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So I managed to mash up my hand a few days ago and I’ve been unable to write properly for a while, which is annoying me considering I had a post on Final Fantasy XIII 2 planned for Thursday. Regardless, I’ve been playing both FFXIII-2 and some games on my new iPod Touch. I can tell you right now, anyone dumb enough to disregard the iPod/iPhone gaming market as nothing more than pandering to ‘casuals’ needs a good kick up their arse once I’ve pulled their head out, because the games I’ve been playing have been extremely fun when I’m on the move. These are just a few I’ve been playing.
1) Sonic Dash
When I first saw this game on the app store, I didn’t know what to make of it. It’s definitely from SEGA and I was curious. The game itself is rather simple but strangely addictive, you swipe the screen left and right to change lanes, collect rings and boxes while dodging obstacles and spikes. The game has three locations which you can switch to and from at the end of each stage, there’s the classic Green Hill Zone, Seaside Hill Zone and a new Aztec Zone which you start out from. Each look different but are the same in game regards. A Seaside Hill remix constantly plays while you play and thanks to Sonic Paradox’s ‘Seaside Denied’ it’s hard not for me to sing the lyrics. It’s fun and I’m always trying to get a higher score and collect the puzzle pieces.
2) Temple Run 2
We all know about Temple Run and I managed to download its sequel and I must say I’m pretty impressed with what I got. Having multiple branching paths and fast paced action had me glued to this game for ages at a time. The upgrade system and power-ups gives advantages when running and the more you run the faster you go, adding to the danger of running into an object. Tilting the screen trying to collect as many coins as possible and being lucky enough to run into a green gem always makes me want to go back to the game when waiting for something.
3) Simpsons Game: Tapped Out
What can I say about this one? Aside from the fact that the game focuses around grinding and once you’ve told all your characters to do a task you’re locked out from getting them do to something else. While pretty mediocre in itself having the characters from the game offers some pretty funny dialogue. However, the thing requires an internet connection for my iPod, which is hard when you’re in a car and Wi-Fi is unavailable. So I removed it from my iPod, I despise games that require me to always be online just to play a game I plan on playing on my own and outside. Typical EA, they have NO excuse to enforce always online to a FREE game. I’m gonna do a full rant on this game later.
You take control of a survivor in a zombie apocalypse and have the task of surviving as long as you can against waves of ever growing zombie horde. Interestingly enough the game uses touch screen controls with the analogue sticks on the screen, so you move your thumbs in the direction you want to move and to shoot. There are unique enemies that take more damage and weapons and characters to unlock that give you a better chance at surviving the onslaught of undead. It’s a fun little game that rewards quick thinking and accuracy.
5) Feast or Famine
An interesting game where you’re a hunter in Aztec times and you need to kill animals while running so you don’t starve. Interesting the graphics mimic stick figures but it plays extremely well, animation is superb and it reminds me of call drawings. At first the gameplay was a bit boring, aiming with spears is rather hard and I tend to hit the ground more than the buffalos, but when I was able to get the boomerang, it became much more fun. The star ratings are extremely hard to get, getting three stars means killing at least 90% of the animals which is mighty hard as they go pretty fast.
So those are the iPod games I’ve been playing recently. There are a ton more recommended for me in the app store, and since they’re all free there’s no harm in trying them. Expect another 5 soon.
So there is something that happened in the Indie market that made me chuckle a lot. It’s really bitter irony on the end of those that are pirates and something every developer should look at and take notes.
The game I’m referring to is called Game Dev Tycoon by Green Heart Games. It’s a game where you make games to sell to a virtual consumer base. There’s an inception joke I believe somewhere in a game where you make games. But that’s not what’s important. You see, Green Heart Games devised a devious plan. The game is DRM free (Thank God) and they decided to send a cracked version to all the major torrent sites they could find.
Sounds like suicide right? Sending a game you need to make a profit in order to survive, what are they thinking? Well, Green Heart Games are sneaky.
What they did to the cracked version was add a few lines of coding in it to make the game impossible to complete. They made it so that the pirates’ in game companies would find that games they released would be heavily pirated to the point where the company couldn’t make a profit and pirates would ultimately lose.
When I first heard about this I couldn’t help but burst out in laughter, Green Heart Games had successfully trolled the pirates with bitter irony, giving them a taste of their own medicine. It’s utter genius, plus they released the pirated version themselves, meaning they got most of the pirates before someone else cracked it.
