Monday, December 13, 2010

Metriod: Other M (Video Game, Wii)

Other M is the newest installment of the classic and popular Nintendo franchise, Metroid.  Behind its development was a team called "Project M" which consisted of programmers from Nintendo and Team Ninja (the team behind Ninja Gaiden).  The goal of bringing in new talent to this old franchise was to really re-invent the Metroid game.  Well, Other M is definitely a new take at a classic game, but does it work?

The first aspect of the game worth pointing out is that the game utilizes both first and third person views during game play while only using the Wii control without the use of a nunchuck.  Surprisingly, the Wii picks up on the transitions relatively well.  The premise for these two modes is that when you are battling enemies you could do powerful finishing moves during normal encounters in third person and finding secrets and pushing buttons and triggers could be done in first person, makes sense, for now.

The game is a graphical masterpiece.  It is probably the most visually beautiful game on the Wii right now.  There are colorful environments and some good looking cut scenes.  Along with the visuals the voice acting is pretty good for a console game.  Most video games have a lot of trouble with voice acting (Star Ocean, Final Fantasy are a couple that come to mind); however, Other M did a decent job in providing smooth audio to complement its graphics.
An excellent, vibrant blend of colors do wonders for this games visuals.

Unfortunately, that is about all that Other M has to brag about.  While it makes for a more dynamic game, the switching of cameras from first person to third person (although it was programmed very well) is frustrating to say the least because it is used so frequently in boss battles.  It is not easy to switch views in order to shoot a missile (yes, this could only be done in first person view) at a key weak point of a mini boss while there are a bunch of other enemies shooting at you at the same time.  Your moves are too quick often times and you wind up pointing the camera away from you target by accident.  Another flaw to this system is that the camera angles are fixed in third person view.  This could be unbelievably annoying at times when trying to make jumps from platform to platform.  You could scout out the platform in first person, but if you are too high above the platform and have to jump down, the angle cuts it off from view so you wind up guessing how far you have to jump.  

Next on the vast list of shortcomings for this game is the inspection mode.  At certain times in the game, Samus (the protagonist that you play as), is forced to walk slowly, no jumping, running, using your laser cannon, nothing.  This is ridiculous.  When your fellow officer in game suggests that you search a building you figure "no problem."  Then as soon as you get going your instantly saddened by how inevitably long its going to take you to do so because you are walking sooooooooo slow.

Another odd aspect to the inspection angle is that at some points of the game it goes even further and forces you to stay in first person view, without any movement at all, and find clues on the floors, walls, or where ever.  You never really know what your looking for at these points in the game you just have to point the cursor around until you accidentally find something to lock in on.  The game does not even let up on this, you have to be on the money at pointing the cursor at what the game wants you to see.  These objects may be a very tiny name tag, a very small puddle in the grass that could be mistaken for a small inconspicuous plant, or a computer that you pointed to a million times before the game actually lets you lock in on it.  This does nothing to make you feel more involved with the game.  It only causes inpatients and frustration to the point where it has made me shut the game off.  Especially since for the most part, these clues lead to a mostly anticlimactic discovery.  
Ummm...what the hell am I looking for?
The finishing moves and action combos also needed a polishing while creating this game, or at least more testing.  Since the laser cannon is weak and awful (honestly, you may as well be lobbing vegetables at your opponents), your only choice in killing enemies in any sort of reasonable time is to use the finishing moves.  You perform this by jumping on enemies while your cannon is charged.  This feature, although great when it works, is just not polished enough.  You cannot perform this action while the enemy is performing its own attack.  If you try it during this period, you just keep awkwardly slipping of the enemies head and then probably taking damage from being in contact with it.  Also, instead of acquiring health by killing enemies like in other Metriod games, Samus has to charge herself when she is in a critical damage state.  When you are about one or two hits away from dying you have the option to try and recharge a bar of health so you could continue on.  The idea itself is not that bad; however, in order to do this you have to point the Wii remote up and hold the "A" button.  If you perform the action too fast you will find yourself rolling into a sphere (the ability that using the "A" button normally performs), which in dire circumstances, leads to death. 

