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After a gap of five weeks or so since my last column the games industry has suddenly become a whole new animal. The next generation - well, Sony’s at least - has been revealed, and games publishers are finally able to talk about developing for a new breed of consoles without resorting to coded, barely voiced communications. It’s …

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Square Syndrome

That's the name of the condition Ms Croft is afflicted with. It's something that crops up again and again in Final Fantasy games. The female lead flits indecisively between spunky and petite little flower mode, often within the space of a few minutes. Say what you will about Ms Croft being an object of titillation but one thing she has always been is strong and independant. Turning her into Dagger, Rinoa or Aeris was always going to jarringly out of character.

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Re: Square Syndrome

Personally I quite like the way the game's done it. To me it feels like a mix of 'doing what it takes to survive as everyone tries to kill her' followed by frequent cinematic breaks of desperation.

As the reviewer says though, it's a game at the end of the day, and the combat is actually pretty good for the most part. Sure beats pogoing around trying to shoot marauding dinosaurs like the original :)

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Re: Square Syndrome

I was gonna make the opposite point to tsdadam - that she doesn't fight human adversaries in the original. Yes, she works her way through the entire CITES catalogue, a palaeontology textbook, a necromancy grimmoire and whatever those things are in Atlantis, but the few (any?) human kills are set pieces. And killing creatures would be less schizophrenic.

Nor would I have objected to it becoming a stealth game, as Ms Croft slowly hardens into a killer. Mind you, Tomb Raider tends to be kill or be killed. (I might have to get out the original now...)

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Paris Hilton

Re: Square Syndrome

At least she insist suffering from "pyramid syndrome" any more these days! I recall she was badly afflicted by this on certain parts of her body back in the mid-late 90s!

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Re: Square Syndrome

The only problem is how quickly the change happens. Lara goes from retching on the ground after shooting a scumbag who was about to rape her (in what to be fair is a fantastic set-piece), to literally staving-in the heads of his multiple cohorts with a mountaineering axe in the space of about five minutes of play. The script does at least give us "Actually, it's scary how easy it was" in a radio conversation to smooth the transition.

Still, I've almost finished the game and have loved every second. The "vulnerable" Lara who has to survive at all costs gives way to the mass-murdering, species-endangering adventurer we all know and love far too quickly, and the early sections were without doubt my favourite, but don't let that turn you off because this is a slick, ambitious and extremely successful reboot.

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Re: Square Syndrome

I noted the film version was on iPlayer a couple of days ago... the only scene I remember from watching it years ago was the unexpected appearance of Chris Barrie ( 'Rimmer' from Red Dwarf ).

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jai
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Re: Square Syndrome

an why can't i get her to do the probably-physically-impossible handstand move when pulling herself up a ledge anymore?

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A few comments

Just on three sections in this, and these are only my opinions of which I'm sure some / many will disagree.

The PS4 certainly looks a step up in terms of horsepower - though, from the footage shown, it’s capabilities are perhaps not beyond the remit of a generously crafted PC

We hear this every generation of consoles. The difference is the abstraction layer. A PC has to go through OS, Drivers, different communication protocols etc etc. The console is specially built with the same hardware every time. Effectively what takes 20 steps for a PC to do, may only take a console 5 because it has to work through fewer layers. Therefore it really doesn't matter if hardware wise they're on par, because the console will still step out ahead.

In car terms both of them have (console / PC) have an engine which produces 500bhp. But the PC weighs in at 3 tonnes and only has rear wheel drive. The console weighs in at 1.7 tonnes and is 4 wheel drive. It's lighter and has more grip off the line (sorry I've been watching a lot of top gear lately)

tomb raider

I didn't so much mind the switch from killer to "oh noes" honestly I thought it was fairly good. I remember reading something about snipers, the first kill is the worst. The second is awkward and 3rd onwards they don't feel a thing. I imagine Lara went through the same kind of process with her killings.

