With the success of the animated TV show and a fallow up movie, Afro Samurai has taken the animated world by storm. With voice talents of Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Pearlman and Kelly Hu it’s no wonder why it has been called one of the best animated series along with getting its own game. So onto that, we have Afro Samurai the game where you get to take over the role of Afro on the quest for the Number 1 in the land. Afro is the Number 2 best fighter in the land and therefore is the only one allowed to battle the Number 1, but the catch is that anyone can battle the Number 2 to attempt to take his Number 2 status and the right to battle the Number 1. Now that we got that out of the way, here is the review for Afro Samurai.
The story goes, Afro witnessed his father (at that time the Number 1) get decapitated by the then Number 2 “Justice” who became the Number 1. Afro then grew up with vengeance as his prerogative and as the Number 2, seeks out to find “Justice” and avenge his father’s death all while becoming the Number 1. Your aided (use that term loosely) by Ninja Ninja who is a loudmouth, obnoxious, and cowardly person, that fallows Afro everywhere. Ninja Ninja is revealed to be imaginary and is Afro’s outlet from his emotions.
Afro becomes the Number 2 after killing the Sword Master, a friend of his father’s and the one who trained him. The Sword Master gives Afro 2 choice; forget avenging his father's death and live a normal life, or walk the path of the Number 2. Needless to say Afro cuts down Sword Master and becomes the Number 2.
Throughout the game it tells the story of the show and allows you to become the most sought after man, the Number 2. Take over the role of Afro in your war to find and destroy “Justice.” While it stays true to the show, it does vary itself away in differences that will be obvious to those who watch the show. Such as the school where Sword Master is, is attacked because Afro killed the local Daimyo and his armies converged on the school for revenge, while in the show it is for the Number 2 headband. These small differences among some others will cause some noticeable problems for avid show watchers.
The game itself has that hip-hop feel and style within it. The controls are very easy to learn and keep it simple so you have maximum killing ability. You have your short quick strikes and your heavy slashes that are slower, but cause larger damage. The game path is linear, which it should be considering you have one objective, to become the Number 2 and kill the Number 1.
The game allows you to do certain moves in certain areas, kind of like situational moves you could say. Such as wall runs and wall climbing which are used in a Ninja Gaiden kind of way, except sparingly. You can fight dozens and dozens of enemies at a single time which really shows Afro’s ability as well as vengeance against all who stand before him. The gameplay on its own is truly basic; fight these enemies, go this way, fight enemies, chase boss character, close or open this, and fight enemies and boss. It does suffer from that rudimentary set up, but the game makes up for it with the strong storyline and lots of blood and gore. You can deal with basic game controls if the game itself is made correctly and Afro Samurai does a decent job with the gameplay. It is in fact, a typical hack and slash, but it makes up for itself with lots of it and bosses that make you think and change strategy.
Your typical enemies are annoying, but with the mass amount of them it creates for a fun and destructive. Your enemies also respond smartly to your attacks with rolls, jumps and slides to avoid your blades. You can also block and mix combos for multi kills, it makes for a more strategic feel in some situations. The gameplay is decent, it offers plenty to kill and a good amount of boss fights and oh yeah, Samuel L. Jackson! As I said, it does suffer from typical setting and controls, but with the show and story being seen in such a high light it makes up for the simple gameplay. While it is fun, it becomes totally repetitive and offers very little unique to the gamer. With all that the gameplay is still enjoyable and if you’re a fan of the show then you’ll love this hack/slash happy title.
The graphics have to be looked at on a different scale due to the unique style it has. It has a cartoonish, but realistic feel to it. They used a cell shading system that works with the game and offers a mainstay to the animation it represents. It is given with that old school ancient hip-hop styling that is imaginary yet beautiful at the same time. The graphics offer a free flowing and retro feel to them, all while still staying in the new-gen stylings. The graphics keep the animation feel from the show and contribute to the games want to stay rooted next to the show. True, they are not the best around, but that isn’t what the game prides upon, it gives the graphics in the light of the story and the idea of the show and works beautifully.
You can’t hate on a game for staying true to the roots of its predecessor (example: Uwe Bol for straying away from the roots in game movies) because it stays true to not only the story, but the way it is portrayed. Alas, it does have a simple and somewhat weak graphic system in the end. It has very little to interact with, it is a-typical and is hurt by lack of unique structures as well. The graphics are in no way bad, not at all in fact, they are just basic and been done before. The game XIII set a high bar for cartoonish game graphics and that excelled and to the detriment of Afro Samurai.
The sound has hip-hop beats and old school Asian music sounds which make for a good sound flow with the game itself. The voice actors are cast straight out of the show so that it solid and in a definitely check for a positive for the game. The RZA of the Wu Tang Clan did the music for the show and helped contribute to the game as the music director which gives that awesome hip-hop/ninja vibe that the series has carried since day one.
The quality is strong and there and you got to thank RZA for keeping the music in line with the game. The music holds together the game in some senses when you look at it; it keeps it original, within the same story, and interesting. Without the sound the game would have some problems with keeping true to the show and keeping fans around to play the game.
Without the voice talents, music and original score, this game would be far less than standard. It relies heavily on its sound to keep the Afro feel within itself. When killing it makes it easier to do to hip-hop beats, kind of like Def Jam Icon except it doesn’t suck.
Ok, I can’t lie here, it has nearly no replay value. With no online and a storyline that has no outlets from the main quest, you have nothing much to look to here. I can usually find something in a game that makes it worthwhile to play it again, but here there is not much. Yeah, there are a few achievements you could go back and try to get, but why? Is it worth another 4 or 6 hours of your life for those 45 G-Achievements? Play Madden for 5 minutes and you’ll get 100 easy.
The game offers no replay value and is a straight through storyline from start to finish. It really hurts it bad in the end. If there was some kind of online or separate paths to take it would have made this a much more replayable game. Alas, it offers purely nothing in the form of replay and that will make it suffer, greatly.
Here’s where you might get a little confused at my rating, I gave it strong B’s throughout the review, but when it came down to the replay it got a D which is awful. In light of that, I have to say the game is in fact, good and fun and offers a lot in a game. It has a strong story, interesting gameplay, decent graphics and great sound, but in the end it has nothing and I mean that literally, to get you to play it again. When I beat it I shelved it. It keeps your interest until you beat it, then you don’t play it again simply cause it gives no reason to.
I have to say that it was a big disappoint to me, I love the show and love the characters and thought the game was done quite well, but it seems like they finished the main story and then that was that. You have no interest to even pick it up again when you could play Soul Caliber 4 or Dead or Alive 4. It becomes a fighting game with no multiplayer after you beat the main game and it really hurts it. Don’t get me wrong, the game is fun and has a deep story that spans the entire show as well as graphics and sound that stay true to its heritage. But, when it comes down to it, the game doesn’t hold true because it offers not a damn thing after the game is beaten the first time. It is unfortunate that such a good game from such a great show cuts itself short simply from lack of after play. The game is good until you beat it, then it becomes a game that sits on the shelf. The game is worth renting, but not buying and I don’t recommend buying it unless you are simply obsessed with the show.
A Secret History
Complete "THE DAIMYO'S STORY".
The Death of Innocence
Complete "SCHOOL INVASION".
The Price for Vengeance
Complete "SWORD MASTER'S STORY".
Complete "OKIKU'S STORY".
The Path to Godhood
Complete "THE LOWDOWN EAST PASS".
And so it begins
Complete "THE DOPPELGANGER".
The Past Laid to Rest
Complete "KUMA'S STORY".
All That Stood Are Gone
Complete "THE EMPTY SEVEN'S STORY".
Complete "JUSTICE'S STORY".
Complete the game on both difficulties.
Closer to God
Slice an enemy using a Vertical Attack with a bonus.
This Little Piggy
Slice off fingers and toes at the same time.
Give Me a Hand
Slice off an enemy's hand.
Two Birds One Sword
Slice 2 enemies at once.
Slice 3 enemies at once.
