30 November 2015

You raise me up

I would be making an understatement if I said Tomb Raider (2013) is one of my favorite games. I have played it through seven times over three different platforms. No other modern age game has got same attention from me. So of course I was waiting for Rise of the Tomb Raider like no other game.

With each trade fair appearance and released video my expectations got either higher ("looks so good, whoa, this time Lara even resembles her performer Camilla Ludddington") or went down ("so many ways to kill people... Lara isn't supposed to be that kind of violent maniac"). It was this kind of roller coaster of emotions right up to the release date. Even Twitch streams I had been following didn't convince me. I saw the game as almost an off-putting mix of mindless killing and lukewarm adventuring.

When all the excitement started; this scene was shown in E3 debut gameplay footage. Oh boy!

But when the game eventually saw the daylight, I had no other options than to get it. Heck, I even chose Xbox One as my new generation console because of Rise of the Tomb Raider! So after all this, was I disappointed? Is it better than Tomb Raider I love so much? There's no way I can even try to pretend how Rise of the Tomb Raider would feel like if one hasn't played the previous game so I must make comparisons.

Rise of the Tomb Raider plays almost exactly like its predecessor. Gameplay is mostly identical and you collect all the different stuff in a similar way, even though this time Lara has a few more tricks up her sleeve, more stuff and resources to gather and hunt down and the tombs are way bigger with very clever environmental puzzles. But the overall nature of the games are completely different.

Two years ago we met Lara Croft who wasn't that arrogant, self-assertive superwoman we had grown familiar with ever since her seminal 1996 debut. In her place was a young, insecure woman who is literally thrown into a hell in a desperate journey to save her friends and herself. Lara was thrown around, drowned, punched, drenched in blood, shit, pus and whatnot. Cutscenes were "filmed" with shaky handheld camera, up close and personal. The game was frenzy and energetic and after a grueling run the gauntlet a survivor was born.

Yea yea, you have dirt on your face but lighting makes it look perfect anyway.

Two years later we meet an adventurer. She chooses her journey in order to prove her late father wasn't barmy and heads to Siberia with Jonah. As a tomb raider is about to rise, a new enemy also rises its proverbially ugly head. Trinity (Templars all but in the name) are after the same Divine Source Lara is desperately looking for.

Everything in the game is more sleek and grand in the scale than previously. Rise of the Tomb Raider is technically absolutely brilliant and perfect in every imaginable way. After this game all those developers who make Xbox One versions of their games worse than their PS4 counterparts are either lazy or incompetent, or more likely both. There's no excuses anymore. There has been few, if none, as polished games in the last years. In fact it's polished almost up to the point of losing any edge and rough characteristics.

Even lynxes are bigger and more menacing in Siberia than in Finland (where I live).

This time Lara is treated like a film star. She's shown in cutscenes always in a favorable light and her Tress FX -powered hair shines in any situation like in hair care commercials. And if Lara happens to have some dirt or blood on her almost Luddingtonesque features, it's washed away during camp stints. It's as if a modestly budgeted action movie surprise hit gets a big-budget, huge crowd-pleasing sequel.

So here we are again at the same question. Was I disappointed? Is Rise of the Tomb Raider better than Tomb Raider? Well, in all honesty I can't answer that but I tell you what. I bothered to get 100% completion on my 1st playthrough of it. That must tell something.

//Planeteer J

P.S. Oh, what about that infamous input lag? What input lag? Stop telling lies and get your facts right, Digital Foundry! In fact, aiming is even steadier this time so it's easier to pop headshots. Yes, Lara's movement has inertia but that's because of a sense of weight to her to better simulate movement on different surfaces.

14 November 2015

Keep the Faith

Xbox 360 backwards compatibility finally arrived to Xbox One and I was happy to see Mirror's Edge among the first batch of supported games. Having played it now extensively on Xbox One I can say two things: the compatibility works like a charm, absolutely no frame rate drops or other hiccups, and Mirror's Edge hasn't aged a bit. It's still the same stylish and smooth skill-based game. If you fumble, it's always your fault - even though you swear a lot and blame the controller for mishaps.

Mirror's Edge dates back to 2008. When the anticipated sequel (or the prequel as they call it) arrives the next May it's been almost an eight years a gap between the games. A lot has changed since in the gaming, too much to mention in fact but the one thing I'm after now is that the games have become more easy and accessible. The game companies might tell you it's because "the players demand more nowadays" or some other crap like that but in reality easy games equal more profits. No one buys a game with a reputation of being frustrating.

That's why I fear Mirror's Edge: Catalyst will also fall into an "easy and more accessible" category. My other concern is it might try too much, both in terms of visuals and game mechanics. The original succeeds because it's pretty much bare-bones. It does what it does and does it well. It doesn't reach for the skies nor it needs to. We have already seen flashy cut scenes and dazzling visuals of the prequel, with glaring lens flares and whatnot, but very little of the actual gameplay. And DICE pretty much hates Xbox One. Or is completely incompetent with it. And I have absolutely no desire to get PS4, like, ever.

Of course I hope I'm wrong and Mirror's Edge: Catalyst turns out to be the best game since, well, Mirror's Edge. It's a long wait until May. In the meantime we can always go back to Faith's original shoes and have a blast!

//Planeteer P

10 November 2015

November rain

Whoa! Gasp! OMG! The best November in gaming. like, ever! Just look at it, so many AAA-games released already, with hundreds of millions worth of marketing backing them up so even if you live in a barrel with a lid nailed shut, you'd still know which games are out there.

What to choose? Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, the best FPS ever! Fallout 4, perhaps the most anticipated game of all time! Rise of the Tomb Raider, making the predecessor to look like a nap hour in kindergarten. And there's still Star Wars: Battlefront to come! It's Star Wars! As multiplayer FPS (or 3rd person, if you prefer)! Need to even say more?

The Lost Planeteers had to make their hard choice:

Never Alone: Arctic collection from Xbox One Gold membership discount. A charming little platformer with a very important message, along its recently released DLC. It was familiar to us from Steam already but now we can enjoy it as a proper co-op, as it was meant to be.

So, there really was no choice at all.