Stealth Bastard Review

February 13, 2012

Original website: http://www.stealthbastard.com/

Stealth Bastard. It is very appropriately named. It is both bastardly hard at times and revolves a good bit around stealth. It’s four mini-campaigns it starts you out with teach you the basics, introduce new concepts every campaign, and have varying level of challenge. I’ve got to be honest though, the most difficult campaigns are 2 and 3, rather than 4 and 5. Conviently, the game lets you skip up to 3 levels without playing a level, and will give you another ability to skip within each campaign with every successful mission. The gameplay itself jumps between masochistic platforming and ocassionaly stealth-centric moments (I say occasionally because really almost everything is twitch-based platforming). There’s some vague allusions to something akin to the basic premise for Portal’s story, but even then the story just doesn’t really maintain itself. That doesn’t necessarily hold the game back, but it makes the few weak attempts feel more like a frustrating reminder that we’re supposedly here for some reason that the developer left out. When the game isn’t pointing to its few faults, the game is really good at platforming. In the place of wall running, the game has a cliff-hanging platforming element that I wish more 2D games had (grabbing edges works in 3D, why not 2D?). In the recent few years I’ve played a good number of free 2D platformers, and I’ve got to say that Stealth Bastard is worth a download. It’s not exactly going to beat out the Great Gatsby “NES” platformer ( http://greatgatsbygame.com/ ), but it’s clearly got promise. The 663 (as of this writing) free additional levels made by fans of the game certainly means you won’t run out of content in this addictively masochistic platformer.

Nitpick moment Honestly the most questionable element included in the game has to be the Seeker enemy type. It’s hamfisted in at the last minute and just feels like an excuse to not reuse other elements in a differing way. It’s gameplay useage in downloadable levels may be more innovative, but in the main campaigns it feels unnecessary attempt at avoiding just making 3 scripted enemy paths.

Why You Should Play: Platforming is polished, Puzzles are (for the most part) Intelligent, and Graphics are Well Done. Very rewarding missions in campaigns 4-5.
Why You Shouldn’t: Stealth isn’t as much a focus as it could be, missions in campaigns 2 and 3 can vary in difficulty a bit too much, vague attempts at story telling are laughable at best.

Today, is a good day for people like me who play demos almost as often as they play full games. The Syndicate co-op demo is here, and rather than like most demos that just blink at you annoyedly when you say “Wait, I was just finally starting to get into it!”, Syndicate’s demo seems to actually let you try the game something. If only there were a term for trial software that lets you try it before you buy it… it’ll come to me eventually…

The gameplay of Syndicate is slick, intelligent, and is very obliged to let people actually work as a team. My only major gripe is that there actually aren’t a whole lot of enemies. I can quick-scope 5 guys on a rooftop and then there’ll be no more in sight. That plus the mission is highly linear. Not to say it’s badly designed, but unlike say L4D that at least gives you the illusion of choice, Syndicate only lets you make a few choices and most of them are just how to approach killing the small platoon of soldiers you tear through. There’s the option to up-difficulty if you’re feeling lucky, but all it seems to do is turn down the aim assist, increase the damage you take and give minor bosses even more layers of armor to hack through. I will also have to ask: Why does Syndicate include pistols when no enemy drops them and they have no seemingly worth-while value? You can carry two rifles at a time (big shocker I know), but you can only start out with one and your choice of 3 generally pointless pistols. They can try to make the pistols sound fancy all they want, more people are going to be using the rapid-fire sniper rifle (including me!) rather than a techno-looking six shooter. Still, I can look past all these faults because the game itself plays brilliant. If the singleplayer plays this well, then I see Syndicate being a very strong contender in the future shooter market.

Now for Tim Burton’s dream game, Scary Girl. Upon hearing the Escapist’s review, I was intrigued enough to try the demo. Needless to say, it may be one of the best examples of good game design, period. It has well designed brawling mechanics, some of the best art direction and sound design I’ve ever seen/heard, and the platforming handles like a dream (this is coming from someone who sucks at both Super Mario Bros. Wii and Littlebig Planet). Also, once again it is an example of a very well made… something that lets you try something before you buy it (still am trying to come up with a word, I’m amazed no one thought of this concept before… maybe Nit will have an idea). It lets you try sections out of each game’s world, gives you just enough in-game currency (if you gather it) to buy one of the upgrades for your hook, and lets you see several highlights. This isn’t to say it shows you everything, but the demo did take me roughly 40-60 minutes to complete (I can’t even say the Syndicate’s multiplayer mission takes that long to complete). If I wasn’t trying to save money right now, I would have bought it. Try the demo if you don’t believe me, it’s on both XBLA and PSN.

Gotham City Imposters is not exactly what I expected, in the good way. While when I saw the very first glimpses of the game I was curious, further along it just disinterested me more and more. Then I downloaded the beta, expecting either something interesting or so horrendous I’d be deleting it moment after starting to play it. And dare I say, this thing is probably worth more money to you in the long run than the Robin and Nightwing DLC (as Gotham City Imposters is generally meant for Batman gaming fans, so chances are you already have or are in the process of getting Arkham City). The humor can be either entertaining or boring, but the attention to detail is astounding. The menu layouts, the backgrounds, the ads and billboards, the weapon balancing, the multiple unique platforming mechanics that all somehow work perfectly within the context of numerous levels. That said, the level design is also well plotted out, and the game ACTUALLY COMPENSATES FOR SPAWN KILLING! If someone’s at your one spawn, you spawn somewhere else, and in one mode of play the game will even swap the spawn points so that if your enemies are somehow abusing a strategy to their gain, you can kick their asses right back.

