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Bargain Binge #1: Syndicate (2012) and Mortal Kombat - Komplete Edition

So here it is folks, the promised first edition of Bargain Binge. If you are asking asking yourself "What?" by now, I may link you to this post, explaining it all: http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Zer0t0nin/bargain-binge-0-the-whatsit-the-rules-the-penguins-245321.phtml

So let's dive right in. We start of with:

what I liked:

I'm a sucker for cyberpunk. This world needs more of it and with upcoming titles like "Remember me", "Watch Dogs" or "Cyberpunk 2077", we're in pretty good shape there. Needless to say Syndicate's setting genuinely intrigued me. The story is basically "Cyberpunk 101", think of a poor-man's version of Deus Ex and the voice actors are doing a pretty good job with the delivery of the somewhat shallow script. The setting itself reminds somewhat of Shadowrun than Blade Runner and fans of the former will feel home almost immediately. The graphics are pretty nice with some great effects and an overall fitting art-direction that fits the tone well. The sound design is solid, guns sound distinctive enough and the soundtrack fits the equation with a blend of Industrial Rock, Electro and Dubstep. The gunplay itself is the bread and butter of the genre and it actually is nice, that nearly every firearm brings something different to the table without feeling overpowered (yes, even the target-seeking Gauss-gun) or imperative. You can finish every level with every combination of firearms. Even every boss-fight. Speaking of which: the boss-fights certainly are a highlight. Each one needs another tactic and they are far more demanding, than the normal enemies (once, because of the tactics, second because your chip abilities won't work).
You can acquire different abilities for your implant-chip that are all pretty useful and necessary to give you the edge in what are generally fun firefights.
Multiplayer focusses on a 4-player Coop-mode, that pitches you and three other players into missions against the AI. These ones can include intel acquiration, assasination, theft...everything from the colorful world of industrial espionage. Online play enables you to level your character up and then purchasing new guns, perks etc. You know the drill. While this can be a bit grindy at times, it actually encourages and the next new toy never feels too far away.

what I disliked:

For all it's worth: this game is short. If you know what to do and you're a hardened shooter-veteran, you will be able to breath through the campaign in 5 - 6 hours. There is no "New Game +" and the story doesn't offer anything like branching paths or the oh-so-popular decisions that would encourage another playthrough. In addition to that, the ending feels extremely rushed and very unfulfilling. The story itself is rather predictable and you will be able to sniff out double-crossings from miles away. So here again is the comparison to the Shadowrun universe: it just feels like "A story", never really "THE story" and what works for a deep universe with more than 20 years to build upon doesn't necessarily so in the universe of just two games with this new installment having not that much to do with it.
The graphics are nice and deliver a sterile look, but boy oh boy did they overdo it on the "bloom" side. I like it genrally in this setting, because the effect itself is fitting for it but this game really reminds me off this VGcats-strip. It hurts. It doesn't let you read stuff on Newsboards etc. This decision especially baffles me, since the rest of the game tries to evoke a deeper understanding of the world in you with news-pieces, personal logs etc. that you can find.
Gameplay-wise, the (thank god pretty few) platforming segments remind an awful lot of the parts of "Mirror's Edge" that just weren't very well designed. The enemy AI (aside the boss' ones) is servicable, but won't win any nobel-prizes soon.
Chip powers are another thing: you have your abilities but it never really feels like they matter, other than in firefights. Some puzzles would have been nice and would have served as a refresher in between the shooting parts.
Multiplayer is quite fun but like the single-player ultimately suffers from a severe lack of content like different game modes. I think publishers nowadays overdo it with DLC but in this case they really dropped the ball. The setting and world itself are interesting and would have been perfect for some additional scenarios with some more flesh.

So was it worth the reduced price of admission?

I'd say yes. I bought mine for 15,99 and considering that this is just barely more than what Activision charges for a CoD MapPack with four maps, you'll definitely get your money's worth. I think this game got more criticism, than it deserved due to the massive changes done to an established franchise. I don't get the amount of rage but I certainly DO think a classic Syndicate had worked well, if done right (I own the original on both, PC and SNES).
The campaign can keep you entertained throughout and the multiplayer is worth checking out.

