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Review: Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Wii)

Jul 01 // Destructoid Staff
Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Wii)Developer: Red Fly StudioPublisher: AtariReleased: June 16, 2009MSRP: $39.99 Ashley DavisAll the various versions of Ghostbusters: The Video Game is about the closest thing we will ever get to a Ghostbusters 3, and fans of the property ought to rejoice its presence, as it is one of the more solid movie games to have ever been made. Although the Wii version feels more like a five hour long playable Ghostbusters cartoon than anything else, that does not make it any less deserving of the franchise name.It gives off a lot of the same nostalgic vibes that its source material has for the past 20 years, with some great dialogue and a new storyline that could have been ripped directly from another movie sequel. There are lots of visits to familiar locations, and many of the faces to be seen are ones that we've all seen before, but because we have never had the opportunity to fight alongside the Ghostbusters before, it all feels somewhat new again. The AI behind the Ghostbuster crew isn't the best ever, but they are pretty good about helping out with large crowds of enemies and not getting in the way. The game is separated into several small chunks of story, with a boss fight and a trip back to headquarters every three levels or so. This makes it all very easy to pick up and put down at one's leisure.The controls are as simple as simple gets. You move with the Nunchuk, aim with the Wiimote and press B to shoot. The D-pad scrolls through the three different weapons (Blast Stream, Slime Blower, Shock Blast) and the PKE Meter. Each of these has a secondary function that can be performed by pressing A. The learning curve needed to become a great Ghostbuster is not at all steep, which makes it easy for anyone to jump right in and play like they've been busting ghosts all their lives.Perhaps the best part of the game is that the whole thing can be played cooperatively. A friend can join you for some split screen action whenever you start a new game, continue a saved game, or go back to play a previous level. Running around, trapping ghosts and solving puzzles with your various guns is pretty fun, especially if you have a friend to do it with. In addition to helping each other out, you can slime one another and cross your streams (this, of course, results in instadeath) just for kicks. Unfortunately, the game doesn't let the second player stray too far from the first, making it hard to split up and do more damage. on larger maps. Otherwise, the game is very well-tailored to fit in two players, with enough enemies and things to do for everyone. It even gives turns to each player when they are slamming around the same spook. While Ghostbusters is generally good times, the game does have its flaws. There were a few slight problems with the game's otherwise great control scheme. As is usual with Wii games, these problems concern the few actions that are mapped to motion controls. I had some problems getting the game to register my flicking up and down. Left and right were quite a bit better, but the down motion is needed to get through some puzzles near the end of the game. My problems with getting the flicks to pick up made these portions a lot harder and frustrating than they needed to be, but thankfully, there were only one or two situations where this issue tested my patience. One very small issue with the gameplay itself is that there is never much of an incentive to use anything other than the Blast Stream in most combat situations, and the puzzles that do use the others aren't terribly varied. For the better part of the game, I used the Blast Stream and its secondary, the Boson Dart. The latter weapon is a bit too powerful, knocking off a good chunk of health off of any enemy you may come across. I would have liked a little more variation in weapon usage both in and out of combat, if only to help keep the combat from growing stale.From the lowly (in regards to power) Slimer to the biggest specters, all of the ghosts in the game must be weakened, slammed around, and then roped into a standard ghost trap, thrown by a press of the Z button. Some enemies do need a little dousing in slime or dark matter to start off with, but the other weapons are never used for more than a few seconds before switching back to the old standby. There are a scant few cool puzzles using the other two guns, but they really could have done so many more neat things to integrate them better with the gameplay. The PKE Meter, on the other hand, is very intuitive and useful. When equipped, it simply leads you to the nearest supernatural activity. A press of the A button will equip you with PKE Goggles, enabling you to clearly see the paranormal goings-on around you. This can be a hidden ghost, items that can be interacted with, the weak points of a boss, and even invisible platforms that are poking into the real world through the Ghostworld.The boss fights lend a big hand in keeping things interesting too. Sure they're all dragged into a trap at the end, but the weakening process differs wonderfully from one to the other. In one boss fight, the player must shoot the boss's projectiles back at it, and then rip out one of its many tongues with the capture stream while it is recuperating. In another, one can only hurt the boss by destroying the safety net under it and knocking it off the wall, causing it to hit the ground hard. Each one utilizes a different weapon as well. Most of the boss fights are a great reward for getting through an area, even more so if you find yourself getting tired of the same old song and dance on the way there.The biggest annoyance by far is the game's collectibles, which are pages from Tobin's Spirit Guide that are strewn all over each level. Every time you pick one of these pages up, regardless of whether or not you're in the middle of a fight, the screen switches over to the Guide to show you what's on the page you just found. There is no reason for this screen to pop up every time you get a new page when you can access the guide at any time from the pause menu. It jolts you out of the action for nothing. I eventually started to avoid collecting the pages altogether, as they aren't much use other than for 100 percent completion. On the graphical side of things, there's nothing too special here besides the nice, cartoony style of the characters (although the designs have questionable origins). At best, the game looks like it belongs on the Playstation 2, and that's really a shame, as much better can and has been done on the Wii. There is also some noticeable slowdown while fighting lots of respawning, flying enemies, which happens a few times near the end of the game. The score is taken straight from the movies, but isn't too varied. On the other hand, the dialogue is humorous and the voice acting top notch (with the exception of Alyssa Milano's work, which is rather uninspired). Some of the lines differ from what is spoken to the subtitles, assumedly to keep the game safely nestled in its E rating. There are enough references and familiar lines grouped with some great new quotes to make any fan delighted. The Wii version of Ghostbusters: The Video Game is by no means the perfect game, but it is a great movie-to-game adaptation, and a very fun and entertaining way to spend some time with some old friends if you're a Wii-owning Ghostbusters lover. As this is a very character and story driven videogame, if you're not a fan of the movies or the humor within them, you may not be as tolerant of the easy and somewhat repetitive gameplay as those who dig the characters and story might. The intuitive gameplay, interesting boss fights, and ability to co-op are plusses for all gamers, while the easy difficulty level and short game length are some of the negatives. It could be a buy for the biggest Ghostbusters fans, but I would definitely recommend this game as a rental first for most. Score: 6   Anthony Burch:As someone who played through the 360 version of Ghostbusters twice in the span of a week, I could not help but constantly compare the Wii version against it all throughout my single playthrough. In the end, one version felt more satisfying to me than the other -- but not by much. For every forward step the Wii version takes past its 360 counterpart, it unfortunately takes another step back. In the 360 version, for instance, the later levels included poorly designed, restart-heavy combat sections where you entire team might be slaughtered in an instant. The Wii version is much easier on normal difficulty and mitigates the frustration of constant, unfair death, but at the expense of becoming somewhat dull and redundant in the game's latter missions. I truly can't count how many times I'd walk into a room, only to have the doors forced shut by a magical force that refused to open them until I'd captured every single ghost in the room. The level design and progression structure are almost totally different from version to version: entire sections from the New York and Ghostworld levels have been totally excised from the Wii version, and many of the levels that both versions share have been significantly cut down for the Wii. In itself, this isn't necessarily a good or bad thing (though I really, really miss the Super Trap level right before the Stay Puft fight); it's just different. The Wii version's poorly credited art style not only effectively embraces the Wii's technical limitations while still retaining an essential Ghostbusters feel, it also removes one of the most glaring faults with the 360 and PS3 versions -- Bill Murray's dialogue. When Peter Venkman looked like a regular dude, his over-the-top lines felt forced and irritating. When Peter Venkman looks like a cartoony version of his former self, his lines somehow work much better. A few Venkman quotes that originally made me roll my eyes actually elicited smirks this time around. The tradeoff for this is that the game's cartoonified Ray Stantz more resembles a talking baked potato than Dan Aykroyd.It's worth noting, though, that all of Venkman's sexual innuendos -- both of them -- have been excised in order to keep an "E" rating. It's all right, though, because there's a lot of new and alternate dialogue in the Wii version you won't find anywhere else, almost all of it good. The 360 version focused far more on combat, often to its detriment -- by the halfway point, the game felt remarkably similar to any other 3rd-person shooter you could name. The Wii version, conversely, puts a much greater focus on the puzzles Ashley described above. Where the 360 version might only use a weapon like the Stasis Stream to make the process of bustin' ghosts easier, the Wii version at one point had Davis and I running through a corridor  made of huge, turning gears that could only be traversed by well-timed blasts from our proton freeze ray. A couple of the puzzles are genuinely imaginative, and often more interesting than much of the repetitive combat that fills the 360 version's latter half.  It's a good thing, too, because most of the combat in Wii Ghostbusters is tedious and unsatisfying. Don't get me wrong, it feels great to tear up the environment with an IR sensor-controlled proton pack, and moderately satisfying to throw out a trap by holding down the Z button and swinging your arm forward. The main problem is that the simple process of bustin' a ghost is nowhere near as compelling or well-paced as it is in the other versions of the game. After doing enough damage to an apparition with the proton pack, the ghost can be wrangled. In the 360 version, this means you can either start pressing the L trigger to slam him into walls and floors at your leisure until you feel like dragging him into the trap. In the Wii version, this means you have to play through a poorly paced, barely interactive game of simon says. A big red arrow appears on the ghost telling you to slam him to the right, so you flick your Wiimote to the right. Then, a short pause. Another red arrow shows up telling you to slam him in another direction, and if you don't move the Wiimote in the correct way then nothing happens and the damage isn't done. After you've finally whittled the ghost's health down, you simply move it near the trap to automatically capture it. There's no satisfying struggle to keep the ghost within the cone of light emanating from the trap as he slowly descends into it, like you get in the 360 version -- he just runs into the trap and disappears. After a few hours of bustin', I began to lament the sight of each new ghost. Having to wait for the game to tell me when I was allowed to slam a ghost felt so clunky and uninvolving that at one point, I actually groaned aloud when four ghosts sprang up out of nowhere. While some of the Wii levels are unquestionably better than the 360 ones -- the Ghostworld boss is way better, and I actually exclaimed, "that's awesome!" upon seeing the Wii version's interpretation of the Spider Woman's lair -- a game called Ghostbusters should not, ideally, make me dread the actual act of busting ghosts. The co-op in Ghostbusters Wii is much more satisfying than the online play available on the other versions. Davis and I constantly crossed our streams for fun (try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light), and I took frequent sadistic pleasure in slowing her down with the slime gun whenever possible. Where multiplayer is concerned, both games are missing something that feels downright necessary; it's up to you whether you value a local cooperative campaign more than online, plot-free multiplayer. If it weren't for the unfortunate bustin' mechanics, I would find it impossible to determine if Ghostbusters for the Wii was better or worse than the other, prettier versions that have been offered. The Wii version utilizes the alternate weapons in a more imaginative, consistent, and puzzle-centric way. It includes a fair amount of new, funny dialogue and one or two levels that irrefutably trump their 360 counterparts. In the end, though, the immensely satisfying act of wrangling a ghost into submission -- that one gameplay mechanic the 360 and PS3 versions absolutely nailed -- has been replaced with a tedious and disappointing Simon Says minigame repeated ad infinitum throughout the game's five hour running time. The Wii version has a hell of a lot going for it, and I strongly recommend renting it if you either don't own a PS3 or 360, or if you're still hungry for a little more Ghostbusters action after finishing the other versions. It's just a shame that, where the Wii version is concerned, bustin' didn't make me feel good.I swear to God, I won't say that again for another six months.Score: 5.5 Final score:  5.75 -- Mediocre (5s are an exercise in apathy, neither Solid nor Liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.)
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Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night? Do you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic? Have you or your family ever seen a spook, specter or ghost?If the answer is "yes," the p...

