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Christopher J Oatis's blog

2:02 PM on 04.05.2013

Only Person in the World With Criticism of Bioshock Infinite

Now Don't get me wrong. Ken Levine has never made a bad game with the word "Shock" in it, and Infinite is not the exception to that rule. Infinite's mix of multi-era music, slick combat, and writing that brought emotional user manipulation to its peak delivered a near seamless experience. With that being said here are the seams.

Bowing to Modern shooter Conventions

While the game didn't include a sticky cover system or a sad attempt at one (DEAD SPACE 3 I'm looking at you) Infinite still saw it necessary to incorporate a "soft" shield that forced you to play in a manner that made you feel locked into one. While was only a minor bother, I felt my heart sink when I tried to pick up a third weapon only to watch the one I was carrying flow to the ground like a dying bird.

I understand the counter argument that having a arsenal bigger than Ted Nugent's stuffed in your underwear can tip the challenge of the game play in the later half of the game, but neither Bioshock had ever adopted this practice before. Using a limited space Inventory method like in System Shock 2 would have even be acceptable, but too many games are jumping on this band wagon as of late, and I was shocked to find it had infected one of my "Shock" games.

The Hype Bird (Minor Spoilers after this giant silly picture)

I could go for hours about how misleading all the trailers and media for this game are, including the current TV spot with Elizabeth's head in the noose, but that's neither here nor there. However, I find the hype attached to the song bird unforgivable. In short, gamers were lead to believe, for the better part of two years that we be going toe to webbed toe with this over-sized robot chicken and it ends up being an almost forgettable plot device that could have been replaced with just about any type of bad guy intervention and a game ending bad tower defense mini-game. Really?

The Song bird was supposed to the Big Daddy of this world. Did Seth Green threaten to sue for copyright infringement? Did the Song Bird ideas get cut or was it always just a going to be a story element? If the latter is the truth, then I can respect that but even in that regard the plot of Elizabeth's bipolar relationship with it, childhood companion and then warden, was so under developed that I almost laughed when she gave it the old aquarium treatment at day's end, which I supposed was supposed to be a tear jerking moment. Don't count on any Oscars, Levine.

Another forgettable, head scratching Boss fight. Even more Minor Spoilers

Speaking of Bad Tower Defense, I can't stay silent on the game's last challenge. Tower defense in Bioshock 2 made sense as it developed over the course of the entire game a convention of pseudo-tower defense in the form of protecting the little sisters as they sucked (don't think too hard on that) but why in the world (or multi-verse) did anyone think it was a good idea to tack on a half-assed tower defense game as the title's finale when it had not been previously developed? Its not like the game didn't have cool boss fights because I thought the graveyard romp against the zombies and Mrs Comstock Rocked! So, Why make the game something its not to close it out?

Perhaps, So the damn Robot Chicken would have something to do? I don't understand the rational. While there is the possibility that I'm just bitter because it took me over 10 tries to lick it on Hard, I still don't understand why a brilliant game designer hasn't had a challenging and contextually significant boss finale since System Shock 2.

What the Hack happened to the "good" mini Games

Aside from the Carnival shooting tutorials, which were kinda brilliant I must admit, I really missed the hack games. Every Game since System Shock has utilized Mini-Games that fit perfectly into the narrative and gameplay. By Bioshock 2 they had even evolved into live action challenges where you were trying to accomplish them while dodging bullets. Instead, we get a bizarre lock picking system that really had no consequences, and was dumbed down to almost another level of currency, you either had the coin to pay the door or you didn't.

No Need to Smile you're not on Candid Camera Anymore

This critique probably comes from more false expectations brought on from the pre-release media that the Siren or Trumpet head guy was going to the equivalent of a walking Camera meets titan. Well, he was. All three times that he was in the game, in the last half hour. While I may be exaggerating, but only slightly, this underused aspect had been an integral part of these games since the first System Shock and I was, like the mini games, sad to see it go.

Final thoughts
Nothing will ever be as cool as the Big Daddy or the insane rantings of the cybernetic egg nannies of System Shock 2 , and we will never be as surprised as we were when we watched ourselves beat Andrew Ryan to death, but all things considered I think {i]Infinite[/i] did the best job it could considering everything it did exceptional well. Ken Levine and co are still telling some of the best stories that Main stream games could ever hope to offer. The above is just a small list of some of the aspects that made me nostalgic for the past or just scratch my head in bewilderment.

Even though, I may have a bias towards the horror settings of Blood soaked space stations and the moans of splicer's agony echoing through the leaky halls of Rapture, I still embrace Infinite as a welcome chapter in the saga of "Shock" games.

On a final note, at games end Rapture got it final wink. Couldn't we get any love for Shodan?
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11:14 AM on 09.24.2011

New Fallout DLC Crashes Far Too many Fans' Consoles

Being a die hard Fan (Back to the Wasteland days) of the Fallout Canon, I was as pumped for New Vegas as anyone. Of course, the initial release polarized the fan base in the same fashion that Fallout 3 had, but that chatter waned, and a larger issue rose like an angry Super mutant over the horizon, the issue of bugs, and I wish I was talking about overly difficult Rad-Roaches. My experience with the poor programing issues has increased exponentially with the installation of each DLC, and now with my installation of Lonesome Road, the game has been rendered unplayable.

I figured it was probably just my bad luck, but a quick Google search produced a Rivet City sized population of angry Fallout Fans cursing to the digital world about similar problems: slow down after twenty minutes of play, battles that lag to the point of one frame every five seconds, ten second to twenty second wait times to access chests, dead bodies, or even your own PIP BOY. The list goes on. After my installation of Old World Blues, I had the Blues, alright, but only because I had to change my game play after realizing that the graphics didn't lag at night and in buildings, leaving me ducking into buildings like a damned vampire to avoid my game crashing.

I saw the hand writing on the wall after that train wreck of a gameplay experience, but I still hoped against a fools hope, and plunked down ten caps for Lonesome Road, but the results were worse than I expected. I no longer even had the twenty minute grace period after restarting the game. First battle with more than one opponent slows the game to an unplayable mess of enemies moving in teleported chunks and my gun aim responding in inches five to ten seconds after requesting it to pan left or right. Unforgivable.

