Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Now Playing: Corpse Party - Blood Drive

 Not my smartest idea.
 Playing the third entry in a very story-focused franchised without having played the previous game wasn't my smartest idea. But whatever, I play games for the gameplay, not the story!

 ...And yet I found myself confused after the first few lines of narration! Turns out the game is rather heavy on narrative, which I wasn't expecting. A lot of crazy stuff happened, but I'm guessing the initial preface is just to remind returning players of what happened and not to introduce new players to the world of Corpse Party. Fair enough.
 Regardless, the story is a bit.... I've mixed feelings about it. First of all, the main character is supposed to be rather shy and timid, yet described a character's appearance as having a 'shit-eating grin' which was very off-putting and laughably ridiculous. I was also surprised to find a few scenes of very distinctive Japanese humor which was off-putting as well. I thought I was playing a horror game, not watching a high-school comedy anime show.

 The game looks very cutesy with its super deformed, chibi character models, but it gets pretty dark pretty fast, with the main character cutting herself with a pair of scissors. It made me wince a bit, surprisingly, and the first death also creeped me out despite the cute aesthetics, so bonus points for that.

 Basically, it looks like a decent game, albeit with a few quirks, but there's a thing that absolutely destroys the entire game: Loading screens. There're loading screens for everything, for going into the menu, for selecting something on the menu, etc. And they last a good 5 seconds or so, and it adds up. I've only played the very first chapter and I'm already fed up with them!

Review #352: Resident Evil - Revelations

 A REturn to form?
 Often touted as one, if not the one 3DS game to own, at least before the HD port, Resident Evil Revelations had a lot to live up to. Not only that, it received a warm welcome by a large number of the fractured fandom that the series has. After finally getting to playing it myself... I'm a bit disappointed.

 It seems like Chris and Jill just can't catch a break! Veltro, a long-thought-dead organization is back and with it a different strain of the T-Virus, the T-Abyss. Chris apparently goes missing, so Jill boards Veltro's Ship, the Queen Zenobia, alongside her partner Parker, on her way to stop Veltro. While not too confusing, it's easy to get lost if you don't pay attention to the story, and it does offer some interesting, if unoriginal, plot twists. Oh, and the ending is incredibly lame, I couldn't stop rolling my eyes at it. Also, this game features the worst secondary cast to ever grace a Resident Evil game. Parker has dozens of cringeworthy lines and has a very generic personality alongside an accent I just can't stand. Jessica is your generic flirty/fanservicey character that every Japanese game must have lest the Japanese crowd have to resort to the Internet to get their kicks. Raymond looks goofy and Racheal is one of the worst character designs I've ever seen in a game that tries to take itself seriously. And don't even let me get started on Keith and Quint. Throughout the game's 12 chapters the focus will jump around this characters, so while Jill is the focus, you'll get to play as Parker, Chris and Keith as well.
 The game plays like a mix of Resident Evil 4 and 6, with the over-the-shoulder camera angle but the ability to strafe and move while aiming. While it is recommended to play with the Analog nub pro accessory, the game works just fine without it, as a matter of fact, I was awed at how well the managed to make it work: Holding R lets you aim with the analog stick, while holding L and R at the same time lets you move while you aim in the direction you left it at before holding L, it's easy to learn and get the hang of it. Interestingly, aiming can be done in both first and third person, and while I loved how it worked in The Evil Within, for Revelations I felt more comfortable with the third person camera. There's also a new 'Dodge' function that is very poorly explained, in which you hold B and either move towards or against the incoming attack? It's never made very clear, which explains why there are videos trying to explain how to do it, but I found myself dodging attacks at random while simply moving, which made no sense, but holding B and doing circles with the analog stick also works. Sometimes. Basically, the dodge function is a mess and bosses, and certain late-game enemies, seem designed with this mechanic in mind, so it's kind of a mess sometimes.

