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Ol Smitty's blog

11:36 AM on 04.15.2010

Splinter Cell Conviction review by a regular, unproffesional guy

After a long delay and a complete overhaul, Sam Fisher is back, and he's mad. But is his newest adventure worth your time? Read on and decide for yourself.

If you didn't play Double Agent, the previous game in the series, don't worry, because this game gets you caught up the moment you start. Sara Fisher, Sam's only living family and sole anchor to humanity, was killed by a drunk driver. When Sam discovers this may not have been an accident he goes looking for answers.

And so what begins as a quest for answers and vengeance evolves into a war against Third Echelon, our fated protaginists' former employer, whose new director, Thomas Reed, has plans for the United States that do not involve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the only man standing in their way is Jack Bauer....I mean Sam Fisher.

Let me start off by saying that many of the hallmarks of the series have been removed. There is no more interrogating any guard you can get your hands on. Instead, the game will tell you when you need to interrogate someone, and when you get to these unfortunate individuals, you can pilot them around a designated area and press B to test what painful effects the enviornmental objects (a mirror, a door, a tree stump, etc.) will have on the subjects.

I found this to be fun, but it could've been a lot more. If you choose to just press B without being near any environmental factors, Sam delivers a two or three hit combo. This has the same effect of advancing the interrogation as environmental factors do. You could stand there pressing B and get through the whole thing. If there was a factor where say, more painful techniques yielded results, while simple things such as punches caused the subject to resist the interrogation. But still, I enjoyed it as it was.

Killing enemies is now highly encouraged. This goes well with Sam's attitude in this game, I think. He's not sneaking through bases and avoiding people anymore as much as he is stalking them and looking to eliminate them. Doing a melee kill on an enemy gives you the ability to, "Mark and Execute" your enemies. As you upgrade your weapons you will gain the oppurtunity to mark up to four enemies. Provided they are in the same general area, a quick press of Y causes Sam to execute 4 insta-kill shots to the enemies heads, killing them all very stylishly.

Once you use this technique, another hand-to-hand kill gives you the ability to use mark and execute again, and so on. All in all, the gameplay is still very solid, and the elements you love are still there; being smart, being stealthy, and using gadgets. Portable EMP's, flashbangs, and Sam's goggles are all at you're disposal.

As good as the gameplay is, I couldn't shake the feeling that the series is treading dangerous ground of becoming just another third person shooter. Techincally, you COULD play the entire game as one, but playing it ninja style is a helluva lot more fun and thrilling. (The fact that it's really easy to die if you get cornered encourages stealth too. Duh.) There is one flashback mission in Iraq that is basically a shooting gallery. Sure it works, but i've seen it before. However, the fact that this misson was a shoot em' up went well with its context, so its excusable, I think.

The single player campaign is criminally short (I beat it the day I got it) but the extra modes such as hunter (kill all enemies) face off (Spy Vs. Spy with bot controlled enemies. Get points for killing bots, big points for killing other players) and last stand (defend against waves of enemies. You know how ever since Gears of War 2 all games with guns are required to have this mode by law.) will keep you going, and the replay value is fairly high, I think.

Lastly, as usual, fucking up, getting cornered and shot up is a million times more fun when you do it with a friend. Yes, co-op mode is back, and it's a blast. The only way I can really describe it is single player with your buddy. Marking and executing the dudes behind your bro while he does the same for you is a good way to get a fist bump goin'. Oh, yeah, and you can take turns torturing people. A great way to expand the foundations of your bro hood is causing agony to others. I'm glad we're all in agreement on that.

All in all, if you're a die-hard fan of Splinter Cell, this is definetley worth a buy. If you're not, but you can dig the great multiplayer and potential for fun with friends, it probably still is. If you're just in it for a fun evening, whether with a friend or on single player, it's a good choice for a rent. Splinter Cell is still strong, but it needs to be careful with where it's gameplay goes from here.

P.S. If anyone thinks the series can go on if Michael Ironside stops voicing Fisher, do yourself a favor and die.   read

11:42 AM on 04.13.2010

Just Cause 2 review by a regular, unprofessional guy

I've actually been planning to review this for awhile, so here goes. Again, as with my metro 2033 review, i'm gonna give you, the public, my thoughts, nothing more.

