Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Great Playthrough - Game 72: Doom 3

Yes - it's the funky Steelbook edition!
Doom 3
Released on: Xbox, PS3, Xbox 360, Windows, Linux, Mac
Played on: Xbox
Release date: 2004

I have often mentioned how good I feel that the original Doom is - it's the FPS I enjoyed playing as a teen, and I feel it is the gold-standard of shooters - but I'd never played the second sequel.

Doom 3 came out in 2004, at a time when FPS's were on the rise - in fact, it was the year Halo 2 was released, which kind of says it all. As I discussed in my Halo 3 review, a lot of the trends in more modern FPS's are the things that put me off. The dull colours, the darkness, the boring cutscenes, the fact that most levels are just corridor after corridor of industrial / brown dullness.

But Doom 3 has the Doom name attached, so it's surely going to be more fun, right?

Well, yes and no. I think that more than anything else, this game highlights the differences between old-style FPS's and modern ones. And that's not really a good thing.

Let's start at the beginning - the plot appears to be that a weapons company is more powerful than anyone ever and they are (shock, horror) not too careful about what happens to scientists in the name of progress. So this is clearly not going to end well.

I have no problem with a game having a plot. Granted, you didn't need any kind of plot backstory for the original Doom (or Doom 2) to enjoy the game, but I have no problem with modern games having a plot. However, when the plot is ridiculously generic AND means that you spend the first fifteen minutes of the game either watching cutscenes or walking around without any kind of weapon or action going on, I think it's taking the piss a little bit. But eventually I met my commanding officer (obviously, I mean my unnamed character's commanding officer, not my own personal commanding officer. I don't have a commanding officer (that I know of) - but anyway, I think I've digressed a little) and was allocated a mission.

'Yay,' I thought, 'We're through the opening plot/tutorial bit - now I get to play!'

Then I walked around some tunnels for another five minutes, and found the scientist I was looking for. Then some portals to hell accidentally opened, and.. weird flying skulls came out and possessed the scientist, who turned into some kind of zombie/demon. So I shot him. And then the game started proper.

And then, about six minutes later, I died.

And I hadn't used the quicksave function since the end of the main cutscenes. So I started again.

This time, I made it to about eight minutes. But I had saved.

Sadly, I'd saved when I had 7 pistol bullets and 2 shotgun shells left...

So I kept dying.

Now I'm not complaining about the difficulty too much - it felt a little unfair, but not game-breakingly so, and I absolutely loved the touches like the fact you have to choose whether to use a flashlight or have a weapon equipped, and the controls are nice and intuitive.But considering I was on medium difficulty, I did die a LOT.

Also, the other thing that annoyed me - this game did that thing that lots of modern day games do - you are given instructions over the radio. Sadly, when the legions of hell attack, the radio keeps transmitting the noise of people fighting them off, and repeated calls for you to return to base. But at no point does it ever SHUT THE HELL UP so that I can figure out IF THERE'S A MONSTER IN THIS ROOM OH NO NOW I'M DEAD AGAIN!

Sadly, Doom 3 just didn't quite click for me. There were slightly too many of the modern touches that I found awkward - including having to aim vertically as well as horizontally, which I know sounds silly, but that's one of the things that I'm apparently very bad at. I miss old Doom aiming, where as long as you are facing the enemy, you can just keep shooting.

It's not an awful game - in fact, it's better than many other FPS's of its era, but I was sorely disappointing by it. It was just missing the slightly crazy Doom magic touch.

And then I worried - what if Doom doesn't have that magic touch anymore? What if I'm comparing Doom 3 to an ideal that never existed, and is just clouded by rose-tinted glasses?

Luckily, Doom and Doom 2 are included on the Doom 3 disc, so I fired up Doom for fifteen minutes, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it is still fun - it'll get its own full review somewhere in this playthrough.

In fact, that fifteen minutes of playing Doom made Doom 3 feel even worse than it had done before.

Sorry Doom 3, but this is a case of must try harder.

Rating: 5/10
Time Played: Doom 3 - 45 Minutes (and then fifteen minutes of Doom)
Would I play it again: The Disc will get a lot of use for Doom and Doom 2. Doom 3 though, not so much...

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Great Playthrough: Game 71 - Super Mario Galaxy 2

Super Mario Galaxy 2
Released on: Nintendo Wii
Played on: Nintendo Wii
Release date: 2010

Unlike films, games sequels can often be much better than the originals. When I reviewed Super Mario Galaxy I concluded that the opening of the game was not the best way to experience what is a great game - as the first hour is quite pedestrian and filled with opening cut-scenes and tutorial levels that are very averagely designed.

The good news? Super Mario Galaxy 2 has learnt from the mistakes of the original game.

The opening is tight, a lot of the cut-scenes are at least partially playable - and more importantly, within five minutes of starting the game, you are on a playable level, which is pretty well designed.

In fact, all of the levels I got to in the opening hour just served to throw up new design ideas and new mechanics, completely justifying this sequel's existence. Let us not forget that no other 3D Mario game had (at the time anyway) generated a direct sequel. Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine are both good games (although one is better than the other) - but Nintendo didn't feel that either of them required a direct sequel, always preferring to push onto something new.

But Mario Galaxy totally deserves the sequel, as there are so many new concepts, techniques and ideas based around the Galaxy motifs - including the appearance of Yoshi, who adds a whole new aspect to the gameplay!

Also, Super Mario Galaxy 2 has a great two player mode - well, we certainly enjoy it in our house. Player one is Mario, who does all of the usual Mario things - running around, jumping, collecting coins, collecting stars etc. Player 2 takes control of a Luma (the weird floating chubby starfish-type things that are prevalent in the Galaxy games) by using the wii-mote as a pointer, so that player can delay/defeat enemies, pick up coins/lives etc and generally be of help to the first player. It's a really nice and innovative two player mechanism. And it means that Neety and I can play together - which is important in our house! Two player co-op should be more prevalent than it is... but I digress.

Now don't get me wrong - it's not a perfect game. I know that when I reviewed Galaxy (the original), I moaned about how long it's plot took to get going, as it is just a case of Bowser kidnaps the Princess, this time in space. However, the plot of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is slightly weird in the sense that it does not acknowledge any of the events that occurred in Super Mario Galaxy 1. Lumas are new to Mario, he is astonished at giant-size Bowser, and everything seems new to him all over again.

Now this may be explained when you complete the game (as I must confess I haven't ever totally finished this game) - and I know that at the end of Super Mario Galaxy 1...




... the galaxy / universe is destroyed and re-booted, so the implication could be that Mario doesn't remember it all. But even so, that means that the average player who didn't get to the end of the original would be confused as to why Mario is being such a forgetful idiot.

Well, it's either that, or he's just hit his head against too many blocks over the years, and it's had an impact on his memory.


But regardless of strange plot issues - Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a fabulous game. The graphics are gorgeous, the music is outstanding (indeed, I think it's one of the best scores to a video game EVER) and it has such replay-value that even as I'm writing this blog, I'm looking forward to going back and playing it some more - especially since I haven't completed it yet....

So yes, I know that this review is predictable, but I loved this game. And so will all of you - it's a video game that transcends boundaries and is just so infinitely playable! And given the increase in quality between the original and this one, I am a little sad that there is no indication of a Super Mario Galaxy 3 any time soon...

Rating: 9/10
Time Played: An hour and a ten minutes
Would I play it again? Are you kidding? I'm probably going to play it when I get home!