Tag Archives: Nathan Drake

“Tomb Raider” – Lara’s Renaissance

To quote Lady Croft herself, "I can do this..."

To quote Lady Croft herself, “I can do this…”

TL;DR verdict? “Tomb Raider” is a fantastic game.  Buy with confidence.

Whether or not Lara Croft‘s latest Crystal Dynamics game is a true entry in the series or such a departure that it constitutes an adjunct spin-off is worthy of further discussion, but the title stands on its own.

It’s a little too early to start shouting about ‘game of the year’ considerations but this latest Lara adventure is a cinematic adventure of such quality that it rivals generation-defining PS3 titan “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” for sheer thrills, visual splendour and storytelling.  Given that the second Nathan Drake game is probably in my top two games of this generation, that’s no small complement.  I’d hope to see this title get it’s due come the end of the year, but I suspect that “Bioshock: Infinite” has game of 2013 all wrapped up unless the shipped product has been somehow inadvertently swapped out in the disc-pressing stage for a tie-in “Smurfs” shovelware effort.

Katniss who?

Katniss who?

Having listened to this week’s episode of the “Weekend Confirmed” podcast, I know that redoubtable host Garnett Lee will disagree in particular with my estimation of the story, and he’s entitled to feel misgivings towards it, but I really feel that this tougher survival story achieves the difficult balance of giving equal importance to character and plotting, pitching a younger Lara Croft through the proverbial mill whilst sketching out some of the elements of her persona in a way which should please long-term fans and players who’ve never picked up a “Tomb Raider” game before.

No game is perfect and often bears the hallmarks of influence . This game at least has the taste to be influenced by really good stuff. As well as the aforementioned Naughty Dog‘s awesome PS3 adventure series, you can pick out gameplay mechanics popularised by Rock Steady’s “Batman”games (Lara has a ‘detective vision’-like ‘survival instinct’ which highlights useful equipment and environmental tools), a gear and skills upgrading system which recalls latter-day “Call of Duty” multi-player perks and the foreboding dread of classic survival horror title “Resident Evil 4” as well as a scene in a charnel pit which is right out of Neil Marshall‘s magnificent horror film, “The Descent”.

The gore and combat can get a little overwrought, it’s true, and might put off some long-time fans who’ve felt that Lara is better when she’s exploring and traversing than when she’s sneaking up on some misogynist cult member and sticking arrows in his gullet but I see this as a real step forward for the character and a tantalising glimpse at what Crystal Dynamics might do with next-gen hardware – the PS3 version that I’ve been playing is utterly beautiful to behold.

Lara’s next game (and the inevitable “Uncharted 4”) might just be the reasons that I pick up a PlayStation 4.

 

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“Tomb Raider” – Lara Leaps Back

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Look busy, Dinosaurs and other endangered species – Lara Croft‘s back…

It’s been a few years since Crystal Dynamics‘ last Lara adventure and this eagerly anticipated new game constitutes a reboot of sorts for the aristocratic Burial Ground Botherer, taking her in a direction which can only be described as a post-“Uncharted” action adventure (though, ironically enough, the PS3‘s favourite action hero lead Nathan Drake‘s first game was dubbed ‘Dude Raider’ by less-than-impressed initial observers).

I’ve been following the game’s progress via the ‘Final Hours Of…’ web series fronted by “Chuck” star, Zachary Levi, and feel confident that this game will deliver a different Lara experience – one which is perhaps best placed to deliver on the series’ potential with the horsepower that developers can wrestle from the Xbox 360 and PS3 this late in the current gaming generations life cycle.   I really enjoyed the last Lara outing – “Tomb Raider: Underworld” – but felt that it really needed to look at the combat mechanics (the pistol lock-on in the game still causes me to shudder involuntarily from time to time…).  And I was wholly sold on Keeley Hawes‘s voice-over work, so it remains to be seen if new incumbent, Camilla Luddington, brings much more to the character than a splendidly posh name.

Camilla Luddington

Oh, the hilarity of mo-cap suits, eh, Camilla?

Somebody must like what Crystal Dynamics are doing – producer Graham King‘s GK Productions indicate that this new game’s direction and storyline might yet be the jumping-off point for the equally anticipated movie franchise reboot.  As somebody who really liked the Angelina Jolie flicks, I’m sure that the time has come to give Lara a new outing – though who would play the world’s foremost tiger-punching, archaeological grave robber is anyone’s guess…

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E3 2012 – the bad, the worse and the hopeful…

The annual E3 video games trade show is a positive haven of nerdy eye candy.

Picture of the LA Convention Centre, home of E3, via Official Playstation Magazine UK

The newest, highest profile titles get splashy debut presentations in big conferences from the likes of Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, with fanboys and fangirls arguing online about which massive corporation succeeded best in winning our hearts and wallets for the next year.

