For me, the most interesting aspect of the first week of gameplay is watching how badly suited my brain is to the game, and how I’m managing to adapt. It’s largely a stealth game (though you have the option of engaging in a fair amount of violence), with significant RPG aspects; there are many choices as to how you progress through the level, and how you upgrade your character.
This leaves me somewhat paralyzed: I’m not a particularly good stealth game player to begin with; I get worried when things go at all wrong, which means that I reload my saved games a lot if I get hurt or use too much ammo; the experience point bonuses for reaching milestones on each route through the level mean that I have the tendency to try to explore all routes to some extent; and I’m afraid to level up (chosing one advancement path over another; the ongoing choices here are much more stark than they are in, say, Mass Effect), lest I rule out future possible choices.
The result is that I played through the first level at a snail’s pace, reloading constantly, refusing to upgrade, and barely paying attention to the story. The gameplay is actually well-enough done that I still mostly enjoyed myself, but I couldn’t relax and get into it.
The end of the first level drops you at the UNATCO headquarters (UNATCO being the group that you’re a member of; they decided to name the terrorist group the NSF, and I really wonder what the story is behind that choice), and that was fun: nice to wander around and explore things, with limited scope for making choices that you might regret in the future.
The second level started by ratcheting up my anxieties: what, you mean I can only carry four weapons, so I have to decide which ones to keep and which to discard? The number of secondary missions available at any one time increased, too, which left me a bit at sea.
Towards the end of the second level, though, I finally started feeling comfortable with the game. I’d settled on four weapons that I thought were okay, and hadn’t noticed any serious negative consequences for my choice. (And I only feel strongly about two of them; if I have to drop the other two later, no big deal.) I’d maxed out the ammo on some of those weapons, which meant that I no longer had to worry excessively about ammo management. I’d had enough experience with going through levels with relatively few skill increases that I figured that, no matter which skills I chose, I’d do okay. And I was starting to get a feel for the pacing of the game and the mission design, so I no longer felt compelled to maintain my health at 90% all the time lest something go wrong.
(If only I could climb down ladders reliably, though: I’ve died more falling down ladders than through any other cause…)
I’m looking forward to what the next week’s gameplay will bring. I expect it will be more relaxing than the first week, which will give me more time to notice other aspects of the game. (E.g. the world construction: there’s a lot of back story presented via books, newspapers, e-mails, etc.) Who knows, maybe I’ll even start taking the stealth aspect more seriously, avoiding trouble instead of always shooting my way through it? Though, on reflection, that latter seems unlikely.
A good choice for the VGC’s second game.
This post has not been revised since publication.