Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Forza Motor Sport 3 Demo

The Forza Motor Sport 3 demo is out on the Xbox Live Marketplace, you should probably go grab it now.

For me Forza Motor Sport 2 had 3 main problems:

1) Too linear and repetitive single player
2) Bland racing environments
3) No weather effects

While the demo does not include any single player out of race experience, previews have talked about a race calendar, so number 1 looks like it should be fixed.

The demo definitely does show improved racing environments! Obviously they picked the most stunning track, but it really is impressive. I don't think I have ever seen such a graphical step up in a sequel that is on the same generation. However, I have seen no mention of weather anywhere, so I am guessing that is still missing.

The big new feature is the rewind feature. At first, I was over the moon and impressed at such a bold decision for a realistic racing sim. However, as there is no limitation and no (visible) penalty for using it, it encourages perfectionism.

In Forza, it is very easy to mess up, a slight misjudgement can ruin your car and lose the race. Before, this meant a restart, which was incredibly frustrating. With such a high chance of failure, one might expect minimal punishment, so the rewind is a step in the right direction.

However, part of the fun is fighting back. With the rewind system, I can see players (me) using it more and more frequently for less and less serious crashes. This will slowly eat away at my sense of satisfaction and even race excitement. If it was limited per race, then you could avoid the frustration of a slight mistake causing ruin without meaning that every lap will be perfect.

Overall, it was pretty good. There was only a limited selection of cars, one track and no multiplayer, so you don't get a huge feel for the game. The interior views do nothing for me. I find it claustrophobic (I think you need a massive TV for it to be really good) and much prefer driving in the out-of-car view, so for me that was a waste of money. Hopefully the matchmaking will be more sophisticated, as I remember trying to get a game in FM 2 to be a pain. All in all, it was pretty much what I was expecting, if you are in to racing games, I am guessing that this game is going to fill you need for cars and provide an enjoyable racing experience. Expect a review some time around Christmas (hopefully before).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dawn of War 2 - Chaos Rising

The first expansion pack to Dawn of War 2 has been announced. It will feature, amongst other things, the Chaos Space Marines. For me, I was really hoping for the Imperial Guard, but I am hardly surprised by their choice; Chaos was a frequent demand and they should fit in with the current races online.

The expansion pack will also include some new units. This is fine if it doesn't upset the very carefully balanced multiplayer. Personally, I thought the multiplayer had enough units, the last thing I need is a bunch of redundant units I need to try out; or worse, that totally unbalance the whole thing.

It will also include a new single player campaign which, given how much I enjoyed the first one, is something I am looking forward to. My worry is that the novelty will have worn off and the missions will simply be repetitive A to B jobs. However, as you can carry through your characters, there should be a continued sense of attachment to your troops.

It is also worth noting that this is different from the previously announced Last Stand, which will be a free add-on coming out this October. This includes a new co-op mode similar to Horde mode in Gears of War 2.

The full stand alone expansion pack will be out in Spring 2010, when I will surely buy it. Until then, Dawn of War 2 remains one of the few games I actively play online, so if you are up for a game, my live ID is theTHK123 and my Steam ID is thk123.

On a side note, I went to see Coldplay at Wembley on Saturday (19th September) and they were really good! You can view all my videos on youtube.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 thoughts

Activision are calling this the biggest video game launch ever. While I am not sure I quite agree with that (err, Halo 3 anyone?), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 certainly is the biggest launch of the year, even with Sims 3 and Halo: ODST. So what am I expecting from it?

Call of Duty has always been a reputable series, bringing a slightly arcadey feel to the World War 2 theme that Medal of Honour could never quite manage. However, its real fame came in the form of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. While I was impressed with the action packed single player, the thing that stood out from the start was the multiplayer. A couple of years on, the game has stood the test of time and easily rivals Halo for number of dedicated multiplayer gamers. The innovative level system has inspired many first person shooters and really was the key to making the game play addictive.

This was demonstrated by the sales of Call of Duty 5. While this game was handed back to Treyarch, developers of Call of Duty 1 and 3, they used the Call of Duty 4 engine. The game was perfectly respectable, but it was very similar to Call of Duty 4, in spite of the different settings. Its nazzi zombies mode was interesting, but the game was not radically innovative like Modern Warfare was.