You see THIS is how you tackle piracy. DRM barely works and often makes the game unplayable for those who bought the game legally, ensuring a cracked version of the game is unplayable means that the pirates have ultimately failed. It’s like Serious Sam 3 and the invincible Purple Crab monster in cracked versions.
You know I might even buy the game myself, I think they deserve my money for being that awesome.
Well done Green Heart Games.
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I’m sure many of you are wondering about this particular post. Doesn’t seem to make sense does it. Resident Evil 2 had a tutorial? They never told us about a tutorial, are you sure it exists? Well, my readers, much like Portal, Resident Evil 2’s tutorial was sneaky in how it taught you the controls and its tricks.
I’ll put it simple, the beginning of the game where you run through the streets of Raccoon City was the tutorial. Yes, I understand it sounds dumb but bear with me, because I’m going to hit you with a shit load of explanation. Also, I’ve got the Gamecube version of Resident Evil 2.
There are 7 rooms in the tutorial which the map dubs as ‘Streets of Raccoon City’:
· Wreckage street
· Kendo’s Gunstore
· Back Alley Basketball Court
· Billboard stairway
· Liquor front street
· Bus 33 Midtown
· Emergency Wreckage Street
These aren’t their official names, but considering what is in each of these streets I think they’re fitting names. Now, this tutorial doesn’t directly tell you what to do, instead it assumes you actually read the booklet that came with the game when back then they were actually worth reading because they gave you tips. There aren’t any pop ups that tell you ‘press B to run’ right at the beginning. So here we go.
Ok, we’re playing on normal (because that’s how the game SHOULD be played) and right now we’ve got the opening cutscene. Exposition about the first Resident Evil then how Leon and Claire got stuck in the mess that is the Raccoon City outbreak. I’m going to be playing as Leon. If you haven’t already watched the opening cinematic, I would suggest doing so, click here.
So some twit in a gas truck collides with us and huge explosions galore! This is where we begin to take control and immediately we’re thrown into chaos.
Real pretty isn’t it? So now here’s where the tutorial gives you its first lesson. You notice that in the screenshot above that two zombies have appeared crawling out of the burning wreckage. You notice that these two were not there present in the cutscene. This teaches you that zombies can come from anywhere, even behind you.
So you run and immediately blocked off by two zombies shuffling towards you with the intent of eating your brains. You check your inventory and realise you have just a clip of bullets, nowhere near the amount to take down the two in front and the two that are shuffling towards you. Now, the position of them leaves a pretty big opening to the side, which allows you to easily run past them. So you do. What you didn’t know was that the game taught you that some enemies can be run past with ease.
There’s a fifth zombie standing idly to the side as you run further down the street but you ignore it because it’s out of the way and poses no threat. Not only does this reinforce the previous lesson but also shows that you can choose not to kill some zombies if they’re not a threat, almost like choosing to save bullets.
The next zombie however is a tough one to pass by. He’s positioned between two cars and there’s only enough room for one person to move. You can’t go round him so you have to go through him. Fortunately this zombie only takes two bullets to go down but not dead. Of course you could always try shooting him again, but with the other zombies shuffling and with only 16 bullets left, which you really don’t wanna spend on one zombie you can now run past, you opt to ignore him and keep moving. Secretly, you’ve been taught that some zombies may not need to be entirely killed and can be ignored if taken down.
So the game secretly teaches you several lessons in the first area alone and gives you enough time to figure out the controls if you picked this game up without playing the first.
Moving onto Kendo’s Gun Shop. You enter and the music stops. You take a step forward and meet your first survivor: Kendo. He speaks to you then locks the door you just came through. After that you have time to look around. There are two counters, each with a pack of bullets. You go right and pick up the first then left for the second.
After the second, zombies burst through the windows and grab poor Kendo, eating his fat belly as he drops his shotgun. This cutscene shows you that zombies can appear in places you thought were safe.
Now you’ve got a choice. You now have 30 spare bullets and 16 in your clip and four zombies blocking your way to the shotgun. You can either run out the back door and keep your ammo or sacrifice the bullets you just acquired to take down the zombies and get the shotgun early on but continue on with limited ammo.
This teaches you risk and reward, where some actions may not be as beneficial as others and whether or not you risk something for an item or weapon.
I always take down the zombies for the shotgun, you’ll understand why in a little while.
