Friday, April 01, 2011

Gamerscore Challenge 2011: The 3rd Month

The 2011 Gamerscore Challenge is chugging towards the end of its third month and the points are still coming in. Since the last update at the end of February, I’ve added another 2415 points to my score. At first glance, that looks like I’m exceeding the previous average of 1000GS per fortnight, but take a look at the games played and there it is, standing out like a sore thumb, or to be more apt, a black eye: Fight Night Round 3. 1000G of my score this month came from a game that will drop a grand on you within about six to eight hours. Subtract that inflationary grand from the total and it’s a good but altogether more modest 1415. While the average is dropping, last month’s worrying trend of grubbing for points also seems to be on the decline as well.

The points this month were spread across seven games rather than last month’s 12, and consequently represent a much better return for the time I’ve put in. Now that we’re past the halfway mark on the Gamerscore Challenge, it’s fair to say the novelty is wearing off. As Bojeeva said about both this year's and last year’s challenge, the manic desire to play everything you can get your hands on is great fun and broadens your gaming horizons.

On the other hand, it is starting to deform the way I actually play. I’m researching methods of getting achievements online then carrying them out in the game, rather than playing on instinct, which is taking the shine off some games. Worse still, I saw a cheap copy of Gun, surprisingly one of my favourite games of all time (I know, I know, don’t ask me why) and didn’t buy it as I already had the points. I was halfway home from the shops before it dawned on me what a stupid decision that was. The quest for points is warping both my gameplay and my shopping habits. On the other hand, it is providing the opportunity to compile all these neat little score oriented micro-reviews:

Fight Night Round 3: 1000G

Ok, so I got a grand out of this, but how would I rate it? On its own merits it’s the least impressive of the three Fight Night’s I’ve played. It has none of the looks, control sophistication or realism of the later titles. On the plus side, its old-school enough to be genuinely difficult at times, and the gamerscore is easily obtained. So, if you’re after a challenge or points, it’s a winner at least.

Nail’d: 480G
I’m ambivalent about Nail’d. I hated the soundtrack, found the gameplay repetive, loathed the whole Pepsi Max faux-extreme ambience it was trying to create and generally thought the whole thing was pretty dumb. I was also surprised at the difficulty curve, which was that of a heart attack patient being hit with a defibrillator: an absolute flatline for ages and ages and ages, one massive spike, then back to the flatline. Seriously, almost every race can be gold medalled on your first or second try, with the exception of one ludicrously difficult woodland time trial that will stop your progress dead for days. Hugely frustrating. Despite all that, Nail’d is fun, action-packed and strangely satisfying from a score-hunter's point of view. Your first hour or two of gameplay will rain dozens of small achievements down on you, then it will all go quiet until the conclusion, where it bestows scads of points across a few high paying achievements.

Battlefield: Bad Company: 145G

Not only did I miss this on release, but I daresay I’ve not done it justice this time out. Even more than Call of Duty, Halo or just about any FPS apart from Left 4 Dead, Battlefield games are about online multiplayer. So I played the single player campaign. Despite wilfully ignoring the game’s strongest point, I was initially smitten. Battlefield: Bad Company is the anti-Call of Duty. The characters are funny and distinctive, the plot is at least halfway believable, and you actually have to play in a careful, methodical fashion that’s presumably closer to real soldiering than all the glass-feeding, helicopter-crashing meat-headedness found in recent CoDs. I was smitten. For three levels. Then I was bored. I’d been inching my way across Northern Europe for better than three hours and had yet to detect anything resembling variety in the landscape or gameplay. Still, it was great fun to start with.

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit: 10G

You know how last time I said that driving games never hold my attention for long? Well, that’s why I’ve only got 10G out of it since last month. I’ve been assured that it is very good, if you like that sort of thing.

Fight Night Champion: 375G

I’ve pretty much hoovered all the Champion and Legacy mode points out of this, and might still give it another go. I can’t be far off the points for throwing 10,000 jabs, and there are online achievements up for grabs as well. I’ve already reviewed this elsewhere, so I’ll be brief... the new control system isn’t as good as it was in Fight Night Round 4 and the action isn’t as fluid or versatile. Nevertheless, it’s a good game and I’d have played it regardless of the points on offer.

Vanquish: 275G

Isn’t it funny how I loathe the meat-headedness of Call of Duty, but love the meat-headedness of the likes of Gears of War and Vanquish? The dialogue would embarrass a comicbook tough guy and the delivery is overwrought, but who cares? The plot and dialogue here take a distant back seat to the fun of machine-gunning giant robots. It’s a very ‘Japanese’ game-lots of stylised action in the cut scenes, mini-skirted assistants and really really long boss battles - but it works well. That’s no real surprise, as the design document presumably said “Halo meets Gears of War with a slow-motion mechanic”, and it’s hard to go wrong when you’re drawing your inspiration from such solid sources.

Silent Hill Homecoming: 130G

It’s probably too early to say for sure, but Silent Hill Homecoming is looking like it will be my game of the month. It’s been a while since I’d played something old-school enough to not have autosaves and to only let you save your game at certain points. The fact that at each save you worry that you may be crystallising a game where you’re too wounded or ill-equipped to carry on, and the awareness that the next fight might wipe away the last hours worth of play really helps add to the tension created by the foggy streets and twisted monsters of Silent Hill. I wouldn’t want all games to have this much potential for frustration, but the occasional reminder of how things used to be is very welcome.