Review: Heavy Weapon: Atomic Tank (PSN)

Jun 25 // Destructoid Staff
Heavy Weapon: Atomic Tank (PlayStation Network)Developer: PopCap GamesPublisher: Sony Online EntertainmentReleased: June 11, 2009MSRP: $9.99 Brad Rice:Heavy Weapon is one of PopCap Games' side-scrolling shooters that was just recently released on PSN. Quite simply, you drive an atomic tank, and blast the crap out of anything that might be flying through the sky -- save for the helicopter that drops power-ups on you (unless you're aiming for that trophy). Fighting against Red Star, Atomic Tank is attempting to push back the evils of Communism, and doing so without any thought to the safety of the world by using as many nukes as possible.An entire air fleet's worth of different planes tries to shower lasers and missles on your parade, and besides nuclear bombs, you can earn yourself lasers, floating orbs, guided missiles, and plenty of other things by completing stages, allowing you to modify your tank into whatever killing machine your heart desires.Each level, which took me about 10 minutes to complete, consisted of waves of planes coming in from the left and the right sides of the screen doing their damndest to hit you with missiles as they crossed the screen. So the goal is to blast the missiles, and the offending planes, out of the sky. Enemy helicopters, missile-launching cars, and long-range missiles also act as hazards as the stages progressed. Each stage would introduce a few new enemies, and shuffle out some older ones that didn't fit. All in all, the game didn't really present a challenge -- up until I hit level 6, "Tanksylvania." I ran into a brick wall with my progress, ending up spending some three or four hours on that single level. And I still haven't beaten it. I couldn't finish the game because of all the design problems that came to a head in the playing of this level.The most immediate problem I faced was the atomic bombers. These crafts would drop three or four nuclear bombs as they crossed the stage -- items that, if they touched the ground, resulted in an instant-kill. And these things took a lot of ammunition to actually shoot down. Meanwhile, there was a bevy of other ships dropping missiles, several of which would explode into ammunition that would be sent all over the screen, making it unavoidable to be hit.Part of what caused that was sheer mass of shots that got thrown at me. This game is not a shoot-'em-up, and the hit detection proves that. There's no way to dodge through the flurry of bullets that get strewn about, and yet too often I simply got stuck in situations where there was just no way out. It was akin to Metal Slug, but everything flew at you too quickly. Oftentimes, shots would simply get lost in the business on the screen, and all of a sudden my tank would blow up -- and I'd have no idea why.But the surprising culprit of my biggest headache was actually playing the game in widescreen. Because the game was in widescreen, more enemies were generated, they stayed on the screen longer, and thus fired more bullets. If you set your system into 4:3 mode, it apparently gets dramatically easier, but I wasn't going to try that. So if I was on one side of the screen, and an atomic bomber appeared on the other side, it was nearly impossible for me to make it over in time and be able to destroy the bomb before it hit the ground. Oh, was it frustrating. I eventually made it to the boss -- with no lives and no shield left. The bosses are what you'd expect in any game of this nature: gigantic, well-animated, and deadly. Normally, I had no trouble dispatching them, as their weak spots were easy enough to find. Again, the busyness of the screen was my downfall. After I had eliminated all of its appendages, my tank blew up. I honestly couldn't tell you why. It happened to me several times. I can only assume he launched an attack, and that's what killed me.So, giving up on that, I decided to try out some of the multiplayer mode with my friends (I had to complete the game in order to unlock the boss run mode). It's a challenge to see how long you can survive, picking up an assortment of the power-ups given between levels. It's alright, but not terribly exciting. I could point to any number of titles with better multiplayer options.While the title may be tempting, I can easily tell you to avoid this one. Pick up any number of PSN titles, but this one is a must-avoid. If you're really hungry for that arcade-style action, go pick up Metal Slug Anthology for the PS2. Or maybe even The Red Star if you want to punish yourself. Score: 3 Brad Nicholson:I like my downloadable games just like my coffee: black, no sugar and get that creamer out of my face before I put you through a wall, sir. In other words, I like them to be basic and feel familiar. I want to turn on the title and start playing as easily as I’ve slid my brown leather loafers on my feet for the last four years. Heavy Weapon: Atomic Tank foots the bill nicely; however, the age of the game shows. Heavy Weapon is a multi-directional shooter on rails. You control a tank and move from side-to-side on a 2D plane in order to avoid constant aerial bombardment. The game advances through the levels for you. But as the name of the game implies, you don’t just avoid fire: you return it. The tank is equipped with a nasty gun that can strike foes at any angle -- a simple flick of the right stick does the trick. While the little green balls service to deflect the bombardment of enemies -- rockets, nukes, bombs, and lasers, oh my! -- you’ll soon be finding yourself wanting more power: something the game readily provides by way of upgrades.In game, a special plane drops power-ups that give your tank better shielding, rapid-fire abilities, and nuclear bombs. After a level is finished, you earn a point that you can apply to six unique upgrades that stick with your tank through the course of play. Stuff like chain lightning, solid laser fire or even defensive shielding is available, on top of whatever your normal gun has going on as a result of picking up the in-game drops. I view the robust upgrade options as a monotony breaker. Without them, the game would be a flat side-scroller. With the upgrades, Heavy Weapon turns into a highly customizable and chaotic side-scroller. The word “chaotic” can also describe the amount of violence you’ll encounter after progressing to the game’s midpoint. The planes, helicopters, trucks and even enemy tanks you encounter begin to clutter the screen with their bullets, bombs, and physical forms. Your upgrades -- especially the rockets -- will add to that. While frantic can be fun, I found the amount of stuff on-screen frustrating at times. I never lost sight of the tank, but it’s easy to miss the stray laser bubble when attempting to destroy a nuclear bomb before it hits the bottom of the screen. A few missed laser bubbles or rockets can lead to an early Game Over and perhaps a tossed controller. However, the difficulty is measured -- Heavy Weapon doesn’t default to “ridiculously hard” like several of its flash game brethren do.At the end of each level, you’ll encounter a boss: another shining point in the game. Bosses provide unique challenges and are often hilarious. During my play I fought a war blimp, a mechanical monkey and zeppelin equipped with a human face -- each equally rough, but rewarding when put down. Yet, however, rewarding, at times I felt I was playing nothing more than a glorified flash game. There’s simple and then there’s simple. The upgrade system twists the game just enough to make it more interesting than the fodder, but don’t walk into Heavy Weapon expecting something truly unique. It’s a multi-directional shooter. Heavy Weapon has a multiplayer component with two modes: Arms Race and War Party. In Arms Race, you can play with up to four friends in order to see who can live the longest amount of time in a level. In War Party, destruction reigns supreme: respawns are infinite and the amount of enemies on-screen is ramped up. It’s a mere slugfest with pals. Both modes add to the game, but you’ll find the amount of people available to play with on PlayStation Network lacking. This is a solid game. The ease of play, robust upgrade system and mindless shooting should provide plenty of fun if you choose to download. But like my scuffed and worn loafers, the game is showing its age. The dated and redundant visuals, random difficulty spikes, screen clutter are examples of ancient design. Try out the demo first, but don’t be too afraid: Heavy Weapon is worth your time.Score: 7.0Final Score: 5.5 -- Mediocre (5s are an exercise in apathy, neither Solid nor Liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.)
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Heavy Weapon has been available since the beginning of time. It was released in 2005, well before humans emerged as the dominant life form on Earth. In 2007, PopCap Games updated Heavy Weapon, applied the subtitle “Atom...

