Today we have a special treat. In celebration of me making wild opinions based on the first impressions of games for an entire month I’m proud to announce that:
Skarekrow13, in association with Fextralife pictures (a Dreamlover 2000 subsidiary…ok not really), and produced by caffeine and late nights; brings you:
SKARE’S 10 MINUTE GAME REVIEWS: Shootstravaganza Edition!
Rather than the typical game or two (or three) I will do a shorter workup of FIVE shooters (all PS3). I played all five on “hard” or equivalent (but not “suicide” where applicable). Then I meticulously judged them on what most experts (me) agree are the three criteria critical to any game in this genre. In some particular order they are:
- Combat feel- Is it fluid? Are there weird commands? Do the weapons feel awesome?
- Enemy AI- Are they actually paying attention to their surroundings? How good are they at not putting their faces in your crosshairs?
- Overall fun- Those other things are great but it all comes down to simple enjoyment. This is the category for the intangible aspects unique to each game that can make or break the experience.
One in the chamber
Far Cry 2
We choose our hero for an exciting trip to exotic locales to assassinate an arms dealer generally regarded as “not very nice.” Then we contract malaria and our hotel burns down. I for one, am a little suspicious it was arson.
- Combat feel– Not bad here but nothing special either. The mapping of four weapon types to the D-Pad is pretty slick as is having a machete be one of the weapons you start with. I would call this standard fare
- Enemy AI– Even on hard they leaned a little toward “stupid.” In the malaria/hotel on fire intro no one seemed to notice me until I shot them. Now I know they’re occupied killing each other but not even a glance toward me. Then, to make matters worse, when I undertook my first mission I somehow got the drop on two armed enemies despite driving up pretty close to their doorstep and not attempting to sneak as I walked toward them shooting. I don’t think I got hit.
- Overall fun– The driving to the first mission was ok. Maybe other vehicles would make this an addition to the overall experience. Ultimately though I found little to make this stand out. The graphics aren’t gorgeous and the story is far from making me a believer. For instance, the arms dealer I mentioned earlier? He finds you in the hotel when you’re malaria’d up, recognizes you’re there to kill him…then lets you live. There might be a good explanation later but it’s a reality breaking first impression. And if it turns out he’s the good guy? A Shyamalan twist it is not.
This is a more narrative based game, with the player taking on the role of Blackburn, a Marine who appears to be tied to some pretty heavy ****. We start off handcuffed and working our way to the front of a train to thwart an attack. After being interrogated a bit it’s off to Irag via flashback with Black and his crew.
- Combat feel– This game is excellent. Each weapon felt unique and the “zoom” aim was not only accurate, but it was fun to look down the actual crosshairs of the weapon. Other games do this too, but this one maintained the accuracy better and didn’t make it feel like a cosmetic gimmick. You can stand, crouch, walk, run and even crawl (which is necessary more often than I would have thought) and often your life depends on split second decisions based on body positioning and location in the fight. Getting shot will, SURPRISE, kill you pretty easily. Hidden enemies are actually good at hiding and taking cover. This game is edge of your seat combat as a result.
- Overall fun– Very. I’m not generally inclined to play shooters out. Most often I do a night or two and I’ve had my fill but this one has me tempted to go further in. While the AI can be frustrating at times, the anxiety from knowing death is one misstep away is pretty awesome. The squad based section also showed a nice variety of tactics that shows the cerebral nature of warfare.
- Enemy AI– This was a problem for a few reasons. When I was with my squad EVERY enemy was hypersensitive to my presence. Except for a scripted instance of a team member getting hit I don’t recall anyone but me taking lead. Two sections were so bad that when I loaded the game again I barely had time to twitch before a dozen or better bullets converged on me. Seriously, do you not see the other guys in the group? Another point had me getting a vantage above the enemy and using some serious firepower to put them down. Except that anything but crawling left me so exposed I barely had time to pick up the weapon. I would be ok with this except it doesn’t stay consistent. Later I’m crawling in a ditch while tons of enemies forget to look in ditches. Then I’m face to face and alone with a small group of enemies and they somehow are less focused on me than when I was with three or four other guys.
Third game (insert firearms pun here)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
We’re the head of security for this big old corporation (something like that anyway) when some bad news shows up. By “bad news” I mean that a group of people break in, nearly kill you and steal the love interest (something like that anyway). Armed with some new cybernetic enhancements you’re off to save the world (probably).
- Combat feel– Combat is generally very fluid. Stealth mechanics are done very well and there are moral choices to your playstyle. I can knock this guy out. Or kill him. Whatever. The weapon variety is excellent (even for only the first real mission) and your choices make a BIG difference in the outcome of any fight.
