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Jun. 12th, 2012


E3

So. It's that time of year again. New IP's are to be announced, spinoffs and ripoffs alike, which is always exciting. As always, there is the good, the bad and the odd. Let's start with the good.

Good:

1.  Tomb Raider

Well, Laura Croft is being given new life in the form of a new survival horror series rather than the old "shoot some tigers and ancient things for profit" style of gameplay. The new game seems to have departed so far from the original concept that I'm not even sure it's Tomb Raider anymore. That being said, the old formula of Tomb Raider was so over done and rather crap at this point, that it might be a good thing, but I really do feel conflicted about this. I couldn't put my finger on it until I watched the second trailer again and it occurred to me. Someone at Square Enix (Yeah, the Final Fantasy guys) must really, really, really hate Laura Croft. Think about it, between the two trailers she has almost been drowned (normal for an action game), become stranded on a very unfriendly island, almost fallen to her death countless times (also normal), very nearly became a sacrificial chicken after seeing her friend become said chicken, impale herself with a human bone, evade a giant boulder, get knocked out by an explosion, get her foot caught in a bear trap, kidnapped, pimp slapped, very nearly raped, nearly get crushed by an airplane propeller, then a separate airplanes engine, nearly drown (again) and in general just have a really shitty day. Who harbors that much resentment against a character? I'll admit, it just isn't survival horror unless you're forced to survive something. But this is just absurd. What are they going to do next? Summon Cthulu to consume her soul? In all seriousness, this does look like a really promising game with some great set pieces and badass combat. Also, at long last, Laura isn't a sex object whose top half always resembles a stick with a couple of watermelons smacked on. Good move. Keeps the pesky pre-teens away from the big boy/girl games. Now, if only they could find a way to actually make the new game an actual Tomb Raider game...

2. The Amazing Spider-man

Oh. My. God. Who would have thought? A good movie tie-in game. I'll be honest, I always enjoy Spider-man games if only for the web slinging, but this looks like it is on a whole new level. I've only seen bits and pieces of the combat and web slinging and for the most part it looks like it works really well. The one thing that I saw briefly and want to see done really well is the stealth aspects of the game. Spider-man is not bulletproof, much like one bat themed superhero and just like in said hero's critically acclaimed video game series, you have to grab some quality one-on-one time with a lonesome baddie until none remain using some sort of special vision. The one little bit that I don't really like the look of is the mechanic that puts you into first person perspective, shows you some perches/swing points and webs you to them. Honestly, it looks like it kills the flow of swinging around an open world, but prove me wrong Activision! For the love of God, prove me wrong.

3. Playstation Battle All-Stars

Actually, I'm not really sure what this one is called. But, thats not what is important. Think Smash Brothers. But with Sony characters like Kratos, Fat Princess and Nathan Drake. A few other key differences are that you can't use your special moves until you have beat people up a certain amount. Fun stuff. Honestly though, Smash Brothers in any form is fun, even if it is a blatant rip off, just like that TMNT game. Anyway, I'm rather excited for this because it is coming out for the Vita. Maybe one of these days I'll buy one. Once Monster Hunter comes out for it. And other good games. Any other good games really.

4. The Last of Us

A survival game that doesn't rain ammo and health packs from the sky? Ooh, color me intrigued. The combat looks frantic and visceral - just as it should be for an untrained survivor of the apocalypse. Viewers may have guessed that I love the post-apocalypse and as such, makes me very excited for this game.

5. Halo 4  

Well how did this end up here? No idea. Yeah, I was ready for the series to end with 3 (then ODST came out. I was still ready. Then Reach. Then Anniversary) and I wasn't so psyched for this game until I saw the gameplay. Wow. I'm not sure how, but they are making the series seem fresh almost. It might be the shooting looking even better. It might even be the more personal set pieces that I loved in Reach (There was only one. It was amazing.). The only way I can see this going wrong, is if they focus solely on the multiplayer *cough* cod *cough* and sort of half ass the single player. 

6. Assassins Creed III


7. Borderlands 2


8. The 3DS

Whaaaat? The 3DS? Seriously? Yeah. It might have been the the horrible WiiU presentation, but wow. Kingdom Hearts, Castlevania (of the 2.5 D persuasion), Epic Mickey, Paper Mario, Luigi's Mansion and Fire Emblem. Oh and a new Mario game, but I don't count those anymore. The 3DS needs a serious boost and it looks like it is about to get it. 

Odd:

1. Metal Gear Rising: Revengance

Just because of the title. I really don't care how good or bad this game turns out to be. I mean, bionic ninja assassin with some DMC influences sounds okay I guess, but I envision half hour long cutscenes as a minimum and repetition out the butt. But of course the big question is: What the hell is up with the title?

2. Injustice: Gods Among Us

Oh look, it's a DC themed beat-em-up. Yeah...we tried this already remember? DC Vs Mortal Kombat? Remember how that was? It wasn't bad, but it wasn't really good either. It was actually leaning more towards bad. "BUT!" shout the hard core fighting fans "This one is made by the people who made the rebooted Mortal Kombat that was actually good!". Well that might be so, but from the gameplay that is shown in the trailer, it looks exactly like that Mortal Kombat, just with different skins and moves. Now that might sound like a completely different game, but it honestly looks like they haven't changed a thing in the actual fighting mechanics aside from add one new gimmick - you can use the environment. Wow. Huge innovation there boys. Save some for the DLC packs. Also apparently, Batman can now kick the undead zombie known as Grundy so hard, he flies up at least 20 stories and breaks reinforced concrete. However, there is a ray of hope. A story that is supposedly better than "somebody had some kryptonite and fucked with Superman's mind". Huzzah. Also, even though I was implying that having the same fighting system would be a bad thing, it honestly wouldn't. Mortal Kombat is one of the kings of fighters (see what I did there? No? Just me? Google "king of fighters") for a reason. It's probably the gore, but whatever. Fighting is still fun in the game.

