The Last of Us was my favorite game of 2013 and one of the best, if not the best, PS3 games I’ve ever played. I remember that the game was supposed to come out on a Friday and I placed my preorder weeks before the release. To my surprise, I got an e-mail on Wednesday before the launch date telling me to come over to the store and pick up the game. For whatever reason, I got The Last of Us two days before the official release date. Unfortunately, I was too busy to get into it and I didn’t want to fragment my experience so I still had to wait until the weekend to play through it. However, I decided to at least see how the game looks and I played through the prologue and it blew me away. The visuals and the sounds were amazing but, most of all, the story that began to unfold was breathtaking.
More than half a year has passed since the launch of The Last of Us, which I already beat 3 times, but on Valentine’s Day 2014 Naughty Dog did something they had never done before and released a single-player add-on to their game, bringing us an extra story chapter – Left Behind. I divided this post into three parts, first giving you my non-spoilery impressions of the game, then moving into spoiler territory and finishing with a short trophy guide. I encourage you to leave your comments and impressions below but make sure you’ve beaten the single player campaign of The Last of Us and the Left Behind chapter before diving into the latter two parts of the post!
My adventure with the HD remake of the Jak and Daxter trilogy on the Vita came to an end. I finally beat Jak 3, which I enjoyed more than Jak 2, even though the games look, sound and play very similarly. Naughty Dog pretty much reused the engine from the previous game, upscaling the models and upgrading the audio-visuals. Unfortunately, the Vita versions suffer from dramatic frame rate issues, especially with many characters on the screen at the same time. Still, the visual quality is not the most important thing in this 10-year old title and there’s no denying that the game is fun to play, with diverse missions, challenging platforming sections and cool boss battles. And you should know by now how I feel about boss battles…
I bought Killzone Mercenary the week it launched here in Europe and it was my first card released games I got for the Vita. The handheld being my travel console of choice, I prefer digital games, since I don’t want to carry the cards with me. Yet, it’s nice to get a physical game once in a while and since I expected big things from Killzone, I decided to add its box to my collection. I’ve written about my adventures with Killzone Mercenary before and I’ve been enjoying the game ever since I started playing it five months ago.
Being the trophy whunter I am, I considered having a go at the Platinum trophy but the prospect of spending many hours playing online and thinking I would suck at it made it seem unreachable. However, it turned out that multiplayer was fun and I was able to compete with many of other players and after around 50 hours of gameplay the final trophy popped up in the upper right corner of the Vita’s display.
I had to take a break from all the platforming madness that comes with the Jak and Daxter Trilogy and decided to go for a shorter, more story-driven experience. I’ve been hearing good things about Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons but I was cautions enough to avoid spoilers, believing I would find the time to play this game some day. The truth is, not much time is needed to play through Brothers but it does leave an impression, similar to titles such as Journey, which was among the top games of 2012. In Brothers, just like in Journey, not a single (understandable) word is spoken, although there is much more direct communication in form of body language and pseudo-talk. Still, the main source of entertainment, although I don’t think this is the best word to use here, comes from the visual prompts and the display of emotions by our protagonists.
The beginning, the story takes us to a world of Nordic-like mythos, where we see the younger of the titular brothers on a hill, by a tombstone, remembering his tragically departed mother. A cut-scene shows the woman drowning during a storm, her son not being able to drag her back up to the rowboat. The reminiscing is interrupted by the older brother, who needs help transporting their ill father to the village doctor. It turns out that the only way to save the only remaining parent is for the boys to go on a long and dangerous journey to a mysterious place, where they might be able to find the medicine. Not thinking twice and not looking back, the two brothers start their mission and let the player join their adventure.
Let me start by saying that the first time I started this game I was certain I would play it for half an hour and never go back to it. The first races were just too easy and the cars looked just too small and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to enjoy it. But then, the challenges started to become more difficult. I no longer managed to beat the threshold time to get all three medals for each of them. I realized that the fastest times on the leaderboards were up to 30 seconds better than mine. Finally, I broke and I decided I would not put this game down until I managed to shave enough seconds off my total time to unlock its most difficult trophies.
It’s the challenge of MotorStorm RC that kept me coming back for more. It’s a classic case of a game that’s easy to learn but very difficult to master. The premise sounds easy enough. A Micro Machines clone that offers several game modes, including straightforward racing, drift challenges, hot lap time trials and pursuit (overtake a given number of enemies as fast as possible). The courses are very short and seem simplistic at first glance – most of them have literally 5-6 turns and it takes on average 15-20 seconds to complete a lap. Nothing so far seems too appealing. But the fact that the race is over so soon makes the challenge to push the boundaries by hundreds of milliseconds at a time that much more exciting.
The poll is now closed. Thanks to all of you for voting! After a very close race, Resogun (6 votes) won over The Last of Us (5 votes), which really coincides with what I wanted to do. What I didn’t anticipate is getting another Platinum trophy in between, which I managed to unlock in MotorStorm RC.
Since Resogun is a PS4 title, I would like to invite all of you to watch me stream the game and encourage me to get better and also give me some helpful tips. Just go over to my Twitch page. The show starts at 7pm CET / 1pm EST.
With all those PS+ and other games floating around and limited time, I decided to ask you to help me decide which game I should focus on next. I propose a rather wide selection of different genres and older and new games to choose from but if you have some other ideas, please let me know. However, I won’t be buying any new games so if you want to add another option, make it a PS+ game.
