Friday, June 29, 2012

Invisible War was better than you think

Those of you who have been following me at Massively (anyone?) know that I've moved to League of Legends, and anyone following here (no one?) knows that I haven't updated in... probably over 18 months. I actually joked that would be my last post for 18 months and it kind of ended up being true.

Either way, my girlfriend convinced me to uh, write blog posts about games that I'm playing. I was actually talking to her about Space Pirates and Zombies, which I might talk about later or something. But since there's something fresh in my mind I should talk about that.

I just beat Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It's a pretty good game. However, there were a lot of things that bothered me about it. All of these things were things that were fixed in DX: IW and many of them weren't problems in the original game.

So let's go right out and start with the story of DX:HR. It's mostly a fanwank for DX. The story isn't bad, but it's kind of simple given the complex plots of the first two games. Things like Tracer Tong's appearance, emails from Morgan Everett and fuckups with emails of Nicolette DuClare (she's under 5 years old in HR and possibly not even born yet; she's in her 20s in DX, which is 25 years after HR). The entire game is one big circlejerk about the original DX.

Humanity advances backwards! The main culprit here is Icarus, though Typhoon is also an issue. Everyone has freaking Typhoon; Namir, Tong, and of course you. Why isn't it around in DX times? Icarus is a brilliant idea from a game design perspective though.

First-person shooter gameplay. I am mixed about this. In IW, Alex is pretty badass with any weapon right at the beginning; and it's mostly weapon mods that improve the performance of your weapons rather than augs. However, HR has a huge problem; guns don't miss enough to warrant getting the gunplay-improving augs. In IW there aren't gunplay-enhancing augs, so this isn't a problem, but in DX you sucked at shooting things at the start, so improving your gun skills was just as important as leveling hacking, swimming, or electronics. In HR you can blow all of your early praxis points on mobility options and still perform similarly to someone with combat points. Additionally, the dermal armor is pretty mandatory, due to stupid power creep. Anyone who fought any of the bosses without dermal armor knows what I mean: Barrett rips through your lifebar with his built-in heavy rifle and it's super frustrating. It would have been nice if progression was more lateral, but passive dermal armor just encourages the game to throw bigger guns at you (mainly heavy rifles). It also encourages dumb gameplay like Namir throwing frag grenades everywhere to try and kill you. Overall I feel like DXHR's upgrade system could have been done a lot better. Your gunplay should be kind of bad at the start and the gunplay unlocks should make you into a no-recoil perfect aim monster (just like in DX). Note that is more or less what happens with weapon mods, due to wtf homing bullets. Homing bullets seriously ruin HR's difficulty as painting an opponent (while cloaked!) followed by blindfire is easy as shit and risk-free.

In general, adding a cover mechanic to DX was a bad idea. Get this Gears of War shit out of my DX.

So that was a totally incoherent rant. My serious beef with HR comes from the experience system. Successful hacks reward a lot of experience, and this greatly discourages you from using passwords. In DX, there was a big reason not to hack any computer you had the password for; your hack device would get detected so you didn't have a lot of time to read emails. Having the password gave you all the time you needed. I don't even remember if there was a hacking minigame in IW, I just remember the hack aug being mandatory. HR's hacking minigame, while cool, should not give the player more rewards than he would receive by finding the password and using it. If I have the password, I should want to use the password rather than hacking the planet.

The experience system doesn't really stop there. Nonlethal takedowns give disproportionately bigger EXP benefits, especially the dual takedowns. This is so dumb I can't even begin to explain it. In DX, killing was a personal choice. Carter rewarded you a bit for going nonlethal, and in a few situations in IW it's desired to use nonlethal force. In all other situations in those games, choosing to go nonlethal is partly a function of your available tools and partly a choice of how you want to play. In HR I'm penalized for shooting people. Even using a tranq rifle and headshotting gives less XP than a takedown, especially a dual takedown. And heaven forbid I get into a gunfight. If I get into a bullet battle, I'm better off poking guys down with a tranq rifle, cloaking around and taking them down or shooting them with my PEPS or stungun or throwing a gas grenade in their midst. I'm penalized for what should be an ethical choice. Fuck that shit. I mean, it's stupid already to reward the player for hacking computers when he has the password but this is even more stupid. IW gave roughly the same rewards for making any given moral choice, making each choice something you wanted to do. You don't always send Jaime back because you want the aug upgrade canister; you choose the decision you actually want to make. HR is a giant step back.

 HR's melee combat is nothing short of unacceptable. If I want to break a box or a window, I have to use a gun, even though I clearly have mechanical arms with blades in them. What the fuck sense does that make? Also, punching a dude costs aug meter. Again, how does that make any sense? Walking around doesn't cost aug meter; neither does jumping, sprinting, or even Icarus landing, even after getting the appropriate augs that improve it. Why would melee cost aug meter? It's because STUPID TAKEDOWN CUTSCENES. Admittedly, the scenes are cool, but they're still stupid because I don't have a melee attack. After rolling through IW with mostly melee attacks (they're pretty much the best thing in the game) I find myself grossly disappointed at HR's dismal melee system. I don't mind the takedown mechanics, but they shouldn't keep me from using melee attacks by selecting a melee weapon and clicking my left mouse.

So was HR a good game? Yeah, it definitely was. I had a blast playing it. I would change a million things about it, but the end product was fun and worth the 15$ sale price. Despite the huge amount of polish on the voiceovers and immersion, the gameplay is not polished enough to be worth the 60$ pricetag.

Also, go play IW. It's really freaking good.

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