Tag Archive: PS3


Press my nose to hear a sound!

Journey is a game that puts you into the role of a walking, beeping carpet. No I’m not kidding. You find yourself in the middle of a desert with nothing around you except a vague mountain-shape in the distance emitting light. You quickly move toward it! Or not. You could just sit there if you want (hit select).

Journey is advertised as an exploration game with no prompts except the mountain in the distance. I was intrigued by how thatgamecompany could make such a concept interesting, and unfortunately my fears were somewhat founded, though the experience was still mildly enjoyable while it lasted. If you ever wanted to explore unpleasant survival situations, this is the game. Hot desert, cold stormy mountaintops, and of course dark caverns with evil beasties.

Along the way, provided you’re hooked up to PSN, you will meet random people and help each other succeed at… stuff, such as jumping farther. There’s really no rhyme or reason for or against co-op in this game. While a partner can speed up your progress through the levels, the game is so short that having a partner could be counted as a detriment to the overall experience. You can’t team up with friends and can only partner with random people, though you at least discover their identities in the end-game screen. There is no dedicated co-op function beyond meeting passerby throughout the game. This makes staying together with particular co-op partners a chore, since they can be easily lost if you mess up on a platforming section. Add on that you can only meet one person at a time, removing any chance of hilarious amounts of identical walking carpets, and the loneliness really starts to set in. Having removed the chance for ridiculous human spontaneity, the game is forced to a near-identical progression of events in each playthrough. Unfortunate, and probably an intentional part of the design.

The only slightly competitive part of this game is comparing scarf sizes.... You might have reach, but I have flexibility...

The protagonist’s scarf lets you jump when it glows- allowing you to flap about like a bird, which is more exciting than it should be. It doesn’t usually last long however. You’re only given the ability to jump when you need it.

Sliding down sand-dunes is the best part of the game. The almost-sandboarding easily picks up the pace from the quiet traversal during other parts and provides a fun change in gameplay. It seems like an odd decision, in a relatively open “exploration” game like this, to give you limited ammunation for your jump function.

No dialogue, no directive. You can spend as long as you want screwing around, though it gets boring quick since it’s mostly just desert. While the game certainly is pretty, it’s still just a pretty desert/cave/mountain, and there’s really not much there beyond one or two secrets. In fact, the game is a lot more linear than advertised. While you might think you’re free to explore, it’s actually just very wide areas with invisible walls, holding next to nothing in them.

Considering how short and linear it is, it’s not quite worth the price of admission. They try to tell a story, but it’s simply too complex (something about a destroyed civilization and the main character being the avatar of their rebirth) without dialogue or exposition. Thatgamecompany has always been known for simple, expressive games, but this time they seem to have abandoned some of the experience for narrative, which is unfortunate. In my opinion I don’t think every subsequent game they make has to be bigger than their last, but they felt the need to do so here. I mean, Groundhog Day? Don’t they know time loops never end well? Or end for that matter…

I came into this expecting a profound experience, like what I experienced with Flower. While I did discover a flower in the desert (yay cameos), the experience wasn’t nearly as memorable for me as Flower was. But hey, maybe I’m just partial to flight sims.

Wait, didn't I already play Uncharted?

Journey was developed by Thatgamecompany.

Advertisements

When I first saw footage of LA Noire, I focused on the driving and gunplay. Unsurprisingly, I was unimpressed with a cheap GTA rip-off (quite literal in this case). Then I found out it was actually being released by Rockstar and took a closer look. I honestly couldn’t tell whether or not it would be worth my time, since I’m not one who buys games for looking pretty.

Heavy Rain was fulfilling story-wise, keeping me hooked throughout the experience. When I decided to play LA Noire I was hoping it would turn out to be something similar in terms of story, if not gameplay. Most of the time I can see the ending of a game coming a mile away, so it’s those little surprises that really get me. Why did I remember Red Dead Redemption? Because the ending pissed me off at how realistic it was. Infamous 2 betrayed my expectations in a frankly hilarious way. Twilight Princess was bittersweet. Assassin’s Creed consistently leaves me wondering “what the fuck” at the end of each game along with its’ characters. It’s that little twist at the end, the little extra detail that really makes me remember a game.