I’m away again next week and will only have my Vita with me so when I get back I will tackle the game that wins the voting.
So here’s something I haven’t done on my blog yet. It’s a Platinum Tracker post for a brand new game. Tearaway launched here last Friday and I knew it was a must-have for the PlayStation Vita so I didn’t hesitate much and got it. The fact that it’s cheaper than most other Vita retail games was also a nice bonus. Since the game is new I will avoid spoilers in the text and the screenshots I took are also spoiler-free so don’t worry if iota’s (or atoi’s) adventure is still ahead of you (or should I say, You?).
In Tearaway, the player controls an anthropomorphic envelope, called iota, on its quest to deliver a secret message to an even more mysterious recipient. We don’t really know much about this task until the very end of the game where everything suddenly sense and is incredibly rewarding. On his way, iota meets many friendly characters who try to help him and who are fascinated by the You which appears in the world’s sun. As you can see in the screenshot below, the You is… you, the player. The most interesting point about this fact is that You can directly interfere with the game’s world using all of the PS Vita’s capabilities.
When I first beat Spec Ops: The Line, it left me with more questions than answers and I wasn’t sure what to think about the game. The hype around it was enormous and I heard many people say that it had been their Game of the Year candidate in response to my writing about the game previously. Well, three weeks have passed, I did my second playthrough on FUBAR difficulty and… I’m still not sure if I completely understand the story, the ending and the drama that unfolded. (As always, SPOILERS ahead)
Let’s get back to the beginning, or at least what seems to be the beginning. Delta soldiers Walker, Adams and Lugo are given the task to figure out what happened to the 33rd Infantry after a sandstorm that hit Dubai. The division, led by Colonel John Konrad, volunteered to assist the civilians weather the storm and evacuate the city. The conditions got so bad, that all communication was lost and it was up to our three protagonists to investigate what happened.
What starts like a simple search and rescue scenario quickly turns into hell, as the player-controlled Captain Martin Walker and his squad have to face not only the refugees but mostly the remaining soldiers of the 33rd in a seemingly never-ending carnage. The violence in Spec Ops is excessive and showcases the anti-war sentiments of the game. Piles of mutilated bodies, very graphic scenes of burnt soldiers and civilians and the gut wrenching image of a mother protecting her child from a white phosphorus air strike leave an imprint on the brain and make the player question his decisions all the way through.
There’s still almost two weeks left to grab some of the ‘old-gen’ trophies before PlayStation 4 comes along with brand new games and challenges. Although I will be getting the new console day one, I still plan to go back to some older titles that I haven’t managed to play so far. One of those titles was Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, a sequel to a PlayStation 2 franchise, created by Sucker Punch. This time, however, it was Sanzaru games who were responsible for developing a new Sly adventure for PS3 and PS Vita. Previously, Sanzaru ported the Sly Cooper trilogy to a HD collection for PS3. There was no doubt they understood the characters and the franchise and, in the end, they did a very good job with Thieves in Time.
I have not played any of the previous Sly Cooper games but I always liked action platformers and this title was right up my alley. To be honest, the gameplay reminded me of the inFamous series, even though the story and tone of the game are obviously completely different. The structure is pretty straightforward – advance through the levels, get upgrades and new abilities to better take care of subsequent challenges. The strength of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time lies in the diversity of those challenges and gameplay elements. Sly Cooper is only one of many playable characters in the game, which include his closest friends Bentley (the brain) and Murray (the muscle) as well as five of Sly’s ancestors and his girlfriend. Each of the characters has a distinct style of play, which keeps the game fresh and interesting, even though the particular set pieces (climbing, jumping, shooting on rails, etc.) are common for this genre. However, the rythm mini-games with Murray and Carmelita or the Bentley’s hacking challenges bring a welcome break from the platforming portions of the game.
We’re literally hours away from the official launch of PlayStation 4 in North America. Some of the luckier players have already been able to put their hands on their own console and those excellent DualShock 4 controllers. Although it is possible that many of the day-1 crowd, the ‘hardcore gamers’, also own the PlayStation Vita and are familiar with all the great stuff it brings, some of the more casual players may not even know that a de-facto companion console to the PS4 exists.
In this post I would like to give five reasons why I think buying a PS Vita is worth it. There’s obviously more but we have to start somewhere, don’t we? How do you feel about the console. Do you have one? Will you get one with the new PS4? Let me know in the comments below the post!
1. PlayStation 4 connectivity / Remote Play
OK, so the delivery guy has just left the new console at your doorstep and you can’t wait to put that Killzone: Shadow Fall Blu-Ray in the system and boot it up. Not so fast. The wife wants to watch the new episode of whatever it is that wives are watching now. Do you see the problem here? PlayStation Vita comes to the rescue with the Remote Play functionality. Sony tried this idea previously with the PSP and PS3 and also the Vita and the PS3, with very poor results. Only few titles supported this feature and the quality of gameplay was less than acceptable in most cases. All this changes now. In just a few simple steps, explained in one of Sony’s pre-launch videos, you are able to continue playing on the handheld device, sitting next to the lady who is happy that you’re spending quality time together. The minute the show ends you can go back to playing the game on the big screen and feast your eyes on the next gen (should we start calling it current gen already?) graphics. The Vita can also be used as an additional controller, even providing some extra gameplay options, Wii-U style. Although currently the connectivity range is realistically limited to your local area network, with the increase in the quality of general Internet availability, it might be possible, in the future, to take your PS4 games on the road, and that’s something else.