Late To The Xbox Party: Red Faction Guerrilla (2009)

I played a bunch of games for the PlayStation 2, mostly superhero related ones, but there are three that stick out in my memory. I’ve talked about my love of Spider-Man 2 all over the place, but the other two were James Bond: Agent Under Fire and Red Faction 2. While everyone else was playing the hell out of Halo 2 on the Xbox in college, my gang was all about Red Faction 2 as far as mutiplayer murder fests go. I’ve never been very good at those kinds of games but I still love playing them with friends. The use of interesting weapons like the rail gun (which gave you thermo look at your opponents and ammo that could shoot through walls) and some huge bazooka type things. Fun stuff, great levels, friends, good all around.

Red Faction Guerrilla doesn’t have any of that stuff, but I still liked it. Having never played the single player version of RF2, I don’t know what the story is, but the story for this game is that you are a demolition expert on Mars who starts working with the revolutionaries. I skipped most of the cut scenes, but, basically, you get to blow a lot of shit up and collect salvage that you can then use to get better weapons and weapon upgrades to blow more shit (and bad guys) up.

It’s kind of funny that RFG actually has more similarities to Spider-Man 2 than RF2, now that I think about it. Both games give you sandboxes to play in with side missions that can earn you more salvage and experience in addition to story-based ones. I liked most of the missions, like the destruction and smashing ones, but just didn’t get into the race ones because, I generally don’t like car-based games (not enough things blowing up).

One of the things that got RFG attention when it came out is that the environments are very destructible. You’re encouraged to blast, smash or blow up most buildings and people. The only real limitations I came to with the controls/design–aside from only being able to carry three weapons and the hammer–was that sometimes you hit an invisible wall when it came to climbing on the mountains, which got frustrating. Another problem I had a few times was that the map system isn’t always great. You can place beacons on the map to guide you where you need to go, but if it happens to be off-road, the arrows disappear. This lead to some really long and annoying treks to found places I needed to blow up. Another negative came with some of the save points during missions. Many of them involve defending something from multi-tiered attacks, but also start you back at the very beginning if you die. I get that the game needs to be somewhat difficult, but that kind of stuff gets maddening for me. All of which leads up to my biggest complaint: I couldn’t beat the damn game. I tried so many times and even watched a few YouTube walkthroughs, but just couldn’t get my guy/tank/vehicle to survive long enough to get to the actual end of the game. That difficulty coupled with the crappy restart places just made me give up (after realizing it was the very last thing I needed to do).

I still had a lot of fun with the game, especially smashing things with my various hammers, I think I killed more bad guys with that than guns because it was super-effective. I still give the game a positive review which speaks to how much fun I had while playing it, even though I didn’t finish the game. I got enough enjoyment that it didn’t even bother me that much. Plus, I’ve been wanting to get into Prototype, which has been sitting on my shelf for a while, so it all worked out in the end. I’m looking forward to hearing he buzz about Red Faction Armageddon which comes out at the end of this month. Anyone hear good things?

Late To The Xbox Party: X-Men Origins Wolverine

A lot of people have said that the video game version of X-Men Origins Wolverine is far better than the movie. I have no idea if that’s the case or not because I haven’t seen the flick, but I think it might have raised by expectations a little higher than they should have been. This is one that I waited on at Game Stop, waiting for it to get down to a pretty cheap price. I was jazzed when it finally got down there and I started playing it a while back. It didn’t disappoint as it kicked off and I learned the various controls and eared more and more special moves. Being Wolverine and tearing through dozens of jungle mutants or high tech mercenaries is a ridiculous amount of fun in the beginning, but it wears a little thin after a while. But, what wears thinner faster has to be the boss battles that take place in the jungle levels, most of which involve a giant monster of some kind trying to smash you and you waiting for just the right moment to lunge (a great function of the game) and attack the back of his head. It was alright the first time, but man, that shiz got old QUICK and it happens over and over and over again.