I picked up LA Noire after a few non-gaming media sources mentioned it. It wasn’t quite like Heavy Rain, keeping me engaged in the overall story. Frankly I could predict Cole Phelps fall from grace when he got promoted twice in the first few missions. The thing that really interested me was how everything was interconnected. Between the newspaper sidestory with the doctor, to the stolen morphine being mentioned every other mission, to Cole’s precipitous career as an honest cop in a corrupt city, everything came together masterfully. It was the execution of telling the story in a variety of ways that was unique, even if the story wasn’t exactly the most mind-blowing thing ever. Then again, story is never the grandstanding selling point of Rockstar games.

Gameplay-wise, the fact that LA Noire is essentially a point-and-click game with 3rd person shooter and driving sections lends itself well to the narrative. The game is done well enough that they didn’t even really need the face-capture technology, despite how cool it is.Another reason the game was satisfying, however, was probably because the story is self-contained. All DLC is extraneous, and Rockstar felt no need to hint at a sequel. Everything about LA Noire is in the box. Excellent. As much as I love Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect, it’s a little irritating when you don’t get the whole picture after playing for over 40 hours. I just wish they’d polished the open-world aspects of the game a bit more. Frankly I got bored with exploration pretty quickly despite the novelty that is a 1947 Los Angeles.

The issue of having your own choices in games tends to be the childlike execution of presenting those choices. The original Infamous irked me because the game seemed to think I didn’t know right from wrong, and proceeded to color-code everything and make sure it was abundantly clear what I had to do to be a complete and utter asshole to anyone and everything to avoid being typecast as a good samaratin and not just a decent human being… with lightning powers. The second game continues this trend to a degree. Blue is good and red is bad, which is just another way of saying that everything is black and white. Where’s the middle ground? Oh, go watch TV you raging intellectual.

While the game presents heavy decisions aplenty to give you a boost in one karmic direction or another, it’s the smaller decisions that I feel really define a “hero”. I’m not even talking about choosing between good and bad. To use an in-game example, Infamous 2 allows you to stop random muggings on the street. If you beet up the perpetrators, you get a good boost. Injure the hostage, you get a bad boost. Sure, the heroic thing is simple to see, but I think it should be the fact that you stopped to deal with it at all that marks you as a hero. The way they present Cole in the game if you choose the villain option, I think you should get a bad boost if you either ignore the mugging entirely, or demand compensation after saving the victim. That is a show of not a villain, but a regular human. I don’t think they should take away the ability to be psychopathic villain who causes chaos and destruction for the hell of it, but maybe there should be more than just “good” and “evil”. What about “doen’t give a damn” and “doing things for one’s own benefit?” What if instead of just destroying the villain, you could take over his operation afterward? If you’re going to give the player decisions, mix it up! I’m not saying you need a gameplay tweak for it either, just a narrative difference in how the game plays out, or perhaps a difference in how people react to you.

Another issue about this is how it affects your powers in the game. Despite events that provide a clear reason for your powers to deviate in one way or another, Sucker Punch decided that it would be better if your powers changed depending on your karmic decisions. Honestly, this ended up making no narrative sense and just confused me. Were I Cole, I would want the ability to rapid-fire my lightning bolts regardless of whether or not I healed dying people on the street, not to mention chaining lightning seems like it would be universally useful even to a burning paragon of justice. Ultimately what I’m getting at is that I don’t see any reason for my karmic identity to be linked to my super-powers. These things should be separate, for a number of reasons beyond simple convenience.

Infamous certainly isn’t alone in these karmic issues (even the famed Mass Effect series is naively simple in regards to morality, and Force Unleashed didn’t even try to make things interesting), but the game that prides itself on acting out the super-hero fantasy should go a little farther to show the weight of these choices. Even if it’s mostly just an action-romp, it’s the little things that really flesh out a universe like this. I just think trying to make everything color-coded is a mistake. Shades of grey are what make lifelike characters more interesting than comic-book cutouts after all.  This is the reason why the movie reboots of the various comic book superheroes are so popular beyond simple nostalgia (and special effects)… in some cases.

The final decision of Infamous 2 switches things up not only narratively but also provides a decision where you’re screwed either way, which I loved. Heck, it’s this kind of storytelling that makes up Mass Effect’s bread and butter, and it’s nice to see that Sucker Punch actually put something like that in here. There’s actually a sense of “weight” or importance to it, even though it kinda comes out of left field near the end. That said, I’d find it interesting if a series continued based on the evil ending for once. The fact that the game points out in the end that no one actually thinks of themselves as evil is probably the best piece of the narrative, it’s just too bad that the rest of the game didn’t really highlight that fact.

Infamous 2 was developed by Sucker Punch studios, whom are hopefully not done with this series just yet, though I would appreciate the fact that it didn’t become a trilogy I suppose…