Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Assassin's Creed II (2009)

Genre: Action  / Adventure  |  Players: 1  |  Developer: Ubisoft

I was disappointed we didn't get the historical Japanese setting that was hinted at in the previous game, but that was softened by Ass Creed II outperforming its predecessor in every way. I replayed it recently and can confidently say that it’s still my favourite of the entire series so far. I don’t have first-hand experience of any version other than the PS3, but as far as it goes it works straight out of the box, without the need for patches or updates and it was glitch free. The only reset I was forced to perform was when I had more than a dozen enemies pursuing me simultaneously over a large distance and got overly-happy with the smoke bombs, the PS3 RAM didn't like that much, but that’s what I get for pissing about; none of the mission objectives will ask that kind of activity of you.

Ezio’s training in the past, sometime around the second half of fifteenth century Renaissance Italy, is a crucial element in Desmond’s education and evolution as an assassin in the present. It’s a small link between the two eras, but at least it’s something. Bless them for trying. The story even has a go at addressing the reason everyone speaks fluent English (except when it’s more dramatic for them to revert to their native Italian); it made me chuckle.

If you want to take the experience further there are many database entries filled with facts about the era and a large dollop of supposition about the people featured in the story. It's entirely optional, but it's a nice addition.

Surely there are some down sides? Of course, there’s a few. The frame rate isn't perfect, but that’s likely the trade-off for the world being so open and the draw distance. Secondly, there’s historian Shaun Hastings, an NPC that you’re forced to interact with more than once in order to advance the story. He looks like a git, he sounds like a git and he behaves like a git, ergo, he's a contemptible git.

Note: The missing/corrupt memories you encounter are filled in via DLC. It’s Ubisoft, after all, and that’s how they roll. They claim the levels just weren't ready in time, but I don’t believe that for a second. They just wanted more of your cash. They didn't get mine. The eventual GOTY edition has it all in one place.

A direct sequel to the story, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, was released on November 2010 for PS3, Xbox 360, PC and Mac. Milk that titty, Ubisoft.

4 beneficial bleedings out of 5

Monday, October 6, 2014

Front Mission Evolved (2010)

Genre: 3rd Person Shooter | Players: 1 - 8 | Developer: Double Helix Games

Dylan Ramsey is on the job testing his company's new wanzer (aka mech) prototype in New York when a mysterious force invades and destroys the city's orbital elevator as well as the building where Dylan's father works as a wanzer scientist. Dylan then takes a special commission in the army to avenge his father and take down the soldiers responsible which will set him into a larger geopolitical quagmire (as it always does in this series).

The latest and most likely last entry in the Front Mission series ditches the turn-based tactical gameplay for a more traditional 3rd person action experience. Traditional being the key word as the gameplay is pretty standard. Despite being in mechs, there isn't a whole lot that distinguishes it from any other 3rd person shooter or even the sections outside of the wanzers. The wanzers can feel lumbering, but it is mostly tedious when you just want to skate to get around faster, but can't because the gauge needs to refill. Shooting outside of wanzers is even more generic as now the fleeting feeling of piloting a mech is gone and all the player is left with is a cookie cutter shooter. Not to mention these on-foot sections are so incredibly piss-easy that they feel like padding just to add a "feature" to the back of the box. You rarely encounter a handful of enemies at a time and there is spare ammo everywhere. The auto aim is also broken if the target is moving at all. Turning it off actually made the shooting much better since I could shoot while they were moving instead of endless cover-based pop-up potshots.

Customizing the wanzer for different objectives can be great fun, but the generic action doesn't really lend itself to anything other than the standard mid-range weapons outside of plot specific events where the game forces you to play differently. Sure there is limb specific damage, but it doesn't really matter since enemies and yourself can still use them, just less effectively. Destroying legs does make enemies and the player move slower, but in the space of 20 second battles, the same amount of time and effort could just be used killing most enemies. The boss battles are a different beast and are where actually knowing the advantages of different setups is actually helpful as well as all the piloting controls since if you don't the battle will literally be over in 3 seconds. This can be problematic if your setup isn't up to the task and you don't have any cash to switch loadouts forcing you to switch to weaker and cheaper parts to change weapons. This is a crack in the difficulty curve, but the battles are exciting and really the highlight of the game. The feeling of piloting was less fleeting while skating to avoid missiles while simultaneously firing a machine gun, locking on missile targets and avoiding EMP bombs. There is also the E.D.G.E. system which is just another name for bullet-time which works fine, but I went most of the game without using.

The story is serviceable, though simplified. The intricate political plots of past entries are mostly gone, for better or worse. In its place is a much more generic revenge plot with an unnecessary romantic subplot that the game doesn't even take the time to earn any emotional investment in as well as other opportunities involving changing loyalties and deaths of characters. Despite the balance issues and the overall generic gameplay, there are some shining bits of entertainment to be found.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC

3 insane bands of mercenaries out of 5

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (2013)

Genre: Action / Adventure | Players: 1 | Developer: Nintendo EAD, Monolith Soft

It’s important to know what this game is, and what it isn’t. It isn’t a DS Zelda game starring Toon Link. It doesn’t bother with any stylus or badly executed split-screen shenanigans. I use my thumb to access the menus and I hold the 3DS like a handheld is intended to be for action-adventure games.

It isn’t a remake of A Link to the Past. It’s far more accurate to say that this shares the general maps of that game to create an experience that both rewards you for your intimate knowledge of them and consistently challenges your expectations in the same satisfying way as Maverick Hunter X.

The main gimmick on display is the ability to merge into walls, making Link 2D while the camera rotates down and to the side, presenting the world in 3D. Popping in and out can be disorienting but my adjustment period was remarkably brief. Thank goodness, as the mechanic is used EXTENSIVELY and never grows stale.

Outside of one dungeon, the ones on display can legitimately be tackled in any order. You could play the Dark World somewhat out of order in LttP, and if you were alright with finding out halfway through one that you were missing an essential item you were free to do so in the original game, as well. Here, however, the dungeons are marked with runes at their entrances denoting which items are required for successful completion. You can first rent and then later buy many of the series’ staple items at a central shop and this is what makes true freedom of play possible.

I’m always going to tackle the Swamp Palace second, but in both of my playthroughs I’ve gone wildly out of order, otherwise. The biggest boon of A Link Between Worlds is manifest here: instead of literal carbon-copy maidens, the sages are legitimate characters a la the 3D Zelda games. I care about saving them and the order in which I will.

There are a few negatives, however. The analog stick makes aiming the hookshot a bit hairy, but that very imprecision is harnessed for appropriate balancing sections, to compensate. The game tells you that you should take a break occasionally when you save, too.

Petty bullshit complaints, I know. Bottom line: LBW remixes and updates LttP while introducing the most crucial element of 3D Zeldas to the 2D plane. The best 2D Zelda by countless miles, sanjou~

Buyer’s Guide: It’s a 3DS exclusive.

4 Tsundere Witches Stole My Heart out of 5

I do not have binocular fusion and are thus incapable of experiencing 3D. 
Don't ask me how it looks here, or in any other 3DS game.