Tag Archives: third-person shooter

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

First completed video game in ages! Moving and getting married are hard, distracting work. Anyway, knowledge of this game’s release was exciting, because I’ve played the rest of the series in part as a bonding experience with my father. Then it took long enough post-release for me to get him to my house[1] that I probably should not have pre-ordered after all? Whatever, the price is only like $20 less even now.

Last Nathan Drake game, I said the series needed some kind of plot shake-up to avoid the trap of “these are all the same game”. Because, I mean, they are. You climb around on walls, you shoot people who are guaranteed to shoot at you if you don’t (and probably even if you do), and you seek a really big treasure of some kind. It is known.

My point is this: A Thief’s End provided the shake-up I wanted. Good job, game designers of the previous future / current past! See, it starts with a flashback to an unguessed at childhood, then proceeds through some things that I would definitely consider spoilers, resulting in yet another treasure hurt, of course, but in a way that pre-empts at least some amount of the currently in vogue backlash against how Nathan Drake and so many other video game avatars are “murder hobos”, willing to slaughter dozens or hundreds of foes standing in the way of said treasure. And then the epilogue provides a whole new kind of shake-up, to boot!

The title indicates that this is the last game in the series. If it is, I think it went out on a really good note. If it isn’t, I’ll get the next one, because how could I not? I definitely liked it, which is not a shock considering my previous reviews on the series. But most of all, I appreciated the new depth to, well, every part of the game.

Huh. No. That’s not true. The depth of the fighting and climbing is basically identical. But there were some new and improved aspects of how to move around the map and solve the puzzles, and mostly I meant the plot. Which you probably already knew. Jerk.

[1] I have a PS4, he does not. His possession of a PS3 is why the other series entries were played at the Ranch, you see.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

91jwO5PCReL._SL1500_A quote from my review of the first Uncharted game, lo these many years ago: Pretty much, it’s a Tomb Raider game where they reduced the budget on breast motion physics and invested that money into storyline and dialogue. It was, I think, a good trade.

I have a feeling that someone paid attention to that sentiment, because just a few years later Eidos rebooted the Tomb Raider franchise with exactly those modifications to the bottom line. And while I like the Uncharted series quite a lot, Lara Croft is a character I’ve been following for decades. Seeing her in the game she’s deserved ever since her inception was a pure joy.

Tomb Raider charts her progress from young archaeologist on her first big historical search to seasoned fighter of enraged beasts and evil men, not to mention world-class gymnast, expert mountaineer, and well, tomb raider. Which is to say, yes, it’s kind of silly if you don’t willingly blind yourself to that kind of thing. But the game solidly scratched my exploration and collection itches, redeemed a character that had always deserved better, and told a really good story along the way. I look forward to snagging the sequel.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

81Evx+k+qaL._SL1500_So, I’ve never played a Metal Gear game. It is plausibly the video game series about which I know the absolute least, in fact. I knew there was some guy named Snake who uses stealth and explosion tactics as needed to do military missions, and that’s about it. But Ground Zeroes was free on XBox Live and I have a new console, so, hey, why not?

Now I have learned that Snake is the occasional head of a South American third wheel uneasily placed between the US and the USSR during the Cold War, who uses those stealth and explosion tactics I mentioned earlier. In this particular game, he uses them to infiltrate Guantanamo Bay in 1975 and rescue two of his teenage proteges from the CIA prison camp onsite. Also, something about his group having nuclear capabilities and being inspected by the UN tomorrow, so he’d better do his rescue mission fast? I cannot tell if I was supposed to feel like a bad guy, nor if I would have felt less like one if I’d played the previous games.

What I do know is that it was damned short and did not leave me craving either the sequel or the many preceding games in the series. Gameplay was fine, but the storyline was definitely not friendly to newcomers. Which may be my fault? It honestly is weird that I know nothing about this series, but nevertheless, here we are.

Dead Space

71OSRxkysVL._SL1199_So, Dead Space. This is a game I should have completed and reviewed years ago. I mean, literally. Years. I started playing it in 2009, splitting time with my friend Billy. And after a couple-few weekends, we ran out of time and stopped, and I kept not playing it, thinking we’d pick it back up. But that never happened and I suppose never will, now.

I started over, anyway, and had a pretty good time at it. See, you’re this guy who is part of a team landing on a mining ship that sent a distress call and then went dark. It turns out that they had a really good reason in the forms of a weird alien artifact, a recent religion, and a bunch of undead things combined into the twilight of humanity. Unless, of course, you the player can find a way to survive the ship, prevent the coming apocalypse, and save your girlfriend.