The bits I didn't like however were the following

1: Combat switch. You had puzzle gameplay, you had combat gameply, you didn't have any kind of mesh though. You were either figuring your way through the level, or you were taking out 20 dozen enemies who were streaming towards you. There wasn't any transition it was just "cut scene, now your fighting, okay back to running round like a moron"

I also felt that the puzzles were rather simple in comparison to what I'd been expecting, and honestly wished that the hunting / gathering were expanded upon. It felt like they skimped out a bit on that area. Overall though it is an amazing game and I'm glad I bought it, very few games in the past few years have given me more than 5 hours gameplay, tomb raider took me up close to 10. In my eyes that's pretty much the golden timeframe for a game.

MGR

I played this at eurogamer and had a quick play a few days ago. It's nice, but I just don't think it deserved the name Metal Gear. I've had the same arguement about Final Fantasy games in the past. The name Metal Gear brings with it a set of expectations.

A giant freakin' robot, stealth shooting, a slight element of comedy worked into the story and an amazing story. MGR didn't deliver on any of these, as a standalone game it's pretty damn good, but as a metal gear it's not even sub par.

(I used the same arguement to explain ff XIII to a friend. It was an alright RPG, but sub par by FF standards, )

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Re: A few comments

Never tried Tomb Raider, but i'm curious.

As for MGR, I agree 110%. It may be a nice action game, but please don't name it Metal Gear.

Metal gear has always been an action/espionage game, not a glorified slash-em-up.

And it has NEVER EVER been a game of kill'em all. I managed to end Metal Gear Solid killing only the bosses. And MG3 without killing anyone.

So yeah, MGR is definitely not part of Metal Gear series.

Sad face, because that was me when i looked at MGR. I just thought "please, don't go that way. Please respect the fans... please please please please"

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Re: A few comments @Rhiakath Flanders

"I managed to end Metal Gear Solid killing only the bosses. And MG3 without killing anyone."

Wait, what? How did you manage that on Snake Eater? I get that you can avoid the sniper guy entirely (save game and exit, don't play for a week, come back and he's died of old age), but I didn't think there were similar methods for the other bosses. Unless your talking about the stamina kills, but they are still kills?

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Re: A few comments @Rhiakath Flanders

Nah stamina kills on the bosses don't count as 'kills' in snake eater. They counted as something else... I forget what, non-lethal? Either way I remember you got special rewards each time you defeated a boss using non-lethal damage.

On the other hand, I think breaking peoples necks also counted as nonlethal damage so yeah... >.>

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Flame

Re: A few comments

"In car terms both of them have (console / PC) have an engine which produces 500bhp. But the PC weighs in at 3 tonnes and only has rear wheel drive. The console weighs in at 1.7 tonnes and is 4 wheel drive. It's lighter and has more grip off the line (sorry I've been watching a lot of top gear lately)"

Ok, it's Friday and post lunch so I'll take that car analogy challenge and raise it some:

The PC can be fitted with superior cooling and then have the CPU and Graphics Card overclocked (Nitrous and Turbocharged), it can also be fitted with an SSD drive (slick tyres?) while the console has to be stock clocked or even underclocked in order to avoid overheating it's tiny box . So the PC is the drag racer, while the console is the production line machine. If you watched Top Gear a few weeks back when they drove around the U.S.A you'll know how that turned out.

Plus joypads suck, keyboards and mice for teh win.

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Re: A few comments

The PC costs as much as a Ferrari, but gives you Ferrari performance.

The Console costs as much as a Toyota GT86, nowhere near Ferrari performance but still loads of fun.

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Headmaster

Re: A few comments

Ironclad said: "Plus joypads suck, keyboards and mice for teh win."

This is the key, and belongs up top, way ahead of clock speeds, cores, or polygon capacity. The 'console' as we know it is defined by a painfully 'low-bandwidth' user interface, the ubiquitous gamepad. This feeble device is the chief constraint on console gaming. It offers basic four-way directional control, and a minimal number of buttons, thereby severely restricting the human-game interaction. Witness the Sony PS4 launch, where we saw nearly photo-realistic characters jerking around like insanely detailed 3D versions of Pac-Man. Rendering just doesn't matter - there is simply no way the player can move their onscreen avatar with anything resembling real-life fluidity.

