Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tomb Raider - I Have No Idea if I'm Suppose to Explore Tombs or Her Wounds.

     Tomb Raider from back when I played it during the early 2000's was about playing as an explorer of tombs.  Who oddly had stiff jumping which caused her to fall down cliffs like a manikin and fighting dinosaurs gaining wounds.  Now we are playing as a poor unfortunate soul of a super natural witch spirit thing while getting brutally beaten around.  This game seems to be one of those reboots things that is popular lately, where instead of a new IP a company just reuses an old franchise for nostalgia bucks.  It makes me think game companies took the recycle, reuse, reduce thing shamelessly at full force for everything.  But this game dishes out more pain to itself more so then I could ever do sadly.  Anyway let's talk about if this is game worth excavating for.

    The Tomb Raider as I said before is a series that was about exploring levels while doing awkward death jumps.  Searching high and low for hidden artifacts, medkits, and other things like getting eaten by a bear.  So having the series rebooted in a post Uncharted world, many people would think it would rip off the series that borrowed from it.  Ironically that isn't the case, the game feels like Metroid with out the interesting atmosphere for lack of a better description.  It's pretty much playing through the story and getting better gear to explore more of the island to FINALLY explore tombs, which I thought was the goal of the game.  Seems that the developers of this game wanted to tell a story of how Lara came into her own, as a monster known to kill anyone or thing in her way.  And it's funny to say that because everything gameplay wise feels inconsistent with what is going on with the story.

    After their boat crashes and Lara finds camp the game implies we need to hunt for food to survive a'la Metal Gear Solid 3.  Yet it's not needed, after hunting the first deer I never bothered hunting because there was no real need to outside of pretending I'm a survivalist.  After shooting the first deer we see Lara uncomfortably having to kill the creature for food, which sets the tone that she isn't into killing.  Which later on in the story she pretty much mows down the crazy cultists one after the other, it's suppose to show she grew as a character.  Personally I thought it was fitting to a degree, but it's very jarring with how far she goes.  Where in one scene she bursts through a door with the soundtrack whaling and screaming how she will kill everyone while shooting off a grenade launcher.  Granted I will admit her methods of killing can be very off putting for someone who couldn't slice a deer open originally.  Besides hunting the islands wild life (and by that I mean the non-human animals) we get into the platforming aspect the series was known for.  And it's a welcome upgrade compared to the old Tomb Raider games, I was pleased they didn't nick all of the designs from Uncharted's tomb.  Platforming here has different colored ledge's and walls to show where you can grab.  Not so obvious to where it's annoying, but not so hidden to where you are hopping up everywhere while hearing Lara huff and puff like a fat guy trying to reach the top shelf for a bag of Cheetos.  As you go through the story Lara gains new methods of getting around, though to be fair it's just different ways to climb.  Along with Lara's shift in ethics on human worth, the combat itself has been shifted to more modern gameplay.  By that I mean wave after wave of the same three types of enemy's; with a special one thrown in once and a while to keep the player from falling out of their chair from boredom.  It's pretty standard for a third person shooter to be honest.  Dull, but not to the point of wanting to drop Lara down cliffs to see how devs rendered another death scene.  The only interesting fights involve you scuttling around to hit an enemies weak point.  Besides that you mow down so many crazy cultists to the point where you ask yourself, how many of these fuckers have been stranded on this haunted island.  All while in the process of gaining XP for skills that really don't help with anything.  The only useful one is for getting more scrap, and using your Ax for attacking.  For me it's because I mostly used the bow and arrow to get headshots.  With that said it leads one to wonder what is the point of skills if they don't better your ability to liberate the head from the body of a cult member.

    During your plowing of cultists you learn that the island is indeed super natural.  As evidence shows how any vehicle who tries to save you ends up in a pile of fire and screaming terror.  Seems Lara has a knack for getting people around her killed, on purpose or not.  Even her expedition team wonders if they will live hanging out with the walking death machine.  Speaking of her teammates they're just cookie cutter background fodder.  Hardly in the game to the point where I don't remember nor care about them.  Just feeling like they are a means for Lara's end, another bullet in her chamber.  The only two who have enough spot light to matter is the scummy archaeologist who telegraphs betraying you harder then Lara shoving an ax in your skull and Sam.  Who is pretty much just a talking macguffin who won't shut up.  Yet I still didn't care about them, I just wanted to have a fight the cult leader in a way that wasn't semi scripted bullshit.  Yet the game didn't even give me that...  No instead you fight the some demon thing hyped up by cult members through out the game, and it's just a dodge and shoot battle.  But at least after that you can fight the cult leader in a lame fight with dual pistols, just like Lara did in the old games (wink wink nudge nudge).  Which would have been cool to do through out the game instead of just this one fight, but with how third person shooters are made nowadays doing so would leave Lara with more holes then a blowup doll at an orgy.

