Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Vita Week: Racing Games

Racing games don't really need an introduction, right? You...Race things. Generally for the purpose to unlock other things to race and other places to race around. They're also things that I've always played here and there, trying to

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

The last Need for Speed game I played was Hot Pursuit that came out a few years back, which featured both your usual racer career alongside a career mode featuring the cops that generally try to stop racers from having any fun. I thought it was pretty good and the two sides were different enough but both were still fun.

Most Wanted on the other hand ditches the cops side of the story to focus solely on the racers again. You're let loose in a large open city and a bit of the surrounding country side, which is filled with collectables, races, and cars.

First off the game, for the most part looks good. At higher speeds it can chug a bit, but beyond that Most Wanted stays fairly consistent. Headlights at night though have a very odd problem where they pop in and out at times and if you're looking at them from the front you can literally count the pixels.

The newest thing I could see was that instead of unlocking cars as you go, they are simply all spread out across town, and you simply drive up to one, hit a button and off you go in this new car. Each car has its own races to it, and doing well in them will unlock different parts for that car. Everything handles well enough to boot.

Another aspect of the game that Criterion has been trying to improve over the past few entires is the Speedwall. Essentially whenever you finish a race, run by a speed camera(one of the game's collectables), or burst through a billboard, you'll be shown how well your friends did, which is mainly meant to envoke the spirit of competition. As someone who's friends don't touch racing games...Well it did nothing for me.

All in all a good game, and a fully fledged Need for Speed game on the go.

WipEout 2048

Onto Sony's own futuristic racing game, WipEout 2048 is more contained than Most Wanted. There's no open world, and the tracks are all set, but I'd say this lets it feel more focused.

You'll progress through a linear set of races with a few side races meant to challenge, and unlock more...Speeders...? They aren't cars, but more...Hover...Things. It's the future, things aren't moving solely on the ground, that's the best way I can think of to describe it.

The game has a bit of a Mario Kart feel to it, too. You'll roll over pads and be given a weapon, but unlike Mario Kart, said weapon can be used on yourself to power up your shield for a short bit, or repair your ship as a whole giving it a bit more of a strategic feel.

It's very similar to Wipeout HD for the PS3, so if you've played that you'll know what to expect. Beyond that there's really not much to say about the game. The better you do in races the more vehicles you'll unlock, divided up by teams and types, of varying stats. You'll also unlock more races. There's three campaigns to play through and they all appear to be a decent length on their own so I'd take the chance to say you'll probably get a lot of time out of this one if you find you enjoy it.

Spy Hunter

The last one I'm taking a look at here isn't really a racing game per se, but it still has you driving a car down a long closed in stretch of highway while being timed so I'm letting it slide.

Spy Hunter puts you in the seat of the Interceptor, a prototype vehicle that's essentially James Bond's car if Q felt the need to erradicate every other vehicle on the road. The Square, Triangle, Circle, and X buttons all control different weapons on the car that you'll use to kill all who oppose you, until you finish your mission and get back to the trailer that's meant to carry your car. Then you'll head back to base, where you can use whatever points you've earned to upgrade your weapons/paint your car.

There isn't too much story beyond another group wanting to acquire your vehicle, deciding to try to kill you when they see that isn't going to happen. The entire thing is done with its tongue firmly in its cheek though, which adds a bit of humor to it.

All in all the game is fun if a bit samey at times. You'll earn weapons to switch out with your main arsenal, but it'll always just boil down to trying to run everyone near you off the road or shoot them up. Which is oddly satisfying.

I've played it sparringly so I'm not sure how much time you'll get out of it, or even if it stays true to the series it's rebooting, but I've enjoyed myself when I decided to play through a few levels here and there.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Vita Week: Uncharted: Golden Abyss

Back when I'd first got my PS3, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was one of the first games I'd bought. Actually that's a slightly awkward story that involves me having ordered my PS3 online, yet having picked up the game at a GameStop a few days before it arrived, and I just had to stare at the box for awhile occasionally looking over the manual.

In the end it turned out to be a great looking game, with great platforming, great characters, subpar shooting, and a story that while fairly simple at first decides to take a very abrupt turn near the end which I'm still not sure how to feel about. Considering I'd just come over from the Wii(I was seriously late to the party on this console generation), it was an excellent introduction.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves wasn't radically different aside from the fact that it improved everything, and decided to turn the graphics up to the "This is freaking gorgeous" setting.

And I've yet to play Uncharted 3. So of those two, I have to compare Uncharted: Golden Abyss more to Drake's Fortune, which while not as good as being comparable to Among Thieves still means it's good.

