Scarface PS2 – Retrospective review

Recently I’ve been re-playing the 2006 Playstation 2 game Scarface, to 100% completion. It took me approximately less than 2 days to do.

I had a blast, but there are things wrong with the game that I hadn’t noticed when I first played the game.

It may seem odd to replay a game that is 10 years old (as of 2016) and even then get the criticism that “why don’t you just play GTA, its a better game“; yes it is, but purely for an arcade-style action fun; I don’t think you can beat Scarface on PS2, even with its low resolution graphics.

Whilst the opinion that its yet another GTA clone is often quoted, I feel it does offer a little more fun, a more arcade-style approach that the later titles of the GTA line of games didn’t seem to offer.

It didn’t have as nearly as many side quests as the pinnacle of open world games, GTA San Andreas; and it didn’t have the same allure as GTA Vice City; which is heavily inspired from the 1980s Scarface movie.

But at the same time, this game has its charm; and mostly fun.

So, what exactly is wrong with the game?

Issue: It loses the message of the movie

The message of the movie is that there’s no going back from the life of crime.

The idea of the movie is that Tony gets his comeuppance; that he dies alone in a self-destructive spiral of cocaine addiction, paranoia and desire for wealth beyond anything else, even at the loss of those he trusted.

It was supposed also be some sort of ironic message that the only time Montana did something based on actual morals, it was the thing that actually killed him

The message is kind of destroyed when you put a spin that Tony got away just to do every single shitty decision again.

Beyond “losing the message of the movie”, there are other smaller issues I found with the game.

Issue: The end boss (Sosa) is way too easy to kill

It would have been fun to have Sosa at least a bit harder to kill; perhaps put him in a tank or he keeps running away with relentless hordes coming for you whilst he’s trying to escape in a helicopter?

Issue: Set pieces are never used thoroughly

There is only one mission, except the side-mission Felix leads, where Tony has to deliver goods by a Van. I would have liked it if he had to do more deliveries to get his initial reputation up without buying hard assets.

I only remember one or two missions with helicopters being your main boss or sub-boss.  There should have been more of them.

There is a ship cargo tanker on the Miami map in the Industrial zone, but you never go there to collect any formal cargo.  I would have preferred it if there is deliveries of product via the ship cargo at set intervals; that way a player doesn’t have to go to the Islands all the time.

Issue: The game relies too heavily on pick up and deliver

There is a lot of missions, side-quests where you are simply picking up something to deliver it elsewhere.  I think 90% of the game is pick up and deliver; the worst ones are the distribution missions.  Sure its fun to rack up the many millions of dollars you get for delivering product to your fronts; but doing it like 10-20 times gets relentlessly repetitive and boring.

To speed things up a bit you could just focus relentlessly on getting all 4 storehouses and then focus on getting the “Harvest plantation” as fast as possible; this means you reduce the shipping part, but you still have to deliver it.

Improvement: Have distributors or trucks on call that deliver your product; but it comes at a risk that you’ll lose the product to police/gangs and it comes with a percentage cut of delivery revenue.

Issue: Hitting 100%; but nothing to do

Hitting 100% in Scarface is pretty easy. Once you’ve beaten the story, bought every Exotic, eliminated every rival gang, there is nothing to do.

Other than doing yet more distribution deals, the only thing I can think of is to go to the Islands with your personal female bodyguards (whom you unlock once you get 100%) and just start wars with the many spawning enemies of the islands.

So what could they have done?

