DLC, pre-owned games and the anti-consumer behaviour of the games industry

So I haven’t written anything in forever now. I’m going to babble a little bit about my views on how the games industry is currently working.

For years now, the games industry has been all about DLC. Season passes for everything, even games where it makes no sense. DLC is a bit of a double edged sword, it can be a great tool for adding to or improving games and giving customers more experiences with a game they love, or it can be a tool to try and squeeze another few dimes out of consumers. Sometimes the line is vague and hard to see, sometimes it’s clear as day.

DLC became the preferred way for publishers to get some extra pennies out of consumers after purchase as the pre-owned games market grew to take sizable chunks out of their profits. Ideally, supporting a game post release with DLC should be an incentive to consumers to keep their game and not trade it in, thus lessening the impact the pre-owned market has on the sales of a game. In reality, DLC has become more like a way for publishers to capitalise on a few select customers who will buy anything they put out and recoup a little bit of the losses they take from everyone who busy pre-owned instead of new.

Pretending that the DLC craze wouldn’t exist if not for used games is silly. However, pretending that some of the blatant cash grabs we’re seeing isn’t a direct reaction to the diminishing profits of game sales is equally silly.

It’s all cause and effect and just placing the blame on corporate greed is to oversimplify the issue too much and miss the point.

I think Tycho from Penny Arcade described it best a few years ago when he said the industry is like a mexican standoff between Consumers, Retailers and Publishers. These three groups always have goals that conflict directly with each other.

Consumers want as many games for as little as possible. Retailers wants to sell as many games as possible but keep as much of the money for themselves as they can. While publishers also want to sell as many products as they can while keeping as much of the profits as possible. Each group will do whatever they can to achieve their goals, regardless of if its to the detriment of the others (and ultimately, to the detriment of themselves).

Every conflict we routinely see in this industry (used games, piracy et), and the reaction to that, is a result of these opposing goals. It’s a funny dynamic because all three groups need each other, and have to work with each other, but will jump at any chance to screw the others over for their own gain.

The used game market “problem” could be easily solved if publishers and retailers could come to an agreement to share the profits from used game sales.

At this point, retailers will do anything to get you to buy used, because they keep all the profit from used sales. And publishers will do anything to make you buy new, because they need their cut to stay profitable. If retailers just got to keep a higher percentage of the profits from used games sales than new games, (as opposed to all of it) while still giving publishers their (slightly smaller) cut, they would have incentive to deal in used games and would be able to coexist with mutual profitability. Which in turn would lessen the amount of BS we consumers have to deal with as a result of the power struggle between publishers and retailers over the used games market.

Of course, instead they are now fighting to the end in the name of short term profits while everything they’re fighting over slowly burns around them. All the while complaining about the state of the industry, somehow oblivious to the fact that it’s a direct result of their failure to work together.

There’s a lot of really smart people in the games industry. But the games industry is dumb. That is all.

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Teken Revolution

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I’ve been spending some time with Tekken Revolution over the past few weeks. It’s an interesting game but it seems to be quite maligned by the more hardcore fighting game community for its free to play… eccentricities as well as its beginner friendliness. However, I like it enough that I think I should be making a case for why you should appreciate it if you’re an existing Tekken fan, and why you should definitely give it a go if you’re looking to get into Tekken.

Tekken goes free to play

Tekken Revolution (TR) is a free to play game available right now on the Playstation Network. Namco Bandai released it with little fanfare in June as, interestingly enough, it was officially announced less than a week before it released. It’s the closest thing I have ever seen to a spur of the moment, impulsive game release. It recycles assets (character models and levels, with the odd exception of Asuka and Lili who both have changes to their face for some reason) from Tekken Tag Tournament 2, but has some fairly significant changes that makes it a much more basic experience. In terms of features, it’s fairly bare bones in that it offers you only the standard Arcade battle, Online battle, and a training mode. It seeks to replicate the arcade experience in an online environment by having you consume coins in order to play. Premium coins can be bought that gives you a slight boost in experience and money, which is how this free to play title makes its money, but your standard coins for playing online and arcade mode regenerate over time, much like energy in your typical facebook game.

You can have 2 arcade coins and 5 online coins in total, each arcade coin regenerates every 1 hour and you get a new online coin every 30 minutes. It usually takes about 20 minutes to go through your online coins in a session, and with a little messing around in training mode and some testing in arcade mode, you can easily get a 45-60 minutes play session out of your coins.

In my time with the game I haven’t really seen much reason to buy coins, aside from the times I spent my last free play coin on a loss and I was so salty I just wanted to play again. Experience tells me that playing while you’re salty is inadvisable in general, so being forced to stop isn’t necessarily bad.

The cast is fairly small to begin with. You start out with 6 fighters, and as you play you can unlock more. Whenever you finish a fight you collect Gift points, which will automatically unlock a character as you hit certain point thresholds. As far as I know, those thresholds are 7000, 15000, 30000, 60000, 90000 and so on. Unfortunately, it will pick the character you unlock at random, so if you’re super interested in a specific character, you’re basically just stuck hoping the unlock gods favour you this day. I’ve been wanting to unlock Jin Kazama, as he’s my secondary character after Law, but no luck so far.

More unlockable characters have been added since release as well, all from TTT2. I’m assuming they’re being converted one by one from TTT2 and added to the list of unlockable characters as they finish balancing them for the TR system.

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They also have a leveling system in place. Finishing matches earns you experience and fight money, when you level up you get 4 points to put into the character of your choice. Each character has 3 stats, power, endurance and vigor. Power enhances your damage, endurance gives you more life and vigor gives you a better chance at getting a critical hit with certain moves. Stat upgrades in a fighting game might seem unbalanced at first, but the benefits from the upgrades seem so slight that I don’t feel like they affect the outcome of matches much. I’ve never once had a match that I felt was decided by stats, even when fighting players more than twice my level.

The natural question then becomes, if the stats aren’t really significant, then why is there? Beyond providing a superficial progression system to keep players going, I don’t know, but in a free to play game is enough reason in itself I suppose.

A history of violence

For reference sake, I’ll start out this section by saying I’m no great Tekken player. I play Law as my main, have been since Tekken 1. I know my frame data on Law, but I can’t get the dragon stance moves after a 4.,3~dss to come out without delay. So you know, no expert at Tekken here, more like intermediate on my best day.

tekken_revolution5Wataaaah!! … no seriously I’m really thirsty

A quick recap of my history and relationship with Tekken, which I guess is relevant to why I enjoy TR. The original Tekken was the very first game I got for my Playstation after I mowed lawns all summer to save up and get one when I was a kid back in 1995. I played the holy hell out of that game and helping a young Kazuya chuck his old man off a cliff was one of my fondest memories of the early Playstation days.

