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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Demo Play: Brutal Legend (PS3)

I'll probably keep this short, as Legend is deserving of a full review when possible, but the demo that dropped last week is highly recommended. Schafer? Black? It's quite a team. The demo feels tightly written and funny and Jack Black is in true form here (all of that voice acting with Kung Fu Panda I guess). I remember outings like XIII where it seemed like a cell shaded shooter and David Duchovny voicing seemed an excellent match, and then Duchovny comes across with all the emotion one gets from reading a cereal box.

Not here. But as much as it works as a story, the gameplay feels just as solid. It's more or less a button masher, feeling a lot like a good variant of the God of War model with potentially more variety to the core and I think they've tossed out the QTE scenes, at least from the demo, for action which is more tightly integrated into the normal controls. Which if that holds out for the whole game, is something other designers should ponder.

Oh, and of course it rocks - as in an awesome homage to all things metal. Stop reading, go download, wait the release with baited breath.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Demon's Souls and singing online

This sounds so awesome:

The most direct way of helping other players, however, is to join them on their quest. Demon's Souls' ingenious implementation of co-op play is hardly straightforward, though it is incredibly imaginative. Players exist in one of two forms: body form and soul form. If you are in body form, you have full hit points, while in soul form, your hit points are generally halved (though a terrific ring you can find early on will give you a boost). You start your adventure in body form, and when you die, you are resurrected in soul form. Because you are only restored to body form when you defeat a boss or use a relatively rare stone, you'll spend most of your time as a soul. When in soul form, you can drop a soul marker; a player in body form can then activate that marker to summon you to his or her world. At that point, you join the player in his or her realm and tackle the challenges at hand together. If you are in body form, you can summon either one or two players, for a maximum party of three. There is no way to invite a friend, and no voice chat to communicate strategies or warnings. Yet while that sounds limiting, this imaginative system works in the context of Demon's Souls' harsh world and backstory. You feel as if you occupy a single node on a vast web of interconnected realms that mesh and overlap in mysterious ways.
Demon's Souls Review

First - seriously? Another incredible title hits the streets already? I'm already swamped with Uncharted 2 and it isn't even out yet. I've got Fallout DLC installed but untouched. I've got katamaris to roll, people.

Fine, the game sounds like a must have - but not sure when at this point. But more to the point, there's something deeply attractive about coop designed where nobody can talk to each other. I blabbed about this on twitter a bit ago ... I honestly have to say that I think online voice in games is about the most useless invention in the history of gaming.

OK, more specifically - to the large number of non-clan gamers. Sure, if you play the same game with the same group all the time - I get it. But that's not the majority of players.

Most of the time, it is idiotic laughter, rampant complaining and for some odd reason ... singing. Or playing guitar. Yes, I've had to listen to some jackass playing his guitar online. One night I had to listen to some guy who used "epic" and "fail" every other word. I remember when Counter-Strike was going to implement it and it was going to revolutionize gaming completely - but all I'm hearing is some guy's wife in the background and bunch of people screaming at each other.

So to Demon's Souls: thank you. I embrace your silent online world, no matter how vicious the demons may be...

Flash Apps On iPhone

From EverythingFlex:

So today at Adobe MAX a huge announcement came out. We now have special tooling that allows you to use the Flash Platform to build applications for the iPhone. Flash developers will be empowered to use their existing skills to construct applications for iPhone that can be distributed through Apple’s App Store. No promises but the betas of this (CS5) should be available by the end of this year.

Exciting stuff. It sounds like plan won't necessarily allow for Mobile Safari to have a plug in, but that developers will be able to develop with Flash/Flex and then go through the App Store routine to get distribution. So this might not be the golden ring everyone wanted (to use their favorite flash-enabled sites), it is quite interesting for experienced Flash developers.

See some examples and a few FAQs over at Adobe.

Demo Play: Uncharted 2 Multiplayer (PS3 Review)

I've spent an almost disturbing amount of time with the now publically open Uncharted 2 multiplayer demo - especially considering the breadth of decent gaming options open right now.

If you haven't played the original single-player only Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, it's well worth the purchase. Highly overlooked amongst early titles for the PS3, the game is still one of the better ones on the platform. Having had a taste for the sequel's online component, I'm definitely excited to see the full package.

The demo provides a couple of game modes, Deathmatch and Elimination, as well as a handful of maps and weapon sets. While "rocket launcher only" type affairs are usually gimmicky and appealing to a subset of gamers, all of the weapon setups feel correctly balanced and entertaining. The maps are splendid, well designed and packed with appealing visuals as well as multiple routes for players to run, jump, climb and roll around. Uncharted's movement gameplay allows for both running/gunning as well as stealthy cover-based action, and it's nice that these mechanics are available to the user without feeling too mandatory.

In short, as third person online shooters go - Uncharted 2 may be the best of the breed at the moment. I have a few nitpicky complaints - the grenades feel weak, the "party up" aspect feels like a miss (at least for the demo), and while the weapon balance is generally excellent - the gatling gun is a bit over the top (main complaint? way to effective at long ranges I think). But most of that just slides off the glossy greatness of the game.

Sadly - I do have one major complaint. The matchmaking can be completely brain dead at times, and while it does a good job of at least finding and creating games in general ... to wait several minutes to get into play and realize that the teams are wildly off balance can get frustrating and disappointing.

Uncharted 2 tracks player experience with a level system, so you can measure the players pretty well. Last night I (a level 27) was matched against a level 50, 43, 36, 33 and 28. So every player was more experienced than I was. My mates to help me out? A 5, 5, 4 and a 1.

Needless to say - it was a quick and bloody affair. If I recall, we managed something like 8 points before the other team hit the goal of 50. This is sadly not too uncommon either and often the lopsided matches have players jumping off the game, which just makes it that much more lopsided.

I'd be less critical of this considering it is a problem plaguing online games since their inception - if it weren't for the vast amount of statistics that get tracked. I'll concede that level alone is a poor indicator (though still a generally accurate one), but Naughty Dog tracks a wide array of facts - which you can view off their site.

Possibly this is due to high level "parties" that the server can't split up - but hopefully that means that the only defense isn't to do the same. It would at least be nice to allow players to, in some situations, swap teams during a match. I know that can be problematic and would require strict rules ... but there's been a couple of times I wouldn't mind jumping to the losing team just to make it a better match.

Regardless - it's a great demo (and, of course, hence not the final product) and proof of a top notch game. Highly, highly recommended.

Game Play: Dungeon Hunter (iPhone)

When Diablo came out, it was quasi-revolutionary. It took a known and loved format, the rogue-like, and made it highly accessible and graphically appealing. It's spawned so many clones that it has essentially redefined the genre, and so many of them are direct copies of each other that I'm half surprised there isn't a wizard in Visual Studio to churn them out.

I saw a preview of Dungeon Hunter for the iPhone a bit ago and wondered how it would fare. The iPhone market would be easy to plunder with a simple and brainless roguelike, but thankfully Dungeon Hunter manages to carve a space for itself. There's three classes to choose from (all male, although some of that may be to fit the backstory) and a narrative that frames your resurrection quite well. The graphics are very good and diverse array of environments, although most of them do boil down to a similar "walk path, kill things, turn left" kind of affair. Controls are solid for the touchscreen and there is a decent set of options to boot.

I haven't gotten a real feel for length yet - but the quests seem to be providing the chance for some real depth to the game. For $6.99, Dungeon Hunter seems a solid win for Gameloft and an easy recommend for any fan of the genre.