Sunday, August 31, 2008

Thoughts on Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

One of my primary reasons for getting a Playstation 3 was to play Naughty Dog's Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. It seemed like a great blending of Tomb Raider and Kill.Switch, with lots of action and adverturing. As it turns out, it does indeed live up to its potential.

I'm a little late to the game with this one, I know. I only got my PS3 about a month ago, so I still have a lot of catching up to do. Uncharted doesn't seem to be a long game (I've heard that it's quite short, actually), so this is my game for the weekend. The recent patch for trophy support is nice, and I can now pursue my trophy whoring with confidence!

The first thing that hit me was just how great Uncharted looks. This game is absolutely gorgeous, and I'm playing on an SDTV. I can only imagine how good it looks in HD, and I'll soon find out once my check from GamesTM ever gets here so I can buy one. The environments are beautiful, and the water effects are spectacular (Drake's soaked look when wet is great). Naughty Dog provided PS3 owners with a great showcase of the console's power with this one. I especially loved the Spanish fort area. Puerto Rico is chock-full of those, and it was great to see such wonderful architecture used in a video game!

I have only a few issues with the gameplay, which while great, could be a bit tighter. The cover system is a bit cumbersome sometimes, and moving from a high to a crouching position in a single movement isn't as smooth as it should be. Shooting from the hip is more trouble than it's worth too, especially when headshots are as easy as they are fun. Fisticuffs are awkward at times, but I hardly ever found myself in the need to punch someone when ammunition was so plentiful.

I haven't finished the game yet, but I can honestly say that it made my Playstation 3 purchase worth it. This is exactly the type of game I like, and it's got a great story and awesome visuals to go with the solid gameplay. If you've got Sony's latest console and still don't have Uncharted, I strongly urge you to pick it up.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wii Out

It's gone. Sold. Out of my life. I no longer own a Wii.

And you know what? I don't miss it. I know there are a handful of games I enjoyed, and that there are a few others out there that I might like, but I just don't have the interest in Nintendo's latest license to print money. This year's E3 was enough to show me that the company no longer has my tastes in mind, and it's since moved on to another audience entirely. That's fine, as I know every company is in this business to make money. Nintendo's got a good thing going, and it's going to milk the hell out of it.

By the same token, I too have a right to search other options, and that's exactly what I did. The same day I sold my entire Wii package (with the exception of Super Mario Galaxy), I waltzed over to Wal-Mart and bought a Playstation 3. I was lucky enough to snag one of the Metal Gear Solid 4 bundles, so I got a backwards-compatible console with the Dual Shock 3 controller, and it all came with a great game to boot. A few days later, Mario was gone in trade-in, and I now own Motorstorm and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. A pretty good start, if I do say so myself.

It all comes down to personal taste. The Playstation 3 doesn't have a ton of games I want right now, but it has more potential for me than the Wii does. I now have a Blu-Ray player and a console that has some excellent titles in the pipeline, and the Playstation Store has a ton of goodies that I'll be trying out. Super Stardust HD is awesome (not as good as Geometry Wars Evolved 2, but awesome nonetheless), and the current library has a few titles that should keep me busy for a while, so the console is going to get its share of play time.

The Wii, on the other hand, seems to be made with my five year-old daughter in mind, and virtually nothing announced interests me at all. Mad, Mad World looks great, but that's just a single game for the next twelve months, and none of the music, gardening, teeth-cleaning games Nintendo's announced move me in the slightest. The weak future schedule only reaffirms my belief that the Wii is not made for me, so I've opted for a console that is.

Many people love the Wii, and that's fine. The library has to appeal to someone, suppose, but it certainly does nothing for me. Reggie's pompous announcement that Animal Crossing is all the "core" gaming I'll ever need proves that Nintendo and I have parted ways. Moreover, the House of Mario recently stated that none of its "core" titles will be ready for 2009, which means that my dollars will be spent elsewhere.

I may still get a DS sometime in the future, but I think I've just sold my last Nintendo console. The weirdest thing is that I'm not bothered by that fact at all.

I guess Nintendo's not the only one that's moved on.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ready, Set, Achieve!

I love achievements. Those tiny little rewards that pop up every so often when playing an Xbox 360 game really make me happy, and I've found myself playing certain games longer than I normally would because of them. Many people don't care for them, and that's understandable, but to deride them makes little sense.

I think the charm of achievements lies in that they represent something we've been doing in games for years, only now it's been given a more prominent role. No one ever complained about how unlockables like new character clothing and items seemed like a cheap way to keep you playing, and many would argue that finding these hidden treasures and getting 100% in a particular game added to its overall value. Achievements only represent the natural evolution of the "unlockable."

To me, they offer enticing challenges that allow me to play further into a game than I normally would. Now, playing a crap game just for achievements is one thing, and it's something I'm completely against, but trying to 100% a game by unlocking all its achievements is something else entirely. When the achievements are practical and well-implemented, they can become challenging additions to an already fun game. Examples of this are achievements like completing all the guild quests in Oblivion. I know people who bypassed the guild quests entirely, and by doing so, they not only missed out on the achievements, but they also left some gaping holes in a lot of the sub plots that really added life to the game.

There are also achievements designed for bragging rights, like completing a game on its highest difficulty or getting 100% of every item. These are no different really, than the high scores tables of old, and I think there's nothing wrong with a gamer receiving a permanent citation for working his ass off in a particular title. I'm quite proud of several achievements of this type, and I like the idea of other people being able to see my accomplishments.

Granted, there has been poor implementation of achievements in a lot of games, and this is completely unacceptable. Games like Avatar, Madden 2006, and Blue Dragon have horrible achievements that are either pathetically easy or tedious beyond belief. These add nothing to their games, and show that lazy developers can be lazy in every aspect of their work. This should not be tolerated or encouraged by anyone.

So what do you think? Are achievements a positive thing or a detriment to gaming?