Games What a Tough Life You Lead, Sam
posted by November 7 at 16:11 PMon
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.
MOTORSTORM: PACIFIC RIFT (PS3)
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.
RESISTANCE 2 (PS3)
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.