If you've missed out on the Uncharted series thus far it follows Nathan Drake, globe trotting treasure hunter, and involves platforming and third person cover based shooting. On occasion puzzles will be thrown in as well, though these in past games tended to be mainly "Pull Out Journal" followed by "Pull Switches According to Journal".

Let me say it now, though, Golden Abyss looks fantastic. It really is comparable to playing Drake's Fortune for the first time again in this aspect, which one might say is a step back, until you take into consideration that this is a handheld system. If there is anything that shows me that Sony claiming the Vita can handle console quality graphics and such, it's this. But perhaps that's because it really does feel like they've ripped an Uncharted game away from the consoles.

The gameplay really hasn't changed, aside from a number of moments that try to make use of the Vita's unique features. For instance, to climb up a structure, you can do it the old fashioned way, hitting X to jump from ledge to ledge, or you can just draw a line on the screen following the ledges and Drake will just do everything on his own. This is actually a really good addition in my book, which sadly cannot be said for the others. At random in melee combat, you will have to make a slide motion across the screen, which if you're like me, and using the Square button, is a very odd transition.

Sadly for the rest of the combat, the gunplay has taken a step backwards. Aiming is fairly loose, and I felt the crosshair was a bit big, especially with my pistol. Beyond this the voice acting is still great, even though some of the new characters aren't as strong as Drake and Sully. The story isn't too complicated, or at least hasn't become so yet, as I'm not too far in, a running theme with quite a few of these Vita games. So do remember that most of these look overs will be mainly first impressions.

If there's one thing that Uncharted: Golden Abyss does different involves the collectables. In past games there would be tiny little treasures hidden around, and grabbing them gained you trophies. In this game on the other hand, there are the standard treasures along with spots that need to be photographed, and old ruins that need a good charcol rubbing as to take their pictures with you. The amount of these spread throughout the game is almost insane, and honestly I'm happy with that. We're building up Drake's journal instead of it existing and being filled out already. There is one downside though...

Recently a game called Uncharted: Fight for Fortune was also released for a cheap $5. This isn't the usual adventure though, and is instead a card game, I would guess along the lines of say Magic: The Gathering, if a little simpler(?). It's a nice little distraction on its own, but where the two link together is Golden Abyss's collectables. The more you gather the more you'll power up certain cards in Fight for Fortune, and as I've read it is possible to get an unfair advantage via these, so keep that in mind.

All in all both games are fun, and I would say you'd get what you pay for with Fight for Fortune, though I've yet to try to delve into the online play which from what I'd read had its fair share of problems. And I got Golden Abyss free with PS+...But I would say for the $40 you'd generally spend it will be a great adventure on the go.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Vita Week: Gravity Rush

Gravity Rush is the only game currently on my Vita that isn't a previously existing franchise, or port, besides Chronovolt which I've yet to play. It comes free if you're a Playstation Plus member, a service that I've grown to love after a slightly iffy start, or is (I think) $40 otherwise.

So what is Gravity Rush? It's a game about a young girl who wakes up in a city floating above a giant...Rift...Thing...Who comes across a cat which gives her powers which allow you to alter gravity. The story seemed a bit generic to start off with, and I'm not too far into it (Sixth out of what I can only assume based off what the DLC implies is about 17+ episodes/chapters), so it's hard to see if it'll get better or not. Even with the slightly generic amnesia/superpowers opening act, I must say that I do enjoy the characters, and the dialogue is actually pretty good at times. The main character Kat, while at times a bit too ready to do whatever someone asks of her, generally has a witty remark on things, a few of which have produced a chuckle from me.

The gameplay itself revolves around you using your new found powers to navigate the city, and defeat supernatural enemies that threaten the town. Tapping the R button will lift you off the ground, you adjust the camera with the right stick, and with another tap of the R button you'll shift gravity in that direction, sending you and hilariously whoever happens to be near you screaming in that direction. This is honestly really fun, and probably ranks in one of my favorite ways to traverse an open world game.

The downsides of this is that it can be easy at times to lose track of which way is up, but the main character's outfit helps out here by always following actual gravity, pointing you to which way is the ground. After you've gotten used to it you should be shifting gravity with the best of them.

While the gravity shifting powers are fun for getting around, the same can't be said for the game's combat which is at best easy and not around long enough to get annoying, and at worst will have you awkwardly flying around trying to kick a certain spot on an enemy. The system seems simple enough. Hitting Square will have you kick at an enemy, and if you decide to shift gravity and then hit Square you'll launch yourself at an enemy to hit them harder. The problem is that all the enemies have huge red points, and hitting these is the only way to damage them. Some of them you won't be able to hit on the ground, so you'll have to rely on your aim, and I personally have missed quite a few times with quite a few of these guys and got ticked. Happily this doesn't take away from the game too much.

