Sunday, 28 March 2010

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth Review

A spin-off of the main Phoenix Wright series, Ace Attorney Investigations places you in the shoes of Phoenix Wright's counterpart Miles Edgeworth to investigate and solve a number of mysteries. If you liked the Phoenix Wright series then by all means get this. If you didn't it won't change your mind.

Two criticisms come to mind when I play this which I think can be applied all of the series.
1) Doesn't really make use of DS touch screen features in investigation. What happened to using the microphone to blow away dust and using the touch screen to run tests?
2) No extras after you complete the game. Not even a picture gallery!
3) No real courtroom scenes

Still it is fun and the characters are just as loveable.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Quake 4: Stay away from it

I bought Quake 4: Special Edition without hesitation a couple of years back as I had read that it had scored very well on the single player with about 80%+ average on Metacritic. Back then, I decided to play through Quake 2 and it's two expansion packs and I thought it was fairly fun. I had also tried out the first 2 hours of Quake 4 and thought it was fairly entertaining. Back in my head there was niggling doubt about the simplicity of the enemy AI and the very simplistic gameplay as well as some of the set pieces in the game environment were less then stellar. However, I was convinced it would getter bigger and more exciting as the game went on.

I recently picked up Quake 4 again to sit down and properly play it. Unfortunately, the niggling doubts only grew larger the more I played it and by the end of the game, I was fairly disappointed by this extremely mediocre game compared to other available titles at the time. Below is a summary of what I felt about the game.

Disappointing enmey AI and simplistic enemy animation - There's nothing particularly wrong with this for an action shooter, but compared to realistic movements of Condemned: Criminal Origins and F.E.A.R. at the time, enemies come off as almost comical in the way they move and hop around and the lack of AI doesn't help. It's strange that that your team mates however are a bit smarter and will take cover and even use meelee attacks against the enemy.

Raven software was responsible for Soldier of Fortune which boasted realistic enemy damage where shooting a part of one body would be different from other parts of the body and cause different reactions. It was one of the best features of the game. It's strange that they didn't implement at least a toned down version of that. Enemies bare react to bullet fire.

Boring gameplay, static envirnoments and lack of fun physics and weapon selection - Given Raven's history of the Jedi-Knight series and X-men Legends, you'd think they would have learnt how to create some fun interesting weapons selections but most of the weapons are not only stock standard but lack any real fun. For example, the lightning gun in the game when fired, creates thunder and shakes the entire screen but barely makes the enemies quiver. As for the last weapon which is a miniature black hole gun, you would think it would have caused enemies to torn apart or sent flying which is very curious since it doesn't seem to do anything at all.

The game uses a physics engine similar to other titles of the time but never truly puts the physics engine to the test or even to enhance the atmosphere. The most you'll get out of it is the occasional flying rag doll and exploding barrel. This only contributes the barren static environments which lack any real sort of interactivity. Playing a game like Painkiller (released before Quake 4) for even 5 minutes shows you just what a good physics engine can lend to gameplay. The titular painkiller remains one of the most creative weapons in any FPS game allowing you to juggle, electrocute and dice enemies.

There's plenty of eye candy and voices in the game to try and draw you into the world, but the lack of interactivity feels more like you're scrolling through a comic book rather than an interactive environment.

In the original Quake II you also had an inventory system which allows you store health packs and grenades and other power-ups for later use which this game lacks, which makes it even less innovative!

Poor game level design - I get the feeling that the corridors and areas are very similar to Quake II and even less ambitious. In my opinion Quake 4 shines when it gives you large open spaces and tactical options and explosions galore occurring around you. Instead, it tends to lock you up in small industrial corridors and all sorts of tiny rooms and passages. And it's such a shame that you will spend most of your time in buildings compared to the promise of open areas that the opening couple of levels gives you.

Stroggification does nothing - Part way through the game, you get turned into a Strogg after a rather gory sequence and its one of the key advertising features of the game. It would have been a good excuse to introduce RPG like elements into the game similar to the Deus Ex series or System Shock 2 allowing you to obtain new abilities. Alternatively it could have been interesting to play mind games with us by making the player character be more susceptible to Strogg mind control and giving us glimpses into the nightmare of being a Strogg or the horrors of war.

