Saturday, 26 April 2008

Who Needs Sunshine When You Have Games?

Playing: Beats (PSP). Listening to: Skins OST.

Today was an absolutely gloriously sunny day in the North of South Korea (spoiler: not where I actually live), so I took the opportunity to head outside and ventured into my garden armed with my laptop. Unfortunately, my neighbours had decided not to switch their wireless box on today, so I was denied some Starcraft online action. I sulked for some time, before heading back inside and digging around for a prized possession of mine. And there it was: the Total Annihilation disk.

Now for all of those who don't know, which I assume to be quite a lot of people, Total Annihilation (PC) is another ageing RTS, and is one of my favourite games. Although the title would seemingly suggest the opposite, it is in fact a more tactical affair than the aforementioned 'Craft, and for that reason, makes it a lot more fun if you (like me) enjoy playing the 'long game' in an RTS. Which basically means working through the tech tree and deciding which units are the best for your strategy.

Unlike in Starcraft, where you research your way through the tech tree (a la Age of Empires), in Total Annihilation, things are done a little differently. There are three main types of units: Kbots, Vehicles and Aircraft that apply to most maps (there are also Naval units, and Hovercraft that turn up on occasion). Then, after building a Kbot lab for instance, you use it to create a Construction Kbot, which then can build an Advanced Kbot Lab, which can in turn build an Advanced Construction Kbot. Overuse of the word Kbot, methinks. And no, it doesn't go any higher than that, but this does open up a lot of different units. But getting the Metal and Energy levels to be able to build the advanced units does take some time, hence my favouring of the 'long game', compared to how Starcraft's AI will attack quite quickly, forcing you do build a quick defensive army of low-level units.

Point made: I love Total Annihilation. Moving on, I said I'd have some impressions of my recent PSP acquisitions, and although I haven't got far enough into Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops to form an opinion yet, I will share my thoughts on the PSP-exclusive (until the inevitable PS2 port) God of War: Chains of Olympus. However, this is far from a review, that would be cruel after only a few hours of play, so bear that in mind.

Apart from a brief spell with the GoW1 demo, I have never really played either of the previous God of War games, so no, I don't know any of the back story. But that is irrelevant, because at one point in Chains of Olympus, Kratos turned around and said "What treachery is this?" and I was made happy, forgetting the fact I had no idea what was going on. However, from what I've gathered, Kratos does not at all like being the Gods' bitch, which is understandable really.

Story aside, the gameplay is immense.I've never really been a fan of beat-/slash-em-ups (presumably the reason I haven't played God of War games before), but this is really great fun. The combos are slowly unlocked as you go around collecting red orbs to level up your mad skillz, so you can learn them at your own pace rather than them all being there when you start, which is what makes other fighters too overwhelming for me. Also, the fact you have to balance out your magic usage, blade-swinging and health gives the game an extra depth. There is one major problem though. Random insane difficulty spikes. They are the death of me, literally (well at least in the game). I've already come up against two in my playing, and I'm stuck at another one now. It's not a deal breaker, but it is annoying when they turn up, because they take a hell of a lot of time to get past. At least the loading times are fantastically short, which takes away some potential annoyance.

Now to presentation: the music in the game is top notch orchestral stuff, and so I was mightily glad about that. Sound effects are also great, and the voice acting and animation in the cut scenes is also spectacular. And so I get to the inevitable mention of the game's graphics. And yes, they are amazing; hell, they'd be amazing on PS2, on PSP they are astonishing. The first time I booted up the game to be given a fantastic view of the Persian attack on the Shores of Attica, and it was genuinely a moment of amazement. But one thing I will say is, due to the games use of the full-and-recently-unlocked 333Mhz of the PSP processor to chuck out this graphical awesomeness, the battery life of said console is lowered in comparison to playing other games, although not by too much.

And to the final, deciding factor of a game for me: FUN. I will buy games primarily on how fun they are regardless of graphics/story/anything else, as long as they promise a good time. God of War: Chains of Olympus is one game that has fun in spades, especially for someone new to the series like me. Overall, I feel that my playing of the game so far has shown how much work Ready at Dawn have put into this game, and pretty much the only downer is the annoying difficult spikes. Highly recommended: a solid A rating.

Expect to hear more from me soon, on MGS: Portable Ops, Patapon, SOCOM: Tactical Strike, as well as other games.

FO out.


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