May 22, 2013
I had a handful of issues with Resistance: Fall of Man. I’d have to say many others did to, despite its release to critical acclaim. I say this because Resistance 2 rectifies every issue I had with Fall of Man and does so on a much more epic scale. Nathan Hale speaks more in the first few minutes than he did in the entirety of the first game. Even so, it’s apparent he’s not the star of the game – the locales and boss battles are. More importantly, the campaign difficulty is balanced much better. Every decision Insomniac Games made culminated in a more entertaining first-person shooter compared to the original.
While Resistance 2 picks up immediately where Fall of Man left off, most of the game takes place two years after the events of the first game. It’s 1953 and the Chimera have practically overrun the United States – the last bastion for humanity. Salvation rests in the hands of a few U.S. soldiers who were infected with the Chimeran virus during government studies. Sentinels, as they’re referred to, possess superhuman abilities and regenerative health. They’re not immune to the virus living within them though, and must take injections frequently to inhibit the spread of the virus.
The U.S. studies which created the Sentinels were carried out by Fyodor Malikov, a Russian scientist seeking a way to combat the Chimeran forces and cure the virus that transforms humans into the alien scourge. One of his failed test subjects has since become known as Daedalus. Formerly known as Jordan Shepherd, Daedalus is a hovering blob of Chimera that operates as a hive mind commanding the Chimera. The game begins with his escape from a secret base in Iceland at which point he begins putting a hurting on the remnants of America. Nathan and his new Sentinel buddies know what needs to be done and set out to kill Daedalus.
The forward momentum in Resistance 2 was always the destruction of Daedalus. However, with Malikov’s presence came much back-story and in retrospect, it seems like the game was most concerned with filling the player in than topping off the Chimeran threat for good. Whether it was in regards to the Chimera and their origin or the experiments that Malikov did, I never felt like the overarching conflict was moving towards closure with Nathan’s actions. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Most series’ seem to be trilogies nowadays so even if major story beats happen in the middle games, it usually doesn’t represent a major amount of finality for the series. I’m not too bummed because I was consistently mesmerized by the locations and set piece battles I encountered.
Nathan’s journey saw him traveling across America, through both scenic settings like redwood forests and southern swamplands and notable cities like San Francisco and California. Each level felt unique thanks to the vastly different settings and the varied enemy types. These two facets were major improvements over Fall of Man. It was the boss fights that truly shined though. These end-level nuisances were hulking mammoths, the scale of which I don’t think I’ve seen in another first-person shooter, were unbelievable to see and fun to conquer. I especially like how they were foreshadowed throughout the levels. Catching glimpses of the skyscraper-sized Leviathan in Chicago set the mood for the remainder of that level.
The stages and bosses were very cool, but thankfully the campaign difficulty was balanced so much better than the original. First off, the health system was slightly revamped. Recharging health was still in effect but instead of a tiered health bar, damage was indicated by the amount of blood splatter on the screen. I prefer this shift from the tiered health bar because it saw me getting in less binds where I had a sliver of health; I could regenerate Nathan’s health fully by taking cover instead of only up to a point. The biggest improvement in my eyes was the less stringent checkpointing. After every battle or story event, I was greeted with a checkpoint. No longer was I forced to battle dozens of enemies again if I was killed after a few minutes of progression. This was such a relief and helped me enjoy this game much more than the original.
One of the bigger gameplay changes between these two games was Nathan’s ability to carry weapons. In the original, I had access to each weapon I came across; the game adopted an old-school approach, favoring a personal armory. This game opted for the now common two weapon limit. At any point, Nathan could only carry two weapons, meaning I had to make decisions as to what I wanted. My decision was usually influenced by Insomniac’s weapon staging. Weapons were placed in key points along the linear pathway, and like the boss battles, usually foreshadowed an impending battle. I really thought they did a great job at this since it got me alternating weapons and going outside my comfort zone.
It might be cliché to say, but Resistance 2 was a roller-coaster ride. Nathan’s travels took him throughout America at a break-neck pace, and usually I didn’t quite understand why. It all seemed to be in service of exploiting the locales for interesting settings and epic boss battles. I’m cool with that though because Insomniac played with a scale unseen in first-person shooters. Best of all though, the game was actually enjoyable to play. With the revisions to campaign difficulty, this game was challenging – not brutal. For these reasons, and the shocking ending, I was jazzed for Resistance 3.
May 18, 2013
Resistance: Fall of Man is a game of banal hues. Whether I’m referring to the grayish picture it paints of Great Britain circa 1951 amidst the invasion of alien forces, the grim outlook for humanity, or the game’s stiff difficulty, it’s not in high spirits. It was a game that I had a hard time getting drawn into. Sgt. Nathan Hale, the game’s protagonist was unrelatable as he was mostly silent, uttering a handful of words throughout the four days covered. The third-person “past-tense” storytelling also didn’t help draw me in, although it was unique and fitting. Lastly, I just didn’t think the campaign was balanced well.
