Games tester – dream job for many of us isn’t it? Paid all day long to sit around drinking from a fountain of Mountain Dew, a controller in each hand with four huge 3DHD screens emitting enough radiation to give a lovely tan and a big fat dose of infertility. The reality I’m sorry to say, is much less glamorous. We’ve all enjoyed the Titanfall beta, marvelling at its grandeur and fresh approach to the FPS shooter, but the fact of the matter is that hundreds and hundreds of test hours will have gone into it before you and I ever got a sniff of it.
Anyone who knows me is likely well aware of my proclivity for collecting games. Sometimes, this can happen as the result of a lucky find, but most of my acquisitions come from ordering things online. Over the years, I dare say I’ve given Amazon, GAME, ShopTo and other retailers a sizeable chunk of my disposable income, such as it is.
With that said, I’m still very careful about what I collect. My hoard of games may not have the appearance of quality over quantity, but there’s very little chaff amongst the wheat. I’ve been known to prune my collection from time to time as well, selling or trading in games which I don’t feel belong, though this is rare.
So to summarise, I normally buy games online, am very specific about what I buy and rarely ever trade in games. Let me tell you about how I bought Ys: Memories of Celceta.
(Unrelated: Last week I quoted web comic author John Campbell of Pictures for Sad Children. Since then he has apparently gone completely insane and lashed out in all directions. Had I known about his depression fueled breakdown I might not have been so eager to sing his praises. Let us hope that he/she gets the help they need to get through this.)
Sometimes a game comes out that connects with you on such a level you’d swear it was made just for you. Even those of us who play games heavily know that this happens once, maybe twice in a lifetime. I’ve made no secret of my unwavering love for Platinum Games in the past so I felt it was a little unfair of me to review this as I would lack objectivity. But what the hell, its been so long since launch what effect can I possibly have on the games sales?
Platinum always brings their A game when developing, probably because each game is a manifestation of their passions. Kamiya loves the silly, the arcade, and the unflappably confident. These make for memorable and charismatic games that tragically don’t get the attention they deserve. But they must be doing something right, half the damn Capcom side of “Marvel vs Capcom 3″ comes from games he made.
Viewtiful Joe won huge praise when it debuted back in the day for its unique approach to side-scrollers by adding in an action flair and a colorful story. Kamiya really worked well with the masked superhero setting because he knew that superheros weren’t about darkness and seriousness, they were about taking down two dimensional villains in outrageous ways and getting people to pump their fists in the air while cheering. The Wonderful 101 is that kind of hero story.
Set in a Super Sentai world of futuristic masked superheroes, each with their own theme , who join together to like ants to form giant working weapons to battle aliens and save civilians. If they don’t have enough heroes they recruit everyday citizens from nearby, give them a mask, and make them deputy superheroes. A lot of reviewers have said the game is like Pikmin because you control a mass of characters but really its nothing like it.
Kamiya and Platinum games have consistently done an excellent job of creating new and interesting game play with each game they release, usually taking a somewhat familiar system and twisting it around into something new. With that in mind it’s really hard to pin down the fighting system in Wonderful 101. The zoomed out camera angle certainly gives people the impression of Pikmin, especially with the amoeba-like mass of people you are controlling. But that’s pretty much where the comparison ends. W101 actually does a commendable job of utilizing the WiiU gamepad but only IF you choose to. In addition to the basic jumping and moving you’ll be doing with the controls the meat of the game play comes from drawing shapes with your mass of people to form giant weapons that you’ll be using to crush your enemies and interact with the environment. You can use the stylus but its much faster, and better in my opinion, to just use the second joystick. It sounds like a weird and confusing concept, and in all fairness it is. But it makes sense once you start using it and before long it’ll be second nature to you.
And if nothing else the games towering charm and charisma will encourage you onward to keep trying. The game is just so damn likable. Like all Platinum games the game takes cues from familiar settings and makes sure you are truly experiencing it. In this case its the Super Sentai/Power Rangers setting I mentioned earlier, but also acting as a deconstruction of the genre. Wonder Red, arguably the main character, is the fearless leader prone to lengthy over introductions. Wonder Blue is the cocky, wreck-less cool guy. Wonder Pink is the fabulous female fury. Wonder Green is the fat kid. Wonder Yellow is the musclebound foreigner who is also adorably bashful. Wonder White is the noble ninja who never shuts up. And Wonder Black is the silent tech wiz. W101 isn’t breaking new ground in terms of characters with this cast. Hell they are the kind of cliches places like TVtropes and the like bitch endlessly about and are unable to look past. And that’s a damn shame. At this point cliched characters don’t exist for no reason, and Platinum is well aware of that. They exist here to make fun of the Super Sentai genre, but with love. Think Hot Fuzz.
And once again Platinum sneaks in some breakups to the game play with some sequences referencing Kamiya’s favorite games. In this case shoot-em-ups and Punch-Out! The shoot-em-up parts I’m not wild about but holy damn are the Punch-Out! parts an absolute blast. It’s hard to say why, maybe because Punch-Out! is such a well made game to begin with or maybe because I’m already familiar enough with the game that I had no problem transitioning to it. Overall the game is a great experience, only losing momentum for a few moments and ending in the most satisfying way possible, with the final boss having 7 stages followed by a playable “credits” level that also has hidden sections and contributes to your final score. When the game was about to come out people were panicking that the game was only 8 hours long, Well by the time I %100ed the game I was clocking in at over 90 hours. This was the first Platinum game I %100ed too, I just couldn’t get enough until I got it all.