  1. Tony loses the fronts – to the Columbians; Make it a two-part story (200%)., and the second part is the Columbians take over Miami who are twice as strong, their armies twice as strong; make it a real challenge.  The last mission could be revisiting the Plantation, or Islands to take out the Columbians one final time.
  2. The Sandman twist – When I originally played the game, I thought that the Sandman character was going to turn on you; he never did.  It would have been better if he did and then this would reinforced the hate relationship between Sosa and Sandman.  Sandman’s motive: He wants Sosa out the way to control 100% of everything and Tony was just the triggerman.  So first-part, Tony kills Sosa; second-part its Tony vs Sandman/Columbians who are twice as hard to kill.
  3. The islands become un-lockable to control.  Missions on the islands become unlocked so now you try to take over the islands with their turf, with the final mission being in Boliva or some other island (not on the maps).
  4. Unlock Survivor mode or Relentless mode – Where you just have to live as long as possible
  5. Unlock other (abstracted) cities. A way to make distribution less boring would be if you could decide to attempt to send product to them.
  6. Other side-missions that are not simply pick-up and deliver

Despite all this, the game is actually a lot of fun, despite it being quite short and nothing to do when you hit 100%, I did forget how fun the game was; I enjoyed it for what it was.

Its just a shame there isn’t much to it.

First impressions of the OUYA

Ouya games console with game controller

Ouya games console with game controller

Recently I bought the OUYA games console and game controller; an Android-based games console that costs £99 (extra controllers cost around £30-40). The OUYA comes with HDMI cable, power cable, 2x AA batteries, a games controller (Bluetooth) and several ports including Micro USB, USB, Ethernet and power ports.

Using WIFI, the Android-based games console was backed via a Kickstarter project and was released in the UK on Tuesday 25 June 2013 and by mid-day, reports that Amazon had sold out as well as several US chain stores.

What’s the deal with the OUYA?

Well its a budget Android powered “hackable” gaming console games console aimed at gamers on modest incomes, people who liked Retro gaming and of course; Indie game development. As it’s Android based you can “side load” pretty much anything on to it, and people have added their own apps, most of which are emulator for SNES, NES, Neo Geo, Commodore 64 and others.

In terms of hardware, the OUYA has a nVidia Tegra 3, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of flash storage and is expandable with a SD card.

Initial thoughts and reservations

Having spent a bit of time setting up the OUYA and figuring out WIFI connectivity issues relating to firewall settings, I finally got the OUYA up and running and playing some games.

Every game is free to try with the idea that you will buy games you like, plus there is the added advantage of making and self-publishing your own games via the Micro USB.

The UI interface is interesting, but it can be hard to find out specific information such as no visual indicator of how much a game actually costs to buy on screen, how much disk space you have left.

The games themselves are fine, and some are a bit too expensive for my liking. When signing up you have the option to use a credit card (which I would avoid) and a pay via a paper based voucher system which is similar to how the Playstation network works.

Where my reservations lie are that it will be viewed and seen by many as a dev kit, a toy and not a serious games device because of the lack of power, hardware or proper design.

Perhaps part of this might be because the amount they raised to make OUYA wasn’t even touching the surface of making a games console on the scale of Sony PS4, Vita, Microsoft, and with constant rumours that an Apple games console means that the OUYA could be dead within a year or less; without proper games companies backing it and major investment.

For those in indie development, the PS4 is coming out soon. Vita is opening up to indie developers I see both these and whatever Apple does as strong reasons that the OUYA is going to have a very hard market to crack.

TV in a world gone mobile?

In a world gone mobile it seems odd to be talking about a device for the TV.

I do feel its lacking something, maybe its build quality, maybe its not as good as the hype or maybe its because for the same price you could get a pre-owned VITA, a pre-owned PS2 and a bunch of games.

Developing for the OUYA?

At this current time, developing for the OUYA seems limited to Unity, Android Java (which I don’t really want to be learning) and a few game engines. Corona SDK, Multimedia Fusion 2, YoYoGames are all meant to be making exporters which target the OUYA but it is my feeling this will be arriving within 2-3 months of the OUYA. Already, YoYoGames is making in-roads towards OUYA development.

For the cynical, the OUYA perhaps should have been called the Unity-Box; because thats what your going to need to develop properly for the device. Thats not to say if your really good with Java you could make apps for the OUYA. For me, Java development is not something I want to be doing to make a simple game.

I’m going to keep the OUYA for the summer and see if I can do simple apps with it without Unity.

