Dead Rising 2

(Low level spoilers)
I've been playing Dead Rising 2 since it's UK release, and I've now almost finished the game (Just need to complete overtime mode), so I feel I've played enough to pass some judgements on Capcom's latest title.

On the whole, it's defiantly an enjoyable experience. It's much in the same vein as it's predecessor- certainly not a world class game, but an entertaining title and very fun to play. But sadly it still shares many of Dead Rising's flaws, and if you haven't purchased it yet, I would like to warn you about a few things in Dead Rising 2, and then tell you about some of the awesome stuff that is in it. Seriously, it's worth your time and I strongly recommend it, even if you wait a while for it to pop up pre owned or for the retail price to drop. That disclaimer aside, let's get the bad aspects out of the way first.

1.Save system.
This has to go. I'm sorry, but it does. It's awful- easily the worst element of Dead Rising 2. I've had my rant on save points in the past, but to give you the TL;DR version- Save points suck and the only purpose they serve is in survival horror games to instil a fear of death, in that you need to play though a section of the game again. Dead Rising 2, is not a survival horror game, and neither was Dead Rising 1. Yes, there are zombies everywhere, yes you have limited capacity for items, yes you're alone in a hostile world, but really... it's not horror when you're scything down legions of zombies using a set of bowie knives duct taped to some boxing gloves is it? Even more so if you do it while wearing women's clothing. Calling this survival horror is like trying to call Army of Darkness a horror movie.

Don't get me wrong, as I said Dead Rising is a great game (I love Army Of Darkness also), but it's not a horror game. Not by a long shot. Because of that I get pissed off when I die and realise I forgot to save for the last half hour and I need to do everything all over again. It's not tense when I know my life is on the line- it's a precursor to ragequit. It's also f###ing annoying when I run into a psychopath for the first time and I've not saved, as I know they will probably kill me while I learn their moves. And yes, you can save before initiating any encounter, but that involves taking a long journey to the nearest save point, and in a game where you are constantly against the clock, this is not a good idea, especially when there are so many 'quests' to do- any one of which could result in a psychopath if you don't know what to expect.

Bottom line, normal save system please. This isn't a horror game and the save system detracts from Dead Rising 2's biggest asset- the fun factor. A possible alternative though would be retries, or at least a quicksave system.

2.The Psychopaths.
In all fairness, Dead Rising 2's psychopaths are a big step up from the original Dead Rising. They are not quite as hideously overpowered, and thanks to Dead Rising 2's far superior control the fights don't feel quite as cheap as they used to. If you loose, it's probably because you screwed up or just didn't learn the boss' patterns quickly enough. Sadly however, some psychopaths remain insanely difficult. For some of them it's an asset. One guy on a motorbike for example requires you to have perfect timing and good reflexes to take him head on. However, if you can get creative there are other ways to deal him that are easier. I'm all for the encouragement of lateral thinking.

Sadly however, there remain two or three psychopaths who are a lesson in frustration. One of them called Randy is extremely fast, packs a massive punch and the arena you fight him in is very small and very packed. Often the only way to stand a chance against these psychopaths is using tactics that are so meta they boarder on exploits.

The last boss of the main game mode is easily one of the cheapest boss fights since Crackdown's later Shai Gen bosses with their tightly picked infinite re spawn points. Not to spoiler you, but this person is almost unkillable in hand to hand, shooting them prompts them to roll (which makes them invincible) and their ranged attack hits very hard and stuns you. Oh and they also have some off map support with an AoE the size of the Yucatan peninsula. Oh and you have to fight them on pretty much open ground. Oh and they have no superpowers- none of thier apparent invulnerability is ever explained.

It seems the philosophy has leaned heavily on what could be done to make it hard for the player, with no thought given to how the player might actual beat the boss. Basically, you need to meta game the designers.