Four to the Floor
Slice 4 enemies at once.
The Child Without a Name
Collect 5 mementos in "THE DAIMYO'S STORY".
Collect 5 mementos in "SCHOOL INVASION".
The Demon of Vengeance
Collect 5 mementos in "OKIKU'S STORY".
The Number Two
Collect 5 mementos in "THE LOWDOWN EAST PASS".
The Death Bringer
Collect 5 mementos in "THE DOPPELGANGER".
Collect 5 mementos in "KUMA'S STORY".
The Samurai Ghost
Collect 5 mementos in "THE EMPTY SEVEN'S STORY".
The Number One
Unlock all skills.
Hundred Head Hunter
Slice off 100 heads with a bonus.
Head to Toe
Slice 50 enemies using a Vertical Attack with a bonus.
Oh, the horror genre. It works so hard and has produced so little for us in the recent years to consider great, yet Monolith and Warner Bros has produced a great addition to the saga of F.E.A.R. with F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin. With F.E.A.R. we were given a radical storyline that fallowed Alma and the Point Man who remained nameless. Through the game you learned things that twisted reality and changed everything. Both Fettel, who you were originally sent to take out, and your character the Point Man, are the children of Alma. Alma’s father then released her and forced the Point Man to fight against Alma’s ghost after forcing the reactor of Project Origin to go critical. Now that we are up to speed, I just want to say this is the best survival horror series out right now. Don’t believe me? Read this review of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin.
The story fallows new protagonist Michael Becket, a Delta force soldier who is sent to Genevieve Aristide’s penthouse to take her into protective custody roughly 30 minutes before the original F.E.A.R. had ended. While your team goes through Aristide’s residence you find it has been overrun with ATC (Armacham Technology Corporation) mercenaries headed by Colonial Vanek. When you find Aristide you switch into Alma’s reality and fallow her ghost back into the living room where you witness the huge blast from the Project Origin lab from the first F.E.A.R. which knocks Becket out on his ass.
That’s all I am going to give you to start, but the game has an amazing story that is deep and just as scary as the first one. The game just goes psychotic and real fast too. It keeps you heavy on your toes and sweaty on your trigger all while fighting the ATC as well as a very pissed off Alma. You may wonder why Becket? The reason is that he has extremely high mental abilities, ones that even rival Alma. She comes after Becket because she knows that he is the only one who can stop her.
The story, just like in F.E.A.R. is extraordinary. The depth and twists are among the best in today’s gaming and create an atmosphere that gives you doubt as well as creates fear. Project Origin takes it a step further and forces your confrontations to be more brutal especially when fighting Alma. All you can say is that they don’t call it F.E.A.R. because the story is weak.
Here is the peanut butter for the F.E.A.R. sandwich. The gameplay is not only better; it makes the game more intense. The added so much more to your character from what you had with the Point Man. As Becket you have several new things at your disposal from the original F.E.A.R. game. Some of your weapons have a secondary fire such as going from burst fire to automatic which can help conserve ammo, as well as being able to push over things such as tables and move couches for cover. The cover system is a fine addition to the F.E.A.R. universe and not only makes the game scarier, but makes the game more tactical as well.
Along with the ATC and the lovely Replica troops, you get to fight the psychopathic Alma in melee combat several times. The game forces you to conserve ammo from time to time. You can utilize your reflex time to take out many soldiers just like in F.E.A.R. and the different weapons you can utilize such as the wonderful combat shotgun and the SMG which is a simple and effective weapon.
The gameplay is like F.E.A.R. on speed with more to kill. The gameplay is honestly one of the most satisfying and best I have played in awhile. The gameplay without the story would still make this a decent game, which shows how solid it is. This game while linear, is really amazing and enjoyable and actually worth more than one playthrough. The game offers great firefights, hardcore hand to hand against Alma and some fun and cool weapons. Amazing gameplay here that’s worth every penny.
The game offers some beautiful and exotic graphics. The explosion is just extraordinary at the start of the game and Alma is one of the creepiest antagonists in games today. The graphics surpass good and make it all the way to great status due to the environment around the game and how it adds to the games terror factor. Just like in the first game, you will constantly feel a cold chill because of the lighting and usually a shit load of blood all over walls doesn’t ease your fear either. Project Origin simply put, terrifies you through graphics alone and when you add in everything else it just keeps you in shock and awe.
If gameplay is the peanut butter then the sound is the crust, just making it even better each time (If you don’t like the crust then go with some Lay’s). The sound is just one of the best around. From weapons to Alma to lights and elevator shafts this just does it all perfectly. The flickering of lights are wonderful and realistic along with Alma’s rage and anger personified in horrific melodies of a young woman scorn, just create a setting for thing to be totally maxed out and in a good way. The sound quality is nearly untouchable and creates an atmosphere that is just something straight out of a total nightmare. I mean in all technicalities it is a nightmare, Alma’s nightmare and it is made beautifully (in a moderate use of the word).
When firing and hitting objects they make noises that appreciate what it would possibly sound like in a real life firefight. To me this is a great addition in accordance with the games hard work on effects which encompass a heavy duty within Project Origin. I have to salute the sound work for simply filling in all the small cracks that are usually overlooked in most games. The small details can be what make a game go from good to great and truly Project Origin is walking that fine line.
The replay is actually not too bad. The online games feel reinvigorated compared to other FPS other than Halo 3 which of course is still played religiously. Project Origin added to its buyability (that’s my word) by making the online something that while is online, still has that haunting and creeping factor built into it. The storyline, as I said before is good and I actually went through it about 3 total times and found plot points I missed along the way, but that’s me.
While Project Origin has been getting ragged for being linear which honestly it is, but you have to make best with what you have and in my opinion, it did that. The story is interesting and scary and the multi is worth at minimum a look see. You might find yourself logging on and playing Project Origin on multi once in awhile and it keeps true to it with the achievement list as well. Alas, this game is not about the multi, but about the single campaign and thus the game does have a weakness in the online department. Competing against GOW2 and Halo 3 nowadays is rough and made no easier each day. It can seem now that companies add online simply because it is a norm and that is unfortunate.
The game is worthwhile and delivers. For a horror games fan this is a must own as it is one of the best of the genre in the last few years. The game offers a story filled with haunting moments and other times when pure terror takes over. Trust me, the first time Alma jumps your ass you will not only be caught off guard, but you might crap yourself. The story and updated gameplay are the real reason why you bought this game and there is nothing that proves that any different. Project Origin is built around the terror factor as I said before and damn does it use it like a midget to a stepping stool. The crazy fights, the insane encounters with supernatural shit and the aggravating replica soldiers all make for a bad stay anywhere you go.
The sounds are haunting; the graphics are violent and angry all while keeping you in the dark literally. It is graphically strong minus a few dings here and there such as light fixtures and the game is just overall really well done in my book. It is weak in the online department, but this game is not being bought by you to play it online. It is a game that you want to play and freak out to as well as be amazed. The game is worth a rental and if you’re a horror genre fan this is a must buy no doubt. I enjoyed it and it is, along side Dead Space one of the best horror games in the last few years.
Headshot 10 enemies with the Sniper Rifle.
Kiss the Cook
Roast 10 enemies with the Napalm Cannon.
Kill 10 enemies with Melee
Pin 10 enemies to the wall with the Hammerhead.
Slice up 10 enemies with the Laser.
Kill 4 enemies with one Grenade.
Kill 4 enemies with one Slow-mo use.
Use 50 pieces of interactable cover.
Kill 10 enemies using combat opportunities.
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Sanctuary
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Awakening
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Discovery
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Withdrawal
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Replica
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Ruin
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Top
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Elementary
Complete: Nurse's Office
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Nurse's Office
Complete: Snake Fist
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Snake Fist
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Keegan
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Epicenter
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Approach
Complete Mission on any difficulty: Climax
Complete all Missions on the hardest difficulty.
All Juiced Up
Collect all Reflex Injectors in the game.
Collect 25% of the journal intelligence found throughout the game.
