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12:14 PM on 10.24.2011

Review: Deus Ex: The Missing Link

A great addon with a few missing links.

It has only been two months since the release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Eidos Montreal has been hard at work cooking it's first DLC, The Missing Link. It doesn't reinvent the game, nor does it fix any of the bigger issues Human Revolution had but if you are looking for more Deux Ex, you have come to the right place.

The story picks up as a stowaway Adam Jensen is discovered on-board a ship leaving Hengsha en route to an unknown location. Stripped of all his gear and with his augmentations deactivated, Adam, with the help of an unknown ally, must retrieve his equipment and make his escape. This DLC tell the tales of the events happening during the 3 days between Jensen leaving Hengsha and later resurfacing in Singapore, hence the title The Missing Link. Taking place first aboard a freighter and later into an advanced Belltower off-shore facility these events will shed some lights into the activities of the private military company.

While the story tries to fill in the gap in the main game's timeline, it is a more or less self contained chapter within the greater Deus Ex: Human Revolution's storyline. The ending suggest some ties to the main events of the game but none of what happens in The Missing Link have any direct impact on the events that occurs later in the main game. As such the DLC is accessed from outside the main game instead of being an additional chapter in the original game's normal story progression.

A beautiful day at the office.

This is at the same time for the better and for the worst. For the better because while very important and dramatic, none of the events you will witness and take part in during this DLC have any bearing or even mention in the later parts of the original game. Let's not forget that this takes place late into the timeline of Human Revolution and at a moment where things starts accelerating towards the game's conclusion and taking a pause from that storyline to start another would be detrimental to the overall experience. It is also for the worst as it is unfortunate that such a great little piece of side story is so poorly integrated within the greater story of Human Revolution. With some very interesting characters and some incredibly serious events going on, having this chapter better planned ahead of time and integrated in the full game would have made for a much more cohesive overall story.

Gameplay wise The missing Link is a direct continuation of Human Revolution. You will have access to the same augmentations and equipment and will be performing the same kind of actions as before. You start this chapter stripped of your weapons and augmentations and will have to quickly rebuild Adam to get him up to speed with the current situation. Through the course of the DLC you will acquire praxis kits on a much more regular basis than during the main game, allowing you to regain most of your augmentations in no time. You won't find any new augmentations to play with but in the context of where and when this story takes place this wouldn't make much sense anyway. Unfortunately you won't find any new equipment either which is a little more disappointing.

The new environments will allow you to perform all the actions you grew used to in the original game. You can gun your way through but the focus of the game remains stealth. With plenty of opportunity for a stealthier approach and without giving away too much, finally a boss fight that plays on the game's strength instead of it's weaknesses, the environments of The Missing Link are extremely well crafted.

Speaking of the environments, this is one area where one can tell a huge amount of efforts was put into. Most of these environments consist of entirely new assets specifically created for this DLC. The folks at Eidos Montreal didn't rest on their laurels and simply reuse all the content previously created but instead went the extra mile and created a wide array of fresh assets to build these new locations. Most notably the game do away with its predominant gold color scheme from Human Revolution in favor of a much more blueish tone. This is really a matter of personal preference but I found this to be a welcome change. Also in addition to creating new assets with which to build these new locations, the team brought some improvements to the engine, notably to the lightings which are much more vivid this time around.

Gold is out, blue is in!

The original game have been patched numerous times since it's launch two months ago, fixing many leftover bugs and improving performance and all of these efforts carry through to this DLC. I found the experience generally more polished than Human Revolution was in its first outing and performance noticeably smoother throughout. I played it on the same computer as the original game, a respectable gaming machine sporting a Core i5 760 processor, 4GB of memory and a GTX 460 1GB video card running on Windows 7 64 bits and was once again easily able to play this game at maximum settings without any troubles.

Taken as an additional chapter in the main Human Revolution storyline, The Missing Link disappoints with its disconnected story but taken as an individual new mission offering more of the great Deus Ex gameplay we got to play two months ago, it is a great piece of content. Clocking in at a little over six hours for my first playthrough, all of which taking place in mostly new environments and featuring a very interesting side story, The Missing Link delivers. This DLC is no more a revolution than its predecessor was but if you are interested by the prospect of playing more Deus Ex than you could do much worst than The Missing Link.

If you would like to read my review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution you can find it here.

Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)[img]   read

4:57 PM on 09.22.2011

Review: Resident Evil 4

A lazy effort for an outstanding game.

