We Were Here Too

After finally finish off the Grounded 1.0 update, we decided to move onto a smaller but just as fun adventure in the follow-up to a game we played a year back, We Were Here Too. These games (there are three of them available, with a forth on the way) are quite unique, requiring two players to communicate the part of the world they are experiencing via voice only over an in-game walkie-talkie. Given that we play on side by side machines, this take a bit of extra will power to pull off, but we are pretty good at holding to it for the first of our two play-throughs. Once we get to the final run(s) to pick up the final achievement, we relax that a little.

The puzzle solving involved is not entirely unlike an escape room experience, which we have a particular fondness for both from actual escape rooms and their board game equivalents. And while there are quite a few games that can provide that these days, there is still something unique in the approach taken by Total Mayhem Games with these titles.

Now we still have We Were Here Together to play through before we start the wait for We Were Here Forever, which is due for release in January 2023 and is already available on PC.

Not my Destiny

We bought heavily into Destiny. We finally broke our absence from the next-come-current gen and picked up a couple of PS4s and a digital copy of the game itself. We dived in to the world and have been playing it pretty much every night since launch, and even one full day when we had a rare day without work.

However, like many others, we’ve found the world, or perhaps I should say solar system feeling a little bland, the story hidden away on via some cards you can’t access from the game. The universe they have created is actually quite interesting, but the way it is presented in the game is just all wrong. However I find myself thinking the whole set-up could have been handled so much better, and the game is even suited to it!

You see Destiny is a game of two halves. The first has you leveling up whilst playing the story. By the time that is over you either are or close to level 20, the max standard level in the game. You then start the second half where you are running and re-running missions to grind out gear to level you past that 20 barrier.

So how do I think the game should have been laid out? Well…

The game should start at the end of the golden age. The Darkness has come and humanity is fighting a loosing battle. Of course they hard thing with a war you must lose is how does the player ‘win’ within that context. Well I would have had the players fighting to clear the lands that the Traveler was going to protect. Your guardians clear the zones of Fallen, Hive, Vex and Cabal, introducing you to the races. You’re winning battles as you hear of the loses of the war, first Mars falls, then Venus. Finally you hear that the Moon has been taken too just as you secure the lands where they say a Tower will be built to shelter what remains of humanity. Withy only the Tower and the Cosmodrome left you are sent to The Wall to make a last defence of the cosmodrome, a sort of horde mode where you inevitably die.

Only then are you awakened by ghost, back from the dead in the now wasted lands of twisted metal and human remains. And so begins the fight back. Continuous Strikes, Raids and Patrols holding off the Darkness ready to begin the strike back.

This would have opened it up for a set of DLC packs, each one detailing the fight back across the 3 none earth zones. Moon, Venus & Mars.

To my mind that split of the story and grind sections would fit perfectly with the gameplay and feal more natural. The repetitiveness of the late game grind fitting nicely with an eternal struggle to just survive rather than defeating the Darkness and then for some reason still fighting the same battles again and again.

All thing said though, Linda and I are still enjoying our time with destiny, the mechanics are without question fun and engaging. And I think provided you have a constant team available to you you can have a lot of long term fun with Destiny.

Resident Evil Bubbles Up

Resident Evil series western logo

Image via Wikipedia

This past weekend we had a good sort through our XBOX 360 collection in order to update our Pile of Shame/To Play lists for this site. A few of the games we had borrowed from a good friend some 18 months past and decided to bring these titles to the fore so as to be able to return them to their rightful owner. First amongst these was Resident Evil 5.

My personal history with the Resident Evil/Biohazard series is patchy. I tried to play some of the early games on friends PlayStations without ever catching the bug, and then actually purchased Code Veronica for our Dreamcast but didn’t get too far with that either. And so I have ignored the whole franchise, labelling it as a game style I just didn’t like. I have no real problem with doing such things unlike many, with so many quality games about I rather like being able to ignore some and allow more room for others to flourish.

The advantage RE5 had for getting an actual play through was of course our favourite feature, co-op play. And specifically, with only having a single borrowed copy, split screen co-op. Admittedly this has some drawbacks in RE5, the engine clearly struggles to handle the two viewpoints and the split screens are not full width, so it resembles playing split screen on an old 4:3 display with just a slight offset the spare space around just black not even used for the minimap display or collectables. Also the 360 implementation seems to suffer from some of the worst screen tearing I’ve witnessed on the console, perhaps I’ve just been lucky or maybe the port was just a little poorly handled assuming the game was developed primarily for the PlayStation which may be entirely wrong.

The game play however took us by surprise.  At first we did struggle having jumped into this game, with little experience of the series and even more importantly having ploughed many hours into Gears 3 over the past couple of weeks. We kept trying to clear rooms and take out all the enemies, only slowly coming to the realisation that in many cases it was just about surviving and staying out of trouble for a set amount of time, or finding an escape route. Also the hot topic of ‘turret’ style shooting reared it’s head. I can see why the game needs to not have you running and gunning, it wouldn’t be a Resident Evil game if you could, however I could see the game allowing some slow side stepping whilst aiming without breaking the style or atmosphere. Either way we did eventually adapt over the course of the first chapter of the game and started to really understand how the game wanted to be played. The addition of collectables, as always, lit up Linda’s eyes and so we would spend a good deal of time finding the treasures and emblems as we went, although this effects your rankings at the end of each chapter given time is one of the criteria so that seems a little counter productive.