So killing the zombies and taking the shotgun, you leave via the back door. You’re now in a place I call Basketball Court Alley. You turn the corner and find two zombies banging on the fence near the doorway. Right now you can’t open the door for some reason and alley goes down further. There might be something down there that could either open the door or lead to somewhere else.
But when you get halfway down the alley the door opens and three zombies shuffle forward down the alley towards you. This teaches you that exploring the area may reveal the way or open doors.
Naturally you’re first instinct is to take out the zombies but if you keep on going you’ll find a pack of bullets. It teaches you that going off the beaten path may reveal items.
Killing the zombies and entering the gate on the other end will lead you to another back alley with some stairs. This teaches you how to go up and down stairs, which is just pressing A. It’s difficult I know, but you need to know this, there’s a boss later on that is defeated by going up stairs.
After going and up and down stairs like the pro you are, you see two zombies on the other side of a dumpster, and they’re unable to climb onto it. You can also shoot them as they’re fleshy chests are exposed. This teaches you that some places allow you to block the zombies but also allows you to kill them with ease.
You can also climb onto the dumpster and the zombies begin to puke at you, which is gross and seems to harm you. Maybe they puke acid now or something. So yeah, zombies now have different ways to attack you.
The gate will take you to a street instead of another alley way and immediately you hear the sound of chomping. Make your way down the street and see the horror. Four zombies…..Are EATING someone! The horror!
But seriously, when you get to them you find that the zombies are the centre piece of this shot, and you can find yourself being blocked out by rotten flesh. So there are now dynamic shots, more so than in the first game. So you should have enough bullets to take out the zombies, but if you managed to miss a zombie that was dead in front of you or decided to shoot the wall, there IS the option to run right past them.
Next up is the number 33 Midtown Bus, which conveniently crashed into a barricade. Enter there and you find two zombies. But watch out, because one of them is CRAWLING! That’s right, zombies can now crawl meaning you’ve got to aim downwards to kill it, plus the bus is very tight leaving absolutely no room to run past, so go through them with either your trusty pistol or the shiny new shotgun you looted from a dead guy’s corpse, unless you chickened out and just ran for it instead of collecting it.
The last area is less of a tutorial mission and more of a testing ground to practise what you’ve already learnt before. As soon as you leave the bus you’re greeted by a zombie right in front of you and one to the right. You can either kill the one in front and give enough time to move out of the way of the zombie on the right, or run past both and try and take out the wall of zombies that block your path. Lessons including dodging and downing are reinforced in this room and the zombies here are entirely optional to kill. But once you’re done you can go through the side entrance and arrive in the front yard of The Raccoon City Police Department.
As soon as you enter that door, you are unable to return to the streets, you’re locked into the police department and have no way of returning. Sucks I know, that bus was pretty awesome with all the dead passengers and all that jazz, but they block it because after all those areas they think you’re ready. Plus the zombies don’t respawn so there’s no way to retry them.
So that’s the tutorial of Resident Evil 2.
There is one more part that takes place in the precinct itself. After meeting Marvin and unlocking both doors you enter the west wing and are greeted by a particularly nasty monster known as the Licker.
Yeah, not very pretty. After the brief cutscene of him dropping down you realise that beast doesn’t go straight for you, instead just sits there idly, but when you move it comes at you and swipes at your legs, or tries to lick you. You may not get it during the first playthrough but from the way the cutscene ends where the Licker drops down before you regain control it shows you that the Licker is actually blind. This is where the shotgun you got comes in handy, it takes a lot of bullets but only two shotgun shells to kill it.
With all this, you may not have realised but Resident Evil 2 secretly taught you everything you needed to survive in the first few areas in the game. Clever isn’t it?
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Oh boy, this is gonna be a short post so sorry if you were expecting a three page review on a game.
I picked up Borderlands 2 last week for my laptop and you’ll be unsurprised to know that I rather enjoy it. Dark humour, tons of missions and even more guns with variations that could only a madman could think up of (More on that in an upcoming post). But there’s one mission that really felt depressing.
The mission is a trivial mission given by everyone’s favourite little bucket-of-bolts Clap Trap. Turns out it’s his birthday and wants you to invite people to his birthday party. Of course everyone on the invite list said no to the request and that wasn’t what got to me. Instead it was the consequences of it. As soon as you get back Clap Trap says they must have gotten lost on the way and would eventually come. You know the truth but I guess we never tell him. Instead the party starts with music.