Resident Evil 4 is an outstanding game. Introducing for the first time or making popular gameplay mechanics that are now a staple of the genre. At the time it was also, and maybe still is, the most successful, both critically and commercially, entry in the franchise. It is then no surprise that Capcom would join the club of publishers re-releasing their past masterpieces in glorious HD. But did this amazing game received the treatment it deserved?

Before going any further it needs to be said that this is not going to be an in-depth review of the 2005 game but rather a review of this 2011 HD re-release and its new features or lack thereof.

In Resident Evil 4 you play as Leon S. Kennedy, one day Raccoon City cop turned Secret Service agent tasked with rescuing Ashley Graham, the kidnapped daughter the of the President of the United States. His investigation eventually leads him to an isolated village somewhere in Spain, where members of a religious cult may have taken Ashley. This village is only the tip of the iceberg in what is easily the biggest game in the franchise. Before reaching the end of this journey you will have explored castle, maze, ruins, secret laboratory and more. Here is a lengthy game where a first playthrough may clock in at over 20 hours. With plenty of bonus content to unlock and tackle once the main story is over and keep you occupied for several more hours this is certainly a game from a different era. Single player action games like these rarely offer more then 10 hours of play much less 30.

Just another day at the office.

HD collections are common these days ever since this new craze started when Sony release the God of War Collection. Unfortunately not every one of those are created equal. Some are truly a work of art with detailed and reworked textures and loads of new functionalities while others are nothing less than straight ports of the original release. Resident Evil 4 sadly belongs to the this second group.

Let's start with the obvious. Anyone who thinks HD thinks better graphics. That makes sense, after all this is one of the main appeal of replaying an old classic with the eye candy of today's games. Back in 2005 this was possibly the best looking game on the Game Cube and its PS2 counterpart was no slouch either even in a slightly diminished form to accommodate the less powerful hardware. Today's “high definition” version however does not hold up as well, especially when put side by side with better HD re-release like the God of War games. This port is based on the Game Cube/Wii version of the game but shows very little in the way of improvements. Textures, lighting, models all look the same as they did years ago. Simply bumping up the resolution from 480p to 720p does not create any miracle by itself. The game also does not support 3D, however I feel this is much less of an issue since the entirety of the game is very dark. Everyone knows that darkness and 3D don't work well together.

Controls are also disappointing by today's standards. The abilities at your disposal and the way your character moves around is essentially the same as in Resident Evil 5. However this is not to say that Resident Evil 5 didn't bring its share of refinements along the way. Most notably the ability to use the right analog stick for aiming. That game also included the option to use the classic Resident Evil 4 controls for those who preferred the old ways. It is than strange that this version of Resident Evil 4 does include the newer and far more common controls found in every shooter out there. Even more so when considering that none of the control types offered here are the same as those found in the PS2 version of the game and that Capcom did include the possibility of using the L1 and R1 buttons to aim and shoot respectively. Why not go the extra length and allow the player to aim using the right analog stick is a bit baffling. On the PS3 the game also does not include any support for the Move controller. While the original game was not built with motion controls in mind it was later released for the Wii and is often cited as the best version of the game and Move controls would have been a nice addition.

This guy does not like you, not one bit.

Trophies and achievements are there and accounted for but in pretty lousy way. 12 trophies/achievements, none for any of the extra game modes, only 3 of which are not guaranteed through a complete playthrough and no platinum trophy for the PS3 version really shows that Capcom didn't care about this feature and merely added them to comply with Sony and Microsoft's requirements. At least for all of you achievements hunter on the Xbox 360 you still get the benefits on the full 1000 points.

It's not all bad however. This port is based on the Wii version of the game. Which is to say the version that combined the superior graphics offered on the Game Cube and the additional content found on the PS2, most notably the Separate Ways bonus campaign featuring Ada Wong's campaign taking place at the same time as the main story line. This isn't just an hour long bonus mission either. In fact this bonus campaign is probably as long as any one scenario from Resident Evil 1 or 2.

I know what you're thinking but now is not the time nor the place.

When looking at what this release has to offer and putting it side by side with better and more complete re-release all for the same 20$ asking price it's hard to be anything other than disappointed with what Capcom has decided to put out. Its a real shame, one of the finest action game ever released deserved better. Still, if you only ever played the Game Cube version and have so far missed out on the fantastic Separate Ways campaign, this version has its merits. More importantly this is an excellent opportunity for anyone who missed out on what is one of the best game of all time and finally give it a go. If you never played it and discovered the series with Resident Evil 5 and even remotely enjoyed it you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.