Review: Ghostbusters

Jun 19 // Destructoid Staff
Ghostbusters: The Videogame (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Wii)Developer: Terminal RealityPublisher: AtariReleased: June 16, 2009MSRP: $59.99 (PS3/360), $49.99 (Wii) Nick Chester:As the “in theory” third installment to the film series, Ghostbusters: The Video Game hits all the right notes. From the start, fans will recognize the cast, all of which have been digitally re-rendered and frozen somewhere in the late '80s, from Bill Murray as Peter Venkman to Annie Potts as receptionist Janine Melnitz. The game’s cut-scenes, both in-game and pre-rendered, are visually impressive, and directed in such a way that’s consistent with the quality and feel of the films. You can tell from the opening scenes that Ghostbusters: The Video Game was designed by a team of true fans with passion for the original material. The game is littered with nods and fan service for Ghostbusters die-hards, from characters and event references, to hyper-detailed equipment such as the Proton Pack you’ll be staring at for most of the game, complete with accurate flashing light, wiring, and tubes. The story and dialogue, straight from the mind of original screenwriters Ramis and Aykroyd, is mostly on par with the classic films. I say mostly because while it holds its own in many ways (expanding upon the established film lore in a number of ways, for instance), it doesn’t quite have all of the charms of the original. The script is witty and oftentimes laugh-out-loud funny, but few of the lines resonate or are as unforgettable as those found in the films. Hell, just yesterday I used the words “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!” (a line from the 1984 original) in casual conversation.The game also doesn’t introduce any new characters you’ll really remember, either. This makes sense for the player’s “rookie” character who remains nameless (and mostly voiceless, outside of a few grunts here and there); but again, this makes sense -- he’s you, and the game benefits by not assigning a real voice to the player. But Peter Venkman’s new “love interest,” Illyssa Selwin (voiced by Alyssa Milano) is wholly unremarkable in just about every way. Not even my personal childhood Milano crush could save the character from the flat, phoned-in dialogue the actress delivered. With all of that said, the story and cut-scenes are certainly some of the most enjoyable things about Ghostbusters: The Video Game. After all, even if the material doesn’t stand toe-to-toe across the board with the originals, it’s better than no new material at all. If anything, it proves that Ramis and Aykroyd definitely still have “it,” that they’re capable of delivering a genuinely humorous and enjoyable narrative. So yeah, Terminal Reality got the “Ghostbusters” part down. Fortunately, the third-person action does do a pretty amazing job of putting you in the Ghostbusters' classic tan overalls. The ghost wrangling mechanic -- which involves capturing, slamming until subdued, and then maneuvering a ghost into a trap -- definitely feels a bit unwieldy at first. But with practice and understanding, the battle for the capture is both challenging and rewarding -- you actually "feel" as if you were a working, card-carrying 'buster. As the experimental equipment tester, you’ll be outfitting your existing Proton Pack with some major upgrades. All of the upgrades and different streams come into play in various ways throughout the game, but some are clearly more useful than others. The Statis Stream, for example, “emits a high-capacity stream of order-reversed particles that hypobond to ectoplasmic matter, effectively immobilizing ghosts.” Run through the “Egon Spengler to English” translator, that means it acts as a “freeze ray.” It’s great in theory, a neat take on the traditional Ghostbusters equipment, and it’s useful in a few situations. But it’s a weapon I found that I almost never had to use to complete any of my objectives. Other equipment -- like the Slime Blower and Slime Tether -- had far more uses, occasionally used in light puzzle solving situations. The Tether, in particular, comes into play more than a few times throughout your Ghostbuster career, allowing you to join a variety of environmental objects to one another, which lets you to open gates or even create new pathways. The different equipment and its numerous uses was a bit of a surprise, adding much-needed variety to a game that could have simply had players going from room to room wrangling and then drunking ghosts in traps. From a visual standpoint, Terminal Reality’s Infernal Engine can do some marvelous things -- above all with its lighting effects -- and it shows all over the game. The streams that blast from the Ghostbusters' equipment light up the environment with colors, casting some wild neon lighting effects that explode on-screen. Ghostbusters' ghostly icon, Slimer, emits a green glow that casts light on everything in its path. The lighting magic is impressive throughout the game, particularly towards the game’s end, with some extremely neat and stylized rain and lightning effects.Ghostbusters: The Video Game, for everything it does right, is not without its fair share of frustrating issues. Particularly, the game’s controls sometimes make your character feel clumsy and slow, particularly when you take a spill. Once grounded, one of two things will happen. If you’re incapacitated, you’ll be left helpless on your back waiting for the game’s AI to run over and rescue you. Depending on the situation, you can be waiting for either one or four Ghostbusters to come revive you, and sometimes the wait can be excruciating. In some of these cases, a long wait will end in one of your A.I. comrades dying before they can revive you, resulting in a “Mission Failed.” In other frustrating cases, your character is sent flying through the air like a rag-doll, and he’ll slowly bring himself to his feet.Another issue is frequently confusing level design, where it’s sometimes easy to get lost with no on-screen map or indicator of your next objective. This is made even more frustrating in many instances as you’ll sometimes have to wait for the non-player character Ghostbusters to make a move or decision before you can proceed. There’s no indication that this is happening, either -- the uncomfortable and awkward silences and “okay, now what?” moments are, well... uncomfortable and awkard. Ghostbusters: The Video Game also didn’t ship without its fair share of minor, but frustrating, bugs. While it only happened a few times, there were instances where ghosts were trapped in the game environment in such a way that they couldn’t be captured. Because of this, I was forced to reload the last checkpoint, the frequency of which actually saved my sanity a few times. The single-player “career” can be completed within a few dedicated sittings (Anthony, for instance, claims to have completed it in one), and if you’re paying attention, you can probably find most of the hidden objects and upgrade most of your equipment in one sitting. So while there’s not much game, it’s fortunate that it’s enjoyable enough -- particularly for a Ghostbusters fan -- to work your way through to the end. Ghostbusters: The Video Game also features a multiplayer mode. You could assume it would be a throwaway extra, but you’d be wrong. It’s definitely disappointing that you can’t play the career mode from beginning to end with buddies, but the cooperative multiplayer instanced modes are a reasonable substitute. While it’s not going to replace Gears of War 2 or Call of Duty 4 as your multiplayer game of choice, it’s a blast wrangling ghosts with your friends in short, one-off bursts. While it’s not the best third-person action game you’ll ever play, it’s certainly the best Ghostbusters experience ever committed to the format. For true fans of the series, picking up the game is a no-brainer. If you own the movies on DVD (or the recently released Blu-ray), Ghostbusters: The Video Game unquestionably deserves a spot on your shelf. Your collection wouldn’t be complete without it.Score: 7.5 Anthony Burch:Bustin' makes me feel good. So good, in fact, that I could have done with more of it. Throughout the first couple hours of Ghostbusters, that's pretty much all you'll be doing: finding, you know, actual ghosts, blasting them with the proton pack, and wrangling them into traps. The actual act of lassoing specters into a ghost trap while they try with all their might to break free of your grasp is way, way more satisfying than it has any right to be. This is partially because it so faithfully replicates the ghostbustin' process we've seen in the last two films (the act of capturing my first spirit caused me to spontaneously yell, “I am a goddamned Ghostbuster”), but also because the process of wearing a ghost down, slamming it against the walls and floor, and finally fighting tooth and nail to rope it into a trap is so full of elegant back-and-forth struggle that it feels completely new and interesting. Each of the three stages of ghost trapping can be potentially failed, but those failures don't set the player back very far. You might fail to get him into a trap, but a few slams later he'll be ready for another try. You might be just about ready to start slamming him into the walls, when a piece of possessed furniture hits your head and you're forced to blast him back down to minimum health again. Ghost capturing is challenging, but not frustrating; rewarding, but not needlessly simplified. It is, unquestionably, the best part of the game. Which makes it all the more frustrating that after the first few hours of the game, the mechanic is almost completely abandoned by the wayside. After an incredibly cool fight against the returned Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the game starts doling out proton pack “upgrades” that essentially function, like inFAMOUS's lightning powers, as re-contextualized versions of old third-person shooter tropes. Egon may call them Shard Blasters or Slime Guns, but you and I know they're really just shotguns and flamethrowers. After your character, the Rookie, gets his first proton pack upgrade, the game goes...I don't want to say “downhill,” necessarily, but it definitely never again reaches the heights of the game's first few hours. The rest of Ghostbusters comprises a pretty decent third-person shooter, which is fine. I just couldn't help but wish they'd focused on the much-better-than-pretty-decent ghost wrangling mechanics and developed on those throughout the game's running time, rather than taking the easy way out and adding a bunch of new weapons in a misguided attempt to add depth. When you combine such a design decision with some horribly placed checkpoints, confusing level design and needlessly frustrating combat scenarios later on in the game, you've got the makings of an all-around mediocre licensed game. Which makes it all the more surprising that Ghostbusters is not a mediocre licensed game. Despite the generic third-person shooter gameplay, I felt sufficiently compelled to finish the game thanks primarily to the palpably Ghostbusters-esque atmosphere. Music from the films can be heard all throughout the game, the returning cast members do a great job (save for Bill Murray, but that may have more to do with the fact that Peter Venkman is written as an irritating, over-the-top parody of his former self), and while the basic plot isn't anything to phone home about, it's great to hear Winston's charming pragmatism and Egon's monotone irony replicated almost perfectly. The jokes are pretty hit-or-miss, especially those involving Venkman, but I found myself laughing far more than I'd anticipated once the other three Ghostbusters started bickering at one another. Though the frustrating checkpoints and “shoot reanimated corpses in the face with a proton shotgun” gameplay got pretty tired near the game's final act, they never felt as infuriating as they well could have thanks to the oft-entertaining interactions between the film characters, and the fact that I truly felt like a part of their universe. Faithfulness and immersion can go a long way in making one forgive outright stupid design decisions, and Ghostbusters proves it. Conrad will go into more detail about the game's multiplayer modes, but I just want to say a few quick things about them. Firstly, the multiplayer is to be congratulated, if nothing else, for implementing a mechanic based around crossing the proton streams. You're never really given a chance to cross 'em in the singleplayer campaign outside of a prerendered cut scene, which frustrated me intensely as a casual Ghostbusters fan. Being able to jump right into a multiplayer game and immediately cross the streams with another player for so long that my proton pack exploded and killed me was a perverse pleasure. Secondly, since the multiplayer is based entirely around cooperation, it honestly didn't feel that different from the single-player campaign to me. Sure, there's a competitive aspect that encourages players to race one another to nab more ghosts and get more money, but the weapon restrictions and limited ammo made me feel like I was just playing a less satisfying version of the singleplayer experience. In spite of itself, Ghostbusters manages to be one of the best licensed games I've played in a while. Its faithfulness to its source material allows it to overcome many of its structural flaws, and it still manages to provide a couple hours of truly original, immensely satisfying gameplay. Granted, those two hours are followed by about four more hours of unoriginal, often irritating gameplay, but if you have any love for the Ghostbusters franchise at all, you likely won't mind putting in the overtime. Score: 7.0 Conrad Zimmerman: Ghostbusters' story is a whole lot of fan service. There is nothing wrong with that -- I'm a fan and I like to be serviced, after all -- but the game is absolutely crammed with reference to the first film. The plot revolves around many of the same personalities from that story, though some were merely referenced before. The fanboy in me rolled its eyes at a couple of points but it's a more than capable effort filled with charm and humor.Actually catching ghosts is a load of fun. All spirits show their energy level when you aim at them in the form of a wheel. As the wheel depletes due to your attacks, it will eventually turn red to signify that they can now be captured. Switching to the capture beam is as easy as pushing a button and you can then guide the ghost to an open trap, wrangling it in the whole way down.The process is a blast to perform, especially with chaos erupting around you. Smaller ghosts and spirits will dissipate on their own if damaged sufficiently and many enemies have quick and easy methods of dispatching them. It's fun and very intuitive, although some of the charm begins to wear thin in the latter fourth of the game as the game seems to take more cheap shots at you in the name of increasing the difficulty.The eight modes of fire for the proton pack contribute greatly to the variety of combat. They all represent mainstays of the shooter genre, with a shotgun, rocket launcher and machine gun all getting their due. The slime thrower is an especially creative weapon in that its alternate fire creates elastic tethers of slime used to move objects, solve puzzles and really piss off ghosts.Teamwork is also an important aspect in encounters with the supernatural. Throughout most of the game you will be traversing levels with at least one other Ghostbuster by your side. When you fall in combat, they'll run over and revive you, provided they aren't completely pinned down. Likewise, saving them is important both to have someone to keep you alive and as a way to draw attacks from other enemies.When it comes down to it, the Ghostbusters are not a very effective fighting force. You'll wind up doing the lion's share of ghost elimination throughout the campaign. This does have the effect of making them feel more like necessary crutches than actual partners during the gameplay, but their quips and commentary are well worth the occasional hassle of keeping them alive.Besides, you'll probably get knocked out quite a bit. The characters are pretty fragile in the face of unholy forces from beyond the grave. The game offers a dodge command, but its response time and the amount of movement it actually performs renders it pretty much useless against all but the slowest of enemies. Knowing your enemy helps quite a bit in combat and your PKE meter provides useful information. Scanning ghosts with it will reveal strengths and weaknesses to give you a better idea of how to take them out. It can be a little risky pulling it out in the middle of combat, as the animation leaves you vulnerable and you can't fire weapons while using the PKE meter. Still, it's well worth the effort to scan as many enemies as you can.In fact, learn to love your PKE meter, because you two are going to be best friends. It serves as a helpful guide on where to travel next, for starters. You'll also have to refer to it freqently to find hidden doorways. Plus, using it to hunt down and scan cursed artifacts will earn you money that can be spent upgrading your equipment. The idea is fun but gets played out after a few levels, where as much time is spent with your head in the meter as busting ghosts.The PKE meter serves another really important function in Ghostbusters. See, the films are always remembered for their wit, but the first film is actually pretty damn creepy in points. Similarly, the game works up some tense moments, particularly when the player is stuck in a first-person view without any weapons. Cheap shots? Certainly, but effective and entertaining.Alongside the single-player campaign, Ghostbusters has an online multiplayer component. These games are all a combination of cooperative and competitive play and there are quite a few modes available. They range from surviving wave after wave of ghosts, to defending relics and destroying ghost generators. Just as in the single-player, getting knocked down does not knock you out. Other players can revive you, or you'll simply get up on your own in about thirty seconds. The emphasis on teamwork is really strong, and all players being knocked out will prematurely end a mission. Trying to go it alone simply to score more points than your teammates will usually result in a swift death.Also of interest are the "Most Wanted Ghosts," a collection of special spooks found only in the multiplayer. By meeting specific criteria during a multiplayer game, these unique specters may manifest and give you an opportunity to catch them. While I'll probably never spend the requisite time in multiplayer to collect them, I can see it being an appealing challenge.It's all fun, but not something I can see being a long-term love affair. It's also a little baffling why cooperative multiplayer wasn't implemented for the main story campaign. The gameplay feels tailor-made to allow a group of friends to traverse it together, and it's disappointing that anybody bothered to do multiplayer in the first place without making a co-op campaign a priority.Ghostbusters winds up in an interesting position, being one of the finest games I've ever played based on a film property. It's a good title but not a staggeringly good one. The single-player campaign is entertaining for its eight- to ten-hour run but doesn't have a whole lot of replay value, making this a highly recommended rental.Score: 8.0Final score: 7.5 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)
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In 1991, had we been given the opportunity to join the Ghostbusters as an “Experimental Equipment Technician,” we probably would have jumped at the chance. It’s a job that would prove to be extremely dangero...