For further information on developing for OUYA, check out this article http://gamedev.tutsplus.com/articles/how-to-learn/how-to-learn-ouya-gamedev/

My first initial feelings on the OUYA are:

  • Hardware: 5/10
  • Software: 5/10
  • Developing for it: 4/10
  • Future? Unsure

Overall: 5/10.

Sleeping Dogs review (PS3)

Formerly known as True Crime: Hong Kong, Square Enix’s “Sleeping Dogs” places you deep in the underbelly of the Hong Kong triad crime family.

Playing as Hong Kong officer, Wei Shen, you play a hard-boiled undercover cop whose goal is to bring down the triads, whilst along the way use weapons, martial arts, drive a variety of vehicles and use mechanics that one would associate with classic Hong Kong action cinema.

During the story, Wai is deeply conflicted about where his loyalties lie — is he a cop, or is he a Triad member?

The game has a lot of Hong Kong stylized action, you can perform bone-crunching kung fu style action, drive cars, bikes and perform action-inspired sequences filled with high octane thrills and chases, including “pakour” style free-running.

It also has the standard GTA-clone like objectives called “side-missions”, hidden collectables, and a limited amount of customisation of clothes, and vehicles.

“Sleeping Dogs” is a lot of fun, high-octane action, and has lots of things that keep you interested and engaged, it has amazingly fun fighting, driving, and shooting mechanics, an interesting story and lots of side-mission content throughout.

However, there are things I didn’t like.

The first is that the game is way too short, I counted around 15-20, maybe 25 hours of story mode and never once do you make decisions about your character’s storyline.

For example, the story builds the conflicted loyalty narrative to an apex where you feel it will come to a point where you, the player, will have to decide whether to choose your loyalty between the cops and triads; sadly this never happens and it felt like a wasted opportunity.

Key features from the “True Crime” franchise are missing

A further point to add about the lack of features that fans of the original “True Crime” franchise enjoyed, for example there is no ability to arrest people, or undertake random world events.

A further issue I felt was underwhelming was the feature of “property damage”, where I felt you could cause a bucket load of damage but nothing of consequence actually happens; you never get demoted, you never get reprimanded by the Police captain and you never fail a mission because of “property damage”.

Choosing to play as a “good” or “bad” cop was sold as a feature of “Sleeping Dogs”, but in the end it feels laxidasical and slapped on.

On the plus side, I found the idea of finding Collectables were interesting and rewarding in that they give you advantages such as better fighting, better health, and other RPG-like attributes.

The fighting is also very fluid, and it feels like a lot of fun; my only concern with it is that there only 3-types of enemies and once you’ve figured out the pattern, it becomes incredibly easy to beat the enemies.

In addition to this, you can obtain Jade figurines and new fighting styles; whilst this is fun, it actually makes the enemies feel very cheap as they do not scale with you, and you end up being so overpowered that the enemies seem like pushovers and offer no threat.

That aside, my biggest issue with “Sleeping Dogs” is the concept that “Sleeping Dogs” is a “love-letter” to Hong Kong action cinema.

Frankly, it isn’t.

Love letter to Hong Kong action cinema?

As a major fan of the “Hong Kong action cinema” of the 80s and 90s, I felt “Sleeping Dogs” did not captalize on homaging scenes in movies in the game.

There is no recreation of classic scenes in the games, there is no fight in the mall from Jackie Chan’s 1985 hit, “Police Story”. The shoot-outs might “look” and “feel” John Woo-ish, but you never get two guns. There is no Bruce Lee like level or a fight sequence homaged from a Donnie Yen movie.

Whilst things like the underground fights is on homage to “Bloodsport”, there is no “Enter the Dragon” fight on an island. Sure you get to wear a Banana Suit, but that’s about it.

Jet Li’s Playstation 2 game, “Rise of Honor” had better fights and understood “Hong Kong” action cinema and even homaged the Hospital shoot-out in John Woo’s “Hard Boiled” in one level.

The fighting style is very street-style and the use of street furniture for brutal finishing moves is very enjoyable and a good homage to the old Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Jet Li and yes, even the more brutal Tony Jaa movies of yesteryear.

