Friday, July 25, 2008

Metal Gear Solid 2: The End

No I haven't gotten my Metal Gear bosses mixed up as I am not here to talk about the awesome Metal Gear Solid 3 boss The End, instead, I am here to announce that I have FINALLY finished Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance.

Yes, it's true. Don't worry, I found it hard to believe as well. I mean, the amount of unintentional breaks I had between my MGS 2 sessions was, well I lost count after a while and it was pretty obvious that I wasn't playing it as much as I should have been through my lack of posts about the game on here. So to have it finally finished is somewhat of a surprise but at the same time, a totally welcome one because I have to say, I ended up enjoying the game.

Despite the inconsistent sessions I had with the game, I somehow managed to continue following the plot without too much hassle. From what I can gather, most people seem to criticise the game's story for being hard to follow and perhaps slightly convoluted. I can understand this criticism but for me I understood what was going on throughout the entire game and even managed to remember the events of the games that I had played (MGS 1 and MGS 3) and connect it all together. Considering I haven't played those other games for quite a few years, being able to make those connections surprised me but at the same time I am really thankful for it as it meant I enjoyed MGS 2's story a little more. I won't go into my thoughts on the events of the game or indeed overall series to save for spoilers, but I will say that what I found out about in MGS 2 really piqued my interest in MGS 4. I always wanted MGS 4 of course but because it is on the PS3 and I am still yet to own one, I sort of passed the game off as being irrelevant to me at this point in time. Which in turn meant that it was a lot easier to ignore the pre-release hype, spoilers as everyone else played it and so forth.

One thing I realised while playing through Substance though is that, well, I don't think I am a fan of Metal Gear's gameplay. I can't really describe it but going through some of the rooms in MGS 2 actually felt like a chore and as you can imagine it meant that I didn't have as much motivation to continue playing. I tried thinking about why I got this feeling to see if I could work out where it comes from but honestly, I couldn't. I asked myself questions like "is it the whole stealth thing the games do so well?" or "is it the controls and how complicated they can be at times?" and other questions like that. For the record, my answer to both of those was no and I now think that it doesn't really boil down to anything in particular. What I do know is that it is ironic that I found some of Metal Gear Solid's gameplay mechanics to be a chore when I absolutely love the boss fights in the games; the very boss fights that use the gameplay mechanics that you learn and use beforehand. As I said before, I honestly can't describe how I feel and perhaps it has nothing to do with gameplay and is in fact something else entirely. Overall though, it doesn't detract from my experience of the game (or series) and I still absolutely love it. The aforementioned bosses come to mind as they are some of the most creative and intense fights I have been in. When they aren't creative, they are still quite cool and MGS 2's bosses were no exception. Perhaps a little less creative than other games, but the fight against Vamp and others was awesome.

The other thing that I really like about the Metal Gear games is the story and on this front, MGS 2 was very satisfying. I still maintain that MGS 3: Snake Eater is my favourite MGS game (for both playing and story) but the elements of the overall plot that get focused on in this game are great. Raiden's introduction, for example was done well I think and as you progress the stuff that gets revealed about him and the other characters is very interesting. As a viewer, it's great to watch and as I mentioned before when you tie it into the overall plot spanning across all the games it poses some interesting questions. Questions that are no doubt answered in MGS 4.

And yes, I did say "viewer" before. Many people have complained about the long cutscenes in MGS games before. I'm not here to do that, instead I honestly think that Metal Gear would be better served as a game that could be watched rather than played. But of course if it became that, it wouldn't be a game would it? I don't know how to approach that but what I do know is that to me Metal Gear games have always been about story first, everything else second. Maybe the games should have been created as ones where you watch everything to do with story (as you do now) and only play the boss fights or something? I don't know.

Anyway much like the game's story I am chopping and changing between subjects and rambling perhaps a bit more than I should be. So in summary I will say that despite the setbacks I had with the game, I ended up enjoying it a lot and it made me crave for more Metal Gear. That will come in time as I get my PS3 and of course MGS 4, but in the meantime I can leave the game feeling satisfied in a decent experience and content in the idea that I have finally succeeded in finishing a game that I had always intended to.


On a related note, I'm not sure what game will be replacing MGS 2 for my Road To Completion commitment. I have a few in mind so I will think about it in the next few days, decide and then post about it here. As is evident by the lack of posts about MGS 2 here on this very blog, I broke the rules I outlined when I created this idea of finishing games and as such I am now wondering if I should change any or not. Again, I will give it some thought over the next few days and once a decision has been made you will know about it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Tour Of The Isles

A week or so ago I had the pleasure of returning to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as I finally was able to gain access to the expansion for the game, Shivering Isles.

