That's a Wrap
#236 - 8th Fastest Achiever (6 hours, 56 seconds)
There are those who take a harshly critical view of narrative-focused games, arguing that they're barely "real games" at all. I mostly disagree with that statement; so much creative exploration can be done within the incredibly versatile medium of video games, and limiting it to only hardcore competition—either against an AI or other people—would be terribly stifling.
But, I must admit, when it comes to minimally interactive FMV titles like Erica, there might be some merit to the argument. Ever since the days of laughably bad FMV releases on Sega CD and Philips CDI, I've a hard time seeing the point of these endeavors. Here you have access to an amazing interactive medium, and you decide to film a mediocre "choose your own adventure" movie, of all things? If I must sit through what amounts to a SYFY channel TV show episode five times, I'd really rather do it without having to fiddle with finicky touchpad controls every few seconds (who thought that was a good idea?).
A great story would have helped, but I just couldn't connect with it, and not for a lack of trying. It was difficult for me to care about any of the characters, and I found none of the game's various endings to be particularly satisfying. Too many questions were left unanswered. There were some decent acting performances, and I liked how many of the scenes were lit, but the entire time I spent with this, I kept wishing I was playing Virginia again instead.
Halls of Valhalla
#237 - Scrap Collection Simulator 2015 (Mad Max)
I should totally hate this game, considering it's exactly the kind of bland, painfully repetitive and derivative open-world formula largely popularized by Ubisoft games, which I believe the industry needs far less of. Wanna spend 70 mind-numbing hours driving around a barren landscape, completing hundreds of arbitrary tasks and collecting junk? Mad Max is the game for you! There's something about exploring the wasteland that I find very intriguing, though. They did excellent work recreating the sort of anarchic post-apocalypse seen in the films; perhaps even better than other efforts like Borderlands.
You just never know what horrific sight you'll stumble upon next. A cave that looks seemingly innocuous from the outside, but within, a solitary cannibal gleefully gnaws on a macabre pillar he built out of corpses in various stages of decay. A hole in the vast desert leads to a buried home from the past, mostly intact, with children's drawings still stuck to the refrigerator, now a sad reminder of the life people took for granted. Atrocities and oddities are nearly as common as a grain of sand here, and abject cruelty is normalized. It's all grimly fascinating for a while, saving the game from utter mediocrity, with one of the most disturbing portrayals of what mankind's shortsighted nature could lead to.
Once the effect wore off, however, I couldn't wait to be done with it. The narrative is sorely lacking: a gormless dollar store Max (who feels so generic that I called him Miffed Marv) embarks on a quest to build a really sweet ride, after a warlord steals his old car. Max wants a V8 engine, damn it, and he'll commit mass murder to get one. He's accompanied by a hunchback mechanic sidekick named Chumbucket, who might actually be charming, if he'd stop repeating the same lines every ten seconds. This car, called the Magnum Opus, feels more like the main character than Max. It's not until the finale that they delve into Max's psyche a bit, which is the only mildly interesting story content in the game.
So, they drive around collecting vehicle parts, blowing up 100/100 towers or whatever, and beating up thousands of feral wasteland denizens. On foot combat is a crappy clone of the Batman system, and many times, hits won't land or grapple animations break altogether, just because Max or the enemy are on an elevated surface. Watching Max perform a floating armbar on thin air was pretty funny, I admit. Enemies strike frequently, so the fights usually go "punch, punch, counter, repeat" until your fury meter fills, and you become way more formidable. It simply doesn't flow well.
The majority of playtime, however, is spent traveling in the car, and partaking in the car combat the series is known for. That's bad, because the physics are ghastly. Oh, you hit a small rock, eh? Well, hope you enjoy your car suddenly spinning 180 degrees, or flipping over entirely. The car never truly feels good to drive, even after you upgrade it to maximum. Also, some mechanics are more trouble to use than they're worth. There's almost no point in trying to grind or side-ram enemy cars—it's awkward, and does too little damage. Once I unlocked the explosive harpoon, it was so effective that I barely used anything else. Max's auto-aim with the shotgun from within the car is infuriatingly finicky, too: it can never seem to decide what target it wants.
It's a notoriously glitchy game as well, but I only saw comparatively minor bugs, fortunately. A lot of them, though! So many, I should've recorded them to make a compilation. The car spawning halfway inside the ground after fast travel; Max or the car getting permanently stuck on geometry; tutorial messages remaining on screen until I restarted; multiple instances of the same dialogue playing over top of each other; cars bouncing away like a rubber ball after I rammed them, instead of taking damage... I could go on for a while. At least it never crashed.
I'd love to see what a more talented studio would do with this franchise, but that probably isn't going to happen. Guess I'll just go watch Fury Road for the third time.