All About alexmann88
In this space I'll post up reviews on games, linking to my tumblrs 'Black Wind, Pouring Rain' and 'Under the Burning Tree' - check em out! http://blackwindpouringrain.tumblr.com // http://undertheburningtree.tumblr.com.
From an early age I have always been a Nintendo child. In my youth I jumped from NES to SNES, from Nintendo 64 to GameCube - all while a chunky Gameboy weighed down my back pocket. It was a beautiful relationship filled with adventure, sightseeing, friendly competition and yeah, even the odd party or two. But when the Wii came along everything changed...
The idea of motion control was so cool, having the ability to literally perform the moves of our onscreen heroes would have had my 90s self squealing with joy - but in reality the technology was far removed from this, heralding a gaming age that was darker than anyone could have ever imagined. It started with a focus on mini-games here, an instructional disc there, and before we knew it we had a console overrun with cheap, mind numbing titles. The finesse of 'down, forward, punch' was tossed aside, replaced instead by mindless waggling and poor game design. It was at this point that long term gamers began to jump ship, for it seemed Nintendo looked passed those who had been its biggest fans - shifting the Eye of Satoru to rest his gaze instead on the gamers family.
Six years later Nintendo have returned to the console world, bringing with them a hybrid of old and new, hoping to win the hearts of hardcore and casual gamers alike. It's a tricky hook as a heart once broken is doubly cautious, but if Nintendo play their cards right they may just get what they want.
As far as the WiiU and I go, well let's just say our first date was rocky. After setting up the console I sat down with tablet in hands, eager to get lost in a new digital space. Yet after jumping through all the standard "get to know you" hoops that comes with any coupling (laying down name, date and time etc) I was greeted by a crucial online update. A 5GB crucial online update. An update that if dismissed denies its user some very important features. So here I am waiting patiently, well kind of patiently, heart on my sleeve - only to find my date is running late and has already put itself very much on the back foot.
While waiting I could at least check out the scenery. The console itself looks like a hybrid between the XBOX 360 and the classic Wii, coming in either black (32GB) or white (8GB). It is overall an unremarkable design, but at the same time unobtrusive. The internal memory shouldn't be fussed over too much as you are able to use external USBs and SD cards to save your data, but as a 5GB (did I mention it was crucial?) update is required straight up, the 32GB seems to be a no brainer if you don't want to go straight to the externals.
But enough ogling! Fast forward an hour and then some, the download is finally complete and Nintendo start courting me pretty hard.
One of the things packaged in that crucial update, as well as being the first thing to greet when you turn on your WiiU, is WaraWara Plaza, the main hub of Nintendo's Miiverse. It's a digital marketplace made up of Miis from all around the world looking disturbingly jolly (in that creepy Mii way) sharing comments and drawings that the users have made on their tablet. Essentially it's Nintendo's answer to twitter, allowing you to follow gamers for tips, chats and so on so forth. WaraWara Plaza is used as a tool to navigate through The Miiverse's separate forums, each of which is categorised by the titles of games available on the WiiU. For example, the largest current forum is Nintendo Land with 577,563 users to date, in which you will find people commenting on the game, sharing cheats or just expressing love/hate in the form of text, images or drawings. You are able to pause the game at any time, take screenshots and post them up to the Miiverse with relative ease, allowing you to find help if you are stuck or share secrets that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. No more shall we wait until the next day to ask where the seventh Legend of Zelda temple is! Or be burdened by the guilt of consulting a walkthrough! (And honestly, where's the fun in that?) Sharing screenshots and asking for advice on the Miiverse feels almost organic, as you are talking with people who are playing the same game at that second and it comes as a refreshing addition to the console.
Another thing the oversized update allows you to do is to play regular Wii games on your brand spanking new WiiU, and with the WiiU's ability to upscale your old games to suit your current screen who needs a stinky old Wii? Upscaling can sometimes result in a nicer image - it works well with newer games for instance but not so great with the older titles. This is backed by the ability to transfer all your data from your Wii to your WiiU, combining the old and the new on your latest console thus rendering satan err the Wii, practically useless. That is unless you don't have a GameCube, as the WiiU won't go back TWO generations (but to be fair, that is a lot to ask). The transfer will also trigger one of the cutest loading screens ever created, namely an intricate clip of Pikmin moving your shit out of the dusty old Wii and rocketing them to the slick new WiiU space. FAREWELL SATAN!!