As with the last two or three years, Microsoft appear to have no real interest in appealing to games fans, preferring to set up their stall pursuing the mythical nuclear family audience which appear in their adverts – upscale, freshly scrubbed, tech-savvy and possessed of the kind of cavernous, open-plan living spaces which would best house the full Kinect, Xbox 360 and huge Plasma screen which Microsoft’s advertising always presents as standard.

Their conference had new iterations of Gears of War, “Forza”, “Fable” and “Halo”, none of which did anything for me.  With numbing predictability, a downloadable content exclusive for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2″ was announced and for the hordes of bro-gamers who care about that, I’m sure that counts as good news.

To be honest with you, I’m close to giving up on my Xbox 360 as the last couple of years has proven to me that games are as important to Microsoft as they are to Apple – when large chunks of their E3 conference is given over to streaming media services which nobody outside the US has access to, there’s little point in continuing to pay money to Microsoft for an Xbox Live service which solely exists to provide entertainment to middle-class Americans.  Nobody else matters to them.

It’s hardly as if Sony represent anything morally better, but their exclusive titles tend to wipe the floor with Microsoft’s increasingly bland, space-filling, ‘will this do?’ junk.

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“Juno 2: The Slashening”

This year, the Quantic Dream developed “Beyond: Two Souls, with its motion-captured Ellen Page character impressed and used the tech which Quantic recently presented their “Kara” demo with – we saw a quiet scene with subtle and nuanced digital characters in an interrogation appended with the kinds of action and explosive set pieces which might reassure the more trigger-happy gamers in the audience that they weren’t just going to be expected to listen to characters speak and, you know, be expected to follow a story.

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It’s one that I’m going to watch, as is Naughty Dog‘s “The Last of Us”, which brings their prowess earned over the course of the two and a half good games in the “Uncharted” series to bear on a new, sci-fi flavoured survival action title (you might remember this one as the game whose first trailer had a young female character uncannily similar to Ellen Page, whose presence in the aforementioned “Beyond” might have prompted the redesign evident in the E3 footage).

Think “Uncharted”, in an overgrown urban environment gone to wreck and ruin and full of messed-up brigands who want nothing more than to rearrange your grizzled features.  In its way – action platform gameplay with combat and truly visually arresting settings – Naughty Dog are doing nothing new, but the storyline and characters promise enough that I’ll certainly be playing this one on PS3.

Another visually stunning title is the new, gritty “Star Wars” title “1313”, which seems to filch some of Naughty Dog’s Nathan Drake platform acrobatics and copy and paste them into a tale set amongst bounty hunters, criminals and ne’er do wells on galactic administrative centre Coruscant.

Looks incredibly pretty in this high-end PC build, but I’ve been burnt enough by decades of crappy “Star Wars” titles to reserve any judgement on this until I get my hands on it – the visual fidelity on the footage shown at the link above makes me think that next-gen hardware will make the best of it.

I’m keen to see what Nintendo will show today – something, hopefully, which isn’t the same ‘bro-shooter’, utterly predictable, guns and thunder balls which Microsoft are seemingly content to push when they’re not selling tooth-rottingly sweet, licensed crap (with Kinect!) to uncritical tykes.

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Sony’s PS Vita Euro launch brings games, derisive laughter…

Nathan Drake can outrun the criticism, but can Sony Computer Entertainment Europe?

Edge magazine’s website  has a story today about the European software line-up for the Spring 2012 launch of their PS Vita hand-held console and it makes for sobering reading.

As in, “I’m pretty sure that I’m sober and this press release says that Sony want to charge £44.99 for a 16GB memory card”.

Games are priced from £24.99 to £44.99 (Yep, “Uncharted: Golden Abyss” fetches a premium price, as you might expect) and memory cards start at £17.99 for a 4GB unit.

Have Sony followed the late Steve Jobs’ example and constructed their own reality distortion matrix which believes that gamers are going to pay those prices?   And they wonder why the mobile gaming audience has migrated to iPhone/iPod Touch gaming from the traditional Sony and Nintendo mobile game platforms?

 

 

 

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“Uncharted 3” patch out – adds aim fix, multi-player tweaks, de-whines community…

"Sully, think this patch will shut up NeoGaf for five minutes?"

Remember when we were all up in arms about “Uncharted 3” and the changes that Naughty Dog had made to controls?

Shooting was tougher, which made sections of the game teeth-grindingly frustrating.  Motion blur was apparently missing from the single-player campaign (who knew?) and a movie cut-scene viewer was missing from the same mode.  There’s a full list of fixes and updates over at Eurogamer’s story.

As nice as it would have been for much of this stuff to be addressed in the shipped, boxed title, it says a lot for Naughty Dog that they are prepared to work with the games fans and Sony to ensure that this flagship title gets prompt support which fixes issues.

And it isn’t as though the shooting controls update removes the original scheme – there’s a choice of the two options for players to use.  I’ve been making slow, steady progress through multi-player and can confirm that the controls take a lot of getting  used to.   I’ve sprayed a clip’s worth of Uzi bullets into another player at point-blank range and hit nothing more than scenery, so something (latency?) has to be going on.

