Uncharted 4 : A Thief’s End

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The Intro Screen

Date Completed : June 4th, 2016

It looks like the Olympics are on once again which means that my wife will be commandeering the Television for two weeks.  During the Winter Olympics 2 years ago I was able to take the opportunity to complete The Last Of Us but this time around I think I’ll start by getting caught up with my blogging.

I spent the first few hours playing Uncharted 4 taking screenshots of everything. This is the first PS4 exclusive game that I’ve played on my PS4 and it looks fantastic.  It took awhile but eventually the ‘Wow’ wore off enough for me to focus on playing like I would any other Uncharted game.

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Don’t Sneeze!

Being a long-time fan I already knew the drill and I set myself up with a spoiler-free walkthrough that detailed all of the hidden treasure locations.  I played all three of the previous game without the assistance of a walkthrough and each time I regretted it.  The hidden treasures are squirreled away pretty deep in some cases and I’d rather be experiencing the story than exploring every nook.

One of the things that really stood out for me was the bantering.  Characters engage in bantering with each other and it comes off as perfectly natural.  I never observed any ‘repeat’ conversations – I can’t imagine how much voice work must have been recorded to make this game possible.

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Lots of back-seat driver banter through this section…

The game plays exactly like the predecessors, with the notable exception of rope/vine swinging mechanics.  I thought that I’d enjoy the vine mechanics more but in practice I didn’t find a lot of opportunities where it made much of a difference.  I usually went with my go-to strategy of charging down my enemies with guns-a-blazing.

So, how does the game rank in the grand scheme?  I’ve really enjoyed every single Uncharted game but when I think back on previous titles I think I enjoyed them all for different reasons.  The original Uncharted had a small cast while later games had much more cast members with seriously over-the-top action sequences.  I think Uncharted 4 manages to recapture some of that small cast vibe while still including great action.  Thinking back on the games I think that Uncharted 4 may be my new favorite.  Here’s my official ranking, if you’re keeping score:

  1. Uncharted 4
  2. Uncharted 2
  3. Uncharted & Uncharted : Golden Abyss (Tie)
  4. Uncharted 3

The game is too violent to let the kids watch but sometimes I let them sit in the room with me between action scenes.  Some of the language in the bantering sections could get questionable but the kids didn’t seem to have noticed.  Whenever bullets started flying I’d kick the kids out of the room.

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Sometimes you’ve gotta push a wagon.

Occasionally my wife wandered in while I was playing and she seemed at least somewhat interested in the story.  The storytelling is one of the elements that has elevated the Uncharted games above other similar games.  This game continues the tradition, and being Nathan Drake’s last outing they take every opportunity to please long time fans in every way.

I didn’t purchase this game – I borrowed it from a colleague.  This game is a lot of fun and I can see myself plaything through it again but it’ll have to wait until I have access to another copy!

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  20 hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: Action / Third-Person Shooter

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Dead Space 2

Dead-Space-2_LIMITED_US_ESRB_PS3Date Completed: May 9th, 2016

I pre-ordered Dead Space 2 because the PS3 ‘Limited Edition’ included a free copy of Dead Space Extraction and I was lead to believe that supply of ‘Limited Edition’ versions would be ‘Limited’.  According to Wikipedia launch date was January 25th, 2011 so I’ve been sitting on this game for over 5 years.  The current price on eBay for the ‘Limited’ version is between 5-10 dollars, or roughly a 92% discount.  Since performing this calculation I’ve been wondering what kinds of things my 2011 self would have done with that money if I’d waited to buy the game until I was ready to play it.  I think the honest answer is that I would have blown it all on some random junk on eBay and my life wouldn’t be any different than it is now but I suppose we’ll never know for sure.

Unfortunately the release of the Dead Space games coincided with the arrival of children in the family so I’ve been unable to play Mature games with any regularity for many years now.  I played Dead Space 2 in short spurts for over 5 months sneaking time whenever my wife went to bed early or the kids happened to be elsewhere.  Most sessions were about an hour long which was usually enough to complete a chapter (of which there are 15) although some chapters took longer.

I don’t play many games that are especially gory so I was a bit shocked at first when I started the game.  When your main character dies the animation is as horrifying as possible.  Rarely if ever was my head still attached to my body after an encounter with necromorphs (Space Zombies).  Some of the evil space zombies cause you to vomit yourself to death, detonate your body into half-a-dozen pieces or simply impale you multiple times just for the fun of it.  I was a bit uncomfortable with the level of gore at first but eventually I became desensitized and began to find the extended death scenes more irritating that horrifying.  I died A LOT and some of the death animations are quite long.  If I suspected that I was on a collision course with a lengthy death animation scene I would often find a way to kill myself quickly so I wouldn’t be forced to see myself slowly mutilated.

I was constantly out of ammo and health through the entire game.  In one memorable scene I had 4 bullets to kill six enemies and no way to restore an earlier save point.  Getting through this section alone may have doubled my total play time.  After slogging through about half the game I resorted to using a walkthrough so I could find all of the hidden diamond semi-conductors ($$$) and buy some ammo.

