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Friday, November 7, 2008

What a Tough Life You Lead, Sam

posted by on November 7 at 16:11 PM

I’m inundated in video games—most of the big games for this fall, in fact. Some people would call this Christmas. I’m a little less excited (though, uh, this is totally Christmas).

Big budgets and too many hands in the pot often have an inverse effect in the games world—just look at this year’s Snore Spore. Did you know the game was originally gonna be science-crazy, and then a “cute” movement sprung up at the dev, and they proceeded to dumb the game down? Ugh.

Thankfully, none of this season’s hyped releases have disappointed the way Spore did. But that’s like saying none of them took a dump in my ear. Let’s get back on gaming track by looking at the PlayStation 3 care package I received earlier this week. Jump with me for that console’s big Christmas exclusives: LittleBigPlanet, Motorstorm 2, and Resistance 2.



Hop into jacked-up off-road vehicles—ATVs, dirtbikes, monster trucks, five others—and tear through 16 massive outdoor racetracks. Why bother? Because this is my dream game come to life: a 3D Super Off-Road. As a kid, I played the hell outta that arcade game, and Motorstorm: PR isn’t a copy, but it evokes the same childhood sensations: muddy, slippy, fast, and a little ridiculous.

Most “extreme” racers fool you with big jumps. Typically, you’ll get a lot of air, and that’ll look cool, but you’ll land on the same, boring racetracks with a few mud effects.

Motorstorm: PR is brilliant in its inaccessibility. Open-world terrain means you won’t find demarcated race tracks but rather a lot of twisty paths mixed together. The cars aren’t chained to the ground like in most games, which means you’ll drift too much, get unexpected air, and suffer more than a few high-speed crashes. No two rides feel alike, and with eight types, that’s saying something.

Add to that a real sense of speed and a variety of creative racetracks, and you’ve got impact that sticks for longer than a rental—unlike the other big arcade racer of the season, Pure, whose gorgeous looks and big air, while well done, didn’t save its otherwise average play and tiresome trick system.

M:PR’s not a perfect game, certainly. The default camera angle blows and can’t be moved around. Computer racers speed up or slow down to stay with you, which is great for newcomers but annoying when you’ve mastered the game. Crashes look pedestrian, which is weird for a crash-heavy racer that otherwise runs beautifully. And my online tests have seen opponents get through courses so quickly, I wonder if they’re legit—or if I’m just awful. But beyond those nitpicks, I’m a big fan here. This is the only PS3-exclusive (other than some of the $10 online games) that has thrilled me.


Which brings us to the mega-hyped PS3 exclusive for this holiday, now stripped of all things offensive. Er, can’t imagine for long. This game banks itself on making and sharing levels to play, and that probably means Sony spends half of a given day deleting penis- and terrorism-themed worlds… but that’s their concern.

Mine is figuring out what the huge deal is here. I mean, I get that LBP is all kinds of likeable. The design is obliteratingly cute, and its sewing-and-cutouts style, mixed with weighty physics, makes the game look like a child’s hand-puppet play come to life. And there are tons of dorky, cute moments, like when gopher-heads pop out of the ground and launch your little character toward a meerkat pole-dance party (it’s not as offensive as it sounds, swear).

And I’m certainly taken by the creation system. The learning curve’s gentle; options are robust; controller isn’t a pain to use (though a mouse would help). Gamers are already proving the system’s worth by uploading a crap-ton of interesting levels. If you have a nerdy, creative child, do not hesitate to choose this over any Lego/High School Musical/Shrek game, obviously.

But ultimately, the play is side-scrolling stuff I’ve played for so long: run and jump to an end-point. What surprises me is that LBP’s control isn’t comfortable. For starters, running around happens with three layers of depth. Switching layers happens automatically most of the time, but when it doesn’t, ughgggh, and most layer-puzzles aren’t creative—they’re OCD fodder that force you to jump around a particular spot or hug up against hard-to-see walls. And jumps are floaty and wimpy, which I still haven’t gotten used to.

Shame that the level creator tools and beautiful design are attached to an iffy control core. But I’ve still had fun with both online levels and pre-made ones, and playing multiplayer with friends has been fun—especially when levels are tailored to competition, where everyone’s scrambling through the physics-heavy worlds to gather points and block each other out—so I’m okay calling this a PS3 must-have. Doesn’t make me comfortable calling it a system-seller, though.


Watered-down Halo. There are a few interesting guns, but the single-player is a linear bore, and multiplayer doesn’t improve on Halo or Call of Duty in the least—which means the touted 60-player online mode doesn’t feel epic at all. Resistance 2 looks and sounds like a big-budget game, but sadly, it plays like one, too—safe, tried-and-true, meh.