Unfortunately the game does neither. Being a Strogg is no different from being a human character except you get slightly more life, apparently you move faster (not that I noticed the increased speed) can use Strogg healing stations, read a bit of Strogg and hear Strogg broadcassts.

I can think of several powers that could have really enhanced the game in less than 5 minutes. Here are a couple which could have easily been fitted in and really contributed to the game atmosphere:
Visions: visions of previous events that have happened in the area such as humans being Stoggified. Would have really added to atmosphere.
Berserk mode: Improved attack damage for Strogg weapons, increased character speed and reduced damage.
Corpse steal: Allows you to absorb enemy corpses for health and ammo when they die.
Resurrection: Revives a downed enemy to assist you for a limited time.
Ability steal: Allows you to steal an enemies weapon or ability and use it instead.
Strogg Armour: Automatically regenerates armour after a while

Overall I was very disappointed. Game such as Deux Ex and System Shock pioneered the RPG-action shooter while games such as Serious Sam and Painkiller refined pure action pumping adrenaline old-school shooter. It seemed that Quake 4 wanted to follow the pure action pumping style but failed miserably in providing the over top explosions and fun weapon gameplay and wide open areas. As such, I strongly recommend you don't buy this and save your money for other more worthy games. It might even be better just to buy the older Quake II instead!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Devi May Cry 4 Review

Well finished playing Devil May Cry 4. Here's a summary of what I thought.

Fun solid combat
Fun over the top stylistic movies

Doesn't use the environment - None of the environment makes any impact on your fighting. You can't for example, pick up things to throw at enemies, or toss them into fire or water. It would have been cool to impale enemies on spikes or maybe boost off the wall similar to Price of Persia. You do get to double jump against the wall but it's not particularly useful in combat, double jumping is more for getting to secret areas.

Movies could have been mini-games or tutorials instead to teach you new abilities and weapons - Like in the Zero punctuation review, I agree that the game is too in love with cut scenes as opposed to gameplay. A lot of the time you'll be sitting there watching the game perform all these cool moves wondering when you'll get a chance to play. A number of cool sequences could have easily been adapted to form a tutorial or sorts or a mini-game to break up the monotony of combat.

Nero's gameplay is bland compared to Dante's gameplay - This is my first Devil May Cry game and I thought DMC4 was pretty fun until I got to control Dante. I then realised althoguh the previous five or six hours with Nero was fun, but it was nothing compared to the possibilities with Dante. Dante has a way larger variety of attack modes and weapons.

Here's what Nero has:
A sword
A gun
Devil Bringer - A demonic hand that can grab enemies from afar and bring it closer. Also doubles as a heavy attack.
A power-up mode
Some dodging moves

Here's what Dante has:
5 different modes of fighting with a special ability for each mode
3 different guns - This includes a weapon that can transform into several different modes when specific button sequences are pressed
3 different close range weapons
A power-up mode
Dodging moves including the Trickster mode which is all about dodging
Everything that Nero has except for the Devil bringer

I find it very strange that they have so few levels for Dante compared to Nero when Dante is clearly the more fun character to use with way more options available to you. It's even more of a shame they have you fighting in the same levels but in the reverse order.

Way too few levels and repetition of levels and bosses! - DMC 4's few bosses are fun but having to fight through the same levels but in reverse order for Dante painful because they could have done something more intersting. Maybe show an alternate story showing Dante's progress while Nero goes about his business to provide a more complete picture of what else is happening. Considering Dante's versatility it feels as if they had planned something bigger but had to cut back because of budget cuts.

Gun's are useless in the game - This is pretty much a given in the series but I was surprised just how useless they were until they were fully powered up where they then actually became fairly useful.

Lack of variety in music with only one real combat track - There could have at least been 3 or 4 different battle themes considering how much time you spend in combat. Most games have 1 for normal enemies, 1 fast track and 1 boss track.

Lack of game modes - The Bloody palace chalenge and the secret missions are interestingly but that's it really. For AAA title, I expected more. This only compounds the short level issue above. Also why can't you replay secret missions from the main menu instead of having to travel inside the game? That is, once you find them they should be unlocked for you to access in the main menu rather than you having to trudge through a level to refind it.

My final recommendation
Despite my complaints, I did have fun. But don't pay full price, try renting it or picking it up in the bargain bin. I bought it for around NZ$17. I'd say its worth around $15. Just don't be fooled into thinking its great.