Monday, May 9

Shattered Earth

I finally managed to put the Gears of War 3 beta behind me, despite the fact it is still running. Naturally, any game experienced afterwards would be subject to an unfair level of expectation. Besides, how could anything top three straight weeks of non-stop evisceration?

Thanks to a generous friend, I spent a few hours playing Section 8: Prejudice on PC. That's right! I played a recent release on my humble laptop. To be entirely honest, the campaign has been nothing but ham. Bland ham. Not quite spam, but still lacking any real sense of originality. Sure the environments are colourful, but the voice-acting is just woeful and the action fails to excite almost entirely. For the latter, primarily because it is so predictable. The training mission makes it blatantly clear what kind of set pieces you'll encounter and surprisingly enough, they mostly centre on movement.

To give you an idea of what I mean, at the end of an obstacle course players are told they need to sprint into what is known as "overdrive" - sprinting really fast - and then jetpack jump across a large gap. Since the first instance, I've been required to perform the same move twice in about two hours of play when a really thin bridge collapses. There was also a baffling sequence where I was required to dodge an expansive field of lasers while in overdrive. Trial-and-error gameplay at its worst. Funnily enough though, I've overdrived past a lot of firefights because the gunplay is pretty uninspiring. Those few times that I was forced to fire were almost painful. Aim large, powerful rifle at hulking space marines. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Things changed for the better (dramatically) once I started playing the competitive multiplayer mode, Conquest.

Spawning alone is a source of much enjoyment. It starts off innocuously enough; players select a place on the map to spawn set against a metallic background. Once you confirm your desired starting location though, that bland, industrious background separates and players are shot towards the ground at break-neck speed. You can choose to brake, and drift away from the spot you initially chose, or you can hurtle towards the ground with a tremendous impact. You can dispatch players and even destroy structures by landing on them. I rejoiced nearly every time I died because it meant that I could once again fire myself at the earth and potentially destroy something (or someone).

Conquest is an objective-based mode that requires players to vie for control points in each map as well as complete Dynamic Combat Missions (DCM) as the match progresses. DCMs involve anything from item retrieval to convoy interception and really add a lot to what would normally have been a pretty derivative experience. Some of the objectives aren't overly clear, and you might head to an objective marker on the map with no real idea of how to proceed.

You can also purchase vehicles, turrets and supply depots which can add a chaotic twist to the dynamic matches. Anti-air turrets are perhaps the biggest impediment to success, but placing some missile turrets on the road to an enemy's DCM is a sure fire way to rack up kills. The most unusual aspect of the multiplayer action in Section 8: Prejudice is the scoreboard. In that kill/death ratios are typically well in favour of the latter, even at the top of each team's respective list.

While you could definitely skip the single player component, based on my experience so far, I would strongly recommend a download. Particularly given the low cost of admission.

I also returned to Crysis 2 after a lengthy hiatus. Not because I wasn't enjoying it. More because Killzone 3 and Homefront were both powerfully disappointing. I don't believe that I'm too far off completing the campaign, but the intensity ramped up significantly after so much as loading my previous save. It's as though (a couple of months ago) I called it a day just before it showed its true potential.

I'll have a little bit more to say about the Gears 3 beta before it's all said and done. However, I'm sure you were all happy to read about something that didn't involve lancers.

What did you guys play this weekend?

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