Thursday, August 23, 2012

Quick Gaming Update: Splinter Cell Conviction, Alan Wake, From Dust

Splinter Cell Conviction: I enjoyed this for the most part. It is the first splinter Cell game I have actually played through to the end although the campaign is short so that isn't as significant as it sounds. Minor gripe: Much of the game is on very tight rails. General objection: Why do I have to kill everyone? Why can't I stealth past most obstacles?  Major Gripe: Auto difficult adjust continually pissed me off. On several occasions I came to a difficult section and died a few times working out a strategy. Then, just as I was about to put my master plan into place the game would halve the number of enemies trivialising the obstacle and destroying any feeling of achievement for overcoming it.

Alan Wake: I am half way through this game (3 out of six episodes). Thumbs up for the spooky atmosphere and strong storyline. Thumbs down for the dreadful combat. Combat in this game really stinks. In general you have to shine a torch at an enemy to make it vulnerable and then shoot it with bullets. Given that you almost always face several enemies coming from different directions, given that you have only one narrow torch beam and given that the controls are awkward and non responsive makes combat an exercise in frustrating tedium.   I much prefer the parts where you have no weapons because it means you get to do some exploring of a spooky environment. As soon as I pick up a gun my heart sinks because I know I am in for more of the stupid torch game.

From Dust: This It seems to me like a paper thin game built on a very clever engine. That engine allows you to morph the landscape of the game world moving sand rock and water around at will. You use these powers to help your human minions achieve certain goals, generally getting from A to B while avoiding certain environmental hazards along the way. It looks beautiful and really does give you tremendous freedom to shape the game world but I found the missions quickly become tiresome. The look and feel of the game strongly remind me of Spore but the gameplay lacks Spore's depth.

Interesting side note: I played all of the above games on my PC using an Xbox 360 controller despite the fact that they have perfectly adequate mouse and keyboard control options. Partly this is because these games were originally designed for controller and it feels like the most natural control scheme for them. Partly it is because I like being able to put my keyboard which I use for work aside and pick up a controller for play. I still believe that mouse and keyboard is a better control scheme for many types of games: First person shooters, anything that requires precise aiming and complex games like RTS with lots of buttons. One of my biggest peeves with the controller is how many games use context sensitive buttons which do different things depending on where you are. For example the same button is used for running and jumping depending on whether or not there is an obstacle in front of you.  It is no doubt a response to the limited number of buttons on a controller but I find it very immersion breaking and it robs my sense of in game freedom. Sadly most games which do this copy the same limitation to a mouse and keyboard control scheme so there is no advantage to be gained from switching.

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