It was around this time that Activison announced that there would be a new Call of Duty game every year, with Infinity Ward and Treyarch taking it in turns.

This brings us back to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the first Infinity Ward sequel to Call of Duty 4, scheduled for release on the 10th of November. For me, this game is pivotal to the future of the franchise. If Infinity Ward can keep the game play fresh and different from Call of Duty 4, then I believe the franchise can survive 2 or maybe 3 more instalments. However, if the single player gets shorter due to the reduced developement time and the multiplayer offers little over 4 and 5, it is difficult to see everyone abandoning the current iteration every year for what will essentially be the same game.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Hearts of Iron 3: First Impressions

I got a new game a couple of days ago called Hearts of Iron 3. It is developed by the little known Paradox Interactive (Most famous title, Europa Universalis and, more recently, East India Company). The game is a grand strategy game set in World War 2. You can control one of any (and I mean any) country in World War 2. I have never really played any grand strategy games (except maybe Sins of a Solar Empire, depending on how you classify it) and so I found the scale intimidating. A grand strategy game is a strategy game where you are in charge of every large-scale thing, from managing divisions of troops to diplomacy and espionage without touching the troop to troop control or even squad to squad.

Having to manage hundreds of units across a huge map is challenging but the pace is slow enough that is manageable. However, when you throw in supply lines, production management, technology, diplomacy and espionage, it is very difficult when each screen is confusing and new. It isn't that there is too much to do in the time you've got: at the slowest pace, there is rarely enough; it is simply that it all requires a lot of focus to fully understand what all the sliders, boxes and columns mean and their various effects.

And I am not going to tell you that after two days I find it easy. None the less, the game does a lot to help. All of those screens can be left to an AI. I don't know if it is competent, but it allows me to focus on working out other things. You can even divide up the map and leave control of areas to the AI. Also, to the games credit, by default a lot of your country runs with very little player input so you can just move your troops around if that's what you want. The problem with this is, I just can't really resist playing with everything!

The hierarchy is central to the game, particularly in how you divide control up with the AI and how to manage supplies. This is something I like a lot in games, I like knowing how things break down. However, this game lacks the visual clarity to make it really clear what is going on. There are three levels to it and they require geographical knowledge of your chosen country. Keeping track of all this can be difficult, and isn't helped by the lack of an overview screen, which could help immensely.

The interface has a few other issues and the relentless pop-ups alerting you to everything from irrelevant technologies discoveries, vitally important battle results and various other stuff is overwhelming when you are trying to do something, like control your troops.

I hope I can figure this game out because, due to the sheer amount it models (weather, transport etc.), there should be plenty of opportunities for developing interesting strategies. I have always held a secret belief that I could conquer more than Hitler, so once I figure out stuff, I look forward to my world conquest.

On a side note, if anyone has this game and fancies a multiplayer game, give me a week and then post a comment or something.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Fable 3

A few days after me making a prediction that Lionhead were working on something big, Lionhead announce Fable 3!

Fable 3 will put you as King or Queen in the land of Albion. The game is set not long after Fable 2 and you will be playing your hero's son or daughter. Hopefully this means the game will use your actions in Fable 2 to shape the world that Fable 3 is set in. The press release hints at some election campaigning, where I would assume you can either promise good things or beat people in to submission. It also suggests that you will be controlling policy. It is unclear what kind of game this Fable will be, given these strange implications. However, the employment includes combat animators so I think it will still be an adventure game, at least in camera perspective.

I think it is fairly safe to assume that it will use Natal in some respect. What I hope happens, and would build on from the AI demo at E3, would be you have to talk to your people. This would certainly be a significant step up from Fable 2, where you had to communicate in sign language. If the E3 demo was not staged, then it is not inconceivable that you could give speeches etc. However, given that it almost certainly was, maybe not. All I hope is that I don't have to do the walking in real life.

Fable 3 is scheduled for release in late 2010, which probably means early 2011 which is still 2 years away. This will probably wind up being the game that sells Natal for me. Stay tuned for more updates.

"All your base are belong to us"