Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Star Wars Battlefront - 4 stars

We have a new setup: PS4 and a new 1080p projector.  It is 2016.

Like many other great couch co-op games, this game is lackluster in other formats.  Most people know Battlefront to have been rather disappointing, mostly because of the decision to make it massively multiplayer and the way weapons/equipment are doled out.  Its predecessor, the original Battlefront, was released in the epoch before widespread console multiplayer, put you in the shoes (boots) of a soldier fighting within a huge AI army.  In this one, you're fighting within a huge internet-multiplayer army, with some of the problem being that most of the items need to be unlocked by playing the game a lot, so everyone starts out with only basic gear and has a generally lackluster experience - but the other people who've been playing awhile all have more advanced cooler gear.  That kind of sucks.  Plus, playing in a real army of humans sounds like it should be great except human players are often morons, and unless you are playing with a clan of friends, they don't do what a nice set of AI-controlled bots will do.

But the couch co-op experience is very different.

First, all the items are unlocked right off the bat.  Secondly, it is just you and partner facing off against the AI.  And the game is beautiful.  It looks completely realistic, probably because they used the same art assets as the films do (since they're all CG), so much so that it becomes difficult to see enemies sometimes if they blend in against the background - there is no highlighting, you just need to see things using your eyes.  The survival and training missions would normally be mindnumbingly dull if you were doing them single-player, but as with Samurai/Dynasty Warriors, playing an otherwise-dull single-player game with a partner is way more exciting and fun.

Our only complaint is that the local co-op options aren't more expansive and don't include the full range of game missions and battles.  It's got enough of it so that you can have fun and see the real potential, but it could be so, so much more.

Army of Two: Devil's Cartel - 5 stars

It's been a long time since I've updated this blog, mostly because, uh, life?

Anyhow, Army of Two: Devil's Cartel is the third installment in the Army of Two trilogy and likely the last.  Why?  Because the game was widely panned in reviews for having repetitive gameplay and a bad story.

Well, don't listen to them.  This is the best Army of Two game ever produced, and it is perfect.

They fixed all the stupid gameplay design choices from the last game (the second installment, Army of Two: 40th Day, which deserves 2 stars - while not being total shit, things like unshareable inventory makes this game a poor couch co-op experience: it was so bad that about 25-30% of the way through we just put it down and stopped playing) and the gameplay is absolutely excellent, with no flaws whatsoever.

I don't know what they are complaining about in terms of repetitive gameplay: when it comes to couch co-op, I'm not looking for too much variety.  I want to run through a variety of urban and suburban environments shooting at enemies with a variety of different weapons with my partner.  This game delivers that in spades.  The story is actually the most interesting one of the entire trilogy - it's a pretty adult and brutal storyline about drug cartels, and not dull at all.

If you were disappointed by the second Army of Two, this third one redeems the entire series.  I'm only sad that online reviewers somehow didn't like the game and this appears to be the end of the franchise.  At least they went out on top.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Army of Two - 4 stars

I really didn't expect this game to fare as well as it did, but it's a pretty great co-op experience. I had originally thought it would be a far too gritty and realistic wargame, but instead it's the sort of sanitized Hollywood comic violence where fully-automatic rifles sound like popguns and if you get shot all you have to do is hide behind a pillar until you recover.

Anyway, this game was designed for co-op from the very beginning and if you play it single-player (your partner is then controlled by the A.I.) you get a lackluster experience, but played as a husband-and-wife team it is totally awesome. What happily married suburban couple can resist tandem skydiving while one of you steers and the other picks off terrorists with a .50cal sniper rifle? Indeed, if you were looking for the game to familiarize your pacifist spouse with military hardware, this is it, as after playing this game my wife can identify AKs, M16As, and .50 CALs on sight. Also, you can pimp out your weapons with gratuitous gold plating and such. This is supposedly to increase your "aggro," but is really just done because it's amusing to look at a huge golden rifle strapped to the back of your character.

Four stars, and it didn't make five only because it doesn't have as much replay value (we played it through only 1.5 times) and you can't design your own masks.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Rock Band - 5 stars

This is a phenomenal game.

I think the press surrounding this game tells the story, so I shouldn't need to go into too much detail here. Suffice it to say, this is possibly the most perfect multiplayer co-op party game ever made. Hyperbole, you say? Well, name one that has more broad-based appeal, audience participation (i.e. fun for people who are watching), and more enduring replay value - even without the ongoing releases of new downloadable songs. You can't. Nothing even comes close. The entire game concept just blows everything else away, and the execution (by a software team whose skills have been honed by years of making games which logically led up to this one, their magnum opus) is pitch-perfect. This game is good for parties, and for couples.