It pains me to have to give one of my favorite game a 6 but you should not see in that score any indication of the quality of the game itself. It is still an outstanding action game even to this day worthy of all the praise it received over the years and is in fact what keeps this lazy port from being completely forgettable and in the end this is what really counts.

Score: 6 -- Alright (6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.)

A 6 may seem rather harsh for what is otherwise one of the finest action game you can get your hands on and if you know that any of the criticism listed here will not bother you or are not someone easily put off by older games without any sort of nostalgia attached to them than you only need to know that Resident Evil 4 remains to this day an excellent game that you should totally play!

Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

(Note that the screenshots shown may not be from the HD versions of the game.)   read

4:21 PM on 08.31.2011

Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Great? Certainly. But a revolution? Not quite.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is unlike most games you may have played in the last few years. Part shooter, part RPG and decidedly stealth heavy, here is a game that sometimes struggles to find its identity while other times completely nails it. Fortunately the latter occurs far more often then the former. But before I go any further let me say that I have never completed the original Deus Ex nor have i played any similar titles with a blend of shooting and RPG in recent times unless one considers Bioshock as something similar to Deus Ex. Therefore I write this review without any preconceived notions of what this game should or shouldn't do to earn your praise.

You play as Adam Jensen, former SWAT member, now chief of security at Sarif Industries, one of the leading corporation in the domain of human augmentations. The year is 2027 and the atmosphere is one of civil unrest as the science of artificial human modification progress, bringing with it its share of moral and ethical dilemma. Conflicts between augmentations development firms, governments and pro-human groups are rapidly escalating until a brutal attack against Sarif Industries leaves the company's offices in shambles, a number of employees dead or missing and an Adam Jensen crippled barely holding onto life. Fast forward 6 months, Sarif Industries has been rebuilt while conflicts continues and Adam returns to work sporting an array of state of the art augmentations which saved his life following the events of the attack.

The story, while not entirely original, does a great job of presenting this world and dealing with themes of human evolution and corporate conspiracies in a believable fashion. While this is a game filled with choices and opportunity as to how to tackle each situations you are presented with, you will have very little impact on how the major story events play out. The Story evolves in a very traditional fashion, through cinematics and face to face conversations not unlike those seen in Mass Effect for example. The cinematics are pre-rendered using the in-game engine but are unfortunately poorly implemented. Visually they are much darker then the rest of the game and the transition between cinematic and real-time gameplay can be jarring. They are also badly compressed, diminishing the visual quality further. The game would have gained from having every cinematic rendered in real-time and thus having a more consistent look.

Voice acting is another contentious aspect. Some performance are adequate for what the character demands while others are just terrible. Adam's voice in particular will never achieve unanimity. Some will like it, others will hate it. The character is certainly lacking in the emotions department and decidedly sounds more machine than human. If anything he never really sounds like a brooding douchebag asking himself ''Why did this happened to me?'' every five minutes. Also let go of the “I never asked for this” meme people, its already old.

You will hate this guy... thrust me.

As mentioned previously Deus Ex is part shooter, part RPG. The game plays most of the time from a first person perspective, switching to third person when taking cover or to give some cinematic flair to actions such as performing takedowns or jumping from high places. Cover is very well implemented with everything you would expect from any cover based shooter like peeking, blind-firing and rolling quickly to other nearby cover. The game even adds the ability to circle around all side of an object or the corner of a wall without having to leave cover, something that to my knowledge even games such as Uncharted or Gears of War, where cover is much more prominent, do not allow.

The shooting is competent but never truly feels as if the game was design in a way that shooting your way through most situations was a viable way to play. You have access to a wide variety of firearms. Pistols, assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns are all here and accounted for. Ammunition however is scarce and you will run out quickly during intense firefights. The weapons themselves do not feel particularly powerful with a few notable exceptions. Revolver with explosive bullets anyone? All things considered, shooting doesn't seem like the intended way to play this game and limited ammunition and firepower along with other aspects to be detailed next reinforce this notion. But in a worst case scenario where you happen to trigger an alarm in the middle of a room filled with twelve armed guards, your trusty assault rifle and quick reflexes will allow you to prevail.