What’s initially distinguishing about the game is its alternate historical setting. Presumably, World War II never happened as the alien Chimera were ravaging the Soviet Union for decades. The rest of Europe was most likely wary of what was happening behind the Iron Curtain and preparing for the worst, as Great Britain had done. After overtaking Europe, the Chimera crossed the English Channel and all preparations went out the window as the country was lost in a matter of months. Afterwards, the United States sent in a large task force to seek out a secret weapon the Brits claim will save humanity; enter Nathan Hale.
For most of the introductory sequences I was under the impression that Nathan was a silent protagonist. He might well have been as he spoke, like, three times throughout the ten hour campaign. Instead, most of the story was told by Captain Rachel Parker, a British soldier who determined there was something amiss with Nathan immediately – he had been infected by the Chimera. It was of little consequence in the game ultimately, although it was always a pressing concern for her. With Nathan hardly speaking, he really wasn’t characterized, he was little more than the player’s avatar. But through Rachel’s recounting, he was given a story, at the very least.
The narrative cutscenes had Rachel talking about the game’s events in the past-tense, as though they had happened only a few days ago. As she was the one narrating the story, all references to Nathan were in the third-person. I thought these two storytelling mechanics distanced me from Nathan even more than him being a (near) silent protagonist. Nathan’s survival took him all over Britain, but I found the campaign to be relatively event-free and ultimately forgettable.
Gameplay was standard fare for a first-person shooter and it encompassed sequences common across the genre. There was a driving sequence or two including an expletive-inducing tank sequence that had me banging my head against a proverbial wall for countless attempts. What set it apart the most from other similar games was its armory, which makes sense as Insomniac earns high praise for their innovative weaponry. Many staples were present although I felt the game was at its best when I was utilizing a secondary feature or dispatching enemies with a weapon unlike anything I had used before.
Bringing down the enjoyment I had with the game was its difficulty. I’ll start with the health system. Nathan had four chunks of rechargeable health. When one was depleted, I was no longer able to regenerate it. This is highly prevalent nowadays (and it was seven years ago too (I can’t believe this generation is that old!)) but I’ve never played a game where recharging health took so long! On the other hand, the enemies are bullet sponges. I love that the M5A2 Folsom Carbine, the standard human assault rifle, has a 50 round magazine, but dumping into enemies yields a few kills before needing reloaded. Finally, the biggest offender was the checkpoints. I found them so infrequent; I’d have to do battle with dozens of enemies multiple times thanks to a single mistake. Between the three difficulty levels available to me, I chose normal but in many parts, it felt more like hard. This probably earns kudos from some hardcore shooter fans out there, but for someone just wanting to enjoy the game and have a decent amount of challenge, it was off-putting.
The game’s difficulty had me frustrated on many occasions, but I persisted and still think Resistance: Fall of Man was a solid FPS. The story and characterization did very little for me, although the alternate historical setting was plenty enough to start me off. I remember very little astonishing moments or set pieces, but the core gameplay, excluding the difficulty, was really good. I even jumped into the multiplayer for a few matches and had fun, despite a losing streak. I wasn’t exactly raring to jump into Resistance 2 after completing it, but I’d take the plunge anyways.
May 13, 2013
The final game my friend and I played was Light Wars. This was a game highly influenced by Geometry Wars and it wasn’t afraid to show it. It was the same concept, an arena-based shooter where players fended of loads and loads of enemies. The major difference, and perhaps the only one, in comparison to Geometry Wars was the weapon used. When firing, an energy beam extended from the player and bounced around for a few seconds before disappearing. When I played, I used this like a windshield wiper, cleaning the stage of the enemies.
Everyone was pressed for time at this point as the designers were given the order to begin tearing down their stations. I was fortunate enough to have gotten to play Light Wars for a few more rounds. Like Geometry Wars, it was an addicting score attack game. I also didn’t get any contact information for the designer behind it and unfortunately, I didn’t even catch his name.
May 13, 2013
The next to last game my friend and I played was Cannon Golf. It was probably my favorite game of the show as I really dug the learning curve and the responsiveness of the balls. Attempting to make it to the hole in as few strokes as possible was the name of the game and this was made difficult by the various obstacles on each stage. However, at players’ disposal were three different types of balls; a normal one, one with inverse gravity, and a third that would stick to surfaces.
I remember discussing with Kevin Meier, one of the game’s designers, the efforts he went through to have the balls react realistically when hitting walls. From what I could tell, his work was a success. The only thing I noticed was that sometimes, when my ball looked like it was in the hole, the game wouldn’t recognize this and I’d have to take an additional stroke or two so that was always a bummer. Still, I dug the succinct stages and the puzzle-like nature of the game and it held my interest for the entirety of the demo.