 The game also introduces the Scanner which I feel is the game's largest pitfall. By scanning the area around you, you may collect handprints(For bonuses), ammo or healing items. Ammo and healing items are somewhat scarce, aided by the fact that you've an ammo cap, which I find absolutely stupid, so you'll be leaving a ton of ammo behind just because you wanted to save up rifle rounds for a boss, so you decided to use the gun instead. So now you are hurting for pistol ammo. Long story short, there's no reason not to use the scanner, but this also brings the game to a crawl, as you try to scan enemies, for healing items, or scanning each area every few steps, lest you miss a handprint or an ammo drop. You can opt not to use it, but why wouldn't you? This may seem like a dumb complaint, but I couldn't help myself, so I'm willing to bet that others felt the need to scan as well.
 That said, when you play as Jill you get to take any three weapons, as well as customize them with perks, like a larger magazine, more attack power, higher critical chance or daze percent, which was rather interesting. Particularly since these perks must be found, and you must choose on which weapons to equip them. Switching weapons is done either with the touchscreen or the digital pad, and neither are particularly good when in the heat of battle, but it's usually better to cycle through weapons with the digital pad. Sub weapons, consisting of the knife and grenades, can only be done with the touch screen, and it's a bit clunky, so it's better if you prepare before engaging into fights. There's a couple of touchscreen mini-games which are dumb, but not too annoying. There's also a 'mission' system that rewards you for certain feats('Dodging 30 times', 'scanning every enemy', 'finishing the game') which is a fine way of encouraging players to replay the game, buuuuuuuuut you've only got so many active missions at the same time, and if you want more... you need to use Street Pass. That's not very nice.

 As far as the main game goes, it works relatively well. While it is divided into Chapters, when you play as Jill, the game works a bit like the older Resident Evil games, in which you had a big area, the Queen Zenobia in this case, to explore. The early Ship chapters are particularly good, since you've less fire power and more enemies to contend with. There were some genuinely creepy moments then, but after... chapter 4 or so most of the tension is gone and it turns into yet another modern Resident Evil game, but with less action. Probably due to the 3DS's capabilities, they opted for less enemies but more resilient, so fire fights aren't up to par with what you would find in REvil 4,5 or 6. And let me level with you, I prefer the more action oriented modern Resident Evil games, but this feels like a pastiche that's trying to appeal to both crowds yet doing things half-bakedly. Mind you, it works well, and there's nothing particularly wrong about it, but just the same, nothing stands out about it. Sure, you've a rather large area to explore, but there's no puzzles, unlike classic Resident Evil games. And sure, there are a ton of enemies, but they don't drop as much ammo as they do in modern games and they take quite a few bullets to put down. It's a rather odd mixture mechanics that don't work quite as well as when they are on their own element.
 Then there's Raid Mode, in which you can play as various characters and go through different zones from the main game as you defeat enemies. It sounds kinda mediocre, doesn't it? Well, it's way more fun than it deserves to be. You can level up your characters and earn different leveled-weapons as well as customize them. It's really fun, and it has its own sub-set of missions to unlock more characters and costumes. It also feels more like modern Resident Evil games since you get action, action and even more action. And it can be played both online or offline with a buddy!

 Resident Evil Revelations isn't bad by any means, but it feels... it feels a bit misguided. It's not a 'return to Resident Evil roots' and it fails to capture what makes Modern Resident Evil games so good, although at least there's no quick time events.... but, on the other hand, the dodge system is a mess. It's a decent game, but it's probably not the game oldschool fans wanted.
 7.0 out of 10

Monday, October 17, 2016

Review #351: Castlevania - Lords of Shadow 2

 What is a game? Nothing but a miserable pile of code.
 Lords of Shadow was a bit divisive if anything, but if something about it left a mark, it was the ending, with Gabriel mysteriously turned into Dracula. Why the question as to how was resolved through DLC, Lords of Shadow 2 continues Gabriel's, now Dracula, saga into a somewhat cyberpunk era.