Collect 75% of the journal intelligence found throughout the game.
Collect 50% of the journal intelligence found throughout the game.
Collect 100% of the journal intelligence found throughout the game.
Promoted to rank: Private
Officer and Gentleman
Promoted to rank: Second Lieutenant
Four Star General
Promoted to rank: Four Star General
Five Star General
All multiplayer achievements unlocked.
Get 20 kills during a ranked match.
Be the highest scoring player for 3 consecutive ranked matches in any game mode.
Kill the same player 5 times during any ranked match.
Set the C4 charge 3 times in a ranked FailSafe match.
Disarm a C4 charge 3 times in a ranked FailSafe match.
The Mad Capper
Capture a PHLAG 10 times during a ranked match.
In a ranked Blitz match that your team wins, be the only player on your team to capture a PHLAG.
Gotta Cap 'Em All
Capture a control point 10 times during a ranked Control match.
Defend a control point 10 times during a ranked Control match.
Survive an entire ranked deathmatch match.
Kill 3 players while blinded from a shock grenade during any ranked match.
Time well spent
Play 8 hours worth of ranked multiplayer.
Kill yourself 5 times.
I'll Take Those Odds
Have more kills than deaths at the end of any ranked match.
Destroy 100 combat ops while piloting a Powered Armor unit during ranked play.
Destroy 2 enemy Powered Armor units in the same ranked round with a carried weapon.
There’s a lot of talk about how the PS3 lacks JRPG’s, granted this is somewhat true. But there is still the adage of quality over quantity and when you look at it this way it’s pretty true. To help prove this is the under appreciated critical darling known as Valkyria Chronicles. I’m going to admit that when I first saw this game in some brief gameplay trailer from about two E3’s ago I wasn’t interested. This pretty much led me to write it off as something that I would never play. Next thing I know it comes out and sets the Internet ablaze with how good it is. Taking this into account I go to buy the game and the next thing I know I’m in love.
Valkyria Chronicles is set in a fictional recreation of Europe circa 1935. You’re introduced to Welkin “Welks/Welkie” Gunther the son of a war hero and Alicia Melchiott an aspiring baker. Their hometown is about to be over run by the East European Imperial Alliance (yes they’re pretty much like Nazi’s) and instead of doing nothing about it they decide to take up arms and fight. After losing their hometown to “Gerry” they enlist in Galia’s militia. Along for the ride is Gunther’s little sister Isara who later on finds a rather useful niche. They become a part or Galia’s Squad 7 and run into a rogue’s gallery of cool characters…and a pig…with…wings. Seeing everybody eventually bond into something that is akin to a family is actually quite moving. In the beginning you might find a particular character irritating because of her somewhat racist views, but she actually does grow on you and at the same time she grows as a person. There’s so much more that can be spoiled or referred to, but half of the fun comes from watching the story unfold. Rating: 9.5
At its core Valkyria Chronicles is a strategy RPG, but its battle system blends real time with turn-based elements. You can move and shoot in real time. On top of this you can also aim in real time. This means that headshots are doable and actually preferred. Headshots are critical shots and take off a lot of damage (naturally), but this comes at the cost of accuracy. If you’re able to get close enough a burst of five shots to the head will put pretty much anything down. Apart from this Valkyria Chronicles uses a turn-based system, which are known as phases. During each phase there are a set amount of moves that you can make, which are known as command points. During each turn you can either use all of them or save a couple, which will carry over for your next phase. This is actually simple, but the gameplay mechanics that you use are actually quite deep. The first thing that you have to take into affect is positioning.
You’re able to take cover by either crouching behind sandbags, trenches or hiding in grass. When you take cover obviously you’re hidden, but this comes with the benefit that the enemy can’t employ headshots (works both ways) and are harder to kill. With the cover like sandbags you have to realize that they can be destroyed. The best for these are grenades and mortar fire. So if you use a grenade to take out some enemies or to expose an enemy you destroy the sandbag. When that happens you wind up losing possible cover for when you make your advance. Eventually you start using your tank as movable cover, but it’s good to use both depending on the situation.
Later in the game when the enemy starts employing snipers you can’t truly rely on sandbags. This is when you start to employ buildings and walls as cover (or hope that your character will dodge the shot). You can’t mount up on it a la Gears of War, but you can stand behind it. But this is when positioning becomes really important. If you leave your character in a vulnerable position you leave them open to attack. If they get attacked from behind they take double the damage. But if you leave them facing forward, or in a position where they have a good chance of seeing the enemy advance on them then they will attack the enemy as they’re trying to advance. This is something that you will rely heavily on actually because you can thin the enemy ranks without wasting a turn. This is also hilarious too, at least for me. There’s just something comical about seeing the enemy running through gunfire trying to get to his objective. You can almost see the determination on his face as he says to himself, “I can make it!” Next thing you know he gets cut down because of your fortress like defenses.
While on the topic of units and advancing let me talk about the units that you have at your disposal. You have access to engineers, shocktroops, scouts, lancers and snipers. Each has their own advantage and disadvantage and one actually gains some serious firepower once you level it up enough. For starters engineers are able to replenish ammo for other units, repair vehicles (important) and disarm landmines (really important). That last one might not seem important, but landmines are a nuisance. When moving around you are able to disarm them, but when you actually want to make an important strike on the enemy, and the land is littered with landmines it would be in your best interest to cleanse the field. Engineers are not defenseless, but they’re the least combat effective. They pack the standard rifle the scout uses, but they don’t have that much health, but their range of movement is second only to the scout. Pretty much they’re best used as a last resort after somebody else has knocked down a good amount of health off the target.
Shocktroops are for attacking fast and heavy. They’re able to soak up a lot of damage and dish a lot of it out as well. Their weapon of choice is a heavy machinegun that can cut anything human down. Their only drawback is they lack range, both weapon and movement wise. Once you level them up to elite level they gain access to flamethrowers, which are good for attacking people behind cover. Lancers are your anti-armor units. They’re slow moving, but are wrapped in armor that can soak up some hits. The armor they wear is much better at dealing with explosives than actual bullets for some odd reason. Their bazookas can take out both personnel and armor, but the unit in general is better suited for tanks. As a lancer you have to search for a tanks vulnerable spot, which is on the back of the tank or use numerous turns shooting the body. The only problem with the weak spot is that behind the tank you usually have people manning machine guns, but the rare occasion when they actually expose themselves you’ll trip over yourself to hit it.
Scouts are pretty versatile and at least for me seem to be the most used units. I normally do my best to keep two to three on hand per squad with a couple of shocktroops and an engineer for the tanks. Scouts have the farthest range so they’re essentially your eyes and ears when it comes to finding out what you have to deal with. They’re pretty accurate with their rifle shots and once you level them up to elite level they gain access to grenade launchers. This is when they start becoming your bread and butter unit. Every unit can carry a couple of grenades but their range is pretty limited. With this nice grenade launcher the range is greatly expanded and becomes the BFG of the battlefield. This allows for one hit kills, knocking enemies out of cover so they become vulnerable and makes the scout a lynchpin for your tactics.
Snipers are quite good at turning a battle. They have the farthest weapons range, but their mobility is pretty limited. The best thing to do is to put them at a high position and use them to take out anything stupid enough to not be in cover. The only thing that I don’t like about them is that them along with lancers don’t counterattack.
After a couple of missions you get access to a tank and then after a bunch more you get another. The first tank called the Edelweiss is the more important one. If that gets blown to bits the mission is over so make sure you nuke whatever Lancers you see, destroy anti-tank weapons and just make sure that nobody can hit that weak spot (yes for massive damage). The tank should be used sparingly because it eats up two command points. Once you start getting good at farming these points and realize that “I must destroy that tank before it shoots me one more time” you’ll use it more than once (sometimes four times) during one phase.