I absolutely loved my time with Oblivion although the game's main story, constant loading screens and a few other niggles here and there didn't sit well with me meaning that I didn't enjoy all of my time in Cyrodiil. This in turn meant that I had mixed reactions upon returning to the game. On the one hand, I was looking forward to returning because it was new content to experience, it was a return to a rather beautiful game and it meant I got to hear the game's soundtrack again as well. On the other hand though, the aforementioned niggles, especially the constant load times meant that I was hesitant as I put the disc back in ready to venture into the Shivering Isles for a new adventure.

Thankfully for me, my qualms with the game were forgotten about pretty much instantly after loading the game. I was in Anvil and had just woken up from a sleep. Venturing outside, I notice that it was raining and as I love rain in games it was a nice surprise. I walked around Anvil for a while getting used to the controls and just admiring the rain before realising that I had to go near Bruma to access Shivering Isles. So I fast-traveled to Bruma only to be disappointed to see that the rain had stopped. That was soon forgotten as I left Bruma though, as there was an absolutely gorgeous sunrise happening over the water. After admiring the beauty of it all, I swam out to the small island that holds the gate to the Isles and ventured in.

What came next was my entire Saturday night disappearing as I became immersed in the Isles and the various stories within. I won't go into too much detail, but needless to say I was very impressed with the content found within and the Isles as a location as well. Whether it was taking down the Gatekeeper (a big arse troll that guarded the gates to either Dementia or Mania), becoming the Duke of Dementia or pushing an NPC off a really high staircase because he asked me to kill him (but have it seem like a suicide or accident) a couple hours before; I just really enjoyed playing the story and quests that Shivering Isles had to offer. While there was a lot of exploring of dungeons and caves still, I thought for the most part that the quests found within were quite different to what I was used to doing in Cyrodiil and as a result, it was a nice breath of fresh air and a relaxed joy to be a part of.

I also liked the art direction that the Isles had, from the purple sky lit up with stars to the way the trees looked. Seems like trivial things to care about really, but when combined it just added to the experience.

I ended up finishing the main quest line for Shivering Isles on the Saturday night/morning, as well as quite a few side quests here and there. I got my final Achievements that I needed from the game and ultimately had a wonderful time. I actually wish it wasn't over because now I don't really have much reason to play Oblivion anymore or more importantly, return to the Isles. There will always be quests that I could do in the game but now that the major storylines and quests are done, I don't have much motivation to return which is a shame. As a completionist, knowing that there's still a lot of quests to do is rather annoying but as it is such a big game with so many things to do, I don't think Oblivion will ever be a game that will be finished 100% unless of course I wanted to spend another 70 hours in the game...

All in all though, a fantastic return to a game that I quite enjoyed and one of my first experiences of an expansion of a game. Most expansions to games generally happen on PC games only and as I don't play PC games due to not having a computer decent enough for it, I haven't really experienced expansions before. I don't count maps added to Halo or whatever as expansions, even though they technically are. Anyway, Shivering Isles comes well recommended from me, as does Oblivion if you are yet to experience it.


On a related note, I recently stumbled across this blog which offers a different take on the Oblivion experience. Instead of playing the game as the intended hero, the author has decided to play Oblivion with an experience of living like an NPC (non-playable character) and it's an interesting and different take. Give it a read.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

And The Winner Is...

In late May, I wrote a list of my favourite racing games with the intention of choosing one as my favourite to date. The reason I wanted to do this was because I was asked a few times and realised that I wasn't entirely sure.

Well after thinking about it for some time, I have finally come up with an answer. A very late answer, but one nonetheless. So, what is it?

F-Zero GX.

I used one word to describe it while forming my list of games and it is one I am going to use here. Perfect. Yep, to me F-Zero GX is perfect. It looks stunning, sounds fantastic and most importantly plays brilliantly as well. The difficulty curve was perfect and it is still probably the hardest racing game I have ever played. The satisfaction gained from mastering this game has not been repeated in any other game and it is for these reasons that F-Zero wins for me. I really hope another game in the franchise is released in the future but even if there is, I don't see it beating this game.

I don't have to, but I'm going to mention my runner-up title as well as it, like F-Zero GX, was standing out to me while I was trying to make my decision.

Project Gotham Racing 2.

The franchise may have seen two sequels since this game, both of which were very good but for me PGR 2 is the king. Like F-Zero, it was pretty much perfect as well for the same reasons. Graphically, aurally, the difficulty curve; all of it combined to make one awesome racing experience and I'm really grateful to have it in my racing game collection.