I can’t speak to the story behind the game, which I’m guessing follows the movie at least to some extent as I wound up fighting Blob, Gambit and Deadpool towards the end. As usual, I ignored most of the story aspects of the game and listened to podcasts while playing the game (I love multitasking my entertainment whenever possible), but it seemed really repetitive as it bounced from jungle to inside levels where you first fight soldiers and then robots. There are some geek moments like where you fight a Sentinel, but 75% of the game felt like it was all the same stuff on a loop. I did like one of the levels towards the end where you’re chasing Gambit around a building site and have to jump around and fight all the different bad guys from the previous levels who are also trying to kill each other.

So, I enjoyed the game for the most part, but I walked away with a somewhat negative feeling for two reasons. The first is a practical one, I couldn’t beat the damn thing. The last boss you have to beat is the weird version of Deadpool from the movie who can apparently teleport, snikt swords from his forearms and shoot lasers from his eyes. You’re stuck fighting him up on a big circular loop thing. Just when you’re about to kill him, according to his health meter, he ‘ports away and does a huge blast that takes the floor right out from under you. If you can’t jump away in time–which happens because the game glitches and slows down for some damn reason–you die and have to continue from the very beginning. It’s not just frustrating, but infuriating. I tried ten times and just freaking quit. I didn’t feel too bad about it because, hell, I got the last guy, that’s close to winning right?

My second problem with the game is a little more philosophical, I guess. In the game you’re freaking Wolverine, yet there are a lot of things that get in your way and inhibit you. You can’t interact with the environment as much as you probably should be able to. Your claws don’t do nearly the amount of damage they should. Your special moves don’t do nearly enough damage. I had a similar problem with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. I don’t want to start off as a schlubby version of a superhero, I want TO BE A FREAKING SUPERHERO! I’m cool with getting more used to the powers and learning how to do more things with them, but I should have the full extent of that character’s abilities, which means my indestructible claws that can cut through anything should let me cut through anything, even if it is a soldier with body armor. I know what you’re thinking, “But then you’d just coast through the levels.” Nay, I say! Send thirty bad guys after me all guns blazing and I’d still have to do my damnedest to stay alive while they’re attacking.

So, in the end, the game’s not bad, but it’s not really much of a Wolverine game. Heck, it doesn’t even have ninjas! But, I had enough fun playing it. I actually started playing the Red Faction game for 360 which is kind of funny because in THAT game you can destroy all kinds of stuff with a freaking sledgehammer. They could have changed a few things and dropped Wolverine into that game and I’d be having a blasty blast. Makes me wish I knew how to mod a game.

Late To The Xbox Live Party: Bionic Commando

I never owned the original Bionic Commando for Nintendo, but I was a fan of it. I think as a kid, there wasn’t a single property with a grappling hook that I wasn’t a huge fan of. In addition to BC, you’ve also got C.O.P.S. and, well, Batman, I guess? Anyway, even though I hadn’t heard particularly stellar reviews about the 360 version of the game, I still figured I’d give it a shot when I saw it at Game Stop for under ten bucks. Overall? It wasn’t a great game, but there was something about it that kept making me coming back. There are lots and lots of problems with this game. The swinging mechanic is never better than even the worst Spider-Man game you can imagine and doesn’t get anywhere near one of my all time favorite games Spider-Man 2 for the PS2. Also, unlike that game, there aren’t a lot of things you can do with that awesome bionic arm of yours. There’s a couple moves and you acquire a few more as you go, but nothing all too impressive or fun. The fighting mechanic also seems weird. How come some douchebag henchman you’re facing can kill you with two punches? That’s super frustrating. Also frustrating is the way the weapons work in the game. You’re always stuck with this shitty semi-automatic gun even though there are some rad shotguns, rocket launchers and machine guns lying around, but you can only carry one of those at a time. I get that they’re trying to go for realism for some reason (like the physics of swinging which can my amazingly frustrating) but you’re got a giant metal arm, why can’t you carry two good guns?

The complaints do not stop there. The ending is pretty lame. First you’ve got to face off against this asshole who’s also got some cybernetic parts. I had to look up how to beat him on YouTube and instead of straight-up fighting him, you’ve got to grapple him at a ridiculously precise moment. After that, you swing around some more right before a series of QuickTime events which is weird and out of place because you don’t deal with those throughout the rest of the game. I don’t get that weird change.