I recognize, as gamers, our hobby is very maligned as time wasting, but that's probably what's so insulting about this process. This experience has left me with only the option to restart from the beginning, and forget about the collective experience and all the hours of my life that I shared with this stupid avatar, which kind of makes want to just sit down and read a book outside instead. Sad huh?

So, to all who developed this game, thank you for helping me get back on fitness routine with your half-assed programing and poor excuse for play testing. If you ever develop a patch that fixes this mess, don't let me know. I.m probably better off. Has anyone one else out there had the same problem and would like to walk on this Lonesome Road with me???????

9:07 AM on 12.29.2010

Year End's Reflection: Fallout NV

I know Fallout NV reviews are old news, but I'd like to tackle some points that I haven't seen addressed, since I've had time to really soak up the game from different perspectives and played out a handful of the choices. While most critics and forum "Fiends" are complaining about Bugs and why the damage capabilities of a plasma rifle is equal to that of a fire axe,or whatever, I'd like to hit some more important aspects that actually pertain to the overall flavor of the experience .

While I recognize that the bugs are more prominent than in a Baltimore low rent apartment, we've all had to hit the reset button on our respective systems dozens of times, let's try to journey past that and examine the atmosphere. Coming from a guy that has invested 20 years into this franchise: (real die-hards started with "Wasteland" in 90') Fallouts 1,2,3, Tactics, and even (shutter) the much maligned Brotherhood of Steel, I have come to realize that what makes this game great is not the strong narrative, but how the "Fallout" from the narrative trickles down and effects the average blue collar NPC living in the universe and how their stories give the player the ability to be enjoyably distracted by a trail of clues littered in the dust and discover more little unsung stories, lost amongst crumbling bones and forgotten buildings. These are the reasons most of us enjoy this game leaps and bound beyond all other linear titles.

Aside from great side quests in Fallout 3: helping a child in a city overrun with killer ants, saving a town that is under-siege from the idiocy of two psychos that think they're superheros, venturing into a den of blood suckers to save a child, and even unleashing a horde of zombies on a tower of rich snobs; there were even smaller moments than these that gave the game a deliciously awesome flavor. Remember stumbling upon the bunker where the inhabitant went insane after making dozens of plunger sculptures, and how about the George Town area of DC where a robot eternally reads bedtime stories to the bodies of rotting children, or even the nut job that has wired an alley way with a half dozen nukes. Fallout NV developers didn't even come close to breathing this kind of life into their title, only providing little scraps of stories scattered about the Mojave.

Instead, the developers took "the courier," identity to painful lengths since most of the quests involves the player running back and forth across the wasteland delivering "he said, she said" messages, which I wouldn't mind as much if there were events of interests that occur in the Mojave. In Fallouts 1,2,3, and Tactics the vault dweller always stumble into the cross fire of factions or comes across a random encounter of some sort. NV may have the occasional NCR vs Legion scuffle, but these events seldom occur, and that Wild Wasteland Trait barely unlocks more than half dozen pop cultural easter eggs-most of which you might not even notice- that made the previous titles enjoyable.

Encounters aside, the locations are often empty and boring: there used to be a racetrack here, this is a dried lake and now some ants are here, here's a toxic waste dump, here's an old race track. Look, A state park used to be here. So what? Where are the old stores where boxes of detergents have been rigged like Dominos to create a deadly Rube-Goldburg? Where are the zany scenarios like the Republic of Dave, Girdershade, or the lingerie quests? The Mojave seems to be drierthan the compilation of its sand when it come to juicy little bits of flavor that Fallout 3 provided.

After finishing Fallout 3, I remember going on-line and finding out about dozens of little niches I missed like two scientists that were tucked into a corner who had tried to study ghoul culture to deadly results. Instead, NV relies more on hunting, which is cool only if you've activated the games "Hardcore" mode, which is fun until you reach about level twelve, by then you've probably already brewed 120 bottles of purified water and killed enough Gecko to grill up enough steaks to feed all of Freeside. While there are some caves with "legendary" versions of some of the games animals to take down, and a quest of egg gathering that plays up the hunting angle with a reward of lots of caps and some nookie from a sultry ring master of an underground arena, the hunting angle loses its luster quickly. Perhaps, the biggest joke is the Gecko hides, which you could sell in Fallout 2 early on for some quick caps, but NV makes the recipe complicated enough and the re-sale value so low that by the time you did all that garbage you could have made hundreds more selling the loot from a few bodies.

In general, Hardcore Mode was grossly exaggerated by pre-release press that had you believing that your character would be crawling on his hands and knees and just make it to toilet seconds before dehydration strikes. Take it from a guy, that's only played with hardcore on and has the full game achievement already. It's more annoying mode than hardcore mode. I like the flavor it adds to the game, but the effects that become most prominent are constant item management since ammo weighs too damn much and constant re-loading because your idiot companion will always charge into battle (even when set to passive... that doesn't do shit) and block your shots and get himself or herself killed.

The whole eating/drinking/cooking system is pretty screwed up in general. While you can craft items that offer higher food recovery like the Caravan Lunch Boxes which restore a whooping 300 food points you would never allow your character to drop to -300 FOD because of the statistical penalties that kind of hunger carries. In short, you would eat the ingredients before holding on to them long enough to even make the more advance item, so the only time you could benefit from this is if you stumbled upon a pre-made one, which is extremely rare, and you had reached that level of starving from finding no other food for awhile, which is near impossible because EVERYTHING drops food. New Vegas's developers really out played themselves at every turn.

Okay, enough trashing these guys, Some of their changes were wise decisions. The repetitive, and unavoidable sewer mazes, of the DC wastes, had to go and this team knew it. There are a small stretch of sewers that can be used, but you never "Need" to use them to get somewhere. I absolutely hated setting my marker for a location ten feet away only to see a connect-the-dots line that looked like a star of David appearing on my PIP Boy informing me that I had to wind my way through seven metro lines to arrive at that location.

