(Click the pics to see them in 1280x1024.)
I usually play these games with all the patches on, but I'm making an exception for Devastation.
Devastation Patch Notes 390
The main fix from this patch is the single player AI. The NPC attack AI has been fully rewritten. Your teammates fight better and more tactically with you, they cover each other and look for cover when outnumbered. Also the enemy AI has been greatly improved, making the game more challenging. You have to play it to believe it!
If they patched out all the NPC AI in an update, I've gotta see what they were like originally.
As well as three difficulty modes, I've got a choice between 'Arcade' style, which promises 'Fast and furious action. More speed and heart-pumping combat.' and 'Simulation' style, which offers 'Realistic, more challenging action. More strategy and life-like combat.'.
If that's a choice between a Serious Sam bullet splermer and an Operation Winback hyper-sniper, I'll take 'Simulation' every time.
"A bright and peaceful future? Not even close. More like a twisted version of World War II Europe. Martial law was the only law, the governments were gone. The only economy was that of survival. Technology was outlawed, and pacification squads were established. A few of us defied oppression. We were willing to give what little we had left to regain our freedom and perhaps, some hope. This was life in the Resistance."
"This is how we uncovered the truth and sparked the revolution."
Is it just me, or did that not make much sense?
Thursday April 7th, 2075. 3:53PM Grathius Genetic Research Laboratories San Francisco, California.How can there be a mega-global corporation without technology...?
What's going on?
He was innocently whiling away his work day in the lab, not doing much of anything... apart from mucking around with a conspicuous flashy hacking program on his computer. He must've forgotten to turn on the Trace Tracker because no sooner has he started than alarms begin flashing all over the place and the security monitors fill with the company's elite anti-hacking paramilitary task force rushing down the corridors to save the day.
It was only a bit of fun!
He shoves a data disk into the woman's hands and suggests that they run like hell. Good plan.
This is the part where I play as Baxter and have to protect the woman from the goons, right?
This is the part where I play as the unarmed woman and have to sneak past the guards, trying to find an exit where I can leave undetected, right?
Nope! The bombs go off and the woman escapes unharmed in the confusion.
This is the part where I wander around the city looking for the Resistance, right?
Nope yet again, the cutscene just keeps rolling on.
Turns out the Grathius goons are a little bit tense after the unprovoked bombing attack, and the thought that they might tail her to the secret Resistance base didn't occur to her... it's a massacre.
This is the bit where Flynn throws a gun into my hands and we try and save as many Resistance members as we can before the whole place is torched, right?
Nope. The duo escape 'somehow' and Flynn demands to be taken right back to the Grathius lab so he can use their supercomputer to decode the data disk.
That's a terrible, terrible plan. I love it!
Oh, here we go. I'm playing as Flynn? Nifty!
I thought I might be playing as Eve and end up with crappy weak guns and Flynn yelling at me every five seconds.
This starting area is more of a movement tutorial, we do the now-standard movement tutorial dance: jump, crouch, run. If Eve gets too far ahead, she just waits for me patiently. There's a curious lack of enemies here; there's not even many dead folks lying around. I suppose the whole 'no economy' thing really means you can't have corporations after all.
She leads me all the way through the wreckage of the building, through the back to Baxter's lab from the intro. I put the data disk into the computer... and it explodes in my face.
Eve's long since ran off, locking all the doors behind her. Son of a bitch!
Now I have to escape from the Grathius building, surrounded by a paramilitary security force of God-knows how many people, armed with only a pistol and a knife.
I'm grinning from ear to ear. I've got guns that work! Thank you, Simulation mode!
Yes it could.
After climbing down to the basement, I ignore the very obvious creaking noise above me like a complete idiot and look around for health kits. The elevator car smashes into my head at high speed, turning me into goop.
Running through a wrecked laboratory shooting everything in sight with two of 'em!
Get a load of that dynamic character shadow! Cor!
I'm sure when I've decoded this disk, I'll be able to collect all this evidence together with the camera I don't have and present a thorough and compelling case to the proper authorities, which don't exist.
Some folks say that Flynn looks like Eminem. That's nonsense, he's clearly Ryan Key from Yellowcard (external link).
"I should have trusted you.", she says, overcome with relief.
With the Grathius lab a complete bust, we need to find a different super-computer to read this disk (assuming it's still got the correct number of holes in it). First, we need to get out of the city.
I don't like the sound of that at all. She's just going to get run off and get shot.
I was hesitant to shoot these guys. They're not soldiers or anything. They're just guys with planks of wood!
The bullets in this game have a reassuring shove to them. When you kill an enemy, the force of the bullet gives them a hefty shove, making every death a unique, slightly overdramatic GoldenEye 007 style blast.
The bots all went to the multiplayer school of AI design; the moment they see you they're running back and forth and side to side and climbing up the level. Some of them try to find cover, but there's some screwy interactions between the enemies and the physics objects which means that you're in just as much danger of having a wooden crate flying at you and knocking your head off as getting shot.
