DEMOlition – F.E.A.R. 2: Reborn

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Today’s game is F.E.A.R. 2: Reborn. To give some background, Monolith released F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin last year to lukewarm critical response and not much fan reaction (at least from what I heard of the game). F.E.A.R. 2 was a follow-up to their critically acclaimed F.E.A.R. from 2005 (which also happens to be one of my favorite PC shooters).

My personal opinion on F.E.A.R. 2 (God I hate acronyms) was simple: Hate. I found the game too dumbed down and easy for my tastes. The level design was too bright to illicit any kind of frightening reaction other than a gut response to something randomly popping in your face. The A.I. was so stupid (compared to the first game which has some of the best A.I. around), the guns lost their visceral edge (they no longer produced all the intense smoke effects from the first game) and the level design was just the generic scare tactic style that Monolith overused in the first game (where random things pop out at you).

Well, wouldn’t you be surprised to hear that I actually enjoyed this demo of the new DLC expansion? Before I start delving into the good stuff (gameplay), let me set up how the demo starts. The game begins with an extremely grainy and otherwise unimpressive intro that looks almost exactly like the intro to the first game (making me think this was a remake).

This demo shows the main villain of the first game (he may also be in the second, I never cared to beat it) spouting out some nonsense about how you can free him. After about a minute (and a short little clip of your character doing some cool things), your character stands up from some explosion (possibly the end of F.E.A.R. 2).

This is where I immediately began to feel the presence of F.E.A.R (no pun intended). The first game had such a dark and atmospheric setting about the game that you always wondered what would happen around each corner. This DLC pack seems to fall back on that design and makes your awareness limited to what you can see with your flashlight (which, thankfully, doesn’t die on you).

The surroundings are laid out in a manner similar to the first game, which means they are built like an office building. It was definitely good to feel like I was playing a direct continuation of the first game instead of a sequel that forgot where its roots were.

Soon after moving a bit, you fall down through the ceiling and are confronted with your first enemy. Being without weapon, you have to melee him and take his crappy pistol. I was a little confused as far as button placement went, but melee ended up being mapped to B (just like Halo), so it wasn’t hard to set myself to one control scheme.

The only problem with melee being B is that the rest of the controls don’t follow Halo standards (or even Call of Duty or Battlefield, for that matter). When you pick up the pistol, you know RT is fire, but switching weapons is relegated to LB, with RB being grenade and LT being iron-sights (zoom). This is one of the places where I felt a bit disappointed in the demo. There is no option to bind your own controls, so you are left with a scheme that seems to be esoteric to Monolith games.

Even so, when you fire off a round with the pistol, the guns instantly feel familiar. F.E.A.R. 2 forgot about making their gunplay as impressive looking as it was handling, but Reborn doesn’t make the same mistake. Bullets impact with a splash of blood and the walls will crater when shot. Everything is definitely great looking in terms of technical value, so your guns feel heavy and realistic (just like in the first game). Sometimes your shots don’t seem to connect, though, so that does feel strange when you are missing your mark, but have a dead reticule on the enemy.

When you kill your next soldier and round another corner, the game pops-up to remind you of F.E.A.R.’s patented slow-mo ability. This ability never seemed to bother me in the original (often getting me out of ridiculous jams), but it definitely makes the combat extremely easy in this demo. Even on hardest, popping on slow-mo for 10 seconds can allow you to clear a room of 5 people.

The recharge timer for this slow-mo has been changed from the first game (probably in the second, I just can’t remember). It seems to charge a bit faster, meaning you will always have it in a rough spot. It’s just too bad the A.I. still can’t match the quality of the first. It outpaces vanilla F.E.A.R. 2, though. While I was sitting in a corner and picking off guys, I started dying randomly and turned to see a soldier behind me. Me somehow worked his way out of the scuffle and began to take me out, which is definitely neat.

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A.I. Tactics like cover were missing in F.E.A.R. 2, but are back in Reborn.

As for how to deal with sneaky soldiers, this demo gives you a small bit of the arsenal available in the final DLC. Along to the pistol, you are given a rather simple SMG, 3 grenade types (being proximity, frag and flame), a shotgun and a nail-gun. Yes, a freakin nail-gun. Plugging enemies in the head is so intensely satisfying that I just relied solely on this for the rest of the demo (though it does come a bit towards the end).