3. Wonderbook

What...wha...I...huh? It's a book. That is a tablet. That you can interact with. It might be good for kids...? This looks rather crap to be honest. A really expensive toy that isn't worth it's value. It also doesn't look like it works very well, but it is shovelware after all. The only 'game' or story that they showed off was Book of Spells by JK Rowling which might be redeemed by the actual story, but...looks rather crap at the moment.

4. Gears of War: Judgement

Don't show me a flashy trailer and expect me to get excited. Show me gameplay and then we'll talk. (Take Asscreed III as the best version of this. Cool CGI trailer AND showing off gameplay.)

5. Kinect Bullshit 

Oooh wow Microsoft. I'm so impressed that I no longer have to get up to use my wireless controller to move around Xbox's home, which is what I totally use it for. It is a cool party trick if you have some people over and you want to start up a game without moving at all, but...personally, I think Microsoft should stop focusing on their stupid kinect and start working on new IP's. 

Bad:


1. The majority of the Nintendo press conference.

Nintendo...what the hell are you doing? What is your next gimmick-y controller going to be? You control the action....with your tongue? I don't even...what...? You know what my problem with the WiiU is? The controller. It opens up a whole new can of stupid gimmicks that doesn't add crap to the game. The current launch lineup is also pretty weak with the only bright spots being ports from other consoles and Pikmin 3. There were a few low points I want to just tell everyone to avoid. 
    

  • Sing
  • WiiU Fit (Only if you have the previous installments, if not it looks exactly like the other two)


2. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

You have no idea how long I've waited to say this. This series is tired and worn out. Stop it. Seriously. 


Overall, this wasn't a bad E3, but there have definitely been better. The one thing I'm hoping I'm wrong about is the WiiU. At the moment, (from my point of view) the best it can hope for is being a true current gen console with lots of shovelware. At worse, it will be a Wii with better graphics and a more expensive, and worse, controller. 

Pics to come later. CBF right now because I've been putting off this post for too long.

May. 23rd, 2012



Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360
10 Years: Of copycats and ripoffs

Well, it has been 10 whole years since I first picked up an Xbox controller for the first time and fell in love with a rather unknown game at the time, Halo. It was so revolutionary at the time that the formula is still rather unchanged even in this remake. As far as I can tell, the only real changes to the game are the additional multiplayer maps, terminals and the updated graphics, but has that really affected my original enjoyment of the game? Not really. Has the crazy level of difficulty on legendary affected my enjoyment of the game? Once again, no not really. It is almost exactly as I remember it, for better or for worse. In that spirit, I will just really quickly run through my experience with this game, because at this point in Halo's lifespan, you probably have your own opinion on the game. Onwards!

Starting off my glorious adventure was death. Lots of death. Mainly on my part because my brother wanted an achievement where you don't take any damage on heroic or legendary difficulty (the two highest difficulties). And thus while he chilled in his corner, popping out every so often to pop off a few shots, legions of me stormed the enemy. My bodies littered the corridors, becoming a wall of armored bodies, as grunts and elites laughed at my pathetic attempts to kill more than a single enemy per life cut tragically short. But eventually I prevailed. My brother and I got to the escape pods and launched out towards Halo. The adventure had truly begun.

Now I won't bore you with the details of every single level, but lets just say I only had two tactics. Tactics which I will now impart unto you, my beloved reader! (This is co-op only by the way. I got nothing for you on single player legendary mode. Good luck sir or madame if you attempt it)

1. Stay back and act as the anchor.
    You are the home base, the safe zone, the hidey hole; whatever you want to call it. Your ONLY purpose is to wait for the other guy to respawn upon your location so you can...

2. Charge at the enemy in a suicidal rage
    
Yeah....this one is pretty self explanatory. There is a variation on this which I will get to in a second once I explain a further adventure of Gamecropper (TM) and bro.


You know what I called this file? "bestplanever". Because it is.


As a bonus, I will impart the ultimate way to piss off a team mate while you are on the mounted gun while they drive.

BONUS: Spin round and round, spraying bullets in every direction while making your avatar do squats.
So much fun. You have no idea. 

Okay, so those were our tactics up until we discovered a certain skull (an item that changes gameplay by adding various effects such as regaining health by punching people or leaving less ammo lying around) that gives UNLIMITED AMMO. For everything. Even grenades. *Cue maniacal laugh* So after taking a crash course in grenade jumps (A jump augmented by the concussive force of a grenade blast. Typically ends in death for the untrained), we got said skull. The result? Glorious raining death for our enemies in the plasma and frag variety. Oh my goodness. The sheer amount of grenades that rained from the skies. The game just wasn't a challenge any more. I mean, we both had our share of deaths afterwards, but I found the need to not aim anymore. Easy stuff. Now this is where the variation on the suicidal rage tactic comes in.
I am sorry. I am so sorry for exposing you to my 5 minute paint job.

BONUS BONUS: Charge at the enemy in a suicidal rage. With grenades.
Yeah...this one has a slightly higher success rate than the normal varient. Slightly.

The last thing I want to talk about are the terminals. The terminals are little stations that you need to find and activate in order to watch some backstory that isn't necessary, like how your Captain Keyes is absorbed into the Flood (the zombies that go noms on humans and all other life in the universe) or why 343 Guilty Spark is cRrrRRrRaAaaAAAZy. It's a small touch that goes a long way and is much appreciated for the fans.

As I said in the first paragraph, chances are you've made up your mind on the Halo series or at least heard plenty of opinions on it, both good and bad. Since I don't want to just say those things again, I'll just leave this here:

May. 14th, 2012



Genre: Adventure (The 'old school' kind. Find object 'x' to rub on object 'y')
Platform: Mac, PC, Xbox 360, PS3, iOS
Braaaaaaaaaains: No....no...Mr Brains is not here.....