Also I feel it should be stated that all three games above have little to no gore. The “little” being headshot explosions in Syndicate (but it’s already M-rated, so you kind should be expecting that).

That’s all for now, see you later folks.

XCOM as the new 2K shooter is delayed, many of the older fans are pleased to see a new Turn-Based reboot of the main games, yet few seem to show a great deal of concern at the shooter’s fate. While acknowledgements can be given considering the fact that the last time X-Com became a shooter, it was a mindless game that most fan’s hated, the new game actually looks to be almost like a hybrid between Insomniac Game’s Resistance series and Gearbox’s Brothers in Arms, with a progression and choice system like out of a Bioshock game. The weapons look like a decent mix of the familiar and the distant, the control of your squad looks smooth and efficient based on one preview that Game Informer had. The art style isn’t cliche, and has a very nice “Pixar” feel to it in that it dodges the issues of the uncanny valley. The game will even let you have freedom in how you progress with most missions similar to how Mass Effect generally only made you have to recruit 3/4s of your team and only required about two to three loyalty missions completed to go through the Omega Four Relay.

Despite this, there’s not been much praise for the game. When the game was first presented, the criticism and skepticism were understandable, but they’ve clearly gotten a handle on this and the game will likely end up being at least worth an 7.75/10 (in the language of the Hate out of Ten-ers, it’ll be 8.95/10). ( http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/4966-Hate-Out-Of-Ten for those of you who’d like clarification on what I mean).

So please, cut the devs at 2K Marin a break and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Nit requested to add his own little bit to this:

I will find a way to critcize you. Have no fear.

If there’s someone who needs a vocal enough community that it effects the very development of a game, it’s Ubisoft. Think you can make me link my copy of Brotherhood to Uplay, don’t ya Ubisoft? You thought wrong! Which for you is like breathing. Don’t think I’ve been ignoring you, we’ll have a nice long chat about your DRM in the days to come…

You know those old games you used to play? You remember them fondly, but also remember how foolish you were back then? Or are they like the Ex you keep trying to leave but keep going back to because you never find anything better. Well, I guess the F.E.A.R. series is straddling in between those two things. The first game was a brilliantly made shooter. Despite that nearly 95% of the time you were fighting the same enemy type, it kept feeling fresh. Why? Because nearly a dozen different weapons were offered you, and practically any combination could be made to work for you (aside from that one boom cannon with four barrels — that might as well have been a tank piloted by gremlins on crystal meth). The AI is still hard to beat even today, and at least parts of the story were genuinely interesting. Yes, the ending to the first game sucked until it finally got to the -very- end, but at least it didn’t have a QTE boss fight, right?
Now I hadn’t played the FEAR series on it’s launch, so I got to play each game in sequence (granted I stopped playing the non-Monolith trilogy rather early on and then waited patiently for FEAR 2 to install). When I first played FEAR 2, I was honestly disappointed (and if you’re a fan, you probably were too) for about the first hour and a half of the game. Instead of throwing new Replica soldiers at us like in the first game, it threw apparently dumber spec-ops soldiers, and gave us the illusion of actually helpful allies (seriously, why do we even count them as more than cheerleaders?. Then, finally we get the enemies back that we wanted, but it still doesn’t feel the same. We can now carry a 4th weapon, but we also now can only carry 3 medkits, we can’t upgrade our health, bullet-time upgrades are far more sparse, and environments are far more industrialized. I’ll admit the game does use more than just gray and brown, but I’d actually argue that at least something like Gears of War or Warhammer: Space Marine had inspired locals, if not colorful ones. FEAR 2 starts in a hospital, and ends on an island or silo somewhere (with the only the truly well handled horror elements happening in the school section that somehow happen just before the end). The nightmare sequence boss fight was a serious upgrade to FEAR’s ending, but the disturbing concept that your protagonist was being raped by an undead ghost sociopath woman certainly just made you go “W…T…F?”

That was my first time through. Afterwards, I tried the multiplayer a little (it’s actually nicely handled, and very polished, but there’s a feeling they are holding players back just to keep it balanced). Then I let it rest as I played through more games. Coming back to it years later, it feels like my expectations are lowered, but not to the same extent you’d have for something like a Resident Evil game. I played it to show a friend it. The fact was.. the game’s flaws were more clear to me, and the serious overtone was broken. I couldn’t feel invested in it, until I tried something some of FEAR’s hardcore fans would call unthinkable:

I started playing Katy Perry’s “Hot n Cold” in the background. Somehow it not only was in sync with the action, but it made the experience feel like it was new again. Because I felt like I was genuinely having fun, I was able to actually perform better in-game, and no longer was I a cover hugging idiot. I would jump into the fray, load bullets into the nearest enemy, slow down time, shotgun the next nearest bastard, toss a grenade, and then get back to cover for just long enough to regen my slow-mo. I felt like I was breezing through the levels, and I died rarely even though I was running head first at enemies. I even managed to get the lift moving in the one section -with- the boss fight mech firing at me. You should have seen the non-visible look on the pilot’s face when I just left to the next level without even giving him a passing glance.

And so, I’ve wasted enough of your time with this Side Note. But be sure to consider trying this idea out one some other game you enjoyed once. Maybe you’ll find it’s a helluvalot better to beat the Covenant senseless while listening to Florence + The Machine .

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