Review: Prototype

Jun 18 // Destructoid Staff
[embed]136720:20099[/embed] Prototype: (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PC)Developer: Radical EntertainmentPublisher: ActivisionReleased: June 9, 2009MSRP: $59.99 Jim Sterling:Alex Mercer wakes up in a morgue to find that something's not right. The city of New York has been infected with a virus that's turning its denizens into monsters, and Mercer seems to be at the center of it all, making an enemy of the military and a mysterious organization known as Blackwatch. He also finds himself in possession of superhuman abilities, chief among them the power to absorb living matter and change his shape accordingly. The story is a very typical "shadowy plot to create a biological weapon gone wrong," but it's delivered with style and contains a few surprising little twists here and there. The main campaign will give you the bulk of the tale, but it's only through filling out the "Web of Intrigue" that Alex will piece together the full puzzle. Mercer not only consumes people's bodies, he takes their minds too, allowing him to learn new skills and information. Contained around the city are people with knowledge of the conspiracy, and if Alex absorbs them, he knows what they know.  The Web of Intrigue is a clever and unique little system that, while not a revolutionary form of exposition, keeps the game rather interesting. Discovering, hunting and ingesting targets remains fun throughout the game, and some really cool scenes can be unlocked in doing so. It's just a shame that the characters are not very compelling. I'd have loved for Mercer to be more sardonic, especially as he shows flashes of personality now and then, with an evil smirk or a swaggering boast. Unfortunately, he spends so much of the game moaning and smoldering that it's difficult to find him likable the way an amoral protagonist needs to be. Of course, nobody cares too much about story when there's killing to be done, and the sheer volume of death on offer is staggering. Alex is a shapeshifter, and that naturally means he'll be transforming himself into all manner of vicious and sadistic weapons. As Alex gains experience and attains upgrades, he'll be able to turn his arms into claws, hammers, whips and blades. Each new combat power brings with it its own set of upgrades and special moves, and Prototype seeks to constantly reward players, showing them with so-called "Evolution Points" and constantly serving fresh abilities to unlock.  As well as combat, Alex is also quite skilled at zipping his way around the city. Holding down a shoulder button will cause Alex to sprint and automatically jump over cars, push through crowds and dash up buildings. Despite the simplicity of the input, it remains immensely fun to have Alex tear it across town so fluidly. Once players access the Glide and Air Dash abilities, the movement becomes more interactive and even more fun. Ironically, perhaps the most enjoyable moments of Prototype are to be found during the downtime between fights. A rudimentary stealth system is in place, making use of Alex's ability to blend in with civilians and soldiers. Consuming a member of the military allows Alex to stroll into military bases, and he can get even deeper in if he sneakily tracks and consumes a base commander. While not truly stealth, it's incredibly fun to wander among your oblivious, moronic enemies. It becomes downright hilarious when one unlocks the "Patsy" ability, gaining the power to accuse other soldiers of being you, whereby he'll be gunned down by his former allies.  As much fun as Prototype is, however, it has its frustrating moments. Many of them. Some of the side missions have considerably tight time limits, but the control system is far too loose to cope with them. Making Alex run up buildings automatically is great when you're not in a hurry, but he's far too unwieldy when you need to get somewhere quickly, and the in-game map is not very good at helping you find a location in a pinch, especially as it often makes targets appear closer than they are. A number of enemies are also infuriating to contend with, able to shrug off your attacks but nail you with their own and break your combos, and every now and then you'll just get swamped with foes that specialize in countering everything you can do, which ends up more irritating than challenging.At times the game suffers simply from trying to do too much. Hijacking vehicles can be difficult because there are so many options that you risk Mercer doing the wrong thing and stuffing it up. The same is true when it comes to grabbing enemies. Sometimes I've killed a crucial consumption target because Mercer is hard to control (that's when other enemies didn't accidentally kill it for me). The sheer volume of abilities is also a pain in the arse to select from, with a wheel you access in bullet-time. Finding the right ability in a snap is annoying, and once you unlock the Blade power, you'll probably just want to stick with it, negating the other powers altogether. Reserving a button for a simplified scroll-through selection would have been a nice option to make changing gears on the fly a little simpler.  A few words should also be reserved for the game's terrible targeting system. Mercer can lock on to enemies with a click of a trigger and scroll through targets with a flick of the right stick. Unfortunately, the game decides what is the "most dangerous" enemy and locks onto that one first, even if the most dangerous enemy is a harmless base several miles away and not the helicopters that are three feet away and shooting right at you. In addition, one gets so used to using the right stick as a camera control, that it becomes a pain in the arse to remember not to change targets accidentally while locked on. Prototype has problems. Lots of problems. Luckily, it's also one of the most fun and thrilling games to have come out in a while. Its flaws stop the game from being considered superb, but it's such a blast and there is so much to play with that it remains a great title. Even the repetitive side missions feel fresh simply because Alex has so many toys at his disposal. If you're a fan of uninhibited violence or just like to screw around with the heads of faceless military grunts, then this is definitely worth picking up. Score: 8.0  Brad Nicholson:You don’t want shake Alex Mercer’s hand. He isn’t a nice guy. He doesn’t have any traits that a person can find adorable or admirable, nor does his revenge story inspire empathy. As I played Prototype, I thought I figured out who Alex Mercer was: a maniac bent on destroying himself and the things he used to cherish. A late plot point reveal did nothing to wipe his unclean image from my mind.Mercer’s disregard of morals was a high point for me. It made Prototype playable. At the end of every mission or confrontation with the military, a tally informed me the cost of my actions. Rarely did that tally -- especially towards the end of the game -- tell me that I didn’t kill the innocent. In fact, I usually killed more civilians than I did military or “infected” creatures-slash-humans. If I were forced to care about every Toyota I crushed or penalized for every soul I consumed for health, the game would have been unplayable. Prototype is much too populated with the weak.While it was probably a simple design decision, I found myself consumed with Mercer’s appetite for destruction -- his antihero swagger. Occasionally, I felt like I was controlling Riddick again, except Mercer doesn’t flash brutish strength or disassociation. He’s a The Crow figure, bent on revenge and regretting having something stripped from him in a past life. Even his cadence spoke that parallel to me.Prototype does a wonderful job illustrating Mercer’s freakish powers and ability to annihilate. The inky blackness that consumes and creeps up his body as he summons his dark powers is a beautiful touch -- it makes every leap between buildings, every shattered vehicle or building that much more emotionally powerful. The occasionally reddened horizon, progressive worsening of city infrastructure, and twisted people who aid him on his quest are the perfect frame for Mercer’s violence and disregard.Yet, as brilliant as the presentation is, it doesn’t make up for the game’s broken mechanics.Mercer is a particularly fast fellow, and I often found myself fussing with the camera whenever I was forced to make aerial reverses, quick jumps from attacks, or even initiate combat before the game believed me to be ready. In a few words, I found the camera to be too slow for Mercer -- a problem considering the game’s pace of battle that often had me fighting countless villains at once with a variety of powers that require speed. I also struggled with the game’s combo system, which is a combination of simple button presses. Beyond the fodder, the game’s complex monsters refuse to allow you to pull off more than one or two actions before they spill into a loop of attacks that can crush Mercer within seconds. Thus, you’re forced into quick-strike actions that aren’t effective on the heaviest foes. This wouldn’t exactly be an issue if several enemies -- often of the heavy variety -- weren’t consistently surrounding me. Plus, the heavier attack combinations are often initiated with the same button presses required to do other stuff. There was one boss fight towards the latter half of the game where I found this shortsighted combo system particularly frustrating: Prototype expected me to pull off a special maneuver in a spectacularly short amount of time. Even though I pressed the two buttons required of the attack, I would often spill into a series of quick strikes -- the wrong action. As a result, my health would be greatly decreased or occasionally massacred within seconds. Boss fights in Prototype are clunky and don’t allow you to play the way you have been playing the game -- by wrecking and overpowering. They’re boring tit-for-tat affairs, worsened by having to constantly navigate hordes of fodder monsters during the confrontation. Taking my eye off the prize with annoying and often deadly base monsters isn’t a good thing.My combat frustrations go further: I can never seem to recover enough health to do the tasks set before me -- all of which are huge. When the big monsters slam me for huge damage, I have no way out. When missile barrages nearly put an end to me, I have no clear-cut way out -- the AI will doggedly pursue and put the final bullet in my freakish back. Even if there is a harmless civilian for me to consume, he’ll get blasted from my arms the second before I can put him in my belly and thus my health bar. It’s a bummer -- I feel like there’s so much fun that I could be having.But should I be running away? I often asked myself that while playing. Prototype builds you up and teaches you to control Mercer as if he were a wrecking ball, capable of weathering anything. I didn’t appreciate the momentum drops brought on by the above.Outside of the fighting realm, the structure of the game is annoying. Like most open-world action titles, you’ll find yourself doing side missions in order to get rewards, or in Prototype’s case, gaining experience points to learn more moves. These missions are of beat-the-clock variety that had me doing a variety of meaningless things: navigating rooftops, defending or attacking buildings, killing, and consuming victims. These are initially entertaining, but fall flat after the third time through.A recovery of sorts is the stealth system, which is entertaining but flawed. Changing shapes and assuming the look of a guard is a great way to avoid fussing with the camera and combination system: you can hijack tanks and helicopters -- two things that throw your powers away. Prototype was an odd game for me to play. I’ve never had the problem where I really wanted to play a game but disliked it so much. Prototype has a stunning world and an interesting antihero. I loved Mercer’s recklessness and the lack of punishment for assuming his identity. But I found it hard to stomach the side missions, ridiculous boss fights, camera, and combat system.My suggestion is to rent Prototype and see how you can deal. Score: 6.5 Conrad Zimmerman:The story of Alex Mercer's quest for vengeance is not a particularly novel or interesting one. We've seen it countless times in videogames and this example is nothing special in terms of plot, pacing or theme. The presentation of said story, however, is excellent. The Web of Intrigue, a series of nodes representing people in New York City who would have some knowledge of what happened to Alex is a great idea. Consuming certain individuals fills in a little bit of the story through a cutscene and unlocks more links in the Web. It's a lot of fun to eat these people and see what they know and I often found myself abandoning a mission to grab these targets. It's just too bad that the meandering story doesn't deserve such a cool implementation. At one twist, characters that I had spent hours becoming invested in get casually tossed out of the story. You never hear anything about them ever again, despite being last seen at what would likely be a critical moment. They ceased to be of value to the narrowly focused narrative and were therefore written off. Once I figured that out, I was hard-pressed to bother caring about anyone else in the story lest they suffer the same fate. The very first moments of Prototype are utterly thrilling. Huge monsters, waves of mutated enemies and massive tanks fell beneath my awesome power as I navigated the game's tutorial section, set near the end of the story. My immediate rection was one of fear. Was I fated to hour upon hour of gameplay just to work towards the point where I can feel like this again?The answer is an emphatic, "No." The first reason for this is the manner in which Prototype heaps new powers and experience points onto the player. Upon completion of the very first mission, the game unlocks in the neighborhood of twenty abilities for you to buy. And experience can be earned in a ton of ways very easily, so it's not hard to snap up most powers soon after they become unlocked. The flow does not slow much either, with abilities opening up like a floodgate initially and not really petering out until the last third of the game. Some abilities are not simply granted to you by spending a requisite quantity of experience points. These skills must be acquired by consuming people who already possess them. Aptitude with firearms, artillery and helicopters are earned by infiltrating military bases and making lunch out of specific people. While the stealth system in the game may be a bit over-simplified, it is still incredibly satisfying to skulk around a base to wait for your target to be unobserved and then step into the greasy spot where his body was before you ate it looking just like him. The difficulty curve in the game is such that you can feel potent from beginning to end so long as you remain versatile. Every situation has a solution which can give you the sense that you have utterly dominated your opponents. Walking directly into enemies and tearing them limb from limb accounts for a good chunk of scenarios but many benefit from the use of stealth or guerilla tactics. The variety and freedom to devise new approaches to missions is very welcome. It's this difficulty curve that helps keep what would become bland side missions feeling fresh and interesting. Nobody is going to have a great time infiltrating their tenth base as presented in the initial missions of the game. Add in more devices able to detect Alex in his disguised form and the late-game supersoldiers who can see through it as well as pummel the crap out of you, and you have a challenging, different experience than you had early on. Lots of these missions have time limits but they're usually pretty reasonable. I ran into one mission in which I was to kill as many enemies as possible using Alex's ability to swing a massive tendril where the time limit was really an issue (due to the spawn points for enemies). The vast majority of diversions can be accomplished fairly easily if you're willing to invest the time to practice them a bit. Main story missions quickly become chaotic affairs with Alex stuck in the middle of a rapidly escalating war between the infected and the military. It's a bit easy to lose your head (figuratively and literally) in the midst of everything going on and the game's camera and targeting systems do little to make the player feel more comfortable at the outset. With time and practice, you can learn to manipulate both of these elements in such a way that makes combat feel fluid and natural, but players should probably not be expected to train themselves in the use of a mechanic which should function in a self-explanatory manner in the year 2009.As Brad mentioned above, boss encounters are a problem. They break up the momentum of the game horribly by forcing you to slog through a long, drawn out battle where you ping them for a little bit of damage and avoid getting hit as much as possible. While it seems clear that the intent was for boss encounters to be epic and a little terrifying, it winds up being quite dull. They are wars of attrition in a game where you are built to blitzkrieg.  And, while I'm bitching, I don't much care for a lot of the graphical design. Oh, sure, Alex looks great. The attention to detail pretty much begins and ends with him, however. It's been a while since I've visited New York, but I don't remember it being as clean and without character as the city Alex Mercer lives in. Likewise, character models for nearly all foes and civilians are bland and poorly animated.It doesn't much matter because the game succeeds in making you feel awesome. It's full of moments where you perform something for the first time and it's just so brutal that you get a little giddy. He may not be unstoppable but Alex Mercer is more than capable. It's a blast to play and I had a great time from start to finish. Absolutely worth playing.Score: 8.0Overall Score: 7.5 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)
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Radical Entertainment's Prototype has been a long time coming. The promise of shape-shifting slaughter in an open world was met with an equal mix of excitement and trepidation from gamers, but the game is finally out and judg...

