Thursday, June 2, 2011

Demo Review - Infamous 2 and Red Faction: Armageddon

Since the PlayStation Store has returned from it's hiatus dealing with the hacking incident, I have downloaded a few demos and have played some. Here is basically a reactionary posting detailing my initial reaction to Infamous 2 and Red Faction: Armageddon.

Red Faction: Armageddon
I have not been much of a Red Faction fan in the past, I'm sorry to say. That is mainly due to a lack of exposure to the games themselves. To my knowledge, I haven't actually played any of them for one reason or another; however, I did download this demo, and without any preconceptions I think I can give an honest review on the gameplay and the quality of the game itself (well at least the demo)
Right from the get-go we see our protagonist being run out of town and forced to escape into the sewers--nice. Every game needs a sewer level, don't you think? Well, to be fair, it's not a typical sewer level. You are definitely under ground. You are quickly introduced to the controls, which I have to applaud the designers on. A fairly straightforward design keeps it simple enough for anyone to play, but still has enough variety to keep the action interesting. The left analogue stick is for movement--forward, backward, and side-to-side. Pressing the left stick enables your character to sprint. The right stick is for looking up, down, and left to right. Pressing the right stick initiates a melee attack. I've always been a little confused by this in games--to me melee attack should be one of the shoulder buttons. Speaking of...L1 allows you to take aim with your selected weapon and R1 (more affectionately known as the trigger) is for firing said weapon. There is a new game mechanic introduced called "Nanites" which by way of R2 produces a shockwave attack--either in a "Hulk smash!" kind of way or in a directional attack--which will send your enemies flying and damage your surroundings. By using L2 the "Nanites" reconstruct demolished structures. In order to accomplish this the player must hold down L2 and keep the "stream" in the direction of the desired reconstruction. This is only a temporary reconstruction, lasting long enough for the player to proceed. Now for the face buttons. The d-pad is used to select weapons--one being allotted to each direction--making in-fight weapon switching quick-paced and simple without needing to take the player out of the action. The triangle crouches the player, while the X button makes them jump. Circle enables you to dodge attacks by rolling either forward, backward, or side-to-side depending on which direction with the Left stick the player is moving. Square is the action button as well as allowing the player to reload their selected weapon. Among the weapons presented in the demo are your standard assault riffle--a staple of action games, a magnet gun which fires twice--once for the anchor and once for the reciever (during the demo I actually found little use for this apart from gleefully sending enemies flying into the distance--yet strangely it is currently the highest user voted weapon on Red Faction's website,) a grenade launcher which fires remotely detonated sticky grenades--it was gratifying to come across an enemy, fire the grenade and see their "Oh, Sh**!" faces just before you detonate the charge (which is done by pressing the action button,) and finally my personal favorite, the singularity cannon--a gun which fires miniature black holes! I'm not joking, it is a gun that fires mini-black holes! Upon impact a spacial singularity is created, sucking in everything within its radius until is explodes. I found it very useful when ambushed by a horde of enemies.
I familiarized myself with the controls quite rapidly, and was very comfortable as I moved through the sewer tunnels. Not being familiar with the series, I don't know if the enemies were new to the game or were staples. They reminded me of the monsters in the Doom or Duke Nukem games of old--kind of demonic/insect/alien looking creatures coming to eat your lunch. Eventually you reach a point where your character enters a power suit. I'm not sure what it was called, but it was your standard armored suit complete with machine guns and missiles. Once in it you have to run a gauntlet of metal structures and oncoming monsters.
The destruction engine (sorry, I'm not familiar with its actual name) from Guerrilla is back, and with the added ability to reconstruct the environments as well, it is better than ever. A few times I found myself wondering around, just to see what I could put back together. All-in-all, the demo had decent action, amazing graphics, great controls, and ok voice acting; but was pretty straight forward. There were no twists nor turns from the presented path--or if there were, they only led to more ammo. Although it is just a demo, maybe there will be a bit more variety in the actual game. Red Faction: Armageddon is Random Ninja Approved. Based on the demo I'd give it at least a 4 out of 5.

