Sunday, February 28, 2010

Why Uncharted Sucks

Ok, that title is a bit inflammatory but it gets your attention. Does it suck? No. Is it really poorly designed from a gameplay perspective? Yes. Uncharted is a very pretty game with a good story that received many positive reviews when it came out. Where it breaks down is the gameplay.

The first problem is there is no crosshair when you are in cover. This means you can't line up shots more than vaguely while hiding from enemies. So it turns into an exercise of pop up, see how far off you are and then either correct while popped up or crouch down and try to adjust and pop up again. This oversight is criminal considering how much shooting you do in this game. I can't count the number of times I have been shot popping up to try and correct my aim. I find this completely unacceptable and severely limits my enjoyment of the game.

My next issue is with what I like to call insta-flanking. I am making that word up but it describes being flanked almost immediately at the start of a fight. This happens several times during the game. The fight that made me want to break the disc and made me give up on the game is a great example. Imagine a square room with a bunch of pillars at like 10x10 intervals in it and you are entering on the bottom right corner. You drop down and are immediately shot before you can get to cover of any kind (this is on normal and after having died multiple times so you know the enemies are coming). Then you manage to get into cover behind a low wall facing one direction, lets call it north, and start to try and pop up and kill the enemies with the fiddly no crosshair in cover aiming system. So you are doing this for like maybe 10-15 seconds when you start getting shot from the west. There are still enemies to the north (even after killing a few of them) and now there are enemies to the west and you can't find cover that will allow you to not be shot from some direction. The circular pillars seem like you could hide on those and slide around one way or another but no they only let you stick to one side of them so they don't help. At this point it seems like your only real option is to get out of cover and try to free shoot enemies to the west. I have tried this, it results in me being shot and killed pretty quickly. I tried this section maybe two or three times the first time I was playing it and another four to five times when I decided to give it another chance yesterday. Being put in tough situations is one thing but situations where you are going to have to repeat it over and over because of poor design is another.

My final complaint is the wedging of the Sixaxis controls into various parts of the gameplay. I get Sony forced them to do this but it is annoying and pointless. The log walking parts? Ok, it sort of fits there but the grenade throwing? Who thought that was a good idea? It basically makes grenade throwing impossible in the heat of battle.

Just to forestall the inevitable "Learn not to suck dude!" comments or thoughts I will point out I was playing on Normal difficulty. I will also point out I finished Call of Duty 4 on Veteran and ended up as a level 55 gold cross in multiplayer. My gamercard is linked on the right of the page, you can check out the CoD4 on Veteran achievement and also check out all the other shooters I have played.

I had a friend of mine call Uncharted his Game of the Year for 2007. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it did score fairly well in reviews but I have to believe that being a PS3 launch title allowed him and others to ignore the major flaws in the game. Uncharted is a pretty game with a good story that is ultimately let down by egregious design decisions.

Monday, February 22, 2010

NHL 10: Hidden Attributes

In NHL 09 there were two attributes called Offensive Awareness (OA) and Defensive Awareness (DA) and they varied by skater type. They were mostly ignored and no one was quite sure what they did for the longest time. As it turns out OA gave you better passing vision and DA allowed you to get your stick on more pucks defensively as they were passed (EA Sports forum). I liked to run with DA higher on whatever build I was playing to be able to defend better.

When NHL 10 came out these two attributes were no longer listed. Did they remove them or just hide them? After playing nearly 700 games of NHL 10 I can tell you with some certainty they hid them. I find it easiest to notice when trying to pass or watching others try to pass with defensive verses offensive defensemen. Even with the exact same passing attribute the defensive defenseman can struggle to connect with forwards up ice. It can still be done just there are more passes that go off target. I suspect this is due to the hidden OA attribute. In 09 there were 20 points difference between the two.

The other thing I notice is how different skater types feel to play especially power forward and defensive defenseman. I can have the exact same agility as another build and it feels slower to turn and react. This leads me to suspect there are other hidden attributes that are specific to each skater type.

While I appreciate more delineation between the player types so they don't all play exactly the same and there is not one killer build (say hello dangler from NHL 09) I also very much like to have all the data in front of me so I can make rational decisions. Having the hidden attributes in there muddies up the decision making process and I think that hurts the game overall.