- Enemy AI– I gotta say…EXCELLENT! Wyld Stallyns 4ever! If an enemy looks at you, they see you. Even better, they tell their friends. They pursue you for a reasonable amount of time before returning to their stations. It never feels like the enemy forgets about you. Instead, they realize their best bet is to patrol their logically assigned areas. If you leave a body around the assumption from your enemies isn’t that their buddy died of natural causes. They will look for you…his killer! Nothing is unfair though. If I’m quiet and out of normal sight lines (peripheral vision MUST be accounted for here) then sneaking up can be successful. AI done right!
- Overall fun– Another game I might like to play more of. Remember when I said your choices matter? I chose to be the nice guy and bring a tranquilizer rifle to the party. I don’t need to kill everyone do I? Well not everyone, but ammo conservation and stealth are pretty huge parts of the game if you wanna roll this way. I ended up confronting too many people. By the end I was blasting people with machine guns and anything I could get my cybernetic hands on to survive. My no kill philosophy went out the window about halfway through the mission. Shoulda, coulda woulda used more air vents. At the end of the level I got to talk the last enemy down with a fairly complex dialogue tree. Felt really cool. The story itself is only “ok” but your role in it is compelling.
Um, Four Barrel Shotgun (this is a thing, could have gone three or as high as eight actually)
Payday: The Heist
Grab your clown mask and three friends (real or imaginary, both work pretty well) and let’s go rob a bank! This cooperative game sees you pulling off some pretty crazy criminal capers, with coordinated efforts greatly increasing your chances of success.
- Combat feel– Nothing to write home about. So I’ll write it for you instead. Everything here is pretty standard. Run, crouch, aim, shoot. One cool quirk is that you can get knocked down but it’s only possibly out. Once your health is zero, you fall down and can be helped by a teammate. If the timer runs out you’re arrested. You can use your pistol while downed. “WON’T TAKE ME ALIVE COPPER!” Unless they do of course. Re-spawning is time based and off the premise that your release from custody was negotiated. All of that though doesn’t change the fact that you’ve played this shooter before.
- Enemy AI– “AI” is loosely coined here. There’s hordes of enemies in the two levels I tried and none of them seemed particularly sentient. Snipers do a good job of finding a target (like me) when you’re in the open but every other enemy just crams into the hallway and opens fire. The four of us clowns likely killed a hundred or more cops on my first mission (AI controlled partners which did pretty well actually, better than the enemies for sure).
- Overall fun– Despite the generic combat feel and lack of AI (from the enemies) this game is damn fun. Between the massive armies of cops are actions to rob the joint like drilling into a lock, or placing thermite to burn through the floor. These take time so you need to defend the area for awhile. Other times it’s better to hightail it and provide cover fire. Then I did an online mission with three other actual players. That’s even more fun as your strategies become more complex. I usually was Captain Cover Fire…and got shot a lot. It’s good to have a role. I can see how the game can implement missions that don’t require crazy shootouts and more subterfuge. I don’t know if other missions account for that but it seemed like some planning and intelligence could make a difference in mission outcomes.
I know what you’re thinking, punk. You’re thinking “did he fire six reviews or only five?”
Spec Ops: The Line
Cut to a helicopter flying around the ruins of Dubai, swallowed by sand. You start to feel good about manning the guns when suddenly…CRASH!
And then a flashback of course. Back to the start of this mess. Me and my two buddies are arriving in the recently buried Dubai for recon. And possibly so much more
- Combat feel– Another excellent game. This game takes the “cover mechanic” style to a pretty damn good level (hit “x” to cover, “right” and “x” to shift cover, etc.). Silencers allow you to take out guys from behind but remember to always shoot the one closest to you. You’ll see why in the AI section. Weapons felt just plain good. I got a trophy for excellent grenade placement. This was helped greatly by smooth controls and logical use.
- Enemy AI– Now to tie up that cliffhanger (starring Sylvester Stallone). If you equip a silencer and shoot someone other than the guy closest to you, the one closest to you will see him die. He will notice this. AI is pretty good. Enemies actually realized I had other people in my squad. They seemed to provide cover fire for one another and we definitely had to make use of teamwork to take ’em down.
- Overall fun– Another triumph! From the bleached sand dunes to the choice of music blaring over the speakers of a building soon to be claimed by the earth; this game has atmosphere. The three squad members all have intriguing personality and I can honestly say I felt immersed in this game. You know the saying “Save the best for last?” I did that.
*Super Bonus Six Shooter*
Killzone: Mercenary (PS Vita)
I just played the beta but I have a one word review:
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