As for the rest of the A.I., they just kind of sit around and take your bullets. It’s not like killing them isn’t fun (especially with particle effects flying about), but challenge is not something F.E.A.R. 2: Reborn offers. What it lacks in difficulty, it makes up for with its set pieces.

After killing a few generic grunts, you jump down another level to a sniper waiting (which is easily killed by slow-mo shots) and some tank like people. These tanks don’t pose much of a threat, but waiting for them to turn corners is pointless. You are in a small area that is made of wooden walls, so the tanks just kind of bust through them. It definitely leads to some, “OH S@&^!” moments and the game feels more like it is trying to set up impressive battles like the first game.

The demo closes with you sliding down an office building, but making careful jumps from desk to ceiling pillar so as not to die. It’s very hectic and the camera is never straight, so you are always being cautious with your jumps. This also hints back to the first game, where most of the puzzles were based on moving your character instead of trying to flip a switch and press-on.

In the end, I felt rather amused and happy with the demo. F.E.A.R. 2 put a bad taste in my mouth, but this DLC seems to be correcting a lot of the issues the original title had. While the A.I. might not be up to F.E.A.R.’s level and the guns still aren’t perfect, at least Monolith realized that their level design was lacking. Simply darkening the game and going back to basics has done a lot in making me get sucked into the game world, so I commend them for that.

If you played F.E.A.R. 2 and enjoyed it, you will definitely be pleased with Reborn. The DLC should be releasing on September 3rd (Source), though no price is announced (I say expect 800 MS Points/$10 PSN). While the pack only comes with 4 levels, having them as good as the demo was would make for an amazing little download. I may actually want to finish F.E.A.R. 2 and get this pack, myself, that how much I enjoyed it.

My Summer – Bonus Day: SGC Memories and Blog Reflections

Summer is finally over, g1’s. A new school year has started and so my gaming blogs will be more weekly instead of intense, daily excursions of gaming glory. I’m going to take the time in this blog to discuss the other aspects of my summer and give some reflections on how I felt about my day-to-day overviews of games.

If you are a newer g1 (or somehow spent time under a rock for the past year), then you may not know that Screwattack held a convention this summer titled, “SGC.” As luck may have it, I was able to attend this glorious convention.

I have to say, having only been to one previous gaming convention before (Digital Overload, if you need to know), SGC blew my mind. I was not sure what to expect (I was thinking panels would be 4-5 hours apart with really just people talking for the rest of the time), I could not believe the awesome I had encountered.

All of this almost didn’t happen, though. When I arrived at the luxurious (i.e. crappy) Westin Hotel, I was met with a strange problem. INSUFFICIENT FUNDS! “SHIT,” I began to think, “WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?” As it turns out, do not book your hotel room online and expect the hotel staff to receive payment without specifically asking them to.

After a few calls to my mother (who pretty much panicked), I was able to procure a room for 3 nights until she could pay the rest (which she was able to get and I am grateful for). Well, with this harrowing moment put behind me, I walked over to receive my staff badge for the weekend. While waiting, I happened to run into a few nice guys who I spent the evening with. We went over to Denny’s and have a great time.

Now, Denny’s has never agreed with me. I knew that going in, but I didn’t want to be a killjoy and say, “Screw that place and f*#@ you guys,” as I was really having fun with them. So the next morning, about 45 minutes before the convention started, my stomach hit the floor. What else could go wrong this weekend?

Thankfully, nothing did. Even though I reduced my food intake to a granola bar every 10 hours (and eventually I had a burger for lunch on Sunday), I was filled with enough energy to act crazy around people and have a great time kicking ass on Street Fighter 3.

My weekend was pretty much the Street Fighter 3 cabinet. I ended up playing at least 40 matches with one kid who was pretty proficient with Dudley. Being an old fan of SF3, but not playing in years, I had to stick with my man Ryu. We had some great matchups and even ended up getting a perfect on each other in one match.

As for meet ups with the crew, I pretty much talked to everyone but Bryan, Corey and Ben. I did help Corey on the first day by moving some stuff with 2 other fellows, but I never tried to bother her during the weekend (she was incredibly busy). Time for the requisite SGC photos with people, courtesy of my extremely awful camera.

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Nick never dropped character as Tommy, but I still felt I needed to get something out of him. As I approached him for the picture, I asked him, “Can I punch you in the beak?” Tommy shook his head and simply said, “I’d have to punch you in the beak, then.” Fair trade in my mind, but he took our picture and went on about our business.