I love zombie games. Just love them. Who doesn't? It is a scientific fact that one cannot hate all zombie games, even if it is Plants vs Zombies. This particular zombie game shouldn't be an exception, because by all accounts it looks like Monkey Island (an old school type adventure game) combined with Left 4 Dead (a shooter with a distinct B-grade action movie feel about it) with a sprinkle of serious story thrown in for good measure. You have the walk around an environment looking for something to pick up while trying to figure out the correct sequence and timing to do things from Monkey Island and the ominous atmosphere of L4D. While some might say that an adventure game isn't exactly the best medium for an exciting action packed zombie game, but here's the thing; I can count the number of zombie encounters in this game on one hand. Much like the TV show, this focuses on the characters rather than standing atop a mountain of recently re-deceased corpses, scantily clad woman hanging around while you blast zombies with your mighty gun. More on what you actually do later. But first, the story.

This game is a prequel to the TV series, showing off various familiar characters such as Hershel Greene and Glenn but only as cameos. This story revolves around Lee - a recently escaped convict who is protecting a small girl called Clementine as they search for a place to stay. Now keep in mind, this is an episodic game, you get small arcs of the whole story presented in episodes much like a TV series, so this game is only around 2 hours long, maybe longer if you go back to do the one or two side quests and looking at all the branches of the story. The 'choose your own adventure' feel of the story is a great way for the episodes to gain some form of replay value, albiet very limited replay value as many of the choices are either just A or B. Of course you have some long term decisions to make such as who to support and who to oppose, but after Mass Effect 3's end goal decision I think I will wait until the final episode to say whether or not this is a good thing. At the moment, hopes are high though.

Graphics are in the cel-shaded variety and I have to say, after the first few minutes to get acclimatized to it, I quite liked the style. But only after I had gotten used to it. The very first minute I started a new game, I thought to myself "Wow. No wonder this game is so small, it looks like utter crap!" simply because I didn't realize that it was cel shaded. But it all gets better! There are no real stand out moments, although since a good portion of the game is at night, the cel shading isn't really that obvious then, but at least they had the common sense to have some day light sequences *cough*darkness 2*cough* So...yeah. Woo for that. Sound is quite similar to the TV series, raising tension when it is needed and having rather realistic zombie moaning is the icing on the cake. 

Grab this episode and get ready for the rest of the series.

Pictures to come later. I can actually take screenshots.

Apr. 28th, 2012



Genre: Side-scroller/shooter
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
The "What am I doing again?" Jokes: Equally as repetitive as this game

This one is for you MMO fanboys, because it is one grind-tastic game. You are going to do what for hours and hour on end? Please refer to the title to see what you will be doing. Which is fun and all, but only up to a point. Even when played in segments like I do with most shooters, there just isn't enough variety to make me feel like I need to keep playing.


As mentioned before, you just have to blast copious amounts of automatons through various levels of the apocalypse in order to....place more bullets within scores of metal men. You carry two weapons with you, one weaker primary weapon and a more powerful secondary weapon. Generally you won't have to use your secondary weapon, but when the shiny golems come marching your way in large amounts, you'll be happy you have it. I'll admit, shooting, blasting, burning, freezing or zapping a large group of enemies is satisfying to do, but it is like listening to a catchy pop song over and over again - good at first, then less and less exciting each consecutive time. Of course that might change with multiplayer, but hell, nobody I know wants to play this game, so back to boring single player town. I forgot to mention that the guns don't really have individual feels; in that the you don't really feel anything from the guns. I used a freeze ray for the majority of the game and I should have felt like a hillbilly version of Mr. Freeze, but instead I felt like I was just watching rather than playing as this abomination of imagination. Now I've covered the gun portion of run and gun, but unfortunately thats the strong of the two. The running aspect is, to say the least, rather poor. Running back and forth on the screen works fine, but you move much slower when backing up causing some inadvertent damage to yourself if you aren't used to the sudden change in speed which will happen quite a bit. That isn't the worst part though. You have the ability to double jump, but only if the will of the golden gods smile upon you. Otherwise you'll be hopping around hoping that that stupid chaingun on legs doesn't think of you as a significant threat. 



You can purchase new guns and outfits for various bonuses and most of the bonuses do actually impact gameplay in that you can kill more robots more quickly, there are some that are meant to be funny and not actually do anything. Let me ask you, do you find the bonus "+1 baby" funny? This item doesn't actually do anything other than place a baby on your back. Hi-larious. I find the psuedo George Washington wig funnier that that. Also the bonuses aren't half bad! You might have noticed that I mentioned that bonuses barely affect gameplay. What I mean by that is that normally when you can equip certain items that give certain bonuses, you can have a tanking character, a character who specializes in melee, a character who has long range weapons and a character who has short range weapons. Not in this game. Any and all characters will have the same speciality. Shooting things at generally the same range. Unless you are really dim and go for the shotgun. MISTAKE. You will be overwhelmed very quickly. (unless you have a friend who didn't make an non-sensical choice) Anyway, the point I am making is, irregardless of your load out, it's the same gameplay. A game that makes you choose your equipment should at least make distinctions between the stuff. Take a game like Army of Two. My brother and I played this game co-op and it does make a difference as to what guns you carry. I carried the shotgun and drew all the enemies in and my brother carried the heavy machine gun to flank and destroy them. It made a difference. That isn't the case here. I admit, there really isn't as much strategy involved in this game, but there was an opportunity for it to be there! That would be something to see and to play. 


LIES!

Graphics are okay, nothing too special either way (crap or good). I was quite happy that my computer didn't slow down when things got especially hectic, due to the sheer number of robots on the screen. Sound track is only noticeable when large waves of robots or bosses are incoming. Then you get to listen to the same heavy guitar riff once and then -bwoop- gone! No more music for you! But no biggie, you generally can't hear much over the sound of guns, chainsaws, rockets, lasers, cryo beams, grenades and various other weapons going off at the same time. 



Overall, this is a fun game, at least for the first few hours. However after that, this game just gets boring, repetitive and sort of bland. They made shooting hordes of pissed off robots boring! That could change with multiplayer, but I take the stance of 'never online, only LAN' because I've found that any games I get connected to here are with whiney 10 year olds who somehow got on to Steam without blowing themselves up or Hong Kong residents who seem to live on the servers and make me feel a bit incompetent. A comparison has been made to Metal Slug, which I guess is accurate, if Metal Slug was just a copy and pasted game with little challenge. 