The problem with this, combined with Nintendo's drive to court both hardcore and casual gamers alike, is the WiiU has become even more of an accessory whore than its predecessor was. The WiiU requires three main controllers to make it a fully functional piece of hardware, only one of which comes with the console. The Gamepad is said controller (and arguably the defining point of the WiiU) the Pro Controller is the second, looking awfully like an XBOX 360 controller and the Wii's Motionplus/Nun-chuck pairing is the final piece of the puzzle - meaning you have to dig deep in order to get the full experience. What's worse is some games unreasonably require certain controllers to be played. New Super Mario Bros WiiU, for example, allows you to use the Gamepad if you are playing single player, but if you choose to play with a friend you'll need TWO Motion Plus remotes as the Gamepad won't work. A decision that seems to be greed based rather than anything technical, because it sure as hell isn't practical.
When they DO allow you to use it, the Gamepad is pretty rad though. Despite its size it somehow manages to fit comfortably in your hand, with every button being cleverly placed and responsive. The motion control is spot on and the screen on its surface opens the controller up to a vast array of exciting options and uses. The battery life is a little on the short side, but this is easily remedied as the controller is charged via its own AC unit - which means you can sit as far from the TV as you like so long as you have an extension cord to follow you around. The rumble feature leaves much to be desired however, giving a loud and not so immersive shake, but it has gyro sensors inside that are accurate and intuitively used throughout its release titles. Whether it be holding the tablet in front of your face to use the smaller screen as a sniper scope in ZombiU or throwing ninja stars in Nintendo Land, the technology has so far been used in ways that are original and engaging - feeling necessary and practical as opposed to a gimmicky chore. Both the Gamepad and the Pro controller suffer from the shoulder buttons being click based and not weighted though, meaning for racing games it will be hard to get that satisfying engine rev that the XBOX 360 and PS3 controllers both create. On the other hand the ability to control your TV via the Gamepad's screen is a nice touch, adjusting volume, changing the channel and even powering it on and off which saves you scrambling for the remote every time a loud explosion threatens to wake an angry housemate.
The WiiU really is a leap ahead of the Wii, especially the final jump from standard definition to HD eradicating those frustrating pixels, but that's been a long time coming and frankly to be expected. What concerns me is how well it will stand up to the PS4 and XBOX 720, for at this point it doesn't seem much more powerful than current generation consoles. If anything, it seems a little less thanks to ridiculous load times - easily the WiiU's biggest downfall. This could be worrying for Nintendo, but as great as hardware can be, in my opinion it's the software that gives a console life - the DREAMCAST, PSP and PSV have all shown that no matter how strong the hardware, if the software is lacking the console's sent packing. I may have counted my chips a little early on in the latter judgement, but in its early life it seems like a case of history repeating itself.
Unfortunately most of the launch titles have little draw power, with half the titles already being available on other consoles (but thank God third party titles have returned to a Nintendo console amirite?) and the other half being not that interesting. The only two worth mentioning are Nintendo Land and ZombiU, which are both solid games whilst aptly displaying the unique ways in which the tablet can be used, but at the same time not groundbreaking enough to warrant a console purchase. I am deliberately leaving out New Super Mario Bros U as it is a case of the same old game on a different console. You'd think Nintendo could at least mix it up A LITTLE by using Super Mario Bros 2 as a base instead of constantly playing off 1 and 3, that way the characters would at least each have their own special abilities, not to mention personality (TWO toads? Talk about lazy!) so four player gaming would make much more sense. BUT nonetheless their overall'd plumber keeps bringing in the dollars so they'll keep making the games. The one thing this new game does show us however is the Gamepad's ability to play on its mini screen without using the TV at all, allowing you to lie in bed and get your game on when sitting in front of the television is just too damn hard.
All negativity aside, my hopes for the WiiU are pretty high. I may be too optimistic, or maybe I'm just glad Satan is dead, but Nintendo have obviously been listening to the cries of its people. The introduction of more adult games, third party titles and a slight pull away from motion control have already shown that. Sure, the launch titles aren't mind blowing but when are launch titles ever that way huh? At least ZombiU gives you a good crack over the noggin from the get go and NintendoLand is a fun and appropriate title for the family oriented gamers. Let's just hope Nintendo haven't bitten off more than they can chew, and can somehow cut down on those disgusting loading times. All we can do now? is wait...