Review: inFAMOUS

Jun 17 // Destructoid Staff
[embed]136544:20079[/embed]inFAMOUS (PS3)Developer: Sucker PunchPublisher: SonyReleased: May 26, 2009MSRP: $59.99 Jim Sterling:inFAMOUS is very clearly the deliberate start of a franchise and as such, its role is that of a true superhero origin story. Main character Cole starts life as a simple delivery boy, who has been tasked with taking a mysterious package to the center of Empire City, and then opening it up. When he does so, he unwittingly activates the "Ray Sphere," a devastating weapon that destroys the city, kills many civilians, and bestows Cole with a host of electricity-based super powers. Cole soon realizes that with great power comes a great many people trying to exploit him, and from there it's a story of trust and betrayal as Cole attempts to save or subjugate Empire City and find out what, exactly, is going on. The story is interesting and certainly has its moments, although the characters themselves struggle to be all that likable. Cole sounds like he's smoked about fifty cigarettes a day for the past twenty years, and is surrounded by sidekicks and villains that are either too stereotypical, boring or just plain irritating to care much about. That said, the game's ending is simultaneously the most stupid and brilliant thing I've seen in a while, and it's worth getting there.  As far as the game goes, I have to say that I failed to be as impressed as I hoped I'd be. The game is certainly decent, but it's packed full of flaws and issues that keep dragging it down. For a superhero game, inFAMOUS doesn't make you feel very powerful at all. Despite having all sorts of superpowers, the only really effective combat method is to fall into an overdone cover mechanic and spam the main lightning attack at enemies that are hiding at the tops of buildings and only occassionally pop out from hiding places to shoot at you. It also doesn't help that Cole himself is pretty weak, while the enemies are expert marksmen and are capable of firing their pistols from miles away. They also seem to be able to spot Cole from huge distances and nearly always see him coming, making it impossible to get the jump on anybody (unless the AI has a brainfart, which can happen). Enemy gangs litter the streets and take annoying potshots at Cole from both below and above, and if you dare wander into the wrong part of town, you're liable to get raped.  Most of Cole's powers, especially when playing with good Karma (we'll come to that), are rather worthless and weak. His ability to perform an electrifying stomp usually does more harm than good, requiring you to jump into a den of dangerous enemies in order for it to be effective. Cole's melee attacks are pretty powerful, but it requires so much time and energy to get close to an enemy, as well as requiring the absorption of plenty of bullets, that it's simply not worth it. What we're left with is a very repetitive combat system, that nearly always degenerates into mashing the R1 button at enemies until everything is dead. Oh, and the gangs can shoot from further away than you can shoot at them, in a "holding a midget at arm's length and kicking him in the balls" scenario. Altogether, I think I'd have preferred it if Sucker Punch had not given me super powers at all, and just granted me the brilliant guns that the enemies have. Outside of combat, I found myself growing incredibly bored of the game's missions, which revolved around five or six ideas and then repeated on an endless loop. If you've zapped surveillance equipment off one building, you'd done it a thousand times, and by the time you've played inFAMOUS' sub missions, you'll feel like you did do it a thousand times. The game gets incredibly boring if you do all the sidequests, due to the fact that they are recycled constantly and many of them weren't that great to begin with.Another major flaw is with the parkour. Cole is able to scale buildings, poles, girders, almost anything he can cling to. This can be a lot of fun, but it can also be incredibly frustrating, since the game attempts to predict where you want to go and makes Cole grab at objects automatically. When it works, it works well, but when it doesn't, which is often, you'll find Cole acting like a human magnet, drawn to anything he passes. This is especially aggravating when you're trying to avoid taking damage, and Cole instead wants to hang from something and turn himself into an even more vulnerable target.  While the first district of Empire City is quite well designed for the parkour, it all falls apart during the second district, which is not designed with the same attention. It becomes significantly more annoying to get Cole up buildings after leaving Neon District and heading to The Warren. He also becomes incredibly confused during later portions of the game, where the acrobatics become required for certain missions and Cole simply doesn't go where you want him to go and the game becomes incredibly confused. It's almost pitiful watching Cole stutter around in mid-air as he tries to decide where what to grab hold of. That's not helped by the number of glitches I encountered. Cole has fallen through walls, fences, bars and even, at one point, the very road itself. During one mission, I died multiple times because Cole kept falling through a structure instead of clinging to it. In that particular case, it was because the structure was supposed to blow up, but didn't, and I was repeatedly fooled into believing it was a solid bit of scenery and not some sort of placeholder graphic. As mentioned, the game has a Karma system, which would be a great idea if it wasn't shoved down your throat. At times, the game jolts to a stop and Cole thinks to himself, like a serial killer, that he could either help or mercilessly slaughter the people of Empire City. It's incredibly black-and-white and so incredibly extreme in its divide of "good" and "evil" that it becomes obnoxious. The game really should just ask at the beginning of the game whether or not you want to be a hero or a dick, and leave it at that. By the way, it's not worth being a hero, as the Good Karma powers are bullshit.  As harsh as I'm being on the game, I can't deny that the game had its fun moments. Not all of Cole's powers are useless, especially when he gets the ability to shoot balls of lightning, and the incredibly fun power to glide along power cables. The game should also be praised for its artistic direction, with the district's various gangs each having their own unique and striking look to them. The powers have been very well mapped to the PS3 control, using a variety of shoulder and face buttons to pull off Cole's moves in a simple and user-friendly manner. It's also just very cool to be able to gain health by absorbing the power from nearby machinery. Still, I can't help feeling that inFAMOUS is a game with potential that hasn't been fully realized. While Crackdown was all about kicking ass, lifting cars and scaling buildings in a single bound, inFAMOUS is about taking ages to climb up the sides of things, performing the same tasks as nauseum, and engaging in slow and rather dull battles against enemies that look different, but nearly all act the same way. A superhero game should be much more fun than this. Score: 6.0 Anthony Burch:Here is the odd thing about inFAMOUS: it's much more enjoyable if you don't think of it as a superhero game.Really, all of Cole's powers are just recontextualized 3rd-person shooter tropes. His repel power is a shotgun mixed with a Force push; his lightning bomb is just a rocket launcher. Apart from Cole's ability to parkour, slide on electric cables and, you know, suck electricity into his body to regain his health, he's just your typically gruff, action game badass carrying a mobile armory. To an extent, I agree with Jim that the game doesn't make the player feel remarkably powerful. I did get a great deal of enjoyment out of combining my different attacks together (for instance, Force-pushing a dude off a building, then shooting him in the head with a lightning bolt as he fell), but most of the game prioritizes constant movement and self-preservation over balls-to-the-wall heroics. So long as you're alright with that, inFAMOUS becomes a much more entertaining experience. Cole's parkour powers become less about the mad spectacle of scaling buildings with relative ease, and more about finding a way to circumnavigate your enemies and find better attack positions. Unfortunately, even this becomes something of a bother around the game's halfway point thanks not only to the infuriatingly repetitive side missions, but also the fact that the entire game world is full of angry, superpowered hobos who irritate more often than they threaten. Oddly, the game tells you that after completing a mission in a certain part of Empire City, no more enemies will spawn in that area again.  Except, they do. Frequently. I'm not sure why the game felt the need to lie about something like this, but knowing that you will never truly clean up the city means that every trek from one end of the world to the other will be punctuated by frequent stops for cover, or health regeneration, or combat. Again, this is actually quite exciting for a few hours, but I felt repetition fatigue before the game's halfway point. I still felt compelled to finish it thanks to the very slow drip of new powers the player accumulates over time, however; precisely when I got tired of my most recente arned attack, the game would throw me a new one to play around with. InFAMOUS's power progression is very well-paced, and is unquestionably the main reason I played this otherwise monotonous game to completion.Well, that, and there are some awfully goddamn cool missions punctuating the otherwise boring "go here, kill this" jobs that occur with alarming regularity. At one point, for instance, Cole is tasked to protect a prison from a literal army of EvilHobos™ alongside a few prison guards. What could have been a pretty humdrum mission was made surprisingly epic and tense thanks to the sheer number and size of the enemies thrown at Cole, and the unlimited electricity supplied by destructible generators behind him. The mission, and some others like it, felt like surprisingly epic back-and-forth struggles as I tried desperately to recharge myself and hurl grenades at the baddies as they slowly encroached on their objective. There aren't many missions like this in inFAMOUS, unfortunately, but the few that are there really surprised me. I'm not really sure what to think of the karma system. I, like Jim, went through the game as a good guy. I never felt even remotely tempted to join the dark side, as the game subscribes to the BS "good and evil are equally reasonable choices" philosophy that results in ridiculous moral extremes. The binary plot choices afforded by the game are really nothing to praise. The overarching karma/power system, however, interests me a bit. Like Jim, I found that the Good path resulted in relatively boring, nondestructive powers. On one hand, it's pretty unsatisfying to be a savior. On the other hand ... isn't that how it should be? Conrad will talk more about the evil powers at length, but I quite often found myself frustrated while playing a paragon of good. I'd spot a half-dozen bad guys next to some exploding cars, eager to blow them up in a fantastic orgy of fire and lightning, but I'd have to stop myself because some douchebag civilian would be caught up in the explosion. While most of the player's moral choices either boil down to either healing randomly injured pedestrians or Not Being an Asshole during plot developments, the fun/karma dichotomy gave me something to think about after the end credits finished rolling. I initially thought I'd restart the game and go down the evil path, but the game's extremely slow release of superpowers meant that I would have had to play through at least the first five hours of the game in order to see anything truly different. Again, though, I'm not sure if this is a bad thing -- while I'm kind of bummed I didn't have as much fun as Conrad did, it would have lessened the importance of the choices I'd made in my first go-around if I could just turn around and make opposite decisions with effortless ease. All in all, I'd recommend renting inFAMOUS. The missions are way too repetitive to justify a full purchase, but the unusual hybridization of sandbox and 3rd-person shooter games and a surprisingly interesting karma system may justify an eight or nine dollar rental. Score: 6.5 Conrad Zimmerman: Making the decision to take the evil route in inFAMOUS was not a very difficult one. The NPCs are so repugnant on every level that it was utterly impossible to feel any sympathy for any of them and I quickly found myself feeling as though I wanted every one of them to die a slow, painful death. Freed from the shackles of my morality by the guiding light of reason, I began to lay waste to everything in my path. Coincidentally, this is about the same time that I really started to enjoy myself. Having played through the evil campaign and about halfway through a second playthrough on the more noble side, I can clearly say that the path of darkness is more satisfying. All of the powers you earn are tooled specifically to dealing as much damage as possible in the shortest amount of time. Shock Grenades split apart into smaller charges on impact and the Megawatt Hammer -- a ball of lightning not unlike a rocket launcher -- will actually juggle enemies in the air with multiple explosions. That said, you're still never going to be a badass in inFAMOUS. At least, not on the Hard difficulty setting where every rooftop and every alley is crawling with enemies eager to rain bullets down upon you. Being ambushed by ten foes at once wouldn't result in good odds for anybody and this is par for the course throughout the game. Clearing out an area by completing its sidequest helps considerably in toning down the number of enemies you may encounter but it's still possible for four or five guys to get the jump on you. I don't think this is really a problem in and of itself. Being a superhero origin story, it is not unrealistic to expect that Cole does not have the same sort of handle on the use of his powers that a more experienced practitioner might. That doesn't change the fact that it can be frustrating to die repeatedly on missions because gunfire is a more effective deterrent than the surging electricity that flows forth from you, but it is at least understandable from a story perspective. My real gripe about the difficulty and sheer number of foes you fight is that it makes what should be epic boss battles seem incredibly tame by comparison. Going up against one person, no matter how powerful they may be, simply doesn't have the same level of desperation and frantic energy that combat against a mob of their minions does. As noted above, there are a bevy of technical issues. Pop-in occurs far more frequently than it has any right to, with cars that are only fifty feet away appearing on the street out of thin air. Cole often stutters while attempting to perform any of the three powers used on prone characters, resulting in an awkward sort of dance over the figure before accomplishing his task, giving up or being shot to death because he's been standing in the open for far too long.Then there's the climbing. I love climbing in games and this one certainly delivers on that. You'll spend more time climbing buildings than you ever thought possible and it all works really well -- unless you want to drop down from something. The parkour mechanics in inFAMOUS basically boil down to Cole being almost magentically attracted to anything he can cling to or stand on. God forbid, however, that you veer too close to an object while gliding, falling or any other activity where the last thing you want to do is stop moving. One thing I love about inFAMOUS is the way it manages collectible items in Empire City. All of them have a real benefit to the player which manifests as they are collected, rather than giving a lump reward for those who have the fortitude to find every last one. Blast shards, fragments of metal from ground zero of the explosion which gives Cole his powers, can be gathered to increase the total length of Cole's power bar. Dead Drops are recorded messages by a federal agent which help fill in story details and give a different perspective to some events.Not only are the collectibles useful/interesting, they are also very easy to find. Clicking a thumbstick makes the locations of these items appear on the mini-map provided that they are within the range of said map. Thank God. I know that I would be a completionist in more of these sandbox games if I could be arsed to spend hours hunting down bonus items. Making it easy to divine their locations with the push of a button encourages the player to make that little bit of extra effort in gathering them. The problem comes in when players are less interested in following up on side-quests and focus entirely on the game's plot progression. Cole's powers can be expensive to use and collecting Blast Shards winds up being fairly important if you intend to use anything but his basic attack (a perfectly viable option but one which somewhat defeats the purpose of even playing a superhero game). Similarly, the experience points earned in optional missions are valuable for purchasing upgrades to powers and it's difficult to rack up the points necessary to really buff yourself out through combat alone. While not an issue for fans of the sandbox genre, it may alienate more casual players.If it sounds as though I am complaining, well, I am. But that's not because I did not enjoy the experience of playing inFAMOUS. Quite to the contrary, I had enough fun that I gladly went back to the good campaign after finishing simply to see how some of the cutscenes would play out differently. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and mechanics in spite of the myriad flaws. You should know what you're getting into with this title, however. You will not be godlike, you will probably get annoyed at some point with the difficulty and there are going to be some glitches. That said, it's still a fun game if you're willing to accept these shortcomings. It is not an amazing experience which will change your life but a very competent open-world shooter with some good ideas and a few shortcomings in the execution. It's very easy to recommend as a rental since the game can be completed on a spare weekend and absolutely worth playing once.Score: 6.5Overall Score: 6.5 -- 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.)
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Open world superhero games have so much potential that it's actually surprising we haven't had as many as we have so far. We've seen licensed games such as Spiderman, MMOs in City of Heroes and, of course, Crackdown. You can ...

