AITD: Chapter 4


TIME SPENT – 2 hrs+
ACHIEVEMENTS EARNED – 6 (Vampirz, Purification by Fire, The Smart Fighter, Stuntman, Fissure, The Sharpshooter)
FOCUS: Overall game setup/design

Oh hey Atari? GO FUCK YOURSELF. I thought nothing could be more frustrating than the driving level at the end of the 2nd chapter, but the one at the beginning of chapter four makes that one look like taking a walk in the park (which is actually one of the many ways to get yourself killed in this level). I cannot honestly believe anyone tested this goddamn game.

In yet another driving sequence, you need to get to the museum. You have one car, and that car is constantly besieged by Batz, which will eventually pick your car up and then drop it to the ground, killing you in an unskippable 25 second animation. How do you fight the Batz? Simple – you either drive really fast or hit something with your car. Let’s list off all of the things that are totally fucking stupid about this scenario/level.

- To defend yourself against enemies trying to kill you, you are asked to ram your car into objects to ward them off – an action that, if repeated enough, will cause your car to burst into flames and kill you.
- Driving fast enough is almost impossible due to all the shit laying around in the road and the constant number of turns you need to take. Anything you so much as brush against will cause you to slow down, if not spin out and stop entirely. And of course, these things add to the damage done to your car, even if it wasn’t enough to drive away the goddamn Batz.
- You cannot get another car or go on foot. All the cars on the road are destroyed, and going on foot results in instant, no warning death after a few seconds.
- There are checkpoints to guide you on the way to the museum. These checkpoints are incredibly small, to the point where it’s possible to drive right past one without it “counting” and thus lighting up the next point (see GTAIV for an example of how to code/implement this type of thing perfectly). The fact that you can’t just use the knowledge you’ve gained from your multiple attempts at the level to just drive to the spot where you last got killed however you damn well please is annoying enough, but the fact that you need to drive over a marker the size of a dime is just infuriating.
- It’s also inexcusably long – I had hit about 20 checkpoints on my best attempt and I didn’t see the museum anywhere close.

Luckily, the developers apparently KNEW that their game was damn near impossible, and thus rather than fix the horrible driving problems, they simply added a pretty unique feature to the game: the ability to skip any part of a level from the menu. This sort of “play the part of the level you like” option is nothing new, lots of games have it. But I think this is the first time a game allowed you to skip parts before you actually completed it (at least, without using a code). Anytime you want in the game, you can pause and look at where you are in the level (they show a timeline with hashmarks denoting each part of the chapter as a whole) and skip ahead using DVD style controls (there is a fast forward button in addition to the chapter forward, you can even skip to a certain part of a part!). I’ve known about the feature since I began playing, but it was the first and hopefully last time I had to use it. I play games to have fun, but when one frustrates me to the point where I need to skip a section entirely, there’s definitely a problem or two with the way the game is designed. Especially when what follows it was ridiculously simple – after that debacle I don’t think I died a single time or even got stumped for the rest of the level. I also racked up a few more achievement points, just not the one for completing the level, natch.

Speaking of the DVD style menu, the whole game is setup like a “TV on DVD” disc. Hell, you even get “Previously...” segments every time you begin a gaming session (even if you are picking it up from halfway through a particular level). I much appreciate this setup – I am definitely one who will sometimes go months without playing a game, so it’s nice to have the little refresher. And believe me you, if I didn’t have to review the game, I certainly would have walked away from it for quite a while after that stupid fucking Batz part.

I also like how the achievement point system is implemented. Unlike some other games, the achievements are easily obtainable just by playing the game – you don’t have to go out of your way for a good number of them. Guitar Hero 3, for example, has insanely stupid ones that require you to do things that you would never actually do if you were just playing the game like a normal person (one had you beat a song on expert with the sound turned off – what?). I am sure there are a few that would probably require some extra work, but since I haven’t “tried” to get any so far and have gotten 22 out of 49 of them (assuming I can finish the Batz part, that would be 23 out of 49, just shy of half), and I am halfway through the game, I would say that’s a good sign. The game is very linear and so far I have seen no sort of benefit to exploration or item collecting (two things you actually CAN’T do for the most part), thus I highly doubt that I will spend much time with it once I have finished the final level.

And yes, I know achievement points have no value, but in a way, they DO – the more achievements you have earned (even idiotic ones), the more of the game you have obviously explored/completed. Take a game like GTAIV – there is an achievement for getting 100% completion in the game (doing the actual game, all the side missions, meeting all the friends, finding all the hidden packages, completing all of the stunt jumps, etc). If you were to get that (not to mention all the ones you’d get in the process), you’d have close to 800 points (more if you’ve also played multiplayer), and thus it’s pretty safe to assume you have gotten more out of your 60 dollar investment than someone who just beat the game straight through (which would yield about 300 points total). You can look at a low number of points for any particular game as a sign that you haven’t really taken part in everything the game has to offer.

Anyway, now that I am halfway through the game, I expect it to get more difficult. I HOPE the difficulty stems from things like “This boss has a lot of strength” or “I am running low on ammo” instead of “I just died because my car got stuck in between nothing and a lamppost”. We shall see...


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