I missed out on Tekken 2 but got back into it with Tekken 3 and then Tekken Tag Tournament. T3 and TTT were faster and smoother than the previous ones and were the ones to really introduce the sidestepping and movement we’re used to in Tekken today. Tekken 3 remains one of my favourite fighting games of all time.

I barely played Tekken 4, as I was heavily into Street Fighter (3rd Strike and Alpha 3) at the time, but I played enough to decide that the inclusion of walls, slightly slower pace and emergence of environmental hazards wasn’t really my cup of tea. That was the last Tekken I played for over 10 years as I missed out on Tekken 5 and 6 due to lack of interest before finally deciding to pick it up again for Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (TTT2).

The Tekken I came back to in TTT2 was a very different Tekken than what I had known. My old skills weren’t really relevant anymore. My old main, Law, was still pretty much the Law I knew but everything else was a strange new world. The inclusion of the bound mechanic, along with the prominence of wall splats and the ease with which you could be picked up off the ground into a combo had led to a game dominated by extended combos and ground harassment. My experience coming into TTT2 was usually one of me getting comboed into a wall, then comboed some more, then being unable to get back up because my opponent was doing flips on me all night. It’s very much a game of trying to not let the other person get to play. Each round was about 10 seconds of playing followed by 20 seconds of watching how dead I was. I got used to it and I got better at it, but still, it was a harsh welcome and not a lot of fun to play. It’s a hell of a barrier to overcome, especially if you’re just getting into the game as a beginner.

Now an experienced Tekken player might at this point say “well noobs suck anyway, why should I care?”. Thing is, that big barrier of entry is a very real issue if you care about the health and growth of the fighting game community (FGC). If you have a game that is alienating and just plain un-fun to play for beginners, then your community is dying. Sure it might take a while but slowly you are withering away without sufficient new blood.

Return to basics

This is where Tekken Revolution comes in. In TR they have made some gameplay changes that essentially takes Tekken back to its roots. The bound moves that were introduced in Tekken 6 have been toned down heavily (only ever seen a bound on counterhit), and it is much harder to pick up your opponent after a wall splat or when they’re on the ground trying to get up. The result is a game with shorter combos, more neutral game and more of an honest fighting game feel to it. Rather than 1-2 combos ending your night, now it takes 3-4 combos to finish off your opponent, assuming you convert into good damage every time you get a touch. You’re not stuck in a combo for the majority of your playing experience, you’re up and moving around and trying to punch things. It makes a big difference to the accessibility of the game because it lets people play.

New additions

In addition to toning down existing gameplay elements, they have also added a few new wrinkles. They’ve added a special arts property to certain normal moves, four different moves for each character, that essentially gives them a chance of landing a critical hit that does more damage. You can tell if its a special art by the blue effect they give off when you do it.

The more significant addition is the Critical Art property that has been given to one move per character. The critical art move has been given some invincibility and now functions in much the same way as a Shoryuken would in Street Fighter. They come out pretty fast, if properly timed will beat out any other move, and recover very slowly. The critical arts moves are very abusable, but also very punishable.

Bad players will often just stand there and mash on their critical move the second you press a button. Just wait until you fight a Kazuya that just does lasers and critical arts move for example (btw duck the laser, block and punish the critical art move). But if you block a critical move, you have plenty of time to hit them with pretty much whatever you want, including launchers into high damage combos. If you’ve ever played Street Fighter, this should be pretty familiar. Baiting and punishing invincible moves is most definitely a thing in Tekken now. Whether that’s something you want to have to deal with in Tekken is up to individual tastes, but coming from a decade of playing Street Fighter, it’s second nature and I don’t mind it at all.

One definitive positive of the invincible attack is that all players are now given a handy tool to blow up the mindless button pressing players. Anyone who has ever played Tekken before has had that experience where they’re fighting an Eddie or a Hwoarang or something that just keeps throwing out attacks and you can’t seem to do anything about it. The other player might just be mashing buttons, or he might know what strings he’s doing, but regardless he is just pressing buttons without really thinking about what he’s doing with no regard to spacing or position, often whiffing 2-3 attacks before finally connecting one. All the while you’re just standing there blocking, slowly losing life, trying to figure out when it’s your turn but you can’t seem to find the opening. For me personally, losing those kinds of matches is by far the most frustrating experience in Tekken. Experienced players can deal with this of course, but getting to the point where you know every characters 5-6 main strings, where the opening is and which move you can stick into that opening safely, is a long, winding and extremely frustrating road to travel.

Well now you have your critical arts move, and if someone is trying to just press buttons on you, a critical arts move will shut that shit down immediately.

The resulting gameplay in Tekken Revolution is in many cases a bit slower, as players become more hesitant and movement and fakes become more important in trying to bait out an ill-timed invincible attack from the opponent. In the end, the player who is smart about his attacks usually ends up being the victor, which in my mind is definitely a good thing.

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Online performance

The netcode in Tekken Revolution seems pretty solid. Connections that are 3 bars and down can be pretty laggy, but 4 and 5 bar connections are nice and smooth. TR also seems to avoid a problem I experienced a lot in TTT2, where after playing several matches in a row the netcode would seemingly shit its pants and every match would be super laggy. Returning to the main menu and going back to searching for games from there rather than directly in the menu after a match seemed to help though. I’m not sure how many had similar experiences with TTT2 but I’ve not had this problem in TR. Of course, you run out of coins before this problem would rear its head, so maybe it’s still there just cleverly disguised by the coin system.

Fighting games and free to play

Tekken Revolution was the first out of the gate with its free to play system, probably a bit rushed specifically to be first, judging from its recycled assets and small character roster. However it’s not the only fighting game franchise to be testing the waters of free to play.

Killer Instinct is one of the Xbox One launch titles, and will be free to play, using a much different model than Tekken Revolution does. KI will give you the game (arcade mode, practice mode, online play) along with one character (Jago, the Ryu of the game it seems) for free. You can then either pay about £3.20 per character if you only want a specific character and don’t care about the others, or pay £12.80 for all the characters and stages to complete your game. There’s also a premium package for £25.60 that offers additional skins for your characters as well as the original Killer Instinct.

Instead of charging you to play continuously like TR tries to do, KI has has a system where they charge you for stuff up front, they just have several different payment models for you to choose between. In TR you never *have* to pay for anything, you just have the option to pay if you don’t want to wait to regenerate your play coins. In KI, you kind of do have to pay if you want certain characters. Of course, if Jago is your guy and he’s all you want, you’ll never have to pay for anything in KI.