Resident Evil, as a series, is constantly evolving. But much like Umbrella's failed experiments, the results of change are not always as desired. After completing the first few chapters of each play mode, this fact made itself heinously apparent - but to their credit Capcom, unlike their tyrannical counterpart, are smart enough to learn from their rich history and Resident Evil 6 is as much an example of this as it is a testament to the result.
The game begins by thrusting us into the middle of an outbreak not a second after our disc enters the console. Leon and his new partner Helena Harper, a sexy government agent with mysterious intentions, are running for their lives through the streets of China. Explosions, helicopters and total destruction follow in their wake, and it quickly becomes evident just how much care has gone into this game. First of all, the graphics are easily the best in the series, with an almost fanatic amount of detail given to the design of both character and environment. Secondly, the voice acting is solid and believable, a trait made even more admirable considering Leon's cliched dialogue has returned. What's not cool though is the slurry of quick-time events that make up the majority of this section, forcing us to waggle, tap and repeat our way through an arduous introduction. It's akin to buying a new car only to find Capcom in the drivers seat pulling doeys. Jerks.
We're finally handed the wheel for a short stint towards the end though (thank you patronising game, at this point i hate you) and this is where RE6 comes into its own. Leon opens the door to a street filled with utter chaos, cars are piled on cars, zombies are piled on cars and almost everything is on fire - it's 100% end of the world. I suddenly forgot about the petty troubles of waggling, and the epic scope of Resident Evil 6 hit me like a hammer to the face. No more are the days of Resident Evil 2, where a few zombies would amble down the decrepit streets of Raccoon City, even Resident Evil 5 never managed to create such a sense of utter hopelessness. We're now charged with battling an outbreak that has seemingly affected the entire world, yet this little street has more zombies than the entirety of game one. Looks like it's going to be a long night.
As I gingerly waded into the horde of zombies a few new gameplay mechanics reared their pretty heads. Tapping the two shoulder buttons now triggers a 'quick shot' mechanic, a knee jerk reaction that fires at the closest threat - possibly saving you from another dreaded quick-time event. We also have a melee button, allowing our characters to kick, punch and suplex zombies to the ground when they get too close. Melee is limited however, as the stamina bar will run down pretty quickly in the thick of things, so you have to use it sparingly. Thankfully, the stamina bar doesn't decrease whilst running, meaning you can Forrest Gump your way out of there whenever you come across a particularly scary group of undead. Don't hang your head though, there's no shame in that.
Herbs have also been given a new life. Instead of combining them into a magical spray we now crush them into little piles. These act in a pill-like fashion which can be taken individually to restore one bar of health at a time. Two green herbs will equal three pills, whereas a green and a red will give you six. The process is slightly convoluted when compared to previous games, but it is working towards a realistic way of dealing with pain - much like Max Payne's pain-killer treatment. Once the prelude comes to a close, we're greeted by a familiar croaky voice that delivers its best "Resident EVIL - SSSIIIXXX". Congratulations, you can now begin playing.
From here, the game is broken up into three different sections, allowing a choice between series favourites Chris Redfield, Leon S Kennedy and newcomer Jake Muller. Each campaign hosts its own unique story, and they are all available for co-op play. The good news is that the AI has greatly improved for those going it alone - so you no longer have to worry about your computer controlled partner wasting herbs every two damn seconds. But no AI could ever have your back like a real life bud, nor can you hi-five your television without looking crazy - so a friend is always preferable.
Leon's campaign plays to the horror side of the series, combining dark shadows, confined spaces and minimal ammunition/health to set the tone for an eerie environment. It's executed well for the most part as more often than not zombies that are cloaked in shadow will catch you off-guard. There are times however, too many times, when the game forces you to take damage. For example, you'll come across a corpse that's slumped on the floor but no matter how many precautionary shots you fire, the only way of activating it is to literally trip over the sucker and fall into its clammy grip. And guess who's waiting for you when you do? Our good buddy the quick-time event.
It's fair to argue that the Resident Evil series has always suffered awkward controls. From its very first game, the scares would often come from players fumbling over their controller as blocky zombies amble slowly towards them - knowing all too well that if they missed that one shot, they would die. If the original Resident Evil had fluent movement, letting the player duck and glide around zombies with ease, the game would have sucked. But suck it did not, because it consistently followed certain rules. You knew these controls existed, and you learned to deal with them. If a zombie got close enough to munch 'dem brains - it was all on you, not the game. What's not acceptable is to create moments where the player is forced to get hurt, sections of gameplay where no matter what you do or how well you play it, the game punishes you.
