Sunday, 25 April 2010

Left 4 Dead 2: The passing

I know you don't normally do a review for extra content for a game but shut up your mum doesn't mind when I try something different. For those of you that don't already know (because you've been on the dark side of the moon the last 4 years) Left 4 Dead is the premium "Zombie survival game" made by awesome enthusiasts Valve, you play as one of four survivors who have well... survived a zombie apocalypse (so far), and in the spirit of Top Gear are set some challenges, ok not quite like that but close.

The passing is the latest instalment of Left 4 Dead 2, taking place between Dead Centre and Kiddieland, with it a new map and a few bells and whistles:
The stupidly awesome M-60 (which bends the difficulty over the table and gives it a good going over), a golf club (which is fun but i can't see if it's any better than any other melee weapon) and mutations mode (a new gameplay mode).

Now lets just talk about the Mutations mode for a sec, it's more or less a game mode that takes another game mode and changes (mutates) it in a different way every week, and this is actually a pretty cool idea in theory, but i feel in reality valve are going to have a devils own job in getting it balanced. For example the first week it's versus realism, versus by itself is pretty well balanced, but when you add in the fact the survivors are playing it with realism turned on it becomes very heavily stacked in favour of the infected team, I suspect that the people who will find this fun are those that are either really bad at this game or really good, but hey each mode is only on for a week so who really cares.

Ok time for the meat of this review. The new maps, after playing it a few times I had to ask myself something, did valve really make this campaign or did they just steal a player made one? because it doesn't seem at all like a professionally made one. The layout is confusing and at times feels like an urban maze, at one point there were about 5 different paths i could take 4 of which lead to dead ends and the final one was quite frankly the least obvious of the 5. You may think that it's just because I was playing for the first time and was being retarded, and while the latter is still in question, on my 4th time round I still managed to go round in a circle and start backtracking because I didn't see the stupid small brown plank against the dark brown background, especially considering I saw the big open and inviting doorway first. I think the main problem with it is in all the other campaigns the player was given a vague idea of where they should be aiming for, while in 'The Passing' it just feels like each encounter zone is randomly slotted together like a 5 year old's attempt to make a castle out of lego.
The big selling point (I know this update was free, it's just a phrase) is the fact you have the original survivors in it from the first game, but it just seems to me like it's has too many forced interactions, and it just feels like at some point a fanboy was given a say over the dialogue... well actually not just the dialogue almost everything felt that way, just something to set the original ones up as demigods compared to the new characters.
And the last item of my check list of things wrong with the new maps is the final scavenger map, similar to the one they had in Dead centre only that this one is crap. Like the rest of the map it's confusing to navigate with the petrol can's halos being counter-productive rather than helpful. You do get help from the original survivors which is good for all about nothing considering you spend most of the time outside of their range fetching petrol cans scattered in the most anal places possible. While with the other campaigns you get something to give you a big finish, like a car driving through a wall or a bridge exploding, no such luck in 'The Passing', all you get is the car driving down a straight road.

So over all the new campaign is a disappointment but the new weapons and game mode are quite nice, the M-60 itself being one of the most satisfying guns I've ever had the pleasure of firing in a video game since playing Painkiller, more so when you mix it up with frag or fire bullets which result in nothing short of tank rape.
I can see this being the start of more DLC to come for L4D2, which is good because when they do it right, it's amazing, it's just this time it was only average.

I'll give it a 3 out of 5 (Not as good as i was hoping but the M-60 is awesome)

Thursday, 22 April 2010


Well this is my first blog... post whatever you call this, so I'll start with a game I've played quite a bit in the last few weeks, Torchlight.

Torchlight is a PC exclusive RPG available on steam for a nominal price of about £15, but you'd be a sucker if you bought it for that much, this game, since release, has been on sale more times than would seem fair, as i'd much rather get Modern warfare at 75% off than this. But fascist pricing systems aside lets get back to things. Ok I will say now that to be fair to the game it should be reviewed by someone who likes RPG's, but life's not fair so i'm reviewing it.