First, I wanna get my criticisms outta the way first. Just Cause 2 is literally the first game that I cared ABSOLUTELY FUCK ALL about the story. It's so thin it would probably fall apart under a light drizzle. I've played Mario games with deeper material. Second, the characters are pretty bland, their accents are borderline offensive, and the models are meh at best.

That outta the way, I just wanna say that this game improves on its predecessor in virtually every way imaginable. The island locale is simply beautiful, more than making up for the character models, and one of the biggest free roaming worlds i've ever seen. (Also, explosions look great.) You'll traverse deserts, glaciers, forests and villages with ease thanks to the kick-ass grappling hook. Gone is the grapple gun form the original, and in its place is something that provides for tons of pure, undiluted fun.

If you played Just Cause 1, you'll know you ain't in this for the story. You're here to blow shit up. And this game knows it. Free roaming is highly encouraged, as is unhindered rampage and slaughter of military personnel, highjacking vehicles, blowing up installations and fuel dumps, and more.

The grappling hook mentioned above makes traveling a breeze. A quick button press and you're flyin' towards whatever you aimed at. A tap of another, and your magic parachue bursts open, really getting you going and providing an invaluable means of transport if you don't wanna drive or fly everywhere.

The hook also provides for hilarious experimentation. At an airport, a soldier was shooting at me. Rather than simply shooting back, I used the hook to lash him to a passing jet that was taking off. The rag doll physics (also an improvement over the stiff animations of the original) worked their magic as the soldier was dragged across the tarmac, screaming in terror, before lifting off into the air with the plane, dangling from the belly like an obscene yo-yo, at which point the rope broke and the poor bastard fell to his death, forcing me to pause the game from laughter and wonder what the future will hold when a dear friend of mine comes home this summer and tries his hand at this stuff.

Gunplay and movement is solid. You can carry two one handed weapons and one two handed weapon, and upgrade your weapons and vehicles via the black market through weapon and vehicle parts you find througout the world. The black market is handy, as you can order pretty much any gun or vehicle, or request a fast travel from place to place, at any time.

But this same handy aspect bothered me at times. Rather than going down a checklist of things you would like the dealer to drop, you have to order everything individually. This isn't a problem when you want a vehicle, as you're not gonna drive two at the same time, but when i'm using a SAW as my two handed gun, and an MP5 and sawed -off as my left and right weapons, and I need more ammo, that's 3 trips to the menu. But for me, this was really just a momentary inconvenience.

All in all this game is FUN. Experimentation is encouraged, the tutorials really help ya get into the swing of things and don't waste their time on bullshit you'll only use once, and it doesen't pour nearly all of its awesomeness into the story. The main line is really short, and upon completion, you can just keep exploring, destroying and doing side missions, which I found are all extremely varied, fun, and have a high potential for hilarity. If you have a friend, and you can dig swapping turns and just watching each other, you'll have a blast. (No, there is no multiplayer, another lost bit of potential.)

I'll leave you with this. If toppling a stone statue of an island dictator, lashing his giant, now disembodied head to your helicopter, and using it as a wrecking ball against helpless people on the interstate before crashing into an overlooked over pass and perishing in a fireball of metal and rock dosen't sound fun, you really need to reconsider what you're doing with your life.   read

12:35 PM on 03.30.2010

Hedonistic Gamers: Are YOU one of them?

Hedonism is defined as a school of ethics where pleasure is the only intrinsic good, and games are no exception. When you buy a game like Modern Warfare 2 or Halo 3, do you play through the single player, and then commit your heart and soul to the multiplayer aspect too? Will you be putting on that head set, popping in that disc, and griping that you didn't get (insert a weapon here) even though you called it first, 10 years from now? If yes, you are not what I call a hedonistic gamer.