At a high level, this game reminded me a lot of Ridley Scott’s Aliens. Too much religion, too much focus on dismemberment as the best way to kill things instead of just shooting them a lot. But the aloneness, the helplessness in the face of superior forces with no good way to leave except by killing everything in your path, and the essential alienness of the foe? It is a good recipe, and probably made the game better than it deserved to be by proxy. But hey, as long as I have fun, whatever works is cool by me.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

I like that the Uncharted games are end-of-year releases. My parents enjoy the seamless cinematic feel, I like having something to do out at the Ranch at Christmastime that is commercial-free; pretty much everyone wins. (Well, sometimes it’s a little too seamless, and I end up with my dad giving me good but unimplementable advice during a cutscene. Still, as complaints go, this is a pretty minor one.)

Drake’s Deception is, for the most part, exactly the same game as the other two, though I understand there may be co-op campaign play that I did not see any part of, and which I suppose could plausibly change things? Probably it just turns a previously unkillable NPC into a new excuse to restart from last autosave, though. Anyway, my point is, there’s not much to say that I haven’t already said about one of the previous games. If you like a mix of platforming[1], shooting with the occasional pinch of stealth or dash of fisticuffs, and all kinds of Indiana Jones style treasure-hunting and clue-divining that also has a subdued romance plot, over-the-top action sequences, and a pretty hilarious ongoing exploration of the mentor relationship, this is an oddly precise match for what you seek!

I wonder if, novelty of the first game aside, any of them are better than the others? I’m pleased, I think, to note that while they all flow from one to the next with continuity and such, there’s nothing like a trilogy feel here. I guess they could keep making them forever, though I should say that getting much deeper into Nathan Drake’s life without some kind of real change (a marriage, a break-up, a death, something to shake up the status quo) will start to feel cheap pretty soon. Maybe even by during this game, but certainly by the next one. So past writers of half of the current game or at the very least future writers of the next one? This was your warning!

Oh, and I should warn you about the [spoiler elided, or else presented in Sabean script if you prefer], but nobody warned me, so, you pays your money and you takes your chances.

[1] That, okay, is not as good by a long shot as what you get in the Assassin’s Creed series, but what is?

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

91B0KvHV0UL._SL1500_Check me out, I finished my second PS3 game! This was more of an ongoing thing, since it is not at my house and I don’t own it. But still! Definite fun times. In Drake’s Fortune, we follow the adventures of Nathan Drake, descendant of the explorer Sir Francis Drake, as he follows his predecessor’s footsteps in search of El Dorado, the famed lost city of gold. Standing in his way are rival hunters, a shady partner, a documentary filmmaker, Nazis, more barely navigable rock walls than you can shake a pointed stick at, and a semi-ancient curse. But in the plus column, hey, treasure! Right?

The game is an extremely pretty 3D platformer / cover-based third-person shooter in the vein of Gears of War if the latter were less focused on warfare and had a jump button. And lots of rock walls to climb. Pretty much, it’s a Tomb Raider game where they reduced the budget on breast motion physics and invested that money into storyline and dialogue. It was, I think, a good trade.

Gears of War

The day is coming when I’ll feel obliged to cross-reference some games with the movies section. The last couple of Zeldas fall into that evolving category, as does Halo 2. As, also, does Gears of War. On a class M somewhere out in the galaxy, humans are living out a reasonably Utopian existence. (Utopia looks like a sidewalk cafe in Paris in the springtime, apparently. If you remove the Parisians, then, fair enough.) The problem with Utopia, in this case, is all the humanoids and beasts living below the surface of the planet who decided one day to erupt onto the surface and smash human civilization. Now, some years or decades later, the military remnants continue their struggle against, um… the bad guys. No, seriously, I can’t remember. Ah, okay, it’s the Locust Horde. (I can only assume they call themselves something else.)

The actual in-game story is quite a bit more awesome than the, for now at least, cardboard premise. A squad of marines is tasked with penetrating Locust defenses to retrieve a potential doomsday weapon that has been lost behind enemy lines when the helicopter transporting it was shot down. Although only two are playable, all of the six or so characters has sufficient depth to be in a video game; that is, you care what happens to them and hope they don’t die. The story being about as grim and post-apocalyptic as it sounds, don’t count on that hope winning out, though.

As far as gameplay? It’s really pretty cool. I felt more present than I have in the majority of first-person shooters, despite it being a third-person. The maps being open enough for true flanking and the easy-to-use cover system make the repetitive parts of the game (where you repel this or that wave of enemy attackers before proceeding to the next such wave) not only tolerable but genuinely fun again, and the non-standard parts of the game where you’re dealing with the things that come out after dark, the unkillable aliens, or the ginormous spider all have sufficient tension and uniqueness of play to rival anything I’ve hooked a controller up to. Plus, yay, it’s a current-gen game, so you don’t have to hook up controllers anymore. And not a moment too soon.