Games Overstimulation Roundup
posted by September 18 at 16:23 PMon
Burnout Paradise (Xbox 360, PS3) — WAAAAAAAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
The year’s best “crash-to-win” racing game just got painfully better today. Like, “tear ass down a highway and launch into the most ridiculous motorcycle jump to win a race” better. See the above glee noise.
For whatever reason, EA is giving away a Burnout Paradise expansion rather than charging for it—see? The people behind Spore’s DRM ain’t so bad. Anyway. This pack adds motorcycles to the game’s original car/bus/four-wheel fleet; big whoop, right? Thing is, bike mode’s tiny tweaks double the gameplay in BP’s massive network of roads and highways. Welcome to turbo.
Less traffic to contend with. Higher acceleration. No need to build up nitro powers or crap to reach top speed. Even when you crash, your driving resumes more quickly than before. Every tweak big and small leads to less wait, more WAAAAAAA… People like to talk a lot about open-ended games, but BP’s aimless driving was already more thrilling than anything GTA IV served up. Now that the racer has added bikes, it’s officially the coolest virtual take on a Hot Wheels loop-de-loop in your living room—and there are still more expansions to come.
If you’ve got a jones for dirtbikes or ATVs, another new game this month, Pure, is pretty compelling as well. Its gameworld is nothing like BP’s city, but it has lots of hills and big-air jumps. Plus, you can do stunts… I think people still like stunts and X-Games shit, right?
Warhammer Online (PC) — Also seeing release today is an MMO with orcs, dwarves, elves, and knights. Sound familiar? There’s already World of Warcraft, and Lord of the Rings Online, and Everquest, and… did Age of Conan have any dwarves? Dunno, don’t care.
So why cough up another $15 a month to play with more people named “Khyghlar” and “Memnemnemnom”? Simply put, because you’ll actually play with them.
My MMO experience up to now is pretty minimal, and that’s because I don’t have a posse of people to quest with. Games like World of Warcraft start out light—lots of quests that don’t need a big team. There’s nothing “massively multiplayer” about killing a bunch of big-toothed pigs by yourself; you’re stuck with boring grinds for a while before you reach epic battlegrounds and dungeon raids. I typically lose my patience by then. (And I have other complaints.)
In only 10 hours of play during WO’s soft opening, I’ve already had tons to do with other people—and not just ignoring random “A/S/L” requests. Within minutes of a new quest, you’re forced into epic team games of king of the hill with immediate rewards (and auto-tweaks so that weak players have a chance, nice). There are also “public quests” in which a mega-sized nasty pops up in the middle of a road or field, and you and whoever else is nearby has to team up to take out the unexpected threat ASAP. As I soldier on, apparently my “side” of the game world will have to battle for control of towns; can’t remark on this yet, and I dunno if this’ll be fun or just a pain in the ass while I’m trying to save my game and quit out.
But so far, I love this emphasis on conflict. If I’m paying $15 a month to be online, it should feel that way, right? And other tweaks in the game go a long way to making WoW blush—clearly marked maps? Fewer times where you kill enemies over and over and over just to get one random, stupid item? A grouping system that makes it easy to team up with strangers? Less fucking running all over the place? Good. WO has made it a priority to not make you feel like an asshole for paying for their game.
Speaking of, there haven’t been issues with lag or server meltdowns; compared to WoW’s half-year of launch hell back in ‘04, that’s worth noting. But a few things are still missing here—for starters, art direction. WO has mostly bleak, grey environments, uncustomizable characters, and cookie-cutter monsters (with a few exceptions). Might get better later, but if the game brings my 2.2 Ghz PC to a crawl, even on the lowest settings, there should be a better reason. The dreary look should’ve died with Everquest, people.
And while the Warhammer tabletop series prides itself in making stories and writing a big part of its play, WO doesn’t. There’s a “Tome” of info and stories to flip through, but the few I’ve stopped to peruse haven’t been clear, witty, or helpful in the game, and I don’t want to stop and read while my online guy is about to get picked off by some dickhead elf.
It’s hard to dig much further than this, since I didn’t play for weeks in the beta or anything. Eurogamer did, and their complaints after weeks of play jive with what I’ve seen so far, but that opinion comes from someone who willingly got hooked onto WoW. I think this game is better suited for a halfway-hardcore stance—for people who know how WoW works but never fell for it.
Question is, is WO more than its mere WoW tweaks? Is there a great game here, or just great ideas that may better serve a future MMO concept that moves beyond the ancient “knights are strong, mages heal them” formula? I guess we’ll find out; I’ll keep tearing through WO and will post again in the next few weeks.
Castle Crashers (Xbox 360) — This TMNT Arcade-throwback came out weeks ago, and while I’m waiting for the online modes to be fixed before posting a review, I have to say, this game is the reason I haven’t written about much else lately. I cannot stop playing Castle Crashers. Whenever the game’s humorous cartoon style and addictive hack-and-slash play is out of my system, I’ll have enough time to talk about titles like the new Viva Pinata and the new Mercenaries.