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Brentalfloss was a great guy. He walked into the Console Gaming area and GPX felt like doing an interview with him. To my fortune, I happened to be the patsy behind the counter that was called to hold the camera. Before the interview, I got my picture and we chatted a little. I lamented not seeing his live performance, but he assured me that the good times were still coming.

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Craig was a great man to meet. I’ve looked up to him in the past few months for this ability to take nothing and create greatness. I looked up so much that for a school assignment in one of my journalism classes, I interviewed the man. I was sure he would forget, but he told me that he had the interview framed in his office. You wouldn’t imagine the pride I felt hearing that.

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Now the picture with Jose is probably my favorite. The day before, I had said a simple hello to Jose and began laughing my ass off. I straightened myself out and said it again. Jose simply started at me and said, “F$*# you.” We then shared a laugh and parted ways. I met up with him the next day and he simply had me get on the floor because of his lack of energy. Right before the photo, he told me, “Dude, your hand is right near my balls.” Classic Jose quote, right there.

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As for Chad and Destin, not many things were said. This was the last day and the final few minutes before everyone was leaving, so I had to make it quick. Chad and I talked a bit, but mostly about how great the weekend was. Destin simply got my picture and I shook his hand, but I kind of shook it twice and felt awkward. I hope Destin doesn’t think I’m some weirdo after that.

If you are wondering what I did as staff, I was helping in the console gaming room. I dolled out the games and controllers to people while making sure no one stole anything (we did almost misplace a few copies of Gears, though). The guys running the console room, GPX Gaming, were extremely nice and I’m thankfully that they were able to help me with questions (also, props to The God Damned Batman for being hilarious).

Regarding my week-long blogs about games, I feel pretty good. I started to lose some steam when I wrote about Blazblue (I drifted towards review more than opinion and impression) and I wasn’t too happy with infamous, but I think I did well overall.

The reaction to my blogs was pretty impressive at first, but it slowly died down as the week went on. While I wasn’t discouraged by this, I’m wondering exactly what I should do to generate a bigger reaction for my future blogs and series. If there is anything at all you g1’s would like to see, please let me know.

And now time for the serious part of the blog. Last week on Saturday, my grandmother passed away after 91 years of life. She was a big influence in the way I wanted to pursue religion in my life and she helped me define my character when I meet people. She will be missed dearly.

In the end, my summer was good, but much like life everything eventually comes to an end. Here’s hoping that we all learn from our experiences and that we never let small things in life bog us down. I will do my best in the future to improve my skills and hopefully bring joy to you g1’s.

My Summer – Day 6: Katamari Damacy & We Love Katamari

After not having written a blog in 3 months, I’ve come back with A VENGEANCE! For the next week, I will be doing daily write-ups on all of the games I played this summer. I will double up on a few days for games I played that had sequels (which I also played).


Without any further delay, I present to you, both Katamari PS2 games!

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Katamari Damacy was a sleeper-hit of the PS2 catalog. The game literally came out of nowhere and ended up being a critic and fan favorite from 2004. The game was so unexpected to sell that retailers under stocked the game and ended up selling out fast.

Namco eventually released sequels to Katamari Damacy and the series launched into a franchise. Katamari has gone on to become one of the most beloved series on any platform in recent memory.

While this is all well and good, I never knew what the game was about until I played it this year. I remember loving the idea back in 2004 and telling my friends to jump on board, but I was never able to find a copy to play.

Well, even with all the hype behind the title, I was no disappointed with the end result. Katamari Damacy is one of the simplest ideas in the world, yet its execution is second to none. Colorful graphics, exuberant music and charming characters all collide to make a joyous experience, even if the gameplay isn’t totally refined.

The first game has no real plot structure, but it does have a central idea. The King of All Cosmos accidentally caused some problem that sucked all of the stars out of the sky. Feeling like an idiot but not willing to work to correct the problem, The King assigns his son to clean up the night sky.

King of All Cosmos
Son, Daddy made a boo-boo…

You play as “The Prince” and you roll around with your “Katamari,” picking up anything in your path and using it to create stars. That is the entire plot and game in one sentence (impressive, I know). While you would figure this idea would get boring or repetitive, you have yet to experience the pure joy that rolling produces.

The game plays in that the King gives you a goal of rolling up a Katamari of a certain size. Size is how the game scores you and producing something that is bare minimum usually results in the King saying your skills are lacking.

