Deconstructing the Game: Renegade Ops

Renegade Ops. Just say it with me again. Renegade. Ops. … Bad ass.

Beyond its name I really didn’t know much about Renegade Ops. I had seen a preview or two, but I pretty much just wrote it off as some random, destined to fail XBLA title. Then I realized it was Avalanche Studios with Sega publishing, so I gave it a little more of a look. Eventually when the game was up on XBLA I downloaded the demo and I was immediately convinced I had to buy it.

Renegade Ops is a finely tuned arcade throwback vehicle shooter with an impressive current gen paint job. This may sound like many other titles on the service, but make no mistake; Renegade Ops is definitely its own game. While using two sticks, one to steer, the other to aim and shoot, you weave through beautifully rendered environments and shoot/ram/blow up everything that stands in your way all while completing mini missions toward the overall stage goal. My explanation may be an over simplification, but let me put it this way: After I bought the game, I spent the next two days pushing through until I beat it, and I don’t really do that for many titles. Renegade Ops is a downloadable gem that deserves everyone’s attention. Continue reading

Deconstructing the game: Combatribes

Ah Combatribes. Combatribes was an interesting game because, as things just sorta happened back when I was a kid, it was at my friend’s house one day after school ready to fire up in his Super Nintendo. I think he rented it, but I’m not really sure.As a kid with a whole afternoon to play after homework, I would sit there trying to beat the game mostly because I was stubborn and Combatribes was such a pain in the ass. I can’t really remember if I was having fun or just pushing through frustration, kinda like the feeling of fighting M. Bison, boss of Street Fighter II, in the arcade.

When I went back to play Combatribes as an adult looking for good brawler source material, I came up without much at all. There was a wasteland of poorly implemented mechanics where I once saw the spark of brilliance. Continue reading

Deconstructing the Game: Darksiders

Darksiders had a lot of buzz leading up to its release because it was “God of War meets Zelda”. Then come review time the game was penalized for that very same reason because it wasn’t original enough. You know what? Screw the press, because Darksiders is a great Zelda-esque game with a heavy emphasis on varied high energy fighting and not God of War meets anything because, as I will always say, God of War is not a standard bearer except for how the industry ignores innovators when something more to their liking comes along. How else would people ignore Devil May Cry and Castlevania on PS2 and Ninja Gaiden on Xbox when they were the true innovators of 3D violence with God of War being, much like Darksiders, a coalescing of action game features.

Despite all of the comparisons to other games, Darksiders is a great game on its own merit. The designers might have had Zelda on the brain in many not so subtle ways when planning the game, but the finished product apes ideas from a bunch of games/genres to create a game that feels like a natural progression of where the action adventure genre should be moving toward and not just like an overly derivative rip fest. Continue reading

Deconstructing the Game: Mass Effect 2

Let me just say this right away; I love Mass Effect 2. For all of the things that I hated about ME1, Mass Effect 2 not only fixed, but for the most part fixed in such a manner that I can’t even comprehend how the first game led to the creation of the second.

Not everything was made better in ME2, but it was a great gaming experience. The following is going to be a very comparison heavy deconstruction because it’s very hard to remove one game from the other, especially playing both Mass Effect games back to back like I did. The one thing I must stress is that despite loving ME2, it is not perfect, especially when looking back on the individual mechanics separated from each other and under direct scrutiny of whether they were good choices or not. At the end of the day these articles aren’t reviews, but me breaking down a game to find what made it good overall, even if the negatives outnumber the positives. Continue reading

Deconstructing the game: Mass Effect

Anyone following me on twitter can see that my relationship with Mass Effect has been one of love and hate; mostly hate. I remembered really liking the game when I started it up back in 2007 but that was a very busy year work wise for me and so I never got too far on the first planet I traveled to, Noveria. When I returned to the game I only felt it was right to start over so as to get the full experience and then just plow through to the end.

While playing through the game I ran into a lot of hurdles toward my enjoyment of the experience. For every ten issues I would have, however, one great moment of sheer brilliance would show up that would keep me playing. I guess you could say it was similar to my experience with Hotel Dusk in a way, except Hotel Dusk wasn’t by a “AAA” developer and also isn’t an RPG.

Mass Effect is a great story wrapped around a game marred by a lot of problems that really get in the way of the actual gameplay being fun enough for all the effort put into completing it. While playing through the game I kept thinking about how much better SNES RPGs handled some of the same things that Mass Effect tried to tackle on almost every level such as inventory systems, switching partners, informing the player of how to play when a new vehicle is introduced (hell, ALL of that is in Chrono Trigger alone, let alone others), etc. and so forth. Continue reading

Deconstructing the game: Vanquish

Ah Vanquish… where do I start? I’d be lying if I said the first trailer, you know the one that featured live action footage and flying flower petals, blew my socks off. Or even had me anything more than perplexed. I mean, here was a brand new game by quirky awesome developer Platinum games, and it looked… bland and a hint like Halo and Gears of War. The white suit, the live action… the current trend of bullshit space marine games being popular in the west… I was worried that Vanquish was a compromise to try to make a western friendly game for a studio that generally does its own thing.

The reality is that Vanquish, while a game rife with space marines in it while also on the surface very Western friendly, doesn’t follow the curve; it rocket slides around it, under it, laughs at it and turns around and shoots it in the fucking face with rocket launcher; while in slow motion. Vanquish is an amazingly playable cover based shooter that stands out in a genre that I usually find to be not compelling and somewhat generic. Continue reading

Deconstructing the game: Hotel Dusk: Room 215

Hotel Dusk is a hard game to judge. It is essentially an advanced interactive choose your own adventure book with little bits of exploration and adventure game type gameplay here and there. The story is absolutely integral to the game, more so than many others, and how much you enjoy the story and characters will either wreck the game entirely or make it one of the more enjoyable games you have played. In the end I had a more positive than negative experience with the game where the negatives ended up being far outweighed by what was good about the title. This may surprise you as you read on. Continue reading

Deconstructing the game: Bayonetta

As with the 1st DtG, I will only write one of these once I have beaten a game as a way to go back and reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of a games playability, pacing, etc. These “articles” from now on will pretty much ignore what the game looks or sounds like because in the the end graphics and sound are usually far down the list for what makes a game “good” to me.

After buying Bayonetta on launch date, booting it up for a bit and then picking it up again several months later, I finally beat the damn game and I had a great time doing it. Bayonetta is a game that I bought with a bit of hesitance because I didn’t initially know how I was going to feel about it. With Devil May Cry 3’s horrific difficulty still fresh in my mind, I feared for the worst with this one, but pulled the trigger because I have a soft spot for Platinum Games’, well, games. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised with a game with a perfect default difficulty level that required intelligent playing to get better scores, but even when not at my best I could still manage to checkpoint to checkpoint my way through stages. Continue reading