Friday, February 16, 2007

Ghost Ride The Whip!!

Wow, where to begin. Well since I am on holiday I decided to get back into the swing of things and play some videogames. Of course the first game I had to pick up is Ghost Rider. I had played a little bit of it during E3 so I knew what to expect. Such great things as him going into the pose to pull a lever just like Kratos then deciding to kick the lever instead.

The game has been getting terrible reviews and it's really *not* that bad. It's not a great game by any stretch of the imagination but something about it makes me smile. Mostly because I know what it's like to work at a 3rd party developer and some publisher comes in and is all, 'make this really boring license that no one cares about and these games are really popular (gow and dmc) so make it like them!' Trust me, I was in plenty of those meetings with games that fortunately ended up getting cancelled. Every damn meeting for like 2 weeks after MK5 came out wanted blood just like that game.

So the opening starts and it has decent presentation done in a comic book style. I beat the whole game and I still don't understand the story so bleh on that one. Something about my motorcycle leaves fire trails and the path i was forced on opens up a gate to hell!!

Back to the beginning of the game - you get introduced to wayyy to much at once: these 2 different meters that took me about 2 hours to really process which one is what. L2 seems to do a lot of damage at once where as L1 is sort of like Devil Trigger mode where you do more damage on all of your attacks and take no reaction and everyone gets circles above their heads and if you throw someone you drain the rest of your meter but kill that monster off right away. It's not a bad system but for some reason it's all sorts of confusing in the beginning. Mostly because they are like - these orbs do this and blah blah and never really explain how it works. Either that or I just skipped the whole damn thing.

The controls...are strange. He has neutral jump attacks and running jump attacks. Why? I'm not really sure - seems like a waste of animation space to me. It was like neutral jump triangle was good and running jump square was good - i would have removed the other two personally. Going from stand to run is a frame or two laggy but nothing terrible. There are a ton of small problems that drove me nuts like holding R1 for block then still holding R1 and pressing square to do an attack but not going back to block even though I never let it go. Although...doing the same thing with triangle and I do go back to block.

Although not the worst idea but maybe the worst presentation is how they have a combometer just like DMC with words that say how great you are doing and it going from D to C to B to A to S. Enemies show up with a shield around them that actually have the text to indicate which level you need to be at. So if you need to get your combo to 'Brutal!' level the enemy will have a shield of 'Brutal!' floating around them. It's not a bad idea but seems like there could have been a better way to convey it.

The motorcycle parts are..interesting. The motorcycle gets double jump even though you don't! Haha, not really sure why - something about Earth Magic makes the motorcycle double jump. They do one decent idea - Square attacks fools on the left, Triangle attacks fools on the right. It's a nice mental divison so the player doesn't get too overwhelmed. Although I upgraded my motorcycle attack really early on (triple homing shot!) so all I did was spam that button and never had a hard time what so ever. Besides not being able to see due to how dark the levels were and I even turned my brightness all the way up.

It's a short game (4 hours on normal mode) and I think every level is re-used twice - once forwards then backwards. The upgrades unfortunately don't keep the game interesting long enough. I maxed everything out so early that i was getting bored near the end.

There is a documentary on the game that you can unlock that left me a little bummed. Just comes off as instead of saying dmc, ninja gaiden, etc have good combat ideas he just makes fun of them. Oh well - i'm fucking sick of arrogant european developers trying to say everything else is 'rubbish'. This one goes out to Alex Ward when I say, "I beat Ghost Rider!'


Devin Greer said...

Woo! First comment, real comment will be next!

Devin Greer said...

Sounds like an interesting game. Not something I would probably bother with, but still, I wouldn't mind maybe playing it. Most movie-games end up sucking, I wish they didn't, though. One game I will vouch for, though, is Spider-Man 2. That game (based on the movie), was totally fucking sweet. They totally revolutionized the web-swinging mechanic, and made the whole game a shit-load more fun. Then they made Ultimate Spider-Man, which toned down the awesomeness, but still, it was fairly fun.

-Devin Greer

Maj said...

Aw, now i'm all sad for that Alex Ward guy. He went through all that trouble of scripting an interactive story rife with deep social commentary, and nobody noticed. Better luck next time.