Dead Space 2’s gameplay isn’t particularly unique or mind blowing but it is fun.  What I’ve always enjoyed most about this series is how your character appears to be going slowly insane while plowing through a story full of wacky cultists and space zombies.  Dead Space 2 builds on the story of the first game in a very satisfying way and while I don’t consider this to be one of my ‘go-to’ genres I really enjoyed the game.

The last thing I want to mention is that I think I triggered a bug in the final shootout and somehow managed to beat the game when I should have died.  I replayed that last battle many, many times because I rushed the last chapter and didn’t have enough health or ammo left at the end of it to make a decent go of it.  I decided one more try and then I’d give up for the night and re-load my previous save and then something weird happened and suddenly the credits were rolling.  It may not be the normal way to beat the game, but I’ll take it!

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  18 hours
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Third-Person Shooter

 

Splatoon

Date Completed: November 2, 2015

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I heard about Splatoon from the Nintendo Direct presentations and from the very beginning I thought it looked like a lot of fun.  The whole shooter genre is often ignored on Nintendo platforms for reasons that I won’t speculate on here and this looked like a fun game I could play with the kids.  It just so happened to launch right before my birthday so it was a no brainer to put it on my wish list.

The most unique part about Splatoon is the ink diving mechanic.  You can paint a whole level with ink that you can dive into and swim around in at an accelerated speed.  When I first heard about this mechanic I thought it would be complicated to control but the implementation is actually quite simple.  You can dive into ink to avoid being shot, hide from enemies and bypass obstacles.  It’s a lot of fun and I can see several other games benefiting from this particular mechanic.  Splatoon racing?  Splatoon Soccer?  Splatoon House-Designer?  Maybe not that last one…

Splatoon has a single player mode but it is clearly meant to be a multi-player game.  I could see myself playing a lot of this game if I didn’t have kids, a job or other games to play but these days my time is limited.  I prefer to dedicate my energy towards games that have clear endings, not towards open ended multiplayer games.  I tried a few multiplayer matches which I enjoyed but I haven’t been online in several months now.

I spent most of my time in single player mode. Single player is more of a series of obstacle courses bespeckled with occasional boss fights.  It’s a completely different experience from the online modes but is still quite a bit of fun.  The only down side is that it’s fairly short.  There is also a local multiplayer mode that I tried to avoid playing whenever possible because my kids were awful at it and they would get frustrated if I didn’t stand still in front of them so they could shoot me.

Long story short, Splatoon is a fantastic game.  My only complaint with the game is that after playing for about 30 minutes I kept getting motion sick.  At first I thought I was coming down with an illness of some kind (The kids are germ traps after all) but I quickly realized that I only felt sick after playing Splatoon.  I traced the issue back to the motion controls – I was using motion controls on high sensitivity for aiming because that gave me the best control.  After switching to analog controls I didn’t have any more issues with motion sickness.  I’ve played video games for decades, often in the back of moving vehicles on twisty mountain passes and this is my first experience ever with gaming related motion sickness.  Is this a sign that I’m getting old?  I hope not.

Pros

  • Fun Ink Diving Mechanic
  • Lots of post-release updates / support

Cons

  • Single player mode is lacking.
  • I got motion-sick.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ~10 hours
System: Nintendo Wii U
Genre: Action / Shooter

 

The Last of Us

Date Completed : February 26, 2014The Last Of Us Box Art

My blog has been on a bit of a hiatus due thanks in part to our recent homelessness situation combined with my tendonitis problem.  We were living in a place without Internet for a few months while we sold our old home and purchased a new one so my only view into cyberspace was through my phone, which was less than optimal.  During that time I wound up with Tendonitis of the wrist which progressed into Carpal Tunnel so I had to give up gaming, and unnecessary keyboarding for awhile.  I’m finally starting to reengage in some of the activities I used to enjoy, although to a lesser degree.

I played The Last of Us while homeless and without Internet.  Due to scenes of horrific violence I wasn’t able to play the game while my kids were awake so I had to wait until after they went to bed.  My PS3 was stashed in the small bedroom my wife and I were sharing at her parents’ house which was distracting to her so I wasn’t able to get away with playing the game unless both of the kids were asleep and my wife chose to be elsewhere.  Fortunately the Winter Olympics provided the perfect break.  My wife is a big Olympics fan so she stayed up late each evening during the event and I was able to get some quality gaming time in.

I was very excited to play The Last of Us after seeing how many awards it received for game of the year.  It seemed that every reviewer on earth was giving game of the year to either The Last of Us or Bioshock Infinite (and one weirdo who gave it to tLoZ : A Link Between Worlds) so I wanted to see how it stacked up.

The story was awful (in a good way).  In response to a zombie outbreak all of the worst things imaginable happen and the vision that is presented of the future represents all the worst humanity has to offer.  Not only are the zombies your enemies, but there are roving bands of survivors that will kill you for whatever you might be carrying, as well as various militia groups that have their own reasons for killing you.  If I had one complaint about the story it is that it is too dark.  There is no happiness or joy in this game.  It could have used a bit more contrast in the plot to keep it from bogging down in constant depression.