It was here I just felt really depressed. I understand Clap Trap is meant to be a rather annoying robot, but just seeing how lonely he truly is just got to me, especially on his birthday, unless robots don’t really have birthdays and this is just something he decided to have. But seeing what he was going through kinda hit a heart string with me. I had to stop halfway through and just stare at the ceiling, and this wasn’t a ‘stare at the ceiling because it’s better than the drivel I’m currently playing’ stare, it was a ‘oh god it’s just like real life’ stare, the one where you come to a realisation about yourself through the game.
Loneliness. That’s what Clap Trap made me feel. The feeling of solitude as you play a game on your own really got to me. Knowing that people don’t appreciate who you truly are even if you’re as nice as you can be, even if you’re generally nice. It’s heart breaking. Maybe Clap Trap and I have something in common.
Or maybe I’m just thinking too deep into a game where you kill monsters and psychopaths with violent and satisfying guns. Did Gearbox Games made that mission with the intention of making a depressing scenario and show how lonely Clap Trap is, or is it a side product?
I’ll let you guys draw your own conclusions.
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Alright, I know I was meant to do my review on Gears of War Judgement next considering it’s a topic I really need to get off my chest, but right now there is another idea I’ve had for a while and I felt that right now I’m currently saving up to get Sonic Generations for the PC, I might as well go through this. Many of you might not know but I am a fan on Sonic the Hedgehog, maybe not devoted like many are, especially in the fan base side, but I always find myself turning on my GameCube and selecting a Sonic game. So, in true fashion, I’ve decided to narrow down my top 7 Sonic stages. I’ve decided that only 1 stage per game is allowed, otherwise half of it would be from Sonic Adventure 2.
7) Music Plant (Sonic Advanced 2)
They say that music is what makes a stage truly special, and Music Plant is no exception. In fact, the whole level is based upon the concept of musical instruments. You find many of Sonic’s iconic obstacles have been given a make-over to fit the music theme. Pipes have been replaced with brass instruments, springs are now music blocks and the enemies now play instruments. What makes this stage feel truly special is that the pallet matches the theme, and there’s even a chance of making music, some objects produce a note similar to Minecraft music blocks. Truly this stage sets out with ambition and nails it on the head.
6) Egg Fleet (Sonic Heroes)
Well this was surprising even for me. Sonic Heroes in my case is the second weakest game in Sonic’s line-up, even worse than Shadow the Hedgehog for a lot of reasons, but Egg Fleet…..It’s a guilty pleasure for me. Trying to survive the barrage of cannon fire as you hold onto the gyro-blades and jumping from ship to ship in awesome manners as the background shows hundreds of ships in the Eggman Fleet was always a great moment. While it may have been brought down by the slow segments with fly and power, just the concept of running through a giant air fleet is awesome. It could have gotten higher if it was in a different game like Sonic Adventure 2, but even if it’s stuck with Heroes, it still one I enjoy thoroughly.
5) Chemical Plant (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
The second stage of the second game was one I always loved. In retrospect I have no idea why, maybe it was the multiple pathways or the feel of the level, I can’t put my finger on it. But one moment always sticks out for my, and that was jumping up on platforms as water slowly rises. This was a test of how well you acted under constant threat of drowning and how skilled you were at reaction timing. While it may have only been a small fraction of the stage, it was certainly the most memorable and what made Chemical Plant one I will always remember.
4) Green Hill Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog)
Yes, the very first stage in the Sonic series. I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said about by someone else. It was a great introduction to the game and taught you the controls in mere seconds. Colourful, easy and a good hook to what would be one of the most iconic series in gaming, we all love it, don’t deny it.
3) Machine Labyrinth (Sonic Rush Adventure)
I love stages that give us multiple pathways to our objective, Machine Labyrinth is the pinnacle of multiple pathways. The multiple pathways in this stage and the number of ways to enter and exit makes this stage hard to memorise but also very fun to play through. Even if you play this stage 10 times (which I have) you’ll always find at least one new way to get to the end chest. With the use of the new boost mechanic and the new glider found only here, getting from A to B in the fastest time possible will have you going to your DS whenever you’re stuck on a plane. I know I did….Stupid EasyJet.
