Back in February I took part in the annual collaboration event that Kim and Genni host every year regarding loving one’s backlog. I don’t know specifically what it is about gaming, but it seems that there is no short supply of people out there with ridiculous backlogs of games they intend to get around to at some point. As such, every year our illustrious event hosts challenge everyone to play the game that has sat in their backlog the longest and report back. I have once again chosen to participate and unlike last year I actually did so in March. So here’s to #MaybeInMarch.
Starting off, I noted in my love your backlog post that there was a four way tie for the game that has sat in my backlog the longest. Where a normal person would have chosen a single game to play I instead elected to see how many of those four I could play in a meaningful capacity in March. At the time of writing (the nineteenth) I’ve attempted three of them. So strap in for a rapid fire of opinions on three unrelated games.
First up: Hitman 2. I wrote about my experience with Hitman 2 earlier this month and as anyone who read that article already knows I am really enjoying the game. At the time of writing I’ve finished all six levels that make up the main campaign, but have yet to play the two additional levels that were released as DLC. By the time March is done I should have those squared away though.
I’m really glad Jason was able to convince me to play Hitman 2 as I’ve been having a ton of fun playing it. I wasn’t totally sold on the concept of Hitman after playing the first entry in the recent trilogy of games back in 2018, but I’ve enjoyed Hitman 2 so much that I’m eager to play through the recently released Hitman 3. I know it isn’t saying much because I’ve only played a dozen games so far this year, but Hitman 2 is the best game I’ve played so far in 2021.
For an extended look at my thoughts on this game please give my article a read.
Next up was Shadow Warrior. Unlike the other games in my backlog, Shadow Warrior wasn’t purchased by me. Rather, I received it as a gift from my buddy Thomas after we discussed what elements of Doom Eternal we enjoyed and didn’t care for. Thomas figured I’d enjoy Shadow Warrior as it was built around a lot of the same fundamentals that I consider core to an FPS experience.
So how did Shadow Warrior measure up? I’d say Thomas was fairly on the money.
Shadow Warrior sees you running around combat arenas blasting demons to pieces with a wide variety of weapons. Much like the modern Doom games (and I assume the older ones which I haven’t played) the challenge of the game comes less from reflexive play and more from understanding the layout of the space you’re in and proper prioritization of targets. The game’s different challenges almost always come back to figuring out what order to take enemies out in so you don’t get overwhelmed. That the game is also a little on the faster side kept it inline with my tempo.
However, there were two things that I felt Shadow Warrior fell a little short in.
Firstly, the animations are not great. I’ve complimented games like Vermintide and MOTHERGUNSHIP before for having excellent animation as I find that really helps to sell the weight and feeling of combat in first person. Unfortunately, Shadow Warrior’s animations don’t convey any sense of weight behind the overwhelming majority of the weapons which makes the game feel as though you’re shooting nerf guns at paper demons. This doesn’t make the game worse, but it didn’t feel as satisfying as it could have felt.
Secondly, while most of the enemies and bosses were great fun, I really did not care for the berserker enemy type. It is the last one introduced and is entirely impervious to damage except on its bright glowing back. This turned every encounter with it into a slog of kiting around it repeatedly trying to shoot it in the back until it eventually died. It wasn’t even hard to do. Rather it was tedious, which didn’t feel great in a game that was otherwise very snappy.
These are minor complaints and I did really enjoy the majority of my time with Shadow Warrior. The enemy and encounter design may not be as top quality as the recent Doom games, but Shadow Warrior hits a lot of the same notes and provides a similarly compelling first person shooting experience.
Finally we have Metro Exodus.
I intended to play the game on my week off work. So on the Monday I booted the game up and it crashed after the opening cutscene. Off to a great start.
After tweaking some settings, I was able to make it past the opening cutscene and was greeted by a short level segment followed by more cutscenes. Lovely. My favourite thing to do when playing interactive fiction is to watch a movie that has no interactivity.
After yet another short level and yet more cutscenes I was finally dropped into what felt like a fully fleshed out level. Despite being a first person shooter, the tutorial dialogue for this level spoke quite a bit about stealth and a lot of the mechanics being introduced reinforced the idea of stealth. So I attempted to play through the level as stealthy as I could, but anytime I was caught I was swiftly and violently executed. I eventually managed to get through the level though this didn’t leave a great taste in my mouth.