Though, his argument about gamers not paying attention is bullshit. It's just a matter of approach. Telling a story through a video game is first, last and foremost about creating a captivating character design. Once you accomplish that, the player will become interested in the character's backstory.

Half of it is art - making the character look cool, and doing the same for the supporting cast and the villains. The other half is gameplay - giving the player revolutionary things to do through the character so that the player develops an appreciation for the character. If the gameplay brings nothing new to the table, then the player is simply going to say, "not as cool as Dante" and move on in an instant.

Black was yet another good-but-not-great FPS, released into an already overcrowded genre. I don't have the statitics in front of me, but i think several studies have shown that first-person shooters as a genre are the most bland, formulaic games in the history of games. It's always the same thing. Point and shoot. Same interface, same mechanics, same controls, same objective.

Claiming that gamers don't care about story is rediculous. There's no end to the online forum posts discussing the storylines of Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy 7/8/whatever, Legacy of Kain, Warcraft/Starcraft, and so on. Even Halo and Half-Life manage to generate story discussion. Hell, there are even ongoing discussions about the storyline of Street Fighter. Considering how much of the backstory is told in random artbooks and how little is actually conveyed through the game, trying to piece together the Street Fighter story takes some serious fucking commitment.

No need to be all defeatist about it. Just get better at understanding the gaming audience. God of War does an awesome job of telling an engrossing story through minimalist (aka focused) narration.

- Maj

Maj said...

Can Ghost Rider throw Sonic Booms or do Flash Kick? Can he summon Galactus as an assist? Cuz if he can, i need to go sign up on some comic book message boards and talk shit about how totally lame that is. Then i need to go buy three copies of the game: One to play, one to frame, and one to keep in an FDIC insured safety deposit box.

<3 Galactus

- Maj

Nathan said...

Wow. Alex Ward comes off like a bitter asshole.

I played and "beat" Black. The story was laughably bad, convoluted, and told through Sega CD style FMVs in between "levels". Not to brag but I think I am a pretty smart guy and Black does not have some deep storyline that just went over my dumb American head, it just has a bad story told in a bad way by a bad story teller.

Derek Daniels said...

Devin: I've been meaning to pick up Ultimate Spider-man for way too long now and I still haven't. I really love the art style and presentation with it though.

Spider-Man 2 was a great game. Another awsome game thats kinda movie related but not really mostly i'm mentioning it because of super heroes (that should have all been hyphenated but i'm too lazy to go back and it would probably look like shit anyway) was that Incredible Hulk game that came out. Ultimate Destruction I think it was entitled. Everyone on the combat team (all 4 of us) played a ton of that game when it came out. The loading killed it for me though.

Maj: haha - nice rant. Sorry no galactus but you do get to play as Blade.

Nathan: I remember when Black first came out - I fired it up and and my controller (logitech wireless) turned off between me starting the game and actually playing the game. I still have no idea what that opening cut scene was even about nor do I really care. I remember when the game came out and hoping that that team could change the FPS genre as much as they did with the racing genre via Burnout. Unfortunately it seems like the game will only be remembered as a short game with no online where you could blow lots of shit up.

Anyone know if they are doing a sequel or is it just full time Burnout for those guys now?

Devin Greer said...

Yeah, I forgot to mention that also. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. That was fucking great. One of the best super hero based games ever... I don't know how much spare time you have, but if you haven't, yet. You should check out the Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank games.... Those are really great. R&C is just plain fun, while so is J&K, it provides a much better story, and character development, etc. Ultimate Spider-Man, I just keep that for the sake of having it, I'm a hard-core Spider-Man fan. But if any game in the world meant the most to me, it would truly, honestly be God Of War. I'm so excited about March 13th, I really hope my store has it then, so that I can get it as soon as possible. Seriously, man, I love the game. I'm not sure how to describe it, but God Of War is one of those games that is basically perfect, because the team pushing behind it know what a good game is, and do a great job at it. Seriously, infinite kudos to you and the team.

-Devin Greer

Devin Greer said...

I heard a small rumor about a "God Of War Convention" in California somewhere. Is that ANY truth to that?

Ryan J. Downey said...

