Heavy Rain was one of my personal favorite games of this generation, despite looking back and seeing the chinks in its storytelling armor the more I play it. Yes the voice acting wasn't a strong suit and the plot could end up getting in silly situations, but the emotions put in certain scenes, graphical detail and many other small realistic touches over a very serious moral issue made it truly stand out. There will still never be another game like it, and for better or worse stands as David Cage's magnum opus. When I heard he had a new game with Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, I had my anticipation for this game skyrocket and it only got higher as I played the demo! As fantastic as it looks, playing it has led to be the biggest gaming letdown of 2013.
Jodie (Ellen Page) has been psychologically linked to and protected by a mysterious entity named Aiden her entire life with many strange and often deadly abilities such as possession and choking his victims, and other abilities including healing, telekinesis, and physically shielding Jodie from attacks. Nathan (Willem Dafoe) takes her in at a young age to be a spy for the CIA for a paranormal assassination and espionage division. After a few deadly encounters she decides to learn the mystery behind her link to Aiden and potentially prevent Armageddon along the way. Now while some of this sounds unique and entertaining in theory, it unravels itself as a complete mess early on, and its non linear plotting doesn't make it any more engaging, interesting, or just plain good.
Heavy Rain had skeptics because of the lack of focus on gameplay, and more or less having quick time events or certain prompts drive the action. By about 30 minutes into it, it felt completely natural and a signature of the game because it actually had available things to interact with at almost every turn, and interacting with the environments actually wielded some purpose later on that would affect how the story would unfold. Here, that element is nearly complete stripped out and the prompts to perform certain actions are completely confusing at best. Fights in Heavy Rain also worked because it clearly laid out what to do in that situation and how to strike. In this one, time slows down and you can be put in certain angles that make it nearly impossible to correctly throw the stick to attack or dodge in combat. The game is damn near impossible to die in or fail in any situation, making any of the little "tension" Cage was going for nonexistent throughout and the plausibility of certain situations are so contrived and idiotic, you can't take any of the action as seriously as the game wants you to. The "co-op" of the game is just having another person control Aiden, damn near completely useless seeing as you can't make them both move together.
Putting Ellie through dire situations only for them to not matter is failure on the game's decision to have a nonlinear plot, a la Memento. Whatever traumatizing experience she is put through has the emotion fizzle away completely by the next chapter. One minute she will contemplate (and attempt) suicide that will make you stagger and wonder why, the next she'll be at a bar while David Cage tastelessly puts Jodie in a teenagers home so she'll show off her Carrie audition to the adolescents that were just demonstrated supernatural abilities by this girl less than 8 minutes beforehand. No emotion sticks because you won't know how the story unfolds the first time and it's so pathetically predictable that playing it a second time would prove you're a masochist for tasteless, misogynistic plot devices. And I emphasize that strongly because it seems that in David Cage's eyes, throwing your female protagonists in as many disgusting rape scenarios as possible makes him a great writer with some of the most laughable stock stereotypes in a video game (the Native American sequence is only the half of it). I applaud him once for making me see through the eyes of a woman in such an uncomfortable, frightening situation but doing it more than that is just tasteless.
Graphically, it's quite an achievement and makes these characters expressions come through realistically. Ellen and Willem give their best to this game with their voices and movements and in the hands of a proper writer and director, this could have been one incredible experience. Each of the different locales in the game feel and look believable and show that there is still amazing graphical prowess on the Playstation 3, even as its little brother is now on the market.
(I suggest those reading to watch the Super Best Friends Play of this game as it unfolds as to get a better understanding of my gripes with the storytelling.)
However, Gamespots rating of this game is completely laughable and is shameful if this is considered to be an evolution in videogame storytelling. This would be given to the pet chimps of a Hollywood film producer if it were ever considered to go out as a movie and is still ludicrous and pathetically written as a video game story. When you come out the same year with games like Bioshock: Infinite, The Last of Us and new installments of The Walking Dead, you had best bring your A-game out there. As much as TLOU seems to take from Children of Men, that game's story and characters were not only more engaging and better developed, but still told you a great story and put you through a marvelous experience the whole way through and still had gameplay as a main focus. I can see that David Cage is passionate about what he does,and I have no complaints to him for that, and if actually got focused and sat down for a rewrite, he could make the incredible game he's dreamed of. But in clear conscience, expecting more than a good laugh from this pretentious slog of a game is asking too much at this point.
