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7:11 PM on 03.14.2009

Quick Ass Review Time: Mirror's Edge and Too Human

So, this week my blog reviews return. This time I tackle everyone's favorite free running hottie and the game everyone loves to hate. Enjoy.

Mirrors Edge

Mirrors Edge is game I really wanted to like from the very first time I saw it. Im a huge sucker for games that try new things or adapt certain mechanics for unconventional means. A first-person action platformer, a genre traditionally reserved for third person games (and arguably rarely done well anymore), is one such type of mechanic/perspective switch that interests me to no end by default. Luckily the game didnt disappoint me in the grand scheme of things.

The key to ME (fuck yeah I abbreviate shit) working for me was always going to be the controls and the fluidity of the action. I feel the results were sort of mixed. The controls on one hand were as simple as pie to wrap my head around. They became second nature within an hour or so. However, the actual games fluidity was archaic at best.


Too bad you can't actually do that.

I do believe part of the reason I had trouble adapting to what the game requires is because we rarely, if ever, have played a game with such open mechanics. You can jump off, run across, boost over, etc. over almost anything in the game. Thats new. Getting my brain to think outside the box in terms of what the game would allow me to do was a big step. I was often stuck places because I didnt always realize I should even consider some crazy run-jump-swing combo, which is admittedly more my fault than the games fault. However, this fell apart after I made the mental leap and did begin to think more acrobatically (so to speak) when I would be slapped in the face with a maneuver that the game would let me do. Wait, I can run up the side of buildings and leap and bound like a gazelle but I cant jump over that shrub? Or box? Huh? It pretty much made me hope DICE gets another chance to try and marry the controls and play style to a more polished sequel with an even more robust list of moves available.


Oh. Hai.

The story was meh but should have been much longer. The in-game graphics were awesome. The cut scenes wanted to be an Esurance commercial but couldnt if they tried. Im not a huge fan of racing games and an even lesser fan of time trials in games, so the additional game modes were not very thrilling to me in the slightest. I played a few until I realized I could spend my time better elsewhere.

Quick ass review score: 7/10

Too Human

Too Human is a game I have followed through all of its development announcements and eventual woes. I am a huge fan of ancient mythology, with Egyptian and Norse being my two favorites. Getting a Norse-themed game drenched in futuristic technology was just too much for me to handle. I was steadily a giddy schoolgirl every time a new announcement was made. Then Denis Dyack decided to be a douche and ruin any hope the public had of giving the game a fair shake. I held out on passing judgment until I played the game myself and Im glad I didnt buy into the hype because, despite Too Human wasnt the epic RPG experience Dyack and company claimed, it was a fun hack n slash adventure with some gameplay quirks that were worth looking past.

The control and camera system are the two things people will be torn between loving and hating while playing the game. The attack controls were pretty much all mapped to the right analog stick, which is usually reserved for camera controls (more on that in a minute). The idea was that moving the stick in a direction would let you attack enemies in that direction and it worked pretty effectively. After a few hours I learned that some finesse with holding and flicking the stick allowed for more powerful combos. Laying waste to an entire mob of goblins never got old (although the goblin designs did) and I had fun throughout.


Fuck you.

Speaking of fun, when I played I was REALLY in the mood for a hack n slash game where I could level up and equip crazy weapons and armor and lay waste to goons. TH delivered that experience in spades. I ran around with giant hammers and swords, whippin out pistols and laser rifles, slaying countless enemies. The augmentation of weapons and armors could have been more fluid, but I got a hang of it an hour or so in, so it didnt prove too big of an issue by the end.

The camera really wanted to be cinematic but often failed. For a game that tried to be so epic in scope, you were often fighting in close cramped quarters and the camera took a shit on you in the middle of a battle more often than not, which was sad to say the least. Having to press two buttons to manually move the camera was just not acceptable in the heat of battle.

And how heated the battles got! Often times I would run into a room and simply get slaughtered. Enemies would attack you while down (or standing back up) and barrage you with attacks. There was often no chance at tactical reasoning. A lot has been said of the Valkyrie death animation, so I wont speak to it, however I will say that I have come to believe that if a game starts you back exactly where you left off after dying it is blatantly telling you the developers KNEW youd have no chance of making it through certain sections. That reeks of bad mechanics, bad development, or a combination of the two. Games shouldnt be hard because the game literally wont let you through a section without dying two or three times. They should be hard because it takes thought on the behalf of the player to navigate the gamescape. Too Human was more the former than the latter, sadly.


If only you could actually wield both at once, maybe they would have given us a traditional control scheme.

The graphics were decent, despite Silicon Knights hatred of the Unreal engine. The in-game graphics werent stunning but they got the job done. You were often running around with a giant hammer smacking shit in the face. How gorgeous does it need to be (and it was gorgeous artistically speaking)? However, the use of the in-game engine for the cut scenes showed how powerful the engine could be. I was often taken aback by the fidelity of the cut scenes. I drew the conclusion the engine was great for a game just not this one. The camera would need to be closer to the character to show off the graphics, which TH didnt do.

Sadly the games creators were so assured the game would change the way we play games and that it would warrant a number of sequels that they didnt bother tying the games narrative threads together by the end, instead leaving it open to the sequels that at this point will likely never see the light of day. Thats sad because the best part of the whole story was the last series of cut scenes setting up the coming action. Sigh.

Quick ass review score: 6/10

Thanks for reading!

Up next will be Mercenaries 2 and Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. Stay tuned.


