Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Trio Of Impressions

Three brand new videogames have held a firm grip on my attention lately, two of which are all the rage right now -- Alan Wake and Red Dead Redemption -- and another which is seemingly praised by the community but has otherwise been overlooked (perhaps because of the supposedly bigger titles) ModNation Racers. All three were anticipated by me for various reasons and now that they are here, it has been interesting to not only see if my excitement was justified, but also how I have responded to their remarkably different but thoroughly compelling approaches to entertainment.

All three have inspired some thoughts I will elaborate on in future posts but in the meantime, here is what I have gathered from my initial hours of play.

ModNation Racers

It saddens me, in a way, to admit that I have barely played this, but simultaneously sounds absurd as I've already played it for well over five hours. The first of the three to arrive, ModNation is perhaps the quietest of the bunch: a nice combination of racing, creativity and personality that is easy to enjoy in short bursts or in longer sessions, but doesn't seem as significant as the other two. Observing the general response people are having to these games reveals that, but I suppose I'm guilty of it too as I haven't touched it since that first session.

But what a session it was! Not only did firing it up allow me to discover a riveting kart-racer, it also pleasantly surprised me with just how easy it was to explore and, more importantly, enjoy every facet of its offerings. Sure it was heavily marketed as an accessible game, its track design tools yielding results far quicker than level creation in LittleBigPlanet, but even so I underestimated the game and perhaps as a direct result I'm enjoying it a lot more. It has already been neat stumbling across recreations of real-world race circuits as well as ones yanked straight out of other games, plus it brought a smile to my face to see Mario and Luigi standing on the podium of the game's ModSpot, where all of the game's modes are accessed and, when online at least, interactions with other players can take place. All in all my first time with the game showed me that it is right up my alley -- as I suspected back when it was announced -- and I definitely look forward to spending more time with it in the future. If only I could pry myself away from...

Red Dead Redemption

One of the reasons I listed as key in my anticipation for this game was the way it could potentially use its space to convey an immersive, believable world, and after spending a decent amount of time with it, I'm happy to report that it has achieved that and has done so with ease. But I suppose I shouldn't be all that surprised; Rockstar are renowned for their attention to detail and intricate design when it comes to capturing a theme, period, era or all of the above. Whether it's in the school yard or a bustling city, they always manage to achieve a certain atmosphere and ambiance, and it's certainly no different in Red Dead Redemption. I realise that might sound a little hyperbolic but I definitely think that is one of the company's best attributes, regardless of whether the games that exist within those spaces are any good or not. Speaking of which, being such a large game, I hesitate to try and grasp my opinion on it until I've played more, so more thoughts in the future.

One thing I will admit though is that the game has been incredibly overwhelming. Not only have I had to learn new mechanics, dynamics, characters and locations as you would in any new videogame, I've had to do it all whilst also learning about what a Western is all about. As I also mentioned in my anticipation post, I am completely new to any thing and all things Wild West, having never experienced the genre before playing Red Dead Redemption. Living under a rock as I do, everything Rockstar's latest game has presented to me so far has been completely new, and that's why it has been a touch overwhelming. I've handled it -- it's not the kind of thing that you can't handle -- but it has still been interesting as I've reflected on everything I have experienced so far. The good news is that my curiosity for the Western has been piqued and I'd like to play more, so that's precisely what I will do. For months, I suspect; because games like these are more like secondary lifestyles than simple experiences -- but I'll elaborate on that in another post.

Alan Wake

Despite my intrigue with Red Dead Redemption and indeed the incessant conversation, praise and post-hype that surrounds it at the moment, Alan Wake has been the most enjoyable game of the trio so far. I'm reluctant to think about why that is, however, as I'm uncertain if my desires to play it -- lasting as long as the game was in development -- are influencing my opinion or not, but that's something to contemplate once the game is finished.

What I can say is that I really appreciate the more realistic characters I've come across so far; the sheer beauty that Bright Falls exudes (at least, during the day) and the genuine scares it has induced in me thus far. If you will recall, I wanted it to scare me or keep me on the edge of my seat, to tell me a compelling story, and I wanted Bright Falls to be a place that I enjoyed visiting -- omnipresent darkness be damned. So far, at the conclusion of the game's third episode at least, Alan Wake has achieved all of this, but we'll see how things go as I continue on.

Despite my messy, rambling impressions of each game so far, there's one conclusion I can offer after spending time with these games: I have a good understanding of what I want in the videogames that I play, and these three have delivered that superbly so far. I'll explain what I mean by that after I've played the trio some more.


Michelle said...

It could well have been me writing those RDR impressions, I too knew nothing about the wild west and this game was first and foremost my introduction to the western genre, but also the first Rockstar game I have played in any great length.

It was a bit of a gamble everything considered but I've enjoyed it.

Steven O'Dell said...

Michelle -- As I alluded to what I did play was intriguing and compelling enough to make me want to play more, but then...

...then the damn thing got spoiled. Whilst I am just assuming at this point, what did get spoiled sounded like the most important component of the story that could have been spoiled -- end game material -- and ever since I haven't been motivated to play it. I feel like everything I would experience, while still fantastic, would feel meaningless and/or irrelevant now, and that's a damn shame.

I will play it, perhaps after my attention shifts away from Alan Wake but right now, it just sits on my shelf, doing nothing. :S

Jake said...

I just like to show my support for Modnation Racers. It has been an awesome game, although as it seems you havent gone back to it and I'm finding it isn't drawing me back in. either

Strange to have a game i think is awesome yet it gets overlooked when i choose what to have a play on.

Steven O'Dell said...

Jake -- You're right when you say that I didn't really return to ModNation Racers but it isn't a reflection of what I think of the game, but rather the unfortunate result of circumstances. I just couldn't focus on three games at once and even when it became two because Red Dead Redemption was spoiled for me and I lost my motivation, I still couldn't motivate myself to play ModNation when my attention was clearly elsewhere. So it is on hold for now, but I definitely plan on returning to it because as I said, the game is right up my alley -- to neglect it now would be an incredible shame.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoy the posts I'll have on the game when I do finally resume playing it. :)