Review: Wallace and Gromit: Muzzled!

Jun 16 // Destructoid Staff
Wallace and Gromit's Grand Adventures: Muzzled! (PC [reviewed]/Xbox Live)Developed by Aardman and Telltale GamesPublished by Telltale GamesReleased on June 16th, 2009 (US)MSRP: $34.95 (includes all four episodes)   Anthony Burch Muzzled! is the cutest Wallace and Gromit episode thus far. Sure, it's got some of the series' best puzzles and a much better plot than The Last Resort, but my enjoyment of all things Wallace and/or Gromit related tend to hinge heavily on how charming they manage to be. Given that this newest episode concerns the duo's attempts to save a trio of homeless puppies from the hands of a maniacal con artist, I feel justified in calling Muzzled! a pretty adorable success.  The situation is as follows: West Wallaby Street's puppy shelter has broken down, sending countless (and by "countless," I mean "three") puppies loose on the town. Luckily, a newcomer named Monty Muzzle offers to rebuild the town shelter through ticket sales for his travelling fair, which itself boasts a pie contest, tic-tac-toe versus a chicken, and a large, inflatable likeness of Monty's head. After befriending the three lost (and, once again, adorable) puppies and delivering them into Monty's assumedly loving arms, Wallace and Gromit begin to suspect that there may be more to Monty Muzzle's fair than meets the eye.Well, Gromit begins to suspect something, anyway. Wallace sort of stands around like an idiot and makes fish-flavored ice cream, because he's Wallace. Though you might not think so from reading a poorly summarized description of the plot, it does not quite follow the typical structure of the previous two episodes. Where Fright of the Bumblebees and The Last Resort lent themselves to constant protagonist switching between Wallace and Gromit, Muzzled! is separated into two distinct acts. About 80% of the episode takes place from Gromit's perspective, while Wallace only becomes playable during the last 20% of the episode. While one might assume Gromit's silent shakes of the head at every incorrect puzzle solution would get tiresome after a while, the Gromit-heavy narrative actually represents a refreshing change of pace for the series. Gromit has a distinctly personal stake in solving the mystery of Monty Muzzle's circus, and thus it makes perfect sense that the player would spend more time in his shoes than Wallace's. The new characters are all quite likeable, as well: the three dogs Wallace and Gromit befriend are cute as hell (I literally muttered "awww" more than once while playing through the episode), and Monty Muzzle is a serviceable villain. He's not quite as cool as the penguin from The Wrong Trousers -- but really, who is? -- but he's pretty much on the same level as the evil hunter from Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I wouldn't mind seeing him again. Generally speaking, Muzzled! probably has the most well-balanced puzzles of the three episodes. While Fright of the Bumblebees suffered from one or two poorly placed inventory items, and The Last Resort structured most of its puzzles around the generally uninteresting supporting characters, Muzzled! hits a pretty good sweet spot. The puzzles were complex enough to make me think, but not so esoteric that I ever became frustrated. Each of the parlor games at Muzzle's funfair represent distinct puzzles that are typically solved in very different ways, and are all the more satisfying for it. Only a couple of puzzles truly felt too easy -- and while that may seem like a complaint, I really can't think of too many other Telltale episodes with such a good batting average. Combine that with a final boss puzzle that's almost as satisfying as the one from Fright of the Bumblebees and an epilogue that gives new meaning to the phrase "mustache ride," and you've got some of the best gameplay the series has yet seen. Overall, I think Muzzled! is probably the best Wallace and Gromit episode yet. It doesn't possess quite the same surprising charm as the very first installment, but it sidesteps nearly all the problems with the previous episode and provides a well-plotted, relatively challenging adventure experience. Also, one of the characters is a dog named Twitch who gets frightened by everything and has to carry around a stuffed bunny rabbit to make him feel safe.  Awww.Score: 8.0  Conrad Zimmerman Mister Burch's assessment of the cuteness which permeates throughout Muzzled! is no overstatement. This is one damn adorable installment of Wallace & Gromit. The three new pups that you meet add a great bit of additional humor to the story with their idiosyncracies. At one point, I repeatedly made the thieving one play dead just because I loved the animation. It's also nice to see that one of Wallace's inventions plays a central role in some puzzles again. The Infiniflavor -- named for its capability to create any flavor of ice cream -- is a cute idea and a far better fit for the series than resort management.  Item management puzzles play as much of a role as they ever have, but tracking down the necessary kit is made easier by restrictions on where you can travel. Most of Wallace's house is blocked off for the first half of the game, whereupon the rest of the house becomes inaccessible. Having fewer places to look for stuff to solve puzzles removes a lot of the frustration. Pretty much everything happens in the confines of the fairgrounds once you have the game's introductory puzzle out of the way, anyway. It's really good to see Telltale open things up a little bit more, as another game shuffling back and forth between W Wallaby St and the town square might have been less appealing. Which is great for the latter two-thirds, but the areas accessible by Gromit inside Wallace's house wound up with a lot of interactive objects in the environment that served no real function. These objects are leftovers from prior episodes and, save one, don't even have any entertainment value since you're working with the character incapable of more than subtle gestures. It can make the first puzzle a little annoying as you look at all these objects and find nothing of use.Despite these frustrations, the charm wins out through and through this time. The writing is quite funny and Wallace's nervously polite disposition is out in full force upon the realization that Monty Muzzle is not the philanthropist he appears to be. And the twist ending sets up what I hope will be a very uncomfortable situation for the hapless inventor in the upcoming finale of the series.All told, this is handily the best entry among the episodes thus far. If you've held out on playing these, this is the point at which I can wholeheartedly encourage an investment in the series. Score: 8.0Overall Score: 8.0 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)  
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Ah, Wallace and Gromit's Grand Adventures. With half your season already complete, what will you offer us in the final two episodes? We've already taken on mutated bees and unruly houseguests -- what's next?Today, we find out...