Regardless of what the King says to you, the game makes its initial goals extremely easy to grasp. Simple things like, “Roll me a 20 cm Katamari in 5 minutes,” are what are offered at the start, but soon the game will have you doubling, tripling and even quadrupling your Katamari in the same amount of time.

Finding things to roll up into your Katamari is never an impossible task. Your Katamari can pick up anything and everything, though things need to be proportionate to your Katamari’s size. Rolling things like buttons, currency, pencils, paper, etc, I literally do mean anything can be rolled.

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Yes, those are buildings.

The progression from simple goals to quite extreme ones is relatively fast, but considering the game is such an easy thing to master, you never really hit a point where your objective becomes impassable. The game has such an amazing incorporation of relaxing music that even if you do hit a goal that requires multiple visits, you never become aggravated.

The game also throws a few goals at you that require certain items to be rolled. When I say certain items, I mean things like all crabs or only one bear. These goals help differentiate the objectives from mission to mission and break the games monotony when too many simple rolling levels go by.

The game uses a control setup that requires both analog sticks to be used on the PS2 controller. While a setup like this is not entirely revolutionary, the way in which the game makes use of just the 2 sticks is quite impressive. You move the two sticks forward to make your Katamari roll forward; backwards goes back, left goes left and etc. The Katamari is almost like a boat.

What else the sticks do is help with faster movement and turning. Clicking both sticks will make the Prince jump to the other side of the Katamari, immediately turning you around. Alternating the sticks in an up and down motion will send the Katamari flying forward in a quick dash.

The King of All Cosmos is easily one of the best reasons to play this game. His character is written as a narcissistic, ego-crazy kind of guy, but his charm is so friendly that you can’t help but love him. The Prince is also such a cute creation that just looking at his face makes you fall in love (wait…….).

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NA, NA, NANA NA NA, NA NA, NA….

And that is all that the game really is. There is nothing more I can say about Katamari Damacy other than it’s a classic and a quirky, unexpected delight. While Katamari Damacy may be short (took me about 5 hours to complete), what else I can talk about is the sequel, We Love Katamari.

We Love Katamari may almost seem like Namco was trying to cash in on the craze that the first game caused and that is partially true. What is unexpected from this sequel, though, is that it is better than the first game in terms of value.

That is right; We Love Katamari is about double the length of the first game and includes some of the zaniest objectives I could ever possibly imagine for a game about rolling a ball. Namco ups the ante by making the Katamari’s bigger, the characters zanier and the music more off the wall.

The story deals with the King of All Cosmos not knowing what to do with all the success he had with his first Katamari ordeal (yes, breaking the 4th wall). Being the glory hog that he is, the King listens to the fans and gives them what they want; More Katamari Damacy!

Gameplay and control wise, everything is exactly the same. The camera system gets a slight overhaul to make it more focused, but that only helps to strengthen the rolling aspect of the game. The objectives range from the typical “Rolling Anything” to the unexpected, “Roll this Sumo Wrestler Around to make him fat.”

The levels have brighter graphics and catch your eye easier than in the first game. The game also introduces cousins for the Prince, allowing the player to change characters during the game. Along with that, you can now dress the Prince up, making him more adorable than ever.

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Roll, Ichigo, Roll!

The difficulty is also more in check, with the goals gradually building up to a massive finish instead of just dropping it on you in one extreme goal. Along with that, the music is an even bigger collection of outlandish and captivating tunes and allows you to change the song for the level, meaning if replays are needed you won’t get tired of the song played.

Katamari Damacy really is the classic that it has been hyped to be. I was surprised as hell to find that I loved the game more than anything I’ve played in recent years. I’m not sure if the graphics did it for me or the music, but everything in the finished package is worthy of praise.

If you haven’t managed to play this game, please do yourself a favor and give it a shot. The simple nature of the game means it is accessible to everyone and the gradual increase of difficulty means that even novices will be able to eventually complete the title. That alone should give you enough solace to know this title is worth it.

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We All Love it and you will too!

My Summer – Day 1: Prototype

After not having written a blog in 3 months, I’ve come back with A VENGEANCE! For the next week, I will be doing daily write-ups on all of the games I played this summer. I will double up on a few days for games I played that had sequels (which I also played).