I actually read a great review of the "Ghost Rider" game recently, I think it might have been in Spin. I understand the game was scripted by Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti. Derek if you have never read "Preacher" or Ennis' "Welcome Back Frank" you've got to head over to Hidy-Ho in Santa Monica right now to pick up some reading material for your break. Palmiotti's indie comic "Beautiful Killer" is decent. Incidentally, he worked as an artist on Kevin Smith's run on "Daredevil." Speaking of Kevin Smith, did you see him co-hosting with Richard Roepert over the weekend? "You gave 'Jersey Girl' a thumbs down but you're giving 'Music and Lyrics' a thumbs up?" Classic.

Max A said...

Alex Ward is deep. you guys just don't get his high level desighn.


Derek Daniels said...

Devin: You know how some people in the world are either a coke or a pepsi person? Or beatles or rolling stones fan? or blur or oasis? Granted both things are usually good but people seem to gravitate towards one more than the other. Thats how I see Ratchet & Clank versus Jak & Daxter. For me...I'm a Ratchet man. I've tried to play most Jak games and for some reason they just don't grab me like Ratchet does. I've played ever single Ratchet game aside from that last one they did - Deadlocked I think it was called. You could always tell that team wanted to make a FPS and it seemed like Ratchet kept heading into that territory more and more with each game. With Deadlocked it seemed like too much for me.

I'm not sure what it is but I couldn't get into Crash Bandicoot either and I can't get into Jak. I did play a little of Daxter on the PSP and loved it up until the train level (best level in the game). After that I just realized how repetitive it was becoming and a collect-a-thon which I fucking hate in games these days.

Thanks for the kind words on God of War though. Hopefully you'll be playing the game nonstop on March 13th.

Regarding a convention? Wow, i've heard of nothing. Unless you mean me and eric grabbing lunch every now and then. haha. Seriously - if you hear anything more let me know but I haven't heard anything.

Downey: I started reading the Preacher before moving to LA and never finished it for one reason or another. I really should go back and finish it though. Right now I'm re-reading the Watchmen these days.

Welcome back frank? Ok - i'll definitely go pick that up this week then.

Its funny - the story with the Ghost Rider game isn't really *all* that bad. I think the problem stems from the fact that it's a comic book story told outside of the comic book medium. For example - comic books have panel after panel with page after page only interrupted with ads and monthly breaks. They also have usually the little part in the beginning catching the reader up on anything they missed. Plus they get to explain things along the way like, 'Peter Parker who works as a freelance journalist, spends his nights fighting crime as Spider-Man!' Within that sentence you find out who the character is, his day job and his night job as a super hero.

Now when it comes to videogames - you usually have some sort of cinematic cut scene then you play the game then another cut scene. The problem with ghost rider is that the gameplay between the cut scenes really has NOTHING to do with the story. So when you only watch a few seconds of the story every 15 minutes or so, it really doesn't re-affirm anything thats going on.

So while I think the story could be a good story if read continuously, in the format in which it was used it falls apart. A shame too. Writing for a movie is completely different than writing for a comic book and the same can be said for videogames.

Devin Greer said...

That's all I heard about the convention, the person I heard it from wasn't really a reliable source at all. But since it was God Of War related, I didn't want to miss out on anything. I understand how you feel about the Jak games... They are extremely hard for someone who doesn't have the skill for a platformer, I'm not saying that's your case, that's just the only complaint I would ever have. Other than some other repetitive issues. I picked up Daxter, also. I beat it, and yeah, I have to admint, it was really repetitive, and the last boss was a bitch. But as a fan, I dealt with it.

I also just got Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters for my PSP, and I have to say, if you like any of the PS2 games, you'll love this. Some of the mini-games are a little too... annoying? But other than that it's probably the best PSP game yet. Unless there are plans to make a God Of War game for PSP...?

Trust me, I'll be there on March 13th. My dad said he'll let me skip school that day to go buy it, come back home and play it. I plan to take that opportunity. It looks so awesome, even so much more awesome than the first game, it's hard to believe...

-Devin Greer

Devin Greer said...

Oh yeah, and God Of War II is released in the U.S. (where I live) in 20 days, 7 hours, 45 minutes, give or take a few seconds... Right... NOW!