May 12, 2013
Now try not to get confused here, but the next game my friend and I played was Shotgun Wizard. Previously we had played a game called Gun Mage so the fact that there were two games with drastically similar names was something of a comedy, like Dead Space and Killzone. Even the developers were joking around with each other. These were two dissimilar games however.
Controlling the eponymous shotgun wizard, players were confined to a side-scrolling room that was continually bombarded by skateboarders, babies on balloons, and bouncer-size men. The shotgun used had three types of magical ammunition that players could switch between on the fly. In fact, it was encouraged through the game’s scoring system. Getting kills by alternating ammunition increased the score multiplier. Not utilizing this tactic would result in lackluster scores.
Shotgun Wizard was a score attack game and my only gripe was with its controls. Movement was done with S and D or the arrow keys, looking was the result of moving the mouse left or right, jumping was W or the up arrow, ammunition switching was the E key, and shooting was done with a left mouse click. I never got the hang of moving left and right and also having to look left or right, so when it got hectic (and believe me, it did) I cratered quickly. Still, with enough practice, it was fun trying to outdo my best score.
May 11, 2013
Having actually completed Gun Mage, my friend and I moved onto Pet Duck, another game that I was able to see through to the end. Pet Duck was a lighthearted top-down action game which saw the player searching through maze-like stages in search of their pet duck. The player character was equipped with a gun but I found it inefficient – I wound up playing the game doing my best to evade enemy fire and I found enjoyment through that.
There were about five stages and humorously, when the player found the duck in all but the final stage, it turned out to be a decoy. The text explaining this had me grinning each time. The most impressive aspect of the game was the soundtrack. It was an epic summer-blockbuster sort of theme that totally didn’t match the game. But, it was just one more contextual thing that made the game humorous. Pet Duck wound up winning the game showcase so congrats are in order for End to Begin Games.
This past weekend saw The University of Tulsa hosting the Heartland Gaming Expo 2013. Per the website, the goal of the event was to showcase the creation and development of video games in the central region of the United States, primarily Oklahoma. There were a few different events and it was free and open to the public Saturday and Sunday. My friend and I went Sunday morning and hung out for a few hours, playing the games that were present and chatting with their designers.
It was pretty desolate when we went on Sunday morning as many of the participants were taking part in the eighteen hour hack-a-thon that began Saturday evening. From what we gathered from some of the designers, many others just didn’t show up Sunday – which isn’t surprising as there didn’t seem to be much publicity for the event. Besides my friend and I, there were only five or so other spectators. There were about fifteen designers present though and it seemed like everyone was enjoying each other’s company.
The first game I played was Project Land Mineded. It was a first-person shooter focusing on arena-based multiplayer. It was designed with the Unreal Development Kit and was undoubtedly the most technologically-proficient game present. The game was a fast-paced, twitchy sort of deathmatch game through and through but it had an interesting hook. The sole weapon was a rocket launcher and after firing a rocket, it ricocheted a time or two before losing momentum and becoming a stationary mine. Before too long, the arena was ridiculously littered with mines, meaning evading them was nigh-on impossible.
Project Land Mineded was designed by a Norman, OK high school student – Marty Rand. What’s perhaps most impressive about the game is that it was designed using nothing but free software such as GIMP and UDK. The game’s technological proweress made a little more sense when he elaborated that he’s been programming for a long time, specifically robotic programming. He said he’d like to continue on in the game design realm and I think he has a bright future. Project Land Mineded was a blast and I can imagine with a little tweaking, it could be a commercially available product.
April 21, 2013
The Room is a puzzle game in the strictest sense. Players need not worry themselves with anything but solving puzzles. In each of the four stages, players are plopped down in front of a box composed of many mechanical locks. It is usually these, and other mechanical objects on the boxes that represent puzzles. Figuring out how they operated was the main brain drain.
Unlike Mansion of Hidden Souls and Juggernaut, I felt like The Room did a better job of implementing puzzles. The former games were puzzle games yes, but they placed more emphasis on exploring an environment, finding items, and making a connection as to where they needed to be used. This game’s puzzles are more self-contained in part because there’s no environment exploration. The boxes need to be scoured for clues, I mean scoured, but there’s no other exploration. The puzzles in the game were serious thinkers though.
With four brief stages, it only took me a few bedtime sessions to complete, most of the time though, I was staring at my tablet deep in thought trying to work a puzzle out. If not that scenario, then I was inspecting every inch of the larger box trying to figure out what to work on next. There’s a faint amount of narrative in the form of notes from a researcher friend, but it’s supplementary. They enhanced the mystery surrounding why the player is doing what they’re doing, but the puzzles were the motivation, at least for me.
This was the first output of Fireproof Games, a British studio made up of seasoned designers and I thought it was a mature experience among the cartoonish chaff that populates mobile platforms. The Room is available on Android and iOS devices for $1.99.