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Friday, 26 February 2010

Full thoughts to follow...

Just a quick post to say I am playing through Heavy Rain (PS3) and Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing with Banjo-Kazooie (360) as of today. It may take a couple of days to get far enough through the pair of them that I can post a review, so in the mean time I will leave you with my initial impressions from having played both of them for around four of hours:

Heavy Rain: More like "Heavy Handed Drama". In fact, the first trophy I recieved thanked me for "supporting interactive drama" so it has certainly nailed its colours to the mast. To start with the dialogue is cliche, drawn from every thriller movie ever made about the hunt for a serial killer. The voice acting is only one notch above Shenmue in terms of how natural it sounds (which I quite enjoy because it makes me laugh, so I'm not knocking it there).

I suppose this next comment is a SPOILER. The opening section where you lose your son as Ethan seems to demonstrate the best and worst of the game: there is nothing else like it, as you genuinely feel lost in a crowd, unable to get to your son, and it is a nightmare. However, it is also faintly ridiculous in terms of plausibility (Ethan allows his child to wonder off twice in two minutes, and not only does his kid disobey him by leaving his side, but he crosses the road outside the mall for some unknown reason)and because of the heavy handed way in which your sons red balloon floats into the sky after he is killed. It just made me laugh, which isn't the reaction David Cage wanted, I'm sure. It certainly isn't how I wanted/expected to feel playing this game. It is also oddly un-engaging as you never really feel in control of anything, just resonding to occasional button prompts and lurching ever forward with 'R2'. "Interactive drama" is about right, as you don't decide where to go or what to do there, with most decisions being pointless (orange juice or coffee?) and with most areas (so far) not letting you leave until you have found the important plot point.

Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing: This much more traditional game will not win anything like the plaudits of the above, but has still been brilliant fun (so far). It looks lovely (with notable frame rate issues) and plays just like Mario Kart, although is obviously as derivative as that sounds at its heart. I am just happy to be playing something on my X-Box that doesn't involve shooting someone through the brain in an alleyway or something. The cast of SEGA characters and the recognisable music have filled me with a nostalgic glee I never get from Smash Brothers, I suppose due to being a SEGA kid at heart.

On the negative side, the game doesn't go as far as Nintendo's Smash Brothers in really offering content to the fanboys. There is no unlockable art or models or anything like that: just characters (each with a little piece of biography), courses and music tracks are there to be earned. I never usually care about this sort of thing, but I would have loved it here. Also, in my first few games on X-Box Live it seems that the game may share a problem with Mario Kart Wii's online multiplayer: races tend to be dominated by one player who goes so far ahead you never see him again, whilst the rest of the pack blow each other up. Maybe I'm just not good enough at the game, and it's my fault, so I'll just keep trying!

Two very different games, as you can tell, with one trying to develop and evolve the medium with something a bit different, whilst the other is attempting to be a decent and polished example of a tried and tested formula. Anyhow, come back in the week for full and fair reviews of both!

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