**All images provided by/found via Google Image Search.**   read


12:32 PM on 02.08.2009

Quick Ass Review Time: L4D and Gears 2

So, this week takes a slight turn from my other blog reviews, because these two titles are ones that I purchased. Not saying they are more notable because of it, although that may be, I guess all it means is I can play these whenever I want cause theyre on my shelf full-time. I took my time playing them and was in no rush to beat them. Take that as you will.

Left 4 Dead

Alright, so what can I say about L4D that already hasnt been said? It won Dtoids GOTY as well as being near the top of almost every other website and publications lists, as well. Its a phenomenal multiplayer experience and has one of the highest levels of combined replayability and visceral thrills. To sum up how I feel, it has yet to get old.

However, for this review, knowing that I think its the best multiplayer game since CoD4, knowing the graphic fidelity isnt as high as a title such as Gears 2 (and that I dont care), knowing I think its one of the best zombie games to come out ever, or that Im not bothered by the lack of content some people talk about, Ive decided to focus on something else entirely. Im going to focus on the one thing that pisses me off til no end every single time I play the game. It pissed me off when the game was announced and it pissed me off the other night when I played with my old college roommate over Live. No, its not the AI Director. Its the fact that no single enemy in the game is a zombie. Yeah. Not one.


Most needed weapon: Tums.

See, Im a huge zombie fan. I love zombie movies, books, games, everything. And Im not a fan because of the recent mainstream revival of interest in zombies. No, Ive been a huge fan for many years. The best horror stories involve zombies. Ive read the Zombie Survival Guide and have a plan of escape should they rise while Im at home or at work. Yeah, I think about it too much.

With that, however, comes the fact that I am a zombie traditionalist. Im no pre-300 Zack Snyder loving zombie fan. No no no. Im the slow, dumb, frighteningly eerie zombie fan whose fears arise more from stories of Voodoo culture than anything else. Another summation, zombies dont run.

While I think L4D is a great zombie game, I feel its much more akin to recent films like the hinted at Zack Snyder remake of Dawn of the Dead or the 28 series (a set of movies I actually love, but for different reasons). I always have to think of L4D as infected, not as zombies (which the game even says they are, which is why I think its a copout sometimes for the press to just call them zombies instead of appreciating them for what Valve wants them to be). This helps me get around two huge suspensions of disbelief for me so I can become more engaged in the game as I play.

The first is that within the context of the game there is no explanation of why there are five boss zombies, only five boss zombies, and all of them look exactly alike. Any real zombie looks like the person they once were. While L4D normal zombies may, too, they come too fast and frenetically that you pretty much cant tell. To have multiple people all turn into the same type of boss, though, is odd. I understand its for gameplay reasons so you can become accustom to listening for smokers or witches or what have you, but from an objective standpoint, it is just unlikely. I feel Valve missed an opportunity in the campaigns for the survivors to find out what actually occurred over the course of the four campaigns. I think itd be neat for each campaign to have a small open-ended story piece (perhaps at the end as you escaped in the vehicle) began to hint at what occurred. Then youd have to put the four puzzle pieces together in your own head and try to fill in the rest. Or maybe some hints in secret places, kind of like the cake is a lie from Portal. You know itd be cool, admit it.


Seriously, who farted?

The other thing I think would have been real neat is the inclusion of melee weapons. I know the general pace of the game is slightly too quick for melee, but everyone gets swamped from time to time. Shove is cool, but shoving with a bat in hand or a crowbar (as a nice homage to Half Life) would be even cooler. Maybe make the melee weapons more powerful when used, as compared to shove. One hit kills with them against normal infected or some such thing. Make them take the place of an extra firearm for balancing sake, I dont know. I mean, just like Max Brooks states in the Zombie Survival Guide, weapons like machetes and bats dont run out of ammo.

Id be willing to play a slower-paced game with a much smaller prevalence of ammunition if it included slower zombies and melee weapons. I think it would go a long way to make the game feel more authentic. I know the games sold well and all, and Valve has no reason to listen to anything Ive said, but I still dont think weve seen the best possible zombie game possible (I hated Dead Rising, sorry but shitty gameplay mechanics and controls shouldnt get overlooked cause you kill undead). Im waiting for a zombie game that blends the forced perspective of games like Mirrors Edge and Farcry 2 with open-world survival like Fallout 3 all gift-wrapped in the perfect package. Arent you?

Authentic zombie score: 6/10
Quick ass review score: 9/10


Gears of War 2

I was a big fan of the original Gears. I thought it was a great new sci-fi world with a load of backstory possibility. It was a fresh IP that the Xbox needed at a time when the system didnt really have too many killer apps beyond the Halo franchise. What I didnt like was the short single player story and the busted ass multiplayer that, coming from a development team like Epic, which is known for smooth online play and fast frenetic games like the Unreal series, just wasnt acceptable to me. No number of patches or over-priced downloadable map packs (aka one) was enough to hold my interest for more than two months or so.

Luckily, Gears 2 arrived and addressed, at the very least, all of my single player story gripes. The story was deeper, the characters more fleshed out, and the scenery expanded to a degree that was just mind boggling in comparison to the first. On-rails shooter levels, vehicle levels, you name it and Gears 2 delivered. Best of all, it was wrapped around the same stellar pop and shoot mechanics of the first, but which were fleshed out with human (okay, Locust) shields, mobile cover, new weapons, more varied enemies, and overall polish. Lets just say it was good enough to warrant a co-op play through on Insane from me and my buddy. Great stuff.


No one can argue the game is the graphical king right now.