    At the end of this stupid dig through the nonsense I feel the game is average at best.  I don't get what makes Tomb Raider (The Reboot) special outside of the fact it's from the Tomb Raider franchise.  Combat feels like every other third person shooter killing waves of mindless idiots, with a leveling system that feels pointless.  Being able to increase your abilities with a weapon to get more XP (yay).  Even gun upgrades fill token, awesome I can now reload my shotgun a bit faster and blast another load slightly harder in some dude's face.  I only felt like I grew in power as I gained more weapons and even then I preferred my bow and arrow.  The game in a technical sense isn't bad, and it is entertaining to play.  I just can't help shake the feeling that while it is slightly above average it didn't do enough to help it stand out for me.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The New 3DS - Who The Hell is This For?

    I am a tech guy who enjoys playing with different hardware, either has a hobbiest or just as a consumer.  I'm not an expert like most tech people, it's just a hobby I have to flex my programmers brain.  So I'm used to reading and hearing about new revisions of devices I already own, it really never bothers me because it doesn't automatically make my device I own completely useless.  The New 3DS Nintendo announced though left a nasty taste in my mouth though.  Mostly because of one of new selling points is that certain games will run only on it.  It's not so much that Nintendo is going to fragment the market (Which I can see happening), it's more so that Microsoft and Sony might see this as a good idea to copy.  But after thinking about it, Nintendo is kinda responding to all the complaints about lack of decent hardware.  Which is odd because even though the 3DS is destroying the Playstation Vita in sales and is getting great games, people still think it's not good enough.

    As I said before I have a lot of different types of hardware, and over time new versions will always come out; that is the market.  For example the different Arduino's and Raspberry Pi's revisions, where they have different features or fixes for newer models released.  I have a Raspberry Pi B that has a revision new called B+.  It added more USB ports with better hot swapping, different connector for composite video, and other features like more GPIO pins.  Now the B+ was made to not make the A and B models useless, they oped to not use a newer CPU to avoid fragmenting the OS's made for it.  Which means that even though it has more stuff for the hardware, it doesn't make older boards useless and dropped in terms of support.  Which is good given it's a teaching tool first, and a fragmented board market can make it hard to jump in.  Unlike the New 3DS where Nintendo announced that because of their better specs the system can run games that older 3DS's can't run.  This isn't new, the DSi did this where the eShop allowed the system to download games the older DS couldn't play.  That didn't cause an outcry and I believe the issue steams from the fact that most DSi eShop games weren't good, and games that could use the DSi's newer features didn't lock out people with older systems.  Instead the game Nintendo was showing off was Xenoblade Chronicles.  So instead of mostly gimmicky games that wouldn't have lasted as a cart release in a store, it was a game that people petitioned to have released in the states.  This is worrying because it means people might have to buy a newer version of a current gen system to play newer games, and that is a legitimate concern.  Personally I'm not completely worried because Nintendo has done this before, only not to this level.  So for me given the track record it's a wait and see.

    My worry is that companies tend to copy ideas that work in the market place full boner.  I'm referring to Microsoft and Sony, where devs have been reporting to have already tapped the system capabilities.  This is a bit of a worry because if the two cave to the possible demands from developers and release the XBox One.5 or the Playstation 4 1/2 would devs completely abandon the older hardware for more leg room.  Common sense would say no because publishers would like to hit as many consumers as possible.  Which is why even after the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One games still were coming out for the last generation's system during the post launch window.  On the other hand hardly being able to hit the 1080p and 60 frames per second benchmark marketing has hyped up, plus how devs shunned the WiiU because of it's lacking specs could most likely make Sony and Microsoft think; "If Nintendo can take a system already selling well and give it better specs for it to play better games, why not us?"  This whole mess really make me thing about the Playstation Portable and how Sony didn't listen to demands to add a second analog stick.  They knew it would cause a unwanted hardware fragmentation with their games.

    My thoughts on The New 3DS itself is that I think it is ugly.  The second analog stick is very small and looks like it's oddly placed.  I'm not fond of the Super Famicom button colors, pretty sure if brought to the states it will be changed to match the Super Nintendo colors instead.  I honestly don't like the idea of placing the game cart on the bottom of the system, because you can hit the bottom and have the cart pop up.  The ZR and ZL buttons are oddly placed for me personally given how I hold the system.  I think the IR tracking is smart to allow the players to hold the 3DS in more then 4 slightly different positions.  For the new CPU though I'm not surprised it was done if they were adding a second analog stick.  When Kid Icarus came out the devs claimed that they couldn't do dual analog because the CPU wasn't powerful enough.  Personally I don't believe that because it could support analog+styus input (two analog values), but that's just me.  The biggest group of people this will cause headaches for is the "casual gamer".  When the 2DS came out I noticed Pokemon X and Y had stickers added to them stating it works on the 2DS.  How is Nintendo going to market this new version so people know which game runs on what?  They already screwed up on the WiiU, and the 2DS is having issues of it's own.

    That is my honest take on The New 3DS, I honestly think it's too soon to do something like this.  It's looks poorly designed, and I will just wait for the The New 3DS Hyper Edition.