The management of health and ammo is pretty interesting. You can use the same unit more than once, but every time you use it its range of mobility becomes limited. This won’t fully replenish until you start another phase. After each phase you have a portion of your health replenished if you take damage. On top of this your ammo is replenished by one point. Your basic unit can shoot up to three times from their standard gun, they each carry one grenade, and that gets replenished after every phase. If you’re not that patient then you have to move an engineer to them to replenish the ammo stock. The tank operates differently because engineers can only replenish its health unless it’s in a base or something. It has unlimited shells, but it’s other weapons like the mortar can only be used once per phase. I’m not too sure about its machine gun because I barely use it.
After all this writing I haven’t told you what you’re supposed to be doing with these implements of destruction. For the most part your main objective is to take over your enemy’s base (all your base are belong to us). There is a main base for you to take over and a secondary base. It’s just good to take over both because it cuts off the enemy’s access to reinforcements by taking over the secondary base. The main base can still call for these, but it’s best not to let it get out of hand. Also after capturing the secondary base it makes for a good rallying point. A good trick to use is to have your less mobile units in close proximity to your base.
After you capture the enemy’s secondary base you can have you enemies retreat to your base and then call them as reinforcements at you newly acquired secondary base. It allows them to traverse the battlefield without eating numerous command points, plus they come back fully healed. There are also more diverse missions like destroy this tank the size of the White House or rescue this princess from an armored car. A lot of these missions take a while, but depending on how good your strategy is it won’t take as long. Take that princess mission for example. The first time I did it it took forever and I failed. I got caught up in some sort of bottleneck towards the end of the level and just couldn’t close the deal before he escaped (in my defense I was really close to winning). The second time I did it, I grouped all of my shocktroops in one area and forced him into them. After that I used about three of them to shoot his equipment to pieces and it was all done in about two phases (if even that, don’t remember how short it was). After a mission you’re ranked in how many phases it takes (after 20 it’s a mission fail). And depending on how high your rank is you get a bonus added to your experience.
A lot of this may sound complicated but it’s really not. After about a couple of missions and learning from your mistakes it becomes second nature. Oh yeah about death. If one of your units falls in combat you have to get to it within about three turns (or phases) or before the enemy gets to them. Once you get them a medic evacuates them from the field. In the next phase you can call for them again. I do believe that if a character that isn’t a leader character and they get caught be the enemy you lose them. I’m not too sure because I’m pretty careful and haven’t really lost anybody yet. Once you get a grasp of the basics you start pairing up your characters together because depending on whom they’re next to they will actually attack an enemy with them. There’s also stat boosting and damaging characteristics inherent in your characters called potentials. These can be activated based on anything from environment to what people are around them. It’s quite interesting to say the least.
You’re also awarded money to be spent on upgrading weapons and armor. Also later on you get medals for certain things and when you get these medals you can get new more powerful weapons. You also get new weapons after a mission. Finding out what weapons are best and to whom to give them to is nice especially when you find out how effective the new weapon is.
Valkyria Chronicles is a game that can soak up a good amount of time without you even knowing it. Granted this is for a niche audience so I can’t just recommend it to everybody, but if you’re an RPG fanatic like me and want the best in your collection then run out and buy Valkyria Chronicles, you won’t regret it. Rating: 10
Valkyria Chronicles has a rather distinct look to it. It looks like a watercolor illustrated manga. Its character design is actually pretty good. Both Welkin and Alicia look like gentle people that wouldn’t dream of going to war, but they get thrown into it. Their cohorts are battle hardened, but they have a softer side to them, which is actually shown nicely in the character designs. The gun and tank design looks post world war one, but pre world war two at the same time. The tanks minus the Edelweiss aren’t as sophisticated as a Tiger tank. When you shoot a gun the sound effects are written out as its happening and give the game personality. There are also animated cutscenes, which are actually quite beautiful. Battlefields tend to take place on plains and cities and they do look serene only to have what might as well be dubbed "WW1.5" waging in them. This isn’t really shown because they only show the wars you’re fighting in. You wish for something grander in scope, but that’s what the cutscenes are for. The color palette is quite subdued if you compare it to something like Tales of Vesperia for example, but it does have a beauty all on its own. Rating: 9.8
Sound is great. The voice-overs are excellently done with each character being portrayed the way they should. No character is annoying (thank god), characters such as Isara (Laura Bailey) sound as sweet as they look, though there is a tint of Henrietta from Gunslinger Girl. Dave Wittenberg (Kakashi from Naruto) does a wonderful job of portraying Welkin as a leader with a heart. Colleen O’Shaughnessey (Yoshi from Digimon Data Squad) is great in her performance as Alicia conveying her innocence, sweetness and determination. The score provided by Hitoshi Sakimoto is both sweeping and majestic. The battle music makes you want to storm Omaha beach with M1 Garand in hand, but it’s also quite soothing. Throughout the game during the cutscenes it will crescendo along with emotions. There is one key point in the game where I just almost cried. Just the music and the weight of what happened made me want to shed a tear. Rating: 10
Isn’t necessarily the strong point of certain RPG’s, but with the way the leveling system is you have to play it a lot to max out your characters. You have story missions, which can’t be played again, but you have access to skirmish missions, which you can play an infinite amount of times for you to level up. On top of these there are other story missions for you to buy. You don’t level up just one person, but the whole class. This is actually pretty smart so if you lose a high rated character you’re not screwed. It also takes away the notion of favoritism and allows you to be attached to the characters. I’m pretty sure that when I’m finally done with the game I’ll start over…hopefully there’s some kind of new game plus option. I read that there’s some kind of DLC, but I think it’s just different missions. I read that there’s rumored to be some that allows you to play as the enemy, but I’m leaving it as rumor. Rating: 9.0
I was once skeptical, but I was quickly won over. With its captivating characters, engaging plot and addicting battle system I do not regret plunking my hard earned money down on Valkyria Chronicles. Granted this game came out late last year, but a good RPG is a good game forever. So run over to your local game store and buy a copy of Valkyria Chronicles now. If you don’t get it your inner gamer will hate you for it. Rating: 9.8
The first one was good, the second was better, the third was terrible and there never should have been a fourth. Yes, you heard me right...there never should have been a Street Fighter 4.
I'm looking at scores for this game on other review sites and can't believe how much kool-aid they must have been drinking to give this game a 9; nevermind a 9 point anything. I simply don't care how many unlockables there are or how cool one of the mundane soundtracks is. The core of the game is highly flawed.
Let's begin the bashing shall we? One of the new features of SF:4 is supposedly the 3D backgrounds you fight in. To its credit, they do appear to have more depth to them giving you a bit of that 3D feel. What hasn't changed in the backgrounds, despite the work that must have gone towards creating such lavish 3D effects, is the people in them. It seems they were simply plucked out of Street Fighter II, given some new clothes, brought their friends and plugged right in. It never ceases to amaze me how two steroid induced monsters (we'll get into that later) fight in broad daylight, all the while a girl is jumping rope and never turns around to see what the chaos is all about. That is, until the fight is over and there is a victor. Couldn't they have come up with something more creative than anime rejects as background people fodder?
There must have been something entirely wrong with the way the Street Fighter characters looked proportional in previous games. You know, Ken and Ryu's physique looked mostly normal. Along with Guile, Bison, hell...even green-freak Blanka. They all must have followed in the footsteps of Barry Bonds or Sylvester Stallone to the nth power. Every single character has a ridiculous muscle bound look to them. Each one of them including, the once attractive Chun-Li, now looks like they're stuck in Incredible Hulk mode, minus the green - except for Blanka, poor guy.
The overgrowth of muscles must have had an effect on how limber the characters are. Let me focus on Chun-Li for a second. Chun-Li was one of my favorite people to play with in the earlier versions of Street Figther, especially SF:2. She was able to jump off walls, tip toe on your head, and do her spinning star kick damned near from one end of the screen to the next. Yes, she was an agile little minx. With her new found bulkiness she's seemed to have lost a good portion of that ability. Her spinning star kick lasts perhaps ten to fifteen feet before she's out of breath and once again upright.
