Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Hellbound Demo - yet another "90s FPS"

Hellbound is an upcoming FPS inspired by the classics like Doom, Quake, Blood and others. There's been quite a lot of games inspired by the 90s shooters lately: Dusk, Ion Fury, Wrath: Aeon of Ruin to name a few. They all have one thing in common: retro aesthetics. Hellbound on the other hand embraces modern graphics. Survival mode where you try to stay alive while enemies attack you in waves was out for some time but the campaign demo was just released. I decided to give it a try.

Beat the demo and I liked it. Then I beat it a couple of times more cause it's short and fun. There's no depth to it nor it has any advanced movement. During fights you just gotta keep running around so make sure to check "always run" in the options. It resembles Serious Sam combat in that way but there aren't as many enemies and the areas aren't as open. At least not at this point because Survival mode showed they can spawn tons of them. The weapon feel could be improved but I like the shotgun - it packs some serious power. The lack of a bossfight at the end of the demo was pretty disappointing. The game runs well enough on medium settings with some occasional stuttering on my laptop with GTX 1050TI but I'm sure they'll optimize it more before the release. I liked it enough to want to buy it when it comes out.


I found the secret eventually

Friday, November 15, 2019

Death Stranding: First Impressions

I'm about 6 hours into the game. It looks amazing on my 55" 4K screen, definitely the best looking PS4 game I've played. The cut scenes are well directed and I never felt like skipping them. Maybe because they're more interesting than the gameplay which mostly consists of walking around. Hiking through natural environments should be relaxing but when you carry tons of cargo and you need to shift the weight constantly, it becomes annoying and stressful instead. The balance mechanic is certainly unique and it adds some extra tension during chase sequences. The soundtrack is nice and fits the mood. I'm only at the beginning and my bullshit meter is already off the charts but I need to understand the story better before I start calling things out.

Basically I like the presentation and dislike the gameplay (and something tells me it won't get much better) so whether I'd like the game or not is gonna come down to the story, which isn't looking great so far.

Ugh the Monster Energy...that's the most blatant product placement I've ever seen, even integrated in the gameplay itself. Death Stranding was produced by Sony and Kojima thinks of himself as an artist so I don't understand why would he compromise his game like that. There's also an advert for Norman Reedus's AMC show Ride but that one didn't bother me because it feels more like an Easter egg rather than an ad.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Next to play: Death Stranding

Game: Death Stranding
Release date: 2019
Platform: PS4

Conditions: Finish the story on normal difficulty

Just picked up Death Stranding. Avoided all reviews, gameplay videos and discussions. I wanna go into it as blind as possible and experience this "new genre" for myself. I'm ready for a huge letdown :D

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

[FINISHED] Life Is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 3: Hell Is Empty

Game:  Life Is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 3: Hell Is Empty
Release date: 2017
Platform: PC
Date started: May 2018
Date finished: May 15 2018

Spoiler Warning!

The revelation at the end of the last episode shook Rachel's world and completely shifted the direction of the story. The plan to leave Arcadia Bay is temporarily shelved until they find Rachel's biological mother. The search crosses their path with a criminal Damon Merrick who doesn't like people asking questions about his clients and things get far more complicated when he finds out Rachel is a daughter of a district attorney...

Episode 3 wants you to answer one question: What is better- a convenient lie or the ugly truth? It is an omnipresent theme intertwined within the main story, random conversations and even the puzzles of the game. For the first time in a Life is Strange game I had to really think before making a decision because the choices presented didn't feel so black and white anymore. Even the dialogue felt more mature and less cringey than usual. Unfortunately, just like the finale of the season 1, the conclusion of Before the Storm appears to be rushed and unfinished. Near the end of the game Chloe misses some important story moments, and therefore we as players don't get to experience them. We only get told what happened. I can't imagine it was a narrative design choice, it felt like a compromise to solve a budget issue or to meet the release date.

The episode starts with surreal imagery as the girls are literally looking into the past through a telescope. It somewhat reminded me of the nightmare sequence from the season one finale. Dreams play an important role in Before the Storm and this episode goes further as Chloe is having imaginary conversations with her dead father. All the dreamy imagery threw me off a little bit and at one point when Chloe was having an important real conversation near the end, I was questioning whether it was really happening or was it just another dream. In truth it was just sloppy storytelling. But how is the gameplay?

We're fixing the truck...AGAIN?!


Come on! Despite of it being an annoying tedious busywork I gave it a pass last time because at least they let us personalize it in some way. No more! Here it started as a cut scene and it should've ended as a cut scene but instead they turned it into a pointless and insultingly simple puzzle. Warren Spector once said a video game should be interactive whenever possible but I'm pretty sure he didn't mean this.

In the past episodes Deck Nine gave us some cool memorable moments by combining gameplay with dialogue. The tabletop mini game in the episode 1 and the school play in the episode 2 were some of my favorite moments of the game. I was looking forward to what they can come up with for the finale, only to find there's no new creative interaction like that. We only got an option to finish the tabletop session, which was still nice.

I also expected more scenes of Chloe and Rachel together and their relationship explored further so I thought it was an odd choice to have them separated during the entire second half of the game. The antagonist Damon Merrick felt like a real threat despite of me ultimately knowing how the things are gonna turn out. Chloe's stepfather David got one moving scene that gave him much needed humanity and I liked how they found a way to include her real dad into the story as well. Flawed fathers was an underlying theme of the story after all. On the other hand I didn't like the stalker Elliot subplot. Seems like they wanted a character that acts as a dark mirror to Warren from season one but his inclusion felt forced and made the story formulaic.

The way they handled final conflict was very odd. The fact that the main character wasn't the one who saved the day was somewhat refreshing but at the same time it ended up feeling quite uneventful because she passed out and missed what happened. The final decision wasn't easy to make during my playthrough but looking back at it now, it seems pretty obvious which choice was the right one. I liked the uplifting montage at the end and I wish they would leave it at that. Ending on a positive note and letting us remember what's coming would make for a perfect bittersweet ending. Unfortunately they ruined it with a post-credit scene that pushes it right in our face.

My Choices (SPOILERS!)

Only 4% of players got to experience the best part of the game? :P
+ less cringey             dialogue
+ harder choices

- rushed  
- unsatisfactory conflict resolution
-post-credits scene