23 Reviews liked by johnKarlos
Ronaldinho Soccer 97
Sonic Free Riders
You know they fucked up when navigating through the fucking menu of a game is a pain in the ass, holy fucking shit man. I mean, of course this is garbage, it's a kinect game, but even for that standard it still manages to be pretty awful.
The theme song is nice though.
Spec Ops: The Line
Mfs really gonna shit on this game for justifying its mediocre gameplay with a heavy-handed "violence bad" narrative and then proceed to talk about how Drakengard is peak fiction
Wo-woaaaaah! It tries to BREAK 4th wall!!! You see this??! 😳
What a joke! I cannot comprehend how the developers so clearly have a sincere passion for Half-Life while simultaneously not understanding in the slightest what makes Half-Life what it is.
My disillusionment with the game set in the instant that I got into my first encounter with the HECU, who are so unbelievably obnoxious and focused on trial-and-error that the game stops for 30 minutes at a time every time you encounter them. Of course, this wouldn't be such a bad thing if they weren't the overwhelming majority in terms of enemy placement; once you first encounter a Marine the (genuinely very good) alien-fighting gunplay is sidelined up until you reach the very depths of the Lambda complex.
The HECU (while also obnoxiously and artificially difficult) are representative of Black Mesa's biggest flaw, and the most dire manner in which it fails to recreate what Half-Life is all about: rather than encouraging exploration, innovation and improvisation like every Half-Life game does, you're regulated to kneeling behind cover and using some of the most boring weapons in the game (namely the MP5 and shotgun) as you attempt to pick them off from a distance. Even the flow of using these weapons is neutered when compared to the original game, due to the MP5's magazine capacity, ammunition reserves and grenade stock being reduced to mere fractions of what they were, meaning that you can't even truly indulge in bombast without having to stop and reload or scavenge for ammo every minute or so. This problem also impacts the revolver and crossbow, genuinely fun weapons that lend themselves well to the long-distance based combat of the HECU: you're reduced to a measly three-or-two magazines in reserve for both of them, meaning you can carry a maximum of twenty-four and fifteen rounds apiece for them. I don't know if they were going for realism here or what, but tell me, do you play Half-Life for realistic portrayals of combat?
The gunplay is not alone in being completely representative of Black Mesa's disdain for exploration and player creativity: there are invisible walls and cheap mapping practices everywhere, determined to stomp out Half-Life's signature feeling of "what's up there? I wonder if I can get up there" at every possible corner. Some of my favorite examples were long-jumping off a floating island in Xen to land on one situated below, only to find that the developers had registered all long falls in Xen as falling into a bottomless pit and would force a reload upon landing... and feeling quite clever when I used satchel charges to bypass an explosive maze only to find that the map was designed to blow you up if the explosives blew up regardless of where you were on the map, even if you were well behind cover.
Speaking of Xen...! I don't know, it's beautiful and impressive and perhaps a step up from the original's from a certain perspective, but it's also not really anything we haven't seen before in a million other alien worlds from a million other science fiction stories. The Xen of Half-Life felt genuinely strange, incomprehensible and uncanny in a manner that not only acted in favor of the game's horror elements but also reinforced the notion that you are not welcome here, that this world was never meant for and never intended to pay host to those of your kind. Sure, we're treated to beautiful forests, swamps and factories, but... they're just that, things that I recognize, things that I've seen before, things that are familiar. It takes the alien out of "alien invasion."
Another thing that bothered me was the music. None of it was bad, I'd say, but none of it really felt like Half-Life to me. Half-Life's OST was dominated more than anything by droning guitar feedback, dark ambient soundscapes and industrial rhythms, the prevalence of which makes the heavy synths and pounding drums that much more impactful when they do show up. Not only does the Black Mesa OST sound much more like something you'd hear in a standard fare sci-fi FPS of the 2010s, it was more or less one Epic Videogame Song With Heavy Drum And Guitar And Synth after another - sometimes it worked for the moment (such as We've Got Hostiles, whose almost desert rock-styled riffage fit perfectly for the adrenaline rush of seeing the surface for the first time only amid a massive firefight) but most of the time I mostly either found the loud music irritating when it played during something as innocuous as exploring a reactor facility, or when I had to listen to it again, and again, and again as I reloaded save after save after save in one of the game's million-and-a-half HECU skirmishes.
It's a shame, because as I said in my intro it's clear that these developers love Half-Life. There's a lot of thought put into capturing the idiosyncrasies of 1998's portrayal of Black Mesa while also making them feel more lively and lived-in from a modern point of view. The moment-to-moment combat and "gun feel" is excellent when you're just fighting aliens, and the flow of the levels themselves is quick, breezy and natural... but because it all goes to hell whenever you get to Xen (the only completely original section of Black Mesa) it's clear that we can give credit to the fact that these are painstaking bit-for-bit recreations of Valve's innovations as opposed to something that the team can truly take credit for. Xen literally milks the same puzzle over and over and over again for the entirety of its 8-10 hour playtime, and only really bothers to introduce its trump card (which in fairness is cool as hell) during the last quarter of Interloper.
The Nihilanth fight, though? That shit fuckin' rules. It's just a shame that the game only finally realizes its potential during the literal final moments of the game.
Played on "hard" (eventually got so fed up with the very first tank fight and the Gonarch fight that I set it to normal until I'd killed those), completed in about 28 hours.
What is it with these people putting god tier music in atrocious games? Stop, the composers deserve better.
Whenever you get the feeling that you've hit rock bottom and won't ever be able to get back up, remember that this game was created by the people who made Bubsy 3D.
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