What has changed for the better is the balance of damage done while fighting. Remember Sagat's good ‘ol "Tiger!" uppercut which would take damn-near a quarter of your energy when you happened to catch one of them in the jaw? Not anymore! Even in Zangief style: pick you up, slap you on your head, spin around thirty times and eventually use the top of your head like a jackhammer - the damage taken off is comparable to that of a heavy punch/kick. Hey, they got something right in this version!
Let's move on to the AI now. I played this on medium and I had to double check the difficulty to make sure it wasn't on super, uber, ultra easy. The volume of beatings I dished out was insane. I'm not an expert Street Fighter player...any longer, but it felt like I was playing in training mode and occasionally I would be attacked for good measure. Here is a prime example of how silly it was at one point. Picture it...a wonderful 3D background with anime rejects and two steroid junkie fighters getting ready to tear each other's head and limbs off. I'm Blanka and you can put whoever you choose to as my opponent. A jump, a kick, a throw. A few punches, a couple of special attacks and then I try something.
"I wonder how Blanka's electricity will work in SF:4?"
My curiosity didn't last long. I button mashed my punch buttons until I had no feeling left in my finger tips. As the blood stopped flowing, I kept my eye on the screen to see if my efforts would be worthwhile. Sure enough they were. My opponent did all of two things.
1) Walk up to me and pause for a second, almost like he realized it was a BAD idea to walk in to someone who has electricity surging out of their body...and then walk in to me.
2) To jump off the wall...hold your breath....yes, on top of me, electrocuting himself.
This went on and on and on. If I had one of those old Max controllers from the original NES days, I could have beaten this with no hands.
At least until I reached Seth. The round began and I was amazed at the speed he could get that first hit off. Back and forth we went, chopping down each other's energy bars. He'd win one round and I'd win one. You could almost taste the tension in the air on the final round. The round begins and in what seemed like mere seconds....it was over. He beat me like a red headed step child - which is truly fine with me. I'd rather have an opponent that is more competitive and makes me earn my wins than a drone I can simply practice my moves on.
A few more things that I found highly, highly annoying. Before and after each fight your character will say something. His or her mouth will be moving and words will be coming out. Only one minor problem: the mouth movement doesn't remotely match what is being said. It reminded me of the days of Voltron, Thundercats and especially Robotech. I'm sure the anime fan boys were in seventh heaven. Anyone else like me who prefers to have mouths match - even somewhat - with what they're saying, will be disappointed.
As if that wasn't bad enough you have text boxes appear at the end of a fight with a saying by the character. All I can say is....ESL. English was NOT the primary language of whoever wrote these sayings. While I was playing with my brother last night, one of the boxes appeared and had the word subjugate in it. Now I know I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but subjugate? I had to go and Google the definition to see what on Earth they were talking about.
There aren't enough unlockables, online play or anything for that matter to get me to say that Street Fighter 4 is anything anyone with prior Street Fighter experience will enjoy. Awful looking characters, annoying soundtracks, poorly done language translation and crappy AI. But hey, things could be worse! You could be playing 50 Cent's latest pile of garbage!
EA is back to suck on the shriveled, dry and dusty Lord of The Rings teat and they’re dragging Pandemics name through the mud to do so. This current attempt to get some money out of this haggard cash cow is Lord Of The Rings: Conquest.
Story: LOTR: Conquest is pretty much a cliff notes version of the acclaimed Peter Jackson movies; in fact it’s so short that it might actually make Randall Graves from Clerks 2 happy. This is because it totally avoids the possible sexual tension between Sam and Frodo and it also nixes that epic walking that he liked to complain about. Pretty much before and after every stage you get a narration by Hugo Weaving (whom is probably happily running to the bank to cash the check EA gave him) and with these you are given scenes from the movies. Pretty much if you’ve never seen a Lord Of The Rings movie you are going to be completely lost and not know the meaning behind any of the battles that you are fighting in. After you deal with that Conquest takes you to an alternate universe of sorts and depicts what it would be like of if the bad guys got hold of the ring. Outside of Hugo Weaving there are no other voice actors from the actual movies. Everyone else is voiced by people from anime’s and other games. I have nothing against the likes of Yuri Lowenthal, Crispin Freeman, Kirk Thornton, Paul Mercier and Kim Mai Guest, but it’s really just not the same. Rating: 4.0
EA has managed to keep the quality control with their LOTR games to a good standard, but Conquest is such a misstep. It can’t even create a better or more cinematic experience than the two movie tie in games that came out last generation. Conquest for the most part revolves around capturing command points on the map. These allow you to respawn at certain points in the map when you die, these also allow you to switch your class during combat. You have four different options and they are Scout, Archer, Mage and Warrior. Pretty much you’ll spend most of you time either in Mage or Warrior, but this also depends on what the situation calls for. What sets each class apart is that the classes have certain special abilities. Take for example the Archer has special arrows like poison, fire or the ability to shoot more than one. The Scout can turn invisible and has a sneaking attack, Mages can heal and cast magic and the Warriors are just good for close in encounters.
After you complete certain objectives you get to play as the heroes from the movies. These pretty much just behave liked supped up versions of the preset classes. And if you die as one there’s no going back to one until the game lets you. Also there are certain times when Conquest will allow you to actually mount and Ent (or play as an Ent) and let you lay waste to the battlefield as one.
This would be nice if it wasn’t for the fact that the battle system you use to kill Orcs and Urak-Hai is clunky. You have a light, medium and heavy attack button and to access combos you have to use these. The animations are stiff and you can’t even interrupt a move to block or dodge. Once you’re in a combo you pretty much have to commit to it and it’s really just irritating. If you do decide to dodge it comes out slow and might just put you into the blade of your enemy. Sometimes the battles get chaotic and you want to block to…I don’t know, keep yourself alive, but it never comes up. After about two stages I completely gave up on the idea of blocking and dodging and just opted to button mash and go Conan on everything. Also before I forget to mention this, but if you do start blocking the enemy will just use their defense breaker on you and knock you on your ass. After that they will hit you until you either get back up or die.
While on the topics of death, it will come cheaply and often. There was one…actually a couple of instances where my character fell off a ledge while running and/or attacking. I also kept getting knocked down by enemies that did nothing but block as you try to attack them. After they knocked me down they just proceeded to wail on me (probably wanted me to squeal like a pig). There’s also the nuisance of cave trolls, which love to throw warriors off the level (happened about six times in three minutes once). Also there are the bosses which eat up a lot of damage (why is Wormtongue kicking my ass!), and depending on which stage you’re in, you might wind up falling off the level while fighting someone (sometimes while in mid-swing). Also there was one time when a sky dragon picked me up on my last life and killed me. It felt really random and just made me turn the game off.
