28 June, 2016

Keepalive: Long Form Games, Dying Light: The Following

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, 28 June 2016

I've been switching between a number of longer games lately.  Switching keeps things fresh, but drastically lengthens the time between write ups.  Currently I'm mostly playing Dead Rising 2: Off The Record with some Yakuza 4 thrown in.

It's not much of a spoiler to say that Off The Record is basically still Dead Rising 2, but I played Dead Rising 2 multiple times and this gives me an excuse to play it again.  I actually miss Chuck Greene and his daughter.  Replacing them with unattached Frank West lowers the stakes considerably.  Plus his camera mechanic makes Frank kind of a vulture.  On the plus side there's some new content.  Also, the game runs really well.  And the Steam integration even includes the ability to import your Games For Windows Live save file.  They got a lot of technical bits right.  I'm sad they didn't have the resources to do the same for Dead Rising 3, which by many accounts has performance issues.  I picked it up anyway to see how it behaves.  It'll go in my new PC hope chest if it chugs.

I started to play Yakuza 4 yesterday.  My character has just had a tearful reunion, and I was eager to see what came next.  But then some random guy in a yellow gi asked me to help his struggling dojo, so I took two young fighters (one trying to impress a girl and one trying to get some self confidence after losing his job) and trained them up to the point where they won local championships.  This was a fully fleshed out mini-game where you choose training activities for your fighters, upgrade your dojo with the prize money they win, and even go out drinking with them to learn what motivates them and build trust.  I'm guessing it shares underpinnings with the hostess management mini-game, but not knowing it was there still made it a ridiculous surprise.  The surprises are what keep me coming back to the Yakuza games.

Dying Light: The Following (3 of 5)

This is a random glamour shot at a scenic park.  You can see the tour buses parked below, the countryside, and Harran, the city from the original game.  The scale is awesome, even if I had to turn down the settings so much that everything looks all scratchy.

I enjoyed Dying Light a lot.  First person parkouring is still pretty great and makes many other FPS games feel stuck in the mud.  I'd forgotten how much I missed that freedom until I was stuck in a room with too many zombies and suddenly realized that windows, purely for looking / shooting through in most games, could be climbed through.  Oh yeah.  Like in real life.

Okay, so I still appreciate the core of Dying Light.  Unfortunately they added a buggy.  I'm not against the idea, but it didn't work for me.  The buggy sucks initially.  There are tons of obstacles on the roads so there's no feeling of freedom.  It's like they wanted the buggy to follow the same trajectory as the parkour.  It starts weak, but as you add abilities and learn the lines of the map, you gain satisfaction from mastery.  But starting from zero again was a drag when I already had maxed out parkour abilities.  The new abilities gained for the car didn't change the lines I could take through the map in interesting ways.  And, most importantly, I wanted the buggy to be a change of pace, and it wasn't.  It felt like the parkour but not as good.

I enjoyed The Following.  And even though the buggy wasn't great.  I'm glad Techland didn't just play it safe.

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