Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Diary Entry #8: Battling Bionosaurs and Quantic Dream Totally Sucks Now

                It's official: I'm playing the Turok handheld games. I chose to play them using a PS3 controller on my PC, but I do own all of games except the first one, Turok: Battle of the Bionosaurs.

                Like the N64 classic, Turok features several semi-linear levels accessed through a single hub area. You can enter and exit these areas to your heart's content, re-collecting guns for extra ammo or simply blasting through for fun. Actually, to receive the ultimate weapon at the very end of the game, you will have to replay the first three levels to retrieve the necessary parts. Being able to kill the final boss in a mere three hits is pretty wonderful, so I'd recommend collecting this stuff.

                The eight stages feel much more massive in scope than they actually are. The levels twist off and re-connect in surprising ways, begging to have every nook and cranny explored. Unfortunately, that's where the game's depth ends. There's only about five different enemies, every gun shoots a weird black ball, and there's a mere four boss battles spread across the entire game.

                Thankfully, the boss battles are pretty cool. The third is particularly memorable: a fire-breathing Tyrannosaurus Rex. All he does is walk back and forth while you shoot him in the face, and while you might say that's boring, I say every game needs a sequence like this. Knowing there's no way to top the Rex, the final boss quickly appears immediately afterward and the game ends with a flashy cutscene. I love it! Buy Turok!

                Speaking of flashy cutscenes, I guess I'll share a little about my Beyond: Two Souls experience. It's easily the worst game Quantic Dream has ever made, featuring tons of cutscenes and terrible QTE scenes. Putting it into perspective, Fahrenheit had some pretty epic quick time bits, even going so far as to feature extended four minute QTE guitar rawk. In contrast, I had my character in Beyond pick up a guitar and play some death metal. All I had to do was tap a button repeatedly. What the hell happened?

                There is no attempt on the game's part to make me care about the characters, and sometimes stuff just occurs out of nowhere. In one of the more interesting scenes, Ellen Page goes to a birthday party. I can get her drunk and stoned, have her kiss a boy, do all sorts of cool stuff. No matter what I did, however, Ellen's friends wind up getting pissed at her and throwing her into a closet. What unspeakable act of horror lead to Ms. Page's imprisonment? She gave her friend a collection of Edgar Allan Poe poems. Edgar sends teenagers over the edge, evidently.

                All of the choices largely feel superficial, ultimately leading to much of the same dialogue and yielding the same conclusions. This is why I couldn't get into the Walking Dead games: the only thing your determine through in-game choices is how the main character reacts to certain situations. You get to control the main character's personality, but fate otherwise locks them into a rigid story arc. Although I'm used to adventure games having set narratives, I don't see the point in pretending there are all these options. Whether I give the happy or sad response, the developers have already made the only real choices for you.

                Beyond takes a leap into the utterly absurd with some of its scenes, yet this continuous shark-jumping was probably what kept me playing. There's one random assassination mission in Africa that finds Ellen Page befriending a child-soldier, while another plot line focuses on an ancient Navajo spirit that torments a small group of farmers. We'll refer to the former as Game A and the latter as Game B.

                Game A plays like a featureless version of Splinter Cell, with your only options being to run behind cover or snap a guys neck, both of which can be accomplished by pushing only one button. With 50/50 options like that, you'd probably find more variation flipping a quarter over and over.

                On the other hand, Game B has a lot of fun stuff. You do chores, get attacked by spirits, ride horses, etc. It features some of the more interesting quick time events, so at least it plays like a game sometimes.

                I'd advise you to rent Beyond: Two Souls and then not have time to play it. Having Williem Dafoe in your game doesn't make it inherently good unless it's Platoon for the NES. Sunsoft will always trump Quantic Dream.

Actually, Dafoe's only on the cover.

                Quick non-gaming observation. Willem Dafoe is totally a bootleg Christopher Walken. Now if Walken was in Beyond: Two Souls, you'd have an instant classic. Just look at Ripper: crappy puzzles, crappy graphics, crappy storyline, but Christopher Walken's blatant over-acting saves the day.

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