September 15, 2013

Deadpool . The Coolest Comic Hero of All

I've purchased Deadpool game at last. I've long waited for it to be discounted at Steam and the moment has come. During this week's Activision sale, on 15th of September, 2013, the game was discounted 50% and I snatched it right away.

I wanted this game badly for a very long time. Sadly, it was and still remains incredibly expansive on Xbox 360 and I never seen it discounted on Steam before now as well. Originally, after looking though the trailers, I thought about paying the full price of the PC version of the game. But then I saw some mixed reviews and decided to hold my horses. Now I know I was wrong to do so.

After playing the game halfway through, I must say that it's not only the funniest games I played in a really long time, it also boast an incredible simple but addictive gameplay and offers a welcome (although not that serious) challenge on maximum level of difficulty. Not only that, Deadpool has become my favorite comic book character. Yes, overshadowing even Batman.

I'm not a comic book reader and I've stumbled upon Deadpool in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie. Needless to say, I didn't pay much attention to the character there. The movie hardly makes him interesting at all. Now I know that Deadpool is incredibly cool and even thinking of buying some of his comic books of comiXology.

Special attention deserves the voice acting. It's superb. Deadpool is voiced by Nolan North whom I mentioned in a recent post. It's the guy most famous for his voice of Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series. Nolan appears in a lot of other video games too, Assassin's Creed being the most notable, probably. I also felt that, even though great as adventurous Drake, this voice actor wasn't anything special in any other games I've heard him in. Actually, he sounds just about the same everywhere. Not Deadpool though. Mr. North gives a stellar performance as Deadpool. I'll have to say this is his best performance this far. Hats off.

Some not so good thing about this game. There are loads of pre-rendered movies of low quality. Once again, I don't understand why they are present at all. All of them are made using the game engine and none of them feature any spectacular effects that couldn't have been rendered in real-time. Actually, there are a few real-time-rendered sequences that boast plenty of effects not seen in the pre-rendered movies. Considering the game runs on Unreal Engine 3, I don't understand why the High Moon just couldn't make everything be rendered before our eyes. A real shame.

Also, it's not the most impressive Unreal Engine 3 game out there. It's not very well detailed, to put it mildly. But the levels are pretty big. I've also experienced one technical problem so far. There are those red glowing chest during the one of the later levels. Opening them will grant your character DP used to purchase new skills. Sometimes (quite often) Deadpool will just refuse to open such a chest. It wouldn't have been that bad, really, as the chest don't grant that big of a bonus, but during the same level, while on one of the trials lead by Death, there's a possibility to get an achievement called "Diggin' in the crates" which requires Deadpool to open eleven treasure chests in the the Tombs. The trick is, while crossing the Tombs Deadpool is safe only while in the light shed by Death. Sadly, she is constantly on the move. Deadpool has to be really fast to open all the chest, otherwise he'll be left behind and die in the darkness. This achievement would have been a breeze if not for frustration caused by the bug preventing the opening of any of those chests. I couldn't really spot why this is happening. One time you can open some chest easily the other you can't open the same chest at all. I did get the achievement in the end but the bug left an unpleasant feeling anyway.

Despite the mentioned drawbacks, the game is incredible. I highly recommend it. It's worth even its full price.

As for comparison between the PC and the console versions, I can't say anything at the moment. As mentioned above, the X360 version is still damn expensive (costs £32.99 at amazon.co.uk). I would have paid that for the game that cool but only if I didn't have it already on PC. Even without live comparison, I can be pretty damn sure PC version is miles better than its console counterpart. The game features non-stop rollercoaster of combo chaining and jumping around. Best served at 60 FPS. I highly doubt the console version runs at that.

September 14, 2013

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. Thoughts upon completion

I've just finished PoP: The Forgotten Sands on PC. I've originally purchased the Xbox 360 version several years ago but never got to play it. The PC version was bought during one of the amazing Steam sales but managed to say off my hard drive for quite some time. Only now, three years after the release, I managed not only to play but also complete the game.