Lets start with the big thing with any RPG game, the story, since there is only really a handful of fantasy adventurer story lines to choose from and most of them boil down to you going and beating an evil force of some description, i'll accept that this generalisation will cover a huge amount of games that have a story, but lets just run with it for a sec. In Torchlight you are either a bulky disproportioned melee enthusiast (male), a thin and busty ranged specialist (female) or skinny white magic man (male not that i needed to say this time). Each of the characters has their own reason for being in the mining village of Torchlight (Original naming i know, it says town in the game but there are only like 12 buildings) but they all have something to do with the magical substance called ember, now ember is, i imagine, a writers convenience do all and end all, something like how the force went in the star wars films towards the end, simply put if you have some ember you can do magic. You then get assimilated by an NPC to start the main quest and your adventure through the suspiciously large dungeon of evil things. I won't say much more specific for two reasons, 1 there isn't really much more to say without listing the whole plot, and 2 some of you might want to actually play this game after this. I will just conclude that the story isn't first rate, if it was a movie it's be a B movie.

Ok lets talk graphics, Torchlight owes a lot of it's graphical design to World of Warcraft, hell Torchlight's character creation is just a stripped out copy of WoW's. But you know it won't be the first, last or worst game to copy WoW, so it doesn't lose any points for it.
I have to say that this game seems to be very well optimised as my craptop with it's on-board graphics chip can run this game at full settings, and i can't even do that with audiosurf.
The character design is quite aesthetically pleasing, i wouldn't really say that there's anything very wrong with any of them. The map design, on the other hand, is where it gets tricky, each individual map theme is good by itself, but it's like the map designers couldn't settle on picking a theme and just subtly changing things from then on, so they just made every fantasy theme for the game.
In order you have:
The crystal mine,
Haunted library,
Aztec ruins,
The bat cave,
A goblin larva Fortress,
Generic dwarf castle,
Evil fortress of solitude,
and back to the bat cave for the final boss.
So you can see it's more than just varied, i was surprised that i didn't find myself on the starship enterprise, but hey that's what Mods are for.

Lets move onto some of the annoying things, in the first picture above you can see the inventory screens for yourself and your pet, and that's all the storage you really have while playing the game, there's a stash in the village that acts as a sort of bank but that's only really good for storing things you won't ever need right away, and it's very limited too. You may be thinking that there seems to be more than enough space for the average adventurer, and that would be true if monsters didn't drop equipment constantly, and there are so many of the little buggers, you end up with a rather full inventory rather quickly and your forced to send your dog back to town to sell off what it has got, and this got me wondering how the hell does the dog not only sell the gear but have any monetary concept to know how much the stuff is worth, is this Scooby-doo or something?
As well as the anal storage issues the game also is mouse heavy, to the point where almost all the user interface is through the mouse, which you may think is good, but here's a problem:
The movement system works by clicking the area you want to move to (or by holding down the mouse button to continuously move, although this little bit of information isn't freely available and i had to be told on a loading screen hint about it) and the combat system works by clicking on the monster you want to kill and then clicking again because this game thinks auto attacks are for the feeble, now if lets say this monster is of all things moving around and there are lots of them (and there will be lots of them) you spend all your time running in circles franticly trying to click on the stupid spider that's slowly nibbling away at your giblets. Again there a fix for this but it's luck of the draw if you get the loading screen with the right hint or not.

Torchlight isn't all bad, and it does have it's moments of awesomeness, like the Emperor Palpatine lightning attack, it's just these moments are few and far between and this is because this game wants to be a MMORPG, it wants to be WoW.
For all extents and purposes this game is a single player MMORPG, and to make it a longer and more repetitive one they have a system that allows you to permanently "retire" a character so you can start the whole game over again with a piece of gear that is slightly better and some other stuff too. It's not really all that clear on the matter, all i know is that it's an utterly shameful but effective way to make you play the game several times.

I did say above this game does have player made mods and these, so far, range from interesting to pathetic (not naming and names of course), but none of them really do what i'd expect from a mod, maybe i've been tainted by the high standard array of Half life mods that are out there, and they've ruined me for other games, but i get the distinct impression that what all the mods really do is add paint and ribbons to the outside of the game, with the core staying exactly the same. I can't be the only one that wants a star wars version of this as i run around as Han Solo shooting storm troopers in the face on board the Deathstar, you know something completely different.

I will conclude that Torchlight is an addictive game but it's let down by the shameless grind and gameplay lengthening schemes, it was well worth the few quid i paid for it, but i'd hardly call it a decent game.

I'll give it 2 out of 5 (good effort but I've seen much better).