2) City Escape (Sonic Adventure 2)
We all know Escape from the City, that short, simplistic and addicting tune and we all know the stage it was played in. City Escape was so simple, so addictive and much like Green Hill Zone taught you all the new mechanics the game had to offer. Rail grinding, point scoring and chase scenes were all presents and easy enough for you to learn but challenging enough so that doing it well gave you a reward, whether that be an item bubble or access to a Chao box. Seeing how many tricks I could do on the board section at the beginning and trying to collect all the item boxes is something I enjoyed a lot and still do to this day, though there is one that beats it.
1) Sky Troops (Shadow the Hedgehog)
Put down the pitchforks and hold up with those angry e-mails, because even you have to admit Sky Troops was a pretty impressive level. Like I said with Egg Fleet, the concept of being sky high with hundreds of ships around you is brought here to Shadow the Hedgehog and evolved to near perfection. Jumping from platform to platform and running through spiralling floating ruins while an Egg Destroyer fires shells at you from a distance was probably the best concept in Shadow the Hedgehog. And the music….YouTube it if you haven’t heard the tune but I can guarantee your ears will melt. Beautiful, colourful and full of surprises, even going through a storm cloud and dodging debris on a flyer, make this my favourite stage in the Sonic series.
So I originally had planned to write a review for Gears of War Judgement next for Previously on Gaming, but sometime through it I decided to give a go at playing Gears of War 2, which I considered to be the strongest in the series. Naturally since I hadn’t played it since 2009, I had forgotten what happens in the campaign. I had fun, the story was brilliant but as always there was one part that had the hairs on the back of my head standing up.
This takes place at the end of the game so obviously spoilers, but it’s been out for nearly 5 years, so you should if you’ve wanted to get it, why haven’t you?
Anyway, in Act 5 you assist the Coalition in evacuating Jacinto so you can sink the final city and flood the tunnels that surround it. Obviously it’s your job to do so, which means going into a sinkhole that has engulfed part of the city. Getting there is pretty good, having to climb through sunken buildings and even surviving one collapsing and escaping the burning wreckage in an elevator. Riveting stuff so far….
Then you manage to hijack a Brumak by killing its driving and sitting in the control chairs. And if you don’t know what a Brumak is, it’s this:
Yeah…A 50 foot dinosaur with rockets and miniguns.
My jaw literally dropped the instant I realised I’m controlling one of the most powerful monsters in the Locust Army. And I’m using it against the Locust in their own tunnels. I found myself giggling with joy as I watched hundreds of drones running from me in vain as I rained down hell on them. They would instantly disappear into dust with each bullet I fired.
Even better was that halfway through I had to wrestle a Corpser toe to toe. Sure it was a quick-time event but the thought of slamming one of those giant spider monsters against the wall and roaring at its lifeless remains is just so good.
One thing I noticed is that it is extremely hard to be killed during this level. No matter what they throw at you, they’re instantly wiped out with a few bullets or rockets. Even on Insane mode I didn’t die. It feels like playing God and smiting random followers just for the fun of it, that kind of sadistic glee is a guilty pleasure to most of us.
The final cherry on this deliciously destructive cake is that you end up blowing up the Brumak with giant glowing orbital laser strikes in order for it to sink Jacinto. And, in true Gears of War fashion, the explosion is huge and satisfying.
It is honestly a memorable ending to a brilliant and near perfect campaign. If only the multiplayer was as good.
A little known fact about me is that I rather enjoy Shadow the Hedgehog, though I do agree it was a step in the wrong direction for the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise even if it was intended as a spin off. Though compared to the game before and after this one, Sonic Heroes (a cluster of characters we don’t care for going around the same 14 levels) and Sonic 06 (don’t need to explain that really, you know how bad it is), Shadow the Hedgehog is pretty good.
Ok, so instead of some giant post about the plot and gameplay and explain why the game is bad or good, I’m going to simply cut straight to the chase, and explain both positive and negative points. This entry will focus specifically on the good points of Shadow The Hedgehog. Part 2 focuses on the bad points, which everyone tends to go on about
What they did right:
Moral choice – Shadow the Hedgehog is one of the few games out there that have the moral choice system consistent throughout the game, unlike some like Infamous who only have moral choices occasionally and at the end. Shadow the hedgehog’s moral choice system actually had you going to different locations depending on your actions in the stage you just completed. This gave us so many paths to take and different ways to get to the final boss.
