Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Homefront: Singleplayer Gameplay and Story Opinion

Homefront is game set in an alternate future where a unified Korea decides to invade America. The game takes place several months after the invasion where Korea has instituted martial law and is increasing committing acts of brutality.

I prefer old-school shooters and I haven't played any Battlefield or Call of Duty games so Homefront is a game which is difficult for me to review because I can't compared it with anything except games I've played such as Hard reset, Half Life 2, Gears of War, Fear 3, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Spec Ops: The Line.

My impressions are overall that yes, it works fine as a modern chest-high wall shooter. The combat and mechanics are generally good. Shooting people is okay. The game itself seems very shy in doing anything new or different with the gameplay. It's pretty much shoot this and that with guns. There are no special abilities to speak of. Explosives are also introduced in the beginning of the game but they aren't really used until the end of the game except for grenades. There are some stealth sections which I found a bit of an interesting change of pace but like many other action games, the stealth is pretty much scripted rather than organic.

The sole new outstanding  feature is the ability to remote control a six wheeled drone, basically a jeep with a machine gun and rocket launcher, which is very fun by the way. Considering this does take place in the near future, I felt that if they had increased the number of robot drones you could use the game and make you some sort of gifted robotic 'puppet master' rather than a former military pilot it might actually worked out much better to distinguish itself for the rest of the other shooters. Back when Homefront was released, there weren't many games where you get to fly and coordinate robotic drones so I think that would have really helped make a difference.

The storyline however is really too American for me, a New Zealand Chinese (formerly Singaporean Chinese). It's trying to go for a gritty realistic "America under siege" game but it's precisely because of this, that it fails to engage me. The problem is that its just so overbearingly pro-American something out of a Tom Clancy type novel that everything ends up being too cliche. Everything 'good' is American and apple pie. Everything 'bad' is North Korean.The Koreans are hilariously evil to the point of being cartoonish, committing brutal acts for the heck of it. Compared to Spec Ops: The Line, the disturbing scenes in the game feel stupid and pointless. There to deliberately elicit a knee-jerk reaction. Spec Ops really asks you to question what it means to be a hero. In Homefront, you are the standard action hero who is definitely the 'good guy' just like in a Hollywood blockbuster. The entire game is a celebration of "American values". It's like having a baseball bat wrapped in an American flag being smashed into your face while someone yells "America! Yeah!" This game isn't a thoughtful piece of social criticism but a piece of American paranoid right-wing propaganda. I won't go much more in-depth into this but it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Overall, if you're American, you might get some kicks out of Homefront but the hamfisted "Go America!" values it espouses makes it difficult for non-Americans to understand just what is so great about the game. It's an okay action game but you're better off playing Spec Ops for the social commentary or an old school shooter like Painkiller or Max Payne or you're looking for awesome action.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Matrix: Path of Neo: Game Design Review

Matrix: The Path of Neo was released back in 2005 with you playing as Neo through a number of key sequences in the film. Here's my thoughts on this action game.

What I liked:
Very fun. Its a solid game with plenty of action, wall running cool kung fu moves and definitely faithful to the movies atmosphere and style. Lots of interactive explosions and debris making the world feel alive.

Controls are solid for this sort of game and the brawling feels mostly natural and fluid.

What I disliked
Camera angles- Camera angles are normally okay, however this ends up problematic in closed rooms especially when wall running. All too often it ends up blocking your view of enemies in an enclosed room. Fortunately most levels occur in large rooms or arenas so this usually isn't a problem.

Cover based shooting is there but pointless- The game makes a big deal of this cover based mechanic in the beginning with a fairly lengthy tutorial sequence. The truth is its actually kind of useless. Neo has a fair amount bullet time, enemies tend to rush you and most of the game ends up in a hand to hand brawl anyway. You eventually even get the powers to jump across rooms! I've never really needed to use the cover based system although I have on occasion hid behind a corner.

Slow beginning- The game starts you off playing a number of tutorial missions and learning how to be stealthy etc. I kind of found it dragged on too long although the locations were certainly interesting.

Stealth is useless- The game devotes an early level in stealth but I never found any real use of stealth in the missions. The enemies after the stealth level seem to automatically turn around to attack so there's no sneaking at all the game. Why they made such a big deal of it is very curious.

More attacks- What's especially missing is probably a guard crush ability to stop enemies from blocking. The hardest enemies I found were not agents but in fact police carrying shields because the shields were impenetrable and they had a special knock back ability.

Multi-attacking is hard- There's an option to launch a multi-attack move where you attack two or even three people in one attack. For example this would make Neo would punch and kick two people at the same. Unfortunately there is no visual indicator on screen to indicate you're successfully activating this ability. Its a shame because this has some of the coolest moves and attacks.

Poor story presentation- If you go into this a fan of the Matrix like I am, you'll love this. It basically expands certain scenes while fleshing out other parts of the Matrx world Those who aren't fans or who haven't watched the Matrix trilogy will be confused by how the story is told. It's told by montages comprised of quotes from the movies which aren't even in chronological order.

Overall I enjoyed the core mechanics despite its rough edges and I do recommend it to those who enjoy brawlers and watching the Matrix.