Like with most games, I skipped as much of the story as possible, but this time I finally verbalized why I do that when it comes to video games. See, the whole point of a video game is to PLAY IT. I don’t care what the set up is, especially the longer it takes for you to explain it to me. It would be like going to play football and having someone explain the history between two random people on your teams. You don’t give a shit, you just want to play the game. That’s me with every video game. I assume the story is going to be stupid or unnecessary so why bother watching these cut scenes when I just want to get to the punching and shooting.

At the end of the day, I’d love to see a sequel to this game that’s done maybe by the Spider-Man 2 people or possibly the original Crackdown dudes. An open-world set up without all that radiation nonsense, better swinging, fighting and weapon mechanisc and this could be a big huge hit, but I doubt anyone cares anymore at this point which is too bad because it’s got potential. I wish beating the regular game opened up the redone version of the NES game they created, but that’s not the case. Bummer. Anyway, BC was a good enough time waster between the last game I finished and the Wolverine game I’ve been waiting to play for like two years at this point and will be next up on the playlist.

Late To The Xbox Live Party: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

To give you an idea as to how slow I am when it comes to finishing video games, I got Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 for Christmas last year and just finished it last night. There was many-month gap there were I didn’t even both playing it for a few reasons. First off, I had trouble with the save aspect of the game and wound up having to play the same level several times even though I thought I had reached a save point. Even after that I had a little trouble with the save/load menus because they give you two options that seem to be the same thing: load and continue. What’s the damn difference? I never quite figured that out. My other problem was that I loved the original game and this one didn’t come anywhere near that one for several reasons which I’ll get into shortly.

When the first Marvel Ultimate Alliance came out, I was working at Wizard. Though I had gotten there a little late for the epic Halo 2 marathons that I still hear about now from a few folks, the game makers sent a special Xbox 360 to the office and allowed us to play an advanced copy of the game which was such a fun experience. Tons of huge comic book fans all in one room surrounding a TV and cheering on their friends and coworkers beating up on various Marvel minions was so much fun and, of course, jumping in and playing ourselves, was great. That game spanned the breadth and depth of the Marvel Universe and really gave us a lot to have fun with. Eventually we had to send the 360 back, but after the game officially came out, Activision sent a bunch of copies to the office and I got to play through on my own. I had fun with the game even though it was pretty much the same kind of game as X-Men Legacy.

So, as you can tell, I had high hopes for the sequel. I was also hoping to play online with some friends, but I didn’t really push the issue too much (the one time I get a new game around the time it comes out and no one else is playing it!). The story of the game kind of follows the story behind Civil War, but actually has a more sensible ending and wasn’t nearly as meandering as the actual comic book story. That’s about all of the good things I have to say about the game. I mean, it wasn’t bad. I had a good enough time beating up on the never-ending parade of goons to fight, but I had a LOT of problems with it.

First off, video games starring superheroes should start off more powerful right off the bat in games like this. I understand that there need to be elements that can be upgraded as the game goes on, but it felt like if you weren’t playing one group of characters for most of the game, you’d be kind of screwed by the end of the game. Basically what I’m saying is that the Thing should never get killed in four seconds of any battle and that happened to me a number of times later on in the game. Leveling characters up is cool, but having to do so to survive later sections of the game takes a lot of the fun out of the whole endeavor. They give you all these awesome characters to play with, but you’re more rewarded for keeping the same team throughout the game. I got Venom and Green Goblin pretty late in the game and wanted to play with them, but they were so weak that it wasn’t worth it, they also didn’t have all their powers. I will claim ignorance and blame a little of that problem on myself because I forgot about the upgrade mechanics until just before I finished the game, but still, I’d rather just have powers that kick ass and go from there. The characters you’re given to play with also don’t seem powerful enough to play the game. I mean, I love Iron Fist and Gambit, but they’re not the guys I would recruit if I was fighting a supposedly world threatening enemy.

My other big problem with the game was how small it felt compared to the previous one. In MUA you went from Hell to Asgard and just about everywhere in between. This time around you go to Wakanda and Latveria. Woopdeedo. I know it’s hard to top such a huge story but fighting some heroes and villains who have been overtaken by Nanites really isn’t the way to do it. The lack of scope spread to the game’s end too. Anyone who played the first one will remember that, as you went through the game, there were a series of choices you had to make, whether to save this character or that and at the end of the game you were given a big overview as to how your decisions changed the entire Marvel Universe. This time around there was none of that.

