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[ First Impressions Review ] Destiny

Alright, I guess it’s time to put on my big boy pants and get this done. I should let you know that I’m not a huge fan of first person shooters, mostly because I’m not that great at them. I’m good enough to get through single player without too much trouble but when it comes to playing up against other people, I flat out bite the big one. I tend to approach MMOs with the same kind of apprehension for, basically, the same reason. I’m typically not the kind of person that is able to keep up with the learning curve that suddenly shows up in certain aspects of games like those. In comes talk of Destiny in my gaming world and things seem a little weird – I hear about a game where it plays like a single player first person shooter but integrates multiplayer features in such a way that you’re coming in and out of multiplayer areas without even knowing it and working together as opposed to against one another. While I’m not a huge fan of these kinds of games, I’ll admit, I was a little excited to try this one on. Not long ago I was given the chance to take part in the beta test phase for Destiny thanks to the wonderful local gaming community here where I live and I’m here to report my initial findings in having played this game for the PlayStation 4.

Bungie-Destiny

The First 20 Minutes

Right from the moment you first boot the game up you’re treated to a download prompt, meaning if you’re playing the PlayStation 4 copy of the beta version of the game you’ll have to wait for a 10GB download. While I don’t mind the wait, myself, I know plenty of people that do and if they’re anything like me a long wait for a download when you thought the game was good to go can feel like forever.  Once that was done and I got into the game proper, I was able to see the MMO influence almost immediately: you’re prompted to customize your character into three different classifications that affect your play style and then aesthetically customize your character. From that point you’re driven into a good taste of the lore surrounding the game and shot right into the interface and gameplay without much more explanation other than “you’re being chased, get the hell out of here!” It does a pretty good job of setting the scene for you in a very classically Bungie way by giving you a little floating assistant to point you in the right direction and give you the scope of what you’re facing. I was able to complete the first mission without much trouble and after the mission completion – seriously, the mission is pretty simple: get away from bad guys, who flank and outnumber you anyway, forcing you to grab your nearest weapon, confront them, and then escape – I was whisked away to the “Tower”, which is a kind of safe area where players can congregate, shop, choose mission objectives, and the like. I was able to basically grasp a lot of the shops, how they work, and their locations without too much effort. I spent quite some time checking things out, though.

In the first twenty minutes of actually playing the game, I do have to say that the game looks and feels very good. I tend not to live and die by the graphical content of a game but I have to admit that this game looks very good. I haven’t witnessed any slowdown just yet and the effects are fairly simple without coming off as cheap. Scenery looks beautiful and that’s definitely to be expected from the guys that brought us Halo. In terms of the gameplay itself, it feels very much like Halo melded with Borderlands in that there’s a lot of shooter elements that are mixed with various RPG elements as well. By no means is it revolutionary; for what it is, though, it works well: it’s a good, solid experience that stays well within the context of its lore and environment. Enemy weapon projectiles moved slower than I thought they would in a shooter, oddly enough, I can’t complain about that, as it just makes it easier to survive, but I did find it rather unusual. This “Tower” place feels less like a respite and more like a hub town from some kind of MMORPG, really.

original (2)

Thoughts on What’s to Come

I’ve actually played another couple missions after my initial playing of the game and my thoughts on the game aren’t likely to change if they keep the base concept the same: I’ve played games like BorderlandsDust 514, and WarFrame and having done so pretty thoroughly, I feel I already know what’s to come: you have a game with a central hub system that divvies up all of your missions, equipment, and social interaction and a mission structure that serves to challenge you with gameplay and reward you with experience and loot as a result of how you played the mission. I know, you’re probably thinking “well, putting it that way, it sounds like a ton of games that I’ve played” and you’d be completely right. My thoughts on the game can be summed up like this: “this game isn’t quite meeting the hype but I’m okay with that.” I’m not even sure Bungie really planned to make a revolutionary game. Maybe I misinterpreted what they were advertising for when this game was getting press but I had the feeling that this game was going to change everything and it… really… didn’t.

That’s not to say that what’s here is bad. Actually, I’m saying just the opposite: this game is good, from what I can tell. I haven’t really dived into any additional competitive or social aspects of the game just yet but from what I have had the pleasure to try on is a game I would definitely not mind playing casually. There’s not really enough, just yet, to suck me in, constantly, but there’s enough to definitely keep me interested and there may just be enough to keep me in until the story content is completed, at least, as the lore is pretty interesting, so far, actually.

Will I buy the game? I’m going to have to see more to make that decision. I’m still kind of apprehensive, based on the fact that while it’s interesting in concept, it’s not really interesting enough to keep me locked in.

[ First Impressions ] The Last of Us

I’m going to warn you now: this is not a spoiler-free review. I’m not going to ruin the game for you but I’m not tip-toeing around. That’s all you’re getting.