In terms of fights, yes they are fluid — but the lack of actual fighting styles was very disappointing. There was no Drunken Boxing, no wing chun, all the fights were street-based and MMA-inspired; you won’t be fighting like Sammo Hung or Donnie Yen in this game.

One final point I wish to add that cements my view that “Sleeping Dogs” is not a love letter to Hong Kong action cinema, and that is — the down-right bizarre choice to have Georges St-Pierre (GSP) not only promote the game, but for some reason include his “moveset” into the game as perhaps the worst in-app purchase for a AAA-game I’ve ever seen.

I’m sorry, but what does Georges St-Pierre have to do with classic Hong Kong action cinema? Why was he even promoting this game? Could Square Enix not afford the likes of Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung or Yuen Woo-ping, the action co-ordinator of the Matrix and a bucket-load of Hong Kong action movies?

To me, I felt the fighting and lack of actual homages to classic action cinema was the biggest let-down of “Sleeping Dogs”; and instead the game was simply set in Hong Kong rather than a “love letter” to Hong Kong action cinema.

Final analysis

“Sleeping Dogs” is a lot of fun, fast-paced action with good missions and an interesting story but it lacks the real heavyweight endorsement of a Hong Kong action cinema superstar and the lack of features let the game down overall.

I’d say “Sleeping Dogs” is an excellent rental for those who want fast-paced action and lots of stuff to do.

Overall: 6/10

My quick review of Saints Row The Third

The third installment of the Saints Row game, “Saints Row The Third” sees you trying to take over the city of Steelport.

Whereas I did enjoy Saints Row 2 and found it a good throwback to what made GTA3, GTA Vice City and San Andreas fun; I found Saints Row 3 to be quite boring.

Despite all the positive reviews of Saints Row 3, I feel that this “GTA sandbox clone” is actually quite poor.

There is very, very little content. The mission/story mode of the game can easily be completed within a few hours, and the difficulty of the game is pretty easy — even on hard.

The story seems interesting, and the role-play element where you can choose your path seems an interesting path, but these are window dressing to the actual gameplay.

The upgrading system also makes a total mockery of the difficulty. Within a couple of hours you can upgrade your character to the point where he/she is impervious and have unlimited ammo.

The one thing that really annoyed me the most about Saints Row 3 is that it brings nothing new to the genre. GTA SA, a game that came out more than 5 years ago has more content than this game. Hell, even GTA:Vice City Stories had more interesting features than Saints Row 3.

There STILL is no working economy system, the assets/property system is extremely poor; especially as you cannot enter a vast majority of the buildings you purchase. Worse still, the rival gangs, that you are feuding with, do absolutely nothing — they never attack your compounds, buildings, or assets.

In short, I feel the game offers no re-playability, no difficulty and no long-term enjoyment.

I would rate Saints Row The Third as a rental only and give it 4/10

My thoughts on Duke Nukem Forever

After 13 odd years being stuck in development hell, the final release of Duke Nukem Forever made me giddy with nostalgic memories of my early youth playing Duke Nukem 2 and Duke Nukem 3D and so bought this game wondering if it would live up to the hype, and also wondering how much of that 13-year development cycle would be put into the game.

After about 3-4 hours of playing Duke Nukem Forever I couldn’t believe just how bad it was. I was pretty flabbergasted and couldn’t understand what went wrong.

DNF by all accounts represents everything that is wrong with modern first person shooters. It forces you down one path, and only one path. There are lots of scripted events, there are contrived puzzles tacked on for no reason, and it seems to rely heavily on pop-culture references to the point where it literally screams at you to “look at this! aren’t we cool, hip and trendy!”

I must have counted at least half a dozen pop culture references, everything from Lost to Duke Nukem 3D’s sister project, Lo Wang. Even references to old Duke Nukem games are in there.

In the original DN3D you had to collect health, bonuses, power-ups, however in DNF you have an ego health system which regenerates after a few seconds if you get hit.

Another thing in the game I hated was the really long loading times. Even if you die, you have to wait anywhere between 30 seconds to a minute.