Another good call was lifting the generic raider label off of every-other enemy in the game. NVs boasts: The Khans, The Fiends, The Powder Gangers, The Vipers, and The Jackals. The last two may seem a little on the generic side, but NV provides the first three with their own cultures and the ability to walk amongst and do quests for each one. Even though, the Karma system is all screwed up (get Karma for killing people, lose Karma for taking their stuff) and probably should have been omitted, the return of the reputation system is a far better way to interact with the game's many factions.

On a whole, the faction system is more of a choice of ideology than good verse evil in the smaller groups, but the overall story is pretty black and white. The Legion will come in and rape your wife, take your daughter as a slave, crucify you if you don't join them, but the NCR is going to raise taxes so there bad too...give me a break. I think we could have worked a little harder on finding a less evil faction to oppose the NCR than just scooping up the Legion off the failed Van Buren project.

Regardless, most of the little, day to day gameplay mechanics shine far above Fallout 3. Companions are easier to control, most of the time, and sending them back to the Lucky 38 to a little NPC party so you can easily reclaim whatever one you want later is very convenient. The companion quests are also an excellent addition to the experience even though you have seek out, bizarrely concealed, triggers to convince each one to tell your character about how to embark on one. Regardless, the quests still add life to the characters, making most of the NPCs feel deeply intertwined into to the story of wasteland that you are mostly the author of.

Authorial choices on the part of the courier is probably what gives NV its gold stars. Rather than have a linear line that you can deviate from, do some side quests, but are ultimately forced to get back on that line in the extact spot you left off, NV's story landscape is more like a web where every decision you make, even in side quests, has ripples that effect the entire narrative as a whole. The freedom to make whatever choice you want can be overwhelming, but so are the consequences of those chooses.

Where NV's developers gave in narrative design they took away on the front of character design. Once all was said and done in Fallout 3, your character would probably be maxed out in most categories of Skills allowing a character to talk, shoot, zap, or explode his or her way out of every situation. NV shaves the amount of Skill books down to a fraction, and cuts the amount of perks you can have by half. The character is forced to specialize or become insanely average. While the introduction of skill magazines allow you to be something you're not for a temporary period of time, most of the game involves you solving problems in the manner your character excels at.

NV's most pleasing feature comes in the form of an excellent climax, which leads up to a challenging boss fight. Instead of Fallout 3's anti-climatic Enclave General that falls over dead with the brush of a feather, NV challenges the player with a boss battle worthy of the Fallout stamp. No one in Fallout 3 comes close to posing such a threat.

My final side note deals with the gambling system, which comes down to either playing simple fast paced, lose your shirt or get rich quick games, in the casinos or mastering Caravan. Caravan, a weird blend of Blackjack and solitaire, involves collecting cards as you travel and developing a winning strategy as you play, which will eventually limit the chance of losing far beyond anything you can play in the casinos. Once you get a feel for building columns of card that equal 26 you can earn tens of thousands of caps without the fear of being banned that the casinos carry. Generally, the game is much more fun than blackjack or roulette anyhow.

At the end of the day, I would probably say that Fallout 2 and 3 have more to offer in the field of a complete gaming experience, but they are hard to compare, and its more accurate to say they are apples and oranges. NV's unfortunate common thread with Fallout 3 is its unfortunate challenge curve that has the player reaching god-like status too soon. Before the Mojave is even halfway conquered, your character will have reached level 30, acquired over 50,000 caps, installed every implant, and have their refrigerator full of enough food and water to open your own supermarket thus shaving away several layers of interaction with the RPG environment. Future fallout titles need to find a way to balance out the amount of time it takes the player graduate from struggling to survive and sleeping and eating garbage, to yawning as you swat Cazadors like gnat and kicking up your feet in your hotel suite while eating Fillet Mignon and trying to convince Cass to try on the Sexy Sleepwear. Aren't Post-Apoc RPGs supposed to be about brutal survival, afterall?

With all that said, NV is still a welcome entry into the cannon and probably the most freeing experience in the Fallout world. I think fans who have appreciated this franchise for the compilation of all its games will be pleased. Younger fans that only have Fallout 3 for way of comparison will be polarized into love and hate tribes. Either way. Bring on twenty more years of these games. I've have my wasteland stomping boots ready, with these spurs that jingle-jangle-jingle.   read

3:17 PM on 10.03.2010

Dead Rising 2: Not for the Uninfected.

The Dead Rising franchise gained its inception and inspiration from the 1978 Version of Dawn of the Dead and fulfills the fantasy of everyone who saw that movie and wanted to live in such in a environment. Sniping Zombies, stabbing Zombies, running zombies over, hitting zombies with pies, shooting them with water while enjoying a mall’s stock of food and clothes were just a handful of the concepts the film introduced, but the Capcom Franchise has poured a boatload more of sand into this box making the experience even more pleasurable for those who love to kill Zombies. If a gamer has neither an appreciation for the source material, the love of slaying the undead, or just playing around in such an environment then they should probably play Halo or any of the other seven dozen games that play just like it.

Is Dead Rising 2 perfect? No, its mechanics are extremely clunky with questionable hit boxes, and frustrating boss fights that require zero strategy other than exploiting a glitch and spamming your health items. "Rising 2's" regular story line ends with a fight against the obviously hidden villain who stands at the top of a scaffolding shooting down at you with seemingly impossible fury that is until you find a sweet spot at the edge of the scaffolding just below him and can blast away with your own firearms in a place where he can seldom hit you as his health drains away. The same problem can be said about the vicious Vana White twins that assault Chuck with lightning fast razor swords from every side. Seem impossible? The sequence can be challenging until you realize that killing one twin means you win the battle then you just drinking that OJ and empty your shotgun at only one twin. Problem solved.

People who play this game and love it don't play it to fight long and fulfilling battles. Fans play it because they enjoy the sound of a zombie going pop, crunch, and splat in an amusing fashion. Fighting the poorly designed boss fights is just a necessity to overcome to massacre more rotting bodies. Get it?