There's another point, equally important. Gamepads have the wrong TYPE of control. They control velocity, not position. Rotation, not angle. (It's a first-derivative thing, if you recall any high-school calculus). This is simply NOT the way humans think and move. When I turn to my friend, I'm rotating to THIS angle... not STARTING rotation, waiting, then STOPPING rotation. Similarly, if I aim a weapon, I don't START sweeping to the right, then STOP. I turn a few degrees right. I turn TO a given location, not AT a given rate.

Taken together, the limitations of the gamepad result in dumbed-down games. Good console games are built around those limitations, so players may not notice what's been done. But the richness and depth of a PC game like ArmA, or Flight Simulator, or Civilization, or even Battlefield, is simply not on the menu. (It's easy to think of other examples.)

Add the openness of the PC ecosystem, and the gap widens still further. The new 'social' features of the PS4 emphasize this gap, rather than narrowing it. Yes, you can press "Share." On the PC, you can connect to multiple services simultaneously. You can count on developers finding new ways to deliver games, sell games, tie games into resources that don't even exist yet. You can count on a 'mod' community inventing anything the developers miss. (And in turn spurring commercial development to new achievements.) This vibrant ecosystem will always produce faster evolution than a console monoculture.

To go back to the car analogy, it's more like the difference between a train and a helicopter. The train can switch tracks, at pre-determined points. It can go faster or slower. The helicopter can wander freely in three-space. The train is constrained by a cumbersome switching system, operated by a very limited number of corporate bodies. The helicopter can be privately owned, and hence upgraded or modified, taken 'off the grid,' to locations not served by the rail network.

Of course, even that strained comparison falls short of capturing the actual gulf we're talking about. A gulf that will continue to widen, given that the growing power of the PC will not be constrained by the human interface, while the advancing clock cycles of a PS4 or even PS5 will be increasingly wasted, as far as gameplay potential.

</sermon>

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WTF?

Re: A few comments

"The difference is the abstraction layer. A PC has to go through OS, Drivers, different communication protocols etc etc. The console is specially built with the same hardware every time. Effectively what takes 20 steps for a PC to do, may only take a console 5 because it has to work through fewer layers."

I'm sorry, but this shows a distinct misunderstanding of both PCs (which give low-level access to hardware) and modern consoles (that now have both an OS and HAL), especially since the hardware in consoles is getting closer to standard PC hardware (especially for XBoxes).

I'm not saying that they're equal, but it's probably closer to 3 and 2 layers for most things.

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Re: A few comments

While I agree whole-heartedly on the KB/Mouse vs Pad for the sort of games you're talking about there (FPS, RTS), I'd have to argue that there are areas that a gamepad kicks the pants off of a keyboard/mouse combination.

Take sports games for example, or platformers, or 2D fighters. A good pad or joystick knocks spots off a keyboard and mouse here, and that's because of the largely overlooked downside of using a keyboard for movement, and that's it being digital. Say what you like about using an analogue stick for aiming (and yes, it's rubbish), but analogue movement is what's missing.

There's something archaic about having a walk/run modifier key. Or maybe try playing fifa on the keyboard and watch that same twitching you mention as you alternate between left and up-left trying to follow a non-45 degree angle. No amount of tweening's going to fix that.

The holy grail of controllers will have analogue movement, with relative positional aiming/cursor control - and do it well. God only knows what it'll look like, although that PS4 pad has a touch-pad controller. It's not where I'd like it, but it's a start.

Signed, a massive BF3 fan (mouse + keyboard) who wouldn't dream of playing a fighter or sports game without a good pad.

