Sunday, 30 November 2008

Bioshock: One hell of an overhyped game

I bought Bioshock at a discount price some months ago, and I did not install it before yesterday.

You now, I don't really play video games everyday, I have not finished Half Life 2 EP 2 yet. My hard drive crashed one year ago, I had to reinstall Steam, the video game, and begin from scratch.

As I bought Left 4 Dead recently and I'm enjoying every second of it, I wanted to try another video game to compare: maybe I was too much into this zombie stuff ? Bioshock was praised as one of the greatest video games ever made, with a very deep and convincing story, and I really anticipated to try it (zombie stories have to be simple, this is a rule of the genre).

Let's face it: I was very very disappointed with the video game so far, from its faulty installation to it's gameplay:

  • Installation: I have a video card which does not handle Shaders 3.0, and this game will not work at all if you don't have a 3.0-capable card. Of course this mandatory requirement is not written at all on the retail box (they only mention DirectX 9.0), and browsing through a lot of threads on the subject, I feeled cheated. However, some good people were able to recompile the shaders provided in the games installation directory to make them work on 2.0 shaders-capable cards. By the way, it means that 2K could have done it before or after the initial release, but of course they did nothing.

  • Graphics: Those I saw did not convince me, but I will put this under the fact that I don't have the required video card to play this game. Let's assume that they are good if you have a card that meets the requirements of the game

  • Gameplay: It very much look like a child console game. I really, really don't like games were every things you must do are advertised with glowing colors and oversized objects in the game. For example, at the beginning, you need to break a lock; this lock is much oversized compared to the other objects in the area, and is in a glowing gold color. It's the same for all objects that you must use (even cigarettes). All that looks like Super Mario, not a FPS, and it drives me away from the story.

  • Radio: During all the part of the game I played, I always had a radio on with a voice-over who explained everything to my character. Stop this !!! A video game is not a book, and this looks like a very bad movie. I don't need this. Are you convinced by your story ? Then you don't need to feed it to the player like baby milk, it's advertised as a mature game after all. With this over-present voice-over, I feel that the developers have not been able to really flesh this in the game. I may be spoiled by the Half-Life 2 way of telling stories, which is in the level-design itself, but it's easier to simply record tons of pre-recorded text. So much for the convincing story.

  • Level-design: levels are not very interesting IMHO, again it looks like a platform game, not a shooter. All rooms pretty much looked the same to me, and I became bored of navigating through them after a while.

  • Characters: There maybe are some strong characters in the game, but the average NPCs you encounter all look the same and act the same. The first encounter was great (the woman who carry a revolver installed of a baby in a stroller), but after that they all looked the same for me.

  • Gameplay: That's nice to loot dead NPCs for money, Eve, or health, but after the second time you do it it does not look logical at all (and the three available slots are really plain ridiculous). Again this looks very much like a 2D platform game, not a shooter. Do you think it is logical that almost every NPC bring some handy health kits on his person ? I don't. There are other games which are very careful to put items where they are logical in the universe they have created. Half-Life was maybe the first to present a convincing universe, where for example health kits were only available in logical places. It was in 1998 guys !!

  • Morals: Reviewers praised the moral choices that the game present to the player. I don't really see what is the moral choice between taking the ADAM of the Little Sisters (thus killing them) and rescue them. In short this is between being evil (which could be cool in a video game, I reckon), or good. Those who mistakingly take this cheap trick for an interesting moral choice should buy Deux Ex and play this fantastic (if old) video game. I still remember the moment in the game when my employers (a kind of Sci-Fi CIA government agency called UNATCO) assigned me to kill a terrorist called Juan Lebedev. When my character is in front of him, he asks "Do you know who you are, and who are your employers ?". You could assume before that he was the bad guy, and after that maybe he is the good guy, but the game does not let you to think so simply. It would now be very simple just to go away without killing him. But at this moment, your superior, a not very sympathetic woman called Anna Navarre arrives and urges you to do what you were assigned to do. OK, the game let you do what you want: killing Lebedev, killing your superior, or going away without killing anybody (but knowing too well that she will finish the job). You are free, but neither of your choices are simple, or "good", nor "bad", in a moral point of view (and the story will unfold, a bit differently, depending on what you choose to do). This is a game with morality choices, no a childish thing giving you a black a white illusion of a choice.

All in all, a very much overhyped game.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Beautiful freaks

From Left 4 Dead, of course...
As you see, there's not only one type of infected ;-)

And beware of the witch !!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Playing against the Living Dead

I just downloaded the Left 4 Dead demo yesterday evening (containing the first two maps of the first chapter of the video game), and started to play yesterday late in the evening, and also today. I did not look for online coop gaming yet, because I first wanted to better understand how the game was working for me (it is possible to play alone with internet switched-off, in that case the computer plays the 3 other characters in the game).

I had some framerate problems with my PC yesterday, just after I downloaded the game (especially when I fired, or when a lot of zombies rushed at once). I thought it could be due to my (now) aging laptop, even if it still handles Episode 2 without any apparent glitches. But it was probably just because some of the PC resources were not released after the (1 hour) download and install, because when I played it today none of these problems re-appeared.
Me and my AI mates were able to make it through the first map on advanced settings (after many trials though), but we were not able to finish the second map successfully - yet ;-). We were very close the last time, but I was insufficiently prepared to the never ending wave of zombies when I pulled the switch (I think it's at the end of the map, just before the safe zone, but I'm not sure..). I heard the sobbing of a witch, I knew the dreadful thing was close, so I switched off the flashlight to avoid to awaken it. The problem was that there were a LOT of other zombies rushing at us, and the last wave was fatal: witch awakened, character dead, mission failed ;-)

As of the game, it is very efficient to scare the player. I'm sure it is much better when really playing it coop, but even in standalone mode it's scary !!! Hearing the witch soft sobbing is really something for example... And they handle shadows very efficiently making you never fully at ease anywhere in the game. Art direction seems flawless when you are in the game. They say this on the L4D blog, and I really thing it examplifies the way the game was designed: we'll talk about our approach to lighting the dark and murky world of Left 4 Dead, with a focus on playable, stylized dark — namely, finding a balance that gives a player the illusion of darkness without getting frustrating.

You never know from were the things will arrive, even if you backtrack, you may encounter new waves of zombies. It never seems like the so-called "A.I. Director" is spawning just them just in front of your eyes, I played the same parts several times (after many deaths), and although encounters of zombies were always different, they never seemed random. I think it is partly due to the fact that all the level ambiance is consistent with the way and places they will appear. I would very much like to hear more about the director, because it seems to be very efficient with its purpose...

All in all, I'm 90% sure I will buy this game !!!

Update: I made it to the end of the two first maps after all... But I think I saw a zombie vomiting on the floor once. Disgusting !!

Update 2: The zombies are not generic at all. Apart from the 5 bosses, there is a LOT of different zombie faces, not only say one for zombie men, and one for zombie women. And even if you don't really have the time to enjoy the view, the graphics are really good, very good. During my nth trip through the two levels, I took a lot of screenshots - while endangering the life or my character, and believe me: they are really gorgeous. And even in the height of action (brains, brains !!!), zombies are, sort of, say, beautiful. hmm only as zombies, I agree, zombie women are really not my type, first they seem to never wash their teeth after eating raw meat ;-)

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Merry Christmas

"we made it, WE MADE IT"

"son we just crossed the street"

Seems this game will be awesome, but son beware the cry of the Witch !!

HD in English here