Most of you that hate this game probably won't, but to call it frustrating because you have to restart to finish it is an unfair analysis especially with Rising 2 that has smoothed out many of the more tedious problems of the original. Remember trying to fight three convicts on a hummer with a mounted machine gun with only four squares of health in Rising 1? Part 2 has nothing that compares near the front end of the game and I had no problem marching through the game without a restart. Some readers criticize the save system, but Rising 2 offers THREE slots over the original’s frustrating one. Not to mention the fact that there are bathrooms just about everywhere and always in places before big fights. Even the survivors in Rising 2 are a huge improvement: resilient, battle ready, and making the original's hapless followers look like you were trying to escort Helen Keller back to the safe house.

I can sit down and come up with about hundred more problems with the franchise, but most of them, like the most common complaints, tend to be because I’m trying to judge the game by the standards of a genre it doesn't belong in.
If you can't enjoy an apocalypse turned playground then play something else. However just because a game isn't in a genre like doesn't mean it deserves a rating of 2.0

If nothing else, for all you awkward guys, enjoy the ridiculous amount of "fan service," skimpy outfits, groan worthy-sex humor, etc...   read

9:28 AM on 09.09.2010

Dead Rising Case Zero Sets Bad Precedence.

After finishing Capcom's Case Zero I sat down to think about what I just played. Well, it was glimpse of the upcoming game: new combo items, new weapons, smarter followers, and (trumpets please) the ability to aim, shoot, AND Move. (Glad you finally nailed that "tricky" mechanic Capcom). However, did gamers really get our Five bucks worth?

On a positive note, it did satisfy a jonesing for more zombie killing that I've had since I beat, sliced, and stomped all the fun I could out of the original title, but with Case Zero's level cap of 5 I felt just when I was starting to enjoy that awesome spiked bat: impale and rip move that the point, of earning PP, was gone; and the animation was waste of time in a game that makes you play for every second. Not to mention that by the time I made the "Boom Stick," I felt like the only thing I did was ruin a perfectly good shotgun since I was already capped out, and the 100PP bonus was worthless.

However. the entire business of killing zombie is now a matter of style as Case Zero's game-play hints at as Chuck is recognized by another survivor as a famous Motocross rider. This change in profession moves from Frank's journalist eye to that of how a stunt man/handy man sees the world and more importantly how he can dominate it with a little flair ala exploding a propane tank that he just cased in homemade shrapnel, but the demo only touches on this concept, and merely teases about the future of vehicles.

So what we have is a smaller version of the game that "teases" about the larger game and gives us limited game-play mechanics. Isn't that called a demo? Aren't those those things we've been downloading/trading for free since early computer gaming of the late 80s and early 90s invented freeware.

Now I know the days of Apogee and Doom/Duke Nukem which unloaded a hulking 1/3 or 1/4 of their game to you for free are long gone, but does that mean that there aren't some pretty large trial games out there. Little Big Plant unleashed quite the sizable demo, but on the other end of the spectrum Dead Space's first "Dismemberment Demo" was pretty lame in it's five minutes of play time.

The difficult question is a plain in front of our faces, at what point does a "demo" become a price-tag-able product? Dead Space 2 is about to sell a comic book with mini games for a price is that worth young gamers hard earned lawn mowing money, and with this new fad of releasing priced pre-release material will the "free demo" go the way of the dial-up modem and freeware demo?

Case Zero isn't a rip-off by any stretch of the imagination, but I think the questions it purposes are valid ones. So I'll ponder it what more more time. In this age of DLC, will the free demo die and how much game play is enough to warrant a price-tag.

Not complaining, just a thought people.   read

5:56 PM on 04.30.2010

Alone in the Dark II: Another Reason to make VG movies illegal

The other day I sat down and watched, against my better judgment, Alone in the Dark II (2008). I got nostalgic and soon found myself suckered in with the mentality that it couldn't ruin one of my favorite childhood franchises worse than Uwe Boll did. I was dreadfully wrong.

Growing up, Alone in the Dark's signature hero, Edward Carnby, was the Chris Redfield before there was a Chris Redfield. He could shoot his way through a house full of zombies, and if he ran out of bullets he'd a grab a knife from the cutting board or even the cutting board itself and crack open some rotted heads. If that didn't work he would just throw some killer head-butts and crescent kicks. Let's see Redfield do that.

However, with superior graphics, the Resident Evil franchise took the spotlight away from its spiritual grandfather, so Alone in the Dark attempted to revamp for the new millennium with Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (2001) which moved Carnby and the franchise out of prohibition era America into modern day with some lame explanation about the character being a descendant in some secret organization that passes down the name... really a load of marketing garbage to try to compete with Resident Evil. Carnby, himself, was transformed into a Fox Mulderish wise cracking, early thirty-something, and if that wasn't bad enough they even paired him with a red-head love interest and threw some government agency conspiracy into the mix.

Unfortunately, this "X-file" that no one should have opened gave Uwe Boll, the worst German since WWII, an idea. And when Uwe Boll gets an idea, a beloved survival horror title becomes a disgrace.

Boll's "brilliant" vision of bringing Alone in the Dark (2005) to the screen cast Christian-we thought your career was over-Slater as Carnby while Tara-bad boob job-Reid played the Dana Scully-ish character. The movie was mess of bad slow motion, half-assed CGI monsters, plot holes, and Stephen Dorff - the guy you wouldn't know if he wasn't the villan in the first Blade movie - who brought plenty of terrible over-acting as the psudeo-villian that, of course, turns good just in time to save the day. While Slater was, in retrospect, a passible Carnby, the movie itself was terrible and only loosely based on anything anywhere in the games.