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Re: A few comments

I'll confuse the issue somewhat by mentioning a genre of game where NEITHER a keyboard+mouse NOR a gamepad is the correct choice - the racing game. No, I don't mean one of the myriad knock-offs of Mario Kart (itself arguably a knock-off of F-Zero, but never mind that), but GT, Forza, Dirt, etc.

I have one of the XBox360 controllers-for-Windows (XBCFW), and while it's great for playing e.g. Portal 2 (for which I bought it), it sucks balls for playing Dirt 3. Why?

In Portal 2, I have access on the XBCFW to *all* the necessary controls for actual gameplay (save, load, and quit are not part of actual gameplay, so they don't have to be on the controller). The XBCFW suits the size and shape of my hands nicely, and Portal 2 exploits the force-feedback to e.g. make the controller kick in my hands as Chel completes a long jump. Yes, it's silly having to use a speed-by-deflection analogue stick to turn, but running with it is reasonable, because when running, you set a speed, not a position.

In Dirt 3, however, when using the XBCFW I have to steer with an analogue stick and accelerate / decelerate with analogue trigger buttons. That stick is now actually serving the purpose specified above by other commentators - X amount of deflection means X' amount of rate of steering or (for the trigger buttons) rate of movement/braking (a good thing). The end-to-end throw of an XBCFW analogue stick is less than an inch, and all the steering response must fit into that inch (a bad thing). Dirt 3 does have (buried in the advanced controls somewhere) linearity settings, but the steering is still extremely twitchy on centre. (That said, it's amusing to hear the navigator telling me to "Reste concentré" as I roll the car over and attempt to fell a tree with it, which is all too easy when racing with twitchy steering on gravel surfaces. Never have I heard a fellow occupant of a car with so much sang-froid.)

A wheel controller, on the other hand, is utterly useless for Portal 2 because it doesn't have enough axes fitted, and the movement model isn't suited to a steering wheel and foot pedals. Dirt 3, however, comes alive (even on the bottom-priced wheel I bought) because the input model (wheel, brake, accelerator) matches the input model for a real car, and that murderous twitchiness just vanishes because the wheel throws much further to each side than the stick does.

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MJI
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Re: A few comments

Controllers

In 2011 I decided that the best controller for a first person shooter was Playstation Move, very natural to play with and easy to aim. You feel more that you are the character rather than controlling the character, only issue is are you Sev, Joe, or Chell? As to Portal 2, well it even lights up in the Portal gun colours, Portal is a puzzle game with FPS mechanics.

And you aim where you point, that is so logical.

Mouse is good but WASD is not, having a sprint button is not that logical so Gordon tends to walk a lot, at a fixed speed. (So most of my PC games are the same series!)

Left stick movement is good, right stick camera is not.

So I am happy with Move for shooting type games, analogue movement and pointer aiming.

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I'm so glad I didn't buy Colonial Marines.

AvP II has been out for over a decade now, and it's perfect for a remake. It is the best way to immerse yourself in a world of deadly xenomorphs for now.

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Re: I'm so glad I didn't buy Colonial Marines.

If you want a good sequel to Aliens, then look online for the 'William Gibson Alien 3 script'. A few elements were plucked out and used in Alien 3 (barcode tattoos), Alien: Resurection (mercenaries/rebels) and Prometheus (the Alien 'DNA'), but really, its mainly Corporal Hicks kicking Alien arse in a massive populated science station. There's even a nod to Silent Running, when Hicks ramps a 4x4 through a biodome.

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WTF?

Re: I'm so glad I didn't buy Colonial Marines.

Probably best to avoid Vince Wards "Alien 3 : Wooden Monastery Spaceship" script thou.....

Although at least no-one could be accused of not trying something new.....

<----- if this wasnt a WTF moment I dont know what was.

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Re: I'm so glad I didn't buy Colonial Marines.

>Probably best to avoid Vince Wards "Alien 3 : Wooden Monastery Spaceship" script thou.....

Personally, I'd say take a peek at the concept art...

http://www.thescifishow.com/2012/10/blog/the-wooden-wonder-of-alien-3s-lost-world/

Bonkers, but something about the concept art reminds me of Giger's paintings.

