Video Games: XBox One Versus PS4 Versus Wii U Versus PC

It really seems like Microsoft has miscalculated with their next gen. They want a hundred bucks more than the PS4, but you don’t get better graphics (the PS4 actually has the faster RAM) or more hard drive for that. You get like a camera that watches you at all times. And you get Microsoft’s DRM which means you only sort of own your games as you can’t sell them or even lend them to friends. And what’s with how you have to pay a monthly fee to Microsoft to be able to watch Netflix on your XBox, i.e., I have to pay a monthly fee to be able to use my internet I already pay for to use my Netflix service I already pay for on the XBox I already paid for. What am I paying Microsoft to do in this exchange? Seems like it’s more like extortion than a service.

Anyway, I’ve never owned a Playstation or an XBox. I’ve been a Nintendo loyalist and have owned every Nintendo home console. But this time I have no desire to get the Wii U. I mean, they couldn’t even get it powerful enough to match what’s soon going to be known as the “previous gen.” Nintendo makes a lot of fun, exclusive games, but sometimes I want those third party games, but third parties don’t always want to make a neutered, under-powered version of their game for Nintendo’s lagging hardware. I’m really starting to wish Nintendo gave up on the hardware and just made their awesome games for other systems.

So, anyway, with no plans to get the Wii U (well, maybe when it’s discounted and there is a new Zelda for it), I was thinking of finally getting XBox — as XBox seemed to have the better exclusive games versus the Playstation. But now I’m thinking Playstation after E3. They won me over.

Or maybe I should just save the money and get a new gaming laptop. I assume the game companies now targeting the next gen hardware will cause me to finally need to upgrade my computer to keep up. But even though a PC costs more, gaming wise it still seems the better deal with all the $2.50 games I can get off Steam when they’re on sale versus paying $60 (or more) for new games for consoles. I mean, I already have a huge backlog of games on Steam I haven’t even started yet (being a parent leave little time for gaming; can’t wait until the kids are hold enough to play FPSs with me and we can call that quality time).

So, what say the gamers out there?

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Video Games: Resident Evil 6

Wow. Resident Evil 6 was a long game. It’s made of four campaigns you can play in any order, and they are four self-contained, yet interconnected stories and each plays pretty different. It’s almost like four separate games (well, three and a half). And, as usual, the story was intriguing while the dialogue was super-cliched. And, once again, the graphics were great; since the Gamecube, the Resident Evil people seem to be able to push a little extra out of one’s system graphics wise. Oh, and this is like the first Resident Evil in about a decade to actually have zombies in it.

So why was it so disappointing?

Now, once again I need to mention that Resident Evil 4 was one of the greatest games ever made. Resident Evil 5, while seeming a lot like number 4, was just vaguely disappointing. And this one followed even more in that path, somehow getting further from whatever it was that made 4 so great.

Here’s the problems I could identify:

* First and biggest, they completely neutered the whole weapon portion of the game. One of the joys of 4 was that there was different weapons to try (giving more reasons to play through again) and that you got to upgrade those weapons and become more powerful as the game progressed. This one got rid of that entirely as you now only get certain weapons during the campaign and there is no upgrading them. The only advancement your character gets are three skills you can buy with skill points and have active, but that feels less like constant advancement because often you’ll be trading in more of a lateral move (like trade higher defense for more weapon damage). Plus, the good ones take a lot of saving up to get to so you might be buying new ones pretty seldom. Anyway, this part was a huge step backwards.

* The game is very linear. 4 had some big areas you could explore and backtrack through. 5 had less of that. 6 pretty much gets rid of that entirely. It’s much more like a movie, and it has lots of scripted events constantly pushing you in one direction. I really miss the exploring and hunting for treasure which is almost gone entirely.