It's worth mentioning that completing the game wasn't much of a feat. On "normal" difficulty (maximum available on first playthrough) it took me 5 hours and 40 minutes to reach the end credits. This has to be one of the shortest games I've played recently. There are arcade games and games on mobile platform boasting better length. Nonetheless, I managed to get bored of at least some of the aspects of the game. Namely, combat.

The combat in The Forgotten Sands is ridiculously dull and repetitive. This is the first and only PoP game that has a skill development tree. Thanks to that tree, the Prince can improve existing or receive new combat skills. Even that considered, the combat comes down to just mashing one or two buttons. There are numerous opponents to be killed and none of those require any special tactics. Rolling around and or jumping and waving the sword is more than enough. Throwing in one of the abilities acquired though the skill tree will make it even easier but not especially fun. Despite a pretty spectacular sequence preceding the final boss battle, the battle itself doesn't involve anything other than what the Prince was doing before to cut through any other enemies. It's all in the slashing. Maybe because of that, despite of the cool scenery, it doesn't feel epic. And the ending doesn't feel that much rewarding.

Overall, the game tried hard to get back to the (original reboot) roots, to what the PoP was during the Sands of Time. Needless to say, it falls short in almost every aspect. On one hand, we have your usual Middle Eastern themed story with an older brother, an evil Djinn, a hot magical girl to advise the Prince along his road and a huge castle to explore from dungeons to the highest towers. On the other hand, the combat is much less fun and even not as visually impressive as any of the previous PoP games. Yes, including the original trilogy. The story resembles the one in The Sands of Time a lot but lacks the romantic touch. As I already said, there's a hot girl included, but it's a 1000 year old magical entity so there isn't any romance involved whatsoever. The environment puzzles are sometimes mesmerizing thanks to some of the newly acquired powers, like an ability to freeze water. On the other hand, the ability to leap great distance through the air to reach an enemy, even though looking cool, feels overly ridiculous. I mean, there are birds all over just pinned to some places in the air, waiting to get jumped by Prince in order to reach higher ground. Doing absolutely nothing. Or a single sand warrior waiting on some platform. If the Prince gets to such platform by means of jumping the enemy but then decides to track back, the same single enemy will respawn and  get into the position to get jumped again. Total garbage.

There are also a few things that make us think Ubisoft was eager to recreate the success of the rebooted trilogy after Prince of Persia (2008) didn't manage to create much hype. Like, this Prince is actually the same person as the one in the Ubisoft's reboot. He mentions some of the events of the previous game. Also, the events occurring in this game supposedly happen between the events of The Forgotten Sands and The Warrior Within, according to the developers.The voice actor is also the same, Yuri Lowenthal, who is the perfect fit for the Prince, unlike Nolan North, the voice of Prince in Prince of Persia (2008). Although Nolan is incredible as Nathan Drake from Uncharted, I really dislike him everywhere else, including Assassin's Creed. Interestingly enough, Yuri gave his voice for the Prince in the Sands of Time and The Two Thrones but no The Warrior Within.

In the end, the game is pretty smooth and I did feel an urge to continue playing it till the end. Although, I was quite disappointed by the story after just finishing the Prince of Persia (2008) which has the deepest story of all the PoP games. The ending in The Forgotten Sands was way too obvious.

Technically the game is a marvel. You get to see the loading screen only once and everything else will get loaded dynamically as you move around the enormous rooms of the palace. Also, all the movies except the intro and the outro are rendered in real time, which means you never loose immersion due the low quality of the recorded movies as it happens in oh so many other pretty big titles. Batman games and Deus Ex, just to name a few.

As for platform difference, the X360 version is not overly annoying, but playing at 1080p and 60 frames per second on PC makes a world of difference in a such fast-paced game as this. I would say that PC version of The Forgotten Sands is a bit better than the Xbox version of Prince of Persia (2008) which was making me dizzy almost all the time. The PC version has no drawbacks at all, except one - for some reason the volume in the game is really low. I had to crank up the volume to extremely high levels. All the other games I played recently are at least five times louder at the same volume settings. Annoying but hardly a deal-breaker.