Why I loved Portal 2: First of all, it’s the tone – weird, dark humor pulled from a made-up-yet-plausible history of creepy scientific research funded by shadowy organizations – and then it’s the setting – a gorgeous, stunning, massive set of worlds that had me stopping to marvel at the epic industrial complexes built in the name of make-believe science and also left my head spinning as I flew across them like a tennis ball in a tumble dryer. The physics match the mood – lighthearted yet challenging – and the goofball characters, both AI and avatar, add to the wacky fun. The puzzles at times are so frustrating it can incite you to controller-throwing violence but the sweet rush of victory when the most obvious solution finally presents itself to you and a level is unlocked more than balance out the earlier vitriol with heady endorphins and sweaty-palmed desire for the next challenge. Played through on single player and co-op, one of the few games I’ve ever finished both ways because it was that engaging.
Good game, gets me in the mood to go ride for real, but it’s just 1) too realistic – tricks are not epic enough, air is not insane enough, speed is not ludicrous enough and 2) all the challenges are about doing specific tricks, there is no sense of creativity or personal style. Maybe it’s my fault, because I want so bad for this to be SSX Tricky and it just isn’t.
After 1 hour of Dirt 2, I logged into Gamefly and hit KEEP. I was literally cheering at the screen when I’d nail a 1st place win, and if there had been champagne handy I would have sprayed it all over. I love hearing Travis Pastrana address me by name, I love the driving dynamics, I love the music, I love the smooth transitions between racing, menus, and replays with no giant block of loading/wait time, and I love winning and hearing real drivers tell me I’m a badass behind the wheel. Dirt 2 is a genius game that’s really well put together and I’m going to love playing it through. I haven’t even touched MMO yet and I’m already convinced this game is a keeper.
I love so many things about this game – the gang-leader story arc, the cool add-ons to this genre (running a gang, territory management), the dark and comic nature – that it’s very disappointing how painful online play is. Online play is buggy, confusing, crashy, and frustrating. I was really looking forward to an awesome sandbox/co-op after playing solo and was left really, really disappointed. In solo mode, however, it’s an excellent diversion, especially if you’ve already finished GTA4 and are longing for more.
Uproariously fun to play through – I keep calling people into the room for “look, you gotta see this” moments. The music and visuals are kickass and the game’s just really clever. This is not just another Lara Croft-type adventure, it really has its own style, feel, depth and unique genius.
What I really wanted was SSX Tricky. Stoked is visually impressive but too “real” – I play a video game (especially a snowboarding one) for better-than-reality tricks, stunts, and visuals. The music and characters are funny but get repetitive, but none of that would register if the gameplay were as epic and outrageous as I had hoped. But it’s just not SSX and I can’t help but pine for my PS2 and Elise, Kaori, Mac, Moby, Psymon and Zoe.