Saving Westopolis from the Black Arms before deciding to go rogue and destroying Eggman’s fleet and nabbing a chaos emerald on GUN’s air fleet is just one of over three hundred pathways you can choose. It feels good knowing that your actions actually have some consequence over the ending you get rather than going through a game and then getting a moral choice out of nowhere.
Characters – Both Sonic Adventures had some terrible voice acting which made me cringe during cutscenes sometimes, more so in the first then the second. Shadow the Hedgehog’s voice acting is somewhat good, the lines they spew out are well recorded and relevant to the stage. They also seem to get more concerned whenever you take the dark stages while in the hero stages they act like the battle has already been won. If feels good knowing what you do has an effect on the characters as well.
Checkpoint System – So one of the new features is to instantly teleport from one checkpoint to another assuming that you have touched the checkpoint you intend to go to. This is extremely helpful when trying to find one more enemy or object you need or going to explore an alternative pathway without being forced to start straight at the beginning. It really adds to exploring each level and finding hidden boxes, weapons and even one of the five keys scattered around.
Being a Spin Off – Ok, most people are quick to shoot down this point as they always point out other games in the Sonic franchise that are considered spin offs, but honestly, if you go into Shadow The Hedgehog with the same expectations as Sonic Adventure, then you’re going to be seriously disappointed. Shadow The Hedgehog is not intended to be like Sonic’s stages, it’s his own little segment. Imagine it like an add-on to the Adventure series, like Tails and Knuckles had their own gameplay style. That’s what Shadow the Hedgehog is: A different game play style.
I also believe that Shadow shouldn’t have that many fast paced sections. One of the arguments against the character himself is that he’s nothing but a clone of Sonic, just the same blue hedgehog but with a different colour pallet and moody. Having his own game style and plot gave him his own plot, his own place in the universe. If they had just decided to make it fast paced like all the others, people would be complaining that it should have been Sonic instead of Shadow, thus defeating the purpose of the game. It set itself to be different and did it well…To some extent.
Ok, now that I’ve given you what I think made the game good, next time we’ll go over the negatives of the game and how it shot itself in the foot.
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In 2006, when the Xbox 360 was released, a small little game by Realtime Worlds Studios called Crackdown was released alongside with it that featured an Agent of the Agency named Agent that was tasked to take down key members of three gangs before killing the leader. It was a good use of Sandbox mechanics and had a good skill levelling system that changed your character’s appearance as you levelled up your character. What got sales was the fact that it boasted access to the Halo 3 beta, and it gained a lot of sales because of it. It was generally a unique game for the use of jumping across buildings and throwing cars at gang members. In 2009, the franchise was picked up by Ruffian Games and at E3 2009 they announced Crackdown 2.
Crackdown 2 shot its foot early on when it decided instead of portraying a new protagonist in a new environment they just used the same location, Pacific City. What’s more, it’s still an agent you play working for the agency to ‘liberate’ Pacific City from a new faction known simply as Cell. Not only is Cell an organisation that is barely fleshed out in the main plot, but they seem more of a filler for the numerous holes in the story department. Changing the three diverse gangs into one bland faction that has no real contribution to the story was a step in the wrong direction.
Now for the actual story. Crackdown 2 takes place a decade after the events of Crackdown 1, anarchy reigns in the ruins of Pacific City, a strain of the virus you saw in the first is turning people into monstrosities and a faction of the population now wants to see the Agency dead. Plus your original character was killed a few years before due to a bomb that wiped out the cloning labs, but that’s not really fleshed out.
The plot focuses around the Agency’s last attempt at defeating the freakish horde of monsters known as ‘freaks’. A sunburst defence system that takes energy from the sun and uses it to destroy freaks with ultra violet rays known as ‘project sunburst’ has been taken over by a revolutionary cell known as ‘Cell’ and it’s up to you, an agent of the Agency named ‘Agent’ to defeat the Cell and activate all nine beacons scattered around Pacific City, destroying the freaks.
Gameplay wise, it’s still the same as before with all five skills barely changed. Shoot, run over, jump, explode and punch enemies and little orbs come out that fill up your skills meter and every new level increases accuracy, gives you weapons, more health and better cars. It’s the same as the first, only different rewards for some skills. Orbs are back and placed in different locations, plus we find three new orbs, Renegade, Driving and Live orbs. Two of which you need to chase down on foot and in a car respectively, and the third you need to collect with a buddy present. All in all, everything you can do in Crackdown 1 makes a return in Crackdown 2.
