Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Online leaderboards (feat. Doom), 3D platformers (feat. Sonic), Defcon

Doom

I purchased the 360 version of classic Doom at 800 MS points (roughly 9€). It's a no-frills conversion, exactly what I wanted - no tricks done to the original graphics or sounds, all four episodes, controls work very well. It's a great game. I have one thing to complain about: the map is utterly worthless on a non-HDTV. Really, you need to take the massmarket (like all of Europe) into account when designing your game views.

A couple of things came up during playing the first episode through in one sitting.

First and foremost are the online leaderboards, viewable per level. All games need this feature. It plays straight to my competitive spirit. It feels so good to be the best player among your friends and to, say, finally break the global top-1000.

Leaderboards are what keeps me playing Geometry Wars, too. It bugs me that I'm sitting right on the average level (according to MyGamerCard.net). I need to break that half a million to get above the crowd!

Then there are Doom's controls. As per the original version, there is no Y-axis; you don't aim up and down. The character automatically targets monsters above and below you, provided that they line up with your gun. I'd really like to see a modern shooter do the same. Sure it needs some clever level design (Doom's essentially flat), but it would keep things much more free-flowing and immediate.

I recall the makers of the original Unreal Tournament's Xbox version attempting something in this vain, via level design. I don't know how that worked out, though.

I didn't buy Doom merely because I loved it as a kid. I imagined that it would be a great game, period. And it is. If anything, provided you can look past the low-res graphics, it's even better today. It absolutely wipes the floor with so many modern shooters, despite being released in 1993. The lighting is very effective, the level design is engaging, the overall aesthetic design hasn't aged at all.

Oh, and like reviewer Kristan Reed on Eurogamer put it, this game features bodies which do not disappear. Thirteen years ago. Get with the times, shooter designers.

Sonic: The Hedgehog next-gen

I've said it before and this latest offering only enforces my position: platform games should never have made the jump to 3D presentation. It doesn't work! I tried and tried and tried and simply could not hit the lines of rings with any confidence. The automatically aimed spinning attack does work, but as usual, the camera is worthless (you wouldn't believe how slowly it spins).

There's been a single instance of 3D platforming working well - Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time - but even that one stellar example of the genre had some problems with the camera.

So in a nutshell: kill 3D platformers, kpls.

Allegedly the original Sega Megadrive/Genesis Sonic is coming to XBLA in the near future. That's an almost guaranteed sale right there and I imagine it will work much better than this entirely competent, but by its nature, awkward offering.

Defcon

I've liked Introversion ever since I found Uplink, the awesome hacker game they released in 2001. Their latest release Defcon has generated a lot of hype. The game was released a few days ago and the demo is now out, too, go get it.

I had trouble imagining how the game would play out in practice, but having played through the tutorial, it's all clear now. I've yet to try a full-fledged game, but it's pretty safe to say at this point that it's a sure sale for me (PC hardware permitting, my home machine's ancient). At 14€ for a brand new game, I really can't complain. Although I might go for the boxed copy, which is priced a little higher, but even that's a ridiculous 21€! And it feels good to know that you're paying straight to the developers themselves.

It's also interesting how cool and distinctive Introversion's games look, despite the authors claiming that it's all "programmer art". Their soundscapes are thoughtful, too. I hear that Defcon sports "situation room ambient" consisting of cigarettes lighted, coughs and so on, which is really a magnificent idea. Can't be witness to that myself, yet, because I didn't have audio on the laptop I tried it on.

Update: Defcon runs just fine on my 900 MHZ/512 MB RAM home system. I've taken a beating from the computer twice, now. Well, at least it runs fine with only two players, that is.

2 comments:

Game Producer said...

Noticed your comment at gameproducer.net so I thought to visit & check out what kind of blog you have.

Kai said...

Old school Doom really is a great game. When I was a kid, the atmosphere really got to me, and I can say that I was scared of the game as well as totally hooked.

I really think id has gone downhill after that. Quake never had the same impact on me as Doom did.

I think it's great that they're re-releasing old favorites for new machines. I'd certainly buy the Sonics, though an emulator will run them pretty much 1:1 to the original anyway.