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5:03 PM on 02.13.2009

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin Review

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is an action/horror game in which you take control of Michael Becket, who is tasked with arresting Genevieve Aristide the president of Armacham. Certainly seems like a simple mission, on paper. Things quickly go awry, and you’re thrust into a battle against countless soldiers and creatures straight out of your most recent nightmare.

The main draw of F.E.A.R. 2 is it’s horror themed elements. The game has a handful of jump scare moments, but not nearly as many as the first F.E.A.R. Instead, it uses it’s “scare” scenes to take you out of the standard kill room to kill room formula. They’re not really scary though, but highly atmospheric. After awhile though it becomes somewhat annoying to have to keep going back into these sequences, especially after some of them feel strikingly similar. The story however, is loads better than the first, and also can stand on it’s own. It would help to of played the original F.E.A.R. but it’s not necessary. The plot keeps you barreling down a strict set of objectives and you constantly know what you’re doing and why, and you usually care. While Becket himself is mute, you always have someone on your radio keeping you up to speed and giving their own commentary on the situation at hand, usually giving you that extra bit of insight. The characters feel a bit generic (tough black guy, strong willed female, etc.) but are still likable, though it doesn’t make them any less expendable. Overall, F.E.A.R. 2 does the story right by finally explaining what in the hell is going on, but still leaving you in the dark enough where you’re still a bit uncertain.

F.E.A.R. 2 plays very well. It takes several cues from Call of Duty 4's control scheme and feels just as tight. The weapons (with the exception of the pistol) all seem super satisfying, even if enemies can survive a few to many gun shot wounds to the head than you would expect. The way the enemies react to getting shot, and the amount of blood that comes out of each bullet wound is fantastically over the top. On that note, the color of the blood used is perfect, and goes a long way into making the excessive gore work, as does the weapons you get. Pulse rifles and a futuristic cross bow that occasionally pins enemies to walls rounds out the arsenal of standard arsenal of assault rifles and shotguns. You even get to control a powered up Mech suit a couple of times which lets you just ruin everything in your path, though these sessions are short and you only get to do it a couple of times. The melee attack seems a bit over powered. Slide tackling into most standard enemy types results in an instant kill, but pouring several rounds into their body and face does not? Granted, getting that close to an enemy usually results in being shot-the-hell-up so it sort of balances out. And yes, jump kicking is still there.

The first F.E.A.R. was well known for two main things: it’s bullet time/slo-mo effect which gave you a massive edge over the enemies by allowing you to aim in real time while their movements were slowed to a crawl, and it’s repetitive office building environments. While the slo-mo feature remains (and is now upgradeable through the game by finding “reflex injectors”) the repetitive environments have been nixed away, mostly. There are building complexes similar to the first F.E.A.R. but you are quickly taken out of them and placed in much different environments; a school, the destroyed city (which towards the end of the game offers some fantastic sight seeing), and a “hospital” are just a couple of the diverse locations you’ll visit, which is great cause you really get a sense of progress this time around. The environments do look very similar though once you’re in them. The game is for the most part a straight shot from fire fight A to fire fight B, but I found myself getting confused and turned around more than once due to everything looking the same. I even managed to somehow find myself at the very beginning of a level, after I had already passed the mid way point, foolishly thinking I was making a lot of progress.

The A.I. from the first F.E.A.R. is carried over as well but has been renovated in several key areas. The soliders you fight frequently bombard you with bullets up the wazoo, making sure you don’t refill your “reflex meter” and unleash death upon them, making your slo-mo ability less of a crutch this time around. Don’t assume you’re safe, cause you’re not. The A.I. can also flip object to make it’s own cover, an ability that also can be done by you. However, after playing through the entire game I can honestly say I never once found “making cover” very effective. It takes too long to do, you’ll likely end up losing a whole lot of health in the process of making sure you don’t lose health by making cover. It just never works the way it’s suppose too, but there’s always plenty of cover laying around anyway so it’s never missed. The other enemies you face have a less dynamic A.I. but it usually works in the context of the character.