These guys kill the end game. Once they appear the fun factor takes a nose dive as if you fight them head on, you'll be there forever as more and more pop up. If you run away from them, they're fast enough that you end up with a train, meaning if anything snags you or stops you, they dog pile you under a mountain of festering necrotic flesh. Your only hope- only hope- is to keep running and stop for nothing- not for maintenance rooms, not for save points, not for Jesus himself. Don't even open the damn map once you have a train of these things. Oh, and I'm not certain, but I'm quite sure that queens only stun them. All this basically means that once these guys appear, Dead Rising 2 devolves into simply getting from point A to B for the next mission, stopping only at your peril. Factor in the save point fiasco with how often these things can drag you down (and the timer stopping you visiting safe save points), and the closing chapters of Dead Rising 2 really don't live up to the first few hours of gameplay. Oh, and to cap it all of they have a ranged attack too.

Well, with that unpleasantness out of the way, let's take a look at some of the better aspects of the game.

1.Combo weapons.
I always get suspicious when game developers make a big deal out of one feature of a game (usually, for good reason), but I have to say the combo weapon system in Dead Rising 2 is very well executed and very entertaining. My personal favourite weapons are the claw gloves, made by combining a set of boxing gloves with a bowie knife. With all that yellow on, Chuck stars to kind of remind me of a certain superhero...

You can also power up your combo weapons and gain extra bonuses from them by acquiring combo cards. These items are given to you for levelling up, and a few of the best ones are rewards for completing certain in game challenges.

Some of these combo weapons are logical and quite well grounded in reality, such as attaching a machete to the end of a pole. Others are downright insane such as a robot head mask with a lawn mower engine and blade stuck on the top. And yes, you do run around head butting zombies with it while it's turned on. See, not a horror game- just a fun one!

Nearly all survivors can now look after themselves pretty well. Give them a decent weapon and you don't really need to worry about them (just avoid catching them when you attack). Give them a good weapon and they are actually helpful. Indeed, without giving away too much, there's one bit of the game where saving lots of survivors really pays off...

Only a few survivors actually need to be carried or otherwise assisted, either through injury or circumstance. Even better, if a survivor is grappled by a zombie, they can break free by themselves in fairly short order. Basically, so long as you're not using them as your private army (and believe me, you can), or leading them into hordes of zombies, you shouldn't loose a survivors through their own idiocy.

3.Chuck Greene

He's just a better character than Frank West. He's more likeable, more competent, and self assured without being cocky. He's also doesn't take pictures of everything every two minutes. The character still certainly isn't Oscar material, but he's better rounded that Frank.

4.Control and gameplay.

Yes, yes, yes! The control is without a doubt far superior to Dead Rising 1. Everything feels better, everything is more smooth and more responsive, the camera is slick and the character physics work well. Dead Rising one was plagued by poor control which made many of the psychopath fights almost intolerable. I can honestly say that not once did I feel like I'd been cheated into death by the controls while playing Dead Rising 2.

5.The psychopaths.
Despite the few exceptions noted above, most of the psychopath fights are actually very well done, classic 'remember the pattern and spot the opening' style boss battles. I enjoyed most of them, and the smoother controls really paid off during them. Certainly a step up.

6.It's just fun damnit!
It's nice to see a game that doesn't take itself too seriously. So many games these days try to tell deep, complex stories or focus on a finely balanced multiplayer experience. This is all laudable, but really very few developers have the skill to pull of a truly artistic piece of gaming, something that just comes together and engages the mind and the soul in the way a good book or movie can. That's not to say developers should give up trying, but it's nice to play a game that knew where it was going, and worked to that goal. There are no morals, no subtext, just goodguys, badguys and a shit tonne of zombies to dismember in a variety of interesting ways.

Now, if you'll excuse me there's a lead pipe and a rocket firework here and... HOLY SHIT!

No More Fallow!

The fallow draws to a close. Two titles are released in the UK today, Civilization 5 and Dead Rising 2. I’ve got to say, I’m pretty psyched about both of them, especially after months of sweet bugger all being released.