Apr. 22nd, 2012


Oh hey, its another installment of: 

Yeah...it might be the same title, but that doesn't make it any less true. Oh and guess what! Same topic as last time too! Woo...repetition. I just acquired all these classic games from the 90s and 80s and have been just playing those. Its everything from one of my favorites: Liero, all the way way way down to Wacky Wheels. Anyway, you hear a lot about older gamers saying things like "Oh, gaming was so much better back in the days when things weren't explained and you needed to draw maps yourselves, and arm yourself with a stress ball so you wouldn't smash your computer in a rage.". Oh older gamers, why you so funny. These aren't good things. Games are meant to be fun. Being challenging is a bonus. But there is a point where games just stop being fun and start feeling like work. I get the whole, struggle at first, then end up as a total badass by the end, but some of these games just don't give you that opportunity. They kick you in the face and slowly work their way down. If thats your thing...more power to you! Not for me though. Where was I going with this...oh yeah I remember! I'm going to talk about my original topic! Why games are better now, by using examples that were critically acclaimed at the time, but now are total crap in a hat.

The first reason I've already covered, but I feel I should elaborate: games that are easier to grasp allow much easier immersion in the experience, which, in my opinion, is one of the most important things when playing a game. You want to feel like you are in the game, controlling the person and not, in the words of Yahtzee, "controlling a little man on the back on the character". This (Castle Wolfenstein):

IS NOT IMMERSIVE! Do you want to know what the point of this game is? So would I! Would you like to know how this game works and how you play it? So would I! The controls are never defined and the only options you get are "keyboard or joystick". "Huh, thought I, maybe I just used WASD or the arrow keys!" Noooooope. "Odd" thought I, "but lets just try every button and see what happens" As far as I can tell, you aim your gun with WASD and you move with...uh...I think 'U' moves you up to the right, and all the surrounding keys move you in bizarre directions that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. I got to the second room, where all the Nazis had guns and promptly gunned me down thanks to my lack of motor skills. This sort of thing is the exact opposite of what I want in a game. Now, I don't want a tutorial that holds my hand through everything, but at least prep me through the basics! One Liero game later, I was ready for more new old games. Well I had a similar experience with "Masters of Magic" which I'm still confused about. Click on new game...standard stuff...pick your character, but have no idea what any of those little icons mean...oh, so now I'm in a game world...so what do I do? Do I kill things? No? Well then what? That was my entire experience. Extended by around half an hour. No prompts, no definition of goals or controls, just "here you are, in this huge and expansive world! Do whatever, but we need you to do a task, but we won't tell you what it is! Bye now!" Imagine playing an Elder Scrolls game, but you have to memorize each quest because none will show up and the controls are randomized every 5 minutes. Now keep in mind, this is only applies to half of the 'older' games that I got, but I'm still glad it is a lesson that we have learned from.

Second reason why modern games are better: non-text boxed stories. This one ties into the immersion thing again because when using a medium like video games to tell a story often times, you will find that text boxes don't work so well. Of course, on occasion they do work (see Final Fantasy IV, V and VI, any of the Legend of Zelda games or any RPG from the 8-bit era) but when you have an action game where you are vastly outnumbered and you're going for a dramatic moment you do not raise tension by reading "Oh no. There is no way out!". You raise tension by having a guy scream "Oh no. There is no way out!". I understand that at the time voicing an entire game was too impractical, but guess what? Now that we can, game story telling has suddenly gotten so much better! Well, maybe half the time it's better. Well, maybe a few times. We are still trying to perfect voice acting, but lets look at two games that are very similar: Mass Effect 1 and KOTOR. In one of these games you have a main character who speaks and in the other, everyone but the main character talks. Now if you ask me which has the better story, my head would explode from indecision, but if you asked me which presented the story better I would answer Mass Effect very quickly. That being said, you still have voice acting, it is just less prominent. Same thing with Final Fantasy VI and Mass Effect. VI has the better story by leaps and bounds, but I found myself more attached to the characters in Mass Effect because everyone had a different voice. In my head, everyone sounds the same in a game like VI because its like reading a book where you aren't told how anyone sounds. The point is, voiced stories give character more depth which better helps the player be immersed in the story presented. 

Last reason games are better now is: graphics! Yeah, yeah I know I like to say that I don't care about graphics, but this is special. Lets take a look at a comparison of two games from, lets say...10 years apart. Give or take. Lets look at Skyrim on my mac vs Daggerfall (The second Elder Scrolls game).

Give you 10 seconds to figure out which is which. If you happened to say the first was Skyrim and the second was Daggerfall, you sir or madame, are an idiot. Other way around genius. Anyway, I've now played Elder Scrolls II, III, IV and V and the only one I could really sink my teeth into was V. Why? Because it was a world I could truly get lost in and believe that I was lost in it. Before,  in III and IV I just wandered around a swampy marshland and a forest respectively. Yeah sure there was occasional scenery changes, but just like sci-fi planets, it is utterly absurd to assume a kingdom is just a single environment copy-pasted over and over again. In addition, the mountains, forests and glaciers in Skyrim look almost realistic. The closer to reality (or a certain stylized aesthetic) a game reaches graphically, the easier a player can be immersed in it.

Okay, bored of this topic now. Massive hiatus expected between now and the next post. Why? It takes time to play these things. Even more when I play a bad game. Also I'm feeling lazy.    
  

Apr. 8th, 2012



Genre: RPG
Platforms: Mac, PC, Xbox (Original, not 360)
Well, ya whippersnapper, back in my day: This game still looked a bit like arse.

Yeah...I was originally going to do the Devil May Cry HD collection because I heard that the first and third DMC's were amazing classic games that were not to be missed. However, the lack of working Xbox controllers has put that particular plan on hold. So instead I grabbed Knights of the Old Republic, a game I first played way back when I was mini-me and see if this game still held up (in the spirit of my last post). I loaded this game up and my first thought was: "Oh goodness, I'm absolutely sure this game didn't look like this!" But I'm getting ahead of myself. What is this game actually about? How do you play?