HINDSIGHT: worth the full price?

Nope, definitely not. While the gameplay-flaws are nothing game-breaking, it just suffers from content in every respect. I do prefer a well done shorter game to an overblown clusterfuck (think "Journey" and FFXIII for an extreme example) but it just feels to rushed and unfuflfilling.

That was Syndicate. Next up:

What I liked:

It's Mortal Kombat at it's worst and that makes it sooooo good. Everything about it screams "I'M FROM THE NINETIES" and it just works. The story-mode especially suffers from extreme shlockage in the cutscenes that manage to watch the razor's edge between guilty pleasure and shame and I love it. Hell: the story itself suffers from the typical Nineties "Ah fuck, we gonna do it anew...in RADICAL". Shao Khan triumphed at the end of Mortal Kombat Armageddon. We all know that this is not good, so in a despaired effort, Raiden sends a message back through time to the beginning of the first Mortal Kombat tournament (yes, the one from the first game) to write the whole history again. The game then spans around an alternate story-arc to MK 1 - 3.
Is everything left retro? Thankfully not. Netherrealm Studios did a commendable job of revitalizing this franchise with a much needed infection of gameplay-overhaul. Let's face it kids: nearly nobody in the nineties played MK for the gameplay. The pre-rendered figures always controlled somewhat sluggish and slow with some strange hitboxes and not nearly the flow, that other fighting games like Street Fighter or Killer Instinct inherited. Why you think everyone hated on Pitfighter?
We all played it for it's genuine brand of ultra-violence.
Netherrealm did a great job identifying, what made it a succesful franchise in the first place (ultra-violence, interesting characters, etc.) while shelfing stuff that was just outdated (mostly all of the gameplay). The result is a game that's fluent combat with manic combos and juggles even surpasses most other fighting games currently on the market while not alienating newbies to the matter. The cast of fighters is impressive with nearly every character from the whole series in it. PS3 owners even get an exclusive with Kratos joining their ranks...a good fit.
The amount of content in this game is amazing. In addition to the story mode, single players can engage in some retro-arcade-ladder mode or simple 1 - 1 fights. Then, there is the challenge tower, which features 300 (!!!) challenges that rank from "defeat 100 Zombies" over "where is the missing eye" up to "win this fight in 10 seconds without taking any damage". Players get rewarded for nearly everything they do with points that can be unlocked on the graveyard for random stuff like character Art, additional costumes or even new finishers.
The multiplayer is where every fighting game should shine, however, and MK does so with bravado. Basically everybody can set up tournaments, the lobby system is extremely fun with players being able to rate fights or shout random profanities at the current two fighters and the netcode makes for great, delay-free fisticuffs.
The Komplete edition basically bundles every released DLC into the game. The nice thing: it's on the disc, so no download. While it's mostly buffing up the already impressive roster with the formerly missing characters from the universe and all of their classic constumes, the most intriguing thing about the DLC should be the ability to play as none other than Freddy Kruger himself.

What I disliked:

There is actually not that much to dislike unless you are not a fan of fighting games, but then why would you have bothered with buying it in the first place? If I now had to nitpick it would be the inevitable difficulty spikes in the story mode, courtesy of the differing fighting styles and the fact, that the unlockable extra finishers are actually already unlocked. All you DO unlock is the move list to do so which can be looked up on the internet.

So, is it worth the reduced price?

Absolutely. If you're a fan of fighting games you get something closely resembling your wet dreams. 32 different fighters with different fighting styles and enough content to keep you playing for months on end...only to return later for "just one more round".

HINDSIGHT: Was it worth full price

Ah, this one is hard to say. While I tend to say "yes", because of all the aforementioned stuff, I have to say no, due to the questionable business decision of releasing a fighting game another time with some added content for the same full price-tag.

This was the first edition of Bargain Binge. Feedback is always a welcome thing. I think the next issue (if it is something to be desired xD) will take a week or two since it will feature two games, that might take me a little longer to finish: Dragon's Dogma and Deus Ex - Human Revolution.
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About Zer0t0ninone of us since 4:01 AM on 10.30.2012