Thursday, February 18, 2010

FEATURE - I just bought a PS3. Now what?

Does this post look
too long to you?
Try the truncated version.


This question comes up more often than you'd think - and my response is often a hastily assembled series of endorsements, which often ends with me kicking myself for forgetting something important.

No more! When a new exclusive drops, I'll take its measure and - if it merits - make an addition to this article. Of course, I should mention that I have not played (and, likely, won't play) all exclusive titles on the PS3, or even every good exclusive. This list is merely populated by the exclusives I can get behind - and for the sake of size, I won't be including any PSN titles.

All good? Let's begin with... reverse chronological order. Newest first.

* * *

If a title is due particular attention, its accompanying image will feature a green border.

* * *

inFamous 2
Sucker Punch
June 7th, 2011
Third-person open-world action.

The review.

inFamous 2 is, without question, the best Sucker Punch game thus far. Their comfortable, satisfying, tactile platforming is sharpened and honed here to its most successful iteration - not nearly as "sticky" as it was in inFamous - but the real story is how they blew the lid off the level of presentation they've achieved thus far.

inFamous 2 is gorgeous. Excellent music, slick, rich graphics and performances from its leads that rival the standard-setting work in Uncharted 2. It's a total-package game, and easily one of the best titles of 2011.

With inFamous 2, Sucker Punch has come into its own and delivered on the promise of all their pretty, excessively fun platformers.

Demo available.





Killzone 3
Guerrilla Games
February 22nd, 2011
First-person shooter.

The review.

Guerrilla games finally hits it straight out of the park with Killzone 3 - a gorgeous, visceral, weighty, eye-popping extravaganza of big action, huge set pieces, great gameplay switch-ups, thoughtful science fiction and sweet, sweet gun porn.

It's fantastic.

Demo available.





The Sly Collection
Sucker Punch, ported to the PS3 by
Sanzaru Games

November 9, 2010

Platformer.

The Sly Cooper trilogy was one of the most under-appreciated series on the PS2, forever in the shadow of bigger brothers Jak and Ratchet. Gamers willing to look beyond a title ostensibly designed for children, however, found one of the most pleasurable, liquid-smooth platformers to date, with a lovely stealth twist.

It doesn't hurt that the games boasted seriously gorgeous, lush, cartoony art direction and fabulous, expressive animation. The series hit its peak with Sly 2: Band of Thieves, and while Sly 3 wraps up the series' narrative rather well, it's a bit hit-and-miss with the sheer amount of minigame diversions it throws at the player.

Still, what's on offer here for a budget price are three excellent, classic platformers that are a worthy investment of time for anyone who favors the genre.

No demo available.




God of War III
Sony Santa Monica
March 16, 2010

Adventure, brawler.

The review (in which I nit-pick).
The 2nd review (in which I don't).

Sony's preeminent studio represents with one of - if not the - most technically accomplished games of the current gen. God of War III is simply staggeringly good-looking, with texture work and a sense of scale the likes of which you've never seen.

It's also beautifully designed, with expert pacing, natural-feeling puzzles and that classic, tactile God of War combat - which has finally been expanded upon with alternate weapons the player actually wants to use. I didn't mind what happens at the ending, but I hate how they handled it - although that disappointment doesn't really dull my enthusiasm for the title. If you want to play a game that shows off what the PS3 is capable of, or just enjoy non-stop, gorgeous thrill-rides of violence and vengeance, play God of War III.

Demo available.




Heavy Rain
Quantic Dream
February 23, 2010
"Interactive Drama"
(it's a little bit like an old Sierra adventure game, but more open-ended, with more player choice)

The review.

Heavy Rain is far from perfect, and won't be enjoyed by everyone. It throws out idiotic red herrings that are never explained, the plot has more holes than Peter Weller in the beginning of RoboCop and someone needs to put a leash on writer/director David Cage, who has no conception of the "less is more" school of storytelling.

At the same time, Heavy Rain also manages to achieve much of its (sizable) ambition. It is moving, involving, tense, thrilling and often very interesting. It doesn't hurt that the game is absolutely bloody gorgeous, with gameplay that aims to have the player experience the same level of comfort (or discomfort) as the player character.

With a very open-ended final third and lots of consequences to the choices made, it's unfair to write off Heavy Rain as a current-gen Dragon's Lair. It is very (not entirely) unique. It's also worth noting that a lot of its failings would go unnoticed in most games - in Heavy Rain, they stick out like sore thumbs because the title is clearly hoping to reach a higher standard. In a lot of ways, it is held back by its own wide-eyed ambition.