Next time: Fallout 3 vs. Fable II, along with Gears of War 2, World of Goo, and what’s shaping up to be the game of the fricking year: Bellevue’s own Left 4 Dead.

RSS icon Comments


I'm looking forward to Quantum of Solace ...

Well, that and WotLK - at 225 inscription already and stocked up on herbs to sell to n00bz.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 7, 2008 4:19 PM

I can help: Throw Resistance 2 out the window.

Posted by Mr. Poe | November 7, 2008 4:19 PM

Inscription sucks.

Posted by Joh | November 7, 2008 4:25 PM

Didn't read after the jump. But still, I wouldn't even have opened Resistance 2.

Posted by Mr. Poe | November 7, 2008 4:32 PM

Fable 2 was just okay. There's a lot to like but like the first Fable, magic skills are still sort of weak and are actually harder to change up mid-game. The dog is great, I actually look forward to more games utilizing a similar sort of guide, but overall decisions in the game seem to lack consequence and depth. You can easily go from a supremely evil child-sacrificing bandit slut to holy defender of all that is good in the span of a few choice quests. It's also really easy to get untouchably powerful by the early/middle of the game. I would've like to see a bit more challenge and depth in the choices offered, but I can't say that the game wasn't fun. I spent many nights up late chasing my dog around for treasure and hacking through caves of skeletons, so while it was a breezy game with mostly great controls-- I don't know if I'll get a lot out of the game other than playing through it again in a way that's entirely opposite to what I've just done.

The multi-player option is definitely a big bonus but you give up camera control, and like most games the default angle is rarely the best.

Posted by christopher h | November 7, 2008 4:33 PM

Does anyone else here have Tetris Party (wii)? I wanna play online versus sloggers!

Posted by stinkbug | November 7, 2008 4:37 PM

Fallout 3 is stunningly enjoyable. I'm not sure I've enjoyed an RPG this much since Ultima VII: The Black Gate.

Left 4 Dead is going to be nuts also.

Posted by w7ngman | November 7, 2008 4:40 PM

They nerfed a lot in Fable 2 - it's just not the same - which means no xBox360 for me, might as well stick with the Wii.

But I did see an advert for a goth emo Japanime game that looks intriguing ... think it was PS3 but not sure.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 7, 2008 4:45 PM

@7: There are MORE games coming out that you want to play? Aw geez.

Posted by Aislinn | November 7, 2008 5:00 PM

Stoner's Paradise

Posted by Porkchop Sandwiches! | November 7, 2008 5:08 PM

I wish my love of console gaming didn't die of SIDS.

Posted by jackie treehorn | November 7, 2008 5:31 PM


Valve? Check.
Zombies? Check.
Co-Op? Check.

I'm finally getting a 360 just to play this game.

Posted by Ryan | November 7, 2008 5:45 PM

13 hours into Fallout 3...

Posted by bobcat | November 7, 2008 6:12 PM

When will you review Mortal Combat vs. the DC Univerese. I usually don't buy fighting games but am a sucker for DC Comics (and sometimes Marvel).

Posted by elswinger | November 7, 2008 6:25 PM

My kids are all over Viva Pinata: TiP. Since finishing Portal: Still Alive, I've been spending most of my time on Rock Band 2.

Posted by Mike in Renton | November 7, 2008 6:45 PM

@12: It's also gonna be on PC. If your rig can handle it, it might be the better route (unless your co-op friends are 360-ites, of course).

@14: Dunno. Don't have an advanced copy. But based on my time with the semi-final version at PAX, this will be a rent-don't-buy kind of fighter, especially now that they've turned down the violence to get a teen-friendly rating. I'm not a blood-monger, but seriously, this isn't Ico.

Posted by Sam M. | November 7, 2008 9:56 PM

I second what chris @5 had to say about fable. I got too powerful/rich and kind of blew through the last half of the game. I just pretended I was the avatar and effed shit up and stop letting guys touch me.

I did have a good time with the story and exploration. Its sad all that needed to be cut from this game because there is hints at next level radness throughout.

Posted by drew | November 8, 2008 9:43 AM

feel free to unload some of those xbox games on me. kthxbye

Posted by Nixor | November 8, 2008 10:23 AM

Thanks Sam. I'll save my money and buy used copies of NHL 08, Marvel Alliance, and MOH:Airborne instead.

Posted by elswinger | November 8, 2008 10:50 AM

elswinger - check out - they have the best reviews / previews and video game shizzle.

PS: I love using V.A.T.S. in Fallout 3, aiming the shotgun right up in front of a raiders head and blowing that sucker up! Never get tired of seeing eyeballs fly all over.

Posted by bobcat | November 8, 2008 4:59 PM

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