Note: It is possible to play the guitar while carrying a newborn baby in a sling, and sing the vocal part at the same time. Try it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Spider-Man: Friend Or Foe - 3 stars

The reviews for this weren't that hot, but we were pleasantly surprised. The game is well-made and fun to play.

You know how there was that awful Spider-Man 3 game?. Well, this is another piece of official merchandise that is a direct tie-in to the movie. Except you get the feeling that the team that made this game was sort of just left alone (while the execs hounded the team that made the main game) and allowed to produce something that didn't have to hit the movie release date and was therefore allowed to be much higher quality.

You play Spider-Man and his sidekick, and there are about 13 of them to choose from, running the gauntlet from huge brawlers to agile fighters to projectile shooters. It's a standard beat-em-up - you go through the levels beating up enemies until you fight the bosses. Where the game really shines is the depth of the personal combat options. You can punch, kick, jump, attack in the air, grapple, throw, lasso objects and throw them, hold a guy down while your partner hits them, and there are all sorts of wacky combos you can do depending on which sidekick you are using. Plus there are the special powers and web abilities. There are all sorts of little touches the programmers put in that indicate how much polish there is - for instance, one of Spider-Man's abilities is that he can shoot some webbing onto the larger enemies' heads and blind them. If he does it just as they are pulling out a bomb to throw at you, they'll drop the bomb on themselves instead. Or, if you bind an enemy in webbing, other enemies that aren't occupied with fighting you will actually go and help free them. The animation quality is also quite detailed - Doc Ock, for example, is incredibly cool to watch as he fights with his four extra arms.

Also, despite the fact that the game is slightly platform-y, they included a pretty good feature to alleviate it - automatic mantling. First, you can't walk off an edge accidentally. If you do accidentally jump off the edge (which you do with some characters, especially Spider-Man himself), if you are close to the edge, your character will automatically grab onto the edge, giving you a chance to pull yourself up. This also adds to the realism of the animation: Doc Ock, obviously, looks particularly cool doing this.

In fact, this easily-overlooked game is one of the most finely-detailed and polished games we've played in awhile. But if so, why not 4 stars? Well, there are two drawbacks:

1) You HAVE to play as Spider-Man and a sidekick. You can't play as two of the sidekicks. So one player always has to be Spider-Man. You can switch off, and Spider-Man is pretty cool and has lots of crazy powers, but eventually you will get bored of him and want to spend more time exploring the other characters. Sadly, there's no way to do this. The story is about Spider-Man, so it's always Spider-Man plus his buddy. It would really have been cool to play two of the sidekicks at once; there doesn't seem to be an unlockable mode for this or anything.

2) The game is relatively short. We finished it in a single weekend and didn't feel too much of an urge to play it again, despite how fun it was.

There is an interesting feature to the game - a VS mode fighting game. Due to the depth of the personal combat system, the developers were able to throw together a ghetto fighting game taking advantage of the various sidekicks and their many combat styles. It's amusing for maybe another 20 minutes.

Also, you get to play as black-suited Spider-Man, which is really just a more powerful version of Spider-Man who is harder to see in during combat.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Samurai Warriors 2 - 4 stars

This game is surprisingly fun.

Drawback: 2-player co-op is split-screen. This is tolerable, but we would have preferred a single-screen mode (especially one that just zoomed out more if you had to separate - how else are you going to see the hordes of enemies that cluster around you?).

I bought this game because it was $29.99 instead of the $59.99 for Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, and Gundam didn't explicitly say it was 2-player co-op (it just said "2 players") while this one did. Gameplay videos on the web seem to indicate that not only does Gundam have 2-player co-op, but they split the screen vertically, which we think we would prefer, so perhaps we'll try that one after finishing this game.

Basically, you hack-and-slash your way through enormous armies set in feudal Japan. The amount of historic backstory in this game (and related games like Dynasty Warriors) is ridiculous, but I'm glad they put in the effort. The gameplay would be fairly repetitive and boring were it not for the co-op aspect of it (I can tolerate a far lower-quality game if I'm playing together with my wife than when playing alone), and the intricacy of the weapon/skill upgrade system seems to be interesting, and there may be plenty of unlockable characters. Also, there seem to be many combos. My wife especially enjoys riding around on a horse slashing at enemies or having the horse trample them.

Dead or Alive 4 - 2 stars

This one's prettier than Soul Calibur 2 (since it's actually for the XBox 360), but not quite as fun. Apparently harder and more complex (involving reversals and timed combos, rather than the button mash-fest that Soul Calibur 2 can be), we didn't end up playing this for more than a couple weeks.

One fun thing was the 4-player tag-team option. On the days when we had two visitors, we got to enjoy this, and the best way to play this is apparently to constantly tag in and out while spamming attacks so that your characters keep jumping in, delivering a couple blows and then whipping out and switching off to your teammate before your opponent can re-orient themselves.