The satisfyingly short loading screens contain tips related to the current level. In this level, it has a short guide on how to control my team-mates. For example, if I wanted to, I could tell her to wait at the starting point until I'd cleared out the level. Or I could order her to run in shooting.
Oh, and you know what she HASN'T done this whole time? Spoken. She hasn't quipped, complained, acknowledged, ordered, suggested or mumbled a single word.
Long live Dr. Pack-heat.
Call of Duty.
That I don't hate anything about this game! No auto-aim, no recharging health!
Eve's got recharging health, but that can't be helped. I lose the mission if she dies. If she gets surrounded, she does die fairly quick, but that would be my fault for not recalling her fast enough after hearing gunshots.
Why aren't you dying!?!?
Boom, cutscene. Turns out this guy was someone we were searching for! It feels like half the plot is missing sometimes.
His name is Gus, and he's a gun smuggler. He heard about the SNAFU at the Grathius labs and has offered to lead me to his secret stash of weapons for the Resistance, now that the war has fully hit the streets. He says he's brought a little present for me to get me started.
And I get to keep it on top of the three different types of paired pistols I've found so far! Huzzah!
In other news, I've found the missing plot. It's in the pause menu of all places.
I've lost control of Gus at this point temporarily, because he's decided to be a putz and take point. If either Gus or Eve dies, I lose the mission, so I have to keep up the pace. Not that I've been a slouch so far! Even though I'm sure I picked 'Simulation' style gameplay, there hasn't been a lot of considered action on my part... I've been running, sliding, jumping and kicking debris all over the place. I can't imagine what 'Arcade' style ends up like.
Gus suggests to Eve that wandering around in a Grathius uniform is a good way to get shot, and asks her to go into the back and change. She's decided this going to be her new look from now on. Yes, she's now using a katana.
This is my band. We're called 'Devastation'.
Chrome. You can pick any combination of weapons you like from all the weapons you've picked up in the game so far, up to a (very generous) weight limit.
Why can't every game do that? WHY?
One thing that perhaps every game shouldn't try and copy is the absolutely awesome glitches I've seen. These aren't boring Navy SEALs style glitches, either. Every time I kill a guy, there's a 50/50 chance that his body will start violently twisting and rise up into the air, kicking up a cloud of dust as he disappears into the heavens. On this ramp, the floor is like quicksand to enemy bodies. A headshot causes the enemy to start flailing his hands desperately as his legs are sucked into the ground. Other times, the enemies simply disappear instantly when they're dead.
And they leave their gun behind, always. This game plays fair.
And I've got a sniper rifle.
I can't carry the six pistols, two Uzis, sniper rifle and shotgun all at once, sadly... unless I cheat. There's a silly glitch in the game where you can trick it into letting you hold more guns than you normally can. Sure, the game complains you're ENCUMBERED in big (small) letters from that point on, but it's had absolutely no noticeable effect on my movement or accuracy.
I've not had many ammo troubles so far, I've noticed. I have to remember to manually pick up the guns the enemies drop, and the guns do disappear over time. Items that you can pick up are lit up brighter than the rest of the level, so there's no way to miss them. If the team-mates are feeling heroic, they'll kill enemies on rooftops before they've had a chance to complete their entrance animation which means that their guns don't land in a place where you can pick them up. Messing around with guns let me discover a disgustingly obvious and absurd glitch for infinite ammo that makes me chuckle even thinking about it.
Ryan must venture on... alone!
Devastation: Starts with you escaping a place with only a pistol. No auto-aim. No recharging health. No keycards. Quick saves and quick loads if you want them. Every enemy drops their gun. Guns work at distance. Guns work at all. You get lots of them. You can hold lots of them. Head shots. Single handed weapons that can be optionally dual-wielded from the moment you find a duplicate. Controllable team-mates. Silent team-mates. Configurable controls. Decent alert music. Decent looking levels. Linear, but the game lets you get on with it, instead of treating you like an idiot. These are good things.
The bad things I noticed... um... well, it doesn't have an objective highlight button. And the dual-firing guns are a bit wonky. And you can't aim down the sights for max accuracy.
I was under the impression that this was going to be one of the cheaper games, like Red Ocean. And, well, it was. But I was expecting a lot of bland or repeated rooms, and it simply doesn't do that. This game's got attention to detail all over it. They were really, really trying. The voice actors weren't, but whatcha gonna do?
It's a half-finished mess, sure, but if it were slower and more grounded, you'd have time to worry about how little sense it all makes, in terms of plot or gameplay. All the glitches fit into Devastations fast-paced larger-than-life nonsense world. What's important is that the actual shooting works.
I'd heard scary stories about Devastation. I'd heard it's like dust held together with sticky tape and falls to pieces the moment you try to pick it up. It probably does. Later.
But, for now, it's damn spiffy.