It is a nice coincidence that the two titles that stuck out to me, are pretty much the direct opposite of each other. One is a fictional racer and the other one is a 'realistic' racer (because of the real cars/locations). Two vastly different games, two vastly different racing experiences and yet both are the definition of perfection of the racing genre in my eyes. Awesome.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Just a random update on some things that are interesting or exciting me at the moment.

PS3 Trophies - Rumoured for a while, the PS3 is finally seeing a gaming reward system similar to the Achievements found on the 360. Instead of points that add to a Gamerscore, the trophy system sees players unlocking a variety or trophies depending on the achievements they reach in the various games. Trophies will be rewarded at a Bronze, Silver and Gold level with Bronze obviously being for easy stuff and Gold being for the really hard goals. There will also be one Platinum trophy for every game which will be obtained once every other trophy for that game has been acquired. While Sony's loyal fans are shouting from the rooftops and claiming the system to be shitting all over the 360's Achievements, to me they are exactly the same in the sense that they require goals to be met for them to be obtained and that the games' trophy list can be completed (just like scoring 1k in a 360 game, then) if the player is good enough or has put enough time in. I can understand the comments that perhaps the trophy system has a bit more depth than the 360 system, but either way they are both brilliant systems and I look forward to becoming a Trophy whore (just like I'm an Achievement whore now) when I finally get my PS3 in the future. Now if only the Wii would get a similar system as well...

Soul Calibur on Xbox Live Arcade
- I'm frustrated that I can't get this when it releases later today due to a lack of points, but the fact that it is coming to the Marketplace is awesome as far as I am concerned. I remember playing it a fair bit at a friend's house and always wanted the game for myself. I was going to buy a Dreamcast for this game but when I finally got the money to, Sega announced that production was to be halted and as such I decided against buying one. I regret that decision a fair bit now, but thankfully for me I can play what is perhaps my favourite Fighting game of all time again. There's just something about the Soul Calibur series that 'ticks' with me and while SC II, SC III and no doubt the upcoming Soul Calibur IV are brilliant titles, the first will always be dear to my heart. Looking forward to grabbing it as soon as I get some MS points.

E3 - The show has lost a lot of importance in recent years and I have to admit that I'm not as excited for it as I would have been, say, 3 years ago (as I prefer shows like DICE now) but I'm still looking forward to seeing what will be announced and shown. While some might think of me as somewhat of a Microsoft fanboy at the moment given the fact I only own a 360 currently and I'm also an Achievement whore, I am actually looking forward to Sony's show this year the most and that is purely because of the possibility of both Heavy Rain and Team ICO's next project being there. I'm really hoping at least one will be there. There's a chance neither will be and if that is the case, I won't really care about Sony's other games such as Resistance 2 and Killzone 2, but until then I hold hope that both games are there. On the Nintendo front, well I'm interested in what they are up to especially since they have been rather quiet. Rumours are going around of course but I'm not paying attention to them and I am happy to wait until the show. It would be nice to see a new IP or two actually. On the MS front, a lot of this year's games are already known about such as Gears 2, Fable 2 and Too Human so I'm not expecting too much from them. It would be awesome to see Alan Wake at the show as I'm really looking forward to that. Oh and after the supposed leaks a few weeks ago, it will be nice to see Forza 3 being announced. I really hope Beyond Good and Evil 2 is there as well.

Geometry Wars 2 announced - Well not on the big news sites but have revealed the achievement list for the game and since they are a Microsoft community website, I think it is pretty obvious that it is coming. Which means, I'm REALLY excited about it as I absolutely love Geometry Wars. I still play Retro Evolved regularly, it is still my favourite XBLA game to date and if Geometry Wars: Waves had released on the XBLA, I would have definitely bought it despite having access to it already via PGR4. No doubt it will be announced/shown at E3 in the coming weeks so I look forward to seeing it there and if it releases this year which I think it will, then I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being my Game of the Year this year. Yes, I am that much of a Geo Wars fanboy.

In other news, I am trading with a friend for a while so I will have some new games to play soon. He is getting my copy of Mass Effect while I get his copy of Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty 4, two games that I have wanted for ages. Really looking forward to Assassin's Creed despite the mixed reviews. Also, over the weekend I got my hands on Shivering Isles, the Oblivion expansion pack. Naturally that means I was able to finally finish off the achievements for the game but I also really enjoyed the content so in a way I am kind of disappointed that I'm finished with it now. I'll make an entry on it soon. Speaking of entries, that MGS 2 one is still cooking as is a few others. Right, off to play Geometry Wars and have a fanboy moment thanks to the sequel's announcement.