After the dust cleared from that mess, I was content on going back to playing the original trilogy on an old laptop and forgetting about the other two massacres until Atari decided they were going to try to make everything better by resurrecting Carnby in 2008 with the simply titled Alone in the Dark, which did its best to try to create a plot that would completely discount everything that happened in The New Nightmare and Boll's piece of trash by simply pretending the game, and the horrible movie based on it, never happened -what I like to refer to as the Highlander 3 maneuver. Nevertheless, this new Alone in the Dark expected us to swallow the fact that Carnby Rip-Van-Winkled it sometime during the Hoover administration and woke up in modern times. Iwould be wiling to swallow this if the gameplay wasn't a mess of innovation for the sake of it, an over extended mutli-genre debacle, and filled with more bugs than an apartment in Baltimore. At least, I was sure now that the franchise couldn't get any worse?

Then I sat down and watched Alone in the Dark II (2008). Although, why it has the right to be a "2" to anything still remains cryptic. The original game to bear that title was about zombie pirates turned bootleggers kidnapping a little girl during prohibition and this is definitely not that. You could try to make the case that it's a sequel to the Boll monstrosity, but honestly you would have to get some military quality bungee to make a stretch like that since the plot bares no resemblance to anything Alone in the Dark. Maybe most insulting is that Carnby is now portrayed by Rick Yune, whose ethnic background is completely different than that of the character he is portraying. Real good continuity, people! Perhaps the producers should just be honest about the fact that they just stamped the franchise name on their crappy movie and put Carnby's dog tags on Yune's horrible character because they wanted people like myself to get suckered into watching it.

However, if the film was even average I wouldn't have cared. Instead, it unloads its abysmal writing by kicking off with a shootout/chase scene that has something to do with a witch, a dagger, and some group of demon hunters that run around firing big guns at bad blurs of CGI while yelling poorly acted lines to each other through cool stylish headsets. Carnby somehow, which remains puzzling (yes five minutes in and its already confusing) becomes involved with the dagger, gets stabbed with it, and spends the next half hour being carried around by the demon hunters group. While Carnby is lying around bed whining, Lance Henriksen - who we want to like because he was Bishop from Aliens - goes on this whole rant about how he's not going to get involved, probably setting up the reluctant hero that has sacrifice himself cliche. Then we cut to more shootouts with the CGI blur.

If you haven't surmised it, the film was unwatchable, made Uwe Boll look like Martin Scorsese, and I couldn't even force myCarn1self to finish it, which leaves me with one nagging question. Do I want there be to another Alone in the Dark anything? It's a really sad reality because this series had some strong potential back in 1992. Back then, there wasn't anything like it. Dark halls, puzzles, guns, and Lovecraft style creepiness: footprints in the distance and macabre sneaking up on you from behind every corner had never rooted itself in the world of gaming. This franchise should have developed into something fantastic as technology improved. Instead, we get a character that's completely revamped too many times, too far separated from his tough-as-nails Charles Bronson meets Macgyver roots, and four bad attempts at trying to have this franchise claim a foothold with a new generation. Can the real Edward Carnby please start cracking some more heads with a frying pan, and maybe box the hell out of Uwe Boll, until we get another decent entry into the franchise?


1:51 PM on 04.07.2010

Why Deadly Premontions is the Best Game of the year, Not the worst.

How can a survival horror title that has outdated graphics, a mind numbingly annoying soundtrack; and gameplay consisting of repetitive Easter egg hunts, taxiing, and two dimensional combat be considered the best survival horror game I’ve played in a long while? Well dualism is what this title is all about as your split personal protagonist, York, (or it is Zach?) will tell you.

If this has you scratching your head well that’s just what Deadly Premonitions does best. The game kicks off in what seems like a Resident Evil/Silent Hill type atmosphere with ghost-zombies called “shadows” lumbering after you, but; after a short sequence in “the dark world”—ala Silent Hill—York , big city FBI agent, stumbles into the sunlit small-town paradise of Greenvale, where young girls are being murdered and the inhabitants are nearly as crazy as York in a sort of directed by David Lynch kinda way. Twin Peek fans will be at home as a Billionaire Tycoon in a skull shaped gas mask speaks through his poetry spouting aid, a pink glowing eyed killer stalks the streets on rainy nights, and Greenvale’s answer to “the log lady”, Sigourney, wanders around town talking to her pot.

Once you meet this circus parade of suspects and settle into town, the world opens into a brilliant sandbox environment of mini-games, challenges and side quests to check out while visiting Greenvale. Fishing in the mountain streams, playing darts at the local bars, testing out your new wheels in a circuit race, or beefing up on your aim at the police firing range are just a handful of ways to earn power-ups and enjoy the sights. Sound dull? Not here to vacation? Then, York can even buy maps at the convenience store to uncover the truth behind local ghost stories that place the player in sides quest challenges where if you survive an undead horde you’ll be rewarded with more powerful weapons. The varied gameplay and open environment succeeds in ways that titles like Alone in the Dark (5) failed miserable. Instead, Deadly Premonitions’ take on the open environment parallels to the old 90s Sierra Games like Quest for Glory where developing a daily routine of practicing skills, finding places to sleep, eat lunch, have drinks or play darts at night adds a realism to the experience that pulls the player into the game by mirroring a life’s day-to-day of down time and work time.

The details of York’s daily regime are even taken far beyond what Sierra ever dreamed up as the player is in charge of shaving a beard that grows in real time and keeping his clothes clean or suffer the embarrassment of having actual bugs circle your character. York needs to do everything short of dropping anchor in many toilets offered in the game. With the amount of coffee you need to drink to keep his sleep meter up and the amount of food you chow down on to keep the hunger meter up, it’s surprising the player doesn’t all have to rush York to the toilet, but I digress.

However, attention to detail does not extend much to combat, and I can agree that fighting the same re-skinned shadow with only a different weapons or two over and over does get lame, but the game as has the ability to surprise you. Just when you’ve had it with repetitive combat the game’s second enemy type “The crawler,” —think Samara from the ring- comes sulking along the ceiling and walls at you, naked and pissed off. The game has a way of lolling you into a false sense of security and then dropping a new twisting on you or changing the gameplay style on the fly. While I tend to hate reaction test sequence, and their overuse in games today, DP has a couple that are interesting and exciting as you engage in chase sequences with the game’s boogie man, “The Raincoat Killer.”

