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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Game Play: Battlefield 3

Let's put this review into two distinct parts.

The offline campaign of Battlefield 3 is stunningly beautiful in parts and quite honestly one of the best written single player first person shooters in recent history.  The story actually manages to make sense for almost the entirety of the game, unlike the plot line of Modern Warfare 2 which I could only describe as a wtfest.

Sadly, the graphics and decent writing get absolutely kicked in the balls by some completely rookie mistakes in level and game design.  Invisible walls inhabit the otherwise immersive world in a surprising number of places.  My favorite was after having held down the fort (metaphorically) for some time, myself and my fellow soldier finally made our way to an Osprey for escape.  Hooray!

Except that my fellow soldier could run into the Osprey, whereas I was blocked by a force field of doom while getting shot at by enemy forces.  That was until he started yelling at me to get on the ramp...

Worse, however, is the number of times your squad will be positioned in a spot which seems utterly reasonable ... and yet is actually a complete death trap.  Try to position yourself in the same manner as your squad and you will get cut to ribbons.

These flaws aren't minor and they aren't rare.  They trip up the game nearly constantly.  If Battlefield 3 was a single player game - I would recommend giving it a pass.


I am absolutely enamored by BF3's multiplayer.  Despite several warnings that the Quick Find may be malfunctioning - I have never had a problem jumping into a game.  I think mute may be the default, because the battlefield is devoid of singing, guitar playing, racist, swearing and threatening sounds of other online shooters.  The squad mechanics are simple and unobtrusive.  The servers do not seem to be dominated by clans making teams one sided.

That last bit is, I think, very interesting.  From what I can tell, BF3 seems to try to balance teams in between maps.  I haven't gotten into many situations where a blowout appears to continually occur on a server.  This is a massive relief.  I haven't had a chance to dig into Uncharted 3 yet, but one of my huge complaints with the online play of Uncharted 2 was that their "buddy" system meant that veteran players could essentially mop up levels if they were friends and enough of them were online at the same time.

The vehicle mechanics seem well tuned.  There's the occasional moment of having to run across long distances - but seems far more rare than BF2.  The firepower of vehicles also seems well balanced versus available counter-measures.

I'll undoubtably get into Modern Warfare 3 over the holidays - but for the moment Battlefield 3 is definitely my goto game for online play.  Uncharted 3 may well occupy for some time next week, but if Battlefield 3 was multiplayer only - I'd still highly recommend it.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Game Play: Dark Souls

I was a rather huge Demons' Souls fan ... even if I did find the ending so mind numbingly difficult that I ended up using a rather nasty "cheat" to accomplish. This was after several attempts at finishing the final boss with online players, an attempt which only resulted in my online ratings getting butchered with every failure.

 When I kept reading that Dark Souls, the "spiritual successor" as it were, was going to be even harder ... I was a little apprehensive. Could From Software had decided to just amp everything up from the original - perhaps for the sake of publicity?

Thankfully, the answer seems to be no.  If anything, I'd say Dark Souls is an excellent refinement on the original.  It maintains that crisp sense of combat with an absolutely brilliant grinding design which slowly allows the user to increase their knowledge of the area and increase their skills and ability to deal damage.  I'm certainly not going to call Dark Souls easier ... but it feels like the mechanic have been shifted around more than simply amplified.

That's not to say that there aren't spikes of difficulty.  I tried to assault a two demon tag team event for most of an afternoon, only to get through in ten minutes when I managed to summon two players for aid.  This was true of the first one as well, however - Dark Souls is intended to be played within the confines of the inventive online functionality - and woe goes to the player who isn't taking advantage of the seamless co-op design From has used here.

My only complaint is that the grind can still get to be somewhat numbing.  Impressively - I can't call it annoying.  I don't want to throw the controller across the room because I just got killed by some dextrous skeleton.  But there are times when I just need to take a step back from Dark Souls and give it a rest.

Which is perhaps why the game is so unique.  In this day and age where if a company can churn out enough graphics to distract a player for twenty hours ... it's considered a success.  But Dark Souls insists that you engage it from the mechanics at the very root of the game - and finish it when and how you can.

Highly recommend.