There is also a Chinese made fighting game trying to leverage the free to play model called Xuan Dou Zhi Wang, aka King of Combat for us westerners, that is still in closed beta.

Gameplay-wise, it seems very similar to King of Fighters, even going so far as to team up with SNK and feature classic KOF characters Terry Bogard and Benimaru in the game. What’s notable about King of Combat (besides the fact that it looks awesome) is that it is owned by the same parent company that owns Riot Games, creators of League of Legends, and they are planning to use the same free to play system as LoL does. In League of Legends, you can unlock characters with points you earn by completing matches. You can also pay to unlock if you don’t want to spend the time saving up your points. You can conceivably play LoL and never spend a penny, as the only things you have to pay for are additional skins for your characters, which are of course entirely optional. The LoL free to play model is a proven success, having taken LoL to the very top of competitive gaming. If King of Combat successfully integrates the LoL model into a fighting game, we could potentially be looking at the future of fighting games, where the game itself just acts as a platform for continuous development and additional content.

With disappointing sales of fighting games in recent years, with even juggernaut franchises like Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Marvel vs Capcom 3, Street Fighter X Tekken and the Super and Arcade Edition updates to Street Fighter 4 not doing the kind of numbers the publishers would like, expect free to play to very much become a thing in the fighting game genre.

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Final word

The significant thing about Tekken Revolution is that it has basically removed two of the biggest barriers to entry with Tekken. It’s free, so it costs you nothing to give it a go. And it’s more welcoming to beginners so you can get a feel for the game rather than figuratively getting thrown into deep waters and torn apart by sharks.

The competition online on TR is also noticeably lower than in TTT2, which seems to support the idea that TR is bringing new players in to Tekken. Hopefully TR can function as a kind of gateway drug, bringing new players to Tekken and making them curious enough to learn the game, maybe pick up TTT2, maybe even start going to tournaments down the line.

There’s no reason for experienced Tekken players in the FGC to hate on this game, they should understand and appreciate what TR is trying to do for Tekken and the FGC at large.

Gameplay-wise, I really enjoy TR as it is much closer to the Tekken I know and love from earlier entries in the series. I’d even go so far as to say that if they toned down the invincible moves and added more characters to the base roster, Tekken Revolution is exactly the Tekken game I want (free to play quirks aside). I’m selfishly hoping that TR is a sign of the direction they’ll be taking Tekken in, I’d love to see a Tekken game that can do for Tekken what Street Fighter 4 did for Street Fighter. Taking it back to the basics of the franchise, making it more accessible for beginners, and building a new foundation for the franchise to grow again.

Finally, for anyone who has been interested in getting into Tekken, or anyone who tried to get into Tekken in the last 10 years but just couldn’t get over the hump, give Tekken Revolution a go. It’s free, it’s beginner friendly, the competition online is manageable and consists of many people just like you. If there was ever a chance for a beginner to go online and have fun with Tekken, it’s now.

The Last of Us

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So I’m absolutely loving The Last of Us. Naughty Dog always does amazing stuff, but I felt like Uncharted 3 was a step back from Uncharted 2. It looked amazing and had impressive set pieces and whatnot, but the gameplay was often frustrating and I felt like I was almost on rails a lot of the time. I didn’t feel in control at all for much of that game.

The Last of Us fixes most the complaints I had with Uncharted 3. It didn’t start out well, the opening sequence sets the stage really well, but once you get control of Joel in the game proper it takes a while before you get to really play. But once the game opened up with combat scenarios and such, I felt like I had more than enough freedom in how I approached enemy encounters. The stealth feels natural and just makes sense without any type of visibility gauges being necessary, and the combat just feels chaotic and clumsy, in a good way. Not once did I leave a fight feeling good about my badassness, it was always just a really tense and chaotic struggle to survive. The combat design really accomplishes that feeling of being vulnerable.

I can’t help thinking that I would pay good money to play a military shooter type game with these kinds of gameplay mechanics. It would be really interesting to actually be a vulnerable, overwhelmed very mortal person thrown into some crazy Call of Duty sh*t.

I finished it, and then started it again immediately on New Game + and finished that. I haven’t had a game make me want to do that since…Bastion I think. The enemy encounters are far less harrowing the second time through, which made it a bit less interesting though.

If I play it again, I’m definitely going through it on Survivor. On a lot of games, I won’t play on the harder difficulties because the game mechanics don’t really support it. It just becomes cheap and frustrating. But I feel like the mechanics of stealth and combat and straight up enemy avoidance in The Last of Us lends itself well to harder difficulties.

I spent some time with the multiplayer, and it’s definitely very interesting. It can be really slow paced, with smarter players who take their time sneaking and using listen mode completely blowing up the run and gunners. It’s a really nice change of pace from most multiplayer games these days.

The animation, voice acting, writing, art, lighting, it’s all a bloody marvel. What gets me is the subtlety, where small facial expressions and body language takes the place of what would have been clumsy and heavy handed exposition in other games.

I think Ellie is quite possibly one of my favourite characters in a videogame ever. Not only is she just a really well done character period, she’s a female character without an ounce of the retarded writing that plagues female characters in both games and film. She’s not a helpless victim, she’s not a man hating girl power chick, she’s not sexualized, she’s just an actual person, a foul mouthed teenage girl in a messed up situation.

I also love how the game for the most part isn’t trying to make you have fun. It makes you feel a lot of things and its engaging as hell, but most of it isn’t fun. That’s what art is supposed to do. At this stage in the industry, that’s still a pretty big deal when a AAA game tries to take you to places that are not “weeee power fantasy kabloom dieeee brraaaagh!”

All in all, I think The Last of Us absolutely deserves the praise its gotten. It’s one of the best games I have played in years (ever maybe? I don’t know, its up there).

Closer Look: Resistance 2

Resistance 2 is the follow up to PS3 blockbuster Resistance: Fall of Man, the title that sort of shared co-flagship FPS status with Killzone 2.

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Developed by Insomniac Studios, Resistance 1 was a very good game, a more fast paced FPS with a great selection of weapons, solid enemy AI and a rather interesting 1940’s world war 2 era, only with high-tech weapons and aliens setting.

This is another one of those major PS3 franchises that just never got a foothold in my gaming life. Even though I’ve owned a PS3 since 2007, these big FPS games were never must-buys for me. I did play Resistance 1 back in 2007, but it didn’t really make that much of an impression on me, and when Resistance 2 released, I was in no rush to get my hands on it. So here I am, getting in on the action years too late.

