Friday, October 19, 2012

Demo Friday: I cheated and bought one

It's an odd Demo Friday. One of the game came out last week and I have been playing it on and off since then (because it is free) and one of this week's releases was purchased sight unseen. It must be getting close to Christmas.

Ok, now who has the toilet paper?
Please take a second to get over just how stupid the name 'Happy Wars' is. Yes, it's really, really bad. While you are getting past that work you way right on by the weeble wobble looking characters and otherwise simple graphics. What's left? Take away what the game looks like and what you do is very much like Unreal Tournament 3's conquest mode, just in a smaller area, minus the vehicles, plus different classes. Characters all start each match at level 1 and gain levels and abilities as the game progresses. A character's rank determines what equipment they can use, which means that a newb level 1 is still going to get murdered by a higher ranked player but it does keep the crazy magic and abilities off the table until they are needed.

Items are handed out for completing tasks and challenges instead of the standard enemy drops or hidden chests. They can be equipped and customized at the players leisure, adding a definite RPG element to the chaos. Keeping all the data server side makes prevents cheating, so you can be pretty sure that the 30 rank wizard that just toasted ten men from across the map put in his time and earned it. Either that or he opened up his wallet and bought it. Happy Wars is free but you can spend real money on in game money and tickets, then use the tickets to buy new weapons and armor or upgrade existing equipment. It is tempting but not required; playing for free is still fun.

Or it would be if I could connected to a game regularly.

Match making takes forever and is unsuccessful a solid 75% of the time. I do not understand why I could jump into and out of UT 2003 servers with custom maps and a hundred people playing but Happy Wars struggles to match up 30. Actually, I do understand: that awesome UT server was a dedicated box of godlike specifications and Happy Wars is probably hosted by whoever signed in first, regardless of the quality of their internet connection. Fix the match making and Happy Wars would be a very good low impact mulitplayer time waster. Right now it is a novelty and little else. And it looks too cute and has a terrible name.

You can make it through three paragraphs without a serious joke. Seriously, you can do it.
I should have played Serious Sam 3 eight months ago but my computer was not up to the task. A console release means that the game will actually run without melting the box doing the work. It may not look as good as it would have on a high end computer but the frame rate should stay somewhere north of 30. This console port is accurate to its PC cousin right down to including a frame rate meter. It does indeed stay above 30 most of time, though there is the occasional dip, usually at the worst possible time . Having seen better looking game run more smoothly I choose to blame the company that ported it and give Croteam a pass.

What they did get right was the translation of mouse and key board to thumb sticks. Serious Sam: The First Encounter on the oXbox was almost unplayable in my opinion because it made no concessions to the change in input. Translation: it was just as fast and hectic and you couldn't keep up with your thumbs. Serious Sam 3, I will admit, cheats. There is gracious auto-aim, should you choose to enable it, and if your cross hairs are anywhere close to the target bullets will connect. This does lead to shots that really should have missed hitting but it doesn't make the game any easier.

Sam is still out numbered several hundred to one and all the auto-aim in the world can't remove that challenge. Bosses are giant and unfair. Enemies types are mixed just right to keep you on your toes, though the death blow is almost always delivered by that one kleer who you forgot about. I will put Sam's enemies up against the monsters in Doom any day. Each has their own unique attacks and more importantly a unique sound. You know when there is a kleer or fifty hiding around the corner, waiting to kill you from behind after you circle strafe around it. There is an intensity here that is unmatched even by the scripted segments of big budget shooters because it is more straight forward. Sam walks into a field. Enemies appear and run at him.

I heard you missed me.

Shoot them or die.

Someone didn't want to wait in line.
Zombie Driver HD sounds pretty good on paper. Take a car, put guns on it, drive over zombies. Add in random quests and tadaa, a pretty good downloadable title. That would have worked, too, if someone hadn't had two really bad ideas between the board room and going gold. First, ammo should not be limited. There are a lot of zombies to kill. Running them over slows down the car significantly, but ammo is scarce to the point that I ended up saving it for only the densest hoards.

Secondly, the car should handle less like a real car and more they do in a twin stick shooter. Assault Heroes comes to mind: the vehicles behave in an almost realistic way but getting them to go where you want to go is never difficult. The cars in Zombie Driver actually behave like cars, up to and including a limited turning radius and having to actually use reverse to get out of corners. Many missions require you to kill a specific number of zombies. This is easy when they are in a group. When these are only one or two left, though, I ended up circling them in frustration because I couldn't turn sharp enough to hit it and I was out of bullets.

So close. A shame, too, because it is a good looking game. I think they might have actually tried to hard and gone for more realistic gusto than was needed. Sometimes you just want to squash zombies. Having to fight a taxi with rotten handling to do so kills all the fun.

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