Speaking of which, has anyone heard from South Korea in the last few months? They seem to have gone really quiet…

I’ve always had a soft spot for the civ games. Civilization 2 was one of the first PC games I ever played, and I played it to death. I missed 3, enjoyed 4 and the changes I’ve read about in 5 look very promising. The simple act of removing the ability to stack units, is alone a major difference. Now choke points will be worth holding. I also like the idea of the hex system too- anyone who plays strategy board games can attest to the fact they tend to become much more interesting when hexed based. I’ve heard bad things about the AI but let’s face it- there will be a third party mod out in a few months offering a much better AI.

More than Civilization 5 though, I am looking forwards to Dead Rising 2, especially having completed the Case 0 demo (look, it’s a God damn demo. It’s a piece of gameplay designed to get you to the buy the full game. It’s a unique take of the idea of a demo, and one I support, but it’s still a demo. Demo- demonstration, QED).

Let’s face it; Dead Rising was far from the greatest game ever made. It had some nasty control problems, the set up didn’t lend itself well to fighting the psychopaths and the story/characters where very much hit and miss. What it was though, was fun. Once you got past the icky controls and general fiddly nature of the game, Dead Rising offered a lot of amusing ways to hack, chop, dismember and destroy zombies, from death by shotgun, to death by katana, to death by lawnmower… the list goes on.

Dead Rising 2 looks to be promising even more of the same, and judging from Case 0, many of the control issues have been fixed. The final fight against the psychopath was also a little more fluid, and while by no means easy, was a fair challenge of skill that was a good fun fight. I just hope the bloody baby sitting element in Case 0 is left by the wayside, I’m all for the idea of the father/daughter bond as a plot device, but if I have to make sure that Katie gets her shot every 12 hours, I am going to be seriously, seriously pissed off. Man, it might actually be more annoying than Otis in the first game… that doesn’t even bare thinking about.

Well, Dead Rising 2 will be here shortly, and I guess I’ll know one way or the other.

Ruse Review

In a nut shell- go and buy World in Conflict instead.

Halo is the Most Overrated Game In History.

Halo 1. The characters are bland, the plot is predictable, the flood are made of nothing but clich├ęs from science fiction established during the last 25 years (as are the covenant), there's no drama, no conflict, no artistic merit, no addition to the genre and no memorable moments that stick with you.

Halo is, and always will be only one thing- safe. Bungie just take whatever works on other games and cobble them together to create something that takes no risks, pushes no boundaries and challenges no preconceptions- and that's just the gameplay. The story is so simple, so straight forwards, so damn linear and predictable that it's impossible to salvage. It's junk food, pure junk food. If it was a book it would be a bad Stephen King novel.

For my fix of mindless shooters, I prefer Gears of War. While the plot and characters are one long testosterone soaked macho fantasy (which means unlike Halo, it at least has an identifiable style, as opposed to a vanilla presentation). The gameplay is (well... was) innovative, tactical and fresh. Take cover, shoot, relocate if cover is compromised, time your advance to get a better position... as opposed to Halo's way of doing things- Walk around and shoot. Walk around and shoot. Walk around and shoot. Lost shields? Find a large rock. Then walk around and shoot. Halo has never, and will never do anything new.

GoW II is an example of a well done sequel, building on the positive aspects of the first game and bringing in many technical improvements, as well as more fluid control. Halo II was... an expansion pack. It brought nothing- NOTHING new to the table. And don't talk to me about dual wielding weapons. We had that as far back as the N64 with Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. It was exactly the same game with a couple of bolt ons, nothing more.