As the story goes, Europe is attacked by creatures called the Chimera, that not only wreak havoc across the continent, but infect people with a disease that turns people into one of them as well. You play as Nathan Hale, a part of a US force that is sent to Europe to support the allied forces fighting against the Chimera.

Resistance 2 picks up immediately after the end of Resistance 1. Things didn’t go so well in Europe, the allies have fallen, and out of the thousands of US troops sent into Europe, Nathan Hale is one of the only survivors. As Resistance 2 opens, Hale is battered and bruised, walking through the UK winter alone. He’s picked up by a US back ops helicopter, and they make their escape.

The story then jumps forward a few years, and Hale is now the leader of the Sentinels, a squad of soldiers who are infected by the Chimera virus, but much like Hale himself, they are resistant to the Chimera infection, and with the help of treatment and a serum they have to take every few hours, they keep the infection at bay. This helps them get the advantages of infection, a healing factor, enhanced physical abilities, and a connection with the Chimera, without succumbing to the infection.

After the Chimera engulfed all of Europe, they are now towards American shores. Hale spends most of the story escaping from safehouse to safehouse as the Chimera tracks them down and destroys the human bases. The Chimera are digging up ancient towers across the globe for sinister purposes. To add to the Mayhem, Deadelus, a man turned Chimera, escapes from containment and leads the Chimera on a campaign to destroy humanity once and for all. Nathan Hale is slowly succumbing to the infection in his body, and as the story progresses, he’s slowly turning into a Chimera himself.

The story itself is pretty good. While you experience a lot of the narrative through cutscenes inbetween levels, a lot of narrative and exposition is delivered in-game through dialogue from the AI controlled team mates that fight alongside you. This is a method of elaborating on the story I enjoy immensely. You can also find documents around levels that provide some background information on the characters around you and the events that took place in the time between the first and second game.

The one failing the narrative in Resistance 2 has is the lack of characterisation. Nathan Hale himself isn’t really fleshed out, beyond being a man of steel with ice in his veins who lives for the sole purpose of killing Chimera. Not exactly an engaging character. In addition to doctor Malikov, and Major Blake, you also have several Sentinel team mates, Capelli, Warner and Hawthorne. Unfortunately, they are not explored much as characters at all beyond Capelli being shown uncomfortable and aggressive against Hale for slowly turning into a Chimera. This is a bit of a missed opportunity as more fleshed out characters would have created a more engaging narrative. At least the ending is a bold step for a franchise and surely provocative for fans of the series, guaranteeing that things will be shaken up a bit in any potential sequel. I enjoyed that very much.

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Graphically, Resistance 2 is pretty solid. Character models are nicely detailed, and the environment design is superior to the first game. They’ve broken away from the drab greys and browns in the first game, and gives you a varied level design that takes you from snowy mountains to metallic alien ships to lush jungle environments. The colour palette is more saturated and much more visually interesting than the previous game.

Insomniac also successfully presents a haunting vision of destroyed American towns, deserted and void of life, containing only the husks of those who once lived there. Through their environments, they successfully sell the notion that you are on the losing end of the fight against the Chimera

The gameplay in Resistance 2 remains fairly fast paced for current era FPS. Some changes have takes place, you now have a regenerating health system, so no more health pickups. In many ways the flow of the game is reminiscent of Halo. Resistance 2 has some really good gameplay elements going for it, the gunplay just feels good, which is the most important thing for an FPS after all. It also has one of the best collection of weapons in the FPS genre. Sure, you have your standard assault rifle and shotgun, however you also have amazing weapons like the Auger, that shoots through walls, or the bullseye that lets you tag an enemy and have your bullets track them. But my favourite of all is the very first weapon you get in the game, the Magnum, which not only packs a punch, it allows you to trigger explosives in the bullet at will. All the weapons have alternate fire features that add another layer to the gunplay. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other game with as many weapons that just makes me smile.

While the gameplay is very solid and a lot of fun, there are some serious issues with Resistance 2 that holds the game back from greatness, and in certain sections make it take a sharp U-turn towards craptown.

There are way too many instant death situations in Resistance 2, where you’re just walking down the street, minding your own business while blasting fools in the face, only to just go splat instantly. Sometimes it’s because you triggered a blatantly stupid enemy appearance, and sometimes you just get no indication of why you’re dead, what killed you, or what you did wrong.

And they have stealth enemies, that you get no warning about until approximately 1 second before they are on you, who 1-shot kill you. Sometimes they appear to work as intended, as in you’re making your way through the level, and then you see tracks on the ground and hear the noise of their footsteps, warning you of their approach. But way too many times, I appeared to be looking in a different direction than where the designers had wanted me to look, and was attacked by these stealth Chimera from the side or the back, or they would catch me while reloading. In both of these cases, there is nothing you can do, and you die.

Other times you’ll be in a firefight, a long one with several stages, and just towards the the end, you hit a trigger and get bumrushed but the Chimera when your health and ammo is low and you’re out of position. My favourite (/sarcasm) is the big Chimera with the energy shield who runs at you with 2-3 others behind him also hiding behind the shield. Insomniac just loves having those guy appear from around the corner just when you approach and think the fight is over. The result of this is, you die. Sure you can deal with it the second time around, when you know it’s coming, but the first time you see it, you’re dead. Every time, and there is nothing you can do about it. Resistance 2 makes you go through these kinds of cheap deaths repeatedly.

I can not stress enough that this is not good game design. The player needs to understand what happened, why he died, and know that he had a fighting chance. If not, it’s not going to feel challenging, it’s just going to be frustrating. Dying because of bullshit is never fun, ever.

This leads in to the second big issue with Resistance 2. Checkpoints. Really brutal ones. When you’re in a big fight, going from room to room, all those placed you think there should have been a checkpoint, don’t get your hopes up, because there wasn’t one. Tough checkpoints alone isn’t so bad, in fact it can make a game feel really challenging and change the way you play it, making you more cautious in your approach. However, when you mix tough checkpoints with cheap deaths and just sadistic enemy triggers, you have the makings of an immensely frustrating game.

And this is the major reason I don’t really like Resistance 2. Because it’s a good game, real good, the gunplay feels just right and the weapons are totally awesometastic. But with a few key game design decisions, they made the game not fun to play. I was sitting there playing a game I knew was good, and I wasn’t having fun, I wasn’t enjoying it all. I was just frustrated and wanted to get it over with.

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Being mostly a single player guy, Resistance 2’s excellent multiplayer offering doesn’t make much of a difference to me, and the fairly short single player campaign doesn’t provide nearly enough value for me. The length of the campaign is extended purely through how many cheap deaths you suffer, forcing you to replay sections, and ensuring that I would never even dream of playing the campaign a second time around on a harder difficulty.