At first glance, the multiplayer components also received a nice upgrade. With two extra people thrown into the mix and larger more varied levels (on top of the new shield and weapon mechanics mentioned previously), not to mention more gameplay types, the online play felt fresh and worthy of my limited gameplay hours. Unfortunately, after a few weeks I realized the game really wasnt that much more different than the first, with players eking out glitch strategies that destroyed the experience for everyone that didnt know how to cheat. After a few patches from Epic that did nothing to address the gripes and actually made finding a game slower for some, the game fell by the wayside for me and I havent picked it up since.

Sure, the game was fun for the few weeks that it lasted, but being touted as such a tent pole franchise only to have half the experience gimped by the development team (not to mention the quick release of another insanely-priced DLC map pack from a company that gives more stuff away to PC players than most companies can afford) is both shocking and stupid. To me, Epic just doesnt get it anymore. I truly believe few companies do. The sad part is theyve developed a fan base that buys their titles and only their titles and plays them til the next release, so $10 for three maps isnt insane to somebody that buys a single game every two or three years (I literally played with a guy who had only Gears and Gears 2 in his played games list and couldnt stop talking about how awesome the game was and how it was the best ever give me a break). For anybody else that wants to enjoy other titles, its disheartening and sad. The game shipped with what, twelve new maps? Fifteen if you count the flashbacks? That means the multiplayer levels alone were worth 83% of the original cost of the game? Seriously? Thats just insane to me.


Fuck these things in their alien butts. Seriously.

Until Epic works out a formula wherein they can deliver solid experiences throughout their game packages (meaning multiplayer cant be gimped for months on end) starting on day one of sales, Im simply not into buying their titles. There are much better purchases available and games more worth my time and effort. Gears 2 is a fun solid single (or co-op) shooter, but dont go into the multiplayer thinking youll have fun with people crab walking and shooting you through walls, cause you wont.

PS For anyone that says they released a patch fixing some issues, do the gene pool a favor and shoot yourself in the head now. Its called QA/Beta testing. Epic needs to learn what that means before they release their next title.

Single player review score: 9/10
Multiplayer review score: 6/10
Quick ass review score: 7.5/10

Up next will be Mirror's Edge and Too Human.

Thanks for reading!

**All images provided by IGN and Google Image Search.**   read


10:59 PM on 01.24.2009

Quick Ass Review Time: Far Cry 2

So, a few months ago I started a blog series where I reviewed games I rent from GameFly. Unfortunately, working in the real world sucks and I find myself with little time to blog any more. I prefer to play games rather than write about them. It's why I'll never make a living at this. Oh well.

To catch up, I've reviewed all the games I've played since then and will post them in blocks of two (save for this instance, apparently), to catch up. Last time I wrote about Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Quantum of Solace and before that was Dark Sector and Saint's Row 2, if you're interested. Without further ado, here it is...

Far Cry 2

I never finished the first Far Cry. I had it on PC and it kept crashing when I entered a certain room halfway through the game and I never bothered reinstalling it. Luckily, Far Cry 2 came out before I ever thought twice and now I have no need to ever go back and play the first. (I guess it also helps the game has NOTHING to do with the first after all the Crytek/Ubisoft legal bullshit that occurred, too.)

Given a different story (totally unrelated to the first, thank god), a host of playable characters (how much they each effect the game is unknown), and a HUGE unnamed African country to explore, Far Cry satiated my FPS hunger for quite some time. Let me repeat the coolest factor: the game world is HUGE. Something akin to 25 square miles or something like that. FUCKING HUGE, alright?

To go along with an entire country to explore, you get a beautiful engine that made me stop in awe multiple times and just enjoy a sunset or drive a Jeep (whose registered vehicles are throughout) alongside some zebras. That engine also allows for you to set fire to most of the scenery, too, something played up in the trailers. Unfortunately, when adding interaction to a game world such as fire, you bring to the forefront of the players mind not what you can interact with, but what you cant, namely everything else. If I can burn a large swath of grasslands with a flamethrower, Id also like my RPGs to do something to the grass huts, Ubisoft. Thanks. On that note, where were all the predators in the game world? The only animals were zebras, buffalo, goats, and chickens. I guess they wanted to avoid lion or gator poaching, but come on. Is zebra bowling (driving a Jeep into a herd as fast as possible and chasing the runners down) that much better? Didnt think so. Gimme my lions, damn it.


Straight up breathtaking.

Not much can be said for the multiplayer, its an okay CoD knockoff with an interesting upgrade mechanic, but it has a robust level editor that can potentially extend the longevity infinitely. Luckily the single player was a solid 30 hours or more (I didnt even complete all the side missions and logged over 30 hours) that at points really pulls the heart strings (and at others doesnt mean a damn thing, quite frankly). For me, I was so engrossed in the world I didnt mind what I was doing was sick and disgusting morally (essentially playing off both sides of a war, people getting in my way be damned) or that I put a bullet in a friends head instead of saving his life. The fact I even had that choice was cool to me (and the forced first-person perspective made it even more engaging).

Speaking of choices, the weapon selection in the game was, in my opinion, spot on. There was a solid mix of assault rifles, sniper rifles, pistols, SMGs, and heavy weapons like machine guns, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, the aforementioned flamethrower, and even a damn mortar. The fact you could knock over gun shipments as a side mission and unlock weapons on the black market (conveniently located on an 80s-era PC with internet access to said black market and the fastest shipping since DHL) was also a neat idea. Each series of gun had several tiers of guns, from wimpy pistols to Desert Eagles, bolt-action rifles to .50 caliber semi-auto behemoths, buying the guns opened up more options and made you want to play for them, which was nice. Not only could you approach situations from more angles, but you wouldnt have to rely on enemy weapons, which wore more prone to jamming (!) or breaking entirely (!!!).


Just as beautiful, but in a gun porn kind of way.