Luckily enough, this seems to clear up after the first chapter, where Leon makes his way through nostalgic environments resembling those of RE1, RE2 and RE4. One of the greatest parts about Leon's campaign is the return of the traditional zombie, which came complete alongside mist-laden graveyard. These aren't bio weapons, these are corpses that literally come out of the ground to beat you with shovels. Pumping them full of lead shows off the games impressive impact mechanic, with the weight of each shot being felt by the aggressor's realistic body jerks - but the best way to dispose of these particular baddies is to rip said shovels out of their boney zombie hands and shove it right back in their boney zombie faces.
On the other side of the world, Chris' campaign plays more to the action fans - imagine Resident Evil 5 on steroids. You take control of the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance), raiding apartments, infiltrating towns - and pretty much kicking the crap out of every bio-terrorist and their pet. With areas that are reminiscent of the Call of Duty series, and a squad mentality that errs a bit to the Gears of War side of things, it's obvious that Resident Evil is moving in a very different direction to its humble horror begins. It makes sense though. The man that Chris Redfield has become wouldn't be scared of anything, not like the old days, so Capcom has rightfully thrown horror out the window for this part and replaced it with balls-out action. It's actually a lot of fun. The new enemies provide a solid challenge, the environments a nice bit of variety, and the gun-slinging gameplay a change of pace from Leon's more subdued play-style.
The only downside falls with the camera being positioned lower than it was in previous games, bringing the action closer to our characters body. This change suited the horror genre of Leon's campaign, adding a claustrophobic element to build suspense, but when applied to fighting large groups of enemies it can be truly stifling. On the upside though, Chris' story supplies a ton of great co-op moments. One situation sees Chris crossing a bridge to take out a tank on his own (think Tom Hardy in Warrior) whilst his second in command, Piers Nivans, infiltrates a tower to cover his hulking bud with a well aimed sniper. It's moments like these that make Chris' story such a joy to play.
The final campaign sits with Jake Muller, a man whose blood is the answer to curing the C-virus. He's accompanied by Resident Evil 2's Sherry Birkin, but this campaign plays more like Resident Evil 3 than anything. The two are followed by a giant mangle of parts known as the Ustanak, a callback to RE3's Nemesis. He's pretty much invincible so whenever you see him you're charged with running and hiding, not doing so will only result in a graphic sequence where Ustanek turns you into a human smoothie. The main thing that sets Jake and Sherry apart from the other stories is their close combat abilities. At first it seems very similar to the standard melee, but as you progress you'll find their abilities are far superior. For example, by holding down R1 you can target an enemy in the distance and, upon release, Jake will charge headlong at that character, sending them skyward with a vicious tiger palm. Sick satisfaction aside, the focus on melee and stealth provides a nice shake up to the gun slinging superheroes that came before.
When an enemy is killed he has the chance of dropping skill points, which can later be used to buy upgrades for your character. No longer do you customize guns to create a personal beast, but rather buy skills and attune them to a total of three slots. The skills can be anything from melee to gun handling, life to stamina etc. which gives the ability to customise your whole character as opposed to just your weapons. It pales in comparison to the customisations of RE4 and RE5, but is a logical inclusion when considering the new gameplay elements. Seeing as bullets are scarce, being able to decrease the amount of stamina melee attacks use is an invaluable asset, especially in Jake's campaign.
As a whole, the game holds up pretty well - with an interesting story, fun gameplay and a full bodied co-op mode, there's enough to keep you interested for multiple playthroughs. The game is still riddled with flaws, but it is a testament to see Capcom constantly pushing the envelope in an attempt to keep the series fresh, whilst still acknowledging the titles that came before. For fans looking for a scare, look elsewhere - as Resident Evil has long moved passed its horror origins. A co-op action game that is able to bring scares to the party is a rare beast indeed (*ahem* sorry F.E.A.R 3), and the series' switch to the action genre seems to be a sound choice. They don't always get it right, but history shows that Capcom will learn from RE6, culling a majority of the trash and expanding on the good. So Capcom, here's a tip: Quicktime events should be used to add a sense of accomplishment to cinematic moments, keeping a game interactive through a cutscene so 1. the gamer doesn't become complacent and 2. the game stays a game, not a movie. Give me more playtime and less time smushing and waggling - and we'll get along just fine.