 Followed by quick recap of what happened in the previous games, your thrust on the role of a weakened Dracula on a world unknown to him. It's not too soon when Zobek, the Lord of the Fallen in the previous game, gets a hold of Dracula, nurses him back to health and proposes him a deal he cannot turn down: Defeat Satan and earn his sought-after eternal rest. The story is relatively entertaining and well told, and while not every answer is given straight to the player, with a little logic you can figure out most of the 'whys' yourself. I liked the characterization of the main characters, Dracula, Alucard, Trevor, Victor and Zobek, although I kinda wish some characters, like Victor, could've had more screentime, since they were interesting characters and the designs are fantastic for the most part. If anything, I'm a bit disappointed in Dracula's characterization, from the start of the game you are led to believe that Gabriel is an anti-villain, but eventually it devolves into a more anti-hero-ish personality. It doesn't really hurt the story, but I felt the anti-villain angle was a bit more interesting. As for the overall presentation, I absolutely adored the art direction they took: Heroes look badass and villains look menacing, while most the environments are beautiful, although a few of the city bits could've used more flair.
 Unlike Lords of Shadow 1, which took a linear chapter-based approach to progression, this time around you're free to explore the world as you find more power-ups and skills, something very Metroidvania. There's two different sections, if you will, the Castle and the City, and both are divided into four areas each. Peppered throughout are dozens upon dozens of collectibles that lie out of reach until you get new powers, like turning into mist or double jumping, which will not only allow you to get enhancements to your HP or Chaos/Void gauges, but will also let you go through new shortcuts between areas. That said, I felt like areas were a bit too large and convoluted, while I will admit to doing two major retreading through everything I had access to(Once when I got the Mist power up and another one once I got the double jump) without getting bored or annoyed, once I had fully leveled up all my weapons, having to go through these large areas, and having to deal with enemies that wouldn't let me through, it did become a bit of a drag, luckily, that was just as I was on my way to fight the final boss. Still, I feel like the game could have used with at least two 'teleporters' between areas instead of only one, if only to make round trips easier on the players.

 With exploration out of the way comes the combat, and it's more or less exactly like it was in LoS 1. Square does strong, focus attacks on single targets, while triangle does weaker, but wider attacks that cover more ground. The overall moveset has been reduced somewhat, but now you get two new weapons alongside your whip, with their own unique moves each, the Void Sword, which works like Light magic, allowing you to sap health from your enemies, and the Chaos Claws, which work like Chaos Magic, delivering powerful blows and allowing you to destroy shields. Using these two weapons is restricted to their two gauges, which can be restored by defeating enemies or landing enough hits without receiving damage. As for defense, you've got dodging, block and parrying, all which work relatively well once you get used to the fact that you are not invulnerable when dodging, although once you get the mist power up you can use it as such! If I had to complain about anything it'd be about the fact that there's no lock-on, and that some enemies love coming while offscreen! Lastly, you can turn of QTEs from the main menu, and I cannot stress enough just how amazing this feature is. I don't have to push or mash buttons just because, so I can focus on the damn cutscenes, which are really good by the by, instead of waiting for dumb button prompts.
 Sadly there's not a whole lot enemy variety, and while the combat is fun, it lacks the finesse or potential for creativity other games like DMC or God of War allow. Plus, a lot of enemies have teleports, and there's no lock-on of any kind, so they will usually teleport and shoot or lunge at you from your blind angles, which can get annoying. Don't even let me get started on the fact that they love to get out of 'stunlock', you might've just started attacking them, got two whip attacks-in and then they decide to get out of stunlock and counterattack, so you react accordingly, blocking or dodging, and start your combo again... only for them to decide 'nah, already took two hits in, so it's time to attack again'... It feels as if there's no point to trying to make combos since enemies will just break free of your combos when they feel like it. There's a couple of stealth sections in the game tha have received a lot of flak, and while I don't blame the critics, I didn't really care for them. I didn't like them, but they weren't completely awful and they are usually short enough so that you don't lose much time on them. Being boring is their biggest fault, to be honest.

 Amusingly, the game is a bit of a glitchfest. I encounter at least 4 glitches on my playthrough. One time, the camera glitched out on an in-game cutscene, so I had to reload my last checkpoint. And another time I had to reload the same checkpoint twice since the game decided to spawn invisible walls on two different parts of the same level!! Finally, I got an 'unhandled exception' on the last boss' cutscene. And from I could gather, some people came across a few worse glitches.
 I liked Lords of Shadow 2, I liked it a lot. While I still consider 'Lament of Innocence' the ideal translation of Castlevania into 3D, I believe that Lords of Shadow was great take on the franchise that stand out on it's own two feet. It really feels as if they listened to a lot of players gripes with this sequel, adding a more cohesive world-exploration mechanic instead of having to jump through chapters, adding different weapons, getting rid of QTEs and tightening the parkour mechanics. That said, the game is definitely more than the sum of its parts. Combat can be annoying and the exploration can become tedious, yet, I was entertained by the whole of it all all the way through. If you liked the previous Lords of Shadow games, this game won't disappoint, but if you are part of the 'it's different so it sucks' crowd or come looking for the next Devil May Cry, just stay clear of it.
 8.0 out of 10

