From The Armchair: Breezing Through The Backlog

ArmchairThe traditional ‘summer games drought’ comes as something of a relief for those, like I, who are imbued with a phenomenal gaming backlog. It’s a chance to dust off some unplayed titles and finally give them some time in the gaming spotlight before the inevitable deluge of games arrives in time for Christmas.

Then again, the summer games droughts of today are nothing like those in the past – even during the hottest months (or coldest months, if you’re down under), we still have a steady dripfeed of decent games thanks to the astonishing proliferation of games in recent years. A couple of titles have piqued my interest recently – notably Fire Emblem Fates and Tokyo Mirage Sessions: FE. In fact, I was most annoyed to have missed out on buying the lovely special edition of the latter (Amazon link here), only learning of its existence after it had sold out. I don’t normally go in for these types of thing, but I loved the Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water special edition, and I’m most miffed that the Tokyo Mirage Sessions one evaded my grasp – and now goes for silly money.

Look at it. It's so beeeaaauuuutiful.
Look at it. It’s so beeeaaauuuutiful.

Still, I’ll get around to buying both games eventually – along with No Man’s Sky, which I’m fairly certain I’ll enjoy, even if it utterly failed to float Sir Gaulian’s boat. And speaking of No Man’s Sky, one reason that I’m racing through my backlog is to sell my finished games and put the money towards buying a PS4, so I can finally, FINALLY, join the current generation.

I wrote about Journey and Uncharted 2 earlier this week after finishing them, but I’ve also dipped back in to Killzone 3, which came bundled with my PS3. I’d previously played about two-thirds of it before eventually drifting away, and I headed back in last week with the idea of finishing it. But in the end I decided I just didn’t have the patience to see the whole thing to the end. It’s an odd game really – despite being set in space, it feels more like a Call of Duty game thanks to its preoccupation with military tech, and the way it features lots of soldiers shouting at each other in military speak. It also reminded me a little of Gears of War, except the protagonists are instantly forgettable, unlike Marcus Fenix and company. It also sorely lacks great big ugly aliens.

Pew pew pew pew pew pew!
Pew pew pew pew pew pew!

Still I was grinning at the ludicrousness of the Helghast, a.k.a. Nazis in space. The ridiculousness of the setting made it feel like an entertaining B movie, along the lines of Iron Sky. I was also impressed with the graphics, which still look astonishingly good after five years. But in the end, as I fought my way through various factories and corridors, I just realised I wasn’t enjoying myself very much. It felt like a battle of attrition, lacking the light touch of Halo’s better entries, and not sufficiently OTT to rival Gears of War‘s better moments.

It’s basically just OK. Not bad, but not amazingly good either. And judging by my reaction to it, I doubt I’ll bother playing Killzone 2, which I picked up for an absolute pittance a couple of years ago.

Last week I also dived into Sonic Generations, which is reputed to be one of the better Sonic games of recent years. The hook this time is that you get to play as classic Sonic on 2D levels as well as modern Sonic in 3D, the latter with his trademark skinny legs and beach-ready tummy.

"Where are we going?" "Do you mean direction-wise, or as a franchise?"
“Where are we going?” “I don’t know!” “That’s the problem!”

It’s no secret that Sega have struggled to recreate the highs of 1990s Sonic games, but I’m of the opinion that even those early efforts weren’t all that great. They were fun to play at the time, but ultimately the gameplay is incredibly shallow. And the concept also seems to be fundamentally flawed – the main fun to be had is in going really fast, but going at any sort of speed in the 2D levels means that you simply can’t see any obstacles in your way. Sonic Generations‘ solution is to feature lots of on rails segments where you travel at phenomenal speeds but basically have little or no control of where you’re going.

I played through the first few levels, and they were pretty good fun, but I felt my interest fade very quickly. I bought the game a while back, thinking that perhaps this would be the one that might finally make me ‘get’ Sonic. But I’m still mystified as to the appeal. And as I finally realised a while ago, I just don’t like 2D platformers that much.

So, having knocked off a few games from The Mantelpiece, I’m scanning the teetering pile for my next target. I’m on a roll now – could this finally be the year when I clear out my gaming backlog? Possibly. Although there’s always the danger that I’ll just end up buying more… Ooooh, look, Virtue’s Last Reward is down to £9.99 on the Nintendo eShop!