I don’t play tons of games anymore, but ones I do fall into two camps. Good ones I play a lot. Shit games I play a handful of times and delete.
BEST GAME – SKYRIM (360)
Hands down the best game I played in 2011. Infinitely better than Oblivion, though maybe on-par with Fallout 3. I haven’t played F3 for years, but I remember it as both awesome and I sunk countless hours into it. But we’re here to talk Skyrim.
The game starts and I’m in an opening scene where I’m being lugged around in a horse drawn cart. Hmmmm…… That’s some god awful screen tearing and chuggy game engine. When pressing RS to pan the camera, the frame rate must drop to 15 fps and everything is showing up with a mirror effect. No way F3 played like this. This is no demo, it’s a purchase. Did I get ripped off here?
After the first dungeon (I think it had to do with that Gold Claw), it’s off to other dungeons. Hmmmm again….. these dungeons all look and feel the same. Same zombie creatures, same looking textures, same ending to the cave where there’s some funky music and a “big last fight” before it’s cleared. Didn’t Bethesda say dungeons are suppose to feel different? I’m 3 dungeons in and they all feel the same.
Enemy AI? Where’s enemy tactics? Melee monsters all bum-rush you as fast as possible slashing away. Even if there is a group of bandits, there’s no flanking. Archers and magic throwers stay back and lob infinite arrows and fireballs. And half the time they don’t even try to keep a distance. They just stand there firing away as you sprint at them. You could find the same AI in a game from 1983.
Game sounds pretty shit right? Who wants to play a sloppy game with repetitive environments and brain dead enemies?
Low and behold, Bethesda always comes away a winner. Unlike JRPGs which are laughably cheesy and played by weirdos and EMO guys, Skyrim impresses on just about every other part. We’re talking the 360 version too and not the hilarious PS3 port, which I will get to later.
Ok. The game has screen tearing chugginess when turning the camera. It’s bad at first , but your eyes get used to it to a degree. Even my 60 fps obsessed eyes got used to it. After that, you’ll notice the visuals in Skyrim the best in any RPG ever. The colours are not only better than Oblivion, but the palette more gritty. Oblivion was too colourful. There’s day and night cycles, snow, blizzards you name it. The detail in trees, rocks, towns and especially character models are at least 3x better than Oblivion. I always use Argonians in Elder Scroll games, since they make exploring easier (they can breathe under water and are resistant to some poisons and disease I think). Just compare.
Skyrim has top notch sound. Like all their RPGs, they invest in voice actors and Skyrim has great dialogue. There’s more variety in voice-overs and the tone seems more believable. And though a little cheesy, the bards in towns (often at the Inn) will sing a short tune or two if you speak to them. As you mess around the Inn, they play in the background. If this was real life and some guy was singing medieval limericks in a bar, I’d think he’s a moron. But in a Bethesda RPG, it’s great! The game also has the usual Bethesda creepiness when exploring with both epic music when it’s an important fight, but also scary sounds when in a cave. No joke, these games are more scary than any Resident Evil or horror punk game.
Gameplay. Awesome. Though the game has noticeable screen tearing, it still plays smooth and FUN. The game has much better load times than Oblivion when exploring or entering shops and caves so it cuts waiting times in half. You can dual wield how you want. Left and right hand. Weapon, spell, blocking shield you choose. I played with a character specializing in one-handed blades (for my right hand), while used a combo of shield or flame spewing from my left hand. For you crafters, the game lets you enchant items and create new gear with scraps of material you find. The map is big, but not impossible to manage.
You can walk from one end to the other in a reasonable amount of time, but there are so many caves, towns, shrines and random stuff littered everywhere that a completionist gamer will take forever to do everything. I tried doing that in F3 and gave up. I’d estimate someone trying to do every quest and location in Skyrim will take at least 70+ hours…. and that assumes you are a pretty good gamer who can swiftly complete things one by one. You gamers who take your time will easily sink 100+ hours finish all things.
Lastly, a small point that makes Skyrim all the sweeter – the 360 version trumps the PS3 version. Hahahaha! PS3 gamers were all baby faced when they found out after playing Skyrim for a while, the PS3 can’t handle large save files. In turn, the game chops up to unplayabale frame rates. Anywhere from 1 fps to 25 fps. And no patch yet. PS3’s spliced ram can’t handle Skyrim’s complex game environment and save files.
