Breakdown (XBX) – Initial Impressions

As a short diversion between RPGs and other games soon to be out, I pulled out a cheap pickup of Breakdown.  An original Xbox title now playable through backwards compatibility on the 360, it’s a first person shooter that takes the “first person” concept to nearly as far as it can go without wrecking the fun of the game.  For one, while there is shooting and other weapons, you quickly become more involved with using melee combat to get past difficult foes, so you can swing one-two punches and upper cuts.   Certain actions not shown in many FPS are forced on the player; you have to actually reach down to pick up ammo from dead soldiers or objects from the ground, and when you reach security doors, you need to pull out a security card and then swip it to get through.  These actions aren’t overly trivialized – they’re just long enough that it’s risky to do them in the heat of battle; that is, the game prevents you, as you likely would in real life, from running to a dead soldier to grab their ammo while a gun fight is blazing because of the time it takes, as opposed to many FPS where you can do this as part of the game.  It may seem a bit silly at first, but it actually works pretty well once you start getting into the midgame.

The game is unfortunately very bland in the graphics department.  All the levels have been rectangular hallways so far with minimal decoration, and though while I’m still in a building, it would have helped to have some diagonals as needed.  There was at least one interesting point as per the character gaining memories, I stepped out momentarily into a desert region (possibly part of some hallucination) while still in the middle of the building, to return to find that it likely never existed.  But even there in the desert, there wasn’t much different to look at.

It’s also the type of game where I wish they spent a bit more time thinking about checkpoints (the only points that you can restart your game after game over or a save game load); there’s been a few that have had a semi-difficult fight followed by a rather hard one which, should you fail the hard one, you have to repeat both fights.  I know the idea of quicksaves/loads isn’t really good for FPSs, but it would help with as distant the fighting portions are in this game, to err on the side of more checkpoints.

Definitely no big rush to finish this, but definitely one to finish.

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Destroy All Humans 2 (XBX) – Initial Impressions

The first Destroy All Humans was a rather interesting Grand Theft Auto variation, where you took control of a Gray-like alien that turned to basically destroying all humans circa the Red Scare in the 1950s.  Some of the human was pretty campy, but the game included both several nice weapons, telekinetic powers, and the use of a saucer for mass destruction.

Destroy All Humans 2 takes us a few more years now in the 1960s, where hippies teem and the KBG, recognizing that the new “president” of the States is actually an alien, take steps to try to stop their invasion.  This, of course, turns your protagonist against the humans once again, sending him on yet another rampagn.

It’s still a GTA -style game, but now with more distinction between main and side missions (that it, it feels more open world than the first game).  The areas are much larger, and now there’s a GTA warning style meter to indicate when more tougher foes will try to take you down.  To take some missions, you actually have to talk to humans, and while you could body-snatch in the first game, you now either have to do it in a quiet area or get ready to either erase some minds or send out good vibrations to get the humans to ignore you and reduce the warning level.   There’s more spaces to switch between saucer and on-foot action, and while in the saucer, you can now abduct different types of people to “synthesize” new powers and abilities for your character.   The area buildings are still rather destructible and seem to stay that way as you move away.

The new additions are pretty nice , and the dialog/situations are still as campy as the first; it’s not a great game (yet) but still pretty enjoyable.  It’s just odd that this game came out only for the original XBox (this last holiday season) and doesn’t have 360 backwards compatibility even though the first Destroy All Humans is listed on that list.

Manhunt (XBX) – Initial Impressions

I had never played Manhunt when it first came out, thinking it was way too violent and gruesome.  Of course, now that I’ve played through much more gruesome games (including the GTA games that followed it), and with pending news that a Manhunt 2 is on the way out, I figured it would be a good idea to play through this as well.

It’s an intersting mix of Thief-like stealth and action.  Unlike Thief, getting caught isn’t the end of the world, as you can easily defend yourself against an attacker, but if you get caught by too many at one time, that’s a bad thing.  Of course, the “thrill” of the game, to speak, is to get the special stealth takedowns using specific weapons as to meet the odd requirements of your benefactor, and using the shadows, tapping on walls, and generally using light and sound effectively can go a long way.  A lot of the elements of GTA games can be found here: item circles for pickups and  the color triangle indicators to show a target’s health.

The game’s seem to have aged well, the engine is obviously last generation but still with enough detail that makes it interesting to work through, along with Rockstar’s signature dark humor.  However, I would have liked to seen more voiceover work for your benefactor when he gives you instructions outside of the controls, just to add some immersion.