Evening Reading: I Don't Care About 3D

By Brian Leahy, Mar 23, 2010 5:00pm PDT So, Nintendo revealed the 3DS early this morning in Japan and I could not be less excited. Not only do I care absolutely zero about 3D-gaming (about as much as I care about 3D-movies), I can't imagine it working on a handheld.

Maybe Nintendo has a big surprise up its sleeve, but I think we could be looking at the next Virtual Boy here. Either way, we'll know more at E3.

You know what I am excited about? LOST!

Gaming News o'the Day

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Game of the Evening - First-Person Shooters:

Tribes: "Mastered combat in 3 dimensions more than a decade before today's games could master combat in 2." (MercFox1)

Remember to submit your choices for Game of the Evening in this comments thread.

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  • Just Cause 2 Review (repost from MR)

    I spent a considerable amount of timing playing the PC version (with a gamepad because of vehicles) and decided to writing something up. I tried to be as honest, forthcoming and clear about the good and the bad. Hope its helpful some of you that are on the fence.

    Uber-lengthy review in reply...

    Thread Truncated. Click to see all 15 replies.

    • Developed by Avalanche Studios, Just Cause 2 finds Mr Rico Rodriguez returning to a much better, bulkier game world. Having a grapple hook, a parachute and a beautiful open-world like the one here is essentially a dream come true. To sweeten the pot this open-world goes out of its way to pat you on the back, for the destruction you cause, with Chaos points. These points allow you to unlock faster and more destructive vehicles, bigger weapons--from the Black Market--and additional missions to cause even more chaos and rack up points. This is Just Cause 2 and--though it has some issues--is a rather fun and wacky game.

      We should immediately get one thing out of the way here: The story is boring. If you're even slightly interested in a proper narrative in this game then you're going to be disappointed. The protagonist--Rico Rodriguez--is paper thin and frankly not very interesting--but who cares!? To me he's essentially a 3D-model in a video game holding a grapple hook and parachute for me. I know that sounds a bit harsh but I honestly take no issue with it because Just Cause 2 isn't about character development or pushing a narrative--it's about having fun. It's essentially a baseball bat and glove. It's a bucket and shovel at the beach. It's having access to these extremely fun mechanics in a game that encouragingly gives a swat on the tush saying, "Have fun kid!" Don't over think it.

      Avalanche was wise to make the grapple and parachute available from the get-go, and with it you can latch on to anything! It's great because it forces you to be as creative as you can with attacks--over all I found it to be a wonderful experience. You can pull many of the (well placed) explosive barrels onto or closer to your enemies to shoot, or attack them from above by grappling to a nearby building to lob grenades. No vehicles around? Just 'slingshot' yourself across the land, a feat which involves grappling onto something in the distance and engaging the parachute once you hit the air. How about plucking snipers from their far off nest, pulling guys over ledges to their death or even slinging yourself to a location behind your enemy. It really is an insane amount of fun and totally worth the price of entry--the mechanic just feels right. I do think that the game could've benefited from a Crackdown type of lock on feature since firefights can feel a little clumsy, especially when enemies are coming from different directions. The grapple mechanic could have been taken a bit further with some kind of upgrade system too. Perhaps the ability to upgrade it's distance, damage levels to enemies (like a shock feature) or even the speed of the pull. Though the game has a decent cover mechanic I think the ability to switch from left-handed to right-handed in regards to the protagonists on-screen location would've been appreciated by most.

      Rico seems to have the absolute slowest running speed ever in a video game. No seriously--it's pathetically verging on unusable. Though the grapple is a really great way to get around there were times I found myself in desperate situations where I needed to quickly run for cover. To make the controls more awkward Rico cannot grab on to any ledges sans grapple. For instance when attempting to navigate anything in close proximity, like a nearby crate, it a hassle while under fire. It just feels slightly antiquated and annoying in times of desperation.

      The game has a GPS system in place that allows you to drop a way-point down on the map at any time. It will even throw down some 3D arrows on the streets so you know where exactly to go. Off in the horizon lies a nice little quest marker telling you were to go in terms of direction so if you want to cut across the desert you can feel free. Unfortunately there were times when this little marker got in the way visually. It's not transparent and never changes size (even though it's relatively small) so when a destination is far off in the distance it's completely covered by it--it's strange.

      The mission's tends to be your standard open-world gaming fare. The most enjoyable being the military base attacks where you side with one of the local factions--who's interest lie in taking back their island--to liberate it. These missions involved escorting a technician along with several guerrillas into the heart of the base. Once there you must defend them from an onslaught of enemies, while the hacker goes to work, which usually concludes with an attacking helicopter. They're relatively short missions and yield a lot of money and Chaos points. The bases are designed differently enough to not appear to be cookie-cutter out the climactic battles don't ever seem to change. Once completing these missions you fill 4 meters with gain a large amount of Chaos points: Agency Mission, Stronghold, Faction Mission, & Black Market Item. Once these meters are filled they unlock the next item that's relative to the meter. The nice thing about completing the military base missions is that you can sometimes get access to attack choppers and vehicles with turrets at no cost. The Chaos, after roughly 10-15 hours into the game went from outrageously fun to fun. It never ever hit a dull level but it did get a little long in the tooth eventually. Perhaps if the cities, landmarks or general populace were a little more interesting.