If shooting your way through doesn't seem like the best approach to this game, sneaking your way through certainly is. For every open room filled with guards, automated gun turrets and surveillance robots, the game also gives you multiple alternative ways to proceed. For all of you air ducts enthusiasts know that this is the game for you! If you choose to avoid conflict and find a more discreet way around enemy territory, opportunities will be numerous. Of course crawling through air vents is only the tip of the iceberg here. With the proper augmentations you will be able to jump higher, reaching routes otherwise inaccessible, hack doors, opening new paths or the much less subtle tactic of punching through a concrete wall if the nearby door is out of reach for your current hacking skills.

Take out these guys or sneak around unnoticed. Decisions, decisions.

This brings us to the meat of the game, augmentations. At the start of the game you will be this ordinary man with no more capabilities than most of us. As you progress and complete missions and other feats you earn experience points which in turn awards you praxis kits. These praxis kits will allow you to unlock new augmentations or improve ones you already possess. These cover every aspect of the game. Some like improved damage resistance and reduced recoil will be sought after the more impatient among you who prefer a more combat heavy approach. Others like stealth enhancements which reduce the amount of noise Adam makes and improved hacking skills will make sneaking your way around easier. Some of these augmentations are definitely more useful then others. As it is entirely possible to complete the game without killing a single enemy, save for bosses, and considering the enormous amount of doors and computers just waiting to be hacked it is advisable to invest into improved hacking skills before thinking about combat early on into the game. In truth, every augmentations that improve the stealth aspect of the game just makes the game more interesting. Better hacking skills, the ability to jump higher or lift heavier objects all open more paths that would be otherwise closed, giving you more choices and variety. This reinforce further the notion that this is truly a stealth action game and not a shooter. Patience is a virtue.

All of these augmentations and skills will be put to good use exploring the many environments of the game. Through the course of your mission you will explore the streets of Detroit and Hengsha, infiltrate laboratories and military installations and even pay a short visit to a state of the art TV broadcast station in Montreal in my home province of Quebec. All of these locations share the same black and gold color scheme so prevalent throughout the game and the action takes place almost exclusively at night but nevertheless the team at Eidos Montreal made an excellent job of capturing the look and atmosphere that one would expect from these locations' real world counterpart. Things like having most local citizens in Hengsha actually speak Chinese or browsing through emails in Montreal and seeing as most of them are in French with an abundance of English words throughout are nice little touches.

Visually the game offers a solid package. It is easy to quickly dismiss the technology behind it as dated and unimpressive and it certainly is no Uncharted or Crysis but the team created a whole where no one element stands out from the rest and offers a game with a consistent look. Looking past the somewhat blocky character models, lower texture resolution, and some stiff animations, the game's environments are incredibly detailed. They are filled with all manner of props for you to interact with and the environment themselves are large and open ended. A game of this size with this many possible paths will always have to sacrifice some level of visual fidelity and this one certainly does not look bad. On the PC the game support all the latest technologies like DirectX 11, Tesselation and of course a higher framerate should your computer be powerful enough. The game does not appear to be particularly demanding but does take advantage of a quad core processor. I played it on a computer sporting a Core i5 760 processor, 4GB of Ram and a GTX 460 1GB video card and was easily able to max everything out at 1080p with the game running smoothly most of the time. Well except for that occasional stuttering which seems to affect a fair number of people and doesn't seem related to any specific configuration. Its unfortunate but its not a deal breaker. Also note that you may want to turn V-Sync off if you suffer from severe mouse lag.

I am happy to report that Final Fantasy is alive and well in 2027!

If you are among those who usually will not invest into a game which is either too short or does not come with some sort of multiplayer, fear not. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is lengthy. Very lengthy in fact. My first playthrough clocked in at just a little over 20 hours. That was a playthrough where I did not complete even half the side quests you can take on will exploring one of the two main mission hubs, Detroit and Hengsha, a playthrough where I also spent little time actually reading emails and ebooks littered around every location and where I adopted a much more combat heavy approach in the later stages of the game. I wouldn't be surprised to see that total play time jump to over 40 hours for someone with the intention of exploring every nook and cranny, completing every side quests and reading everything there is to read. This a game that rewards patience and thorough exploration and if you do you will definitely get your money's worth out of your purchase.

The game has its imperfections but also qualities that far outweigh them. If you jump in expecting Call of Duty meets Fallout you might end up disappointed, but jump in looking for a deep stealth action game with a good story, a beautiful musical score by Michael McCaan and an incredible cyberpunk world and you are in for a treat. As it stands now this game is merely great and not absolutely fantastic. If Eidos Montreal can use this as the foundation for future games in the franchise, then the future is a bright one indeed.

Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)   read

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