All in all, I’m not sure what the point of making this game was as it turned out to be a huge disappointment both because it didn’t live up to expectations but also because, at the end of the day, it’s just another game like a bunch of other games that didn’t improve on anything. I finished and really just thought to myself, “What was the point?”

Late To The Xbox Live Party: TimeShift (2007)

After not playing much of anything for a while, getting back on the Peggle train and being infinitely disappointed with Dead Rising 2 which I disliked so much that I only played it a few times before selling it back to Game Stop, I was looking for something new to try out. I haven’t had the best luck with games lately (though I still love Peggle, of course) I didn’t want to spend too much money on some games I might not be too smitten with. I recently stopped trying to play Brutal Legend and traded that in and still have Bioshock and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 which didn’t suck me in right away, but I needed some new blood in the water so I picked up TimeShift and Mercenaries 2 in the last few weeks. Luckily, I had a lot of fun with TimeShift thought it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting when I popped it in.

As usual, I skipped most of the story, but you’re a dude in a time altering suit running around shooting people and using your powers to save the day and get back to your regular time. I think it might also be a strange alternate universe kind of thing in which WWII was involved, but like I said, I skipped all that nonsense. I just wanted to shoot some bad guys.

Overall, I thought the game was a lot of fun, but wasn’t spectacular by any means. The running and shooting mechanics were all good in my book and didn’t seem buggy at all. The various weapons at your disposal were fun, I especially liked the crossobow with exploding arrows which reminded me of Chewie’s blaster bow in Star Wars. The beat down controls weren’t great, but this is clearly not a hand to hand combat fighting game. The game really lives and dies on the time altering mechanic which works out pretty good, though, for some reason, I thought it had the ability to age or de-age specific objects instead of just moving time back and forth or just stopping it altogether. There are some really annoying moments in the game that involve hitting a button and then shifting time that are completely unnecessary, but overall it’s pretty fun. Actually being able to freeze time, run up on the bad guys and plug them with exploding arrows or throw sticky grenades at them and watching everyone die once time catches back up is a lot of fun.

Without being spectacular in any way, TimeShift gave me a game that got me back into playing first person shooters again which will hopefully lead into other games soon. Hey, for under $10 used, you can’t really go wrong with anything that gives a few weeks’ worth of entertainment, can you? Not in my book. I’m thinking of taking Mercenaries 2 back because it’s too damn buggy. I read online that you’ve got to unplug your internet cable just to play the damn thing. I think that’s worthy of a return. Really, I’m waiting for the Wolverine game to drop just a little bit lower in price so I can get that. Maybe by then, I’ll be interested in space marines again and try out Mass Effect or Gears of War 2.

Dead Rising 2 or Peggle?

I find myself in a bit of a quandary lately. I was talked into pre-ordering Dead Rising 2 by the guy at Game Stop a while back when I took a bunch of games in for credit. He told me if I pre-ordered an upcoming game I’d get even more credit. I liked what I saw about DR 2 and love zombies, so I said sure. I went and got the game Wednesday and have been playing it in my free time. Just before that, though, I went back to my old favorite Peggle and saw there was a brand new set of boards to play called Peggle Nights or somesuch (which worked so well with Baywatch). I wasn’t sure about downloading the new series or not and got sucked back into the challenge version of that game which I hadn’t completed. Now I find myself trying decide which one to play.

Here’s the deal: I love Peggle, but it’s taking me lots and lots of time to finish some of the original challenges (I’m burning through the Nights regular stuff). I kind of want to savor the new levels and also conquer the challenges, but I also want to get my money’s worth out of DR2 and hopefully trade it in for a pretty good amount of credit. The problem is that I’m not having as much fun with Dead Rising as I thought I would. I was really hoping the game’s save mechanic would be better. I don’t so much mind having to find a bathroom to save, but the fact that if you save in the wrong spot with not enough time, you’ll have to start all the way over. Knowing that was a problem in the first game, I utilized two of the three save spots and was able to go back, but not to the very beginning, when it turned out that I was going to have enough time to finish a mission.