After you’ve passed through the games 7 Intervals (though really the last interval pales in comparison length-wise to the rest) you still have the multiplayer mode to play around in. While the single player is tactical and usually involves some thought, the multiplayer is classic deathmatching from back in the day. People run fast, die fast, and respawn fast. You can pick your load out from the beginning of the match and change it at any time. The multiplayer even features a burst action rifle that is absent from the single player story, and is quite effective. The modes on offer are mostly standard stuff with the lone exception being the Armored Front mode where each team is tasked with capturing 5 control points. The twist? Each side has it’s own player controlled power armor. While you’re usually helpless against it on foot, it all becomes okay when you’re the one in the mech. It’s not the most terribly balanced mode, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t fun. Overall the multiplayer isn’t going to draw people in like Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4, but it’s nice to have and should certainly provide you with some entertainment value, depending on if you can get into the run and gun style of play.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is a damned good shooter. It’s a decent length (about 6-8 hour) and has an interesting story will keep you hooked to the very end. The end “boss” is interesting, and appropriately off for the series, but the cliffhanger ending might leave some a bit underwhelmed, and just raises new questions. Monolith made a fantastic shooter that nobody should really miss out on. It doesn’t do everything perfect, but it doesn’t have too. Turn off the lights, crank up the surround sound, hit the slow motion button and lay on that trigger. You’ll thank me later.

4/5   read

7:06 PM on 02.04.2009

Could Killzone 2 be Sony's big online game? It might be for me.

I own all 3 systems (the Wii is collecting dust, and let us never speak of it again) but I really only get a lot of play out of my 360; usually cause an online game hooks me. Left 4 Dead has hooked me for a bit now, and before that Halo (and I still play Halo nearly everyday... level 50 General. Wooo.)

I keep trying to find a PS3 game online that I'll really get "hooked" into, and so far they've all been solid but just haven't done it.

Warhawk is awesome. But nobody ever talks, and it really is lacking because you really aren't a team, just a well armed mob. I love the flying and I love the basic gameplay (even though the auto aim is way to over done) but it just didn't do it for me.

Resistance 2 was great online initially. The co-op was alright for me, though that wasn't really what I was looking for. The actual V.S. modes were amazing at first, with 59 other people flooding the battlefield, but battles were much too chaotic (except for skirmish where they actually split everyone up and had big 30 on 30 events, that was awesome,) but the core gameplay never grabbed me. Felt too... not fast, but too something. Just couldn't get into it.

Metal Gear Online... I never even got to try. I never figured out the whole Konami ID thing and after 5 minutes I stopped caring. Everyone seems to always put it down though... don't think I missed much.

Socom: Confrontation; I picked it up (with that fantastic headset) and... well that headset is really nice. I was put off initially by the glitchy-ness of when it first came out. Now it's just cause I get frustrated way too easy. Socom however, unlike 99% of every other game I've played online on the PS3, people were talking. A lot! And it's awesome. But the you get shot and die and sit for 10 minutes sometimes can get on ones nerves, that and being unable to effectively just jump in for a quick match really hampered the enjoyability for me.

And here we are with Killzone 2. For the record, I despised the original Killzone. It seemed like the smooth animation came at the expense of gameplay and horrible glitchy-ness (at times). A game being touted as the Halo killer at the time certainly didn't impress me very much at all, though the PSP version I loved if that helps.

Anywho, Killzone 2 has had 6 MONTHS of extra polish added on to it. I'm not expecting a terrible amount from the single player portion, but I sure hope they deliver as far as multiplayer is concerned, if it is anything like the video below...


That looks AWESOME. I mean... just WOW. Most of the Beta vids I've seen have been fairly impressive so far, so I have high hopes. The class system seems deep (and gives you a reason to keep playing ala Call of Duty 4) and the clan support sure sounds insane and should keep me connected with plenty of people that actually talk. And that whole clan betting points system thing... it just all sounds so cool.

I'm really only worried about a small thing. The lack of the cover system has kind of bummed me out for awhile. Though, making it more fast paced might not be too bad, and just because it's "faster" doesn't necessarily mean it's more mindless. I'll have to wait and see if that's really even worth getting upset about.

Either way it sure looks like Killzone 2 is on track to be a monster hit for Sony, hopefully the multiplayer can keep up with the big boys and grab everyone like I hope it does. Here's to hoping.   read

1:06 AM on 10.14.2008

On the PSN, nobody can hear you scream. Cause you don't have a Mic.

I have the flag. I took down three Warhawks single handedly, hopped out of the burning wreckage that used to be my own flying machine, and took out a tank with an RPG, alone, to get this far... but now what?