So where did it go wrong?
The main problem with Crackdown 2 is this: It’s too much like Crackdown 1 to an almost copying level.
Stepping back and looking at the whole picture of Crackdown 2, there are signs that this is just a skeleton game of sorts. There are less enemies than there were before and you pretty much fight the same enemy on each of the three islands, with only minor differences being the heavy weapon enemies rocking sauce pans on their shoulders.
Much of the game is just a copy and paste job, with only minor tweaks to the set locations. Many of the places you need to visit for the main plot are the same locations from the first, only someone took a bulldozer to them. The main plot is also boring, first you need to take out a bunch of Cell troops in a given area, then stand on a spot for 30 seconds to activate a node, do this three times, then go to a nearby cave and activate a beacon before defending the beacon for 5 minutes against waves of freaks. That would be fine on its Town, but that’s how you progress through the main plot, and have to do it a total of nine times.
The only real part you get a change in the plot is during the beginning when you have to storm into a Cell stronghold and take back the beacons and during the end when you activate the final beacon. This is spoiler free, so I won’t mention what happens.
The problem I have with the plot is that unlike the first, there is no appeal to activating the beacons. Standing around for thirty seconds admiring your agent because you can’t move from the spot is not fun, it’s boring and sucks you out of the game. There is a small glimmer of fun when you defend the beacons from the hordes of freaks, and the locations are at least well designed, different levels for freaks to come from.
The only problem is that it gets stale after the second time, and most of the enemies go down with one shot of the UV shotgun, which one is conveniently placed by the dead agents near the beacon, so defence missions become seeing how many freaks you can kill with one blast. They try and spice things up near the end by having the big ones attack you, but by then you have access to agency choppers and can easily get one down to the beacon location, so all challenge gets blown up along with the cannon fodders that get stuck in your car grill.
There’s also hints of corruption of the Agency, which was the major shock moment at the end of the first, but it doesn’t go anywhere, even the ending have a piss poor cryptic message that wasn’t shocking in the least.
I also have problems with the levelling system. In the first, you got weapons from killing gang members and taking the guns to storage locations scattered throughout Pacific City. In this one you get more weapons by levelling up your firearms skill. When you’re level 1, you only have access to the submachine gun and the crappy shotgun that does weak damage. You don’t even get to acquire the agency rifle until level 2 and they removed pistols out of the game, which even to this day I have yet to understand why.
Driving skill also has some differences. Instead of having the three cars available and evolve as you level up your skill, you have to unlock each car by running over enemies and doing drops. It didn’t feel satisfying getting the tank, as having a super car with mini guns attached at level 4 in Crackdown 1 was a godsend.
Now, there’s one thing that absolutely irritates me, the antagonist. We are told about the leader of Cell called Catalina Thorne, who caused this. She is not seen in the game and is only heard of until near the end when she manages to hack into your communications, and that for thirty seconds. Nothing gets done with her, she’s just brushed to the side and never does anything that affects the game. What was the absolute point of giving us someone that we’re meant to hate, but nothing we do aids in bringing her down?
However, one thing I will praise Crackdown 2 on is the collectables. You see, when you first start Crackdown 2 and start a new game, you are greeted by a cutscene that explains the events between the first and second in the form of news segments from PCNN. It was generally unique and was a good way to start the game. Collectables you find tie into this, with logs from the Catalina Thorne, PCNN segments and even some recon logs that can help you take over a stronghold.
My absolute favourite is the Whistle-blower logs, which question the events of the opening cutscene. It is even hinted that Cell was not responsible for the riots and attacks on Agency Tower. They were generally well done, as it brought the motives of the Voice of the Agency into question. Going deeper into these audio logs reveals much about the cover ups and what actually led to the events of Crackdown 2. It’s rare to see an optional collectable hunt actually give a different perspective to a game’s plot, even if Crackdown’s plot is weak and almost non-existent.
So there we have it, Crackdown 2 shot itself in the foot when it decided to copy and paste the location and most of the gameplay and only expand weakly on the game, leading to nothing more than the same stuff only more boring.
So it has come to my attention that while searching through Minecraft sites and the Wikia, I stumbled upon a mob that is in development and may added to Minecraft in the 1.4.1 update that is being created as we speak. Hints of this had been made by Mojang in the past, one of the staff’s tweets mentioned a coding a new mob. And now it’s been partially announced: The Wither.