Infamous 2
Now unlike with Red Faction, I have played the original Infamous. I loved the first game despite its flaws in controls. The stylized look to everything, really gave the appearance of a gritty superhero story--made all the better with the comic book-like panels in the cut-scenes. However, one of the best aspects, apart from it being a free-roam sandbox style game, was the karma meter. Based on your decisions during the story, you either received positive or negative karma, which in turn enabled you to have different powers--much like the Knights of the Old Republic series. Well all of the things I loved about the first game are back in the sequel...almost. It is still a free-roam sandbox game with an ever changing karma meter tracking either your rise to grace or your fall into darkness, and the comic-style panels are back as well. However, I am not sold on Cole's new look or voice. Cole is the main character, a messenger/delivery man who inadvertently destroyed a large chunk of Empire City (the game's equivalent to New York City) simultaneously gaining supernatural powers and killing thousands of people. In Infamous 2, Cole and his sidekick Zeke have traveled to the game's equivalent to New Orleans (sorry I can't remember the name) under the belief that Cole will acquire new powers which he will use to defeat a coming enemy called "The Beast"
The demo is quite expansive, allowing the player near-full range of Cole's abilities--at least the ones achieved in the first game plus a few new ones. Right from the start, I could tell that there would be a problem with the controls. It was also a problem with the first one. They are too sensitive. You barely press the left stick to move, and Cole has gone sprinting in that direction. The amount of pressure applied to the controls determines Cole's speed. Right stick moves the camera--unlike with Red Faction, Cole doesn't actually look in the direction you move the camera. In order to use Cole's lightning, you must press and hold L1 to aim. This is one of my preferred controller moves. The best example being in Metal Gear Solid 4, how the trigger (R1) was both the melee attack and weapon fire button, however, the weapon only fires if you hold down L1 as well. This allows the player to have more control over combat. Although that's where the game's controls similarities end. Cole does have a melee attack, but it is done by pressing the square button. rather than having a combination of buttons, one only needs to repeatedly bash the square button until a small gauge fills up. This represents the amp--which is a new weapon introduced in the game. To me it looks like a wicked bat that Cole used to bash his enemies. Once the gauge fills up, you can press the triangle button to perform a killing move (for lack of a better term) There are a few different ones and they are each awesome and acrobatic. The other face buttons used with L1 use different lightning attacks. A new move introduced is a way for Cole to move objects--much like Magneto--he can lift and hurl them using his electricity to generate magnetic fields. Cole is also a free climber, which is a big part of the game. He scales buildings and other structures with relative ease; however, it's not that easy and (at least in the first game) his climbing was too sensitive like the other controls--he would grab when you don't want him to.
The demo jumps around the story of the game--going between at 4 different mission and alternating whether Cole is good or evil. To start he's good and uses his powers to take down some thugs calling themselves the Militia while trying to find a shard that will grant him more powers. Once that is over, the demo skips to a later mission. Only this time, Cole is evil. His powers are slightly different to reflect his attitude. It is in this section that the players are introduced to the supernatural thugs--reavers(I think) After you stop a fight between the Militia and the Revers( sorry I'm not sure how it's supposed to be spelled) he is sent to rescue a kidnapped girl--though she looks likes she's in her 20s The girl leads you to her uncle, who is apparently leading a resistance against the Militia. After a few words, another monster called a devourer arrives. This guy is big--not the biggest thing Cole has ever fought, but large all the same and with a hard rocky hide which appears to be impervious to lightning; however, the inside of his mouth looks fleshy and vulnerable. Putting 2 and 2 together, I immediately began tossing lightning grenades into his roaring mouth until I killed the monster. After this victory, the demo shifts once again. Cole is good once more and is sent to retrieve some cases of medical supplies from the Militia. This section introduces another power called the ionic vortex. Using great amounts of power Cole can create an electric tornado which draws in enemies (and other things) and will usually destroy everything. The first time I activated it, I accidentally did it in the middle of a busy intersection. It looked amazing. Arcing lightning dances along the telephone lines as a swirling torrent sucked in all of the pedestrians and cars. It was over in a matter of seconds, but it wowed me. After collecting three of the cases I made for the fourth, and thinking that the demo would end soon I unleashed a vortex on a large contingent of Militia surrounding my prize. Again it was glorious, but I was correct, the demo ended with that.
I'm finding this one to be a tough call. While I love the concept of the game, the powers, the premise and the look and feel; I can't seem to get over my hang ups on the controls. They are just too sensitive. And for a game that has visceral action like this, maybe the sensitivity should have been toned down a bit. Not a lot--just a bit. The demo for 2 did seem to be more refined than the first, but on the whole, it had the same feel while I was running around. Even with my hang-ups I quickly acclimated to the control scheme and was quite adept at running about, jumping, and gliding through the air. Climbing is where I had the most trouble, but with more practice...
Anyway, based on the demo I give this game a solid 4 out of 5. It is Random Ninja Approved, but maybe they should reduce the sensitivity to the controls. Oh, and I typically don't like it when water kills your character--at least these give you a chance to get out, but really...

Keep an eye out for my next Demo Review, where I discuss LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean and Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls (the other 2 demos I downloaded)

(note: Images above are the official box art for the PS3 games.)

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