      Side missions unlock as you spread out the different factions influence and this is done by gathering more Chaos points. The missions are reasonably plentiful but not the most memorable. Missions include venturing out specific places to destroy a complex, assassinate a guy, seek out a caravan of cars via chopper to take them down, stealing vehicles and more of what you would expect. Every once in a while, though, the game throws something at you that’s relatively different. For instance at one point in the game someone required me to blow up a gigantic statue of the islands brutal dictator, tether his head to my tank and then drag it all the way back to his base. It was fun but unfortunately these unique missions are few and far between. For a diversion--and to earn cash--there are race missions involving cars, planes, jets and boats.

      One of the more amusing things outside of the gameplay is the Propaganda that’s blurted out to the islands via new radio once you’ve overtaken a military complex or liberated a city. At one point in the game I completely secured a base 100%--which involves finding all the hidden cash drops, vehicle parts, gun parts and destroying all the government equipment--and immediately the radio spit out "Hello! The explosions recently heard near the blah blah mountain range were caused by volcanic eruption. Everything is fine now thanks!" It’s unsuspectingly amusing.

      Speaking of the Black Market, it can be accessed anytime when there is no heat from the police. This is where you can upgrade weapons and vehicles or fast travel to any place you've already visited. Upgrading weapons is done by collecting weapon parts that're sprinkled throughout the game and using them here. Vehicles are upgraded in a similar fashion, but with vehicle parts. Like Crackdown's orb/noise system the game offers assistance in finding these items: They will sparkle from a distance, the signal strength of a meter located in the upper left-hand corner of the GUI grows as you get closer and once within close range a icon visible through walls pops up--in short, they're not hard to find.

      Unfortunately--pushing the structure from average to mundane--the missions always begin with essentially the same exact in-game, canned cutscene: A boss drives up in vehicle, kicks an ammo crate off while spiting out your mission's details and then drives off. Sometimes they get really crazy and escort you personally via helicopter so you can just drop down into a base (don't be fooled it usually looks the same every boss, just a different palette/texture swap). Early on in the game I found all of this to be sort of amusing and figured it was leading up to some kind of a joke. "Hey" I thought, "This game is going be ironic and will make fun of itself!" but unfortunately that never happened. A few hours into the game you will just skip these boring cutscenes.

      There is a decent save game system in place with the best part being the checkpoints system. It usually works often enough to avoid frustration--even mid-mission hooray! What’s annoyingly missing is the ability to save anywhere at anytime. To be clear, you can initiate a manual save at any time but it performs a save state that warping you to the nearest town when loaded. It's not really that big of a deal since it just provides you with another excuse to purchase another vehicle from the Black Market or just hi-jack something nearby.

      In some parts of the game there are Quick Time Events (QTEs) and unfortunately they're seemingly unnecessary even though they're attached to tense scenarios. For instance, in one section of the game I needed to open a gate to let my guys in and--while under fire--I was required to nail 5 buttons in a specific order. Another time I needed to hijack an attacking chopper and in order to commandeer the vehicles for my own use I had to successfully complete a QTE. Not hitting the right buttons forced me to start over.

      The physics in the game feels just about right, but driving can be a mixed bag at times. It sits somewhere in between GTA4 and Saints Row 2 in terms of controls and feel. Plus the camera does this weird thing where it sits a little too close to the vehicle and shakes around, when going off-road, in relation to the vehicle. It makes off-roading slightly nauseating, but perhaps the point. There a various cars to buy, steal, grapple, jump on and drive off of cliffs--the same goes for flying. The variety feels good and plentiful and, of course, some handle better than others. The most fun I had was with flying. It's a gorgeous experience, especially during sunset.

      I've played the demo and the full game on the PC and it appears that Avalanche has slightly optimized the game with the final retail release. I should also mention that once I turned Vertical Sync off I was able to run the game with most of the settings maxed out running at a smooth frame rate at a 1680x1050 resolution. I have a Q6600 (over-clocked to 3Ghz), 4GB RAM and a 4890 1GB video card. I do have an Xbox 360 copy and it looks strikingly good, runs well and looks great. Any version will make you happy. :)

      I can see how this review could be easily construed a negative take on the game but honestly half of the issues I mentioned are trivial. Who cares about the voice acting, the narrative, Rico's pork grease laden hair--this game is fun fun fun. Get and get out there and have fun kid! <sWaT!>