The worst part of the game was the respawning enemies at their bases all around the map. Youd knock off an entire camp and if you left the map region and came back it would already be refilled with enemies. Plus, constant patrols and instant-kill battering rams (aka cars) made avoiding fights preferable to engaging in them more often than not, which can kill the vibe of a shooter for some people. I dealt with it and accepted the constant barrage of attack as practice for the next big mission, despite the fact it got on my nerves some times.

All in all, Far Cry 2 is a phenomenal title that truly should be played by any FPS fan or adventure game fan in general. Traversing that much game world is just a neat feeling and really made me get lost in the experience. You should take the time to get lost, too.

Quick ass review score: 9/10

Up next will be Left 4 Dead and Gears 2.

Thanks for reading!   read


10:51 PM on 01.24.2009

Quick Ass Review Time: The Force Unleashed and QoS

So, a few months ago I started a blog series where I reviewed games I rent from GameFly. Unfortunately, working in the real world sucks and I find myself with little time to blog any more. I prefer to play games rather than write about them. It's why I'll never make a living at this. Oh well.

To catch up, I've reviewed all the games I've played since then and will post them in blocks of two, to catch up. Last time I wrote about Dark Sector and Saint's Row 2, if you're interested. Without further ado, here they are...

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Unleashed had some potential. All the technology that was touted as changing gameplay blah blah blah really made me want to witness it for myself. As a huge Star Wars fan, I also wanted to kick some ass with Jedi Force powers unlike I had ever experienced before. Unfortunately, the game suffered from some horrible design decisions.

For one, the controls SUCKED harder than any game in recent memory (yes, even worse than Overlord). The act of using Force Grab to lift objects was tedious and, in the heat of battle, almost impossible to perform on the intended target. The camera was the single worst Ive ever seen. And, to top it off, the much-touted technology had no legitimate impact on my gameplay experience. Sure, some shit reacted like it does in real life (not like I ever had time to stop and watch it, most of the time that would result in being shot by a cheap enemy), but when I swing a lightsaber at a fucking tree or bush I expect some shit to get cut down. Fuck force fields or armor, Stormtroopers should coat themselves with the plants from half the planets in the universe and theyd be totally immune to a Jedis blade of hot death. Plus, enemies flailing for their lives really doesnt matter. In hindsight, I never once saw a single enemy trying to save themselves from a Force Grab that looked realistic, let alone one that couldnt have been a simple canned animation. The technology just didnt impact my experience in a noticeable manner whatsoever.


Probably the only time the player Force Grabbed the intended target the entire game.

The story was good enough to warrant a play through, despite the fact you sorta kinda mess with the mythos by the end, which, if youre a hardcore fan (as many players of the game probably are) it only ends up pissing you off anyway. However, on the way there it was compelling enough to wade through the bullshit. Not really the best of compliments.

PS Fuck Star Destroyers... you'll know it when you see it.

Quick ass review score: 6/10

Bond 007: The Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace was not the return to James Bonds Goldeneye days as many hoped (and as Activision hyped it to be). However, it was the best Bond game Ive played since Goldeneye (I skipped the third person shooter ones last generation, mind you) and I was pleased I decided to rent it.

The story follows both movies (in a compelling fashion, since the events of Casino Royale are played out via flashback part way through, adding a nice twist to the narrative) and allow you to play all the cool scenes (being drugged in Casino Royale has to be my standout favorite). The weapons were fun and responsive, the QTEs werent nearly as bothersome as I feared, nor as plentiful, and the graphics were more than serviceable. The addition of a cover mechanic was also nice, considering the new flicks are supposed to be realistic and, lets face it, taking cover in the midst of firefights is simply realistic.


That ugly mug is barely worth hiding behind a wall, but at least he can do so, right?!

One thing I noticed was that the multiplayer was a decent knockoff of Call of Duty 4 (the engine its built off of), with purchasable upgrades and gadgets and such available and a good mix of levels and modes. One thing that sort of sucked was that at no time in multiplayer did it feel like a Bond game. Gadgets are actually Perks from CoD, so instead of having laser watches and grappling hooks like some of the previous EA titles, you get increased sprint distance or reduced damage. Not really what I would consider a gadget, but whatever. Also, the servers were mostly British people. Just so you know, in case your Live connection suffers when connecting to people not in the same country as you, which happens.

Quick ass review score: 7.5/10

Up next will be Far Cry 2.

Thanks for reading!   read


10:42 PM on 01.24.2009

Quick Ass Review Time: Dark Sector and SR2

So, a few months ago I started a blog series where I reviewed games I rent from GameFly. Unfortunately, working in the real world sucks and I find myself with little time to blog any more. I prefer to play games rather than write about them. It's why I'll never make a living at this. Oh well.

To catch up, I've reviewed all the games I've played since then and will post them in blocks of two, to catch up. Without further ado, here they are...

Dark Sector

Some people called Dark Sector a poor mans Gears of War. Even a poor mans Resident Evil 4. Well, let me tell you, Dark Sector was one of the biggest surprises Ive had in the past few years of gaming.

Ive followed DS since it was first announced way back when as a futuristic spy/action game. I was honestly upset when it was announced it switched to a gritty contemporary shooter, but I was still pleasantly surprised. The graphics were much better than I anticipated with nice effects throughout and no slowdown whatsoever. The controls were tight and featured a cover mechanic I feel was even more intuitive than Gears, which it is clearly borrowed from. The gameplay was fast enough to never get boring and the glaive was a truly unique weapon that made battles interesting. I also enjoyed the slight bit of weapon customization that was present.


MAIM!

