Sunday, July 31, 2011

Portal 2

I know, I know, 74 days before writing this I posted a blog entry cheerfully touting how the hype didn't live up to the promise of Portal 2 according to a number of internet reviews.  I suppose I should be more careful about who's opinion I trust before I comment or even play a game.  The "trusted sources" often have a different expectation that I do. 

Having now played the game I honestly can't see what they were complaining about.   Were they looking for an impossible series of challenges with ridiculous control sequences like something out of Virtua fighter?  If so then you've forgotten the games root's lie firmly in the Half Life universe.  If you don't know how that's relevant then you've likely spent too much of your life playing stripped down PC games on a console.
I've only recently started to play it and have a few hours into the single player game.  I actually have more time into the coop mode playing with friends than I do in the single player game.  The wonderful thing about Portal 2's coop mode is that it's a completely different game set in the same context.  So playing with friends doesn't give anything away about the single player game.

In cooperative mode there are innumerable opportunities to abuse your teammates if you so choose.  Trust and collaborative effort are the keys to success but watching your teammate fly across the room like Wyle E. Coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon tickles your inner 5 year old.

The Wise cracking GLADOS is there in cooperative mode as well so you can be sure that less than stellar performance will earn you a relevant wisecrack. 

It's almost a shame that the game had the level of promotion that it did.  I saw television commercials, banner ads, billboards and even heard radio ads for it in the months leading to its release.  That much hype is usually hiding an inferior product but that doesn't appear to be the case with Portal 2.

If you played the first game much of Portal 2's gameplay will be familiar. The puzzles are challenging but as a friend of mine put it the other day, the ambiguity is gone.  Nothings more irritating than failing a challenge because you couldn't judge minute distances in a virtual environment.  The chances of failing a challenge because your portal is 2 inches off exact center of a platform are virtually nil. 

It's about the ambiance of your environment and the puzzle to be solved not strange game engine quirks that ruin the experience.

So, I enjoy it and it's lived up to the hype so far.  

I stand corrected...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Steam had a sale...

So Steam had a big ol' summer sale.  Most of it didn't interest me but my inner 5 year old couldn't help but keep tabs on it. 

Ok so I heard Test Drive Unlimited 2 was a disaster but at 10 bucks it's worth a try.

So with great indifference I pulled the trigger.  The verdict...

It's a disaster.

If you played the first game you'll get up to speed pretty quickly.  It's the same game just on a different island. 

The car control is maybe 10% better but the "ambiance" is 100% worse and intrusive.  If you're going to force me to engage in the "lifestyle" aspects of the game at least get some decent voice actors and give me something interesting to look at.  The graphics don't appear to have improved from the first game so no saving grace there.  All the characters in the game look like animated barbie dolls with one too many botox injections.  I guess flailing arms and bobbing heads are supposed to add to the realism.  To me they all look like they're having some sort of fit. 

Oh, did I mention that the game crashed twice on me within 30 minutes of playing it?  Even Shift 2 couldn't do that...

I heard there was a strike by 50% of the employees of developer, Eden Games in May.  To my mind the other 50% should have went with them and just kept walking.  I just feel fortunate that this thing didn't cost me more than a 12 pack of my favorite brew.  The only real fun I had was harassing the other online players by ramming them with my in-game 67 Mustang.  The other players had some nice cars too which tells me one of two things.  They invested too much money and time into this game and deserve the abuse or they cheated and similarly deserve the abuse.  Either way, they get abused till I get my $10 worth.

Steam had some other goodies come up that I'm happier with, however.  I picked up Portal 2 and And Fallout New Vegas with 2 DLC packs all for about 50 bucks total.  That's what Atari wanted for TDU2 when it came out in February, boy would I have been ticked off..

I haven't had a chance to install Fallout:New Vegas but I look forward to it.  I enjoyed Fallout 3 and the premise of the followup seems tailor made for the franchise. I look forward to it.

I DID install Portal 2 and started the single player campaign last weekend.  I'm enjoying it so far.  I just hope I don't have to "cheat" on it with youtube too early on in the game.  The aura of decay that permeates the game and the brilliant voice acting makes the game engrossing.  I had to stop more than once while playing because of uncontrollable laughter at a perfectly timed one-liner.  Portal 2 has taken an original idea and made it better.  They know how to do ambiance as well.  You can't help but get invested in the story when the environment can determine your success instead of just being a backdrop.  TDU2's ambiance in comparison is much like those pop-up story books with the BIG LETTERS.

Co-op in Portal 2 (you know how I feel about co-op) is EXCELLENT  as well.  It brings in all the aspects of the single player game but goes in a completely different direction.  This gives whole new meaning to co-op gameplay that goes beyond scoring or skill points.  If you don't work together you don't get anywhere.  Although just standing there can be entertaining in itself.

So I've got 1 miss, 1 hit and 1 maybe out of the Steam Sale.  Not a bad average considering I paid maybe 1/4 of the price that I would have had I bought all 3 at full price.