Backtracking, MadWorld, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

Backlog trackback #2 – Playing Rambo

Continuing my trek through my backlog, I’m beginning to think I may be doing this too quickly. Sure, there are some games that may warrant a look in the summer months, so maybe that will help me, but even then I’m hoping that I don’t have a gaping hole of time where my time is spent being productive, or, someone forbid, reading something. There are some games in that pile that reward extended periods of play, the time that one would only have, say, now. Other games, though, you could blow through in an afternoon, assuming you’re dedicated to it. So over two weekends, I played:

MadWorld: You wouldn’t even have to dedicate most of an afternoon to MadWorld; my first run through the game took me about 3 and a half hours. That alone does not make it bad, though. The game has a pretty unique story (which is the equivalent of a “B” movie), presented in stylish comic book style. The entire game is in black and white, (save for a few instances of other colors like blood and sound effects) which definitely separates it from the crowd of vibrant and rainbow-puking colors that dominate the Wii library. The voice actors all do their jobs pretty well, and they all are all certainly believable, even if some of them overdue it sometimes.

Hamming it up is appropriate for MadWorld, though; the whole game seems to be doing so. The main character has a chainsaw for an arm, enemies come in spades and spew double their body weight in blood when you slice through them with said chainsaw, and the bosses are equally extravagant characters. The setting is a game called DeathWatch, where sponsored fighters kill each other for the title of champion among killers. Also, there’s a character who calls himself the Black Baron, who is as stereotypical as they come, and most of the women in the game are equally objectified. It’s really hard to tell whether Platinum Games is being ironic or not (though I presume it’s the former. I hope.)

Even with such over-the-top action as its main attraction it can’t help but be bad in bad ways (and not in the ironic sense that it’s trying to be). The animations for characters are on par with some of the early-to-mid PS2 games, with characters simply moving their hands over keyboards quickly to simulate typing, heads bobbing and mouths moving for talking, and a general sense of underproduction. This could all be on purpose, in which case the joke is on me, but it doesn’t exactly make it a better product. And while it’s presented very nicely, the story is pretty basic Game of Death stuff with some government conspiracy thrown in. The production issues killed some of the joy for me, but it was still a pretty nice thrill, even if it was brief.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune: Another game with lots of enemies to kill. The difference this time, though, is that there is also other stuff to do. Namely, platforming. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Assassin’s Creed, with its all-natural and enjoyable landscapes, but by comparison, Uncharted feels phony. Every ledge you can climb on feels fabricated, you know where they all are, you know which ones will fall off and when you need to turn the camera around to look at where you’re supposed to go. It’s very straightforward stuff, so, for the most part, you know where you’re going. However, even it is phony and linear, it’s still fun; it’s always a good feeling when you jump a gap on the side of a wall to get to the next protruding rock. The puzzles are pretty rudimentary, but they do some interesting stuff towards the end and, should you ever get stuck, Drake has a handy guidebook to help you out. As a “my first platformer“, it does its job well.

If you’re also looking for action, there are the aforementioned people to kill. And well, Uncharted simplifies that as well. You have two weapons, grenades, the targeting is really simple (THERE IS A CIRCLE SHOOT THE BAD GUYS WITH IT), you have a simple cover mechanic, and your health is indicated by how faded the colors on the screen are (black and white means you’re about to die). So, if there’s a sense of trying to reach a wide audience, why is actually killing these people so frustrating? You’ll usually encounter no less than 5 of them at a time, and their aim is usually dead on (especially with grenades). You can change the difficulty on the fly, and I did so to put the odds in my favor (as one usually does), but as far as I could see, this had only the minor effect of changing my health and theirs. The shooting itself is pretty satisfying, I would’ve just preferred that there was less than half a pueblo to fight throughout the course of the game.

The really interesting part about the game, though, is mostly everything else. The tropical island of wherever they are looks fantastic, the characters and facial expressions are realistic, and there’s very little to distract you from that. The story wreaks of Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider, but it makes good use of it. Drake himself is a very well-written character, with some snarky dialogue that makes him a likeable guy without making him feel marketed and idealistic. Over the course of my 8-and-a-half hour run through the game, I found myself playing the game just hear Drake talk some more. The game itself is pretty ordinary as something you play, but with just enough interesting narrative factors, it feels like it’s much better than that.

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