When I think of a hedonist, I think of a guy who has sex with someone, and discards theme once they have become average or overstayed their welcome. If this describes you, then take a good long look at yourself and decide if you're badass or just evil. But this isn't about that. Hedonistic gaming is a term I use for people like myself, who buy games and then sell them back quickly to get that maximum store credit to put toward their next title. Buy them, use them, discard them. Don't get me wrong there are exceptions to this. Game's that deliver a strong single player experience that I'll want to have on hand to relive at some point, or provide good ol' fashioned fun when I have friends over, like Resident Evil, God of War, SSBB, or Heavy Rain are games i'm likely to never sell. But I will admit i'm guilty of hedonistic gaming.

So I ask you all, are you hedonistic gamers? Do you suffer from an ADD like disorder that renders you unable to devote your life to a single title, and would rather discard them for a new game? Is out with the old, in the new, even if the old is barely a month old, your motto? If so, join me! If not, then you probably think I'm an idiot, in which case, rest assured you are hardly alone. If so, what games have you discarded that can be considered good? What game were they sacrificed for, to bring you a step closer to? And what games of yours have the shining distinction of being, "keepers"? Share your thoughts!   read

1:20 PM on 03.23.2010

Metro 2033 review by a regular, unproffesional guy

I read about Metro 2033 in passing, and logged in that back part of your brain reserved for stuff you THINK you may revisit later. When it finally came out, I had some money to throw around and my 360 was needing some love, as it was jealous of my PS3. So I looked up what some other people thought due to me having no free will and being incapable of making a decision on my own, and heard pretty good things. So I picked it up. I'm not gonna shove a, "THIS GAME IS DA SHIT AND UNDERAPPRECIATED AND IF YOU DON'T BUY IT YOU MUST BE STUUUUUUPID!!!", i'm just gonna give ya my thoughts.

Metro 2033 is actually based on a Russian sci-fi novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky. If the book is anything like the game, it should pretty damn compelling and interesting. Basically, the year is 2033 and an implied nuclear war concerning who-knows (you may find out by listening to NPC's but I powered through it. I know, i'm evil.) has forced roughly 40,000 people, the only living ones on Russia and possibly the world, to live in the gigantic metro stations beneath the city. The protaginist is your typical FPS mute, Artyom, though he does have a short narration at the start of every level. The Metro stations may suck, but at least they're relatively safe from the mutants crawling around the country, and the apparently supernatural evolved humans known as "Dark Ones," who fuck your shit up via psychic powers, causing you to lose it and die soon after. Anyway, your father's BFF shows up at your station one day, and you get attacked by mutants. After fighting them off, Hunter, your dad's friend, says he will go to HIS home station, a sort of military stronghold, to get help. He givesa dog tag, and says that if he does not return, you must make the trip yourself, for some reason. He doesen't come back, and our hero is compelled to keep his promise, and starts off on a quest that was originally about saving his home station, but turns into a chance to save what is left of his nation and the world.

The story is really quite good, something I miss in today's FPS's, which generally involve terrorists and the theft of nuclear weapons. Every station you go to has its own feel, and you can eavesdrop on plenty of NPC conversations to get more info on the universe and history of the game's timeline, something I plan to do on my second play-through. You constantly meet new people, each with their own personality and colorful history, and you actually start to kinda feel for them. One of these guys, Khan, really struck me as knowing a hell of a lot more than me would tell me. It's a good thing Artyom doesen't talk, because I would asking questions left and right until people would rather ditch me in the tunnels. I won't give anymore story details away, other than that there are quite a few, "what? Why would we do that?" and some, "Woah, what just happened?", questions, and a few more that are just never answered. But as I said, maybe those NPC conversations can clue you in. Even if they don't, is that really so bad? Open ended mystery keeps us guesing and leaves it mysterious, otherwise you end up pulling a Condemned 2, a product with solid gameplay, but a mystery explanation that is about as satisfying as a heaping plate of bullshit and fries.