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Now Playing: Castlevania - Lords of Shadow 2

 What a Horrible time to Repeat a Reference.
 Lords of Shadow, just like DmC, never really had a chance. Y'know the average gamer, at least the vocal minority, change is always bad, change can be allowed, please give us more identical Assassin's Creed/Call of Duty/Farcry games. But I digress, as per usual, I enjoyed Lords of Shadow back in the day, although, to be fair, I hadn't played God of War back then so I had no point of reference! Regardless, I liked it, I liked Gabriel's design and I liked the turns and twists they pulled with Mirror of Fate later down the line.

 Lords of Shadow 2 starts with a bang, if I had to pick a word it'd be 'Grandiose', the opening segment felt very much like God of War 2's if GoW 2 had had today's(Or yesteryear's) hardware. The new art direction feels very Legacy of Kain-esque, for whatever reason, I like it a lot. Combat seems to flow better than what I remembered from LoS 1, and, thank god, you can turn off QTEs!! I just earned the power to go through time, and judging from what I've played already, I'm liking the game a fair bit, although I could've gone without the stealth sections, heck, you aren't even allowed to take your chances and unwind your whip!

 Now then, I said that I wouldn't touch this game until I had gone through Revelations, Siren and Corpse Party. Well, seeing how Siren and REvil - Revelations weren't exactly what I bargained for and seeing how Corpse Party received bad reviews... I thought I'd save Halloween by playing a game, that while it had a lukewarm reception, seemed exactly like my kind of game, so I just might like it. And so far, so good!

Review #350: Siren - Blood Curse

 Not your every day Zombies.
 After Konami disbanded Team Silent, a few of its members regrouped and created the Siren horror series. Blood Curse is the third installment, and doubles as a remake of the first game. Not having played either of the previous games, I tackled this game as a stand-alone experience, and... there's a lot to say about it.

 The story is gonna be hit or miss with most people. The problem isn't with the story itself, but rather in the way it's told. Y'see, the game loves to take keep you in the dark, and it features a six character ensemble cast, and each character is the focus of every individual 'Mission', so the focus shifts around constantly, and characters mysteriously find themselves in different situations at a second's notice. You probably won't be able to make heads-or-tails of the gist of it up until chapter 10(Out of 12!!), when you are finally given a single hint about what the hell is going on. To add insult to injury, a ton of very, very important details are hidden away in the form of optional collectibles.  From what I could gather, the first game had even more main characters, so some of the new characters actually fill multiple roles, plus, while the original game was released on PS2 as a stand-alone disc, this game was released in different episodes, which probably explains why the narrative moves so dizzingly fast. Basically, the story is hard to follow, and even then, it's not very interesting. All you need to know is that a few characters find themselves in front of a sacrificial ritual, next thing they know they've all split apart and these zombie-like humanoids called Shibito are out for their blood.
 The game's sort of a Horror-stealth game. The game has about 26 different missions throughout 12 different chapters. Most chapters have 2 missions each, with a few having 3 instead, and each mission has almost nothing to do with each other... although every single environment is reused at least once, which is kinda cheap, but at least the enemy placement changes. A lot of the horror and tension come from the fact that when unarmed, you are basically helpless and must try to sneak by unnoticed, sometimes, you'll even have to escort another CPU through Shibito-infested areas. This is why the three chapters in which you play as the defenseless Bella are some of the best in the game, as getting caught is basically a game-over. But the other characters can find weapons, and, to be honest, as soon as you find a weapon any and all tension goes out the window, since combat favors the player and you can make short work out of 90% of the enemies. While Shibito cannot die, you can knock them out, and it takes a while for them to get up, honestly, as soon as I found a weapon I stopped sneaking around and just whacked my way through the game.