In the end, I’m kind of torn in my feelings about Resistance 2. It’s basically a really good game that I never want to play again. In fact, I’m not too excited about picking up Resistance 3 either. I feel like Resistance 2 is a rare case of a game that is good, but not a good experience. Way too much frustration and cheap deaths mar the experience and leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

In any case, if you really liked Resistance: Fall of Man, Resistance 2 is a must buy. For everyone else, I think it should probably get in line behind Killzone.

 

Rating: 7

Closer look: Killzone 3

Killzone 3 is the follow up to 2008’s release, Killzone 2 (/Captain Obvious hat), who was hailed as the savior and first legitimate killer app for the PS3. It had massive hype going into release based on previous years E3 trailers who displayed a mindboggling graphical quality. Fanboys everywhere waged wars over whether the footage had been all pre-rendered smoke and mirrors, or if Killzone 2 would make a graphical jump that would forever shame all competitors and make even reality look like shit.

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Killzone 2 didn’t quite live up to the massive hype generated before release, but it was a really solid first person shooter with some of the best graphics seen at the time.

I had stayed away from the franchise until earlier this year, just based on the ridiculousness of the name “Killzone”. But when I finally broke down and played it, I found a very good FPS franchise.

With this in mind, I was very interested to see how Guerilla built on the excellent Killzone 2.

Killzone 3 picks up immediately after the end of Killzone 2, with Emperor Visari dead at the hands of Rico. Sev and his team are trying to get off-world with the full might of the Helghast army bearing down on them. Things go bad, and the ISA heroes find themselves stranded on Helghan, trying to avoid capture and wait for rescue from the ISA.

Much like the previous game, the story is presented from two perspectives, that of Sev and his ISA buddies, and inbetween levels the perspective of Jorhan Stahl and the Helghast council, as they take over from Emperor Visari. You get to see the goings on and infighting in the Helghast government.

Also much like the previous game, the Helghast bad guys are much more interesting, well developed and complicated characters than the ISA heroes, who while improved over the last game, are still much more 2 dimensional and still mostly shout curse words and shoot stuff.

The character of Rico received a lot of criticism from fans and press alike in Killzone 2, as he was an unlikeable expletive spewing douchebag. Rico is noticeably improved this time around, as he’s toned down his language and has a bit more developed personality.

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Malcolm McDowell continues Brian Cox’s legacy of making the bad guy infinitely more interesting and compelling than the heroes of the tale, with an excellent performance as the slimy industrialist Jorhan Stahl. The Helghast council in general feature some awesome voicework that really drew me in to their political posturing during the cutscenes.

These great Helghast characters only make the heroes Sev, Rico and Narville feel even more flat. The ISA characters in the Killzone franchise never really stuck with me. It’s only been about 9 months since I played Killzone 2, but when I started the game this time around, as the introductory sequence began, I didn’t even recognize which one was the player character. I actually confused Captain Narville and Sev at one point.

They do have a little bit more characterization in this game than the last. Rico is the tough guy with an authority issue, Narville is the boyscout leader who’s too worried about losing his guys to really get in the fight, and Sev is the straightforward problem solver.

Aesthetically, Killzone has never been very good. The Helghast designs are deliciously evil, with kind of nazi stormtrooper vibe, but beyond that, the world isn’t very inspired. There’s a lot of grey and unremarkable character designs.

Killzone 3 makes some improvements over Killzone 2, but still features way to much industry grey and shades of brown. There is an awesome swamp level though, with plants and animals that create an eerily beautiful wilderness. The contrasting colours between the plant life and the cold dead rock it lives on creates a very visually interesting level.

There is more variety in Killzone 3’s levels as well, as it takes you from the grey and dreary capital city to the swampy wilderness, to an arctic base, to the desert and then into space. The game does get more grey/brown towards the later levels, however it somewhat makes up for this with some giant enemies and interesting set pieces.

Don’t get me wrong, Killzone 3 has some amazing graphics. While I’m not fully on board with the art direction in the Killzone series, the graphical quality of Killzone 3 is off the charts. Characters are highly detailed, and the environments have solid and detailed textures, without feeling too busy on the eyes. Additionally, the pre-rendered cutscenes are stunning.

 

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The weapon sounds really pack a solid punch, and really sells the feedback whenever you fire your weapon. Explosions and gunfire surrounds you, while the shouts of your teammates and the Helghast can clearly be heard whenever you get close. It does a great job of pulling you in and making you feel like you’re in a chaotic combat situation.

The very first thing I noticed upon jumping back in the boots of Thomas Sevchenko was that developer Guerilla games have tweaked that weighty feeling of Killzone 2. The last game was criticized by gamers who felt like the game was unresponsive and slow. Personally I never really had an issue with it, as I enjoyed the weighty movement of Killzone 2. But this time around, you feel a little lighter on your feet. That weighty feeling is not altogether gone, but aiming and moving is more responsive this time around.

Another major tweak I really enjoyed is that you can carry 3 weapons now instead of 2. In the previous game, you had one main weapon slot, and a sidearm slot, meaning that if you wanted to pick up that rocket launcher, you had to drop your assault rifle. This often meant picking up a larger weapon was a bit un-inviting unless needed for a specific situation.

This time around, you have 1 slot reserved for large weapons, so you can always keep a grenade launcher or a minigun on hand for those pesky tanks.

The cover system from the previous games are back, where you press L2 to lock on to a wall in front of you so you can peek out from the side or over in order to stay in cover and shoot. I’ve never really been a fan of cover systems in first person games, and I’m not a fan of this one. It can be a bit unreliable from time to time, where you are crouching behind the only cover you can find, but still getting hit.

It’s also a bit awkward, since you end up spending a considerable amount of time just kind of staring directly into a wall. This isn’t really taken into account by the environment artists, so while the environments look great from a normal distance, textures appear quite blurry when you’ve got your face mushed against the wall.

Killzone 3 is quite short. I finished the single player campaign in about 5 hours. It has a very robust multiplayer mode, however 5 hours for the campaign is a bit on the disappointing side. For people like me, who usually can’t be bothered with multiplayer, it kind of sucks to pay full price for a game and finish it in 2 nights of playing.

Much like the previous game, Killzone 3 is just a really solid shooter. There are no major innovations, it doesn’t change the genre, or push any boundaries. The closest thing it has to a gimmick is the first person cover system. This is necessarily a negative thing, as it does everything really well. Firing weapons feels great, they’ve really nailed the feedback for the player. Movement is a lot more responsive, and enemy AI does a pretty good job of utilizing cover and flanking the player if you get pinned down.

