Archive | June, 2010

My Thoughts On Heavy Rain

21 Jun

Heavy Rain is a drama. It’s a video game, but a drama nonetheless. It tells a mysterious story with fantastic twists and turns and boldly challenges the way games are made. The music, the action, the timing, and everything else, is excellent. It truly is a remarkable game.

I would actually like to start by talking about the graphics. The visuals in this game absolutely blew my mind right away. I watched some behind the scenes stuff and saw that a lot of motion capture was used (no surprise there) to make the game as rich with life as possible. The environments are top-notch too. The amount of beauty you’ll find in this game (especially at the beginning) is amazing.

And then there’s the “controversial” thing: the controls. Now, a lot of people think this game is just going to be one big “quick-time event” (for those of you who don’t know, that’s when the game just plays like a movie and you hit buttons as they appear on the screen). They’re half right. There are lots of quick-time events in Heavy Rain, but they’re all very well done and provide much tension during the game. There is actually quite a bit of walking around and investigating areas, much like you would in an adventure game. Sometimes this can be quite fun, especially when you realize that the things you find can affect how the story plays out.

And then there is of course that very thing, the story. Now, let me just say right now that this story is one of the most well written stories in a game today. And the fact that it’s adaptable makes it even better. Now what I mean by adaptable is this: the story adapts to the choices you make. So, let’s say a character of yours dies, there’s no “game over” screen. The game just adapts to that death and the story will play out very differently from that point forth. Let me put it this way: my second time playing (and beating) Heavy Rain was way different from my first time. Choice is definitely a big factor in the game. There are tons of possible endings to the game.

Heavy Rain tells the tale of four heroes: Ethan, a father who lost one of his sons in a traumatic accident, Madison, a reporter with chronic insomnia, Scott, an ex-cop now turned private investigator, and Norman, an FBI agent in possession of an A.I. system never before seen by man. He also has a bit of a drug addiction, a key part of the game’s story. They all, essentially, get mixed up in the case of the Origami Killer, a criminal who kidnaps and drowns small boys in rainwater. One day, Ethan’s remaining son, Shaun, is kidnapped, supposedly by the Origami Killer, and he is tested to see how much he’s willing to do to save someone he loves.

The emotions one can feel while playing Heavy Rain are deep. It’s better than many movies I’ve seen in the past couple of years. The game really knows how to make you care about the people in the story. I loved every minute of it, and I can promise you this: you will too.

And a piece of advice to any who might consider playing this: hide in the fridge. Don’t worry, you’ll get it when you play.

My Thoughts On ModNation Racers

13 Jun

When I was little my first game system was the Nintendo 64. To this day I still think the most fun I ever had gaming was with that system. Every week my father would take me and my little brother to rent a game from the nearby Blockbuster, and we’d either take turns playing it or play together if it had multiplayer. The look and feel of games then was simple. There was no need for realistic graphics back then. All that we cared about was having fun playing games. We didn’t need elaborate stories, we just wanted funny dialogue, catchy music, and some great gameplay of course. Those days of simplicity are long gone though. Not that I don’t like modern games. I just wish I could relive those days one more time. Just once more!

And now I can…

ModNation Racers is a kart racing game. While playing it, I felt like I was playing an improved version of one of my old N64 games. It’s so cool! You start of by creating your own custom racer, called a mod. The character creation system is VERY deep. It allows you to fine tune little details of your mod with ease, as well as make him stand out very easily in a crowd. Changing hair, facial expressions, his clothes, etc., is very fun and enjoyable.

After creatign your character, you are able to design his/her kart that he/she will race in. This is also very detailed, allowing you to choose parts for your kart that let people know that it’s your kart. Want a cardboard box for your kart’s body? Knock yourself out! How about a Duracell battery for an engine, or a lawn mower? Go right ahead. The choice is yours!

Where the game really shines though is in track creation. The ability to create your own track is awesome, but the fact that it’s so easy is what’s so surprising. Creating a track to race on is often more fun than making your mod and kart. The options for customization allow you not only to created the track itself, but the environment on the edges of it, the time of day, where the sun is positioned (which changes the map’s lighting), even the weather.

And then the LittleBigPlanet formula comes into play: Play, Create, Share. The sharing part is amazing. You can instantly download other players creations from around the globe into your game. This includes mods, karts, and tracks. You can drive around in the Mystery Machine, play as Iron Man, drive on tracks that are in the exact shape of a snake if you look at them from above, etc. There’s a ton to do here.

The racing itself is a blast. Drifting past opponents and knocking them out with power-ups feels very rewarding. The power-ups in this game are also upgradeable. By this I mean that when you pick up a power-up, it is of use, but only to a certain degree. If you save the power-up and pick up another one, the one you have will go up a level and be more useful. A speed up power-up may seem useful, but it’s even more useful if you upgrade it into a teleporter, jumping way ahead of the pack.

When I played those old games on the Nintendo, I always wanted to play them with lots of other people. With online play, that fantasy has been realized. The online multiplayer runs very smoothly and is super addicting. Testing your skills against smarter foes is a challenge, but a rewarding one. There’s a level-up system that goes with online play, and you get experience points for doing well in races. The goal in doing this is to become the best racer in the game, who gets a big statue of himself/herself put up in the community area in the game, which is basically an ingame lobby where players can meet each other, chat, and decide what they plan to do for the day.

Overall, ModNation Racers is a great game. It allows me to relive the days when it was just me, my brother, and my N64. I believe anyone who likes kart racers, or owns a PS3, should pick it up. You won’t regret it.