Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Summer of Platinum # 4

The Devil’s Brigade Volume III

One of the more fantastic things about X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the methods by which you can dispatch the enemies.  With the Circle button on the PS3 controller – and whichever is the equivalent for the 360 – Wolverine can grab the badguys and do some rather nasty things to them a la Mortal Kombat fatality or God of War in pure visceral visuals.  And while those fatality-like kills can be pretty interesting, they’re not the most fun way to dispose of the bad guys, no.  In fact, the most fun manner in which Wolverine can dispose of the bad men is to just chuck them from really high places.  If they’re not a sub-boss or a boss, you can grab almost any enemy and just chuck them off a cliff, regardless of how much damage you’ve done to them.  In one of the later levels of the game, the one set in New Orleans, this comes in plenty handy and I swear on this last play through it’s all I did.  Especially the assassins and dual-machete wielding bastards.  Just grab ‘em, and fling ‘em out the window.  Poof, bad guy gone.

As fun as that is, it’s not the most amusing way.  The most amusing way comes on those same levels where there are random cement mixers placed on the level – because the building is under construction or whatever – and you can chuck the bad guys into these things and they die instantly.  They’re bodies remain in the mixers as it spins with limbs just flopping around.  Thank you, Rag Doll Effect, for the entertainment value amidst the digital violence.

I got down to the final five dog tags and I had a nice little flavor of excitement kicking around in my head.  This was four years and however many failed attempts in the making!  How could I not be excited?!  Yes, I’m a nerd.  As I collected the last five dog tags, I came to the conclusion that the problem with every other list I used for these bastard things was that the “authors” of those lists just copied the list from the official strategy guide and acted as though they had done it themselves.  Because using the list on xbox360achievements.org, I had absolutely no issues finding any of these dog tags.  So much thanks to the guy that put that together, and even took pictures of it.

Gambit is such a wiener.  Just throwing that out there.  At one time, about twenty years ago or more, this guy was a favorite of mine and I have no idea why anymore.  He’s a twat; an uninteresting twat of a character whose powers seem to be excessive every time he appears in anything, and I have no idea why he gained the popularity that he did.  In the game he’s an even bigger twat than he is in the comics.  His absurd Cajun accent that never sounds authentic in anything he has a voice in – not the movie, not this game, not any other game, and most certainly not any of the cartoons he was featured in – that’s even MORE absurd when you try to read it in the comics.  His wanker powers, his everything, really.  I remember in the comics that he had massive restrictions on what he could charge with his energy to make explode – one of the reasons he uses playing cards – and the biggest thing he could charge up was a basketball.  Here it’s statues, giant letters on a neon sign, so on and so forth.  And I don’t mean to get all nitpicky, but, really?  This guy is a boss in a Wolverine game?  Wolverine would gut him with the greatest of ease and move on, no battle to be fought.  Wolverine is the BEST there is at what he does, remember?  Sparring with a retarded mutant from New Orleans isn’t what he does.  You go from a Sentinel to the Blob to… Gambit?  And each attack takes off a splinter of health?  A SPLINTER?!  I know, let us overpower the biggest wiener from the X-Men and make him a boss!

And then it happened!  I collected the last set of dog tags and boom!  The Devil’s Brigade trophy pinged, and not a moment later, ping! Platinum.  Unfortunately, that’s the name of the trophy as well.  “Platinum.”  Usually they have some kind of clever name, but not here.  Just “Platinum.”

Oh, well.  That makes eight!  And the first platinum trophy of my Summer of Platinum!

The Story of Ezio Auditore da Firenze

The Assassin’s Creed games begin with… well, Assassin’s Creed.  It tells the story of Desmond Miles as he’s reliving the life of an ancestor named Altair ibn-La’Ahad, who happens to be an upstart member of an ancient guild of assassins from around 1190 AD or so, during the Third Crusade.  It tells of a secret war between the assassins and the Templars.  Yes, THOSE Templars.  The Templar Knights.  The war is over a secret object called the Apple of Eden, and when you eventually find it and see what it is, it breaks your brain a little bit, because it’s not at all what you’d assume it was.  The first game ends on a sort of blank note.  The ending is not what I’d call a five star quality ending to a five star quality match.  It’s like the match is all five stars and ends with an abrupt run-in from someone that makes little sense, and leaves a whole lot open to interpretation.