I know you can’t just simply keep rehashing the same game formula, but if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it. An updated hi-def version of LOTR: The Two Towers and Return of the King from the previous generation would’ve been far more fun than this. Rating: 5.0 Graphics:
Lord Of The Rings: Conquest is not going to raise the bar for graphics. It most likely won’t even allow you to give it a second glance. All it really does is run smoothly while a whole bunch of boring looking creatures run amok onscreen. The character models for your generic looking soldiers aren’t too bad, with the most detail going to your hero characters and the villains hero characters (most notably the Balrog and Sauron). The random enemies just look like undetailed brown blobs. Pretty much the presentation makes you wish that more time was spent with this. Pandemic is a pretty good studio and EA has a load of cash, which I guess was sunk into new IP’s (and Hugo Weaving’s paycheck) and this project was left to be funded by money they found in the couch cushions. Rating: 6.0
The only thing that saves this game is Howard Shore’s LOTR score. Shore’s opening score is still capable of sending a chill up a person’s spine and is still epic and iconic. The same can’t be said for everything else. I already made mention of the voice casting; battles still sound pretty lively, but there’s nothing that hooks you. You’ll hear people scream in battle, but nothing really sounds as dynamic as something like Heavenly Sword for example. Rating: 6.0 Replay:
The campaign is the same atrocious scenario after the next and the online is pretty much the same thing minus bots. For anybody that’s up for it you have Conquest, which places four flags on the map and each team's point value increases as they gain flags. The other modes are Team Deathmatch and Capture The One Ring (Capture the Flag). Given the fact that it’s based on the campaign engine you’re still stuck with the same slow battle system. Rating: 5.0
What I should just dub Lord Of The Rings: Bore/Snore Fest is something that could’ve been fun, but wasn’t. The battles do a good job of conveying the epic scope of the battles, but ultimately it’s just not fun. The combat is mechanical and isn’t as fun as the games that came out for the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. Hell, if you have the money to blow just buy those. I bet if you chucked this game into Mt. Doom Gollum would not jump in after it. Rating: 5.5
In the day and age of the gridiron that we know as football there has been one game that has dominated the gaming community in the terms of sports and that is the Madden series brought by EA Sports. Well, a few years back they started doing a game called NFL Head Coach which got some good looks, but ultimately was seen as Madden without the football. With interest in the NFL at an all time high, the interest in NFL Head Coach has grown a little. Can EA deliver yet another sports game to continue its seemingly unstoppable monopoly of the sports world? Or will this be something that falls into oblivion as a waste of time and money? Let’s see…
You are the head coach of an NFL franchise [you can be a real head coach or create your own] and you job is to take the franchise to the top of the peak. While taking over the duties of coaching in the games and calling the plays, you must also sign free agents, scout prospects, teach your players the playbook, create new plays, and complete certain goals that your fans, GM, media, players and staff all want you to do. The story is surprising good and has a large amount of things to do. Through the story your approval rating will sway back and forth according to what you do or don’t do. As the head coach you are forced to make some decisions that you may not what to and this will effect your approval as well as your roster and staff.
Surprisingly this game has an interesting take on the NFL in light of the Madden game franchise. While in Madden you act like a GM, signing, trading, cutting and such, it is all very different in NFL Head Coach. For one, your approval in Head Coach determines your standing with your current team. I chose the Arizona Cardinals for my first time and went 11-5, won my division, made the playoffs, went to the conference championship and lost with an ending approval of 89. The next year I went 9-7 and still made the playoffs, but lost in the wild card round and got fired with an approval rating of 70. It is very difficult and much more strategic than Madden will ever be. While Madden is based solely on your abilities in the game, NFL Head Coach makes you play with strategy. The story is fun and creates some real suspense in the NFL.
The gameplay is really interesting. When on the field and coaching you can make all the play selections and you have to be wise with your selections. If your team hasn’t learned the play they are more likely to screw it up, but at the same time running the same play over and over, makes the defense get used to it and therefore more likely to jump the play. You can get playmakers, when doing your gameplan and use them in game, such as making your O-line strong, hitting their RB harder and trying to force fumbles, getting a stronger rush on the QB, or tightening your DBs coverage.
While the on field gameplay is solid, the front office stuff is just as enjoyable. You have to choose what to train or who to train, scout college talent, re-tool your depth chart, sign free agents if needed, and train your coaches. The staff progress ability is a great asset and allows you to train yourself and your other coaches the way you want them to coach. You can also train your GM and add things like learning everything about small, mid-major and major schools to learn about all their talent. The game forces you to make decisions on the fly as well as coach your team. You have to complete goals or you will get fired. The lower your approval rating the less leeway you have with your team.
NFL Head Coach 09 isn’t without its major problems though. Running the ball is extremely hard even against terrible defenses. I was the KC Chiefs and in my third year as Head Coach I had a well established front line with an overall average of 87 and had Darren McFadden an overall 91 at this point. Against the Raiders who still had no one worth a damn on their D front line I could only amass 78 yards on 23 carries with one TD. I had over 400 yards in the air though and thus my point is that the running game in 09 is still a rough one. Beyond that the game is still solid and the create a play is one of the best things.
The create a play has been expanded and allows you to REALLY create plays. Yes, you can make the Wildcat formation or the much loved option play as well as bring in a college coach and even add the heavily used spread offense [or hire Mike Martz]. You can do any kind of motion as well as blocks and the what not. You can sub in your QB for someone else in order to perform said Wildcat formation as well. This is great and an upgrade from games past.
The game itself, is really much harder than you would expect. With all the decisions you have to make you can’t just simulate all the way to the playoffs and be fine. You also have to be wise with your draft picks especially with your first and second rounders and look for gems in rounds 3-7. This game also continues EA’s use of a different name for New Englands HC Belichick by naming him Hal Ophamer. It’s pretty funny actually.
Graphically speaking NFL HC is pretty good. All the head coaches look pretty similar to their real counterparts, you can even see the despair in former Lions HC Rod Marinelli. The only real gripe I have with the graphics and the game itself, is that you cannot create your own HC look. It has been something EA has been seemingly reluctant to use. It seems, “Ask not what AE can do for you, but what you can do for EA.” To which we all open our wallets and buy a game with a heavily overrated player on it [Michael Vick, Vince Young, Brett Favre] and continue to eat it up. All we ask for is a little customization!!! You let us move our franchise to another city if we oh so desire it, but as far as customizing our face that is a no no!
Anyway, back to the graphics, the in game is just as tight as Madden is and includes all the angled shots for your pleasure. Graphics are not what the game goes on and they are easy to see that. While the graphics are Madden acceptable they are still decent at best. Graphics in the game are a thing that is secondary to the game itself and are nothing more than that. Don’t make graphics the reason behind playing most sports games especially ones that focus on the front office and dealing aspects of the game.
The sound is pretty cool in NFL HC 08 and it really gives that coliseum feeling with the epic musical soundtrack along with nail biting moments in game. [I won via a 56 yard field goal with 2 seconds left thanks to Neil Rackers] The game really keeps you on your fingertips with everything a real coach has to go through. Making critical draft picks, extensive trades, as well as gameday starting positions and which play to run. You may think it would be really easy, but it really isn’t.
Hearing your OC and DC get pissed when a play goes awry is kind of funny along with your emotions you can do. The sound is really a great setting for the game itself and keeps the ‘grid iron’ feeling in the football game. I must commend EA for making a better game here especially sound wise.
Let’s just say I have several different saved franchises and just bought the game the other day. I find myself enjoying it more and more after each play and the decisions you have to make are just something fun as well. Playing against friends as well as online is additional fun when you include the franchise mode that is the mainstay of the game. If you dominated Madden see if you can do the same with NFL Head Coach 09 and see how good you really are. NFL HC makes you give up the ability to lob the ball to T.O. or Fitzgerald and forces you to choose plays that are strategically made. If you have a heavy blitz coming and your QB doesn’t recognize it there isn’t anything you can do, but watch him get beat harder than Ashlee Simpson’s career.
The game is solid and well done. If you’re a strategy buff [Civilization series, Age of Empires series] and a lover of sports then this game is a good mesh for you. It combines the ware and tear of the NFL with the sweat and grime of the front offices that keep them running. You take the reigns of the franchise and attempt to drive it home to port in hopes of not only a Superbowl, but also of keeping your job. With the ability to lose it by simply releasing or trading someone that your owner deems necessary even if they aren’t [Seriously, how useful is Tony Gonzalez to the Chiefs? I got a first and second round pick out of him.] seemingly necessary to your teams development. With all your decisions being a make or break at times it really adds the heavy load of stress to the mix and with gametime decisions as well as in game decisions that can make or break your career, this game really tests you in the world of EA Sports.
If you think, “Hey I have Madden and I don’t want to play a game where I don’t get to actually play the game and only coach it” you are severely wrong. This game is very enjoyable and I was just as skeptical as you should be. If you’re gonna play a game like this you have to be skeptical and I must admit that it delivers and delivers well. With a game that is tense and enjoyable this is one of those games that is just too damn fun to put down. All I can say is simply that this game packs a punch that is rare to find in many sports games…replay ability.