Graphically the game looks great, the city has a nice design to it, as do the characters, but to be frank, I've never been a fan of this art style, which I would compare to anime, which I'm not a fan of either. I've actually grown accustemed to it, and actually enjoy some of it, so perhaps it's an acquired taste.

Storywise the game draws heavily from comic books, and is comparable to inFamous on how it tells its story. I've seen a few cutscenes with voice acting(no English translation though, so you'll be relying on subtitles if you don't speak what I'm assuming is Japanese), but most of the story is told through panels ala comic books. These look awesome, and with a simple drag on the screen you move from one panel to the next, though sadly I've not found a way to go back, leading to a few times I dragged a time too many and missed something. You can also tilt the device and watch the panels do the same which is a great touch.


The game has three DLC packs, each containing two additional missions, a few challenge missions, and a costume for Kat, and cost $3.99 a piece. I've only completed the first mission of the first DLC pack, but it's fair share of clever dialogue, and the mission changed up the pace compared to other things I'd done thus far, quizzing me on my knowledge of the city and memory at times.

The DLC unlocks as the story progresses, with the packs being opened up after episodes 4, 11, and 17. I actually think this is a clever move, as this will provide distractions over time, and not simply all at once.


While the art style took a bit to get used to for me personally, I've seriously enjoyed this game. If it keeps its charm throughout I've yet to see, but for now it's been great for more serious(compared to say, an iPod game like Angry Birds) gaming on the go. If unique titles continue to show up on the Vita, it could very well have a lovely library in its future.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Playstation Vita review

Well, the holidays are over, and over the long weekend I was gifted a Playstation Vita, and managed to load it up with a few games, so consider this Vita week! So long as I can remember to get a new post up every day, along with writing them...Etc.

The Hardware

Lets start off with the Vita itself. The device is larger than the old PSP as far as I can recall, and definantly won't sit comfortably in say one of your pants pockets, and I've resorted to keeping it in one of my coat pockets, but it's still fairly lightweight all things considered.

It has the standard D-Pad, and the Square, X, Triange, and Circle button, along with the left joystick that the PSP had, but it also now happily includes a right joystick as well. The device also has left and right shoulder buttons. Really what's impressive is that it's an L2 and R2, and vibration function, away from being a full PS3 controller. The screen is also now a touch screen, and the rear of the device also has touch abilities too. There's also a Home button on there too.

The Vita also includes a front and back camera though I'm no camera expert so I'm not sure how they are compared to say an iPod or cell phone camera, as to compare the two to another mobile device.

As for the hardware on the inside...I honestly don't know the details and if I did wouldn't be able to form any opinions off of them besides "that sounds shiny".

The Interface

Once your initial set up(which is happily simple, easy, and quick), is finished, you might be surprised to see that the PS Vita has ditched Sony's XMB Crossbar interface, and instead gone with what Sony has dubbed the 'LiveArea'.

Essentially this is similar to other touch screen interfaces, where your apps and such are just icons, and you slide to move around them. Where it seperates itself from the others is how it deals with apps you've already opened. If you slide to the right of the LiveArea, you'll see pages representing the games and apps you have running, if you scroll down on these pages they'll display your recent activity, such as earning trophies, or preforming feats in-game. You simply drag from the corner of the page to quit running the game or app.

All in all, the interface is simple, slick, and best of all, sort of fun. I for some reason enjoy closing my apps by practically tearing the page off a wall.


A quick sum up of some pros I've noticed:

  • I like how the device sits in my hands for the most part
  • It looks great
  • The interface is great
  • Games look amazing. Playing through Uncharted: Golden Abyss is like playing through Uncharted: Drake's Fortune again. Though not on par with the better looking PS3 titles, it still looks pretty impressive.
  • There's quite the variety of games availible, some of which are actually PS3 games, such as Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale.

And a quick run through of some of the downsides I've noticed:

  • The Vita has a fairly short battery life, about five hours of straight gaming, so keep that in mind.
  • The memory cards for the Vita are expensive, and extremely tiny. I could see these things getting lost easily.
  • While there are a nice variety of titles, there aren't many of them. This is one thing that makes me worried about the device, as I'm not seeing too much developer support.
  • The rear touch pad is very sensitive, and I forgot it was there a few times, making me do something in-game on accident.
As the week progresses, I will take a look at a few of the games I've picked up, along with a few of the applications and games that come pre-loaded on the device. Stay tuned.