Losing Games

Alan WakeI’m not a quick game player. I don’t rush out a buy the latest games and complete them on the same weekend. Currently I’m most of the way through both Alan Wake and L.A. Noire.

Alan Wake is a survival horror game where you’re fighting off hordes of people possessed by darkness. L.A. Noire is a detective story that has you solving crimes in 1940s Los Angeles. Both feature an over the shoulder third person camera, and both have excellent graphics. They also both have a film like quality to the story. In Alan Wake the action is divided up in six tv style “episodes”, with a title sequence between each one. It also has a number of cut scenes and narration by the title character sprinkled throughout the game which help to drive the story forward.

LA Noire Screenshot 4
In L.A. Noire you are detective try to solve crimes and rise up the ranks of the police force. The game features cut scenes to introduce and close each case. During each case you head from location to location and interviewing suspects and witnesses. The big breakthrough in L.A. Noire is the facial animation in the game. Rather than being animated by hand the faces of characters were recorded directly from actor’s faces. This gives the faces a lifelike quality that has not been seen in games before.

Despite the extensive similarities between the game my opinion of the two could hardly be more different. Alan Wake is one of the best games I’ve ever played, while L.A. Noire is really quite boring. I was trying to work out why I felt so differently about them when I read the following quote in Making Isometric Social Real-Time Games with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript by Mario Andres Pagella.

This recent surge in isometric real-time games was caused partly by Zynga’s incredible ability to “keep the positive things and get rid of the negative things” in this particular genre of games, and partly by a shift in consumer interests. They took away the frustration of figuring out why no one was “moving to your city” (in the case of SimCity) and replaced it with adding friends to be your growing neighbours.

The need for the face of characters in L. A. Noire to be recorded from real actors limits one of the best things about games: their dynamic nature. Even if you get every question wrong you still solve the case and make progress. Initially you don’t really notice this, but quickly I found it meant that the questioning, the key game mechanic, became superfluous.

Alan Wake is a fairly standard game in that there’s really only one way to progress. This is well disguised though so you don’t notice. The atmosphere in the game forces you to keep moving and the story progresses at quite a pace.

Ultimately it’s not for me to criticise what games people want to play. FarmVille and the rest of Zynga’s games are enormously popular. What disappoints me most about L.A. Noire is that it such a technically advanced game, but falls down on such a simple piece of game mechanics. Alan Wake on the other hand succeeds mostly based on story and atmosphere, and that’s the way it should be.

Photo of Alan Wake by jit.
Photo of LA Noire Screenshot 4 by The GameWay.



DVD by czechrThis weekend I brought Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii. I greatly enjoyed the first one, and it’s one of the few games that me and my girlfriend can play together.

It’s a pretty easy game to pick up, but for this one Nintendo included a tutorial DVD. Two questions immediately spring to mind here. Firstly, what can you do with a DVD that you can’t do with an in-game, interactive, tutorial. Secondly, why is this a DVD that you can’t play on the Wii?

Let me just say that again.

Why is this a DVD that you can’t play on the Wii?

To watch the tutorial you need to turn off your Wii, turn on your DVD player, watch the DVD, and then go back to your Wii. I’d love to know how Nintendo came to this decision, because it drastically slow you down your first experience of playing the game, and those that are mostly likely to want to watch the video are those who will struggle to switch over to the DVD player.

Come on Nintendo, you can do better than this.

Photo of DVD by czechr.

XBox 360 USB Hard Disks

Today some very strong rumours have appeared which state that Microsoft is planning to introduce the ability to use an external USB hard disk with the XBox 360. Bizarrely these are going to limited to 16GB, which for a modern harddisk is incredibly tiny. The Xbox has recently been updated to include a 250GB hard disk in the top of the range version but, that is still puny in hard disk terms. Given that more and more games feature DLC, and Microsoft is pushing the movie watching capabilities these limits on the amount of data you can store can easily bite even moderate users, let alone hard core gamers.

I do love my XBox, but it’s the artificial limitations like this that really annoy me.