As an aside, if you’re going to do stealth you should never do it as a binary pass/fail unless the game is laser focused on stealth. Mark of the Ninja gets away with being strict because it gives the player clear indication as to when they are and are not hidden. The more ambiguous this is the more forgiving the game needs to be. Hitman and Metal Gear Solid V both use systems where players progresses through stages into a fail state and give the player several options to turn things around. This means the player can continue to play through their mistakes for interesting results instead of failing and trying again.
I mention this because Metro relies on a binary pass/fail style of stealth despite being in first person which limits your field of view. It also relies heavily on realism so very little is done to assist the player. The only help you get is that there is a tiny indicator on your watch that lights up when you can be spotted. While I can appreciate what the developers were trying to go for nothing drags me out of an experience faster than the inconvenience of realism. Fuck your realism. I’m playing a video game and would like to have fun. Constantly being plagued by the same inconveniences that I deal with on the regular will quickly remind me that I’m playing a game and break any immersion I had.
Anyway, I was eventually dropped into an open-world style map and given a few loose directions on where to go and what to do. I started roaming around the world and quickly found myself bored to tears. The idea of exploring a space is a fun one, but when you’re mired by so many inconveniences it’s hard to stay invested. Feeling as though I never had enough ammo to do anything meant I was forced into avoiding enemy engagements whereby I slowly waddled through the shadows, which is incredibly isn’t very fun. Worse yet, if I was spotted I died so quickly that I didn’t wasn’t able to meaningfully respond to the situation.
After about four hours of this and yet another death I asked myself a question, “am I having fun”? No. The answer was no. So I closed the game down and unceremoniously uninstalled it. One day I am going to die and I can do so happy knowing I didn’t waste more of my time playing Metro Exodus.
There we have it. Three of the four games that have been in my backlog for the longest time sorted. #MaybeInMarch was a good excuse for me to do something I was intending to do for a long while and I even had some fun doing it. Thanks as always for running the collaboration Kim and Genni.
“More cutscenes. Lovely. My favourite thing to do when playing interactive fiction is to watch a movie that has no interactivity.”
I’m not going to disagree with you there. Video games are meant to be played, not watched.
However~~~~~I vastly prefer cutscenes to a scripted, in-game scene. Sure, they don’t take away your control, but when it’s story time, the devs want to tell or show you something. With a cutscene, they know exactly what you are going to see. You won’t miss anything because you were too busy trying to jump on top of a guy or drawing a dick with bullets (not that I’ve EVER done anything like that, of course…). Since the devs have all this “power”, they can opt for a much tighter, more focused presentation.
WIth a scripted event, it’s harder to witness cruzial details, it’s easier for the devs to mess up something (like abmience noise, visual glitches) and – at least, I – you’ll always worry that you missed something. Also, when all you really should do is stand there and watch/listen a scene, then we basically have a cutscene already, albeit it a much crappier version of what could have been.
Of course, my point only stands for a comparison between those two things of “equal quality”. A well-made in-game event is better than a bad cutscene, but that’d just come down to me saying “good is better than bad”. Go figure…Scripted events make for cool moments, but a great cutscene is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life (“What is this? What are you doing, my son? – Succeeding you…father.”)
Still, cutscenes should be used sparingly. They should be almost used as some sort of reward. “Hey, kiddo. Good job killing that boss. Here, let us show you something awesome!” As I said, video games should be played, so a big part of the narrative should come from the world itself, the sound design, and even the gameplay.
Also, I have only played the first Metro, but the as far as I remember, the stealth system was pretty much like this:
Sneak around until the big-ass monster inevitably spots you. Unload a magazine or two right in its face. Look left. Look right. Go back to sneaking.
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Now on to Shadow Warrior 2 before the 3rd one comes out but I have a feeling that while I enjoy number 2, you may not be as big of a fan.
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I’m really quite looking forward to SW3, but the mission structure of 2 certainly dragged the game down for me relative to the first, I think. Hard to put my finger on exactly what, because the moment-to-moment play was still pretty dang good!
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From what I know of the second I dunno if that’s as good a fit. Doesn’t it have more RPG fucking around in it?
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