The game does have some drawbacks, most notably the on-rails shooter segments, where you have no ability to dodge incoming fire, and just have to shoot anything on screen. This would not be a problem if not for the inexplicable instant death situations I experienced from time to time, where I would just fly into oncoming fire (on the large robot close to the end for example) and have to reload and hope it didn’t happen again. It seemed pretty random, but it happened to me 3 times during the course of the game.

I also experienced an issue with the cutscenes where the sound would get de-synced from the video, and voicework would lag almost a full second behind the lipsync.

Final word

 

Killzone 3 is a really solid FPS game, with some of the best graphics on the PS3. It doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but displays a refined iteration of what was already a great game in Killzone 2.

It doesn’t really tell an interesting story, but has some really good badguy characters, and gives you a great action packed campaign. The campaign can also be played in co-op, which I’m always happy about, and it has very well done multiplayer mode, if that’s your thing.

Killzone 3 is only held back a little bit by a very short campaign, a fairly uninspired aesthetic direction and some minor technical issues.

 

Rating: 8

Closer look: Dragon Age 2: Legacy

Legacy is the first significant piece of DLC for the not great but somehow still awesome Dragon Age 2, from RPG gods Bioware. The original game had me conflicted and confused, as I saw a lot of flaws in the game, yet was absolutely consumed by it regardless.

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With this in mind, it was with quite a bit of interest and excitement that I jumped back into the boots of Nate Hawke, my very own champion of Kirkwall.

As far as I can tell, Legacy picks up some time before the start of act 3 in the original game, as it’s after (SPOLER ALERT!) his mother dies, but before the s*** hits the fan with the Templars and mages.

After installing the DLC you can access it by approaching a new statue in the Hawke estate. I’m not sure if it only becomes available after a certain event in the game or not, since I loaded up my character that I beat the game with.

I started out in the Hawke estate, wearing my comfy rich man’s robes, and for some reason sporting a blood-splattered face that Hawke apparently neglected to wash off after killing Meredith in the Hollows. After a short time getting re-acquainted with the Hawke estate, I found a large statue up by the master bedroom. After approaching it, I was prompted to begin the Legacy DLC.

Legacy begins with Varric being questioned by the Seeker Cassandra about an event he seems to have neglected to mention as he told the story of the Champion of Kirkwall. Varric responds that it was just a minor event, and she would never have believed him anyway. After some prodding, Varric agrees to spill the beans.

I forgot what a good character Varric is, he’s always hugely enjoyable when he’s on screen.

 

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Varric always brings the dwarf sexehness.

Varric’s tale leads in to the gameplay, which starts with Hawke and your chosen companions arriving at a Carta base in the desert after the Carta had apparently tried to kill Hawke and his sister. At first I was a little bit confused as to what was going on, but some friendly banter with the Carta dwarves, which leads to some good old fashioned asskicking, filled me in with the basics. Apparently the Carta needs the Hawke’s blood in order to free someone called Corypheus.

This fairly simple set-up leads to an interesting story that touches on both Hawke’s father, the Grey Wardens’ past, and the origin of the Darkspawn. If you bring your sister/brother along as well, you’ll get some good character development and interactions with your sibling as you discover things about your family’s past.

The story in Legacy is the DLC’s strong point, as it weaves quite an interesting tale that reveals some genuinely meaningful information about the world of Dragon Age.

A major complaint about Dragon Age 2 was the recycled environments in the game. Not just the fact that you spend almost the entire game in a city that doesn’t change over time, even though there were big opportunities to change things up in-between the different acts, but that the dungeons kept recycling the same 3-4 settings throughout the entire game.

Legacy immediately remedies this by starting you in brand new environments created specifically for this dungeon crawling quest. The environments are quite varied as well, ranging from deserts to a fortress, to dungeons, to swampy caverns. There is an impressive sense of scope in these new surroundings, with large caverns and vistas that make you feel like you’re traversing a massive environment, as opposed to the smaller, more cramped corridors of DA2.

There are some new enemies as well, like the Genlock Alpha, a solid and stocky Darkspawn bastard with a huge shield who charges you. There are some impressive demon models as well, and the Corypheus model is just pretty darn badass. As a character artist, I saw some very interesting designs that made me think.

 

dragonagelegacy1The Genlock Alpha will do his best to leave you mushed underneath his shield.

The voice acting was excellent as always, highlighted by my old favourites Varric and Isabela (because that’s who I brought along, obviously).

There are no immediate changes to the old DA2 gameplay in Legacy. It only took me about 30 seconds to get back into the combat system and kick ass without feeling awkward and fiddly, which speaks highly of how streamlined and easy to use the DA2 combat system is.

During Legacy you’ll gain a few levels, but there are no new skills to pick up, aside from what you have left in your talent trees. You’ll get a new class specific weapon, that you are able to tailor with specific abilities of your choosing, which is nice.

There are a few side quests available during the course of Legacy, but they are not hard and don’t require you to go out of your way at all. As long as you check all the rooms as you move through the dungeon, you’ll complete all the side quests without really trying.

In fact, I’m not sure if it’s because my characters were relatively high level, but Legacy was a very easy dungeon crawl. I didn’t die once. I was never even in any real trouble, and only had companions fall during the final boss fight.

The final boss fight in itself is very well done. Boss fights in DA2 would usually devolve into just bashing the boss until it fell down. The final fight in Legacy however, has different stages, and requires you to move around and figure out the boss’ attack pattern.

 

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This guy was pretty badass.

Legacy is fairly short, I finished it in about three and a half hours. And that was with checking every nook and cranny of the dungeon. It’s a solid 3 to 4 hours though, with entertaining combat and interesting story, so at least it’s there’s no filler content here.

 

Final Word

 

Through a solid 3-4 hours of entertainment, Dragon Age 2 Legacy provides a very good story that elaborates on the history of the Hawke’s, the Grey Wardens and the Darkspawn, which for a Dragon Age fan is probably worth the price of admission by itself.

Legacy also fixes one of the major issues with DA2, which was the recycled environments, by providing brand new environments with a great sense of scale. But in terms of gameplay, it doesn’t provide anything new, it’s just more Dragon Age 2.

Personally, I was very happy to get back to one of the most interesting games I’ve played this year. I feel like a lot of the complaints I had about the original really didn’t come into play this time around. The combat system is still quite button mashy, but for 3-4 hours of gameplay, it was fine. Legacy is simply short enough that DA2 flaws that were so grating in the original simply doesn’t have time to annoy me. It didn’t get nearly as repetitive as when playing through a 30+ hour game. The environments were new and fresh, I really enjoyed the story, and it was nice to get reacquainted with my old wise-ass buddies Varric and Isabela.