Complete a head to head match on Xbox LIVE
Drawing Some Plays in the Dirt
Create at least 10 custom plays
Find 90+ Potential Training Camp Invite
Get your approval level with the media to 80, after one season
Get your approval level with the fans to 80, after one season
Get your approval level with your owner to 80, after one season
Man of the People
Get your approval level with your team's players to 80, after one season
One Big Happy Family
Get your approval level with your coaching staff to 80
Xs and Os Guy
Create at least 25 custom plays
Accomplish all of your Season Goals
I'm The Decider
Get 100 percent correct defining moments during a game day
Best of all Time
Go undefeated during a season
We Like You
Get an overall Approval Rating of 85, after one season
Win your first Super Bowl ring
We Love You
Get an overall Approval Rating of 90, after one season
One for the Mantle
Win the Coach of the Year award, after one season
Welcome to the Club
Win 100 games with a created coach
Win back to back Super Bowls with one team
We Idolize You
Get an overall Approval Rating of 95, after one season
Win the Super Bowl 3 times with the same team
Nerves of Steel
Successful Defining Moments 20+
A Cut Above
Get the highest overall approval Rating in the league, after one season
It takes a lot of balls to do something different within the first person genre. A lot of times a game won’t sell if the guns aren’t big enough or if the main character isn’t masculine enough. So what happens if the crux of the gameplay is avoiding shootouts and your character is a woman? You get a game like Mirror’s Edge with its quickly learned and nicely paced Parkour free-running platforming mechanic. And when you couple this with the attractive and athletic Faith you get a rather interesting, but somewhat shallow game.
As Faith a runner, who must escape her domed society because she’s about to turn 21 and that’s the age when you get killed…wait, wait a minute that was Logan’s Run. That told a much better story than what you’re presented with in Mirror’s Edge. Yes Faith is still called a runner, but in her society the flow of information is highly controlled and that’s pretty much what she transports. Eventually her sister, who just happens to be a cop, gets framed for some murder and it’s your job to find out why it happened and clear her name. On top of this you have to find out the intentions of some secret plan called Project Icarus. The story is told using an animation style that reminds me (and pretty much every other critic) of the Esurance commercials. It takes some of the seriousness out of the story and they’re directed and voiced in a banal and mundane fashion. Engaging characters would’ve been nice as well. While Faith is pretty good as a strong female, but she’s nowhere near as multifaceted, interesting, or portrayed with enough flair and refinement as Nariko from Heavenly Sword. And if EA wants her to be the next video game heroine then for Mirror’s Edge 2 they’re going to have to actually hire a talented writer because this story isn’t cutting it.
A lot of the side characters are irritating and some of them just demean Faith by referring to her as “Faithy” and by the fifth time you hear it you just want to throw that character out of the window. There’s no real sense of tension and it just gives you a reason to hop across the rooftops of sky-scrappers. Rating: 5.0
This is the real meat and draw for Mirror’s Edge and luckily it was pulled off well enough to warrant suffering through the story. For the most part you travel from point A to point B, but the way you do it is both invigorating, but at the same time infuriating. For starters platforming in most first person shooters can be a drag and is painful. This is because jumping is a pain in the ass and your character is about as nimble as a one legged goat with leprosy.
Faith is an entirely different beast. She can run across walls, run up walls, run with blinding speed and a whole bunch of other things. Run fast enough and you will start to see her arms pump, make a leap of faith (pun intended) and see her legs kick as she tries to force that last life saving inch. Pretty much the best way to describe it would be to point you towards the opening on foot chase scene in Casino Royale. The scene took place in a construction site and the way that obstacles were leaped off of and made short work of by famed free runner Sebastian Foucan were a sight to behold. There was something almost inhuman about it. For a brief moment I contemplated recreating it, but the thought of me winding up as a blood splatter at the bottom on the sidewalk made me think other wise. That’s where Mirror’s Edge comes in. It’s all about the beauty and the seamless transition of hopping off of walls and leaping off of them to catch a ladder or pole and swinging off of it. It’s all about that perfect jump from a towering skyscraper on to a rooftop below.
Only problem is that what you’re doing is kind of illegal so you have the fuzz on your ass. This fuzz goes be the name of The Blue. Unlike in Blue Gender these Blue don’t have angry vagina faces, but they do have guns. And have a mad hair up their ass about chasing people with messenger bags. They take this so seriously that they won’t hesitate to call in a helicopter gunship to mow you down. It kind of makes you wonder exactly what they would do if a real crime takes place. For starters the environment is so clean (even the sewer level) that the punishment for littering is probably something Draconian like death or the removal of your hands and/or feet, but enough of that tangent. Since Faith doesn’t have any actual weapons it’s best to just avoid confrontation, but if you do want to mix it up you can disarm the cops. Before you just run in and try to take a gun from someone you have to learn when to do it. You can do it with the triangle button, but you need to push it when their weapon is red. To aid you with this you can slow down time using the square button but eventually you get really good with not relying on it. Some of them are really nice looking but the style of the disarmament depends on the type of weapon that the cop is carrying. While on the topic of disarming. During the load screens you’re treated to footage of Faith disarming soldiers and I must say that a lot of the time it’s cooler than what you get to do. After you disarm him you get to keep the weapon and it’s up to you if you want to kill with it. There is trophy/achievement if you beat the game without using a gun to kill the enemy, which adds an extra layer of challenge to Mirror’s Edge, by the way if you’re not going for that then by all means go Rambo.
There actually is a good balance between combat and platforming with the only real problem being how unintuitive some of the levels are. There were a couple of spots where I had to hop on YouTube just to figure out a couple of scenarios. There is a hint button that kind of points you in the right direction, but there are times where it’s vague and of little use. Once you combine that with the continuous police presence you’ll quickly find yourself at the restart screen often. You have to learn how to find your bearings when you find yourself in an entirely new environment. And in order to do this you have to find your way around the environment in the quickest manner. Granted it’s really fun when you string together jumps, slides and wall runs together, but in order for this to happen you pretty much have to memorize the course, which pretty much just translates to simple trial and error and then the inevitable death.
The gameplay in Mirror’s Edge does take a little bit of a nosedive towards the end, because they up the guard count and it gets to the point where these guards shoot at you as if they have Solid Snakes “infinite ammo” bandanna. Another thing that is short of a doubled edged sword is how precise you have to be to make some of the jumps. Granted it’s immersive and adds a lot impact to every jump you make, but it makes it really frustrating. A lot of times you’ll have to make a jump from one building to another while being pursued and shot at and if you time the jump wrong or you’re off by an inch or two, you wind up falling to your death.