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FAIL

fah

FPS on a console (no keyboard and mouse) is like sex with the world's thickest condom.

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Re: fah

But playing with other people in a comfy lounge can make up for it.

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MJI
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Re: fah

Both KBM and twin stick controller as too comprised.

I use a pointer control system and analogue movement, so immersive and fun.

Can you have a gun shaped KB & M?

I can have a gun shaped controller holder if I wanted.

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Crysis 3 : I'm stumped

Admittedly I haven't played 3 yet, but IIRC Prophet was found dead at the start of Crysis 2 and donated his suit to a passer by, stating 'it was all he could do' or something to that effect. I can't actually remember how said tourist came to his end, but where did Prophet come from all of a sudden? Or is this explained somehow in the game ?

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Re: Crysis 3 : I'm stumped

*** Spoiler ***

In Crysis 2, where you play as Alcatraz (the passer by as you mention), the suit he then puts on still contains the memories of Prophet. At the end of that game, his (Prophet's) memories are assimilates directly into Alcatraz. He then gets up and says "They call me Prophet.".

So in 3, you're basically not the original Prophet, but a new one. Although effectively a merger of the two people together, but the original Alcatraz is basically lost, as at the end of 3, you call yourself "Laurence Barnes", which was the first Prophet's real name.

Confusing, not at all!!

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Re: Crysis 3 : I'm stumped

Thanks ! Maybe I can have a go now when my head stops spinning.

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Stop

Other than Tomb Raider, anything that isn't a futuristic FPS?

Other than Tomb Raider, which I never really got into in the last/last-last generation of consoles, are there any games for the PS4 which aren't futuristic FPSs?

I loved Bioshock 1 and 2, the GTAs are always fun, but I was bored to tears playing one of the Gears of War series, and I have an unopened Halo4 that I won in a competition but never got round to playing.

(Cues the downvotes...)

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Re: Other than Tomb Raider, anything that isn't a futuristic FPS?

Downvotes? Voting requires a argument of some sort, not the facts.

I might downvote you though :-), because even BioShock and its kindred are now bland. What I see today is either a futuristic FPS or a futuristic adventure game that usually includes FPS of some kind or swinging a object.

In today's world, if your game doesn't require you to control a humanoid that shoots or swings a object(s), your game is "retro".

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Re: Other than Tomb Raider, anything that isn't a futuristic FPS?

I thought I wasn't going to like Bioshock, but tried the demo and loved the art deco underwater city setting.

I'm not sure how 'infinite' will pan out without Rapture.

Might have some retro city charm.

Thing is all of these future/aliens shooters are starting to look samey. Bioshock, while it was more or less a zombie-fest, I felt had a bit of charm.

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Anonymous Coward

I finished Tomb Raider last night and loved it

so much so I almost went straight back in to start over.

Bearing in mind my last adventures with Lara were back in the heady PS days of Tomb Raider III, the absence of mindless trekking back and forth over huge maps in order to execute some pin-point jumping around is most welcome, even if the (largely optional) puzzles are never terribly demanding, and the whole thing looks terrific.

Other than the weird tonal shifts in Lara's demeanour outlined above, there's some great writing, particularly in the way that you spend the second half of the game dreading a battle with a nasty bastard that ultimately turns out to be really rewarding, if not actually easy. Above all, it really hits the nail on the reboot angle: the final kill of the game had me punching the air.

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FAIL

Where's the missing texture...Cow Bell?

Ask yourself, if you compare a PS2 to a PS4, do you notice the generation gap?

Remember when upgrading showed incredible difference? For example, compare Congo Bongo to Strider. Where that difference has gone, I don't know for sure, but I'm betting the bank that once people started programming games "abstractly", that difference could no longer be met.

Michael Abrash and his kindred are becoming Holy Grails, both mythical and priceless. A day will come when companies will pay out the nose for them, and then maybe I'll finally get to see a real upgrade and not a texture patch.

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