Preview: Borderlands

Jun 10 // Destructoid Staff
Jim Sterling:  Ever since Borderlands changed its graphics to the amazing hand-drawn style that has made it famous, I've wanted to know one thing -- just how beautiful do those images look when they're in motion? The question has been answered, and I must say I am incredibly impressed with what I've seen. The characters and enemies look very striking indeed and the first-person perspective evokes memories of the cel-shaded shooter XIII, which is most definitely a good thing. Borderlands, however, looks even better than XIII did. The gameplay seems pretty bloody good to boot, as well.  The demo was a co-op session in which the female Lilith and the bulky brawler Brick took on some Skag Pups. When someone says "Skag Pup" I think of a dog on heroin, but these things are more like the walking worms from Tremors 2. They roam in packs and come in variants, such as acid and fire spitters. Elite enemies in the game are referred to as "Badasses," which gives you an idea about how seriously the game takes itself (not very).The game presents itself as a straight FPS, but with heavily customizable characters, skill trees, experience points and, of course, plenty of loot. It is similar in many ways to Fallout 3, but with the VATS removed and replaced instead by far more robust shooting mechanics that don't need a gimmick in order to remain playable. Like Fallout 3, Borderlands has a very apparent sense of humor. It also has plenty of missions to be undertaken in an open world, and is suitably gory, with special skills that tend to make heads explode in a shower of artistic claret.  We were shown how players can drop in and out of games, with characters easily able to team up whenever they please. The procedurally generated monsters also scale with respect to how many players are in the game, becoming stronger to match the larger allied force. The main mission we were shown involved blowing up an enemy factory. It was being protected by Midget Bandits (yes, that is their in-game name) and creatures with, as Randy puts it, "tiny little gimp arms." Playing from the perspective of Brick, we got to see some first-person brawling, with enemies getting punched left, right and center. We also saw Brick's special "Berserk" power which, as you might expect, makes him an absolutely vicious bugger with his fists and causes him to laugh like a maniac with each kill. It's all very family-friendly. The mission ended with the factory exploding, and what an explosion it was! It started small, but quickly became huge, with the building slowly being torn apart and structures crumbling before one's very eyes. It was a very impressive setpiece and one hopes that there are even bigger bangs than that one buried within the game. My initial impressions of Borderlands are very positive indeed. It'll take me getting some hands-on with the game in order to properly gauge just how good it is, but so far it's looking rather excellent. This is definitely a game to watch as we head toward its end of year release. Don't let Borderlands slip from your radar. Conrad Zimmerman:I, too, am thoroughly impressed by what I've seen of Borderlands thus far. Having watched the same gameplay demo that Jim has, I took away much the same view of the game's visuals and gameplay mechanics. The thing about Borderlands which stuck out most in my mind was the loot and experience system. Never before have I seen a shooter which so closely resembled Diablo II. As Jim points out, players who team up in groups face more difficult enemies but are rewarded with more valuable gear and granted greater experience points. Also fascinating are the weapons available. The claim is that there are "more guns than every shooter on the PS3 and 360 combined" and this seems entirely possible. The way they managed to accomplish such a feat was by not placing the onus of weapon creation entirely in the hands of designers. The game's AI handles all of that for them, putting together weapons based on a variety of factors such as the company which made it, the materials used and what optional equipment is available.What results is that every possible combination of these factors can result in a different gun. This calls into question whether or not the game can remain balanced -- the system is perfectly capable of churning out some god-like weapon at a moment's notice -- but that's some of the thrill of the experience in my eyes. Amusingly, when asked about the possibility of such a thing happening, the folks at Gearbox seem gleefully unconcerned. That's probably because PvP combat is completely voluntary and holds little consequence. There are arenas within the world where players can battle one another if they so choose. A system for duels also exists to allow players to throw down with one another anywhere on the map but you have to opt in for any sort of PvP and that makes the weapon balance much less of a concern. The game has a strong showing right now and looks to be a lot of over-the-top, hyper-violent fun. The thought of combining a shooter with Diablo tickles me in so many ways that I've already started making plans with my friends to have a team together when the game comes out late this year.
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Borderlands has been hot on our radar for a while now, even before the dramatic change in art style that recently saw the game gain huge publicity. We've been itching to see the game in action for a while now, and our wishes ...

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E3 09: An illustrated summary of E3 2009, by Burch n' Davis


Jun 07
// Destructoid Staff
E3 is come and gone -- but for some, the emotions still remain.Elation at new announcements and technology. Anticipation for upcoming games. Nostalgia for friends made, and breakfast burritos eaten.Ashley Davis and myself had...

E3 09: Burch n' Davis play Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing

Jun 06 // Destructoid Staff
Anthony: Did you ever play Sega Superstars Tennis? I guess Sumo, the guys behind that, made Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. Ashley: I never did, but I don't know why I haven't. I absolutely love "unrealistic" tennis games a-la Mario Tennis, and I have a big soft spot in my heart for Sega characters. Similarly, I love "unrealistic" racers like Mario Kart, so why would I not love a kart racer with Sega characters? Anthony: Because some of those Sega characters haven't been in particularly good games for quite some time. Ashley: I can't argue that, but still. I got to play as Samba! His kart was shaped like a maraca! Anthony: I played as Sonic. Which was exactly as exciting as my punctuation would imply. Ashley: Hah. Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing didn't have anyone at all gathered around it, and after trying out the demo, I can see why. It's not the best Mario Kart influenced racing game ever. Anthony: The controls weren't great. Everytime I tried to drift, Sonic started spazzing out. Though maybe my muscle memory was just too reliant on Mario Kart Wii. Ashley: There didn't seem to be a big variety of weapons either. The whole time, I only got two different things: a speed boost, and a special weapon. Like Mario Kart Double Dash!!, the special weapons differ from character to character. For Samba, it causes him to dance in his seat to some funky music, making all the racers around him slow down to dance along. Anthony: And Sonic gets Chaos Emeralds, which turn him into Super Sonic. I just now got that pun. Ashley: Hah, me too! That's sad. I've only had 16 years to get that. Anthony: I didn't even heard his name until, like, a year ago. I don't consider myself a better person for it. But, yeah. I mean, one thing I really, really dug about this game was that the characters seemed to have a lot more personality and animation to them than, say, Mario Kart characters. Which is weird, because I'm totally unfamiliar with most Sega characters. But when Sonic would boost, he'd jump out of his car, stand on the hood, and give a thumbs up or something. I thought that was, at least visually, quite cool. Ashley: I can agree with that. The course designed to look like an updated Green Hill Zone made me smile as well. But there's really not too much to get excited about with this game. The demo didn't show off too much content, nor did it ever get frantic and fun like a Mario Kart race would. We both easily won our respective races. Anthony: Yeah. I was in first place, and I suddenly got another Chaos Emerald and boosted ahead WAY in front of the AI. I mean, I've bitched about Mario Kart Wii's rubberband item system, but this almost felt like it went too far in the other direction. Ashley: It seems like items are given out without any discretion, just luck of the draw. Anthony: Which I can respect, generally, but goodness -- if I'm in first place, don't let me rape the competition THAT hard again. I did get a few more items than you, thought. I got a big bubble that surrounded my kart and seemed to slow me down at the expense of absorbing one type of damage, and a three-pack of exploding mines that basically acted like less-accurate green shells. Ashley: Those mines looked a lot like the robot fish that jump out of the water in Emerald Hill. Which was pretty cool. By the way, Tails was not playable in the demo, but it seems that his plane does not ever go off of the ground. This is very sad, considering that in the trailer, it gave off hints of a Diddy Kong Racing-esque racer. Land, ground, and possibly sea vehicles would have given the game the bit of variety it needs. To make it more than mediocre, anyway. Anthony: You know what? I kind of wish that someone could make a game that combines the character of this game with the not-lousy gameplay of something like Mario Kart. I wouldn't mind racing Sega characters against Nintendo ones. If I'm going to fucking make them ski against one another in TWO Olympics games, why the hell can't a brother hit Sonic with a red shell? Ashley: The way they're going, that doesn't seem like the impossible. Anthony: I would quite enjoy that. Ashley: To be honest, I think I would too. As much as it feels silly to admit to that.  Anthony: I don't think it's silly. No more silly than Mario and Sonic going goddamn fucking bobsled racing. Ashley: I know, but I still feel like maybe the two worlds should stay seperate regardless. I have expressed the desire to keep non-Mario characters out of Mario Kart, so it seems a little hypocritical to say I would like Sega characters thrown in. Maybe Sega just needs to shamelessly rip off just a little more. Anthony: Sonic games need less originality. Been saying that shit for years. Ashley: Overall, Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing wasn't one of the better games we played. Anthony: It was not. But it was a nice way to cool down after Bayonetta. Ashley: It sure was. Something simple to cleanse the palate.
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Bayonetta. Aliens vs. Predator.Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. It didn't take a genius to see that something was amiss at Sega's E3 booth. Veritable mountains of blood and boobs were countered only by a small, cutesy, and ...