Which brings us to the game I’m trying to platinum now, Assassin’s Creed II. The second game opens immediately where the first one left off.  Desmond is escaping from the bad guys with some help from a lady friend – who also appears in the last game – named Lucy Stillman (voiced by that Kristen Bell lady), where they run off into hiding where they have a homemade Animus.  They use the Animus to send Desmond back into the memories of his ancestor again, but it’s not Altair this time.  It’s Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a young man living in 15th Century Italy, who’s about to be introduced to his family’s heritage: the Assassin’s.  The world of Assassin’s Creed is very well crafted to make the fiction of the games fit well into our actual history in the really, real world.  The architecture, the people, the attire, the financial setting; everything was well elaborated on for the second game – even more so than the first – because the game doesn’t take place in the span of just a few years, but almost an entire life-time.  All these ancient buildings and constructs were recreated in the game with a great attention to detail and a precise eye, and again, it presents the players with a very unique opportunity to explore these buildings and the like in a way that you cannot do in real life or even in any other work of fiction.  By the end of the second game, the revelations that are made draw the game further into the realm of science fiction and tinfoil hat fiction, but it all blends together perfectly in my opinion. 

All except the gameplay.  While the gameplay in ACII is vastly superior to that of AC, it still suffers from some of the same issues.  Namely, controlling Ezio.  The Assassin’s that you play as get to scale all the buildings and climb around and do that parkour stuff that folks do, but the problem is that sometimes they want to go in the directions that you DON’T want to go in, and they fall from very high places, often to their death.  There’s another series of games that uses a similar mechanic for its prime gameplay elements (the infamous series) and it, too, has the same issues.  Even when you become accustomed to it, and learn all the elements that you need to know, every once and a while, Ezio will become suicidal and jump to his demise – and it continues past ACII and goes into Brotherhood, Revelations and Assassin’s Creed III.  The combat elements of the game are almost too easy.  All you really have to do is perfect the countering system and you can go through the entire game without taking much damage until you face off against some of the more powerful bad guys that use bigger weapons and have heavier armor.  Trying to hack and slash your way through the game isn’t the best option, nor is it even at all effective.  The weapons serve the same basic functions until you unlock other ones later, like a wrist-mounted pistol and whatnot.  The throwing knives are a huge bonus to have at any point and are ridiculously lethal to most enemies.  The armor you unlock as you guy, which is typical of most games that have armor, and it gets better as you go as well.  One of the biggest faults of Assassin’s Creed was monotony.  It was bland at times, always the same, and every mission pretty much played out the same.  For Assassin’s Creed II, they tried to differentiate the missions as much as possible, and included some missions that revolve around the inventions (or at least the sketched inventions) of Leonardo da Vinci, where you get to pilot his hanglider thinger and his tank thinger as well.  Leonardo plays a pretty big role in the game, and it’s fascinating to be able to interact with such a prevalent historical figure – something that continues throughout the game series.  There’s also a handful of mini-games and puzzle that you get to tinker with that revolve around a secret sub-plot in the game that involves Subject 16, the Animus test-subject that came before Desmond Miles.  Overall, this game is incredibly superior to the original while maintaining the same vibe and feel of it.

There’s also some bonus materials hidden throughout each game.  On one of the houses in the original game, the developers hid the front end of the tractor truck that Optimus Prime from Transformers changed into.  There’s the collectable items such as the feathers among other things, and then there’s the level of depth to the game that you wouldn’t recognize on the surface at all.  Altair’s name, for instance, is Arabic in origin and translates to “bird,” and Ezio’s name is derived from the Greek word aetos, which means “eagle.”  That specific bird of prey is used throughout the game as a symbol for the Assassin’s, from their peak-hooded headdresses, to the vision elements and the way you uncover the environments of the game.  Each time you do a leap of faith, a jump from a high place from where birds are resting into a bale of hay, there’s an eagle cry to accompany it.