Pro Tip: Completing any of the campaigns will unlock Agent Hunt mode, a mode in which you can infiltrate another players game as one many enemies, including sword wielding J'avo and those pesky rabid dogs. It's a nice nod to the FromSoftware's Demon Souls and a ton of fun. What's more, if you beat all three campaigns you gain access to a fourth, gaining control of constant Leon hustler Ada Wong.
This morning I picked up my PS3 controller with a giddy sense of anticipation, Borderlands 2 was in my console and after the yearly gaming drought, I was eager to play it. If this were a movie I'd be in a pretty little bonnet standing on my patio, dress billowing in the wind as I looked over the rolling moors. Borderlands 2 would emerge through the morning fog, gun slung over shoulder (most probably walking in slo-mo) rugged, grizzled, home.
And that's the best way I can sum up Borderlands 2. It's like I'm playing the same game I once loved - only now it's, well, better. The story is more pronounced, the art exceptional, the gameplay familiar - if anything, I'm more in love with it now than I ever was.
The title sequence kicks off with a call out to Borderlands the first. A lone skag crawls across a barren waste towards a billboard with Handsome Jack's filthy mug printed on it (he's the new antagonist, but we'll get to that). The skag is road kill'd in no time, but instead of Cage the Elephant's 'Aint No Rest for the Wicked' - we're greeted by The Heavys 'Short Change Hero', a track that's as smooth as the former was cool. What follows is a badass train sequence that introduces our four Vault Hunters, who conveniently show off their signature moves as if to say "PICK ME!! OH GOD! PICK ME!!". The train eventually blows up, thanks to Handsome Jerk, and we find ourselves face to face with what seems to be the last remaining CL4P-TP.
This may sound a little familiar to Borderlands veterans - but don't be fooled - by this point the game has already shown noticeable improvements. For one, we have an antagonist. A guy who we hate so damn much that we can't wait to scrunch our fists into little balls and mash them repeatedly into his fleshy man face. Secondly, when choosing a Vault Hunter, we now have the option to change their heads and torsos (a vast improvement on the simple colour swap of the previous game). You don't have to be too precious either, as you will come across more skins disguised as loot, which means you can head/torso swap whenever you get bored of your character's hair, clothes, face. Bruce Springsteen would be proud.
As CL4P-TP reminds us where to put our thumbs, it's already evident that Gearbox has learned the importance of narrative this time around. The dialogue is tighter, funnier and hilariously insulting - but most importantly it has a sense of purpose. We learn that Handsome Jack has taken over Pandora, that he hates Vault Hunters and wants them out of his way, and that despite his jovial attitude, he's one cold-hearted sunavabech. We also learnt that CL4P-TP couldn't care about any of that, and simply wants you (his newly found minion) to do his bidding. What's more, every character starts with a unique audio file in their log, laying some ground out as to how they ended up in the Borderlands or what their motives may be. I can only guess that as we progress we will find more of these logs, giving a deeper insight into our characters and some extra depth that Borderlands of the first variety severely lacked.
The gameplay truly begins when our eccentric robot guide takes us through to the icy Wastelands and we're instantly greeted by an array of enemies that we have never seen before. There's still the same rating system (Regular, Adult, Badass etc.) but you can see Gearbox have taken it upon themselves to give us a far more diverse group of baddies to thump this time round, and I for one am grateful. There are also a bunch of challenges hidden in the menu screen asking you to kill a certain amount of enemies, shoot their projectiles out of the air etc. By completing these you unlock Badass Tokens, which you can then spend on perks for your characters. This makes killing a bunch of enemies even more fun than it once was (WHO THOUGHT THIS POSSIBLE?) as being dubbed a Badass Mofo is every Vault Hunters wet dream.
Overall, first impressions last, and so far Borderlands 2 is everything I wanted it to be. It may be a different case for those who opt for single player (as I am playing with a friend) but word is Gearbox made the game just as enjoyable for those going it alone as it is for those with buds - but I'd still recommend the latter. Old rules apply, if you didn't like the first, you probably won't like the second - but if you even remotely enjoyed your time spent in the Borderlands, GET THE HELL BACK IN THERE ALREADY!
Happy gunning Vault Hunters.
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