 To aid you in avoiding Shibito, or preferably finding a weapon, every character has the ability to 'Sightjack' the Shibito, basically, you can look through their eyes. Minus a few select instances, I never had to rely to much on it. Interestingly, the game can be played in both first person and third person viewpoints, and both work fairly well. What doesn't work so well are the annoying and unnecessary motion controls for getting up or shoving Shibito away from you.
 There's two difficulty settings, Normal and Easy, and Normal is just fine. As someone who isn't very proficient in stealth I had to retry a few bits, but as soon as I got a hold of a weapon, any weapon, it became smooth sailing. The game always points you in the right direction by giving you Objectives and marking most of them on your map, so it's very hard not to know what to do in order to progress.

 Visually the game is very dated, but the Shibito are incredibly creepy and there's some scary moments to be found in the game. I felt like a few areas were a bit too dark making it hard to know where I was going which could get a bit bothersome at times. I wasn't a fan of the Episodic nature either, I think that the game's story suffered a lot due to it and having to endure pseudo-recaps of the last moments I just watched when starting a new episode quickly grew irksome. And you can't skip them, since you'll miss out on some new bits at the end!
 Siren - Blood curse is far from the quality I expected out of ex-Silent Hill devs, and while there was a lot I didn't like, the game's fundamentals are sound and it delivers some honest-to-goodness scares without relying on jumpscares, which is always appreciated. As far as horror is concerned you could do much better, but this is still a nice change of pace from most gun-ho Survival Horror games like Resident Evil.
 7.0 out of 10

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Now Playing: October Edition

 Two out of three.
 Just finished Chapter 5, so I've a pretty good grasp of the game already. It's... good. Mostly. For starters, I really could've done without having to switch between characters so often. And whoever came up with the Scanner needs to get fired. Or take a salary cut. Because the scanner is too good not to use it, potentially extra ammo, healing supplies and the hidden marks that unlock stuff... which means I've the scanner equipped 90% of the time, which means I spent most of my time scanning different areas. Walk a bit more, scan again, etc. It's getting tedious. And true, it's not a necessity, but why wouldn't I? I want the unlockable, I want extra ammo and health, plus, I'm pretty sure the game is built around it, since enemies can take quite a bit of punishment and they don't drop ammo. The dodge mechanics is irksome to say the least.
 Frankly, I think the game was at its best on the very first chapter. The ship segment was scary, enemies were rare, but resilient, so at that one time that enemies started dropping up from everywhere, I naturally felt inclined to run. Plus, the scanner hadn't been introduced yet. The game hasn't managed to grip me that tight again, the constant shifting viewpoints makes it hard to get invested on the environment and the atmosphere, and the Scanner issue is too game-y and tedious. It's a bit of a shame really. Oh, and Rachel is the dumbest character to ever touch the franchise, the character is so goddamn stupid-looking that she looks straight out of Hideo Kojima's perverted, and overrated, mind, thank god she was offed during the first trailer.
 Siren is a bit underwhelming to be honest. I kinda hyped myself up with it due to the fact that I've fallen in love with Silent Hill, and a few of Silent Hill's alumni worked on this game. The episodic nature really hurts this game, I just finished chapter 4 and the game moves at a breakneck speed, and having the game divided into tiny missions really breaks any sort of immersion a player could get into. That said, the game has managed to be creepy at times.... at least until you get a weapon. The thing is, when you are unarmed you become an easy target for the Shibito, so a lot of tension comes from having to stealthily avoid them... but as soon as you grab a weapon you can make short work of them. This is the reason Chapter 3, the one with the little girl, was so good. since there was absolutely no way to defend yourself and you had to rely on your wits and stealth.
 Hilariously enough, as much as I loved chapter 3's need for stealth and wits.... I'm not much of a fan of stealth, I like my Horror Games when they lean towards Resident Evil: Actiony. And as for the 'sightjacking' mechanic... I'm not a fan. Using the half-screen mode makes the frame rate take a noticeable dip(Purposely?), and I find it a bit hard to keep track of where they are looking at(Maybe I'm just bad?) so I've just been using it to keep track of where enemies and allies lie.

 I'm not sure of how much it shows, but both games have been... slightly disappointing. Revelations fails to commit to either pre or post REvil 4's mechanics, so it feels like it's a bit misguided. Blood Curse, on the other hand, isn't my type when it comes to videogames.
 Ah well, there's still Corpse Party left.... a game that had some pretty bad reviews at release.
 Halloween is ruined. At least I'll get to criticize videogames, that's always fun.