Have you ever watched I Am Legend? You know, that movie with Will Smith about the end of the world at the hands of some kind of manufactured disease that turns humans into some kind of monstrosities similar to vampires or zombies? In case you haven’t, Will Smith’s character parades around a metropolitan city, living day to day, trying to reach out to what remains of humanity while coming up with a cure, as he’s a military scientist, in spite of the fact that the city is overrun with these monsters during the nighttime. He tries to eke out some semblance of a normal life with his dog and his… imaginary friends. Later on in the movie, it’s implied that there are quarantine zones where the military is holed up, securing survivors. Over the course of the movie, too, you see how Will Smith was forced to respond as this disease is released on humanity and causing immediate and desperate evacuations.

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I Am Legend – Alternatively: “Will Smith as Will Smith in Will Smith”

There’s a lot of parallels in I Am Legend and The Last of Us. Not just in its story but in its presentation. It moves quickly to establish a very serious tone and gets only more serious and dire from that moment. The Last of Us opens with a segment showing the main character, Joel, with his daughter at the onset of the pandemic – some kind of parasitic plague that acts like cordyceps unilateralisa naturally occurring organism that is capable of altering the form and function of ants – that mounts against humanity so sharply and quickly that humanity has almost no time whatsoever to respond. A lot of people die and things just get worse from there – this pandemic has turned infected humans into a shambling semblance of their former selves. The infected either continue to change and grow or they start breaking down and become more plant than human.

Fast forward twenty years and you have an embittered Joel trying to get through life the best way he knows how: as a goods smuggler. He and his partner, Tess, are confronted with an extremely awkward contract from a rebel cause called the Fireflies: smuggle a child out of the military blockade and into a Firefly compound. Joel is given no real information other than the girl is extremely important and that the contract comes from the leader of the Fireflies, making this even more important.

"I'm sorry, you want to smuggle what in where?"
“I’m sorry, you want to smuggle what in where?”

You don’t really need to know more than that to know that your journey will take you across the wasteland and things go from bad to worse to even worse at almost regular intervals. This game makes absolutely no mistakes about the tone and tries to be as realistic as it can be about the circumstances presented. These creatures that you’re faced against have one purpose and one purpose only: to spread the infection.

That brings me to the gameplay: this game seems to borrow elements from many triple-A titles but keeps all the gameplay elements in context with the story. Like Tomb Raider and Fallout 3 before it, the name of the game is that of resourcefulness: you have to conserve every bullet, you have to make every item, you have to find every resource you can and you can only upgrade your weapons at workbenches. If you’re not resourceful, you will not succeed. You sometimes have to pick your battles based on how your inventory counts out. Combat is a very important part of the game and it actually plays very differently depending on what you’re fighting – the infected come in different varieties and sometimes you’re fighting fellow survivors.  For example, there are two main grunt types: runners and clickers. The clickers’ heads have been deformed to the point where they have absolutely no vision so, like bats, they make this sound in order to find their way around using echolocation. They are easy to navigate around if you’re careful and strategic but one slip-up could mean disaster, killing either you or your inventory. Runners, on the other hand, haven’t been infected as long as clickers so they still have their sight and enter into rage as soon as another uninfected human is seen. They often move in larger numbers and can overwhelm you easily if you’re not careful but they are easier to fend off via melee combat. Humans operate in much the same way they do, realistically, like in other stealth combat games before it, nothing really new, there.

Everything feels very organic and flows very well together – there’s a lot of times where I caught myself thinking I was in an exploration section just to be jumped from behind by a runner and find out that the area is crawling with infected. Combat scenarios and story exposition doesn’t feel disconnected, either, which is great. It drives home the sense that no matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing, you should never assume you’re safe – and if you’re safe and calm, there’s a good chance you got lucky, in the context of the story.

Oh, yeah. They got off really lucky.
Oh, yeah. You got off real lucky.

They took everything they did right about every game they made before and propped them into this game. They have learned from other developers, for sure, as well. I see flavors of many games and experiences past. I was still shocked by some of the story’s twists that I’ve discovered so far – which doesn’t happen very often – but those twists are definitely not new for the whole “zombie, not zombie” style of story: this is something that I’d like to point out. This game is nothing new. This game doesn’t do anything that games past haven’t done. Why this game is a shining example of how games should be made is not in the new ground it paves or risks it takes but rather in the attention to detail, the writing, and refinement this game shows. There is definitely a sense of what people really want from a game in this and there is an extreme sense of care and detail that went into this. I am reminded of how Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty felt when I first played it: I went in with great expectations and anticipation going into the game and I was taken for a ride – not a path I haven’t been down before but rather given a ride that made the journey from point A to point B extremely worth it.

Given, there’s a lot of the game left open to me so it’s possible that my opinions will change but as it stands, right now, I am so impressed that I’ll be hard-pressed to find a better title this year for the PlayStation 3. I think it’s sold out around the world for a reason – hype alone can’t always do that.

No, we don't need you this time.
No, we don’t need you this time.

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