Call of Duty: WWII - title

I haven't played a Call of Duty game since World At War on the PS3 almost 10 years ago. I really liked the first two CoD games on PC, but after Infinity Ward stopped developing the games, they increasingly focused on spectacle rather than any attempt to accurately portray war. After throwing back more enemy grenades in the first mission of World At War than were probably ever manufactured in all of World War II (I'm exaggerating a little bit), I got sick of that game and basically gave up on the franchise.

After having a little bit of fun with EA's Battlefield 1, I decided to pick up a used copy of Call of Duty World War II from eBay. I was curious if the return to World War II would be taken a little bit more seriously by Activision. It wasn't. This is the same old stale Call of Duty that I've been actively avoiding for the past decade. The single-player campaign didn't do anything to pull me in.

A light-gun shooting gallery

Probably the biggest problem with the campaign is just how rote and repetitive it feels. Almost all of the game's missions boil down to moving from one shooting gallery to another. When you aren't in an outright combat tunnel (like a bunker or trench), you're only given about a hundred feet of lateral space to work with. The whole game feels very confined and small in scale, with very few opportunities for any tactical movement such as flanking maneuvers. Just sit behind cover and pop out to take a few shots, then repeat. It might as well be an on-rails shooter, or one of those pop-out-and-shoot light-gun arcade machines like Time Crisis. I wonder if this was maybe done to make the game work better in VR? Maybe they wanted to reduce the amount of movement so that players don't get motion sick? But it's not VR, so it just comes off as lazy and tedious.

Almost all the missions boil down to moving from one narrow shooting gallery to another.

Even when the game tries to do something a little different, it usually still finds a way to make it uninteresting, or to outright get it wrong. There are some stealth mechanics shoe-horned into the game -- because of course there's stealth mechanics. They are rudimentary and very unforgiving. It's clear that certain segments are intended to be played stealthily, but you just don't have the tools necessary to make it work, and the levels aren't designed very well for stealth. Your limited field of view makes environmental and situational awareness very difficult. It's hard to tell where enemies are, and it's also hard to tell if your'e hidden behind cover. Even if you are effectively hidden, you can't peek out of cover to monitor the enemy's position or movements.

After stealth killing one or two enemies, I almost always got caught and was forced into more shoot-outs. Many of these scenarios involve the player being isolated and usually disarmed, so that you don't have the firepower to easily deal with a shootout when it inevitably happens. Put simply, the stealth is only barely functional and might as well not even have been included.

The undercover "Liberation" mission is the only level that is actually built around stealth.

The only stealth level that worked was the undercover "Liberation" mission with the Marquis (which you mostly play as a different character). ...

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Amazing Spider-Man 2 game - title

After 2012's Amazing Spider-Man tie-in game presented some interesting ideas, I was really hoping that Beenox would have an opportunity to take the things they'd learned and apply them to a new, stand-alone Spider-Man game that would not be constrained to the plot and release schedule of a film tie-in. Sadly, that hasn't happened yet, and we have a new movie tie-in game that suffers from almost all of the problems associated with a movie tie-in.

Once again, Beenox was smart enough to know better than to follow along with the movie's asinine plot and opted to write their own side-story. Unfortunately, this one isn't as well written or as well presented as the previous game. It could have been a good story, but plot is clumsily-executed, and the associations to the movie only drag it down further.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 game - oversized Kingpin
The Kingpin is comically (and ridiculously) oversized.

The bulk of the story is based around Wilson Fisk (the Kingpin) using rising crime rates as an excuse to deploy his private anti-crime task force in New York city. His company partners with Oscorp (who supplies the task force with its tech), and sells the task force to the public as a way of stopping crime and ending the vigilante justice that has plagued the city. But secretly, the task force is really out to destroy rival crime bosses and give Kingpin a monopoly on New York's organized crime underworld.

There's another secondary plot about hunting down the serial killer Cletus Kasady, who is killing criminals. This plot is only barely tied to the Kingpin thread, but it takes center stage during a large chunk of the second act of the game, and almost seems to become the main story - almost as if the writers couldn't decide if they wanted the game to be about Kingpin or about Carnage.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 game - web-swinging
Web-swinging uses pseudo-physics that requires more active involvement from the player.
It's more rewarding than the prevoius game, but still not up to the level of earlier Spider-Man games.