* The inventory limitations were annoying. That’s always been so in Resident Evil, but it felt more so in this one where eventually you’re deciding whether to keep reloads for a weapon or have room to pick up two herbs and mix them. And some of it is so arbitrary; for instance, you can keep around a 125 round of handgun ammo in one slot but only 60 of rifle rounds that your automatic rifle will quickly burn through. Plus, I really miss the inventory system of 4 where things took up slots based on size and you could make more logical choices of what to keep (and sell off what you didn’t want). Of course, for that, you’d need to be able to pause to go into inventory, and that doesn’t work for coop.

* Stop building Resident Evil around coop! They started that with 5, and I thought they would have learned their mistake. It’s just stupid to have to fit in two players constantly and it must really shackle the game designers in what they can do. One campaign is built around having just one player, but they do allow a second magical coop character if you’re one of those people in love with coop in Resident Evil games. And if you are, you’re worse than Hitler.

* The save system is horrible. You see “Checkpoint Reached” pretty constantly, but that only applies to your current game. If you want to keep your progress, you have to wait until you get to a section where “Saving” appears (you see that each time you restart after dying, but that one doesn’t count). These save section can be like twenty minutes or more of game time between them. Was this game made in the 1990s? Twenty minutes between checkpoints is just unconscionable these days. Allow someone to stop the game and pick it back up again wherever; we have the technology, people.

Also, I just miss the typewriter areas from 4 and previous. You’d be fighting for your life and then have this little respite when you’d hear the save room song. That’s a big thing to be missing.

I have a few other gripes (like the same button being used for both shooting your gun and melee which seemed clunky), but they seem minor. The issue is that Resident Evil 4 was one of the greatest games ever, and this one was okay but forgettable and I’m trying to understand why. Come on, Capcom. Figure this out and finally make a worthy follow up to 4 next time.

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Video Games: LucasArts

So, LucasArts is shutting down. That’s kind of a big deal to me; so many of my great video game memories are from their games. I really liked their X-Wing/Tie Fighter games and the Dark Forces series was great (the second one where you first got the lightsaber and force powers and had video of live action light saber fights — not seen officially in years — was unbelievable at the time), but their adventure games were the greatest thing ever. Of course, The Secret of Monkey Island is one of the greatest games of all time (the puzzle where you’re stuck underwater weighted by a statue is my favorite adventure game puzzle of all time — I completely fell for that one and it was so hilarious when I figured it out; I actually reference this puzzle in a novel I’m working on). And Sam & Max Hit the Road was the first CD game with voice my brother and I played when we finally got a new computer as kids, and I still reference jokes from that one. And Full Throttle was epic. And Grim Fandango — well, it’s travesty that never got the attention it deserved.

I first learned about adventure games with Sierra — Police Quest, Space Quest, Kings Quest — but LucasArts did them better. I mean, as a young kid, I could not quickly type out commands. Plus, that you could get stuck late in a Sierra game because you missed picking something up in the beginning is just awful. The point and click, no dying, no getting stuck model that LucasArts primarily used was much better and allowed you just to have fun. But the pick-up-everything-not-nailed-down adventure game eventually fell out of favor, and the last one I can recall LucasArts doing was Monkey Island IV which I played back in college. And it just doesn’t seem LucasArts did much significant since then; the last game I really loved of there’s was Knights of the Old Republic which was actually made by Bioware.

Still, LucasArts will always be remembered for their contribution to gaming. And if you don’t think they’re awesome, all I have to say to you is: “How appropriate. You fight like a cow.”

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Video Games: Black Ops 2

So I played through Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and what’s to say? It’s Call of Duty. You have a good single player campaign, well-acted (and written by one of the scribes from Dark Knight), but the main thing is the multiplayer which I would still be playing if I didn’t have other games to get to. I like how they changed killstreak to scorestreak so people wouldn’t just focus on kills when they should be doing things like capturing the flag.

