Last updated on August 10th, 2015
Alright! I assume we all know the format now (but here it is again anyway). In my eternal quest to clear up my backlog of games from the PlayStation Plus service, I dedicate tiny portions of my day to trying out new games. What comes next (naturally) is that I make sweeping generalizations and provide do or die opinions based on a small fraction of the game’s entirety. First impressions: your move video games!
First to Launch
This shooter takes us all over the place. From foot, to some sort of hover bike, to a big flying robot in space…we get to shoot stuff. CLIFFHANGER: For the longest time, my daughter was unaware that the icons for games were actually…games. Since she’s too young for most of them I’d never click on them to play but she did learn (on our travels across the XMB to get to Netflix) that some of them play “songs” when highlighted. She got a kick out of going through my games list (remember it’s long because of Plus) and listening to the “songs.” I swear this is relevant later! Back to Starhawk. Like I said, you’re a guy who shoots stuff. But wait! You can also BUILD things. That’s the separation for this title. At many points in the game you can call various items into being to aid you: machine gun turrets, walls and stuff.
- What’s astronomical: The build as you go mechanic was interesting and definitely delineates this from many other shooters. It took some getting used to, as my first attempt at a defensive wall was placed in the middle of nowhere. I hastily chased down enemies as they casually walked around my impenetrable fortifications. In shooters I usually excel at sniper tactics; It was a new twist to decide where my turrets should be placed to do this for me. Don’t get me wrong, I did shoot people in the face. It was just neat to be able to box in enemies for the kill with a turret cutting off their escape avenues. The first setting (on foot and hover bike) appears to be a desert and the atmosphere is pretty good. You help a team take out some baddies with rubble playing the part of your most reliable ally. The AI and aim on the enemies seemed decent, as I actually took hits and had to use obstacles to my advantage. For a starting point in a game I was surprised to not walk all over the bad guys. The game also offers variety which can be good. After I finished with the desert I was taken into space to pilot a giant flying robot around. And shoot stuff.
- What’s terrestrial: Oh space…how I wanted to love you and your giant flying robots. The game tries to do too many things well and gaps are definitely evident as a result. Can you have a powerful story, engaging combat AND a sub game based on giant robots and do it all in excellent fashion? Absolutely, just ask Xenogears. But once I was in this particular giant robot I knew disappointment. The controls were good with a plethora of options. Evasive maneuvers were abundant. However it felt like the aim was to have a fighting game style of control for a flying robot. Turning felt sluggish and enemies were hard to chase down as a result. The game forced me to rely on heavy weapons often. Sadly, these lacked the punch I’d want to see in a “learn how to fly this damn thing” level. Instead of feeling like a boss and wanting more, I was left with a tedious “turn, try to aim, get a couple crappy hits in and repeat” fight that lasted a lot longer than my sanity was asking for.
How far did I get: I did the first two sections which was likely obvious from the above. I was looking forward to more after the desert but this was sacrificed in the name of hard drive space after the robots. Time for that Cliffhanger to pay off! While listening to “songs” with my daughter we each had our favorites. She really loves Malicious (review coming?) while Starhawk was my favorite. It was a hard delete since it also meant giving up the song.
Who is this for: If you’re not really looking forward to fast paced flying and space travel from the get go like I was, the combat on foot was fun. I wouldn’t call it anything special under most circumstances. However, the ability to build things is really cool and makes the game stand out. Shooter fans who also like real time strategy elements will most likely enjoy this game immensely.
The Chaos Continues
Retro City Rampage (PS Vita, also available on PS3)
The top down style is a throwback to many of the NES era greats (which is probably why they felt the need to add “Retro” to the title). The graphics are all intentionally old school and charming, particularly for grizzled old vets such as myself. The game essentially takes on the “sandbox with missions” style epitomized by the Grand Theft Auto series. And to be fair, if you started off with the GTA series from the beginning you’ll note that the top down orientation is “borrowed” from GTA as well. So what I’m trying to convey is that this is a lot like Grand Theft Auto (just not the most recent few). Even the concept is the same. Guess what! You’re a criminal! Doing missions!
- What will make you go ballistic: While the graphics and style is retro, the gameplay and controls are anything but. Anyone who was with me back in the NES days knows the horror of input delay. Yep, those old consoles couldn’t always handle the fearsome demands of the 8 bit world. Poor Mario would often fall to his death as a result (or take a spiked turtle shell in the backside). Luckily Ryu always seemed to be more responsive. Anyway, none of that here. Everything was smooth and fast paced. I had no trouble jumping right into an expansive world of constant action. While the gameplay and concept is similar to GTA, this game takes itself less seriously (not that GTA takes itself too seriously but they do try to immerse you into a dramatic story). There’s lots of humor thrown in that works well with the art choices.
- What’s shooting blanks: Not much honestly. You are a criminal so you will need to be able to take some form of delight/satisfaction out of doing some pretty terrible things. But if GTA has taught me one thing, it’s that doing a burnout with a motorcyle on someone’s face (or crotch) is ALWAYS funny. If you don’t agree with me on that then this game is quite flawed for you. DISCLAIMER: I don’t know if you can do burnouts on victims in this game since I didn’t try. It just lends itself to that sort of gameplay. Also, I usually do burnouts on the owner of the bike. Knock ’em off it, burn out on their junk, ride off into the sunset!
How far did I get: I did the first bit to get into the open world gameplay to give that a try. I ran around causing a ruckus for a decent chunk of time (10-15 minutes tops) and put it up for later.
Who is this for: GTA fans and sandbox game fans in general will like this a lot. If you’re old school the top down style won’t be a turn off and if you’re a new school gamer well…welcome to the world we used to live in. If you’re a Vita owner this will be a must have for many as it’s a great pick up and play title.
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