By the start of Chapter 2, of the 6 in the game, we were really starting to enjoy ourselves. I should point out we were playing through on Amateur which is the lowest difficulty in the game. Perhaps this means in some ways we are not really playing a Resident Evil game, that it makes the ammo supply better and thus less management is required, I’m not sure. But having a fun time is really what gaming is about for us, second only to having a shared experience. What it did allow though was for us to finish the game without ever hitting a real stumbling block. Sure we had a fair few downs, and more than a dozen full deaths but we always knew what we were doing and how to progress building our skills as we went as well as upgrading out chosen weapon specialisations. Myself favouring Handgun, Shotgun and heavy weapons, whilst Linda went Handgun, Machine Gun, Rifle.

The game had a satisfying conclusion, and despite this being our first encounter with Wesker we were more than happy to see the Matrix aping fool dealt with, though clearly this had happened previously also and in true villain style had survived so who know eh? We’re now replaying through the sections required to get the emblems and pick up various treasures and achievements we missed so it’s fair to say the game has risen in our expectations and we would now look forward to another in the series, provided of course the co-op play is maintained.

It’s always nice to have a game take you by surprise in this way and rise above being just play through and become an experience.

As a side note the new Cane and Rinse podcast has chosen Resident Evil 4’s HD remake as it’s topic for episode 2 and due to it’s in depth coverage handles the entire RE series so is well worth a listen to anyone with more than a passing interest in the series, or who just loves a good meaty games discussion. 

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Dead Island is dead to us.

We booted up Dead Island last night having had it delivered in a timely fashion by the excellent ShopTo, however we were immediately disappointed by the game as it lacks any local co-op options what so ever! After all the hours of fun we’ve had playing the likes of Borderlands, Gears of War and Left4Dead split screen, whilst also joining up with others online this came as somewhat of a shock. The only other game to let us down in this way in recent years was Red Dead, however given that’s more of a single player game with added multiplayer modes it was less offensive.

I’ve taken the step of emailing DeepSilver over the matter but I’m doubting we’ll get much of a response. Here is the contents of that mail:

Hello, my wife and I have been looking forward to playing Dead Island together since seeing the trailer, and have had the game on pre-order for some time. Well it arrived last night to our home and we booted it up expecting to find the same sort of co-op fun we’ve enjoyed over countless hours in other largely multi player games like Borderlands, Left4Dead 1&2, Gears of War, the Halo series, and so on. We were immediately let down by the fact that the was absolutely no split-screen option! Whilst we have come across this before in other games, most recently Red Dead Redemption, they have always been largely single player games and so we can forgive them somewhat. But in a game squarely focused on multi player it seems an absurd oversight! 

I realise that in the minds of many the idea of same room multi player is in decline, but the number of couples who game together is on the rise and so this is a market that really shouldn’t be over looked. 
Obviously this is an extreme long shot, but I don’t suppose there is any chance of Split screen being patched into the game? Would imagine retro fitting it would be difficult, which to be honest only adds to the surprise that it wasn’t considered earlier in the development cycle. 
Looking forward to hearing an explanation of why this was not considered a requirement for a modern multi player game.
Should we get any kind of response I’ll be sure to share it.
Annoyingly we tested the game out a little in single player and it looks like it would have been a very fun game for the two of us. How such an option can be overlooked in a world where the number of gaming couples is on the rise is a mystery to us.

Brick Work with Magic

We’ve always been big fans of the modern Lego games, ever since the original Star Wars adaptations that we played on the Wii, back before we considered ourselves console gamers. In many ways they are the perfect couples games, as I have written in the past such as this article available on The Digital Cowboys website.

The games took a good step forward in playability with the relatively recent Indy Jones 2 introducing some key aspects to improve the co-op game play such at the attach/detach split screen. And now the Harry Potter (Years 1-4) game has gone even further keeping the fun level high and being faithful to the source material, whilst still injecting the essential Lego charm that keeps the games feeling fresh. It is perhaps the perfect example of the power of restrictions on developers. They have their story given to them, their characters can’t articulate past the odd grunt, laugh or mumbled “I don’t know”, and yet they feel more alive than most of the characters the Unreal Engine powered games have had to inspire us with over the years.

These days we play on the 360, and this has the added fun of earning achievements as we go, as well as having some fun ones to drop back into a completed game save to pick up. Almost always fun, and with some excellent naming such as this titles ‘Solid Snape’ which you get to sneaking around in a barrel as Professor Snape. However there is a two edges sword aspect to the achievements when it comes to playing as a couple. There is a large proportion on the achievements tagged as “(Single Player Only)” which basically means whoevers save game it is gets all the achievements, whilst the second player only gets achievements that occur during any given gaming session. This is a real drawback, and requires the other person to then have to play through the whole game again on their own save file to obtain the missing ones. And as fun as we find the Lego games, playing them through once on Story mode and once in Free Play is enough for us. We really could do with an option to start a co-op only save, which can only be loaded when both players are signed into the XBOX but would allow both players to obtain all achievements.

With more Lego games on the way, Pirates of the Caribbean sounding like another good source for a Lego game, we’ll definitely be ploughing more hours into these titles, so with any luck things will become slightly more co-op friendly for the series which is probably at the forefront of co-op couples gameplay.