Feather Collector

The reason feathers are a collectable object in Assassin’s Creed II is that Ezio’s younger brother, Petruccio used to collect them, and Ezio witness his (along with his father and older brother) execution at the hands of the Templars.  In order to honor his younger brother’s life, Ezio continues to collect them, and there’s a hundred of the bastards decorated throughout the game’s various locations.  Each feather is placed in either a place where you have to climb to get to it, or out in the open atop some sort of construct or another, or they’re very well hidden in some nook or cranny of whatever city you’re in at the time.

This was one of those post-game trophies I was going to do after I originally finished Assassin’s Creed II.  Meaning, I was going to go back and do it at a later date simply because Brotherhood had just come out, and I had yet to even finish ACII.  Somewhere along the line, I lost my save file for the game, and then further put it off because in order to even start collecting the feathers, I would have to start the game over from scratch.

Which is what I did not too long ago.  I restarted the game ‘cause I wanted to finish the first game (finally), play this one and then Brotherhood and Revelations, before finishing Assassin’s Creed III on December 21st, 2012; the date the game actually takes place on, and yes, the game deals with that whole Mayan Calendar, end of the world tinfoil hat stuff.  None of that happened, because I got side-tracked with other games and a car accident; so I barely even touched Assassin’s Creed II.  Starting over this time, however, and using the brilliantly authored Piggyback Interactive strategy guide, I’m collecting the feathers as I move along through the narrative, which isn’t at all as hard as it might seem.  Out of the hundred spread across the game, I’m already in possession of thirteen of them and I’ve only played a handful of hours.  This one shouldn’t take too long as I have no intentions of doing any of the side-quests this time around.  Normally, I attempt to do every side-quest in the games available, which makes the games last that much longer – especially in the realm of RPGs, or action games with multiple RPG elements like the Assassin’s Creed games.

A New Hope (of LEGO)

As promised, a bonus section!

With the recent purchase of the Xbox 360, I decided to buy the games I originally owned on the PlayStation 3 but never got trophy support for this system instead.  That way I could replay these “classics” and have a bonus reason for doing so.

One such game is LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga.

The LEGO games are a delight to play if not simply because they’re so simple to play.  They’re a cross between an open world game (sometimes) and the old 2D platformers like Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros, but in LEGO form.  You collect coins and replay through some of the most influential movie franchises of all time with a sense of child-like delight and sense of humor.  The first game released was LEGO Star Wars, giving us LEGO versions of the original trilogy, and the LEGO Star Wars II, which gave us the prequel trilogy; the Complete Saga is all six LEGO movies crammed into one game with all sorts of weird shit going on.  You can literally play through all six movies as Darth Vader or Yoda or a Storm Trooper if you wished, after you’ve beaten the game.  They continued this series of games by getting into the Indiana Jones franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean, continuing Star Wars with the Clone Wars cartoon, Harry Potter, Batman, and Lord of the Rings.

Reliving the Star Wars movies through the LEGO versions of them is definitely something different.  Don’t like Jar Jar?  You can keep killing him “accidentally,” over and over and over.

I recently started playing it again on the Xbox 360 and I had forgotten how much fun this one is.  It’s the Force abilities and the Jedi/Sith lightsaber stuff that really makes it fun, and then unlocking characters like Boba and Jango Fett as well as General Grievous.

I got my first achievement by doing the Jedi special attack (a slam attack from the air) and smashing five enemies at one time.  That was pretty fun.

My achievements pale in comparison to my trophies.  I have very few.  Maybe six for Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition, three for Gears of War, and one for LEGO Star Wars.  But it’s a start!

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