WORST GAME – BATTLEFIELD 3 (360)
Yup, you read that right. BF3 is the trashiest game. Played the beta, played the retail copy, even installed the HD texture pack. What a turd. This review is based on MP. I didn’t bother with SP. The only people who like this game are people who stink at Call of Duty. Just like all Battlefield games (Bad Company or 1943), I’ll dabble with it for a bit and do ok with the game. So it’s not about being bad at it. If I sunk time into it, I’m sure I can pile up great scores and rack up the wins. First the good:
It’s got big maps and vehicles. Lots of stuff in it means good right? Partly. I don’t care much for these as I found out running around big maps in BF games a chore. And vehicles always play sloppy. But to give credit, it’s there for bigger battles. Play BF3 and hop into a tank and test it out. Now pop in World at War, go into a tank and test it out. You know what? The tank in WaW plays better!
Slick menu screens. This game (along with Gears 3) arguably has the best menu screens I’ve seen. Polished, easy to navigate and smooth.
Like all BF games, that just about sums it up. And like every other BF game I’ve played on 360, the same negatives always outweigh the positives.
Crap graphics. You’d think an optional texture pack installation would result in mindblowing visuals. LOL. Shit. The same grainy, sub-par frame rate and odd combination of screen tearing and motion blur desperately try to mask a clunky game engine. Anti-aliasing. What’s anti-aliasing? I know, it’s a feature early video cards from the mid-90s had which smooths out edges. DICE must have gone back in time 20 years because BF games are the ultimate in graininess. You can practically count the pixels and blocky leaves. So much for Frostbite 2.0. Maybe on a good PC, this game looks incredible. Sorry, this is a 360 review.
And I thought Halo had eye bleeding colours. For a gritty shooter, BF3 has blinding bloom effects like the sun is 10 ft from your eyeballs at all times. And even worse, some guys were aiming a flashlight obscuring half my view….. in broad daylight. Dumb. I’m no military expert, but I don’t think there is an invention yet where a flashlight attached to gun can blind you from 200 metres away. Who knows. Maybe the army has nuclear powered flashlights rated at 5 zillion lumens….. (I read there’s a patch that reduces the blinding glare…. no shit DICE). Here’s an example I found on the web. Looks about right when I played it.
I played Bran’s retail copy a few months ago. First, I don’t know what the non-HD textures look like, since we jumped straight to the game after installing the texture pack. The HD pack graphics were nothing special, I’d like to see what it looks like without the install. I guess I won’t know.
Where’s the destruction? Other BF games had explosions everywhere, trees falling, dirt particles spraying, buildings being mangled into leftover pieces of drywall. Seems like there is almost none. At least none I really saw.
Gameplay. A clunky mess. I can accept some messy gameplay in turn-based games or RPGs like Skyrim where speed and responsiveness aren’t a priority. But in racers, sports and FPS it’s a must. And BF3 doesn’t have it. Every BF game claims to be 30 fps. Either they aren’t or they are, but still move badly. Gears of War games run at 30 fps, has big character models and blood and guts splattering everywhere, but it plays smoother and more responsive. The lousy frame rate and blocky visuals make playing BF3 a chore unlike super smooth playing CoD.
First time I played BF3 was the beta. The Metro map. 2/3 of the map is being funnelled through a linear tunnel. And like every BF game, it was mostly snipers. The map isn’t even a wide open map, yet 3/4 of every team is a sniper hiding in a bush or end of a tunnel. So much for BF’s “team based gameplay” they all crow about. I’m not even a rusher in FPS games (see my campy articles), but since it’s an objective mode even I tried to get to capture points to win. Where are my teammates?
When I played Bran’s retail copy with the HD install (thanks for wasting an hour of my life Bran! LOL). I played a map with all those container ships littered everywhere. All I remember was:
– Game looked nothing special
– Game played sluggish
– At least half the players in the game were snipers, with most standing on the edge of the map near the rocky slopes
– For a game that’s suppose to have big maps, the respawns were dreadful. A few times someone spawned near me and killed me in no more than 5 seconds. Once or twice I did the same thing to someone else. I respawned in plain view behind a sniper looking out and shot him in the back. I respawned no more than around 20 ft from him. Easy kill
– Didn’t do bad for a first time playing the retail copy. I think I finished with a 1:1 k/d going about 10/10 just using whatever default class set-ups were available
– Always a laugh when the game ends. The screen suddenly blacks out…… “You Lost!” or “You Won!”… I forget what it exactly says.