Another November, another Call of Duty release. Millions voice their distaste for Activision's annualized blockbuster, while millions more fork $60 to the Call of Duty name regardless, making each game reach at least $1 billion in revenue with each game four years running. While I was completely burnt out on the franchise with 2010's Black Ops, I'd be lying to myself to say that the games don't come packed with a massive amount of content for a yearly released game; usually entertaining yet predictable campaigns, addictive multiplayer, and fantastic co-op modes in each game make sure they aim to please the $60 buying price and have been uncontested with their dominance, no matter the imitator (which have been in abundance trying to mimic the success). However, with the next generation of consoles on the horizon (which this game will release on) and a host of incredible looking first person shooters such as Bungie's Destiny (interestingly, to be ALSO published by Activision) and "Respawn/Inifinity-Ward's-Million-Dollar-EA-Sponsored-Slap-in-the-Face-to-Activision-for-MW2" known as Titanfall, as well as rivals like Battlefield gaining significant traction against them these days, Call of Duty is finally having some interesting competition to go head-to-head with. Not to mention with Grand Theft Auto V's MASSIVE first day earnings with $800 million in revenue in 24 hours with $1 billion in 3 DAYS; the giant isn't quite as scary as he once was. While this could be their big chance to show that they'll slide into the next gen and conquer with ease, Call of Duty: Ghosts is the first undeniable sign that quantity doesn't sustain quality in the end.
Set in the near future where countries in South America have banded together to make a superpower called "The Federation" (I'm guessing they realized we wanted a break from killing our vodka loving Russian brethren and Middle Eastern pals for the past 4 years), and basically manage to launch a sneak attack that destroys most major US cities and the country is left in shambles. As an elite member of the "Ghosts" special ops squad, you're gonna point your gun at other foreigners until they go bye-bye. While I do honestly think that Call of Duty going the post-apocalyptic route is actually an interesting proposition, most of it is unbelievable because of how advanced the military still happens to be after all of this happening and still more advanced than your enemy. Your squadmate/brother is your mouthpiece and makes all decisions for you (again), making you just idly sit there while your comrade will answer and speak to you while you still stand there awkwardly in silence like other Infinity Ward games have been doing. Treyarch fixed this issue after realizing how stupid it is to carry entire conversations with silent protagonists by letting the characters speak and actually have a character in themselves rather than go the lazy route with trying to be immersed in the role of a killing machine. The story and characters are as uninteresting as they can possibly be and the length of the campaign is pathetically short even by the series' standards. An average of 4.5 hours is how long it took me to finish it on Normal, and I forgot most of the campaign while playing it.
Gameplay has really not budged an inch, which is either a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. There's a slide function however and peek and lean has returned though. There's no need to explain how this game even works to you, so i'll sift through to find the biggest addition it has to it: THE DOG! Yes, the dog that's become a parody so big it's nearly eclipsed the popularity of the game itself. Surprisingly though, Riley (yes, named after the character of Modern Warfare 2) is by far the most interesting, best addition to the game. Useful and easy to get attached to, it's funny to see that one of the mots memorable characters of the game rips out throats one second and dying to play catch in another.
Graphically is where this game impresses me the least, because for a much discussed new engine, this looks surprisngly last gen. I'm sure I've seen parts in games like COD: Black Ops that look better than this. Seeing it side by side with the PS3/PS4 is barely worth noting in some instances though there are some textures that truly do look like they put some work into them. Environments have a destructible element to them in some instances, and if you really want a better looking version of it, the PS4 and PC are the way to go (Xbox One has the resolution decreased).
Multiplayer feels a bit different too; the maps are bigger and there are environmental interactions similar to Black Ops to use. The Perks have been overhauled and for the most part, the changes are welcome, but the interface is a bit of a head scratcher. It's not as overly complex as people make it seem but the old system of customizing weapons and equipment was better, and it will definitely take some getting used to. The maps are certainly larger too, but without larger amounts of players, something that would've made this game a lot better ends of making the game a slower to most. Almost like half a Battlefield map without a vehicle and less players. Some modes, such as series staples Headquarters and Ground War are removed entirely. The biggest addition put into this game are: ALIENS FROM ANOTHER WORLD, also known as Extinction. It's a pretty unique and very fun new co-op mode and a very welcome edition to the franchise, in one that desperately needs something new in it.
All in all, what can I tell you about this game what hasn't been said before or what people that don't like the series will say? This is the first title in the series that is finally standing by the statement "Call of Duty is the same game every year!" cried throughout the gaming word. Activision had to basically thrust its $1 billion onto store shelves through shipping, which is almost like saying they had to BUY their way into earning $1 billion in a day. It's already been reported that it's selling less than Black Ops II has, a game that also sold less than its predecessor. First person shooters have been stuck inside of a creative rut trying to emulate the COD series as much as possible, from style and execution in every possible aspect. However, with a plethora of new shooters on the horizon that look like they could truly innovate the most popular video game genre in the world, Call of Duty might start looking like a fossil before you know it if this is what they bring to the table for next generation.