XBOX 360

Resident Evil Bubbles Up

Resident Evil series western logo

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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 2 : Bank Account 0

So, as an update, we caved in and picked up a second copy of Dead Island. So we’ll soon be able to let you know what we think of it as a co-op game. Our hopes are for a Borderlands style adventure with the quest based gameplay, and we’ll be trying out the alternative combat system also. We picked the game up at BestBuy who are becoming our go to people when it comes to picking games up there and then, prices are quite standard, but they will price match other retailers, including Amazon, up to 30 days AFTER your purchase. Good to know 🙂

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.

A Day in the Asylum

I’m not one for marathoning a game usualy. I’m far more likely to just dip in for one to three hours on a work night, leaving the weekends for some multiplayer fun in Gears or L4D. However this past weekend saw a change to that. With Linda out of the house on Saturday for a chocolate making workshop, the results of which were divine, I loaded up Batman: Arkham Asylum. The Last Save Loaded for this was dated January. January 2010! Had it really been so long? And why had I stopped playing? I recalled really enjoying the game, but I think Linda saw me playing, started her go and for some reason I never jumped back on when she had finished.

So here we where, over eighteen months later and I powered up the XBOX to continue my story. Having been so long I elected to ignore the old save game and start over, probably a wise move as the combat system in Arkham Asylum, whilst wonderfully executed, takes a little while to get into the timing of so those early battles helped rekindle the muscle memory for the combat. Deciding to focus,  as I usually do these days, on just getting through the story I only picked up Riddler trophies I saw out in the open and had to walk past anyway, and so I made quick progress through the gameplay I had already seen. Starting at around 11:00 I was probably past my previous stopping point by 13:00, which was surprising. I can only assume I way taking a lot more time looking for clues and secrets on my first play.

The combat always entertained and the empowered feeling you get from being the Batman is spot on. Always wary of gun fire, but otherwise feeling smarter and quicker than all the enemies thrown at you. Not that I didn’t hit fights were I had to strategise, to out think the AI trying several techniques until I found the one that worked for me. Or occasionally believing I was safe to eliminate an inmate on the stealth sections when I clearly wasn’t, having to take to the rafters and leap about like a crazed fool until I lost them. But you always feel in control, that Batman knows what he is doing and will take them all down. And it’s this that sets this game above others that try the same approach. Batman should feel like this, the confidence to handle whatever is thrown at him, the gadgets coming it at just the right point to help him along ultimately overcoming the challenges to see justice done. The fact that I now wish I knew more about the universe of Batman is testament enough to the power of what has been created.

And so, with only a brief break, when Linda returned, for food and for her to check out Bully which we’ve bought On Demand for the 360 despite only just buying it for PC last week and already owning it on Wii, I finished the game at around 00:40. I’d estimate my total playtime at around 9 hours which for me is a great length of a game story. I spent Sunday picking up all the Riddler clues and Arkham history titbits I hadn’t come across during the story, a set of 3 teeth in the Mansion being the hardest to find so am left with only the challenges to master to get 100% however that might only be a dream. Whilst the combat system is fluid and fun, I am no master at it and probably never will be. Combo fights are not something I’ve ever been good at, one of the reasons that games like Bayonetta have little to no draw for me. But I already feel I’ve had my time with Batman well used. All I can hope now is that Arkham City is at least on a par. That will make me very happy indeed!

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.