While the game’s general bestiary is limited to four, plus a handful of boss fights, the overall gameplay is not just about the combat. Deadly Premonitions borrows gameplay from GTA, Resident Evil/Silent Hill, Crazy Taxi, Police Quest, Quest for Glory, Haunting Grounds and the overall experience never feels disjointed with pieces tacked on just for fluff—well maybe the ability to use your car’s windshield wipers and blinkers, which serves no purpose, but whose nit-picking?

While most critics have more to complain about than the dashboard functions of the cars, but these people are missing the point. In a genre, where both Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil screwed up their franchise with too much innovation and too much action, respectively, Deadly Premonition enters with one of the most original survival horror gameplay experience in years and most people will miss it because of some superficial flaws, but my eyes are open.

“DPs” bad reviews focus on the game seeming “dated” while they should be addressing the most original characters, atmosphere, and dark storyline since Harvester, and one of the best “manageable” RPG open environments since Quest for Glory. While the town may not rival the map of Fallout or Oblivion, its size allows the player a more intimate experience of reoccurring characters and locations. Instead of the conceptual RPG format: “we’ll I’m done with your quest-I’m off to the other end of the map, see you never,” character development and the small town atmosphere are always at work.

Games are all about having fun, and Deadly Premonitions only takes itself seriously in moments where it has to. The rest of the game is even willing to laugh at its self, and it often does almost poking fun at the characters limited expressions, movements, and over reactions. Cynical critics are exaggerating standards they think make it look like it should have come out ten years ago; but, even if that was the case, the best games are timeless, and this one is instant classic: hilarious, creepy, and intriguing.

Where else can you get up, predict the future by how the cream mixes in your coffee, go fishing and catch ammo, fight off a horde of the undead in an old tunnel with a flamethrower, eat lunch, race a crazy woman home because she doesn’t want the pot she’s carrying to get cool, help the crazy Vet at the junk yard find parts to build you a new hotrod, interrogate suspects, eat dinner, play darts, race your new hot rod, and when night falls, take out the hot deputy for drinks then fight off giant supernatural dogs with a shot gun under the full moon. It’s all in a day’s work when your Francis York Morgan. “Isn’t that right Zach?”


5:05 PM on 02.21.2010

Bioshock 2 Review: Great Story driven game-Unnecessary Multiplayer

Remember a few years back when that crab went on and on about how life was better under the sea? Of course, the grouch I’m talking about is Andrew Ryan, the developer of Rapture, an underwater setting of genetic drug addicts and insane science. With Bioshock 2 on shelves this month, gamers are invited to return to the city of sunken dreams where the individuals freedom is prized above all.

Bioshock 2 starts off with a bang as your protagonist , a special Big Daddy model named Delta, shoots himself in the head after being coerced by Rapture’s newest zealot leader, Sophia Lamb. After you wake up—somehow—ten years later, you learn that after Ryan’s death Lamb has united rapture under her rule and this concept of ‘family’ that she waves around as a means of psychology control. As you move through the game you discover that Lamb’s vision for utopia is intimately centered around turning her daughter, Eleanor, into the perfect human. Eleanor also happened to be your character’s ‘Little Sister’ until the bond was tore apart by the forced suicide attempt.

While story is intriguing it is hard pressed to compete with the initial mysteries of Rapture that the original game dealt with, but the developers did a good job of not trying to write the same type of narrative arch. Instead, the fan will be treated to some blanks filled-in from the last game and the newcomer will get a decent stand alone storyline that won’t even spoiler too many twists of the original.

Storytelling does remain the focus of Bioshock as every room is littered with remains and clues about a dream turned nightmare. Prostitutes with “Eve” needles sticking out their arms lay dead in their bed. Victims of science experiments remain bound to chairs and gurneys. Even subtler imagery like propaganda posters and graffiti tells the tale of Lamb’s rise to power while expositions from old tape recorders and radio communications with the few people that are neither dead or insane provide the missing pieces.

Gameplay itself, matches the original’s quality without question and also adds some more strategic elements. For example, hacking is now done in real time. At first glance, the simple reaction test format may seemed dumbed down after Bioshock’s pipe mini-game, but as the game goes on you realize that hacking is now a part of battle. One of your weapons is a gun that shoots hacking tools and you may have to reprogram an enemy turret to defend as it unloads at you and while ducking a Splicer’s wrench.

New Plasmids are also designed in a more strategic fashion giving you the ability to summon flying robots to your side, hypnotize enemies into fighting with you, and even sending a ghost of yourself ahead as a scout.

Why all this strategy? Because harvesting is now a part of the game. After defeating another Big Daddy and adopting his Little Sister, you can search out bodies for the little Sis to drain of Atom, which seems simple enough until you put the girl on the ground and hordes of Splicers start showing up. The goal is to use Rapture’s security, your enemies; and your arsenal of traps, firearms, and offensive plasmids: to snare, blast, burn, and beat back the enemy away from the Little Sister in whatever way possible. If you can accomplish this for a set time limit without being killed or the Little Sister being interrupting from her blood sucking duties then you’ll reap the benefits of her Atom collecting.

Accomplish a few harvesting runs and you’ll should a have a nice bank roll of Atom to purchase plenty of upgrades. However, keep in mind that you’re always being watched by Rapture’s newest nightmare, The Big Sister. Big Sisters are like Big Daddy’s but twice as fast and strong. They’ll toss fire like a volcano until they get bored then they’ll switch to using Telekinesis to heave rocks or corpses, and if you can’t keep them away from you they’ll lift you off the ground and drill the blood from your vein restoring their own life bars in the process. By the way, fighting them is difficult.

While the challenges, fire-power, and strategic element have upped the ante quite a bit, the freedom in the game has really only seen minor tweaking. The developers clearly wanted to move away from the Harvest/Rescue, Bad/Good binary; and as a result, Bioshock 2 does have three additional story based decisions to make, which do offer some freedom to how the story evolves, but ultimately your bound into a track that can only take you one of three places: Good/Bad/Neutral.

