Mini-Review: Mirror’s Edge – DICE – 360

So 6 years after it came out and over three years since I asked if I should play it, having been given it as a gift. I finally started it as I’ve been wanting to play through a few short games before going back into longer ones. As already blogged, I did Force Unleashed II over three days, and started this today. Wow. This game is just so fucking awful. Controls are horrible, and as more than a few people have said, the game makes me feel ill. (and I don’t usually get motion sickness from games). It’s just.. painful and boring. The story is weaksauce even by the low standards of videogames. I don’t even mind the pacifist thing, though I understand that even that becomes more challenging in the late game. But man, the parkour is bad, the game is ultra-linear, you can’t see shit all too often – either because it’s too dark to play in a normally-lit room or because your face is flat against a wall and the head-turn (ie mouselook with a stick) is painfully slow, and the controls are just arse. Press the button to jump and the idiot Faith just lets go of a pipe or whatever. Basically, they work when they feel like it, but they’re far from smooth or refined – and don’t work properly at all far too often. I haven’t even gotten very far into the game. Apparently I’m about 2/3 through the second level (after the prologue) and I have no desire to play through any more of it. Playthrough times quoted on the net give it anything from 5-10 hours, and since my play times for games tends to be on the slow side with plenty of breaks, there’s no way in Hell I’m going to suffer through another 7-8 hours of this crap.

There are some ok ideas here, but the game is very much less than the sum of its parts. I’m not sure if traditional first-person can even work for a parkour game, since you lose almost all of your spatial awareness and have to guess on what’s around you. I know some people enjoyed this game, but then, some people enjoy …well, insert that thing that you hate but other people inexplicably like. Rather than pick on Miley or Britney, I’ll use Meetings. What a fucking waste of time, space and potential.

Now I’ve got to figure out what to do with the disc. I doubt I could even successfully give it away, but maybe that’s the answer? Put it in the box of “take it” software that I keep for my friends when I cull. And hope they don’t read this first…

Verdict: Avoid.

 

Now I need to find a couple of other short games that are worth my time to play. Like FUII they don’t have to be the greatest games ever, but ideally they have to have a few redeeming features and be a bit of fun. I’m thinking next up might be Heavenly Sword on PS3. I really need to cleanse my palette after this one. If anyone has suggestions for worthwhile short games (preferably on console at the moment), feel free to leave suggestions in the comments. I’m not likely to run out to buy anything that’s not on Steam Sale, but I have a significant backlog with a lot of different stuff in it.

Review: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II – LucasArts – 360

A bit of an almost-retro game review here today. On the eve of 2015, I’ve just played 2010’s Force Unleashed II, which is of course the sequel to 2008’s Force Unleashed. I’ve had this game sitting in my backlog for a couple of years (at least) now. On checking my receipts, I see I bought it in June 2011, for 16 quid, which would have been around AU$22 or so at the time. So not too bad a price. One might wonder why the first thing I’m looking at is the price – the reason for that (aside from it being in the invoice with the date) is because I was wondering if I got ripped off or not. Seeing that I paid what amounts to AU bargain bin prices (typically AU$20 or less) I’m ok with it.

I’m going to skip recapping the story in any detail, as it’s a convoluted and uninteresting mess featuring the emo clone of Starkiller from the first game looking for his girlfriend across the galaxy and whining more than Anakin and Luke combined. (Or is she his ex if she was his original’s girlfriend?) Whatever. And to quote my television’s sport-channel advertisement about 20 seconds ago “Such drama, such terrible, terrible drama.” (How’s that for serendipity?) The story as it matters is that you have lightsabers and force powers and motherfuckers are standing in front of you.

The game’s highlight: Carving up Stormtroopers with lightsabers in the rain. I’m not being ironic.

The thing about FU2 (heh) is that it’s a real mixed bag. The 3rd person gameplay is pretty bog-standard. The graphics look good (a friend who arrived at one point remarked that it looked like a movie at the point I was in), and the cutscenes are actually reasonably well done, with those featuring space battles and the like being pretty impressive indeed. The variety of Force Powers available to you pretty much from the get go do a good job of making you feel powerful – in fact your character is pretty incredibly overpowered compared to anyone in any of the films. Still, the powers are pretty satisfying to use, and despite the lack of challenge, the quality of the visuals helps immensely somehow.

The bad – well, there’s only like 4 levels in the game. Five if you count the return to the opening one. And back down to 4 if you don’t count the 2-minute interval to Dagobah, that seems mostly like it was put there so they could feature Yoda on the back of the case. Kamino looks pretty good in its exteriors, and they do a good job with the atmospheric effects/rain. The ship levels are ok, but very very samey, and the one level that’s not blue-grey is the reddish-brown Not-Geonosis/Tattooine level, which is at least a bit more varied, while being incredibly derivative of both planets and featuring a really tedious and ridiculous boss battle ripped off from/inspired by the God of War series that inspired so much of the poorer parts of FU2.

The number of enemies seems to have decreased from FU1, the length of the game has definitely decreased from FU1, the number of mini-boss types seems to have decreased from FU1, and (I think) the variety of (painful) quicktime event boss kill methods for those mini-bosses seems to have dropped as well – pretty much down to one canned animation for each. Speaking of painful quicktime, the final battle is an exemplar of painful and tedious quicktime events interspersed with bad and tedious gameplay. In order to get to that final boss fight, you need to play through two (!) sets of near-identical incredibly tedious and boring platforming levels.

Quick! It’s Time for a quicktime event on the Red-Brown Level

My initial plan was to play through it twice – a second time to pick up the holocrons for upgrades and such that I missed the first time around. Sadly, the end game was so unsatisfying that I’m simply not going to bother. I played through the Endor DLC a couple of hours ago, and while the change of scenery was very welcome (green!) – it was incredibly short and linear, and featured a final boss fight that was only “better” than the main game’s final fight in that it was shorter (and easier – so it was over faster!) I bought the DLC a couple of years ago for either free or next to nothing. Not sure if it’s still there for that price. Really, though – the DLC should have been included in the base game for all the value that either of them have.

The game also features a bunch of unlockable costumes, some you get as you play through the story, some you get if you have a FU1 save on your console, and some seem to be unlocked either from the shitty challenge modes or from cheat codes. I played through using a few different costumes, and a chunk of the mid-game as Obi-Wan and the final chunk of the game as Boba Fett. The challenge modes unlock additional lightsaber crystals, but I doubt I’ll ever be arsed doing those after the tedious test I did.

But is it Fun?

Well, sad as it is to admit it, I still had fun with this game. Given that it cost as much as a couple of lunches, and lasted a little bit longer than a couple of lunches (I finished it in three short sittings, four if you count the DLC). It would be fair to say that I enjoyed it mostly because slicing Stormtroopers up with lightsabers and force lightning (and making them fight one another with mind trick) is fun, despite the many, many other shortcomings in the game. There were enough off-putting things about it that I’m unlikely to play through it again to max out the powers and achievement whore, but it’s possible that I will. If I do, it speaks to the fun in the aforementioned slaughter combined with the short length of the game.

It’s not what I could call a good game, but it’s far from the worst game with this licence slapped onto it. Make no mistake, I’d have much preferred a longer, better game with less tedium in the boss fights, more variety in enemies and locales. But as a deep bargain bin discounted way to spend a few hours slicing up and electrocuting Sturmtruppen, it’s kinda-sorta recommendable, if you’re a bit of a Star Wars tragic. And apparently, this makes me one of those too?

Verdict: Rent it – or buy it only from the deep discount bargain bin – and only if you’re a big SW fan. Otherwise skip it.