Well, on the surface it is all played out like a real Star Wars fire-fight - laser whoosh by, swords and lightsabers swing about, but it is all turn based; you can pause and issue specific commands to your party members and queue up to 4 commands, each person takes a turn to attack, heal or use the force (for those of you who don't know what this is, just think of it as magic. Also educate yourselves. Go watch Star Wars Ep. 4-6)  for a variety of effects. The combat looks flashy and despite the turn based nature, can get quite fast paced with battle plans constantly changing to find a weakness in a particularly difficult bosses armor. However, I do have a few nitpicks with the combat: 1. Lightsabers cut through every and anything, but here they might as well be glowing baseball bats. But thats the inner fan in me. 2. There are very few reasons to NOT use the normal attack. The actual problem comes from issue number 3. The random rolls! Okay I should explain. Damage and effects from special attacks are all dictated in typical nerd styles - with a digital dice roll. Now I'm all for attacks being up to random chance, but I just like it when my attacks actually have some sort of consistency. One fight I have the luck of the golden gods, land every special attack and all my normal attacks are criticals and the enemies can't even touch me. Now, same enemies in the same place on the way back and suddenly I'm a leper who is being chased by the kraken, IRS, and Jason Voorhees while ANCE-esque anvils are falling from the sky. None of my attacks hit, special or otherwise. Grenades tossed by me do the minimum amount of damage to the enemy, but do the maximum amount and stun me. Now you would assume that these are extremes, but just in my experience I had 1 GG (golden gods) fight for every 10 bad luck fights and 1 bad luck fight for every 3 normal battles. I feel as if the actually the game feels it needs to make itself harder without changing enemy AI or how much attacks do. The attacks also need to be mentioned here. Now, in the descriptions of the attacks it tells you exactly what is going to happen. For instance, there is special melee attack called flurry where you attack an extra time in one round at the cost of reduced power and defense. The exact wording is: 
Choosing to use a Flurry allows the attacking character to make one additional melee attack during that round. The attacker suffers a -4 penalty to Defense while using a Flurry and for 3 seconds afterward. The attacker also suffers a -4 penalty to all attacks in the same round. Simple stuff. But, there are quite a few that baffled me as to their meaning. For instance : This power offers very good protection from direct Force Power attacks of Jedi opponents, possibly negating their effects. The attacking character makes an opposed roll using d20 + his level versus a DC of 15 + the defending character's level. If the attacker's result is greater, the attack succeeds. If the defender's total is greater, the attack has no effect. Force immunity lasts for 60 seconds.
I understood "lasts for 60 seconds."  Hell if I know what the rest means. I feel as if some extra explanation that caters to the non-D&D crowd would be nice. Although to be honest for most of these things I could understand the general idea of what they were meant to do, so assuming you know some basic vocab like...say...force lightning, you should be fine. 

The story here is, without a doubt, incredible. I would compare it to Mass Effect, which is apt because they do share many common traits, the main two being a galatic threat that ONLY YOU can stop with a ragtag bunch of talented individuals all of which you grow to love for their various quirks, the difference is that Mass Effect likes to focus more on the big picture while KOTOR prefers to focus on the having each character have an individual arc. That being said, Mass Effect is 60% big picture and 40% characters and KOTOR is 60% characters and 40% big picture, so you get a little bit more introspection into these characters. Just like Mass Effect though most character interaction is optional, although KOTOR does try and encourage you to talk to the various characters by saying something like "This character looks uneasy about something, perhaps you should talk them" and you don't have to listen, but you would be missing out on lots of content. Speaking of content, be prepared for at least 15-20 hours of entertainment, there are 7 worlds to explore with a few extra places that you will have to run around. The worlds all have lots of side quests to complete  in order to cement yourself as a light side kind of guy or as a fun loving asshole dark side type of person or just for the EXP if you really don't care. It is hard to ignore though as you are presented with a 'moral' choice every 5 minutes or so. The problem with these choices though are that you are only allowed to be an utter dick or a shining example of morality that would make Mother Teresa look like Judas. Or you can be boring and just not do anything. Those are the choices: good, bad or neutral. And if you play as good you will be broke most of the time because you have to hand out credits to everyone! The powers aren't as fun either on the light side. It makes me wonder exactly why anyone would play as the good character even as I play as one. Maybe I just don't want the most useful companions clicking their tongues at me as I strike down the orphan children. I don't know. Some middle ground would have been nice when asking for rewards. Light side characters will always decline rewards, while dark siders will get more treasure. I'm helping end a galatic war, why can't I ask for something extra for that reason, instead of "because I am a dick". 

Graphics are rather standard 2000-era, although something worth mentioning on the mac version are the various graphical glitches. You will often see random lines obscuring the screen which ruins the experience of trying to get immersed in the home world of the wookies or the evil lair. The worlds are nice and varied - you'll go from desert to jungle to the bottom of an ocean looking for the Macguffins to make the story progress, but I always felt like each world could be interchangeable to some extent. Most of the time I was either looking for things to loot or just corridors on the mini-map I haven't been down rather than looking at actual scenery. At times, when running down a path, I would look around just to see if there was anything of interest around, but for the most part I would be staring at the mini-map rather than the actual game itself.

This game is certainly old, but I haven't really played anything like in in recent memory. It takes my favorite aspect of Mass Effect - the story, and adds on a Dungeons and Dragons fighting system that I think doesn't make you feel as you should: a Jedi who does whatever you want, however you want.  The dialogue system could have used a bit of work but it still works - at least you know EXACTLY what you are going to say rather than have a vague idea of what your character has in mind. All that being said though, this game is on the "1001 Games You Must Play Before You Die" list for a very good reason (well the sequel...but they have essentially the same gameplay and whether you think the story is better....well I guess you'll have to play to find out). I highly recommend.

