Sunday, March 15, 2009

Games I've been playing.

About a week ago, I purchased both Halo Wars and Tom Clancy's HAWX.

I purchased HAWX, an action-intense fighter-pilot game, because when I played the demo level, "Glass Hammer," I immediately thought back to Ace Combat 6 and, of course, Garuda team. I nabbed Halo Wars because the first two demo levels were OK and I thought it'd be an average RTS game I could stomach.

As it turns out, my expectations were completely fucked: Tom Clancy's HAWX was a total chore to get through once, and gut-wrenchingly boring the 2nd time around on "Elite." CO-OP mode is a little better: the missions are harder, and if everyone is playing on Elite mode some missions can be pretty fun (as long as everyone is playing with a headset). However, the game is full of more misses than missiles in the air (ha hah, why does a fighter plan have 82 missiles?!-style joke!). 

The storyline is a total mess, from its incredibly implausible premise, to its jerky storytelling method of hopping around the entire planet (planet meaning the United States and Tokyo). I'm going to get some hate for me ripping on the storyline while loving Ace Combat 6, but there's a big difference here, I'd like to think, and that is that Ace Combat 6 goes full-throttle into fantasy land, with its giant flying fortresses and city-sized rail-guns. HAWX clearly went for a super-realistic takes-place-in-the-near-future feel, going for a gritty story of nuclear threats with the overarching theme of capitalism taken to the extreme. Unfortunately the actual execution of the story is bullshit. Yes, bullshit. Go watch a friend play it if you really want to experience the roller-coaster of suck for yourself.

The game itself suffers from weapon-itus, meaning there are a ton of starter planes you use once, because the mission forces you to, and then never again; missions that DEMAND you bring a free-fall bomb, even though you can just as easily use multi-target air-to-ground missiles to do the same thing; missions that are incredibly easy but gimmicking -- one in particular involves having to aim your plane at a radar signal while flying through radar net gaps so large you could drive a fleet of trucks through, yet somehow bomber planes can't manage that themselves.

Oh, and then there's: bad scripting (I've inadvertantly broken several levels by destroying all the enemies before I was supposed to insert eye-roll here), bad dialogue (THE NUCLEAR MISSILE WILL GO OFF IN MINUTES CRENSHAW!!!!!!, WE HAVE ONLY MINUTES UNTIL THE INVASION ARRIVES CRENSHAW!!!!, BACKUP WILL BE HERE IN ONLY MINUTES CRENSHAW !!!, MY HOT POCKET WILL BE FINISHED IN ONLY MINUTES, CRENSHAW!!!), and an extremely annoying AWACs who announces EVERYTHING to you. If you miss with a rocket pod attack -- even one rocket -- you get to hear, "You missed the target!" even though that's on my fucking HUD and I clearly knew that by the lack of exploding enemies on the ground.

Did I mention the super anti-climatic finale levels? One of which is really just an interactive epilogue and a total waste of 10 minutes?

Ugh. Anyway.

As it turns out, the best mission of the game was the one in the demo: Glass Hammer.

Now, Halo Wars...

Halo Wars!

I'm no fanboy, and I wasn't even sure this was going to be a good game, since the first two levels are pretty much a snore-fest, but right after that the action and pacing starts to pick up. The controls are quick to learn, the gameplay challenging but not "goddamn cheating-computer!"-challenging, and the game itself is just genuinely fun. The cut-scenes are just long enough to tell a bit of story but not so long that you get bored watching them.

Even losing a mission and having to restart from the beginning is a pleasant experience: overall missions are about 30 minutes long, and the gameplay and strategies you can use are varied enough that it is actually kind of fun to lose, since it means you can try another technique. 

There's built-in CO-OP for all the levels, I think. Haven't gotten there yet -- just finished the campaign, but I'll definitely have to try... there's no way I'm going to save the citizens of Arcadia City all by myself.

The story is fairly solid, told with ingame communications and cut-scenes, typical gaming fair. There's nothing particularly epic about the story; it's just there to support the gameplay, which it does very nicely. There are a few unexplained WTFs at the end which I won't mention because of spoilers.

Multiplayer can be hit or miss, depending on the mode. 1v1 is good, 2v2 or 3v3 can either be excellent or horrible. This is entirely dependent on the people you're playing with: I got a good team going my first few games, so we stuck together and decimated the enemy with good teamwork and communication. The next matches a few days later ended terribly. Players not communicating, some of them not even really playing "right" (new players, clearly). As this is an RTS, there's no solution to an AFK or non-responsive team-mate: you're going to lose, plan and simple. 2v2 lessens the odds of you having a doofus on your team, but doesn't quite have the huge epic battles that 3v3 brings to your door.

Still, multiplayer can be pretty sweet when it's all workin' right.

All in all, a very enjoyable game.

* * *

Also, have you ever wondered what would happen if a Blue Whale ate you?

Don't. It's a weird thought to have.

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