Halo III? A little better- in fact I nearly enjoyed it. The plot had certainly moved on, but the story telling was left with ways to go (seriously those flashes of Cortana really pissed me off). Gameplay and graphics wise there where also slight improvements, but again the problem is that there was nothing new. Halo III did exactly what Halo did- cobble together the good parts from other popular titles at the time and chuck out some bastard Frankenstein's creature that you can't really criticize in any way other than it's sheer banality. Still, at least it was a new game. The banality thing though, that's the rub. Halo is so average, so bland, and yet it's so popular. How many people say vanilla is their favourite ice cream? A few, but not many. This by the numbers FPS though, with no innovation is somehow bigger than Jesus. In fact, here's an experiment you can try. Look up the number of people who play Halo online, in your country/state if you can, and then compare it to the number of church/temple/mosque/synagogue/grove/whatever goers. Post link and sources below.

Okay, Halo isn't a terrible game, but by God it's not worth paying £35 for. It never was, it never will be. Did you know that ODST was originally supposed to be an expansion pack? My guess is that Bungie never actually added anything to it, and just charged the full whack for the game because they know Halo fans are drooling Pavlovian canines. You ring the little Halo bell and out they come, braying like wild animals, begging for scraps of meat from the creative table. Meanwhile the rest of us are enjoying gourmet cuisine, making polite conversation and trying not to mention Bobby Kotick.

I think this brings up the other serious problem with the Halo franchise- it's fans. No game, with the possible exception of the Final Fantasy series has ever produced such a die in the wool, fundamentalist militant group of gamers. When Halo 2 came out I was still in school and two kids actually followed me around for three fucking weeks, laying into me because they overheard me saying how much of a disappointment Halo 2 was. Now okay, it was school and we were kids, but God dammit if that's not the attitude that so many Halo fans share.

I have never played in an online community that actually insulted you just for killing someone in the damn game. Don't get me wrong, every game has its share of cockmongers who always have a reason why they died apart from sucking, or how you killed them in a cheap way or with an exploit, but in Halo these twats are everywhere! There are a far greater proportion of wankers playing Halo than Horny Tit Vixens Interactive.

I'm sure there are a few Halo players out there who are insulted by this generalization, and to them I apologise- but you're probably the intelligent minority who see Halo for what it actually is: An alright game, good to waste a few hours and few bucks on, but certainly not this fucking messianic title that everyone seems to make it out as.

How did a game that deserves no more place in history than a footnote, get this sort of crazed cult following? Someone once told me it as because Halo was, for a generation of gamers, their first step into the world of online play. Well, that's as maybe (must be a generation after mine, and that is a really scary thought- I played StarCraft, MechWarrior 3 and Half Life on a 12.2K modem), and explains one of the titles, but after Halo 2 we had all sorts of great online games. How the hell did this series maintain such rampant popularity, while brilliant, creative games fell by the wayside? Why do Bungie sit on beanbags filled with money while other more creative developers go bust seemingly every day?

I have only one answer. Halo is a religion. You are indoctrinated into Halo, and are told time and time again how great it is until you believe it. You will throw money at it, and gain a huge sense of satisfaction from it because you're a part of it and that's how it works- or else. You give up all reason in exchange for knowing that you are right because loads of people around you say you are. Anyone who insults Halo is a heretic, and must be beaten and abused with full force, lest they use logic to show that Master Chief is not a God. Like any religion, once it starts to gain a following it suckers more and more people in, fed by the numbers within it, and the mutual constant self assurance that Halo is good, Halo is great, those who disagree must be burned, just as soon as we buy the next Halo. Maybe this explains the abusive nature of Halo fans playing online? They're fiercely competitive and insulting as they are trying to prove they are further up the parochial pecking order. Fortunately, there are a few lax Haloites who don't take it quite so seriously, to them I raise my hat. You enjoy Halo, and appreciate it for what it is. You've pulled yourself out of the quagmire that is the rest of the series fan base. I may even play a few games with you.

Still, credit where credit is due. Well done Bungie, L Ron Hubbard would be proud of you.

I wonder if I can get the leaders of the world to jump like puppets on a string if I threaten to burn a Legendary edition of Halo...
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