Mar. 30th, 2012


Yeah....I'm still replaying Mass Effect 3 (so much for the title). No new games worth mentioning for better or worse have come out and so while away from my Xbox I have been playing older games that were favorites from my past, or have come highly recommended over the years and I have just gotten around to finding them, and as I was playing them, I realized "Oh wow...this kinda sucks. Actually, this sucks quite a bit. What the hell was I thinking?! I've got Bastion on this thing! Going to go play that now for the 5th time!" Which game was I playing?  Well if you must know...it was one of the Tony Hawk games. I have all these fond-ish memories of spending dozens of hours on these games, trying desperately to actually figure out what was going on as well as trying to beat my brother in the multiplayer mode. The point is, it was fun back then. But then I put it on my laptop and then I realize something. This game plays like a rhino attempting to operate heavy machinery while drunk and high on cough syrup. It also looks a bit like ass too, but I don't really mind that so much, so long as the gameplay makes up for it. Goodness no. See above analogy about drunk rhino. So I got all ready to yell about how games, while much easier, are much better nowadays and are always getting better thanks to games receiving more attention (and as a result, more funding) allowing them to put more polish on their ideas, but then I remembered the good old days where games didn't have to prove that Call of Duty didn't do it first or make their games grittier than a grit sandwich eaten by Clint Eastwood. Games like Stubbs the Zombie, Worms and Psychonauts are all classic, bright colored oddities and best of all, they were a blast to play. Now, I only can talk about games from a certain period, simply because anything that was released in the era of 1995-2005 are what I consider to be older games because I am a 'young'un' who doesn't really know anything else. Sure I COULD try and say how Monkey Island was a pivotal moment in my childhood, but unfortunately I really don't give a crap about Monkey Island. Ohhh look at me, trying to piss off people who don't even read this! So edgy. I had a point somewhere...oh yeah, my point is, go play these games. They just don't make them like they used to. Or...not as often anyway. I mean, in todays market, a game about a summer camp for psychics just wouldn't sell today, unless it they made it family friendly, threw it together in 3 weeks and marketed it as another shovelware game on the Wii. They might be old, but that only means that they will definitely play on whatever you have. 

Here is a list of older (and once again, only 90s and 00's) games that I would highly recommend you play:
  • Command and Conquer Generals 
  • Knights of the Old Republic (Either the first or the second)
  • Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
  • Final Fantasy VI (Avoid VII like the plague!)
  • Sid Meyers Pirates!
  • Diablo II
  • American Mcgee's Alice
  • And the ones mentioned above. 

Mar. 23rd, 2012


Genre: RPG Shooter
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC and....PS3 *sigh*
Fanboy rage? Not here!

My feelings on the Mass Effect series are very well known by anyway who has ever, at any point, asked me about games in general. When Mass Effect was first released, I would have sold my soul to get my hands on it. Thankfully, it only cost me some M&Ms and a bit extra on retail to bribe my brother into getting it for me. When Mass Effect 2 was released, I basically would have kicked a toddler in the face if they got in the way of my game. So you can imagine my anticipation when getting this game. However, I'm going to try and restrain myself as much as possible because as my friend FJ (who you will hear more about in this review) points out, it isn't a good review unless I'm as objective as possible. So...without further ado, Mass Effect 3!



Oh. My. God. What a game. What a way to end the series. The story starts off strong with Earth being invaded (and subsequently occupied in the next half hour) by the universe destroying force known as the Reapers and does not slow down until very last second of the game. As usual, you (Commander Shepard, the one person in all of the military to have never put down any personal details) fly across the universe in your trusty ship, the Normandy SR2, to various alien worlds to complete missions for the higher purpose. In this game, the higher purpose is to gather every ship, soldier and weapon in order to take back Earth from the unstoppable force that is the Reapers (and save the rest of the universe, but mainly Earth, because they concentrate there...for some reason). While this is the big picture and would normally be enough for most games, it isn't enough for Mass Effect 3. No, every person you have ever encountered in the trilogy will have a story to tell here, whether it be large or small, and every one of those tales will have an end, for better or for worse. Most of the time for the worse, but it makes the world feel much larger than it really is, in that your decisions will have lasting effects on all these people, rather than people in the immediate vicinity. What is even more impressive, is Bioware has actually been able to factor in most of the decisions you have made throughout the entire series and have an actual effect on the end.(Even who you hooked up with affects the story). Aside from the major one at the end of Mass Effect 2. I have absolutely no idea how that affected the end. Apparently it did, but....I really don't know! I guess this means I have to play Mass Effect 3 again. Nice....

I mentioned the characters a few sentence back and I feel like they need some special mention, as does FJ. Now, back in Mass Effect 2, you had to make a few decisions that would affect the fate of your squad and a certain character who wasn't the best member for the job said "Oh hey, I can do that". Now against, what I am sure was, his better judgement, FJ chose to believe in this character. As a result, people died. Very awesome people. But the point I am trying to make here is not that FJ did wrong, but the writers at Bioware did right. These characters managed to attach themselves to my friend and make him truly believe in them. While this might be weird to talk about because it was in the previous game, it makes sense as there is only a single (noteworthy) addition to the cast and the game continues to make the characters grow and evolve. Aside from the new guy. This is a story and character driven game and it really shows. 

The combat in this game is still fairly fast paced and fun and is vastly improved from the last game thanks in part to several things. The first is the enemy AI has been modified to work off each other rather than just charge forward in, wave swave, in hopes that you and your squad will reach your kill limit and power down. Now, instead, they send waves of varied enemies with snipers hanging around elevated spots, assault troopers advancing forward to provide cover for the sword wielding commandos charging forward only to be outpaced by a giant robot that can shoot rockets. And those are just a few of the enemies you'll face in this game. Other noteworthy encounters include: using an orbital laser of sorts to take down a Reaper. By yourself. Facing the alien bug/robot hybrid things for the first time. 