While you may think these are reviews, I am trying to put my opinion on the matter while also pointing out flaws and general praises that I have for a game. I will not be dolling out scores, or even sectioning off my texts into topics.

Without any further delay, I present to you, Prototype.

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Ah Prototype, a game that received a lot of controversy for being similar to a certain PS3 title (and a coming overview from me in a few days). While not the best game in its genre (Open World Adventure), Prototype is certainly a thrilling experience from beginning to end.

The game starts off with a rather amazing looking cutscene that tries it’s best to rip-off every Quentin Tarantino movie ever made. You start the game off at the end of the story and your character, Alex Mercer, works his way backwards. Not only that, but you play a part that chronologically takes place almost at the end of your adventure.

This shows off some of the impressive abilities you (eventually) have at your disposal. Things like blades growing out of your arms, tentacles that destroy everything they touch; even massive Hulk like arms. This is all exhilarating and you really get a sense that you are a WMD. Not only that, but you are unleashed into Times Square with a pretty accurate representation.

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Just one of your many abilities at work!

After you complete this part, you are thrust into the main plotline. While you don’t know anything about your character, the story does little to shed light on the cause at the moment. All you kind of get is that Alex is wanted DOA, so you need to work fast to thwart your enemies.

Missions are what propel you through this game and they certainly are fun, at first. While everything is a bit generic, the game gives you a large quantity of experience points to upgrade your character. Doing 1 mission early in the game pretty much guarantees you 2-3 upgrades each time. You even get the ability to copy an individuals image so you can cloak in the crowd; Sweet.

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ROSA! GIVE ME YOUR PEE!

When you slowly begin to build back your abilities, you learn some neat tricks. Alex has super speed, a devastating last stand attack and even the ability to glide in the air. This harkens back to Spider-man 2 with its amazing webslinging. Running through the city is definitely fun for a bit, but just trying to build your speed and jumping distance make traveling fast a simple act.

After about 2 hours in, though, Prototype takes a massive turn for the worst. The graphics were never astounding (even with the first cutscene being ridiculously good), but they really show a lot of pop-in and repetition in building design. You run down the streets of NYC and feel like you entered a perpetual warp zone. Not only that, you should have a few upgrades for your speed, which makes the pop-in even worse then you jump for a building that doesn’t exist yet.

Not only that, Alex is definitely an extremely generic dude. While the story started off vague, it never clears anything up. There is an answer to why Alex is such a beast, but it feels like a cop-out and, to a lesser extent, a copy of Bourne Identity. Alex also just acts pissed off because he can. Are the police getting on your nerves? “I F*#@ING HATE THEM! HULK SMASH!”

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I smolder with generic rage!

The enemy A.I. is also some of the worst of any open-world game I’ve recently played. Instead of trying to balance the difficulty by, say, making the enemies use cover tactics or any type of actual warfare, Prototype just throws horde after horde of beasts in your direction. You eventually get to a point in the story where you fail until you upgrade your health or run around like a fool.

Not only is the generic enemy A.I. bad, but the bosses are even stupider. I know boss battles in the past have had patterns, but the Prototype bosses rarely move. They just sit there sprouting out insults and using the same attack over and over. Once you get past the horde of 16 million generic enemies bum rushing you, the boss gets a cheap shot and you have to repeat the process. This gets extremely trying on your nerves and I almost gave up at a few points. I’m sure Easy difficulty could have alleviated this problem, but who wants to play a game on Easy?

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These guys will definitely piss you off.

These problems wouldn’t be so bad to me if the game just varied its design more. In addition to the main quests, you have short activities that are supposed to use your powers for objectives. The only thing that stands out is a Gliding mini-game where you have Alex time his jumps to reach a small circle about 5 city blocks away (and one in the middle of a lake). It really sticks out in the otherwise generic objectives that are thrown at you in every other mission.

The other minigames consist of Speed Trials and Killing (even if you kill with the cause being A) Time Limit, B) Amount or C) With an Ability). These are overly difficult at times and at others are too simple. There is no real balance between what you should be able to do with patience and what you just cannot do at all.

I have to say, though, that I did enjoy the initial game I played. If Activision put a lot more time polishing the things like Story, Graphics and Variety, I may have been inclined to sit here and tell you that Prototype is an amazing game. I do recommend it to people who like their combat bloody and hardcore, but if you have been burnt out on Open-World games recently, you are better off skipping this and picking up a certain clone (inFamous).

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MOAR CLAW!