Monday, June 13, 2011

The end of balance

Enough whining, time to talk about the new Red Faction.

I do not pay nearly as close attention to gaming news as I used to. My evenings used to be dividing equally between playing games and reading about games that I might play in the future. Shortly after leaving gaming retail the self exposed expectation of 'gaming encyclopedia' fell away and my time was better spent playing just about everything. This is a long, boring way of explaining that I was expecting Red Faction: Armageddon to be the same kind of open world game as Red Faction: Guerrilla. I played for the first two hours waiting for the game to open up so I could grab some explosives and start knocking shit down, which is exactly what I did and had a blast doing in Guerrilla. After two more hours of modestly entertaining but linear levels I turned it off and looked the game up. Silly me, this isn't supposed to be like Guerrilla at all, it is more in line with the first Red Faction. It took a bit to reign my expectations back towards what was actually being presented, but once I did I was left with a pretty good shooter.

The Red Faction games have always been about doing damage to the environment, but the level of damage was always limited by the fact that you had to be able to walk out of the destruction you wrought. Armageddon finally gets around this by letting the player magically repair almost any damage that has been done. This would have been better if there was still the free form destruction from Guerrilla, but it does make for some much more interesting combat when the monsters can blow up the stairs you need to use to escape. I'm all for environmental permanence whenever possible, so seeing the path I need to follow to get out littered with debris and bodies is a nice touch, even if they had to include an environmental reset button to get there.

It would be easy for me to remain irrationally upset with Crysis 2 and call Red Faction a better game, but it most certainly is not. It does not look as good and lacks even the modest variety that Crysis had; it's just not a AAA title, somewhere in the single A or perhaps the B range. Still, Crysis 2 felt like an arrogant graduate from a high end school flaunting all the big important things in learned by doing big, important, annoying things. To run with that analogy, Armageddon is a product of the frat house filled with people who may or may not actually graduate. It's fun, but playing through it from beginning to end may very well kill brain cells.


Street Fighting as a spectator sport is a relatively new phenomena. I am not what would be described as a stream monster, but I did have both CEO and ReveLAtions running at the same time. CEO was probably the best top 8 I have ever seen, mostly because the twin invasion was snuffed out before the top four. I am afraid that this will be the last time we get to see one like it; the pros who jumped on Yun or Yang simply had not had enough time to comfortable enough with the characters to keep up with the players who stuck by their men, regardless of 'balance' changes. It made me quite happy to see the top three consisting of Mike Ross (Honda) Sabin (Dhalsim and Rose) and Tokido (Akuma). Mike Ross in particular made a huge through the losers bracket, taking out Justin Wong for the first time in his life. The grand final was a bit of a let down, but ti was still better than what RevaLAtions ended up with.

While I cannot blame Daigo for finally leaving Ryu, watching Jun mirror matches is not a good time. Watching Yun fight Fei Long in the grand finals was not much better. In the end, this is what Street Fighter will have to offer from this point forward. As the pros with less character loyalty (and that is not meant as a slight) migrate over to the clearly top tier characters the 'product' will become less enjoyable to consume.

I really, really hope that Daigo doesn't win E3 with Yun. Come on Mike Ross; I believe.

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