In the end, Dragon Age 2 Legacy comes down to this: If you liked Dragon Age 2, you’ll enjoy Legacy. If DA2 just didn’t do it for you, there’s nothing here that’s going to change your mind.

 

Rating: 7,5

Poorly Thought Through Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

The original Deus Ex is considered one of the best games of all time, and one of the first games to truly (and somewhat successfully) merge the RPG and FPS genres.

In the original Deus Ex, you play as JC Denton, as state of the art, cybernetically augmented agent, who gets involved in a story featuring government conspiracies and grand Illuminati type social manipulation stuff. I honestly don’t remember the plot of the game anymore, it wasn’t that memorable.

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Deus Ex is considered one of the best PC games of all time.

What made Deus Ex so amazing was that you could approach the game in many different ways, and 2 players handle the same situations completely differently, depending on their playstyle and character build. Deus Ex even had boss fights that could be completely bypassed by just running away and slamming the door.

The game would never force you to do anything a certain way, it would give you a goal, give you a vast array of tools to accomplish that goal, and then let you just get on with it however you see fit.

In the decade that followed, with the rise of open world games, we have seen many games give us varying degrees of freedom to accomplish goals. But back in 2000, this was almost unheard of at the time.

In 2003, Eidos released a sequel that was not received well. Deus Ex: Invisible War, a game that wasn’t bad at all, it was just rejected because it didn’t quite live up to the promise of the original. After that, we would not hear much about Deus Ex for a long time.

8 years later, we hail the arrival of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a prequel to the first game. Is Human Revolution finally the worthy sequel to the original Deus Ex? I was hyped to find out!

I somehow managed to avoid any information on Human Revolution before release. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was coming out until about a week before the release date. All I knew was that it was a prequel and you play as a dude with a funky beard who wears sunglasses inside and doesn’t have arms. It turns out he did have arms (the teaser trailer I had seen a long time ago confused me!), but the rest was fairly accurate.

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Ready for some cyborg lovin’.

In Deus Ex: Human Revolution you play as Adam Jensen (although you could be forgiven for referring to him as Solid Snake), the chief security officer for a leading biotechnology company called Sarif Industries. Sarif scientists have made a huge discovery and are preparing to present their research to the government. Needless to say, things go wrong. the Sarif Industries HQ is attacked, and Adam Jensen is mortally wounded.

His life is saved by the augmentation technology of his employers, and when he comes to, he finds that he is now more machine than human. As he recovers from his injuries and tries to come to terms with his new situation, a Sarif Industries subsidiary is attacked, and Jensen is brought back to work to deal with it.

What follows is a story of extremism, corporate espionage and government conspiracies. While sometimes convoluted, the story is solid and touches on heavier themes than most games, like intolerance, prejudice and extremism.

What strikes me immediately when playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution is that this is not really a role playing game any more. The original was very much an RPG, as your character would be terrible with weapons unless you levelled up his skills. Even just aiming straight would be tough if you hadn’t put points in your chosen weapon type, although in retrospect, it was odd that an elite agent like JC Denton would be so awful at everything.

In Human Revolution, Adam Jensen can wield any weapon expertly from the start. You have some character progression choices through augmentations, letting you do things like lessen or eliminate recoil, improve your hacking abilities, punch through walls, and jump higher. You can even gain the ability to see through walls, jump off buildings without taking damage or become invisible for short periods of time. But in terms of design, this game is very much an action game with RPG elements, not an Action-RPG. I’d say Human Revolution falls somewhere inbetween Mass Effect 3 and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, in terms of its ‘RPG-ness’. Which is to say, not that much of an RPG.

The quests are very well done, with engaging characters and plots. Even the side quests you can pick up in the city hubs are well developed and interesting. Never do you come across flat characters with nonsensical fetch quests for you. While there are some “go here, kill that dude, bring back the thing” type quests, they all come with engaging characters and plots that make the quest worthwhile.

Human Revolution has one of those inventory systems that give you a set number of squares and makes you manage your space manually, meaning you’ll be rotating weapons and packing things together as best you can to fit that new gun in there without having to drop anything. A lot of people seem to dislike this, but I’ve always enjoyed it immensely, ever since the old X-Com games on PC, to Resident Evil 4, to here. It’s just an involving way to handle inventory and makes you think about what you’re carrying around. To me, anything that makes the player think about things and get involved further, no matter how minor of a feature, is a good thing.

In Human Revolution, the combat is an interesting blend of 1st person and 3rd person combat, and it tries to give the player the same sort of freedom to approach situations as the original Deus Ex did. However, it falls short in a few specific circumstances, and very clearly displays a preference for stealth in general.

Jensen can’t take a lot of damage, if you’re not careful you’ll die almost immediately if caught in enemy fire, and enemies will swarm you if you’re in a bad position. This almost requires the player to start out stealthy, orientate themselves, and plan an approach to each area.

Not that I mind, as I like the stealthy approach. Jensen can walk quietly if you crouch, or even get an augmentation that lets you run quietly, and by pulling the left trigger, he’ll stick to walls in order to hide behind cover and peek out behind corners.

First person games with cover systems are often really awkward when you go into cover, leaving you just staring into a wall, and the wall usually has a texture that, while good looking from afar, was not intended to be examined so closely. The Killzone games are a good example of this. Human Revolution bypasses this neatly by pulling back into a 3rd person perspective when you are in cover, climbing ladders or performing cinematic takedowns. It works really well.

In fact, when you’re sneaking around hiding behind stuff, Human Revolution reminds me a lot of Metal Gear Solid. Waiting patiently, trying to figure out a soldiers patrol patters, the cone of vision you see on security cameras (and enemy soldiers as well if you get the augmentation for it), even Jensen’s pose while in cover and the way he holds his weapon, is very reminiscent of MGS. This appears to be entirely intentional, as the game sports an achievement called “the foxiest of hounds”, that the player can earn by finishing the game without ever setting off an alarm. A nod to the Foxhound team in Metal Gear lore.

In most situations, you have the choice between sneaking past an obstacle, going in guns blazing, or hacking something in order to move on. In most cases, I ended up doing a mix of all of them. I don’t have the patience to try to sneak through the whole game, reloading saves every time things go sour. As I was playing through the game, I ended up starting most situations by sneaking and quietly taking out the guards, but if I was spotted I would just go “Aw screw it” and start blasting fools with my shotgun. I found the different approaches available, as well as how a situation can swing drastically from one approach to the other, very engaging.