Demo available.



The God of War Collection
Sony Santa Monica, ported to the PS3 by
Bluepoint Games
November 17, 2009

Action-adventure, brawler.

The review.

Put simply, the God of War Collection contains two of the greatest action adventure games of all time, up-ported to the PS3 where they can happily run in 720p at sixty frames per second with a pleasant sheen of anti-aliasing to boot. Unfortunately the in-game (and pre-rendered) cutscenes were left untouched, which makes for some jarring transitions between the crisp visuals of gameplay and the last-gen moments of storytelling.

Still, the God of War series is the near-perfect marriage of action, adventure, puzzles and production values. GoW II in particular looks pretty damned gorgeous on an HD TV, and for forty bucks it's a great deal.

No demo available.



Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time
Insomniac Games
October 27, 2009
Platformer, shooter.

The review.

A Crack in Time is the ninth R&C game - counting the PSP diversions and Deadlocked - and you may have experienced its formula countless times before. Explore gorgeous alien worlds, buy an increasingly ridiculous arsenal of weapons and upgrade them into more powerful variations over the course of the game. In that regard it's old hat, but the game is still so rock-solid it steps right past "been there, done that" and into "it's nice to be home" territory.

If you've been playing Ratchet & Clank since 2002, you likely don't need to hear an endorsement from me - this game is already on your Must Buy list. If not? Try out Tools of Destruction, the first R&C title on PS3 - it's a lot cheaper these days, and will better inform as to whether or not the cartoony/shooty/platformy gameplay is up your alley. It's worth noting, however, that Crack in Time boasts much a much more enjoyable and robust space flight component.

Two demos available.




Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Naughty Dog
October 13, 2009
Cover-based shooter, adventure.

The (mini) review.

All things considered, Uncharted 2 was the best game of 2009. Best graphics. Best voice work. Best storytelling (though not, I should say, the best narrative). Fantastic gameplay and online, and absolutely the best presentation.

It's not the most original game of the year, but it's inarguably the title of the highest overall quality. If there is a single must-buy for the Playstation 3 as of January 2010, it is Uncharted 2.

Demo available.



Demon's Souls
From Software
October 6, 2009
Action RPG.

The review.


Some sites had the balls to give Demon's Souls their GotY nod for 2009, and I can't say I entirely disagree with them. In all measurable criteria (save originality), Uncharted 2 is the best game of 2009 - but Demon's Souls is absolutely exceptional in some immeasurable ways.

If you crave a huge, deep, incredibly satisfying challenge with weighty, visceral combat and thicker atmosphere than Silent Hill you owe it to yourself to buy this gem. I cannot recommend Demon's Souls highly enough.

No demo.



inFamous
Sucker Punch
May 26, 2009

Open-world platformer/shooter.

The review.
The declaration of love.


inFamous has a few presentational foibles, but these are mostly limited to some iffy facial animations and the occasional texture pop when you're zipping down railroad tracks. The art direction is excellent and the soundtrack is sublime, but where inFamous truly shines is the gameplay.

The third-person shooting neatly sidesteps the problems of its genre with a smart control scheme, but more importantly inFamous is the most exceedingly pleasurable platformer I've played in years. I've spent countless hours just scampering around Empire City, basking in Cole's liquid animation and the gorgeous light shows he puts on.

Ignoring production values, ignoring originality, immersion and ambition, for my money inFamous is 2009's funnest game.

Demo available.



Killzone 2
Guerrilla Games
February 25, 2009
First-person shooter.

Killzone 2 suffered more than its fair share of backlash, due to being a heavily hyped PS3 exclusive that happens to be imperfect. The imperfections aren't minor considerations - I like my FPSes to have good writing and a final encounter that doesn't suck - neither of which Killzone 2 can boast. Fortunately, it more than makes up for this elsewhere, in places where it really counts.

It's undeniably gorgeous, incredibly immersive and oppressively atmospheric - along with a unique weight to everything from animations and movement to how fast you can swing your gun around. Killzone 2 may not be the best FPS of 2009, but it's definitely one of them.

Demo available.



Resistance 2
Insomniac Games
November 4, 2008

First-person shooter.


Resistance 2 won't exactly blow you away in any capacity (though admittedly, it's got some really gorgeous boss confrontations). It looks good, it plays perfectly well, and it has you running around an alternate history of the U.S. shooting monsters in the face with crazy alien weaponry. It's also got some sort of narrative and online, but who cares?