"Hey, guys, I have their flag, someone wanna send a hawk over here and pick me up? The skies are pretty clear for the most part."
"I'll settle for a jeep..."
"God dammit."

Tell me this doesn't sound familiar. It seems like 11 times out of 10 it's a voiceless empty void in most PSN games. Warhawk, Soul Calibur IV, Team Fortress 2, silence. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. I have run into people that talk, every once in a while. But it's rarely ever to, you know, strategize, and that's okay I'm all for trash talking, really, when you kick some ass you want that fact to be known... especially to the guy who's ass you just kicked. It could get annoying, sure, but it's one of the main differences instead of playing against an AI. I just wonder... if the PSN is free, couldn't you use that money you're not spending on a decent headset?

Maybe it's because people can just hop online whenever they want, dick around and do whatever, with no worries about commitment. After all, they didn't pay a monthly fee for this, no pressure.

While this sounds great and everything, the lack of a mic severely hampers many games playability. Why bother even hopping online with Soul Calibur IV when I can fight emotionless, cheap, and downright annoying characters offline against the CPU, and I don't even have to worry about lag! This might sound strange, but after playing Soul Calibur on the 360 and also playing it on the PS3, I couldn't go back the PS3 (even if the 360 D-pad is borderline broken on the 360), at least the online mode. It was just... so boring, no personality. I WANTED people to talk shit. I know, it sounds weird. But when you're so used to something like that and it's suddenly taken away... it's noticeable. Like in Tom and Jerry, if Jerry was ever killed in a mouse trap, Tom would finally get his peace and quiet... but some part of him would die with Jerry.

Okay, you get the picture.

Games like Warhawk, or Rainbow Six: Vegas use voice for shit talking, yes, but it's main focus is for strategy. Call for help, ask people if they need help, plan weapon layouts, stuff like that. It's essential, it makes or breaks your team. Well organized squad? Or a heavily armed mob with the combined intelligence of a acorn? A hard choice I know, but think it over for a minute.

The Socom: Confrontation is nearly out, and judging from the beta it's pretty good. It's got some bugs... and it doesn't really look... what's the word I'm looking for... "next gen." But, what the Socom fans were saying was true, the gameplay does make the difference. On top of which, people were talking! A lot! Actually for the first time ever, people with mics were outnumbering the people without mics. Madness?! Yes, indeed. But welcomed madness. My squad mates were using tactics, covering each other, doing stuff that I found terribly surprising but far from unwelcome. Now I know this is a limited beta, for people that pre-ordered the game. I have a hunch, that many (if not damn near all) of them had played a Socom game before on the PS2, and are using the very same headset. In addition, one of the packaged versions of the game is coming with Sony's wireless headset for only 59.99. A damn good deal, considering the headset alone costs 50 bucks, and the game alone costs 40.

Though they did that whole headset thing with Warhawk... and well we saw how well that's be going.

Never the less, I remain optimistic. The more people playing Socom, means more people talking on the PSN in general. With Socom coming out extremely soon, we're not gonna have to wait long to find out. I wonder if having this game (and Warhawk before it) actually hurt its online community? Either way those that play Socom and get the mic will trickle outward onto other games (I hope), and Sony's official headset will help standardize everything a bit. With all this combined, I really do see things looking up for the whole vocal community. The PSN is a great service thus far, especially for the price. It will definitely take a bit more work, from the players, and Sony, but there is a bright light shining at the end of that tunnel. I think. Never the less, because the console doesn't actually come with a headset like the majority of 360's it's got a long way to go till it catches up to the Xbox's service, at least in terms of player communication... But it sure beats the shit out of the Wii's.   read

3:34 PM on 08.08.2008

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts to be a budget title?

I'm looking forward to the next Banjo game. Sure, its not straight up platforming again... but I don't think I'd be as excited if it was. Instead, it's something much more. There's some platforming in there, sure, but only about 20% of the game will be that way (according to Rare.) However, if GameStop is to be believed, the new Banjo title will retail for only 39.99... and I'm not so sure how to feel about that. Sure, I loves me some cheap(er) games, but if it's gonna be the awesome experience I (and Rare) think it is... why have they decided to list it for only 10 bucks more than a Platinum Hits title? Are they just under confident about kiddy games on the 360 after Viva Pinata flopped or what?   read

7:33 PM on 04.19.2008

Space Invaders Extreme Review

Space Invaders Extreme certainly plays like an extreme version of the 1978 classic shooter. To enjoy this game however, you have to enjoy old school shooters, be slightly masochistic (though I suppose those go hand in hand), and you also have to have a high tolerance for trippy colors and flashy effects.