The story was nothing Oscar-worthy, but it held my interest til the end. It also left itself open for a sequel, which I honestly would not be upset with. There could be a lot more done with the characters/world and I look forward to anything that follows, if it ever should see the light of day. The worst part is, as much as I liked the game as it is, I couldnt help but feel the original space age sci-fi concept would have been way cooler and much more original. Oh well.

Quick ass review score: 8.5/10

Saints Row 2

I was a huge fan of the first SR. I accepted it for the GTA3 knockoff it was, but was pleasantly surprised with the little refinements to the gameplay like free aim and side missions that felt worthwhile. The sequel was no different for me.

While the graphics didnt seem all that improved, the engine was smoother, although it still had issues from time to time (mostly when a ton of shit was blowing up, mind you). The city was pleasantly expanded, the customization was more in depth than ever (my character was a spot on Joker a la Batman the Animated Series with a British accent), and the gameplay was flat out fun, which is much more than even the mighty GTAIV can say for itself. I laughed more playing any given session of SR2 than I ever did throughout all of GTAIV. The game accepted itself as a B-level action flick with crude humor in playable form and played it up to great effect. For that I applaud it.


I swear to god, I looked exactly like him. Suit, trench coat, hat, and all.

The best thing SR2 has going for it is that the side missions. While GTAIV had side missions, they never seemed relevant to anything but my Gamer Score, which is sad. The only reason I sought all the unique jumps was for a few points. SR2, however, ties side missions to everything else in the game. You need respect points to play story missions, which are earned by finishing side missions. However, you also earn in-game rewards such as prolonged sprinting, extra guns, and reduced notoriety (to name a few), along with the almighty GS points. This makes the reward for completing them two-fold. It makes sense in the game, cause they will help me play later missions, PLUS it will make my e-peen larger. Its a win-win.

Quick ass review score: 9/10

Up next will be The Force Unleashed and Quantum of Solace.

Thanks for reading!   read


7:01 AM on 11.04.2008

Shout out to Hamza. It's a fact.

I know I haven't blogged in a while. It's a fact.

I also know that as a good community member (or any community member for that matter) we're not supposed to write one or two line blogs. It's a fact.

But I also know, and here comes the tricky part, that Hamza got a subtle shout out of sorts on the Questionable Content web comic strip today posted below.



Notice the fifth panel down.

SUCK MY DIIIIICK!   read


8:44 PM on 10.14.2008

GameFly Review Time: Overlord

So, as part of a new (quasi) series to hopefully get me back into blogging, I’m going to start writing reviews for the games I receive from GameFly as I finish playing them. I’ll offer my thoughts on the title as a whole, as well as whether or not I deem them appropriate to people’s time.

Some of these titles may be a bit older since GameFly doesn’t always ensure I get the newer game I’m in the mood for, but most of the older titles are now cheaper, so they may still be good deals for anyone who hasn’t picked them up yet.

I hope you all enjoy.

Overlord

The first game I want to start this series off with is the second to last title I had rented, Overlord. As many people know it’s a 3rd person action-strategy hybrid for the 360 where you play as an evil emperor-type of dude who is awoken and needs to rebuild his mighty castle and throngs of minions. On the surface it’s a pretty original idea for a game until you play for a while and realize it’s a poorly-veiled Pikmin rip-off in a coat of decent fantasy paint.


Those were my runnin' shoes.

The story itself offers a pretty refreshing take on a variety of “classic” fantasy realms/characters/themes such as little Hobbit-like people (referred to simply as Halflings) who, often seen as fair and joyous folk in other tales, are turned on their head and deemed to be malicious little monsters within the game’s world. The game also boasts a variety of other fantasy staples such as elves, dwarves, zombies, and demons, all with their own unique flair to their presentation, but I can’t say you’ll likely see them all.

The game has a heavy focus on battles and puzzles, wherein you usually have your four varieties of minions act as a hit mob for you or travel through some sort of obstacle course made solely for one type (of which there is brown/attack, red/fire, green/poison, and blue/water). More often than not you simply direct a bunch to a switch, open a door, then walk through a hall and lay the smack down on some badass fantasy creatures… like dodo birds and rats (no lie). The minions are well animated and offer some laughs along the way, but their antics get old fast and the humor wears thin far too quickly.

The biggest problem with this style of gameplay is that the puzzles aren’t overtly difficult and there are not deep fighting mechanics built for the Overlord, so he just swings and lumbers around the screen like a poorly animated oaf. I was pleased to see you can upgrade your weapons and armor as you build your castle back up, but there wasn’t too much variety added to combat when changing weapons, which was disappointing. Magic added a shallow layer of complexity to the combat but the auto aim and lock-on was so poor it was hard to use most of them well enough to be effective.


Not bad detail on the armor there, Sauro... I mean Mr. Overlord, sir.

The graphics themselves were fairly pleasant. Colors varied from bright and crisp in the main hub town and Halfling realm to dark and moody in the Elven Forest. There was rarely any slowdown, but the other mechanical issues really brought down the package regardless, especially the controls...

The controls in the game are downright atrocious. The right stick has you directing your minions and can often help you lead them on relatively intricate paths, but the camera system (manually manipulated by holding the Left Bumper and then using the Right Stick) on its own is horrible and often gets stuck at awkward angles or behind objects. This wouldn’t be such a total problem if it weren’t for the fact the game required a patch upon booting it up (it’s a fairly old title), but the patch must have done nothing to the camera system! I remember this being a big complaint of the early reviews so to see a patch released that didn’t address one of the biggest concerns is a downright shame.


Sarah Palin can see Russia from here!