I spent a lot of time playing the single player game as I wanted to know how it compared to the old DN3D. Oh boy was I in for a surprise.

The first few missions has you being handheld, forced down a linear path. At first I thought it was designed to be like this so that it can tell a story and then I’m sure it’ll give me the actual game after this.

Except, it doesn’t. Instead you get one linear path/map after another. A majority of the levels make you go over a certain ledge or platform, after which you cannot go back. Its basically a lazy way for programmers to release memory and keep the footprint of the game small.

Eventually you’ll fight tougher aliens, bosses and drive different kinds of vehicles; one thing you will notice is that the guns are pretty much the same as in DN3D, which I would expect; but I would also expect some other weapons — I mean you did have 13 years to build this game!

Strangely I feel that the 13+ year old Duke Nukem 3D is actually more 3D than DNF, the reason: you could move in 3 dimensions, you had multiple paths, there was much more interesting levels.

I guess it all comes down to expectations. I was expecting DNF to be a throw back to DN3D, showing the Halos and Call of Duty games that you can create a fun game that employs all the mechanics which made the FPS genre famous in the first place.

I would avoid this game, or at least rent it before buying it.

My thoughts on LA Noire

la-noire

Rockstar’s latest offering, “LA Noire” is an amazing visually appealing game set in 40s Los Angeles and no doubt you’re already aware of the amount of R&D they put into face mapping, rendering and graphics.

I’m not going to retread on the multiple superlatives that other reviews have given this game; they are all correct; yes its got great visual appeal, the face mechanics are truly amazing, the True/Doubt/Lie system coupled with a strong detective game proves that you can make a “smart” video game which requires you to think.

My only concern is the lack of actual content in the game. With no multiplayer (a cops and robbers multiplayer game would have been cool) and very few side quests (there are about 20, not including the number of hidden collectables such as film reels and cars).

A lot of the game mechanics/engine reminds me of Red Demp Redemption, however in that game you could go into shops, you could try and collect bounties, there were other things to do other than the main game; this is where LA Noire kinda falls down.

Another issue is the incredibly long time it takes to drive from one point to another; yes you can opt to skip these driving by electing your AI colleague to drive for you; but the problem with this is you may miss on a side quest.

The ending of the game also does not fit into the main narrative of the game; the vast majority of the game is you doing good old fashioned police work, and then suddenly it becomes a run-gun and cover fight.

The kicker is that most of the shoot-outs are incredibly easy and most of the enemies do not pose any major threat.

If LA Noire had more side quests, and more features I think I would have enjoyed the game a lot more.

Overall score: 7/10.

Midway drops ball on TNA:Impact?

TNA:Impact

In the IT/web field there is this running joke that whenever working on a project a developer will at some point claim that a project is “90% done”. With the recent Q&A between games publisher Midway and the IGN portal website about the upcoming next generation wrestling game, “TNA: Impact!”, it seems this joke seems quite apt.

“TNA:Impact!” is an American wrestling in the same vein as WWE (formly known as WWF), and was initially made famous for its high-flying acrobatic “X-Division” (Cruiserweights) section. This was best illustrated in the years between 2004, 2005 and the very recent “World X Cup”, where high-flying, fast-paced wrestling has caught the imagination of WWE and Youtube fans wiery of the stale product dished out by the number 1 name in pro-wrestling.

With this in mind, TNA have spent the last year and a bit working with Midway publishing (famous for its work on the “Mortal Kombat” series) to create a wrestling game that would outclass WWE’s game, “Smackdown vs Raw”.

However, in a recent Q&A session with the IGN portal the game makers seem to be holding their hands up and saying the game “isn’t finished, but we released it anyway!”. Continue reading

Retro classics: Supercars (Amiga)

SuperCars

I recently found that Supercars, that classic Amiga, PC and Atari classic available online to play via EasyRetro.

Although the game is a bit buggy, for example – on one level you’re stuck in a tunnel complex and there’s no way out. However, it certainly brought back childhood memories of buying forward rockets / backwards rockets and trying to deal with that slimy car sales person too.

Links: