Breaking Down The Backlog I: blades, revolvers & clones

AT THE TIME of writing this article I can’t afford new games to review due to my lack of a job, so I thought I should start finally hacking through my massive backlog that piled up on my Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC while I was at university. This will be, god-willing, a monthly article where I will write about my feelings on the games I have finished in that month. Hope you enjoy! Dishonored I am not the biggest stealth fan. It is usually an annoyance to me. Previously the only exceptions were the Metal Gear Solid series and Hitman: Blood Money. The reason I don’t usually enjoy stealth games is because they become harder when guards discover you. It’s one of my biggest problems with the genre because I just quit and restart to save time. I don’t have the patience to hide most of the time. Saying that, Dishonored was a damn good game. The enemy placement, the level design and the amount of useful equipment you have makes being found by guards and civilians rather more difficult than other stealth games like the Splinter Cell series. The levels being wide, open and filled with alternate paths to the objective was an absolute godsend for me. When you combine that with the ability to stop time, teleport and look through walls – all the things I wish you could do in other stealth games – I finished the game without getting too frustrated at the slightly wonky stealth mechanics.

I say wonky because, quite simply, first person stealth barely works. The fact you can’t really see yourself in 3D space makes hiding behind walls and around corners way more difficult than it probably should be and it resulted in me getting caught a multitude of times. The one upside to the first person perspective was that the combat turned out to be some of the best I have played in a stealth game. Usually when your character is caught, the character is kind of terrible at fighting their way out (see: Solid Snake and Agent 47) but Arkane Studios’ expertise in first person hand-to-hand combat – as shown in Dark Messiah of Might and Magic and Arx Fatalis – really shone when I inevitably got caught.

Finally, I really liked the graphical style with its bright colours and exaggerated characters. Dishonoured certainly has a unique style that was capable of some really beautiful scenes and kept the game interesting to simply look at. The story was a bit rote and simple because all it is, is Corvo just exacting revenge on the people who betrayed him and then being betrayed again. It wasn’t super engaging but the world it created, a mixture of steampunk and the society at the fringes of Moby Dick, was cool as hell. Overall, Dishonoured is a great game. Slightly derivative but the style and the world stops that being a problem.

As a final point: after I finished the game, I didn’t want to continue playing it with the DLC I bought. I am not sure if that speaks ill of the game or the DLC. Also, the game’s ending is very satisfying.

the-swapper-cover This was a very enjoyable puzzle game. It wasn’t transcendental like Braid, Fez or Limbo but I played it to completion and loved the very oppressive atmosphere created by the ambient soundtrack and the odd art-style. If you haven’t played the game before, the puzzles in The Swapper are based around being able to make up to four copies of yourself who replicate your exact movements as you do them. It’s a very cool puzzle mechanic that starts simply but gets complicated very quickly. I had serious trouble with some of the puzzles at several points later in the game. It resulted in me going on to Youtube for solutions after smashing my head on my keyboard for an hour or two. Maybe I have trouble thinking laterally with puzzle games, but I always find myself impossibly stuck at points and then when I find out the solution it always looks so simple. Luckily, like I mentioned previously, the atmosphere kept me playing. However, unlike Braid or Fez, I didn’t ‘get’ the ending nor the story as a whole. It was all too obfuscated for the mystery to be worth digging into. Regardless of these narrative problems, if you see it going for fairly cheap on Steam or GOG.com then definitely pick it up!

Red Dead Redemption This is the first ever Rockstar game I have finished. I have played Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City and 4 along with Bully and found that they failed to engage me for any length of time. It was probably a mixture of game mechanics and a story that just didn’t grab me. Their attempts at crime dramas are fairly one-note and I just didn’t enjoy anything about Bully.

Red Dead Redemption on the other hand kept me entertained from start to finish, for the most part. The combat was constantly engaging because the guns felt seriously powerful – especially the High Powered Pistol, the majority of shotguns and the rifles. Also, the return of Deadeye was very welcome. It was highly gratifying killing four cowboys in quick succession (and the duels were great) without taking a single bit of damage. Along with the combat, the entire story, as derivative of Spaghetti Westerns as it is, was satisfying from start to finish. Although the family section was rather boring (maybe that was the point) and Mexico dragged on a bit too long. But the ending was incredible, especially the late title card, well to call it “late” would be an understatement. I won’t get into too much detail but I laughed my head off when it happened because it was so awesome.

All of this would almost be for nought if the main protagonist wasn’t any good. Luckily, the character of John Marston was constantly interesting for the entire time I played the game (about twenty-five hours). Although it was fairly obvious at points that he was a cypher for the audience. The man puts up with some shit I thought was way out of character as he is led through the game like a donkey reaching for a carrot on a stick, all in the name of his family. I will also say that the supporting characters weren’t particularly memorable with only the shit-bag government agent, the head of the Mexican revolution, John Marston’s wife, his son and the last of Marston’s old crew really standing out. That may sound like a lot, but in a cast of dozens over a twenty-four hour period, four isn’t too wonderful. But the voice acting was superb and the graphics held up (if a bit low resolution) on the Playstation 3. If you missed it when it first came out, Red Dead Redemption is well worth returning to.

Next up on Breaking Down The Backlog: God Of War, Enslaved: Pigsy’s Perfect 10, L.A. Noire & Metal Gear Solid 3

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