Aside form a couple obligatory super villain boss fights with Electro and Green Goblin (Harry Osborn), the game has very little relation with the movie on which it is supposedly based...

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This review was originally published 03/13/2011 on Game Observer (now defunct). It has been republished here for archival purposes.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions cover art

Beenox combines several different styles of gameplay and visuals into a fairly enjoyable but very short, disjointed, and sometimes unstable Spider-Man adventure.

I’m so glad that the last few Spider-Man games have not been constrained to follow a movie’s plot. Even though the Spider-Man 2 movie game was arguably the best Spider-Man game since the first one on the PS1, I really want to see developers try something a little more creative with the Spidey character. I’m one of the people who thoroughly enjoyed Web of Shadows and was really hoping to see further development with that game’s fantastically tight controls and combat mechanics. But Beenox had different ideas for a Spidey game – much more ambitious and creative ideas. They scrapped the free-roaming open New York and web-swinging mechanics that have become a staple of Spider-Man games since the second movie game in favor of a dimension-hopping beat-em-up. It’s actually a nice change of pace.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions - Sandman tornado
This battle against the Sandman early in the game is one of several exceptional action set-pieces.
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the amazing Spider-Man the amazing Spider-Man

I'm a pretty big Spider-Man fan. As such, I tend to get pretty excited when a new Spider-Man game is announced. I was pretty impressed with some of the things Beenox accomplished with Shattered Dimensions, but still didn't feel like the game hit its potential. Last year's Edge of Time game was a monumental disaster, and kind of has me turned off a bit with regard to Beenox's approach to Spider-Man games.

Having been underwhelmed by Beenox's last attempt at a Spidey game, I was a bit disappointed that they were going to be handling the movie tie-in.

I haven't been keeping very well-informed about the game. I haven't watched any trailers or previews. Pretty much the only info that I've gotten for it have been a few previews in GameInformer. But I did finally watch some E3 footage:


E3 preview with critical commentary.

UPDATE: June 17, 2012: Uncut gameplay video from GameInformer validates my complaints

Came across this preview of The Amazing Spider-Man game that was released yesterday on GameInformer's website. The video contains several minutes of uncut gameplay, which includes footage of Spider-Man webswinging well above the tallest buildings in the vicinity, making it all but impossible for his webs to actually be connecting to anything.

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Spider-Man: Edge of Time box art

I’ve played quite a few Spider-Man games in my time. With that, I’ve played a lot of pretty bad Spider-Man games. But Edge of Time just might take the cake. After Shattered Dimensions proved to be a fun and well-designed (if not a bit rough around the edges) game, Activision apparently decided to let Beenox try another Spider-Man game, and made the horrible mistake of trying to rush it out before Batman: Arkham City sucked up all the comic-book-gamers’ attentions.

Edge of Time forces us into another game featuring multiple Spider-Men, but this time, instead of a dimension-hopping adventure, we get a time-travel story. The basic premise is that some bad guy from the future (2099) has built a time portal at the Alchemax building and is trying to kill the modern (Amazing) Spider-Man. Spider-Man 2099 discovers the plot and takes it upon himself to go back and prevent this from happening. Fortunately, the designers kept their ambitions constrained to just those two Spider-Men, and didn’t try to complicate matters by going further back in time to encounter, say, Black-suit Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider, Man-Spider, or any other Spider-Man variants from Marvel’s history. Just Amazing and 2099.

The time travel story gives the game is primary gimmick: the things you do in one time period (usually the past) can affect the other (usually the future). This seems to be an effort to correct one of my primary complaints with Shattered Dimensions, which was the overall lack of integration between the Spider-Men in the various dimensions. In this game, both Spider-Men now directly interact. In fact, they spend pretty much the entire game talking to each other through some time-traveling communicator thingie. Kudos to Beenox for trying to address a criticism of the previous game. It’s too bad they totally blew it.

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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