Before I post my first “What I’m Playing” article, let’s backtrack, and briefly cover a selection of the notable games I played over the past few months.
inFamous 2 — The simplest way to describe the inFamous series, is as “Assassin’s Creed with Electricity Super Powers”. As an open-world 3rd-person game, you have free rein of a city, and will start missions when you want. (i.e. go to a spot on the map to start a mission) Just as in Assassin’s Creed, you can climb any building or structure you see, and this verticality plays right into the gameplay. The difference from the AC series though, is the addition of electric powers your character received in a freak accident — very comic book character like. In fact, the major story cutscenes play out as graphic novels. To keep it short, I have had a lot of fun in the 2 games released so far in the series, and have the 2 Platinum Trophies to prove it! They’re actually some of the easier Platinum Trophies to attain, but they do require a second playthrough, because of “Good Karma / Evil Karma” decisions that will change the missions you play, and DRASTICALLY change the outcome of the game. Play it! [Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOeX4ia8-7c]
LA Noire — L.A. Noire is a slower paced ‘Grand Theft Auto’, for a mature crowd; a crowd that doesn’t want to run down hookers with their “Banshee” sports car, but wants to investigate the crime scene AFTER the hookers have been run down! As Cole Phelps (played by ‘Mad Men’s Ken Cosgrove’, Aaron Staton), you’ll work your way through several copper desks: from Patrol, to Traffic, to Homicide, to Vice, to Arson, and several street crimes in between. Team Bondi and Rockstar claim to have recreated a near exact replica (of a section) of 1940’s Los Angeles, before the freeway system. I don’t live in LA, nor am I an expert on the city, but it is an incredibly detailed city to explore! Only Rockstar’s own Liberty City can compare, and this recreated section of LA is apparently larger than that.
The gameplay will be a shock to most veterans of Rockstar’s past open-world games (GTA, Red Dead Redemption). There is the occasional shootout, car chase, or foot chase (which are actually more exciting than the car chases), but the main gameplay focus is on finding clues and interrogating suspects. If there ever was a detective simulator, this is it. The game won’t let you fail a case if you miss a clue or botch a line of questioning with a suspect, but it will end up taking you longer to complete the case, and lowering your star rating at the end of the case. I recommend LA Noire to Rockstar veterans than can handle a change of pace, and to newcomers that are looking for an “interactive film-like” experience. (there’s an option to skip the more gamer-focused action sequences) It’s quite neat to play around in period L.A., and do police work before the age of DNA. (Searching a dead body with bare hands?! Come on Phelps!)
Before I move on, I do want to mention that the shift of gameplay focus to interviews is only possible because of the incredible new facial-animation tech that was used on the game. For more on it, watch this video: “L.A. Noire: The Technology Behind Performance”
SOCOM 4 –I could banter on with a full post about the SOCOM franchise (past and present), but I’ll hold back for now. SOCOM 4 is the second SOCOM game released on the PlayStation 3, but the first one made by the series creators, Zipper Interactive. The first game was a rushed, multiplayer-only game from ‘Slant 6’. Months after release, and many patches later, ‘SOCOM: Confrontation” was a solid 3rd-person online shooter, but it was too little, too late. With SOCOM 4 being done by Zipper again, fans (myself included) were excited to finally have a true next-gen successor to our beloved PlayStation 2 franchise. Well, to put it bluntly, they fucked up. SOCOM has always been a hardcore, difficult game, with a strong learning curve; a game that required many skills to be good at. It was the furthest thing from the twitch shooters we have today in the “Call of Dutys” and its numerous knockoffs. But after seeing the astronomical success of those franchises, Zipper decided to “CoDify” SOCOM. It backfired. The CoD crowd still didn’t like it, and the SOCOM faithful had been ostracized.
With all that said, I did play through (and finish) the campaign. Mostly as an excuse to use the Move control set up. Move implementation was decent, but not up to par with what Guerilla Games did with it in Killzone 3. I also put a solid 12 hours into the online multiplayer, in an attempt to find the old SOCOM I loved. There are shreds of it still there, but I’m finding it harder and harder to boot up the disc again. Time will tell if Zipper can patch it back to life, but I fear that by the time they do, we’ll all have moved on to Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, and the rest of the Fall releases.
Portal 2 — Portal 2 (from Valve Software) is a sequel to Portal (duh!), which was based on a student project named “Narbacular Drop”. Portal 2 controls like a First-Person Shooter, but instead of putting virtual bullets in virtual faces, the player shoots a pair of portals at flat surfaces; walk through one, come out the other. Sounds like a simple concept, but Valve is too smart to allow it to be! This simple game mechanic is used to solve several elaborate puzzle rooms. There will be other elements and features you will encounter and use, but the core mechanic is always the simple portal gun, and the two portals it shoots. I don’t want to ruin anything for someone who has yet to play it, but Valve is able to wrap this simple game mechanic in an amusing and interesting story. The exit door may motivate you to solve a puzzle and get out of the room, but it’s the story and characters that will push you towards entering the next one. Portal 2 also manages to add multiplayer to the formula, in a separate co-op mode that plays linear to the main story. It’s actually quite well thought out, and doesn’t feel tacked on. But make sure you are playing with someone you know, because it will require a lot of back and forth heated discussion to solve these puzzles together! PLAY THIS NOW, and hit me up for a co-op session. [Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4siZQkSR7GY]