The presentation of the game is absolutely fantastic.  The opening sequence is simply one of the most brilliant scenes I’ve ever played through in a video game.  I don’t want to spoil anything but I’ll give a suggestion – play it in the dark, and play it alone.

The game mostly plays like an Uncharted game, except the main character (Joel) does not have Nathan Drake’s jumping ability.  He also can’t seem to take a bullet quite like Drake so the game play is a lot more focused on stealth than action.  I’m not really into stealth games in general, but this one had a good balance between stealth and action so I didn’t have a problem with it.  They do a good job making you feel like you’re in a supply constrained post-zombie-apocalypse world.  You’re constantly scavenging ammo and supplies to create weapons or health kits.  Each batch of enemies you face has to be handled with as few bullets as possible or further down the road you may not be able to defend yourself.

Your deaths in this game are far more gruesome than I was used to from Uncharted.  That, combined with the constantly depressing plot made it hard to play for extended durations.  I had to put myself into a ‘EMO’ frame of mind to properly enjoy the game – “It would make me happy to feel sad.  I guess I’ll go play The Last of Us”.

Everything about the game is well done and high quality.  Plot-wise I’d say it is still edged out by Bioshock Infinite, and in my opinion Bioshock is more fun to play but I completely understand anyone who prefers The Last of Us.

Pros

  • Great Presentation
  • High Quality Survival Horror Experience.

Cons

  • I can’t imagine a more depressing plot.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length: 20 hours
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Action / Adventure

Red Dead Redemption

Date Completed: August 26th, 2011
I’m not a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series and not a fan of Westerns in general so this game normally would not have made it on my radar.  Chance would have it that I found myself in possession of a Best Buy gift card shortly after hearing a coworker sing praises about this game so on an impulse I purchased it.  I am glad I did.

Immediately the game grabs hold of you and pulls you in.  There is a series of events in the beginning of the game that serve to drop you in to the old west and set up the story.  After initial events settle down the world opens up.  You can choose to pursue the next story related objective, or work on dozens of other side objectives such as sharp shooting, cattle herding, helping out strangers, killing and skinning the wildlife, dueling, foraging for herbs, hunting for treasure, shooting outlaws or just run around lost in the desert.  In fact, there are so many side-quests that after spending hours watching me play this game my wife still had no idea what the whole point of the game was.

No one in this game will win any beauty contests

The game has shortcomings but I enjoyed playing it so much they were pretty easy to look past.  There are bugs a plenty in this game that pop up in oddball spots.  The controls can also be frustrating at times.  In one memorable example I was chasing down an outlaw and due to a control snafu I found myself leaping off a cliff onto the roof of a house.  After landing the horse and I fell to the ground so I pulled out my gun to shoot the outlaw but when I fired the horse jumped in front of me and I shot him in the head.  Without a horse the outlaw easily outran me and I was forced to replay the mission.  Most of the accidents ended up being quite comical and would made excellent stories at work the next day.

 
The only negative part that really stands out is the mid-game lull during the Mexican missions.  The story loses some direction during this part of the game and I found the side-quests to be more enjoyable and fulfilling than the storyline missions.  I had to force myself to play through them.  Once you get out of Mexico the game takes off again.
 
After finally beating the game and seeing the credits roll I only have 16% of the trophies available.  There is lots more content to enjoy and I plan on coming back to it some day.
Pros
* Open world exploration in the Wild West.
* Tons of extra content.
Cons
* Lots of obscure bugs.
* Mexico
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  ~5 hours
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Action/Adventure

Dead Space

I have a bit of a problem with self control when it comes to purchasing video games.  When I found this particular game heavily discounted there was no way I could pass it up, even though I really didn’t know anything about it.  After sitting on my shelf for awhile I finally got around to playing it and I am glad I did.  It is a lot of fun.

While playing the game I was often reminded of several different outer space based horror movies.  Unfortunately this meant that I was not allowed to play the game while my wife or children were present.  The game does an amazing job setting the ambiance.  Lighting effects, sound effects, cut scenes and plot development all come together amazingly well to create one of the most legitimately creepy video games I have played in a long time.

One interesting mechanic is that there is no way to recover your health except with medical packs you’ll find.  There are only a certain number of these on the ship, and while I never ran out of them I was always careful to use them sparingly.

Enemies can be killed with head shots or body shots, but the most effective way of killing them is by shooting off their limbs.  This is a different mechanic from every other game in the history of the world and it turns out to be pretty important because of the limited amount of ammunition available.  I was constantly running low on ammo so I had to be very careful with my shots.

The only problem I had with the game was that enemies kept dropping behind me.  There are vents all over the ship that the bad guys can use to travel around and they will often drop through a vent behind you, even when you think you’re in a nice safe supply closet.  I suppose the designers did this to force you to keep moving but I found it to be highly irritating.

Overall I really enjoyed playing the game and I am looking forward to the sequel, which I have already purchased.

Pros
* Excellent use of Sound / Lighting / Cut Scenes
* Scary

Cons* Relies on the ‘Something is behind you!’ mechanic a bit too much.


Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length: 15 hours
System: PS3
Genre: Third Person Shooter / Survival Horror