This wouldn’t have been too much of a problem had the game allowed for wide sweeping battles (alleviating most camera-getting-stuck issues) but more often than not I found myself crammed in tiny tunnels and maze-like corridors fighting the camera system more so than enemies the entire way. I gave up and shipped the game back after unlocking the ability to use the blue water minions (the fourth available) because traversing the cave they were found in was so frustrating I couldn’t take it anymore.

Overall Score: 6.0/10.0 – I can’t recommend this title unless you’re really hankering for a Pikmin-esque title for your 360 and/or you find it on the cheap (I’d say $15 or less would be acceptable for purchase) otherwise, DON’T EVEN BOTHER.

PS – As long as they fix the major control issues, the planned sequel will have serious potential.   read


9:09 PM on 09.07.2008

Keeping Up with the B Rads

I just wanted to throw some random thoughts out there for anyone who is at all interested in what I have been up to for the past month or so. Some people may have noticed I’m a bit dormant and I apologize for that fact. Starting a real job in corporate America has that effect on people. I apologize.

As I stated, I started a new job at the end of July. It had me traveling nonstop for four weeks and I only just got back to my home office two weeks ago. Nine hour days and setting up my new apartment have kept me off of Dtoid much more than I anticipated/wanted it to, so I’m sorry for that fact. I comment when I can but have not had time to do any real blogging.

Speaking of setting things up and blogging, I am currently in the middle of building my grandiose set up, which will eventually entitle itself to a requisite “My Setup” blog, likely later this week when I finish it. For those keeping track, it will include my Wii, a 360, my surround sound, my seven foot screen, and my HD projector in all of its glory. Look forward to it. I am (as well as my office’s weekly Rock Band nights which will soon take place at my place once RB2 releases).

I’ve also attained my very first (lol)cat. Her name is Miss Cleo(patra). Her photo can be viewed below. True lulz soon to follow.


Pretty lady.

I’ve also been doing much less gaming than I wanted to be doing over the past number of weeks but I have found time to download Castle Crashers and play through most of Army of Two. CC is pretty fun, imo. It hearkens back to the beat ‘em up days of old that I grew up on but adds obsessive RPG leveling elements that make me want every animal, character, and weapon. I haven’t played any online co-op so I can’t speak about any of the bugs people have mentioned in prior articles, but I don’t care. I think it was $15 well spent.

Army of Two is pretty damn fun. I didn’t expect much out of it, but it’s surprising how much I enjoy it. For a first foray into third person action shooters (for EA) it’s not bad at all. I actually enjoy the political overtones and appreciate the “heavy” story. Sure, the dialog is laughable at times but at least it seems to have tried to have a point beyond mindless shooting (although there is certainly tons of that to be had), which is more than most videogames can say nowadays. The weapon customization is also a blast. I kind of like it better than Rainbow Six Vegas’ system, which is considered by many (myself included) to be some of the best around. I think they missed an opportunity for character/armor customization, though, that should certainly be explored in a sequel (come on, it’s EA, there’s bound to be a sequel).

In other news, I’ve seen Tropic Thunder (“I will call you Half Squat.”) which was hilarious, Hamlet 2 (“Rock me, rock me, rock me sexy Jesus!”) which was humorous, but a better rental than anything else, as well as The Dark Knight (“Would you like to see a magic trick?”) in IMAX, which was orgasmic.

That’s pretty much it. Rock on, Dtoid. I’ll try and keep up with the activity. I can’t promise anything, though, unfortunately.   read


8:57 AM on 07.25.2008

New Punisher: War Zone trailer (NVGR)

IGN posted a new trailer/music video they got from Comic-Con starring the one and only Frank Castle.

I'm actually going to go ahead and post a +17 ONLY warning on this video 'cause quite frankly... it's the most brutal and visceral trailer I've ever seen (and I watched the Mirrors red band trailer). Enjoy.

[embed]96860:13468[/embed]

So what do you all think? Pretty fucking awesome, right? Looks to me like they're doing what we all wanted with the original Punisher flick: non-stop balls to the wall brutality. I can't wait.   read


3:23 PM on 07.21.2008

My Dark Knight Retrospective pt. 2: Looking Forward

This is a follow-up to my review of the film proper. Check it out if you're interested.

Since we all know there is going to be (at least) a third Batman in this arc of stories I’d like to offer up some quick suggestions for where I think the film(s) should go. To start off as a nice companion to this section, IGN recently offered up not one, but two articles in a short series outlining Batman’s gallery of rogues and how they would like to see the characters brought to the silver screen. Some of my ideas brush on similar themes, so it may help to read them. It’s up to you. They’re great reads regardless.

So without spoiling anything TDK definitely leaves the trilogy open for expansion. Unlike Begins, though, it doesn’t go ahead and pinpoint a specific villain (and intelligently so) for the next chapter. This means anyone can show up, but I’d like to see a pretty robust new crop of characters show up to mess with Bats.

Knowing Ra’s Al Ghul’s deep connection with Batman in this universe I’d love to see him either rise from the dead (a la the Lazarus pit/chemical) or have his daughter Talia show up in Gotham to woo Bruce Wayne (and kill him, since she would know he is Batman) without him knowing her connection to Ra’s. In an attempt to further her father’s cause she would begin amassing an army/presence in the criminal underworld that has now been rocked by the Joker and which has crumbled in on itself (I’m assuming as much).


Mmmm. Yes, please.

In the wake of this dramatic power shift propelled by the Joker’s actions in TDK, Oswald Cobblepot (everyone’s favorite bowtie wearing gangster, the Penguin) would move into town as Gotham’s new high-priced club/restaurant owner and backroom arms/information dealer. He would be Talia’s connection to guns and supplies for her League of Assassins while also making a splash (sorry) as the owner of Gotham’s new favorite hotspot, the Iceburg Club.

