Dear Diary: I haven't posted about what I've been playing in two months and now I have a massive backlog of stuff to talk about. This is going to be a long one...
Ace Attorney 4: Apollo Justice: I just don't like this game, man. They went off in a new direction with the story, with a seven-year timeskip, putting you in the shoes of a greenhorn lawyer and reframing series hero Phoenix Wright as a down-and-out bum with a mysterious daughter, and I actually like all that. It's just the game itself I couldn't get along with. The cases and the writing and the stuff it expects you to do in court are just all irritating and unintuitive, and I probably had to check a walkthrough for the answer more than any other game in the series. I could not get on this game's wavelength for the life of me. Just a really frustrating experience all round.
Yakuza Kenzan: This is one of two Yakuza spinoffs set in period Japan which were never localized into English, the other being Ishin on the PS4. Where Ishin is set in around the 1860s, Kenzan is way back in 1605ish, and where Ishin was a really excellent early PS4 game, Kenzan is a really terrible early, early PS3 game. I'm talking pre-Trophies early. I'm talking, this is literally the third game the Yakuza team ever made, early. This game is a tedious, frustrating ordeal with one of the worst combat systems I've ever endured in an action game, and after an OK start it all went sour and I ended up hating every moment of the last 10-15 hours or so. Don't worry about not being able to play this one in English. It's the only Yakuza game that I just haven't enjoyed at all, and I've now actually played all of them.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Remember this game? The licensed tie-in game for the godawful Wolverine standalone movie from like... 2009ish? I always really loved this game, which was a fun little character action game that was far better than it had any right to be, but I never managed to get the Platinum Trophy in it. I missed out on a collectible Trophy by missing two out of the ninety-five whatsits they expected you to pick up, and the thought of having to start over again from the beginning was so demoralizing I never went back to it. UNTIL NOW, that is! Ladies and gentlemen, almost ten years to the day after I first started this game, I'm now the proud owner of my longest-in-the-making Platinum Trophy yet. I started a new playthrough on Hard mode to clean up the last two Trophers I needed, and there it is.
If you can get over the fact that it's an Unreal Engine 3 game from ten years ago, and thus runs at about 18FPS and the textures take 30 seconds to load in for every new environment, Wolverine is just such a fun game. You can hurl yourself at enemies like a hairy, screaming banshee, you can make people eat their own shotguns, you can just throw a guy at anything, any time you like; it's brilliant. It was made by Raven Software, which was a wonderful little AA game developer with an incredible track record (Jedi Outcast, X-Men Legends and Singularity to name a few) that was unfortunately set to work in the Call of Duty mines shortly after Wolverine came out and hasn't worked on a game without COD in the title since. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but it really does suck that the game industry is like this.
Anyway, that was basically the last hurrah for my old Playstation 3, too. With Yakuza Kenzan and that Wolverine Platinum checked off my to-do list, I don't need the PS3 hooked up to my TV any more, so farewell you old... workhorse, I guess. You were by far my least favourite of the four Playstations, with your slow-as-molasses OS and your endless need for System Updates, but I still must have spent at least a thousand hours playing video games on you, you big lug.
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare: Another game that's been hanging over my head for like ten years now. I finished RDR back in the day, and then I put it down for good, but eventually Rockstar came out with that Halloween DLC with all the zambamboes and I bought it... only to never ever actually load it up. I did mean to, but, y'know, these things happen. Anyway, now I have this Xbox One X, and Red Dead Redemption is one of those games that gets up-res'd to full 4K via backwards compatibility, so I thought I'd load it up and give it a go. It does look really nice at 4K, in that particular super-clean way that an old game raised to a skyhigh resolution always will, but unfortunately the DLC was just the most boring thing. It seems like the only gameplay idea Rockstar could come up with was "shoot waves of zombies", because that's all I did for the first few main quests, and then a couple of hours later the main quests dried up and the game told me to go and do some side content to progress in the story. Guess what the side content is. Yeah, I didn't stick with this one for long.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune: Hey, remember this game? The game that literally taught me how to use my right thumb to aim at things in video games? An absolute, genre-defining masterpiece that inspired countless cinematic action spectacles to follow? Guess what: it's still incredible. I haven't gone back to the PS3 Uncharteds in years, but playing Drake's Fortune again was like slipping into an old jacket and having it still fit perfectly. What a fabulous game. The dialogue still zings, the characters are still immediately lovable, the pacing is still excellent. I blasted through the whole thing in a couple of play sessions, feeling that wonderful sense of half-nostalgia, half-rediscovering things I'd plum forgotten about and being delighted anew. What a game.