If you are one of the few, the proud, the WiiU owners, then this game is a must have. If you want to improve as a gamer this game is also a must. Yes I’m biased but for good reason. Filet Mignon isn’t popular for no reason. I’m not done with this game yet though. Next week I’m going to go in-depth for you fine people. Stay Tuned…
With the current console game line-ups being a bit threadbare, I was flicking through the release schedules and a game I’d not really come across before caught my eye.
On the face of it Evolve doesn’t seem that noteworthy. Originally coming to the attention of the general populace during the reporting on THQ’s bankruptcy proceedings; Evolve has somewhat passed under the radar in the subsequent months.
Dig a little deeper, however, and you start to uncover something very, very exciting indeed.
The game is a competitive/co-operative online game, pitting a team of hunters against a human-controlled monster that they have to, unsurprisingly, hunt down. An interesting premise on its own, the game gains even more kudos when you notice that it’s being worked on by the team behind the Left 4 Dead series. For those not familiar with the series, Left 4 Dead and its sequel Left 4 Dead 2 pits a group of survivors against human-controlled zombies in an online battle of survival. Seeing as it’s widely regarded as one of the most enjoyable and stellar online gaming experience available, the fact that the series’ developers are behind Evolve should make fans sit up and take notice.
Dig even further and things just get better.
The hunter team consists of 4 players, each with a distinct role; Trapper, Medic, Assault & Support. Each hunter has a specific weapon loadout adn 3 abilities.
In addition, while if the monster dies once, the game is over, the hunters effectively have 3 lives, where they respawn after being reduced to zero health, though it takes a full 2 minutes to respawn, a hefty time considering they’re on a time limit to complete their mission. After the third ‘death’ the players do not respawn, unless revived by their medic, demonstrating how vital the medic’s role is.
Against this array of skills and weaponry you might be forgiven for thinking the monster will have little chance, but have no fear, there’s more than meets the eye to this gremlin-on-steroids. The monster starts of at a base level, but gains energy by killing and devouring the native creatures of the environment. This energy, when possessed in high enough levels, then allows the monster to evolve in various ways, becoming more powerful, both in physical size and in skill, making new abilities and powers available. The monster starts at level one, withthe two chosen abilities picked at creation and can level up to level 3, with the 2nd level being fairly easy to achieve, but level 3 taking a much larger energy reserve.
Gathering energy to level up is key to the monster and something that is necessary immediately. The monster is spawned into the game 30 seconds before the hunters are, allowing it time to gather resources, scope out the area and hide itself before the hunt begins. This is the opportune time to gather energy for a level up, as once the hunters drop in remaining hidden will prove difficult while feeding, especially with a trail of bodies for them to follow.
The team bill the game as a 4v1 boss battle where anything can happen, but it seems far more than that. The tactical approaches and demand for team thinking are obvious, with all players needing to think carefully about what they do. This won’t (or at least shouldn’t) be a straight off deathmatch style game from the off, at least from the monster’s point of view. If the monster fronts up to the hunters early on, barring particularly incompetent hunters, the only result will be a particularly ugly new trophy above a fireplace or a surprised-looking rug. No, the game is clearly designed to be a tense cat and mouse affair, with the monster trying to remain undiscovered while gathering energy from animals, with the hunters stalking them around the map. The possibilities are vast and varied, with extended Predator-style tension-filled periods of hunting, followed by action-packed battles to the death. I’d put big money on the tracker being able to divine information from the animal carcases the monster leaves behind. Imagine staling as a team through the jungle, finding the evidence of the monster; knowing it’s out there and near, but not where. Imagine being the monster, the need to feed and level competing with the need to remain undetected.
Indeed, one big aspect of the game that really adds to this is the idea that if the monster can level up enough, they will get to a position where they can turn the tables on the hunters and start to pursue them, shifting the dynamic considerably. If the monster reaches level 3, not only do they become powerful enough to significantly threaten the hunter team, a secondary win scenario opens up, where if they destroy a power generator on the map and kill enough civilians they will win the game. Another intriguing facet to gameplay indeed.
Couple this with the possibility of environmental aspects, such as traps and landscape features affecting the game, as well as hostile animals roaming about and you’ve got yourself the potential for one hell of a multiplayer experience. Play this with 4 good friends and you’ve the potential for some of the best online experience to date.
Whether you favour the longbow of the claw, it matters little; Evolve is my tip to take over from Titanfall as the seminal next-gen multiplayer experience when it’s released in the 3rd quarter of 2014. And in keeping with the game, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for when it breaks cover, ready to home in on it.
And to Turtle Rock Studios and 2k Games; only one thing seems appropriate to say right now:
Last weekend, Z1G dropped me into what is probably the most anticipated MMORPG of all time, The Elder Scrolls Online. Armed only with a staff and a bad attitude, I set off on my epic journey into Tamriel, hungry for adventure.
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