You use awesome weapons and shoot monsters with them, and that simple pleasure - triggering pleasure impulses not stroked with such satisfaction since the last time I played DOOM - is enough to earn it a spot in my library, and this list.

Demo available.



Valkyria Chronicles
Sega WOW
November 4, 2008
Strategy RPG.

I love Valkyria Chronicles and its DLC. Simply put, it's one of the best games on the PS3.

A thirty-hour opera of Japanese-style storytelling that is remarkably mature - though it does descend into anime tropes with a deliberate wink here and there - with immensely satisfying sort-of-X-Com-like strategy RPG gameplay and presentation that is never short of gorgeous. It doesn't so much look like an anime as a manga that has been animated - if that makes any sense.

Lemmie put it this way:

In 2008, I spent most of the year ravenously looking forward to the PS3 release of BioShock. I went so far as to purchase myself a copy of Ayn Rand's obscenely dense Atlas Shrugged and read it cover-to-cover, only because I once heard a familiarity with the book and Rand's individualist philosophy gave one a richer experience of BioShock. Come October '08, I had my BioShock fund all squared away.

Then I tried the demo for Valkyria Chronicles - and BioShock was relegated to the back of line. It could wait, but VC could not.

Not everyone likes it. You don't have to like it. But I demand that you try the demo.

Demo no longer available.
There was a demo, prior to late 2010. You should've tried it!




Little Big Planet
Media Molecule
October 28, 2008
Platformer.

This excessively adorable physics-based platformer is the PS3's answer to Mario. Beyond its beautiful, inventive developer-created levels, LBP is most notable for boasting over a million* freely available user-designed levels. Due simply to the amount of creators out there, there is an absolutely stunning degree of variety and creativity on show in the online levels - and as with any bastion of online show-casery, there are tons of crappy ones.

Of course, for every hundred terrible levels, you will find one that is jaw-droppingly brilliant.

The interface is easy, and the component of the game that allows you to create your own levels is like the techno-pop grandchild of the LEGO you used to obsessively assemble as a kid. For some, it is incredibly easy to get lost in the game for a very, very long time (just ask my brother). For others, LBP is a good-looking platformer that just doesn't feel quite as nice as the titles we grew up with.

Either way, there is nothing like it - and though it may not be your cup of tea, it may also be the only cup of tea you'll ever need.

*this is not a typo.


Demo available.



Siren: Blood Curse
SCE Studio Japan
July 13, 2008
Survival horror.

The review.

Siren is the single most under-appreciated game on the PS3. Far too few have played it, but even worse far too few even know it exists.

Wonderful art direction and atmosphere, absolutely incredible music, classic adventure gaming tropes, the best damn variation on the shambling dead I have ever seen and - here's the kicker - built from the ground up as a stealth game.

Consider that. The already stress-fueled survival horror genre combined with the tense, nervous gameplay of a stealth title - but Siren's genius isn't limited to its loving combination of mechanics and styles. It is as smart as Silent Hill 2, and twice as creepy. Oh yeah. I went there.

You have two options for obtaining Blood Curse. Download it (about 9GB) off PSN for a cool forty bucks - usually thirty around Halloween - or import the Asian (not the Japanese!) version from a site like PlayAsia.com. The Asian disc release (called New Translation) is identical to the North American PSN release - it also saw a disc release in Europe, and was blessed over there with an English-language instruction manual.

One other thing - this is a game that is best not judged by its demo. The demo introduces a few gameplay mechanics and shows a bit of what the lighting engine can do, but does not begin to address what makes Blood Curse a brilliant game.

Demo available.



Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Kojima Productions
June 12, 2008
"Tactical espionage action."

If you haven't played the first three MGS titles, that's an issue that you need to address. Otherwise, you know the basics of what 4 will present you with - graphics and production values that raise the bar for video games as a whole, enemy AI programmed for maximum entertainment, the brand's classic stealth-action gameplay, exceptional boss confrontations and long-winded cutscenes that desperately attempt to live up to the Hollywood standard of storytelling.

If you've played MGS2 in particular, you may not be as put off by the sheer volume of cutscenes in 4, but there is a lot to watch in this game. Lemmie put it this way - the game clocks in at about thirty hours, but if you skip all the cutscenes you can beat it in less than five.

That said, for a fan of the series Metal Gear Solid 4 is an earth-shattering orgasm of "this one's for the fans!" moments. It's a love letter to people who love the series, giving them more than they could have possibly hoped for in Solid Snake's final mission, and is definitely my favorite game of 2008.

