Friday, January 27, 2012

First Impressions: Dead Island

I just picked up Dead Island today and am having a ton of fun romping through the zombie hordes. The game plays like a mixture between Left4Dead and Diablo. A first person dungeon(in this case "Island") crawler that mainly focuses on melee combat. The presentation of the game was the first thing that caught me. It has some pretty amazing visuals and really has that "Island Resort" feel to it. There is a quote towards the beginning of the game that sums up the design and feel of the world: "Who ever thought hell could look like paradise." The game really drives this sentiment home showing you some beautiful locales that have all been infested with the living dead.

There are two options for combat available "Digital" and "Analog" I chose to go with the latter. The difference between the two is pretty drastic. "Digital", Dead Islands default setting, allows you basically to wail away at enemies but lacks the precise aims and specific strikes of the "Analog" setting. You swing, only horizontally, withe the right trigger and the left trigger is used to aim before throwing your weapons it's as simple as that.

The "Analog" setting does have a bit of a learning curve but it is what I ultimately chose as the superior control scheme. The "Analog" setting has you holding the left trigger to get into a ready or combat stance before swinging. It's much like aiming down your scope in Call of Duty. After entering this stance you use the right stick to attack much like in any of the more recent Fight Night titles. Because headshots(even with melee weapons) can often result in a critical hit I found this control scheme to be much more useful. Dead Island also allows you to debilitate enemies by breaking their limbs. Again the "Analog" setting was much more precise in multi-zombie scenarios where I've needed to put some distance between me and the seething teeth of the infected trying to bite my face off.

So far it's been incredibly interesting and fun. I'll have the full review out soon and go much more in depth with the combat, RPG and online aspects, as well as the story.

Thanks for reading.

'Nuff out.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Full Review: Metro 2033

Based on a cult classic Russian novel sharing the same name, Metro 2033 is an atmospheric supernatural shooter that is sure to test your mettle on more than one occasion. In a post-apocalyptic Russia thousands of survivors of a nuclear fallout now call the Metro subway system their home but even this extensive safe haven is slowly becoming a place of terror. The station of Exhibition is in danger of being invaded by mutants known only as the dark ones. Artyom, our protagonist and narrator, is tasked with saving this makeshift home. Artyom's journey will take him through some of the Metro's claustrophobic corridors and have him braving the now ravaged urban wilderness that exists outside.

Right from the outset of the game developer A4 let's us know we're in for a ride. Your home of Exhibition station is full of life. While there isn't much in terms of interaction here everything going on seems real. There's a group sitting by a fire listening to a man play guitar, soldiers and citizens sitting and chatting at a makeshift bar while the bartender wipes down the counter and serves drinks, and a handful of shops selling anything they can scavenge. You can't directly talk to most NPCs but if you stand around a group you'll certainly hear some horror stories about the remaining civilizations trials and tribulations. This is pretty much the case for most of the stations you'll come across though, each one does have a bit of it's own style.

Though Metro 2033 is a fairly linear game these stations give it a bit of an open-world feel and are a welcome reprieve from the terrors on the surface and in the tunnels. The only form of economy that still exists in the world of Metro 2033 is Ammo. All ammo is worth something but pristine military grade ammo is pretty much gold. It's in short supply and you'll have to do some searching to find any or convert some of your unneeded ammo at a currency booth in any of the stations. Each station also has a market though you can only interact with the weapons sellers and sometimes a medic. Most stations will have a unique set of weapons. Though you can't customize your weapons yourself you'll often come across a few variations of most weapons.

This is a game that not only rewards exploration of your surrounding area, but almost forces you to explore to survive.(in a good way). Scavenging ammo, health, and air canisters from bodies and your surroundings soon becomes second nature. A lot of games use this mechanic but few make it seem so necessary. Your ammo will constantly be in short supply and Metro 2033 forces you to be smart with your shots. This is where one of my only complaints with the game comes in. The lack of ammo forces you to try and conserve it but some of the enemies in the game are bullet sponges. You'll waste a few clips and feel like you've done no damage what-so-ever. Head shots on human enemies are one hit kills are are also incredibly satisfying when they're detected correctly. Luckily the bullet sponges only come up a few times in the game and the shooting mechanic works well 90% of the time.

All this action is broken up a few times with some nicely implemented stealth sections where shooting out lights is often the only way not to been seen and throwing knives are your best friend(they can be retrieved off of dead bodies). The A.I. Shines most in these sections. Once alerted to your presence they'll search around frantically for an intruder. When you whittle the group of guards down to just one or two the dialogue also whittles down. At first all the guards working together are confident and angry. Once the numbers start to drop you'll hear fear in the voices of those left. It's a small detail but definitely a nice touch.

Not all your time in Metro 2033 is spent underground you'll brave the post-apocalyptic wilderness on several occasions. The air outside is full of deadly fumes and chemicals so you'll be inclined to throw on your gas mask. This mechanic is really interesting and I'd like to see more games throw something like this at you. Your mask uses air filters which deplete overtime. You can check how much air you have left before you have to switch out the air canister which becomes your main priority when outside. Otherwise you're gonna suffocate. There were times in my play through where I had no filters left, my mask was almost out, and I just made it inside at the last second. The gas mask can also break during combat making you search for another more suitable replacement. This brings an unfamiliar tension to the game and makes some of the outside combat incredible. You'll be shooting if out with guards, looking for cover and ammo, and need to worry about your gas mask. All of this works together incredibly well.

All in all, Metro 2033 is a sleeper hit that I would highly recommend you pick up if you enjoy first-person shooters or survival horror games. Though it is a bit short your time spent with it is well worth it especially considering it's now older and most likely cheap. The atmosphere in Metro 2033 is really what makes the game. The aire of desperation and hopelessness seep out of every corridor. The tension builds with every new area you explore and the story is an awesome tale of the human will to live even in such catastrophic circumstances.