E3 09: Bayonetta arouses Burch n' Davis

Jun 06 // Destructoid Staff
Ashley: We didn't play Bayonetta until literally the end of the show. I'm not sure why we waited so long. We passed the booth several times before. Anthony: We probably put it off because there was always a line. Or rather, a pretty big-ass group. If you go to the showfloor on the last day of E3 in the last few hours of the show, though, it's like being a kid in a candy store. Ashley: Going along with this metaphor, I would say that Bayonetta was a gigantic swirly lolipop that we both enjoyed very much. Anthony: If swirly lolipops could induce half-boners. Ashley: Well, it was colorful and delicious. One of my favorite things about the game is its imagery. I've never seen a game designed quite like Bayonetta is. Anthony: Yeah. Functionally, it is Devil May Cry in almost every way, save for the really satisfying, 360 degree gun-shooty move she can do that seems like it's ripped from a third-person shooter. Otherwise, I really just ended up digging the game's charm, above all else. Though I dunno if "charm" is the right word. Again, half-boners. Ashley: Bayonetta's design constantly wavers from artistic (spouting butterfly wings during double jumps) to nearly over-the-top (the hair transformation scenes). Anthony: I think it's so over-the-top that it becomes almost mindblowingly effective. This is a game that made us simultaneously laugh, feel like badasses, and occasionally lean toward one another and say, "admittedly...that's pretty sexy." Like, when that big-ass foot made of hair came out of some portal Bayonetta created and kicked a dude in the face, I suddenly realized it -- this is next-gen Battletoads. Ashley: I have no basis of comparison (never played the DMC games), but I really loved the combat. It was very satisfying, and easy to pull off combos. The loading screens even allow you time to learn the various combinations of button presses available to you. There's no one way to kill something, and that's great. I couldn't imagine things ever getting old with all the different things you can do. Anthony: The basic mechanics are pretty simplistic, but the visual rewards for executing cool combos made our demo much more enjoyable than it really had any right to be. I think it could probably get old if stretched out over several hours without significant change to your abilities or the enemies you face. But at the same time, that's most DMC-esque games I've played. And Bayonetta is thus far the coolest game in that genre I've ever gotten my hands on. Ashley: It oozes a style that, so far, we haven't seen anywhere else. That style could very well carry it a long way. Anthony: Yeah. I mean, even the way Bayonetta walks was perfect. While you're shooting, she just sort of holds one hand out to fire, putting her other hand on her hip. All sassy-like. And if you try to move while doing that, she struts . She doesn't walk. She struts . Ashley: And she has a very sultry taunt that Anthony probably used every five seconds. Anthony: It was the "bustin' makes me feel good" of Bayonetta. Anytime you want, you can press the left bumper and she'll just stop and strike a pose, for no real reason. Which is awesome. I think Gears of War could benefit from that mechanic. Ashley: I'm not too sure about that. Marcus is no Bayonetta, unfortunately. Anthony: "MORE LIKE TEN SHITLOADS" (pose) Ashley: Sega, give us a male Bayonetta! Please! Anthony: Fuck that noise. Having had no real experience with DMC-esque games like this, what did you think when you left the booth? Would you buy it, based on that demo? Ashley: I think I would. I got a taste of that fast-paced, satisfying action, and I would really like to experience more. That, and I want to see more hair transformations. Those are very interesting. Anthony: And the sudden flashes of flesh -- I have to say, I usually get really offended by characters like Lara Croft or whatever who claim to be about Serious Female Empowerment Action, but Bayonetta is so incredibly overt about her purpose that I couldn't help but buy into it. There's no hand-wringing there. She's there to give you a boner, and that's okay.Ashley: I agree, although the real life Bayonetta at the booth made me roll my eyes the few times we saw her. Anthony: I heard some scary stories about what that poor woman had to go through. Some dude put his hand, like, an inch away from her vagoo during a picture. And she noticed. And had to pretend not to. Ashley: Yikes. Suddenly, I feel empathetic for her. Anthony: Yeah. But, I mean, you're a woman. How does a female character who comes right out and says "my purpose is to be arousing" compare to someone like Lara Croft, who pretends to be a serious character but is secretly about pretty much the same thing? Ashley: I never got the "I'm sexy so this game will sell" vibe from Bayonetta. She's almost a caricature of offensive female videogame characters. Anthony: Really? I guess my wang missed the irony. That does make sense, though. She's pretty over-the-top. Ashley: Maybe it was because I was laughing and having so much fun. Anthony: No harm there, then. I really hope the plot of Bayonetta never asks the player to take it seriously, because nothing in the mechanics or visuals I experienced in that demo would justify anything other than the most barebones, unpretentious plot imaginable.Ashley: Yeah, we didn't really get to see any plot at all, did we? Anthony: Such is the tragedy of playing an E3 demo. Either way, I'm unquestionably renting this game whenever the hell it comes out, and will be actively looking forward to it until then. Ashley: And I will just mooch it off of Anthony when the time comes. Though, if the full product turns out to be just as enjoyable as the demo, I would definitely go out and buy a copy.Anthony: We shall see.
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By now, you've hopefully read Jim's glowing preview of Bayonetta. Lord knows Ashley Davis and myself did. With what we assumed would be our final preview already posted, we sat restlessly in the E3 press room for a few moment...

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E3 09: Burch n' Davis play Grand Slam Tennis


Jun 04
// Destructoid Staff
As E3 comes to a close, we present the last of our "Burch n' Davis play..." segments. One would typically try to send such a series off with a bang, but we were too tired and had played too many high-profile games i...
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E3 09: Burch n' Davis burn the fat in Wii Fit Plus


Jun 04
// Destructoid Staff
Ashley Davis and Anthony Burch wish they were Brad Nicholson. They long to have bulging muscles, a healthy immune system, and one of those -- how does one say it -- rockin' bods.Davis and Burch are lazy, however, and rather t...
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E3 09: Burch 'n Davis play Sin and Punishment 2


Jun 04
// Destructoid Staff
Looking back on all the wonderful (and slightly less wonderful) things that we've seen so far at this year's E3, I think Sin and Punishment 2 was one of my (Ashley) favorites. And to think, we nearly completely missed the dis...
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E3 09: Burch n' Davis try out Tony Hawk: Ride


Jun 04
// Destructoid Staff
The booth for Tony Hawk: Ride silently mocked Ashley Davis and myself for the first two days of E3. Forever surrounded by eager attendees at all times, it promised the most fully interactive gameplay experience short of break...
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E3 09: Burch 'n Davis fence in Wii Sports Resort


Jun 04
// Destructoid Staff
In our quest to find a game that showed the full power of the Wii MotionPlus, Anthony and I turned our attention toward Wii Sports Resort, which was essentially the centerpiece of Nintendo's booth. While in line, we decided t...
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E3 09: Burch 'n Davis play Ghostbusters


Jun 04
// Destructoid Staff
After yesterday's Ghostbuster mini-fiasco, we made it a point  to go straight to the Sony booth this morning to get to the game before the rest of the crowd could. I was nervous about what was about to happen, because th...

E3 09: Dale 'n CTZ play some Lost Planet 2

Jun 04 // Destructoid Staff
Dale:  So yeah, Lost Planet 2. That shit was hot! CTZ:  That shit was tight. I was really impressed with how well the four-player co-op really worked out.   Dale:  It was really great. Better than I expected. I heard the hype that Capcom was spitting out, but it didn't really click until we played it today.  CTZ:  The gameplay feels the same, well, a little better, but playing with three others made it feel like a whole new experience.  Dale:  Yeah, the game plays tighter than Lost Planet did, but having us four play made it. That four-on-one battle with that ... well, what the hell was that beast?   CTZ:  It was the first boss of the game.  Dale:  The whole concept of having massive bosses that require teamwork from all four players to take down is brilliant, don't you think? CTZ:  Oh yeah, totally. I loved how you can now go inside some of the creatures and fuck it up from the inside.  Dale:  Or how, if you mess up, the boss literally shits you out hahaha.  CTZ:  Yeah, and it has little mini ball sack looking things that slap you right before you get shit out. Dale:  hahaha! The dude has ass fangs.  CTZ:  Haha. I actually got shit out into the deep part of the water once and died. Shit to death.  Dale:  What did you think about how it looked? CTZ: I loved how we weren't in the snow anymore. I got so bored with that so fast in the first game.  Dale:  Yeah, that hurt the eyes. But I thought that the boss looked awesome.  CTZ:  Yeah, the boss was very detailed. Had a lot of ways to attack the player too.  Dale: But all of them required team work. He had a weak spot on his back.  CTZ:  Weak point on his legs, back and insides. It was also pretty smart. It knew who was hurting him the most and would try to go for that player. Dale:  Yah, and if you hit his weak spot on his back, it would recess into his body. You'd then have to take out his legs to make him fall, then climb into his mouth to take out that weak spot. How badass is that?  CTZ:  Oh I didn't realize his weak point went hiding into his body.  Dale:  lol. No wonder we died!  CTZ:  Pffft, blame Nick Chester on that at the end of our first try. You and I were just inches away from killing it until Nick sucked it up, haha!  Dale:  Yeah, that's cool that the team as a whole has a set amount of lives.  CTZ:  That, and the energy from the first game is now used to heal yourself and power the VSes. It's a little more forgiving now.  Dale:  It's in your best interest to help out your teammates, as if you let the shitty ones on their own, they'll use up all your lives. Like Nick. We actually had to play the game twice because Nick sucked so bad. How did he get to be the boss here?  CTZ: Sucking the right peoples dicks.  Dale:  HAHAH!  What did you think about the weapons in LP2? I was mostly machine gunning it, but I did get that big-assed two-handed launcher thing, and some high-powered something or other -- sorry, don't remember the names.  CTZ: I loved the diversity. Lots to choose from. I loved the various grenades. The fire bomb one is the shit.  Dale:  Yeah. I loved that. I also loved that time I was in the boss body and I threw the fire bomb at his weak point and it bounced back and killed me  CTZ:  Damn you suck. Why'd I play with you and Nick?  Dale:  I didn't pick my assignments!  What were those power nodes that we had to pump up to increase our strength?  CTZ: They were power nodes that increased our strength.  Dale:  lol. They let us heal, gave us extra lives, boosted our attack power. Pretty cool.  CTZ: They also doubled as respawn points. You mess with the new VS?  Dale:  No I didn't, did you?  CTZ:  Yeah. You can actually hover in the air and fly around briefly.  Dale:  Nice.  I thought the control was pretty tight. I liked that I jumped, and while I couldn't see my feet, I still landed where I expected.  CTZ: Yeah, overall I liked it. I just hated that you couldn't shoot out the hook shot in the air after jumping.  Dale:  Like Bionic Command?  CTZ: I kept thinking Bionic Commando when using the hook shot so I kept jump hook shooting. Yup, exactly! I never even realized this until playing it, but it feels like Capcom took the hook shot from the first LP, improved the fuck out of it in Bionic Commando, and then brought that into LP 2.  Dale:  Interesting. I wonder if that's the case. But what it did worked well enough. I heard that there are a lot more of those mega bosses, but with different types of challenges for the teams to figure out.  CTZ: That's going to be so hot. I know people were worried about the co-op hurting the game, but it works out so perfectly. I can't imagine playing LP 2 without three others now.  Dale:  Yeah, I came away impressed. And I didn't expect to. You can tell that they worked hard on making 4P work.  CTZ:  Yup, agreed.  Dale:  It would have been perfect if Nick didn't suck. It's not Rock Band, so he couldn't do it. His idea of four player co-op is with plastic guitars and shit.
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I know a lot of people were worried when it was announced that Lost Planet 2 would have four player co-op. After playing the upcoming sequel with Dale North yesterday, I can't imagine playing any future Lost Planet game witho...

E3 09: Konami press conference live blog

Jun 03 // Destructoid Staff
<a href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&task=viewaltcast&altcast_code=6f9a8009d4" mce_href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&task=viewaltcast&altcast_code=6f9a8009d4" >Konami E3 Press Conference Liveblog</a>
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Konami's press conference for E3 is coming and speculation is running a little bit rampant. Good thing we have Samit Sarkar and Conrad Zimmerman to break it all down for you as it happens. We heard a rumor on our way in that there's going to be a big announcement out of all this, so I wouldn't miss this if I were you. Hit the jump for the live blog!

E3 09: Sony press conference live blog (Update)

Jun 02 // Destructoid Staff
[embed]134515:19777[/embed]
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Good morning, kiddies! Nick Chester, Brad Nicholson, Dale North, and Samit Sarkar are reporting live from Sony's E3 press conference at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Hit the jump for the live blog of all the exciting news that's sure to come out of it![Update: Samit took 17 photos during the conference. Take a look at them in the gallery!]

E3 09: Nintendo press conference live blog

Jun 02 // Destructoid Staff
<a href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&task=viewaltcast&altcast_code=94077196db" mce_href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&task=viewaltcast&altcast_code=94077196db" >E3 09: Nintendo Press Conference</a>
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Hey, everyone! Chad Concelmo and Dale North to bring you the live blog of the E3 2009 Nintendo press conference. I don't know about you, but we are super excited about what Nintendo has to announce this year. In fact, I would...

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A very good afternoon from Jim Sterling and Colette Bennett. We are here at the Ubisoft press conference, getting ready to roll out the hottest news from the publisher of Assassin's Creed 2, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Beyond ...

E3 09: Microsoft press conference live blog

Jun 01 // Destructoid Staff
<a href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&task=viewaltcast&altcast_code=4d9db31ef8" mce_href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&task=viewaltcast&altcast_code=4d9db31ef8" >Xbox 360 E3 09 Media Briefing</a>
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We're live at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, sitting in a large auditorium waiting for the Microsoft E3 press briefing to begin.From what we can tell, this thing is going to be packed to wall-to-wall packed with media and d...


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