Still, it’s hard to criticize this game. If a Big Daddy put its drill to my head and told to come up with critiques I would say the underwater segments are lame and unnecessary serving only the purposes of showing off cool graphics and doing a little Easter egg hunting. Also, unnecessary and lame is the multi-player that has the same gimmicky capture-the flagesk games that Quake was doing ten years ago. Bioshock has no need for a mutli-player, but it had to have one as selling point, which is just the state of things these days.

Other than that, quality has not slipped an inch on the Bioshock front. Every aspect is as pleasing as the original , and the developers didn’t drown Rapture with attempts at innovations, which is too often the case these days with sequels.

The final word is that the Bioshock franchise is still one of the most original concept in the industry today. Even though, the story may not be as intriguing as its predecessor, the writing didn’t take unnecessary risks trying to top it. Recognizing that the mystery of Rapture and Ryan is already public knowledge, the writers wield another kind of intriguing web that will still have gamers wondering who to trust and rushing through the game to find out if they made the right choice. However, Bioshock 2 does have a host of fun and interesting turns, and it is a MUST play for anyone that likes a little bit of intelligence and thought provoking story elements with their First Person Shooter.


3:37 PM on 02.18.2010

Why do people LIKE Dragon Age?

Yes that title is a question? I couldn't have imagined a bigger disappointment than Dragon Age Origins provided. After working my way through my Game Queue, It finally showed up in the mail the other day and after I had wasted a good twenty minutes getting the bridge of my nose and my nostrils just right, figuring I was going to be spending 100+ hours with this avatar, my anticipation was bubbling thinking about the Tolkeinesk battles I saw raging across my TV screen during the intro. Finally, I was only a few more minutes of expositions and dialogue choices away from playing, but little did I know that Gameplay would be the least amusing part of my Dragon Age experience.

The second I took control of my character I felt like a dog on a tight leash. While, at first, I thought the environments were so restrictive because I chose the Mage type and he is locked away in some other dimension to fight a demon and highly predictable plot twist, but I was wrong. A second choice of the Elven class gave me another tight environment, a dense forest that felt like a walking down a long hallway as if it was 1994 again and the Eye of the Beholder franchise was still the coolest thing to hit RPGs

Combat felt just as antiquated. After swinging my swords at a spider, I tried to swing again but nothing happened and this awkward moment arose where I felt compelled to start making small talk with the spider while "my X button move" recharged. "So do you ever knit sweaters with those webs? Any hobbies besides killing people? Hold on I'm allowed to swing, again?" Memories of Lands of Lore:The Throne of Chaos filled my head, and I remembered that that was 1995, and since then we've come up with ideas like real time where the player reactions to your movements like he's an extension of you and it feels like your actually fighting your enemy. Its really an amazing concept.

Now to be fair, I'm sure the environments open up a bit, and I have no doubt the voice acting and story are probably as good as advertised, but the combat system is nearly--and I'm NOT afraid to use the word--unplayable. What are you supposed to do between swings run backwards into the unforgivingly bad camera angles?

Maybe it all gets wonderful in the second hour...Can anyone mount a defense for this game? Is wonderfulness going to be lurking behind every pixel real soon or should I just pop it back in the envelope and hope GameFly sends me something better?


12:41 PM on 02.11.2010

Darkside Chronicles: Another Reason Resident Evil Needs To Turn A Corner

Remember turning that first corner in Resident Evil to find one of your comrades from Bravo Team with his face being gnawed off by Resident Evil's first zombie? Can you believe that was fourteen years, seven main series games, seven side-story games, four movies, and one remake ago? Newly released Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, number seven on the side story game list, was the latest installment that fans (waiting for a hopefully re-tooled part 6) got to chew on.

Most fans will probably do well to rent this one so they can spit it back at the video store or GameFly when they're done with it, which is not to say the game is unplayable but rather just plagued by the bad RE cliches, terrible dialogue, and little replay value. The game follows Leon Kennedy and Jack Krauser into South America where they try to track down overused RE motifs and successfully discover someone who infected their daughter with whichever strain of the T-Virus we're up to now.

Aside from the plot, which is so typical for the series it's not even worth talking about, the gameplay is similar to Umbrella Chronicles' rail shooter style, but clearly made efforts to undo every element that was frustrating in "UC." I was happy to see I could play the entire storyline without having to unlock pieces of it with high scores, and being able to carry an inventory of herbs and my entire armory seemed appealing at first, but as the game went having access to enough explosive to level Brazil rather than having to choose which weapons to bring on the mission seemed to dumb down gameplay. However, if you enjoy the RE atmospheres and mythos then Darkside was brainless head popping fun.

I can't say Darkside wasn't enjoyable, but it was a cheap tease in the grand scheme of the series. Darkside, like Umbrella Chronicles, operates on replaying scenes from the main series in rail-shooter format. The bothersome part is the game is actually narrated by Leon as he fills in Krauser on some of his previous experiences with the virus, which makes the gameplay a flashback. In that case, how the hell can you die in flashback if you've lived to tell the tale? "Great Scott! It could cause a paradox, Marty!"

At the end of the day, Resident Evil The Darkside Chronicles is good mindless fun, and if anyone cares about Jack Krausers backstory then it has that too, but the franchise is still lacking and has delivered minimal scares since that first zombie got done chewing years ago. The games in recent years have fallen short without undead creatures jumping out from every corner, REAL walking copses, and creepy atmospheres. I guess we can they get it right in Resident Evil 6 and also give the fans a usually-somehow resurrected Albert Wesker complete with his brilliant dialogue.

"What's this...A Mansion?"

The obvious never escapes you, which is why we love you or maybe its those cool shades.


3:14 PM on 11.05.2009

Left 4 Dead 2 Demo Shows Signs of Decomposition

This past week, the fall’s most anticipated Zombie Apocalypse title, Left 4 Dead 2, unleashed its demo to mass audiences. With the actual title coming to knock its rotting fingers on door steps in less than two weeks, the short demo should have people salivating and blood thirsty for the full game’s November 17th release date.