I’m going to jump back on today and see how this patch affects game play in campaign and online modes – I’m sure that my Kill to Death ratio will leap exponentially as a result.  Yeah, right…

 

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“Uncharted 3” controls get a patch.

water, shade - an action hero doesn't require such frippery...

Great news everyone – “Uncharted 3” is getting a patch for its most divisive new feature, the re-designed aiming mechanic.  Naughty Dog are sticking with the new control scheme but offering gamers the chance to play using controls modelled on those which debuted in the second game.

You can’t argue with Naughty Dog for sticking with a control scheme that they believe in, but it’s nice to hear them listen to the community and give people the choice – especially when the redesign is stopping people from completing the game (an anecdotal response that I picked up in the NeoGaf thread discussing the issue).

There’s a news story at Eurogamer, if you want to know more…

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The uncomfortable truth about “Uncharted 3” (updated – I’ve beaten the game)

I am a fan of Nathan Drake.  Despite his confusing, almost binary, bisected personality – half-charming modern-day Indiana Jones adventure hero, half-terrifying serial killer – I genuinely look forward to each instalment of his PS3 adventures.

His games – from the hugely gifted developer Naughty Dog – are single-player cinematic adventures which knock most latter-day action-adventure movies for six and reward multiple play-through sessions.  The “Uncharted” series has blistering set-piece action, genuinely funny character dynamics, glorious game environments and a difficulty curve which allows you to gradually pick up skills, apply them and progress smoothly through the game.  If you’re not great at shooting, you can usually blag your way through the carnage to get to a puzzle section or some energetic platform sequence which stops you from feeling the game’s design is actively working against you.

The same is unfortunately not so of the latest game in the franchise – “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception”.

A frustrating blemish on an otherwise splendid game.

Games forums are positively awash with anguished forum threads about the third game’s perceived shortcomings – mostly centred around what feels like an unaccountably broken aiming and combat system which makes every gunfight on normal difficulty or above into a patience-sapping, fury-inducing ordeal which only appears to end sometimes when the game realises that you’ve been stuck in the same combat arena for an hour and show no sign of being able to emerge and progress in the story.

Yes, I too am finding the mechanics of “Uncharted 3” shooting sections to be unrewarding, infuriating and apparently designed to extend the life of the game in your PS3 tray by making it so fricking impossible to finish that every completed gun fight is beaten only by bloody-minded, focussed attrition.

It’s gotten so bad that on Sunday, after trying to beat the second part of the (SPOILERS) airfield battle (SPOILERS END) for something like ninety minutes, I dropped the difficulty down from normal to easy.  For reasons of gamer ego and trophy/achievement-hunting I have never had to do that before.  The only reason that I did is because this section was preventing Mrs Rolling Eyeballs and I from enjoying the game’s story – which is a key reason that we love the series.

If you’re spending an hour and more trying to beat a section because the antagonists can – no word of a lie – take 96 bullets from an AK-47 at point-blank range and STILL NOT DIE, I would submit that the game may have fundamental issues relating to its shooting mechanic.

Naughty Dog‘s community manager has been proactive in responding to this internet disquiet – indeed ND held an event at their California HQ last Friday, attended in part by some NeoGaf members, which worked with gamers to see if aiming could be tweaked for an apparently imminent patch – but it really would have been nice for the game to work well in the first place.

I don’t consider myself a hardcore gamer, nor am I a n00b – I’m somebody who plays a lot of games but doesn’t have preternaturally lethal FPS reactions – and I’m really quite disenchanted by “Uncharted 3” to date.  The good points – the story, some of the set-pieces, the characters – are presently outweighed by the teeth-grinding, hair-tearing shortcomings of the gunplay.

UPDATED!

After an hour or three of pushing through the campaign on ‘Easy’ difficulty, it turned out that I was a punch, a jump and a volley of pistol fire away from beating the game entirely.

Now that I’ve done that, I think that I’m able to say with some certainty that I really enjoyed the game overall – pain-in-the-butt difficulty spikes and combat difficulty notwithstanding.

The set-piece which finishes the game was a hell of a lot better than the ones which finished the first two games in the series – if Naughty Dog are going to continue the series, they could do a lot worse than to follow this model for concluding stories in future “Uncharted” games.

I really enjoyed the concluding cut-scene and found it cheered me up so much that I then decided to go back to my saved game and try to complete the game ‘normal’ difficulty from the point at which I abandoned it – and do you know what?  I managed to get through the gun battle by using different tactics, concentrating like an S.O.B. on the shooting and using a (SPOILER) silenced pistol (SPOILERS END) on the bad guys.  I’m now going to keep going until I beat the game with a view to going back and trying to beat it on ‘Hard’, because I’m a glutton for masochistic, illogical punishment.

Wish me luck.

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