xbox

Just completed… Portal 2

The original Portal was the sleeper hit, a diamond forged under the immense pressure of having Half Life 2 Episode 2 and Team Fortress 2 as box fellows. It delighted with it’s puzzles and fresh perspective on first person game play. When it came to the second game I watched my wife, Linda, play through it first. It seemed like a game that went on too long, that overstayed it’s welcome somewhat, and though I enjoyed the vocal performances of  Ellen McLainJ. K. Simmons and of course  Stephen Merchant, it all seemed from outside too much of a good thing. I did in fact play a fair bit of Protal 2, completing all of the co-op missions with Linda which in themselves were excellent, and perhaps worthy of the entry fee on their own. But even these slices of excellence couldn’t persuade me to devote my time to the single player story.

However come to 2014, and with the game very soon to be featured on Gameburst’s Replay show for January  I figured it was well past time to try it for myself. And as it turns out I was rather wide of the mark. Though the game is quite long, especially in relation to the tight storytelling of the original, it in no way feels stretched.

”always something to be thinking about
some new puzzle to solve”
There was always something to be thinking about, some new puzzle to solve, as well as keeping up with the overarching narrative that there was no time to become tired or bored. The addition of new mechanics some way into the story freshened up the gameplay of the original, whilst still remaining true to the core principles of the puzzles and had you once again thinking outside of the box for the solution to progression. 

Can I claim Portal 2 is greater than the original? That I am not clear on, but it is in no way less, and when it comes to games such a statement is rare indeed!

 

Just completed… Bioshock

It was shortly after BioShock first launched that I picked up a copy on Steam. As a veteran of PC shooters I was looking forward to a game with a bit more depth than the average shooter of the time, and dare I say with an actual story behind it. Things started well, I found the whole world of Rapture captivating and the mix of gun play and the games ‘magic powers’ of plasmids a unique twist on the usual FPS style.

Then I came to the first Big Daddy encounter, and died. Restarting at the last vita chamber I retraced my steps and faced again he lumbering hulk of the Big Daddy. And died again.

Then I came to the first Big Daddy encounter
and died.
This process continued for a good four or five attempts until, more by luck than anything, I defeated him and was able to move on. At least until the next encounter, when the process started again. My enjoyment of the game quickly diluted, and before long I had shelved the game into the growing ranks of my Steam library.

Over the next few years I would occasionally try out the game again but always stumble on the same step. In the meantime my wife managed to play through BioShock, BioShock 2 & even BioShock Infinite, whilst I still could only wonder at the twists and turns of the story behind Ryan and Fontaine. Who were they, what drove them to turn the promise of Rapture into the war torn, plasmid obsessed freakshow come ghost town I had witnessed?

So we come to 2014, nearly seven years after the games initial release and I started again, on XBOX 360, this time with everything set to as easy as possible. Nothing was going to get in the way of the story this time! And what a joy it was, to not struggle with battling the big ones, but still to have the fun challenge of navigating the once wondrous Rapture. Poking my nose into every situation I could, listening in to voices of the past and photographing my way to improved skills.

nothing was going to get in the way of the story
this time!
The big twist that lies within BioShock was somewhat known to me, being an avid listener of podcasts it was impossible to avoid after such a long period. But the knowing in no way lessened my enjoyment of living through the reveal, of understanding what had driven my character behind the scenes, and how complete the failure of Rapture was. I, like so many before, felt the ideal and then self-destruction of Rapture flow through me. Such promise of something greater brought down low by the same old problems of all civilizations. BioShock succeeds where all great games succeed for me. In telling it’s story not through cut scenes, but by environment. Through the dilapidation of what was once grand, through diaries of the inhabitants be they the great or the small, the process of true discovery. Of piecing together the tattered strands and reaching an understanding of what had happened on ones own terms. In these ways games will always out run movies and books, not by aping them.

Now I am freed to continue my adventures through both BioShock 2 and Infinite and their associated DLC packs. I feel as though a large weight has been lifted from my backlog of games, a behemoth of a failure in my gaming repertoire. Perhaps 2014 will turn out to be the year I actually break the back of my back catalogue!