Now comes the juicy marrow of the matter, the gameplay. In all the reviews I read, there were complaints about bugs and glitches. Some claimed they were noticable, but not bad enough to detract from the fun of the game, while others claimed that they were everywhere, and that game was a lurching abomination worthy of the company of titles like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 4a games, the developer, were also involved in the making of some of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. titles, which I never played, but heard that they were enjoyable, ambitious titles flawed by glitches. I never had much trouble in Metro 2033. The controls feel tight and smooth, and the gunplay is damn good, though there MAY be times when you are pouring rounds into a monster that you may think, "Hm. Good firepower ended with the rest of the world." But I got by fine. There were two instances I had worth noting. One was during a firefight in on of the early levels with some not very nice guys who had captured my travelling companion. I killed them all except for one unbeliavably resilient foot soldier who absorbed all my shotgun ammo and four machine gun clips. I felt more like I was fighting the Terminator than ragtag infantry paramilitary dudes. However, I stayed in cover, and the wires in my dull mind eventually clicked, saying,"Smith, perhaps this one of those glitches you were told about." With that settled, I easily sprinted by him and into the next area, beating the level. The other instance was when I was on a surface level. Following my objective arrow on my compass, I determined I should go through a fence opening. But every time I got within ten feet of said fence, I would die without warning. Passing this off as a glitch, I trie it a few more times in the hopes the game would work itself out. When it didn't, I backtracked and dicovered I was going the wrong way and kept walking into a radiation zone. Go me. Other than that, I had a blast. Your enemies are few but fun, and consist of mutated rat creatures, mutated.....meerkat creatures I guess, that use tunnels, spawn constantly and are ANNOYING AS HELL, to the flying creatures reffered to as, "demons" that plague you on the surface, to hulking, ape-like, fittingly named librarians, creatures in the library level that will not attack you as long as you keep eye contact, stay a modest distance from them, and don't attack. Keep that up, and eventually they'll just leave, and if you move to the next area quickly you won't have a problem with them. Or if you're an impatiens bastard like me, you can go in with zero intention of being anybody's bitch. Just be prepared for a fight. You also fight amoeba like creatures, run from floating, indestructible electricity balls called "anomalies" (another thing that's never really explained) that instakill anything near them in the tunnels, fight post apocalyptic Nazi's and Communists when they're not fighting each other, and run like hell from the aforementioned Dark ones in some badass dream sequences. (Think F.E.A.R. kinda.) Also, in the shooting aspect, you have, "dirty rounds" which are more common but less powerful, and "military rounds, which are rare but more powerful. However, they also function as the currency of the game. But this aspect, I feel was a bit downplayed. The selection of weapons is modest at best, and most of the weapons on sale at shops are basically the same ones with a few peripheral attachments like bayonets or scopes. I was only really compelled to buy a few medkits here and there because I knew I could just pick up a new weapon for free in a later level. And towards the end of the game, you'll have so many military rounds you'll likely be using them to kill monsters rather than buy stuff. Another was the surface aspect. Every time you go to the surface, if you wanna live, you put your gas mask on. Cool. But your character also sets a wrist watch, which you can check with the left shoulder button. I figured once my minute hand reached the red bar on the watch I would die, giving a sense of urgency to the surface sections. But no matter how long I took on a surface level, I never died by overexposure to the elements. Maybe if i left the game on overnight standing outdoors I might die, but that's just ridiculous. It makes me wonder why the wristwatch is even there. Lastly, there ARE a few quick time events. It seems these elements are mandatory in all action games now, but Metro keeps them few and far between and never turns them into a gimmick. You're required to do one at the very beginning to pull a door open, a few a little later to knife some attacking monsters, and one near the end of the game to keep from falling off a tower. And they are all, "rapidly hit X," not some cheesy minigame we're all used to seeing since God of War made it actually FUN.

All in all, I enjoyed the game. Elements of Fallout 3 and F.E.A.R go better together than you may think. The game is only single player and is really quite linear, but is a glorious, fun, suspenseful linear experience. Metro 2033 is really worth your time, occassional glitches aside. It's fun, atmospheric, and damned immersive. If you like FPS's, and don' mind a time killer that'll draw you in, this is the game for you. That's it. Just so ya know this is my first review and post in general so if ya see anything that need attention, kindly fuck off....I mean give some good ol' constructive criticism.   read

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