A slave to the game

Unfortunately (for me) I have a condition whereby I must do every task outstanding before I allow myself to relax at the end of a night, so I rarely feel like I've earned the privilege to play a game or two. This weekend I managed to get some spare time to jump on the old Xbox 360 and crack on with a few of the titles I have stacked up on top of my console cabinet, namely Enslaved and Dragon Age: Origins, interspersed with a few matches of COD: Black Ops.

I bought Enslaved back in October the day it came out, and played quite a bit of it back then. Unfortunately I had to halt game play due to work commitments (the story of my life). Anyway - I jumped back on this Saturday to "finish up" and shortly realised I was only one level from the end. Suffice to say, I wasn't playing it very long.

The game as a whole was more of a cinematic experience than a game - the voice acting, visuals and story were all very good, but the game play was rather generic. This is the second game in recent years that I've played that promised a lot, but delivered very little actual gaming enjoyment (the other being the rebooted Prince of Persia). I basically walked through the entire game by button bashing - you can kill almost any enemy by bashing the two attack buttons, though it's a little easier if you learn the three or so special moves. Additionally, it's very hard to fall off a ledge (in fact it's impossible when climbing), which makes for less tension when having a time limit to get from A to B.

"Playing" a movie seems to be quite popular at the moment. Visuals are becoming very lifelike, acting has improved tenfold, camera angles are integral to "scenes" in a game and stories are much deeper. I'm worried, however, that this "dumbing down", or "Hollywoodification" will result in games that require very little cerebral effort... something your Grandma could play if she was told which button she needed to press continuously for 6 hours.

Oversimplification breeds complacency, as demonstrated by Edna and friends.
Although there have been games like it before, Heavy Rain was also designed to be a playable movie. The difference here is that you feel like your immersed in the world. Your actions, decisions, speed and skill determine the outcome of most scenes (and definitely the end of the game), and the control system is very different from your run of the mill cinematic game. I thoroughly enjoyed playing through it and would recommend it to any serious gamer who likes a challenge, and who doesn't mind failing miserably on occasion. Quantic Dream did an exceptional job, in this gamer's opinion.

With the odd exception (Star Wars: Force Unleashed pops in to my head straight away), linear games stopped being fun for me many years ago. I like to be able to explore the world I'm exposed to. I like to be able to hoard items in my own little (or big!) house in-game. I enjoy upgrading my avatar and improving skills etc, and this is why I usually enjoy RPGs (as long as they're not some obscure Japanese effort involving tentacle penises and terrible Engrish).

Where it's "OK" to victimise Coots.
This moves us on to Dragon Age: Origins. I've been playing this on and off for quite some time, and I would say it's one of the best RPGs released for some time. It's been ported to console very well (everything is fairly easy to access), and in true RPG style, you have to read everything you can in-game in order to get the best out of it. Bioware have cracked it, yet again... and although some gamers don't like the RPG style they produce, I've been a fan since the first Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Characters are extremely deep, missions are interesting and generally quite hefty and many hours can be lost just talking to people.

Believe it or not, there's more dialogue in Dragon Age: Origins than
Stacey Solomon managed to squeeze in to 3 weeks of "I'm a Celebrity"
I'm fairly sure I'm close to the end of the game, though I still have a lot of side quests to complete... and being who I am, I must complete them all. It seems like I've managed to have sex with everyone in my party except but the Mabari hound, and I feel that's on the cards in my second run through...

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