The hacking system is quite entertaining, especially compared to the old progress bar in Deus Ex. You’re faced with a grid full of nodes, and you need to capture the goal node before the alarm system captures your starting node. You do this by hacking a path through each node, while reinforcing your own nodes to buy valuable seconds. You also get “powerups”, like a nuke that can capture a node instantly without alerting the system, and a Stop ability that will freeze the system for 5 seconds. This hacking mini game can lead to some tense moments as you frantically try to finish your hack before the system shuts you out and starts the alarm.

You’re also able to hack security consoles and take control of cameras and security bots. I had a lot of fun with hacking a turret, setting it to fire on enemy soldiers, and then using my augmented strength to carry the turret around. It provided both a shield and infinite ammo, and I could put it down to provide suppressing fire while flanking my enemies.

A lot of people have complained about the boss fights in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, with good reason! The problem boils down to the fact that throughout the game you are given a choice of how you want to play the game, while the boss battles just… don’t. The game essentially asks; do you want to be stealthy, or a tech savvy hacker, or a hardened soldier? But the boss fights, they force you to fight. You don’t get any options whatsoever, you have to fight. The first boss fight in particular is really bad with this, as it’s early on, and players will only have had a few points to spend on augmentations, which will have gone into whatever they specialized in. If that wasn’t being a hardened soldier, then you’re in trouble, as the first boss fight has you locked in a room with a large man with arms that turn into machine guns. And there is nowhere to run. This happens a few times during the course of the game, and while it’s not at all game breaking, it can be quite hard for certain character builds. From a design perspective, it is quite jarring and completely betrays the design of the rest of the game.

More successfully, Human Revolution also features something along the lines of boss debate battles, where Jensen enters an argument with certain key characters, and if you choose your responses carefully, you may talk them down and avoid a fight, or get that piece of information you need. It’s quite refreshing and I really enjoyed it.

I think my biggest issue with the game, and really the only serious downer about Human Revolution as a whole, is the ending. The final boss battle itself is quite weird and borderline anticlimactic. But the real head-scratcher comes after you defeat the final boss, and find yourself faced with something that can basically be boiled down to the “End-O-Tron 3000”. You have to choose one of four choices, that then give you your ending. It doesn’t matter what choices you made, or what transpired during the course of the game, none of that influences the ending of the game, just this one choice. It’s one of the more puzzling design decisions I’ve come across in a long time.

There’s an achievement for seeing all the possible endings in the game and I assumed it would have required me to play the game repeatedly, making different choices along the way. But no, I got that achievement by just reloading my final autosave and choosing each different End-O-Tron 3000 option in turn.

Human Revolution presents the illusion that you’re experiencing a heavily choice based game, only to shatter that illusion entirely and render every single choice you’ve made in the game insignificant. Much like the much maligned boss battles, this inconsistent design choice hurts the game.

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Never make fun of my sunglasses-at-night!

The immediately striking thing about Deus Ex: Human Revolution is that it looks and sounds a lot like Mass Effect in many ways. The design of the more high tech futuristic areas look a lot like the Mass Effect space stations, and the background music sometimes sounds like it’s been captured directly from ME.

The graphics are very good for the most part. The character models are well done with a good amount of detail, while the lighting compliments the normal maps very well. There are no jagged edges, texture seams, or undesirable shadows formed by the normal maps. Textures are crisp and good looking for both characters and environments. It’s always nice when you see posters and notes on walls and tables, and you can actually go over and read most of it.

The art style favours dark steel, teal and black, contrasted with warm oranges in the lighting. It’s quite nice and creates a tangible sense of atmosphere.

My only real issue with Human Revolution in terms of its visual and environment design is the city hub areas, that often feel very static and fake, with mannequins propped up to simulate a real place. There’s something very unsettling about wandering the streets of Detroit and Hengsha.

I always point to Metro 2033 as my example for how to do a city setting that feels real and alive. In that game, people were always moving around, or having conversation unrelated to the player. The people in the city areas were going about their daily lives, just doing their thing, not standing there like robots who had no purpose in life unless you were looking straight at them. It would be full of ambient noise and background conversations. Even if you peeked through a door that’s cracked open, you’d see people moving around inside. Metro 2033 really raised the bar for how to do believable public areas.

You can see a bit of what I’m talking about regarding Metro 2033 here:

Human Revolution on the other hand, while it makes a decent effort at creating a city setting, just doesn’t succeed very well. The characters in the public hub areas just kind of stand there. There are some conversations that trigger if you get close to them, which is nice, but it’s really just the bare minimum. Even the streets wrecked by riots felt more static and barren than chaotic. The buildings you can not enter, while well textured, feel like cardboard boxes with paint on them. You can’t see through windows you’re not supposed to be able to enter, for example. Very rarely did I believe in the world around me when I was in the public hub areas in Human Revolution.

Human Revolution also has some stiff animations that, combined with the realistic character models, create a robotic look that evoke the uncanny valley a little more often than you’d like.

The sound design is solid, with strong weapon sounds, and a good sense of direction in terms of footsteps and ambient noise. In a fight against invisible cloaked enemies, I could easily track them by their footsteps if I focused on it. The voice acting is pretty good (although some of the hobo characters border on racist stereotypes), and does a good job of selling the various characters and their personalities.

Final word

Deus Ex: Human Revolution tells an intriguing story set in a very well fleshed out and complicated world, that is only let down by a somewhat dodgy ending sequence.

The gameplay is part Metal Gear, part Mass Effect, with a dash of classic Deus Ex. With only a few unfortunate exceptions, it provides an excellent gameplay experience that lets the player decide how the game should be played.

In terms of presentation, it’s a high quality game with a solid voice cast and a really effective art style that really creates an atmospheric world that supports the story and setting.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is finally the worthy sequel to Deus Ex that fans had been waiting for. It’s a much better game than the original in almost every way. However, it doesn’t quite pack the same punch or break new ground the way the original did, and it unfortunately also has a few puzzling inconsistent design choices with the boss battles and the ending sequence that hurts the overall game.

The competition is just so much more fierce these days than it was in 2000, and while Human Revolution’s faults are relatively small, they are enough to prevent it from standing head and shoulder above the rest like its predecessor did. Due to this, it will probably never become the kind of cult game that Deus Ex was, which is a shame, because this game could have been a classic.

If you enjoyed the original Deus Ex, or stealthy games like Metal Gear Solid, Chronicles of Riddick or Thief, you will probably get a great deal of enjoyment out of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Rating: 8,5