One of the games finishing moves.

Yeah, that's pretty much the size of it.
Finally, the biggest complaint is about Samus herself.  Samus is supposed to be a bad-ass bounty hunter.  In this installment she finds herself having a soft spot for her old commanding officer and gladly takes his orders without question, even if they wind up hurting her in the end.  A perfect example of this is when you are in an area of the game that is surrounded by lava.  The heat from the lava does damage to you and in most other Metriod games you find an upgrade to your suit that helps you out.  In this game, you find out that you had it all along and that you did not activate it because this goofball commander does not trust you anymore...what an asshole!

Her dialogue suffers as well.  All of a sudden this silent warrior becomes a whiny and foolish cliche.  During the game, you stumble upon a facility that one of your comrades point out as a bio-weapons facility and that perhaps the team should scout out the head.  Not more than 5 minutes of game play later, Samus begins talking to herself.  She comes to the conclusion that it is indeed a bio-weapons facility.  There is no need for this re-iteration of information that was already out there.  This gives the feeling that the person who wrote the scripts for this game did not have much experience at all with it.  Even though this game had such great voice acting, the writing really takes away from it.

Overall, this game was a disappointment.  They had so much to work with, enough time to refine what they had, and the talent to make it happen; however, they dropped the ball.  As far as if a new take on an old game working is concerned, not this time.  The game forces to many awkward camera angles on you.  The game forces you to listen to endless bad dialogue.  The game forces you to have to claw through so many long and repetitive investigations.  The game forces you to do to much and all you get back in return is a mediocre gaming experience.  This game is one to rent, you'll play it once and then you'll be happy you won't have to pick it up again.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Top Gear USA (Television)

Top Gear UK is very successful and one of the most watched television programs in the world.  It would take a great deal to be able to use that name and live up to the hype.  That being said, no one could really blame Top Gear USA for performing the way it did last night on the History Channel.

This show is not this exciting.
As far as Top Gear episodes go, it was below average.  It was not very funny.  The writing was alright, typical of any UK episode, but the hosts (Adam Ferrara, Rutledge Wood, and Tanner Foust) were not good at their deliveries.  After they drove the Lamborghinis, they awkwardly teased the loser of the race (Tanner Foust).  The UK trio could have made it work but these three just do not seem to have the proper dialogue with each other to make it funny.  They managed to book Buzz Aldrin, the astronaut, as a guest, but the interview was uninteresting.  Finally, the car challenge segment (usually my favorite part of the show), which was a Dodge Viper SRT10 trying to out maneuver a Cobra Helicopter, seemed like it was really trying to force being funny.

Its alright for some episodes to not perform up to par, but this was supposed to be the first episode of the series trying to bring in the American market.  The whole point of Top Gear is be a fun show that does not take itself too seriously.  However, while tuning in last night, I had to endure awkward explanations of the different features.  The whole point of the Stig (the shows tame race car driver) is to be a mystery to the audience, he/she/it did not need an explanation, just an introduction...a funny introduction would be nice.

Clarkson, Hammond, and May just work too well together on an already established program to give Top Gear USA a chance to compete with it.  A better first episode would have included a better car challenge, perhaps something like turning a car into a boat.  We need to see more of the cast showing their personalities.  Either a more notable or entertaining guest (nothing against Aldrin, it was just a boring interview.  Part of this could be blamed on Adam Ferrara.) would make the "Big Star, Small Car" segment seem like a more memorable part of the show.

In the end, Rome was not built in a day.  Maybe Top Gear USA needs to build up in order to be compared to its English counterpart.  Fans of the Stig and motor mayhem will just have to wait and see if this new Top Gear trio could find enough chemistry to make some good footage to warrant a second season.