Wad Reviews Ancient Video Games

The Way of the Samurai 2
Released by Capcom, Acquire in July of 2004

Bites hard, this game does, and not in a good way.

Everything is well rendered and the menu screens look pretty. But gameplay sucks.

Like many games, your character will perform “jobs” to advance. Unlike many games, only two or so jobs are available and your character will have to do them over and over. Find the parcel, find the baby, find the parcel, find the baby… Seriously, how can something like this happen? How can your production team have enough time to program fifteen different hairdoos, twenty different kimonos, many different venues like restaurants and pubs that you never actually need to enter and are completely irrelevant to the game’s plot, buttloads of different weapons, but only a couple of different actual tasks?

As has become popular, your character can choose “good” or “bad” jobs (work for the police, work for the criminals), and that’s fine. The problem comes when you get into a melee attacking “bad” thugs and one of the “good” cops walks stupidly in front of your flailing sword: now you’re screwed. Now you fight both “good” and “bad” enemies and all at once. Good luck.

Way of the Samurai is horribly paced and you’ll quickly find yourself fighting very powerful opponents (far more advanced than your character could possibly be) for no obvious reason.

Another annoying aspect to the game is the way it handles the difference between night and day. It separates the passage of time into segments such as early morning, morning, day, early evening, and night, or something like that. The problem is that visually the game has only two different periods: day and night. It’s stupid to describe something as early morning and have it be visually indistinguishable from the dead of night, but that’s what the makers of The Way of the Samurai did.

Whatever. No fun. Not even worth renting.

Released by Rockstar in November of 2003

Could be worse. Could be better. Could be a lot better.

In this game your character has two attacks and a variety of weapons. You can’t jump or grab onto a ledge and shimmy along or swing on a rope or anything like that. You can walk, walk slowly, and sprint for a finite period of time. You can also strafe left or right, and some additional interactions with the game environment are implemented with the Triangle Button, like picking up dead bodies, crouching behind things, backing against a wall, or breaking a lock with a crowbar.

One innovative thing Rockstar did was provide the character with some single-use weapons. Instead of the standard “find a weapon, use it for the rest of the game” method, some weapons, like the plastic bag or the glass shard, simply work once. Since the character you play is a death row prisoner, James Earl Cash, who sort of just got executed, why the glass shard wasn’t referred to as a shank or a shiv is a mystery. Also, two bats become available early in the game and the bigger one is referred to as a black-jack. An actual black-jack, also referred to as a sap, looks nothing at all like the weapon so named by Rockstar.

The single most annoying aspect of the game, I believe, is the extremely odd handling of the right joystick. The left stick handles Cash’s movement, and the right handles the camera. While Cash is moving, pushing the right stick moves the camera in what I find to be a logical way. I would call it “tripod-mode,” which is to say that the camera moves just as if it were mounted on a tripod and you were the camera operator in real life. Often this is referred to in setup as “inverted,” and better games allow the user to toggle this on both the X and the Y axes. However, when Cash is stationary, the camera behavior flips on the X axis. That Rockstar only allows the Y axis to be toggled in setup is very bad. That Rockstar would change the behavior of a particular control on the fly during gameplay is egregious. In actual play, I find that it’s easier most of the time not to use the right stick at all, simply turning Cash with left in order to look around.

Other than that Manhunt seems like a pretty decent game. It’s just that that’s a huge minus to overall gameplay.


About this entry