The second thing that makes the combat better is that you can carry every weapon this time around! Huzzah! It never made sense to me that Commander Shepard - a galaxy renowned fighter, couldn't wield an assault rifle unless he/she specifically ensured that he/she never did anything other than shoot guns all day. Instead, each class has a weight capacity which affects power cooldown. Have too much weight? Your powers will come back to you as quickly as a names come back to a sufferer of Alzheimer. Only carry a pistol? Then you have earned the right to throw as much fire, ice, electricity or pure force at the enemy as you want. On the console version, you have 3 powers mapped out for quick use which I found was actually plenty considering I went a pure power class. I had a power for every situation mapped out, but I also had the option of pulling up the power wheel to deal out orders, allowing combat to be either a fast paced or strategic affair. 

Now I know I throw this term around quite a bit but, the universe of Mass Effect is simply gorgeous: each inhabited world has different architecture that ranges from the primal krogan world of Tuchanka to the war-torn sci-fi utopia of Thessia. The one thing they all have in common though is the sheer amount of bloom that will be blasted at your face if so much as a night light is turned on. Personally I don't mind, it helps give Mass Effect a distinctive art style, but it can be cumbersome in combat scenarios. That being said, this doesn't pop up that often and if it does it will often be your own fault. Looking straight into the sun isn't exactly genius material even in a video game. Soundtrack is cinematic and epic, blah blah blah, usual drivel about it being good.

Overall, this is an excellent game even when you don't consider it being a part of a trilogy and when you do it just makes it that much better. This is a game I cannot not recommend to anyone unless you hate games. If that is the case...get the hell off my blog. Unless you are reading this because you are my friend. Thanks for your pity. But to sum up, this is one of the greatest games I have ever played. It has excellent gameplay, likable characters and above all else, a truly epic story that you won't soon forget.

The Darkness II


Genre: 1st Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Snake? SNAAAAAAAAAAAAKESSSSS

This week, I decided to play The Darkness II because last week I said I missed action gaming. Well, I can safely say I want you back Skyrim. Don't get me wrong, this is still a decent game to play if you are a fan of shooters or the comics, but when you compare it to the games I've been playing recently, it is a rather mediocre experience. 

The Darkness is a first person shooter where you gun down waves of mobster, cultist and demon with various flavors of the standard pistol, SMG, shotgun and rifles. Nothing special there, but The Darkness's gimmick is that you have two snakes (called...the darkness) that appear only in the dark that you can use to grab, throw and eviscerate items or enemies. Now you might have noticed that they only appear in the dark (or just out of direct light sources), which adds an interesting gameplay element to a generic shooter as the darkness protects and heals you from damage while also serving as powerful melee tools, meaning you have to constantly be on the lookout for light sources or generators that power unbreakable lights. However, a point of annoyance comes from multiple light sources at the same time which can be blinding and disorienting effectively leading to death as the only thing on screen is lens flare and white. Nothing else. Fun times guys. Which is really bizarre because when you walk around the very brightly lit hub, you seem to be perfectly fine. At least try and be consistant when you put such an emphasis on an aspect. Anyway, the gameplay is still quite standard and will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played a modern FPS with the darkness only serving as upgraded melee or grabbing tools. 

Speaking of upgrades, the system implemented in this game is quite pointless aside from a few key upgrades that give you armor, special abilities or find the collectables for you. That being said, some of the upgrades do have a certain novelty to them, like for instance, the ability to rip a black hole out of a person where their heart used to be (nono guys, that isn't evidence of any psychological issues) and throw it at a group of enemies to see them being sucked up does make for a good laugh or two every now and then. But the majority were minor upgrades that didn't seem to impact gameplay or the effect they had on each of the encounters such as slightly faster reload speed or being able to throw your minion at people. Now, a few sentences ago, I mentioned collectables and todays giant pigeon collection is....ancient biblical artifacts! These are actually pretty fun to read about to learn the backstory on each and every one, read aloud by a crazy conspiracy theorist who specializes in the occult. 
Now imagine this, but all over the screen and people shooting you at the same time from a hithero unknown location

During the rather mundane storyline, you meet plenty of characters, but you will only really remember a few of the characters, namely the main character (Jackie), the main bad guy and the aforementioned crazy conspiracy theorist. Everyone else just seems to be the stereotypical Italian gangster with guys like "Vinnie" and "Chief" appearing to grunt around your headquarters. I'm not really sure what their purpose in the game is aside from just being there for the sake of being there. But, the most ridiculous thing is that the game wants you to care about these random grunts. There is a point in the game where you have to sacrifice grunt A or grunt B. I basically looked at the game, laughed at the pathetic attempt to make me care about these guys and clicked the button that was the closest to me, thereby earning Grunt A a swift bullet to the face. Did it affect the story in any way? Nope. Grunt B just said "Nooooooo....I hope you kill em all boss." Then I never heard from him again. The game developers do not present anymore 'moral dilemas' after that one. Good call guys! The actual story is very basic and straight forward. You contain the Darkness, an ancient evil and a cult wants it. Hijinks ensure with hi-larious results, including being trapped in an iron maiden and being sent to hell! Oh also something about the main character questioning reality and wondering if the main game is actually a delusion or not.
Such...interesting characters.


Speaking of the main character, effort has actually gone into making him the mobster with a soft side, which, they succeed in doing so through these cutscenes that play during loading screens, in which Jackie gives a monologue about his past. Most of these monologues revolve around how he misses his dead girlfriend or how he kills people for fun. You know, mobster stuff. But it does give an insight into what motivates Jackie throughout the story and does serve as a nice way to kill time in between missions.

You know how last week I said I don't like to mention graphics unless they are especially crappy or brilliant? Well this is a special exception because the Darkness uses a cel-shaded style type like in Borderlands, but here is the problem. You remember how you have to break or stay in the dark all the time? Well cel-shading does not seem to work so well in the dark, due to the, y'know, all the darkness making everything look the same. The only time you really get to admire this, are the scenes where you are in a mental hospital that may or may not be reality where it is BRIGHTLY LIT AND HAS MORE THAN ONE COLOR! Which actually turns out for the best as these levels are mainly just about walking around from one scripted encounter to the next, giving you time to look around at all the pwetty colors. 