I played the PS4 remaster, and I tried to find all the differences between the original game and the remake but, to be honest, I just can't remember the original game well enough. From what I could dredge up from my mothbitten memories, I know they've updated Uncharted 1's grenade controls to have their own dedicated button like the latter two games, which is a nice convenience, but it unfortunately loses the Sixaxis gyro controls for grenade aiming that let you hurl 'nades ridiculously far by flicking your controller upwards. You don't have to Sixaxis-balance across narrow beams and logs, but I don't actually remember if you had to do that in the original (or if I'm just confusing it with every other early PS3 game ). I know they updated the characters' face models for the PS4 version, and I remember not liking that when I first found out, but time has healed that wound because (stop me if you've heard this one before) I just don't remember what the original game looked like well enough. At the end of the day, there are always going to be trade-offs with any video game remaster, and considering this one made me fall in love with one of my favourite games all over again I'm going to call it a solid win.
Days Gone: I should probably give this one its own post, since I spent like a month playing this game and ended up getting the Platinum Trophy. I might come back and do that, but for now I'll give you the main points: I liked this game, but it's really heavily flawed, and having finished the whole thing I came away thinking that Bend Studio basically buried their best, most unique gameplay idea under a pile of overly-familiar, repetitive, generic AAA open world guff that just wasn't necessary. Days Gone is the same giant open-world full of bandit camps to clear out that you've seen a dozen times this generation, except those games usually have some kind of unique selling point to set them apart. A unique setting, a distinctive art style, a great story or a likable cast of characters. Horizon has its robo-dinosaurs and its bow-based combat, Assassin's Creed has its historical settings, Far Cry has its irreverent tone and a bear friend named Cheeseburger. Days Gone is exactly what everyone picked it as the moment we saw the E3 reveal: it's The Last of Us with bikers.
The first 15 hours or so of Days Gone are straight up bad, then it hits its stride for a while with some genuinely great characters and writing, then towards the end it starts to peter out again. This game is long, surprisingly so at like 60 hours for just a story playthrough, and most of it is just repetitive slow-walking and bandit-camp stuff. Then almost at the tail end of the story it finally starts pitting you against zombie Hordes. Horde combat is a life-or-death matter of staying on the move while hundreds upon hundreds of zamblers just pour out of the environment in an almost fluid wave of rotting flesh. You have to use the environment to your advantage, trying desperately to funnel them through chokepoints to buy yourself any kind of room to breathe; they move faster than your run but slower than your sprint, so you're always on the verge of being overtaken. It's where the game finally comes alive; you have to use everything at your disposal to defeat an entire Horde, and it's just brilliant.
But the story only pits you against like four of them, and the game only gives you the powerful weapons you need to take them on after like 40-50 hours of bandit-camp-'em-up rubbish. This game should have been all Hordes, all the time. Forget the bandit camps, forget the crafting and XP and skill trees and side quests that all AAA open worlds are apparently required to have, strip Days Gone into a lean, mean 20-30 hours of Horde fighting, and you would have a really incredible game. Like I said, Bend Studio didn't do justice to their own best feature. As it is, though, I honestly can't recommend anyone devoting all those dozens of hours to this game when there's just better stuff out there. Take those same 15 hours it takes for Days Gone to even get good and you can almost play the entirety of The Last of Us. And have a better time doing it.
Bloodborne: I told you I was going to play this after finishing Sekiro. I just started it up today and I like it so far. The way Yarnham twists and turns back in on itself to re-use the same bonfire is really brilliant, and I'm having fun with the combat. I went with the whip cane weapon and I like the dynamic of gentlemanly rapier strikes for power and devious bladed-whip cracks to just melt groups of dudes after I bait them into narrow areas and they obediently line up for me.
I'm still dying over and over like an idiot, of course, but I feel like I've made some reasonably good progress. I beat the Cleric Beast in maybe six or seven tries, and I think I've explored just about every nook and cranny and found every item available to me right now (I know I'm probably missing a whole area hidden behind some detritus, though ). There's a big angry pig/rat-looking thing chilling out in a little tunnel that I'm too scared to visit right now, but maybe I'll come back to him later.
EDIT - Good news: I found a way around the big scary pig, stabbed it super hard in the butthole and now it's dead. Bad news: this Father Gascoigne fellow is really, really tough
EDIT - k I beat Father Gascoigne, finally. It was a really fun fight once I got the hang of parrying him with gunshots, but the run from the bonfire to the boss really grated on me after a while. I think I spent longer fighting Gascoigne than any individual Sekiro boss, but half of that time was probably just me running from the bonfire to the graveyard over and over to start the fight. I can already tell that I'm not a fan of this Blood Vial system, either. Oh well, let's see what the next area has in store for me. I just got grabbed by some kind of giant invisible tree thing in a graveyard, so I'm thinking it should be pretty interesting.