Demo available.



Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Naughty Dog
November 19, 2007
Cover-based shooter, adventure.

In a nutshell, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is the experience we all wanted Indiana Jones 4 to be. Even three years on it's still one of the best-looking games of the current gen, and like its sequel it plays beautifully. Standard-setting voice work, thrilling gunfights, easygoing platforming, sky-high production values and lovable characters all make Uncharted a classic.

It took me a while, personally, to fall in love with the title. The demo made me hate it. When - after a million recommendations - I finally rented it, I was able to see that it's a great game. Upon purchasing it and beating it on Crushing difficulty, I had to admit Uncharted is a masterpiece.

Demo available.



Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
Insomniac Games
October 23, 2007
Platformer, shooter.

I find something irresistibly seductive about the prospect of exploring strange, beautiful alien worlds in the hover-boots of an anthropomorphic space wombat. Tools of Destruction was Ratchet's debut on the PS3, and it was hailed as the first video game to fling the player into a Pixar-quality world of cartoony bliss.

These games are lovely to slip into - like a warm blanket of classic gameplay that makes one feel all comfy and satisfied. Run around, explore, collect, jump across gaps and up stairs, and blow the holy hell out of everything with a gigantic arsenal of bizarre weapons and toys. Given the price cut the game has seen, it's more than worth checking out to discover if the R&C formula is your cup of tea.

Demo available.



Heavenly Sword
Ninja Theory
September 12, 2007
Action-adventure, brawler.

The review.

Heavenly Sword received a fairly tepid response from consumers thanks to medium-warm reviews and (what was, at the time) a small install base. I finally got my mitts on it in 2009, and I have no trouble giving it a recommendation... for the right price.

It's not a game I'd be happy spending sixty dollars on - it's a bit on the short side, and the gameplay lacks depth - but I feel it was a bit of a steal for thirty. The game is undeniably gorgeous, with huge ambition and stellar production values, but where it really stands out is the storytelling. There are a few games that have managed to make me well up near the end, but only Heavenly Sword pulled it off in the first five minutes.

The cutscenes in particular, directed by (and sometimes starring) Andy Serkis are absolutely bloody staggering, even after experiencing the incredible Uncharted 2. I still have not witnessed a game with facial animation that even approaches Heavenly Sword's - made all the more affecting thanks to the uniformly excellent cast.

How does it play? It's okay. It's just about good enough. There are definitely better brawlers out there, but the experience the game offers is assuredly worth your time - even if only as a rental.

Demo available.



Resistance: Fall of Man
Insomniac Games November 11, 2006
First-person shooter.

Insomniac's first departure from the Ratchet & Clank series since 2002 became the PS3's first must-have title, mostly because it was - at the time - the only really high-quality game on the system. While Japan was putting out sub-par high-def variations on last-gen ambitions, Insomniac upped the bar with a slick, creative, rock-solid FPS.

I still like the idea of an alternate history in which World War II never occurred and Europe has instead been engulfed by a mysterious alien menace - the game's narrative is okay, but doesn't really break any new ground.

No, what's great about Resistance is the same thing that's great about all Insomniac games - it is simply a solid title with well above-par presentation and perfectly tuned gameplay. Oh, and crazy weapons.

Demo available.

4 comments:

  1. Chance - I too am thinking about picking up a PS3, expressly for the exclusives (since I can get most 360 games of interest on PC), so this is a really informative and helpful post! I'll be referring to it often in the next two weeks! -GMaster7 from PA

    ReplyDelete
  2. :D I'm glad you dig it. You're precisely the audience it's for - folks who've gotten their multiplatform titles elsewhere, and are looking at the PS3 only for its exclusive library.

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  3. Yep, that's me. Have you played MAG? It got... decent reviews, but I'm mostly interested because I love persistent multi-faction conflicts and teamwork. Not sure which faction I'd play (PA plays SVER, but I'm not sure that I've really played online with PA before in any great capacity), but I'm thinking about getting that as well and making my FPS-loving, PS3-owning friends pick it up too. Just not sure if my time is better spent elsewhere, but I'm interested.

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  4. In honesty, I played a private beta of MAG last summer and didn't think enough of it to try the recent public beta (which is now unavailable).

    The game doesn't have a demo, so you can't try before you buy, but in a nutshell MAG is a very capable, very ambitious shooter (that I didn't feel had much personality) that will live or die on its community.

    Articles pop up for such games here and there post-release - there's surely something around that examines how the community is behaving at this point - even though it's only been three weeks.

    ReplyDelete