The Darkness is an above average that is saved from the depths of mediocrity by an interesting gimmick that does add an extra layer of strategy (albiet a thin one) to gameplay.

If you liked these games, check out the Darkness II:
  • The Darkness 1
  • Bioshock

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning



Genre: RPG
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, PS3
The future is not set: There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.

Kingdoms...of Amalur...? What exactly are you reckoning? After 50 hours playing this game I can only tell you that there is very little reckoning going on in this game aside from the reckoning that comes with you stabbing various flavors of villain in the face with a variety of weaponry or blasting them with a plethora of spells. Oh I'm sure that somewhere down the line, you will in fact properly reckon something, but as of the time of writing, I've only really stabbed and lightning-ed things. While that might sound boring, I can easily say the only reason I stopped play sessions would be for the following reasons: food, school and sleep. Nothing else would stop me from playing this game.

The best way I could describe KoA is "Skyrim and Devil May Cry's love child". The game takes after it's mother (Skyrim) by having its fantastic RPG system of "do what ever you want, wherever, however you want" as well as having the triple class system of warrior, rogue and mage and being able to mix and match to your will. The fathers (DMC) genes are dominant in the combat and puzzle sections. You have quite a few weapons at your disposal (9 to be exact) and combat with them is fluid and, dare I say, quite badass. The puzzles are quite simple and straight forward, so in other words - easy to the point of non-existence.
But, I hear you say, surely there is more to this game than an RPG where you hit things with variations of things that hurt other things. Well I'm glad my reader has asked this question, and if you haven't...ask it now. Have you? Nice....I have the smallest percentage of influence on the internet. If you still haven't...well...shame on you. But getting back on point. Yes, there is more to do than hit things. Like, say for instance....getting rid of curses, making new equipment, finding lorestones (magic floating diaries that tell the tale of the land that they inhabit) to expand your knowledge of the world and...lock picking. There are others elements, but I really want to talk about the last two. First, lock picking - this is by far the weakest element of the entire game. Okay, typically in games, lock picking involves trying to find the correct angle at which to place your lock pick. You do this via the "hot-cold" system where you have more progress the closer you are. Now. KoA's system is the same BUT I want to demonstrate exactly how poor this was designed. Pick a number between 0 and 180 (symbolizing the 180 degrees you have to choose from in the lock picking mini game). Any number. If you chose any number between 70 and 180, you are successful! If not, no big deal, you lose one pick and open whatever it was you were trying to open. This is for all but the hardest locks. They break up the action and just are a frustrating waste of time. Secondly, we have the lorestones that tell you how things got to be how they are. Now, one would assume that you, a citizen of Amalur would know these things, but this is what differentiates KoA from other RPG games like Skyrim, but you'll have to bear with me in order for it to make sense. You are a blank slate who has plot convenient amnesia in a world where everyone has a specific fate which can be told by a fateweaver. You are the one exception after coming back from the dead - you have no fate at all, meaning that with a fate weaver, you can change your 'fate' or build for a price. Still fairly standard, but here is where the game diverts from Skyrim rapidly. It wants you to make mistakes and constantly switch your character, rather than know what you want to do right out of the gate, not knowing what the game world is like unless you have psychic powers. The psychic power requirement still applies here with some situations requiring a high amount shoved into stealth skills unless you have a desire to see gnomes kick your shins with the effect of an aircraft carrier slamming into cow, but the game choosing not to tell you beforehand. However, the point the game is trying to make is - perhaps rather than charging in, you should take a more subtle approach. The entire game is a learning experience that requires you to fine tune how you play your character throughout the entire thing. 

The technical aspects of the game are fairly standard fantasy. Bright colors, calm music as your roam the plains etc. Imagine World of Warcraft on steroids minus all the other people. I always hate talking about the sound and graphics, because short of a game being utterly putrid to look/listen at/to or it being so beautiful that it can be described as art, this category shouldn't matter if you want a game or not. A game is about the experience of playing a game and your interaction with the world that the game creates. Or just having a really good time. You want pretty environments? Go outside. Ugh. Right. Rant over. The environments are widely varied - they make Skyrim look like a one environment pony. That being said, each environment is small in comparison, which I find is a good thing because this is meant to be a fast paced game, moving from one conflict to the next (which in my opinion, is another good thing) and having to walk in a direction for 20 minutes to reach a new place would just break the flow of gameplay.

Moving on from that, the side quests are more or less the same few ones over and over again - go kill these guys, collect my crap or, my personal favorite, go to dungeon and kill bigger version of minion. The main quests and faction quests on the other hand, are varied, engaging and exciting. Each one feels just as important as the last and you feel the difference you make on the entire world as you complete them and change the fate of the guild/house as you complete each quest. Each has their own mini storyline that culminates in a epic boss fight or waves of minions that prove to still be a challenge even at high levels. Little side note: I'm pretty sure that while making this game, the dev team basically watched Terminator 2 and thought "hey, that one quote is pretty cool (see above for it), lets just center the entire game around fate. We have a plot hole? ....Fate is the solution."

Speaking of challenges - if you want the game to be hard, do not play as the mage. I did and not only do I have equal amounts of armor to warriors, do insane amounts of damage, teleportation powers and a wide range of spells, but I have what I like to call "the fuck you" button. When pressed, I usher in the apocalypse with flaming meteors falling to Earth decimating both minion and boss alike. I kid you not, everything dies when I use this spell and completely breaks the game. If they survive, don't worry! It costs very little mana and the cool down is pretty quick, so just use it again! There may be some balancing issues here.

At the end of the day though, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is like Skyrim with a lesser story and skill usage but much greater combat and class systems, so if you are a fan of any open world RPG or hack and slash games, you should definitely pick this one up. If I had to choose though, between Skyrim and KoA...I would probably say Skyrim right now, because I've just played this game for 50 hours! But if further pressed to say which was the better game, I would probably say this game because it made me realize how much I missed Devil May Cry and why I loved fast paced games in the first place.

If you liked the following games, get this game:
1. Skyrim
2. Devil May Cry
3. God of War
4. World of Warcraft