Anyway, my one big complaint about the game: The guns are stupid looking. They’re big weird blocky things. This is because the game takes place in the future, so they’re supposed to be new future guns. Except it takes place in 2025 — only 12 years in the future. Think about what guns were like back in 2001 versus today. Pretty much no noticeable difference. Yet, I’m supposed to believe in the next 12 years there will be some sort of gun renaissance where there will be basically no recognizable guns left but only weird-looking things.

Come on, people; one of the reasons people like these games is the realistic guns, so don’t throw this future crap at us.

Oh, and a question for people who play Call of Duty: Do you like that zombie mode? I’ve tried it a couple times and don’t get it. You shoot zombies until you die, trying to get a high score — except they’re kind boring zombies to shoot. People enjoy that?

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Video Games: Assassin’s Creed 2

So I picked up Assassin’s Creed 2 a little while ago because Steam had it for like $5 and I never had played an Assassin’s Creed game and that was supposed to be the best of the series. Each time you start up the game, it has this assurance that the people involved came from a wide variety of religious faiths, which made me like, “Oh man; what are there going to do in this game?” But the plot is all conspiracies and stuff — mainly in Renaissance era Italy — and it’s all rather hard to take seriously enough to be offensive.

Anyway, I was ultimately disappointed in the game. When first playing the game, I was like, “This is the best game ever!” You hold two buttons down and then you go into “Free-Run” mode which means if the main character hits a building, he automatically finds hand holds and scrambles up it. So people will be chasing you on the ground and soon enough you’re leaping from rooftop to rooftop and it’s really cool. It’s a bit like Prince of Persia, but more automated in that he automatically finds the right place to leap to and grab — most of the time.

Anyway, the game is very sandbox, and I was just loving running around the city collecting items and finding new vantage points (towers you need to climb to get more view of the city and open up more of the map).

But ultimately the game broke down.


* The automated jumping around works most of the time, but it happened pretty often I thought I was jumping to safety but instead the game had me do a suicidal leap to my death. The most challenging parts in the game were timed events that had you doing acrobatics — mainly because he kept not jumping where I wanted him to.

* Traveling around the roofs is fun, but for some reason the game puts archers on the rooftops to yell at you and keep you from doing that. They very seldom add any actual challenge to the game and only seemed to keep me from having harmless fun moving around the city on the roofs.

* The combat is boring. Maybe I’m just spoiled by the Batman Arkham games. In those, you see a large group of enemies, and you’re like, “Oh! Joy! A bunch of enemies to beat up for fun!” In here, fighting a large group of enemies was tedious. They only ever attack you one at a time and aren’t very challenging (plus you have more healing items then you would ever actually need). And your attacks (other than the final kill) aren’t very satisfying as it’s usually just your sword clanging against their armor and not seeming like it’s doing much damage. It’s more fun and a challenge to run away and lose your pursuers, but you never actually need to do that because the enemies are never much of a threat.

* The assassinations are actually kind of boring. You run up and stab the guy most of the time. You pretty much are always going to cause a ruckus doing it (this isn’t Hitman with a variety of stealthy ways to kill — actually, you’re more of an assassin in Hitman while more of a hitman — killing people publicly and noisily — in Assassin’s Creed).

* There a notoriety rating based on being witnessed doing crimes and stuff that ended up being completely pointless.

* The main character in modern times looks like a model strutting down a runway when he walks.

Really, what I found most fun in this game was the sandbox stuff of running around the city collecting things, and I was only motivated to do the main quests to open up more of the map. And then I didn’t finish the game because the main quests got tedious to me and I was only going through them to say I finished the game (which I’ve vowed to stop doing as I don’t have enough video game time these days to spend it playing games I no longer find fun). And the story wasn’t interesting enough to make me wonder what happened in the end (it’s just guys being all shady with conspiracies but nothing really jumped out). Basically, I think the game overstayed its welcome as it didn’t have enough variety of gameplay for its length (I actually put like 30 hours in it). I probably would have liked it more if it were shorter. But now I’m so worn out from it I can’t even imagine picking up one of the sequels (the new one will have pirates, though…)

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