It’s hard being #2

This last month has been absolutely nuts, school-wise.

As an aside, I had an English teacher, back in high school, who I didn’t especially like and who absolutely deplored the practice of appending “-wise” to the end of nouns, and every time I do it I like to think I’m causing her just a little (probably posthumous by this point) mental anguish.  Not that it’s a good idea to jump off on a long aside as the second sentence of a blog post, but there I go again being all meta.

Anyway, school-wise it is.  Has been.  Was.  It’s over now for three weeks or so and then I get kicking on Winter term, which may in fact be the last term for me before I graduate.

Life is good.

Anyway.

Over the last month or so, I haven’t had MUCH time to goof off and play games, but for various reasons I wound up playing F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin and Bioshock 2: No Subtitle Here, both roughly two years after I played the original games and rather a while behind the times, as usual.

Which is to say, I played the original games when they dropped to the $20 price point, and I actually waited on these two until they dropped to $5 and $10 respectively, thanks to Microsoft trying desperately to push its Games for Windows download service.

Both games kind of suffer from being the middle child in trilogies.  In Fear 2 – and I hope you don’t mind that I’ve dropped the excess punctuation and capitalization – your character is pretty much running through a series of events that bridge the gap between Fear 1 and F3AR, which is a name that pains me just to type but which must be typed.  There’s some vague attempts made to tie you to Armachan and so on, but really the whole game can be summed up as “Alma’s having a baby in F3AR, we should probably talk about what happens in the 9 months between Fear and F3AR”

On the other hand, it’s creepy as hell, much more so than the original game and even more so than Extraction Point, which I quite liked even if it never really happened in official continuity.  Lots of stuff in it to make you jump, and an ending that I didn’t quite understand while it was happening but which creeped me the hell out when I looked it up to figure out what was going on.

Now, if you played the first Fear you probably have a rather, well, nervous feeling about ladders, and Fear 2 is just packed full of ladders.  I can’t swear that was DELIBERATE, mind you, but it says something that the combination of on-demand slow-mo and an arsenal of heavy firepower meant that I thought very little of jumping heads-first and guns blazing into rooms packed with enemies, but the thought of going up a ladder in a completely deserted corridor freaked me the hell out at times.

For 5 bucks it was an excellent play.

The other middle child I put through its paces in the last month was Bioshock 2, which actually isn’t THAT old of a game at only about 9 months old, so it made me feel like I was almost, you know, not behind the times for a change.

While Fear 2 doesn’t do much beyond fleshing out the gap between Fear and F3ar, Bioshock 2 really doesn’t even do that – the next Bioshock game has already been announced and takes place something like 40 years before the first game, so it presumably won’t reference any of the events of the second game.

Also, two of the biggest hype points of the game from its pre-release buzz turned out rather flat – you play as a Big Daddy, sure, but you’re an utter wuss for the first half of the game, and the Big Sisters are, well, rather anticlimactic considering all the build-up they got.

On the other hand, it fleshes out the events of the FIRST Bioshock in a way that I quite enjoyed and gives a lot more insight into Andrew Ryan’s character and ideals; you see the city 10 years after the civil war and you get to listen to a bunch of Ryan’s diaries and they’re pretty cool stuff.  Also, well, Rapture is still pretty neat and getting to see more of the city was fun.

Oh, and playing through the first game and Doing Things Wrong was quite a help for the second game.  For example, in the first game, I more or less completely ignored research, while in the second game I maxed out research for all enemy types.  As a result, while I felt kind of like a punching bag for quite a while, things turned around rather quickly once I got the research camera.

Now for some gripes: While I didn’t use vita chambers much in the original game, I couldn’t make myself worry too much about making use of them freely in the sequel, and that took a lot of the tension away – maybe too much, to be honest; there were never any really stressful moments since dying had so little penalty.  I LIKE games to occasionally stress me out; the first Houdini splicer in the first Bioshock still ranks as one of my Best Moments In Gaming, and losing that feeling was a little depressing.

Also it’s a bit of a mess technically; if you want a proper FOV you need to set the game to a 16:9 resolution and for some reason the game didn’t want to run in a 16:9 rectangle inside my monitor’s native 16:10 ratio, so I had to force the graphics card to run at a 16:9 resolution before the game would work properly.  And,  the lack of Xbox 360 controller support is pretty unforgivable considering how controller-friendly the original game was.

Now, it was 10 bucks, and I’m a lot more apt to forgive a game its foibles if it’s cheap than if I’m paying sixty bucks, it just means that I’ll be waiting on Bioshock Infinite to drop down to the sub $20 range before I take a chance on it.

 

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