At first glance, this game might just seem like a highly stylized version of Space Invaders. You’re still on the bottom of the screen, they’re still on the top, and coming downward to ruin your day, slowly. That much hasn’t changed. There is much more going on than just that though. The order in which you eliminate enemies significantly impacts your arsenal. Kill four blue aliens in a row, and you get a continuous blue energy beam that can clear a screen of enemies in no time flat. If you kill four red enemies you get an exploding bomb-like shot, which also, destroys enemies rather quickly. The green enemies grant you a “broad” shot, which is much more effective than your standard weapon, but not quite as amazing as the beam and bombs. You also get a shield for killing a grey enemy 4 times in a row, but they appear infrequently, and the shield isn’t terribly effective. Either way, if you obtain one of these weapons (besides the shield) your enemies are basically as good as dead, regardless of which one you get. It adds more strategy to the standard Space Invaders formula of “shooting those dudes before they get to the bottom of the screen” and more “shooting four of those dudes in a row quickly, so I can waste everybody on the screen.” The game balances these new weapons out with a time limit on each, ranging from pretty short on the blue laser, to slightly less short on the green broad shot, with the red bomb being somewhere in the middle. They all last only a couple seconds anyway, so the slight difference in time isn’t huge, but does make a difference in the amount of enemies you’ll kill when you’re hammering the shoot button. It’s much easier, obviously, to just use those super weapons instead of using your single shot blaster (which does shoot faster than in the classic game,) so trying to get those 4 important combo kills as opposed to shooting everything oh so slowly with that puny little starting laser of yours essentially becomes the bulk of the game. Don’t get me wrong though, these weapons by no means make the game any easier. You’ll feel pretty confident the first couple stages, until it branches off and lets you choose if you want to go to the easy version of the next stage, or the hard version. A normal option would have been nice, because the game will just lie down for you otherwise. The hard mode though, as it implies, is hard. Lasers will be everywhere, dive-bombing enemies will be frequent, and you’ll constantly be overwhelmed. You definitely have to at least be decent in the shoot em’ up genre to go anywhere.

Much of this difficulty comes from the varied amount of enemies you’ll face. Your opposition gets increasingly complex and crazy. You have your classic suicidal kamikaze types, your stay back and shoot while slowly moving left to right types, and everything in between. Enemies will explode and spawn 4 more enemies in their wake, shoot lasers that explode into even more lasers, shielded enemies, there really are countless amounts of enemy types and you never know what you’ll be up against next. Shooting flying saucers that loom over the enemies net you extra points, or sometimes sends you into a mini-game like mode where you have to do any number of things. They usually involve shooting a bunch of enemies of a certain color, or a spinning roulette wheel with one certain enemy you need to hit. Successfully completing one of these challenges sends you into “fever” mode, where you get an even broader much more powerful version of the broad shot that lasts considerably longer. Every stage you fight a boss, which is essentially a giant version of the normal enemies, with slight variations on each. It usually has to do with the way they must be killed, like hitting a weak point or something like that. They aren’t where most of the challenge comes from, but they aren’t a pushovers either.

This is one of the most visually appealing games on the PSP, or for any system for that matter. Everything has a very “clean” look to it even when everything starts exploding. Everything blows up really nice, much like Geometry Wars, and there are pretty cool looking background effects (which can be turned off if it’s too “radical” for you). The lasers look pretty basic, but it fits in very nicely with everything else. The visuals are a real high point of the game, as is the music. The beat is fast and furious, and the sound your laser makes changes with the beat of the music. One of the best video game soundtracks for a shooter in recent memory, and it really actually adds a certain “flow” to the game play. The flashy visuals and trippy music really goes with the random and crazy game play that the rest of the game has in ample supply. Everything just fits.

Space Invaders is a unique experience. It’s much like Pacman: Championship Edition in relation to the original Pacman. It does all the basics the original game did right, but it does enough different to stand on its own. This isn’t a game for everyone though. If you don’t like shoot em’ ups, especially Space Invaders, this probably isn’t for you. Everyone else with even a minor interest in a totally revamped revision of Space Invaders, should get ready to send those invaders back to space.

5 out of 5


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