At the same time I’d like to see Selina Kyle make her way into the Gotham limelight as a new debutante on the prowl (har har) for Wayne, too. She’d make appearances at Penguin’s club (while also trying to steal something valuable from him) and cement her status amongst Gotham’s elite. At night she would be moonlighting as the Catwoman and trying to dig her claws into the Batman (okay, I’ll stop). She and Talia would butt heads over Batman without her becoming a truly villainous character. She would exit the movie by actually aiding Batman with taking down Talia and the League, but getting away with her stolen goods.

With Talia and the League excised from the city once and for all, Batman could use the info gathered from Catwoman (and his own deductive powers) to put the Penguin behind bars (on minor charges, no Arkham for him) and leave both Penguin and Catwoman open for return appearances, while closing the Ra’s arc/connection for good.


Needs less fail.

With Catwoman’s burglaries going unsolved (due to Batman’s interest in her and desire to not have her caught) the final act would reveal Gordon and the GCPD bringing in a psychoanalytic expert/forensic scientist, one Edward E. Nigma, to help solve the crimes. This would leave the next film open for the development of the Riddler (and hopefully the return of a recast Joker, with Harley Quinn in tow).

If they don’t manage something along these lines I’d prefer to see Talia make an appearance to take down Batman while Bane shows up as a (supposed) aide to Talia and uses the League’s presence in the city as a distraction to help him get closer to and hunt Batman. During this time, Two-Face would have been sprung from Arkham by the League to help Talia build her criminal army and hunt Batman. The movie would end with Bane double crossing Talia and Two-Face by breaking Batman’s back and leaving him for dead (after an epic rooftop battle) despite the fact Talia was to be the one who killed him. Two-face could then flip a coin to kill Talia and end the Ra’s connections, while letting Bane go and assuming the mantle of the city’s new resident crime lord. I feel as though it would be so ballsy and unexpected that it would leave some people pissed but be a truly brilliant end to a trilogy, allowing a new director to either write up a direct sequel or create their own universe to play in.


YES! PLEASE!

So, what do you all think?   read


3:19 PM on 07.21.2008

My Dark Knight Retrospective pt. 1: The Review

What can be said about The Dark Knight that hasn’t been said before? I’m not sure, but I’m going to try and offer my take on Christopher Nolan’s latest bat-masterpiece (I’m going to try and keep the “bat-insert something random here” jokes to a minimum, I promise, I just needed to get it out of my system). I’ll tackle the movie itself as well as offering my insight/hopes for the inevitable next portion of the trilogy.

So, like many people around the country, I attended a midnight showing of TDK after work and a viewing of Batman Begins on HD-DVD. Needless to say, I was ready to see Batman continue the good fight when midnight rolled around. Boy was I not let down.

From the opening scene until the title’s not so subtle “revelation” in the final act, I was blown away. My eyes were glued to the screen the whole time. The first thing I told my buddies when we left the theater was that I wanted to turn around and see it again (I’m waiting to see it in IMAX this week for that). For me, that’s about as much initial praise as a film can muster. I literally don’t recall the last time I had that thought. But why did I like it so much? Let me tell you my thoughts. My thoughts, let me tell you them.



Story:

Although I enjoyed Batman Begins for the tale that was told (exploring every single angle of the Batman character) watching the films back to back reminded me just how slow parts of Begins were (especially in comparison). I’ve heard some complaints that the story felt too rushed, but I feel as though the story needed to feel that way.

The Joker was supposed to be a literal presence in the movie that was pushing the city towards the brink of destruction. With the Joker on the loose, you never knew what was going to happen. He crashed parties and killed people without avail. At any moment he could show up and murder you. That feeling sort of carried over into the manner in which the movie was shot because the viewer themselves was on the edge of their seat (at least I was) waiting to see what was going to happen next.

As the movie rushed along I got the sense of urgency. The heroes needed to do something or else someone would die or something would blow up and it usually did. One moment everyone’s tense and on edge and the next something goes horribly wrong (for someone). The mounting murders and crimes just kept making that tension worse and worse and at times I was breathless. Sure, they could have slowed some scenes down and taken more time with certain characters here and there but then the movie would lose that urgency that was so prevalent in the film and which helped it feel as though the viewer could be next. I thought the pacing was brilliant, pretty much, as was the overall arc of the movie.

10/10


Performances:

Nothing can really be said about Heath Ledger’s Joker that you haven’t already read. Yes, he deserves all the praise he’s receiving. Yes, he will make you forget Jack Nicholson’s version. Yes, he’s creepy as all hell. Just believe the hype.

The only other thing I have to say about the Joker is that I believe this will go down in history as the redefinition of the character. TDK’s version is so completely insane and maniacal that it doesn’t matter if they skipped a back story or which stories they borrowed from. This is the Joker at his sick twisted finest. Playing him up as a psychopathic terrorist (in the truest sense of the word) was simply brilliant. He didn’t need to get revenge on anyone to be an effective villain. He was simply pure evil.

Also of note is his second (true) introduction in the film. Yes, the meeting with the crime families. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it (those of you who have know what I mean when I say this) but just trust in that they managed to take a dark, disturbing, and often times humorous character and sum him up in a brief 5 or 10 second scene that not only sets the tone of the film but cements the character within the world and defines him better than an entire two hours worth of film could manage. You’ll know it when you see it. You won’t expect it, at all, but you will love it.