What makes it stand out is that it is no ordinary mob, it could possibly be Minecraft’s second boss, next to the Ender Dragon. It has 300 points of health (150 hearts) which easily matches the Ender Dragon, meaning that if you fight him, it’ll take a while. It stands out from other mobs as it has three heads and floats similar to the Ghast, but stays close to the ground instead of flying high out of reach. The Wither has three heads as well, and looks slightly similar to the Skeleton, being that its rib cage is exposed and there seems to be no sign or hint of flesh.
Battle style is more frantic and harder than the Ender Dragon. It is entirely possible to attack the Wither with melee weapons but from the look of it, does not seem like the best option. Its main attack is the Wither Skull, which latches onto an entity such as the player or another mob and drain their energy while healing themselves. Screenshots have shown the Wither in the Overworld, but whether or not it resides there or has its own world like The End is still up in the air.
The biggest game changer is that when it takes enough damage, it will shield itself, making arrows useless in combat. This means that one will have to engage in close quarters fighting to finish it off. Whether the shield is lowered any time after is has been raised is unknown, though it is highly unlikely it will.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that when you are not facing the Wither and it is not on the screen, its health bar disappears. Why this is and whether this is planned is unknown at this time.
A possibility is that the Wither is somehow connected to the beacons shown in several screenshots posted by Jeb and his team. Do the beacons have a part in the summon or discovery of the Wither? We don’t know now, but Mojang always have a trick up their sleeve. We will see soon enough.
Minecraft has finally gotten its 1.3.1 update, adding some new and fairly game-changing features to what was already an exciting and unique playing experience. While these features add some new ways to play, there is on major inclusion that stands out above the rest.
What Mojang has brought to the Minecraft table this time is the inclusion of a trading system with the NPC villagers you find within each world. You can trade items that you have mined/harvested/crafted for a new item named emerald, that is the actual emeralds you find in real life.
I decided to see for myself what the trading system was really like and decided to spawn a need world with a seed that’d spawn me near an NPC village. Way to trade was rather easy, two slots for where you offer the item they want and the emerald is spawned in the third slot that belongs to the villager once you meet the number. What I liked about this was the fact that every villager had something to trade, some even wanting emeralds and would trade diamond equipment for it. While some can argue this’ll be an easy way to get emerald equipment without having to venture deep underground, out of the 15 or so villagers i saw, only one offered me a diamond pickaxe and for 10 emeralds.
However, right now this trading system is fairly primitive. Only one thing is offered by a villager and only a few actually have items to exchange your emeralds with. Though when I looked at the trading screen, Mojang has added next and previous buttons on the side. Maybe that’s an indication that villagers will be able to have multiple offers and even have buy and sell menus for each villager. One complaint I have is that it was rather frustrating to find the one villager that wanted 25 pieces of paper for an emerald in a town of his twin brothers, though this is a fairly small complaint compared to the fun I’m having getting emeralds.
So far emeralds do nothing other than trading and making emerald blocks for decoration, similar to diamond, gold and iron. But I believe there are plans to include emeralds in another update, similar to the Eye of Ender when we received the adventure update. I should also point out that emeralds can also be mined underground like other ores, meaning there are two ways to get emeralds. It’s nice to have a new type of mineral to look out for when mining for diamonds.
1.3.1 now also includes a cheat mode that is similar to the admin powers within the multiplayer. It allows you to spawn items or turn on creative mode for yourself, and reminds me a lot of the single player command mod though I’m not sure if cheat mode has the same amount of commands as SPC. There is also a bonus chest that includes items for an easier start to a new world, and an all new Ender chest which I have yet to find (partially because I have yet to find the stronghold and partially because right now I’m more interested in the trading
system). Creepers now do more damage on a higher difficulty, meaning there’s more reason to avoid them. We have a tripwire which seems nice but so far is only good for traps, there’s probably more functions for them but so far they’ve only been good for a laugh.
We also have a way to grow cocoa beans. They’re found within the jungle biomes and spawn 2-3 cocoa beans when harvested. This means that making cookies within Minecraft is much easier than having to find them in dungeons.
Minecraft’s 1.3.1 update gives us new toys and features that add to an already addictive game. This update no doubt paves the way to new and exciting features and items that make them all the more worth it after working for the emeralds to trade for them.
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