and bears no resemblance to the games that built it's audience with reality and tension. They could have called this game super stealth soldier or something but by adding the "ghost recon" to the title they instantly added a market of die hard fans to the sales department.
RIP Jack Stone and friends, I'm glad they aren't here to see what depth this once mighty franchise has sunk to.
My Recent Reviews
Mar 24, 2013 5:08 pm GMTDAMSOG posted a new blog entry entitled Gears no-more.
Mar 21, 2013 3:05 pm GMTDAMSOG reviewed Gears of War: Judgment and gave it a score of 3.5
Mar 21, 2013 2:34 pm GMTDAMSOG gave Gears of War: Judgment a score of 3.0
Mar 4, 2013 1:17 am GMTDAMSOG reviewed Call of Duty: Black Ops II and gave it a score of 1.0