The Left 4 Dead franchise for those of you that have barricaded themselves away from the gaming world as if an actually apocalypse was going down, is a four person FPS that allows four live player to take on the role of survivors trying to shoot, burn, denote and beat their way through hordes of zombies and specially mutated infected. The title also has varied modes that allow live players to assume the role of special infected trying to take down the survivors.

Left 4 Dead 2 focuses on the infection of the deep south, Savannah and New Orleans, where four new survivors: a high school football coach, a young woman, a good old boy, and a con-artist that looks way too much like John Cusack, fight their way through hordes of their former southerners with a new arsenal of weaponry and power-ups.

While the new weaponry is visually stimulating everything about it tends to be a cheap firework display. Despite the fact that’s its amusing to hit a zombie with a frying pan, a machete, or a police baton each melee weapon feels exactly the same and at the end of the day is just a re-skinned rifle butt swing, which was what was available in the original. Most importantly you have to give up your side arm to use them. I’ll keep my 9mm with infinite ammo instead of trying to beat a charging witch to death with an acoustic guitar. How about we leave the beating of zombies with instruments to the Dead Rising folks at Capcom?

Another half-assed power up is the boomer puke vials. Remember the pipe bombs that attracted all the zombies to one area then unpacked a bone storm explosion? Well the boomer puke only delivers the first half of that equation. Thanks, for adding another step to my zombie exterminating process. On the other hand, there is a new adrenalin shot that speeds up your perception of the world around you. It’s pretty cool during horde attack. Give it a shot.

The bestiary grew to include a rotting woman that spit pools of acids, zombies of slain cops in bulletproof riot gear, little midget zombies that ride the survivors into bad situations, and overgrown freaks that grab you and pound you until you stop moving. While the first two are kind of clever and vary the game play, the second two are more just like hybrids of existing infected. The riding zombie, “Jockey” combines the dangers of the smoker and the hunter while the big guy, “the charger”, is just an altered “Tank.” Valve didn’t really lose much sleep staying up designing these guys did they?

Overall, the game play does have a more varied feel than the original. Most special scenarios in Left 4 Dead involved hitting a switch, getting some bombs together, dousing the place in gasoline, and digging in somewhere that you could blast and burn back the tide of hungry faces. Left 4 Dead 2 turns that scenario upside down by making the survivors hit a button in point A and then have to run through a maze of post-apocalyptical barricades, which the infected are flooding over at every turn, to get hit another switch at point B. Much more intense to have to think on your feet then getting to crouch behind a bar and mow down the infected from the comfort of your preplanned barricade

At the end of the day. I still feel this game relies too heavily on multi-player features to sell it. The single player experience of having three AI bots march along with you falls miles short of actually playing through with buddies or strangers, and even dialing up a quick match with random people puts the player at risking of having to deal with a party of three immature players that just want to yell through their headsets and shoot at each other. With this type of title the replay value only holds up if other people and the right type of people are playing it, but what will ten years bring? Gamers still play the original Resident Evil, but will people return to a gaming experience that put all its eggs in a multi-player basket?

While the demo proves that November 17th will bring out some amusing zombie blasting and burning, Left 4 Dead still uses its AI and atmosphere in a manner that’s too in your face, never building tension and never being creepy. (Well maybe in the case of the witch that can walk around in L4D2) Intense gameplay is a good thing, but when it’s overdone and no other mood rises to break up the tension the gameplay becomes two dimensional.

Fans of the Zombie Genre have waited for a good atmospheric living dead single player FPS since Doom, but I don’t think L4D2 will do the job. It’s a step in the right direction, but falls a couple fingers short.

Left 4 Dead 2 will be available for XBOX 360 and PC on November 17th.
NEED TO KEEP UP WITH HORROR NEWS...Check us out at No Room in Hell Weblink   read

1:57 PM on 08.07.2009

"Natal", Not end-all

You mean you have to use your hands. That’s like a baby’s toy.” Marty McFly is told this in. 2015 by two kids after showing them how to play an 80’s light gun game. Back To the Future 2 may not be far off with their projection of technology or the attitudes of modern gamers. Microsoft already has filled YouTube with celebs playing with “Natal,” their newest baby, ready to stick it to the Wii.

What makes me curious is why the common Anti-Wii Loser is ready to embrace Natal like it’s the second Coming of Luke Skywalker ready to put the evil empire in its place. Let’s analyze why AWLs (we’ll call them) don’t like Wii in the first place. AWLs proclaim they hate the gimmicky nature of the Wii. It attracts causal gamers, and women—boo, can’t have that! they scare them!—to gaming.

Why exactly do you suppose Natal is being launched. You don’t suppose it because “Wii Sports” and “Wii Fit” sold like a Zillion units, and now Microsoft wants a piece of that action. So all those gimmicky games and casual gamers are just going to be coming to your hood. Better start loading up the welcome wagon, hard core gamers. They’ll be crowding up the air waves on those professional headsets y’all wear real soon.

Yes, Yes—The Wii has sub-standard graphics. If we’re not using every bit of the newest pixel shading technology a game can’t be fun, Of course. However, the games that haven’t been criticized as much, your “Mario Galaxies” and your “Twilight Princesses”, are known franchises that were easily fashioned to the Wii. I think it’s going to be awhile before Natal gives us an 30+ hour, in-depth, and graphically intense game that operates completely on air.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Innovation in video games is always exciting, but I think Natal is risky business. Actress, Felica Day said it best after her test run, “I can’t wait to throw a fireball like this.” Neither can I. Give me an awe survive horror game where I’m wrestling a zombie of my throat and snapping its neck with my bare hands and I’m there. However, It has more potential to spawn a billion “Block party 5” and “Cooking” games than it does to instantly take gaming to the next level. Gamers love to hate the industry that feeds them, and the Wii has been judge an unworthy whipping boy by the elite for a while now. AWLs want that big knock blow to make the Wii obsolete, but—call me a doubter, it may be wonderful and shut my mouth— but, I’m not holding my breath.   read

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