I also wish there was a little bit more thought put into the game as a whole. So far, I’m in a mall, part of which is under construction. Real original. I also wish the fighting gameplay was better. It doesn’t feel as fluid as a lot of other games which is a shame because bashing zombies is obviously such a huge part of the game. But is it really? You’ve got so little time and so much potential cool stuff to do (there are new improvements like weapon combining and random Vegas-style games you can play, that I only just realized cost you money), that those two elements seem at odds. And, sweet Christmas the story’s stupid. You’re a guy who rides around on a motorcycle with chainsaws killing zombies because that’s the national sport, but your daughter got bit a while ago and you have to give her Zombrex to keep her from turning. That part’s not so bad, but the game show you compete on is called Terror is Reality? Ugh, talk about clunky. And most of the voice acting is just boring and overwrought. “I heard you wife died, maybe you shouldn’t suck so much at killing zombies!” Something like this is said to our main character early on in the game.

It really comes down to this: when I lose a round of Peggle, I want to play again right away to figure out what I’m doing wrong and get even more points, but when I die in DR2, it just feels like such a pain in the ass. How far along was I? When did I save last? Am I going to really have to do all that shit over again?

I’m downplaying the good parts of DR2, for sure, but that’s how it’s working in my head. At this point I think I’d rather played the game that cost me a few bucks and I downloaded than the one I spent a TON of my Game Stop credit on. I will say that playing with a giant Blanka from Street Fighter mask on my head and “hip hop” clothes on is pretty fun. When I’m going along strong in the game, it’s more fun than anything, but when I find myself dying more than once in a session, I’m good for a while.

Late To The Xbox Party: Gun (2005)

Sometimes it feel like I’m traveling back in time with my 360 games. I started with a new game Skate 2 (well, new at the time) and I’ve been working my way through some of the better games from the console’s history thanks to buying mostly used games from Game Stop with the credit I made from the more expensive, newer games. I’m pretty slow at all this, so the credits have lasted me a good long while. Anyway, Gun came out in 2005 which was the same year the 360 debuted. It also appeared on the regular Xbox, GameCube and PS2, so I was a little leery that the game might feel too last gen and not be any fun, but I actually had a really great time with it.

No these aren’t the best graphics in the world and yes they reminded me of the few times I went back and played my PS2 because the figures are kind of boxy and a little twitchy, but the game is so fun that I didn’t really care. Much like my beloved Spider-Man 2 and Crackdown, Gun’s an open world game that gives you a lot of freedom. There’s the main story missions which are pretty entertaining with you riding around on a horse, shooting bad guys in the face and making sure bad guys don’t explode a bridge. But, you can do these side missions where you help out with the Pony Express, go after bounties offered by wanted posters and assisting the sheriff with some hooligans causing a ruckus in the town. I like that kind of freedom and because I liked the mechanics of the game (for the most part, more on that in a second) doing these side missions was fun.

For the most part the controls are very simple and logical. Everything from riding a horse to shooting dudes feels natural. There’s even a slow-mo option that you build up that allows for easy blasting. There were two control elements I had a problem with, though. First off, when riding on a horse, you’ve got to hold down the left button above the trigger to go fast. It just felt awkward and not intuitive at all, especially if you’ve been away from the game for a while. The other control scheme I didn’t like was weapon selection. You acquire are these rad weapons from hand guns, shotguns and rifles to bows and arrows and even a sniper rifle that you grab from defeated enemies, but selecting between them is not an easy task. You’ve got to hold down one button while selecting with the D-pad. It’s not so bad if you’re getting ready for battle, but in the heat of the moment, it’s hard to do that while running around.

Aside from that, though, the game was a ton of fun and I recommend it for anyone looking for an older game to try out. I didn’t really pay much attention to the story because the cut scenes did look old, but the voice cast is amazing and include Tom Jane, Lance Henriksen, Kris Kristofferson, Brad Dourif, Ron Perlman and Picket Fences’ Tom Skerritt. I’d watch those guys in an actual movie, so hearing them in a five year old video game was an unexpected treat. Next I’m either going to power through Brutal Legend or Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, two games I didn’t enjoy much or just jump feet first into the first Bioshock. I’m leaning towards Bioshock.