As for the character himself, the writers would be remiss if they think Ledger's death should stop them from bringing him back, which some people believe is wrong. For a character that is so sick and twisted (just listen to his explanation of his scars... all three of them) I have a quick easy fix: the Joker spends time in Arkham for his crimes and is "cured" by Harley Quinn who does some magical paper work fixing and gets him sprung, all the while falling hopelessly in love with him and ready to aide him in his violent quest. As part of Joker's rehabilitation in Arkham he has assumed a somewhat different identity/approach (as he is now a man in love) and therefore it could be believable that whoever plays him wouldn't have to recreate Ledger's Joker exactly, but instead create their own unique twist on him. Problem solved.

10/10

The other two performances that truly stood out for me were Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon and Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent/Two-Face. As much as Heath Ledger became the Joker, I truly feel as though Gary Oldman became Gordon. Never once did I look at him as anyone but a determined and fearful man trying to deal with the crumbling world around him in the only way he knew how, by catching the criminals rotting his city from the core.

9/10

Eckhart (only known to me prior to this as the lead in Thank You For Smoking) also turned in a fantastic performance as the tragic Harvey Dent, the one friend Batman couldn’t save. The whole arc of the character was superbly handled and much more fleshed out than I thought it would be. In so doing the writers managed to afford Eckhart a plethora of emotional range which he conveyed very convincingly throughout. The only problem I had was that they sort of played Harvey off as Bruce’s love interest’s new boyfriend much more so than the good friend of Bruce that Harvey was often portrayed as in the comics. I understand why they introduced him as such a device, but I would have liked to see Bruce and Harvey linked by more than just Rachel Dawes (perhaps via a college connection) and some fund raising. That wasn’t Eckhart’s fault, though, merely stating.

9.5/10



Many have complained that Christian Bale’s Batman voice is grating and ruins the movie for them (or at least his performance therein) but I still don’t have a problem with it. Yes, I noticed it as I watched it (mostly because I read online prior to seeing it how people were already complaining ‘bout it) but it really didn’t ruin anything for me. I figure if I was Gotham’s princely son and I was gallivanting around at night beating up criminals that I wouldn’t want to sound anything like myself. Plus, I’d wanna do my best to sound angry and pissed off all the time to intimidate people. It may get to some, but I don’t see it as a problem. I mean, it’s better than taking his glasses off and messing up his hair or something stupid like that. (Zing!)

Overall Bale was great (as always) despite being outshined by some of the other supporting cast members.

8/10


Conclusion:

Everything else in the movie was great, too. It offered up a nice mix of action scenes and nail bitingly tense moments where you truly didn’t know what was going to happen. The only major complaint I can leverage at it is that Nolan doesn’t quite “get” fight scenes yet. The quick editing and camera cuts during the fight scenes were jarring and made them all difficult to follow (if not increasingly fast-paced, like I mentioned before). If he could slow these specific moments down to show off Batman’s fighting style (and new suit, which barely seemed any more open to movement thanks to the fight pace) it would go a long way to show just how skilled and brutal Bats can be.

Otherwise, playing the film off as a truly great crime drama that happened to have an iconic super hero in it was great. Nolan can’t be praised enough for making these movies accessible, true to the characters, and overall appealing in every sense of the word. If you haven’t seen it, go see it. If you have, go see it again. I know I am.

10/10

If you like what I have to say, feel free to check out my second write up and how I think the movies' arc(s) should continue! Thanks.   read


3:56 PM on 06.30.2008

First look at Quantum of Solace

IGN recently posted what I believe is the world premiere for Activision and Treyarch’s new foray into the James Bond franchise, Quantum of Solace. After reading it, all I can say is that while few of us may approve of Treyarch heeding our calls of duty, it looks to me like they’ve done a hell of a job on QoS. I sure hope CoD5 offers up half as much promise.

The game is obviously based on the newest iteration of the venerable movie franchise which has seen countless videogame interpretations, most notably the N64’s (arguably) best FPS game, Goldeneye. What’s surprising to me is that the game is also based on the last Bond flick, Casino Royale, too. The game is presently set to split the game between both movies at a pretty even 50/50 split, which is nice for those of us that wanted to do some free running.


He just played CoD5. Zing.

What’s even better to hear is that the game is utilizing a modified version of the CoD4 engine (if an Activision game uses anything BUT the CoD4 engine these days the devs should be shot, imo). I say modified because it was made clear in the preview that the game utilizes a first-person perspective as well as a transitional third-person views (as well as what is referred to as picture-in-picture, although I don’t know how that TV concept would translate into a game effectively) for stealth and hand-to-hand combat. This makes sense to me, since using a license as high-profile as James Bond usually means people will want to see the guy, ya know?


BOOM!

From the few screens released it definitely looks like it will offer quite a few thrills and a lot of polish. They claimed it ran smoothly, but that’s obviously up in the air until it’s seen in motion/in my hands.

Other details, such as those concerning multiplayer, were only hinted at as the team isn’t ready to reveal proper details, but it’s good to know it’s included. It’s also reassuring to know that the end of the article mentions that the devs didn’t want to throw too much gameplay into the game without having it be refined as possible so they actually removed some aspects (such as car chases) in order to make the rest of the game that much better. If only more game devs did the same thing.


Ahhhhh, so pretty.

So does Activision’s new take on Bond have you shaken or stirred? (Sorry.) Personally, this game was nowhere close to my radar until I read through the article. I’m glad to see someone is taking their time with the franchise and not just trying to make another Goldeneye like EA tried to do for so many years when they had the license. It looks to me like Quantum of Solace may end up being the game we all wanted The Bourne Conspiracy to be.   read


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