Jun 142011

Pre-order bonus are nothing new.  The fact that it’s a trend that upsets many gamers doesn’t seem to be decreasing the wide-spread usage of pre-order bonuses.  Many games, you’d have to buy multiple copies from both brick and mortar and online retailers to compile all the various extra weapons, levels and perks being offered, which is obviously a non-customer friendly practice.  Even stranger, it’s not uncommon to see codes for bonuses sell on eBay for $10 or sometimes much, much more.  Now that details of BF3’s “Physical Warfare Pack” and “Back to Karkand” have been fully explained, many gamers have been fighting back against DICE and EA on these practices, claiming that if you don’t pre-order the game, you’ll be at a disadvantage online because you won’t get the extra weapons pre-orderers will get.  Also, you’ll have to pay extra to get the “Back to Karkand” pack, which includes some old favorite maps like Strike at Karkand and Wake Island, that any BF veteran will want access to.

What kicked it off was a threat of boycotting the game over at Reddit, which then prompted a response by DICE.  Of course, gaming boycotts rarely work — and we all remember the CoD:MW2 Steam boycott group (over lack of dedicated servers) who many of which were found to be playing the game on release.  However, the internet reminds us it was Sarcastic Gamer who promoted a boycott of the original (console only) BF Bad Company game, which tried to pull a similar stunt on pre-order exclusive weapons scattered about various retailers.  After hearing the outcry of the internet, DICE and EA backpedaled on the idea, and everyone was happy.

This time around, DICE doesn’t seem as willing to compromise, stating that pre-order weapons won’t imbalance the game, and will just offer a “more varied arsenal.”  As far as “Back to Karkand” — well, if you don’t pre-order the game, you can still get it post-release at an undisclosed extra price.

I’m definitely not a fan of pre-order shenanigans like this, although I have been known to pre-order games, mostly at Amazon.  My main motivation for pre-ordering is usually monetarily based, due to the plethora of $10 and $20 credits offered pre-release on high profile titles.  I usually won’t pre-order a game that only offers exclusive content as it’s usually just throw-away items — most developers won’t offer “game changing” items because it throws the whole balance of the game out of whack.  DICE says they are most definitely not doing that here, almost alluding to the fact that these extra weapons are worthless.   However, the extra map pack, offering some highly desirable maps, could save you money by not making you pay full retail for the game ($60 on all platforms) plus conceivably another $10 or more for the Karkand pack which includes Karkand (duh), Wake Island, Gulf of Oman, and Sharqi Peninsula which represent the best maps from the previous BF games.

Who’s pre-ordering this one?  I’m still on fence, but don’t appreciate DICE explaining the pre-order bonuses as “rewarding our core fanbase.”  We know what these incentives are for, please don’t insult us.  A better way to reward your core fanbase is to offer these 4 map remakes to all purchasers of the game, included in the base price of $60.

Jun 142011

Having finished L.A. Noire last week, I figured I’d follow up my first impressions with a few final thoughts on the game.  Overall, I found the game very entertaining from start to finish although this can definitely be considered a game that is “not for everyone.”

First off, it’s not an action game.  Even though it’s Rockstar who brought you GTA and Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire is most certainly not a cops and robbers shoot ‘em up.  There is a bit of shooting, and you’ll get to kill your share of bad guys, but these sequences feel more like afterthoughts or bolt-ons rather than important parts of the game.  Additionally, the shooting in the game isn’t very good, and probably provides some of the least enjoyable parts of L.A. Noire.  Adding to the feel that action isn’t a focus, there is an option to allow you to skip action sequences if you fail them a few times in a row.  I didn’t need that option, but it’s nice to see it available for those who aren’t adept at action games and want to enjoy L.A. Noire for its story and adventure-like aspects.

Second, the driving parts can be quite tedious.  Driving, sometimes long distances, to crime scenes coupled with the fact that reckless driving can hurt your overall case score makes you want to skip driving all together.  Thankfully, this was accounted for, as most of the time your partner can do the driving, which basically amounts to fast-traveling to your destination.  After the first few times, I let my partner drive everywhere, although there are a few instances where you are forced to take the wheel to tail a suspect or chase someone down.

Lastly, the overall case formula can be repetitive.  When you strip it down to it’s core components, each case more or less follows the same pattern.  You start at the precinct and get a case assignment.  You drive (or fast-travel) the to the crime scene, look for clues, question witnesses, follow up leads, interview suspects and charge the one that best fits the evidence.  Sometimes it can end in a shootout or car chase to vary it up, but the basic formula is there.  Without spoiling it, there is no true way to fail a case, just varying degrees of success.  In cases with multiple suspects, you’ll have a sense that none of them are guilty, but some are more worthy of being thrown in jail than others.  There’s always the “popular” choice from the captain and your partner, even though you have suspicions that something larger is going on.  The cases are mostly all tied together and yes, it all will make some sense in the end, so stick with it.

With a bunch of negatives listed above, how is it possible that I enjoyed this game?  The game, at heart, is a very well polished adventure game, like some sort of modern-era point and click adventure.  With the action being forgettable and a repetitive case formula with some deviations, the thing that brings it all together is a capturing story, top-notch voice acting and excellently written dialog.  L.A. Noire unfolds like a great cop drama, sticking with the implied noir theme set in a beautiful 1947 Los Angeles environment where attention to detail was paramount.  And let’s not forget the motion capture tech used here, that has the in-game characters not only voicing their lines, but acting them out as well.  It’s all very well done.

Again, I’ll voice my praise for this game, as I did in my first impressions.  The story keeps you interested all the way through, and makes you easily dismiss the weak parts while you enjoy the experience that’s a bit unique in today’s games.  As mentioned previously, this game also is great for spectators who can play along looking for clues and interrogating suspects, while also enjoying the story much like watching a TV show.  Playing the game a case at a time seems to work as a good pace, as each case can run roughly an hour at a time, depending on how thorough you want to be.  With about 19 cases, there’s a decent amount of content here, and that doesn’t count the side stuff like finding hidden cars, responding to street crimes and doing the free-play modes where you can explore the city, if you so desire.  I haven’t done much of that and concentrated most of my focus on the main story.  It’s probably one of my favorite games of this year, if not the favorite so far.

Still looking to pick up L.A. Noire?  You’re in luck, it’s [amazon_link id=”B002I0J5UQ” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon’s Deal of the Day[/amazon_link].