While Mirror’s Edge does a rather good job at being different, it fails to be a game worthy of praise. Mirror’s Edge is quite an interesting package, but it can’t be embraced by the masses. It requires patience to reap the benefits and if you’ve seen footage or played the demo you’ve probably already made your decision about it. Personally I do hope Mirror’s Edge can get a sequel and they can do more to spice up the gameplay, because innovation deserves to flourish. Pretty much if a first person parkour game piques your interest then give Mirror’s Edge a look. If you’re one that needs a game that cascades testosterone then stay away. Rating: 7.5
Graphics: Mirror’s Edge is a little bit of a mixed bag. The scenery and sense of scale can be breathtaking. A lot of environments seem to have color themes either being blue, green, lime green, etc. Climbable objects turn red when you get close to them and this adds to the color palette creating something unique. Once you get beyond that the textures are horrible and the shadows are blocky. It wouldn’t be a problem, but given what the game is you’re always up close to a pipe or wall and the textures for them are blurry at times. To further add to this there is a lot of screen tearing. The character models actually aren’t too bad, but you don’t see many actual people minus the guards, which wear nothing but black. Another thing that’s irritating is that you really don’t see you’re actual character model. You know what she looks like because she’s on the box and commercials, but you only really see her once (not counting the animated cutscenes). One hope for the possible sequel would be in engine cutscenes. One real saving grace is that the frame rate doesn’t drop constantly. Rating: 7.5
The audio experience in Mirror’s Edge was actually done right…minus the lack of music. The sense of ambiance is stunning. While standing on building you will hear cars driving buy and car horns echoing and makes the environment seem alive yet barren. While running you’ll hear the wind rush past your ears and the same happens when you fall. It’s quite chilling when you hear the wind get louder until you inevitably hit pavement. Death actually sounds pretty realistic too as you hear a rather meaty thud. When you run on certain kinds of floors you’ll hear your shoes squeak. The opening theme to Mirror’s Edge is rather chilling yet serene. The only thing that I can’t commend is the voice work. While not bad it does get irritating and it’s rather scary when Faith is the best-voiced character. With that being said she comes off as wooden and everyone else comes off as an irritating character trying to sound cool. Rating: 8.5
While there isn’t any multiplayer you’re offered something equally as challenging. Mainly these are time trials, which require nothing but trial and error and multiple play throughs to learn where you’re supposed to go. Pretty much it’s one part entertaining and two parts masochistic, so doing this depends on how much you enjoy the game. Each time trial level has it’s own leaderboard so if you want bragging rights over your friends or want to climb to the top of the leaderboard then this is a good way to do it. But other than that you’re not really in direct competition with anybody. The only other way to get more mileage out of Mirror’s Edge is to up the difficulty. Rating: 7.0
While not setting the world on fire with its innovative take on the first person and platforming genres. It still manages to be an entertaining game. Once you manage to string a series of complicated maneuvers and almost never stop until you get to your objective, you start to realize what DICE was thinking when they made Mirror’s Edge. Then once you get stuck for a couple of minutes or get gunned down Robocop style you start to wonder what DICE was thinking when they made Mirror’s Edge. While this might be this year’s Assassin’s Creed, I can at least say that I like it more than Assassin’s Creed, because unlike that game Mirror’s Edge didn’t make me take a three hour nap after playing it. Rating: 7.5
As a new student driver I’ve been doing my best to take it safe on the road, but every now and then an urge of vehicular destruction surfaces. I know listening to it means instant death or at the very least paralysis (I happen to like feeling my legs) so it’s always good to find a place to release it. One such place is Burnout: Paradise, but another good suggestion is Motorstorm 2: Pacific Rift.
The original Motorstorm made it’s debut in E3 2005, which is the one I think every one calls the “Ridge Racerrrr!!!!” conference as a CG trailer. It had a lot to live up to and did fall short of expectations, but I like to think of it as a work in progress. Here to correct the mistakes of the original and give the public a chance to race on something outside of a desert is Motorstorm 2: Pacific Rift.
The Motorstorm franchise made itself standout by being about more than one particular type of vehicle. It was a smorgasbord of vehicular carnage where trucks, buggies, ATV’s, motorcycles and big rigs mixed it up. And of course if you get that many vehicles on the track with differing weights even Mr. Magoo can see that crashes would ensue, and they did. The crashes within Pacific Rift are almost as over the top as your average Speed Racer episode, with wheels, chassis’, debris and even bodies flying all over the place. I remember one horrendous crash where my car exploded and sent my driver cart wheeling through the air. I think he did more mid air spirals than an Olympic gymnast. I also think on one occasion I actually drove through somebody’s car as it was exploding. Most of these crashes happened when you slammed up against a rock or drove off a cliff, but there are a lot of times when a crash or explosion would randomly occur, and in Pacific Rift the ante gets upped. Not only do you have rocks to contend with, but now there’s lava and rivers that you have to evade. There’s something hilarious about making a jump over liquid hot magma (said like Dr. Evil) and missing it by a foot and seeing your 4X4 truck melting in it.
Not only do these elements provide obstacles, but they also effect how much you’re able to boost. If you’re on a track with a lot of fire you have to take into consideration that the fire greatly influences your chances of overheating and going up in flames. To combat this you have to find sources of water or sprinklers on parts of the track to cool your vehicle down, which allows you to boost longer. Since Pacific Rift is a racing game there really isn’t much to it, but you do have to learn what vehicles work well on certain parts of the track as well as memorize the track layout so you can take each turn with efficiency. Even when you practically race a perfect lap you still run the risk of flipping over and careening off a cliff. I’m not sure if it’s because the physics engine is finicky, or because there’s a chance that a pebble jutting out at just the right angle can flip over a dune buggy in real life. All I know is that when it ruins your lead it’s irritating. Another thing that is really irritating is that when you get off the beaten path it takes forever for the game to reset your vehicle. But when you finally find the pace of the race and memorize the layout of the track you start to have a good time.
One noticeable change is how you unlock races. Instead of using that ticket system from Motorstorm you get points after a race depending on your placement. Once you hit a certain amount you get access to more vehicle classes, liveries (paint schemes) and races. It’s kind of a play on the A.C.E.S mechanic from Rainbow Six Vegas 2 so it rewards you for playing the game.
Whether you’re ramming vehicles off the road or taking great pleasure at seeing your opponent burst into flames because he boosted too long (in mid-air), it’s a blast. Granted Pacific Rift won’t be known for lighting your hair on fire with blistering speed, but it does a real commendable job of providing you with balls to the walls (and ceiling) action. There’s enough testosterone in one race to make Richard Simmons sound like the late Barry White. To keep up with this theme they added a new vehicle class and these are monster trucks. Sadly you’re not going to squash ATV’s looking like Grave Digger or Bigfoot, but it’s still nice. The greatest allure of these vehicles is that nothing gets in your way. You can drive through vehicles and most obstacles without slowing down. The only problem is that it doesn’t help with the balancing. Pretty much if you see one coming move out of its way, because it’s not going to go around you, it’ll go through you and completely wreck you. But this is the best time to know what vehicle works best on what kind of pavement. If you know that you can either just completely avoid them or get the better of them and out maneuver them.
Once a person is capable of figuring out the learning curve and mastering the tracks it’s pretty easy to have a good time. If there will be a Motorstorm 3 there really isn’t that much to ask for, but I wouldn’t mind some kind of vehicle customization option and more environment interaction. Maybe the occasional avalanche might be a good idea in the sequel. Rating: 8.5 Graphics:
Vehicles show a lot more detail than the previous Motorstorm and the paint schemes are a lot better too. It’s a lot easier to find a livery that makes your ride look like something vicious or at the very least presentable. My favorite improvement is actually how they let you see what you’re driving. Anybody who has actually played Motorstorm has had to sit through (and possibly sleep through) the 30 second to almost a minute long load times of vehicle selection, just so you can go through each livery and then go back to the one you liked. To replace this they just use pictures and it makes the process a lot less torturous. Also when you go to your garage you can choose which livery you like the most and it becomes your default vehicle for that class.
I must say that the move away from a desert setting does a lot for Pacific Rift’s color palette. Gone are the constant browns and say hello to lush greens, vivid vehicle melting reds and cascading blues. On the island you race on it’s hard not to see something beautiful, whether it’s a waterfall that you see while your soaring in mid air after a jump, or rocketing through the air in your truck plastered with flaming skulls as your vehicle catches fire from the lava below, it can teeter from beautiful with a hint of carnage to completely mental. You also happen to get all of this with very little slowdown too. Rating: 9.0 Sound:
For starters Pacific Rift allows for custom soundtracks. This is definitely a blessing and justifies me spending the amount of time it takes for me to scroll through my Ipod tracks and copying them to the PS3 (seriously, when is Sony going to fix the sorting option for this?). There’s something just phenomenal about racing down a mountain to Mountain Song by Jane’s Addiction. It puts you in that Zen like mind set for greater concentration. And I also must say that Pacific Rift actually meshes well with songs from the Cocteau Twins and almost anything from their Garlands or Head Over Heels albums are great for this game. Every vehicle sounds responsive and helps you know just how far to take your vehicle before it spins out of control, explodes or kisses a rock face. And if you do wrap your vehicle around something you’re treated to a nice metallic explosion with glass shattering. And this might be the second review in a row I said this but custom soundtracks should at least be made mandatory for racing games, because it adds so much to the enjoyment. Just knowing that I won’t here the same 50 songs with only three (if I’m lucky) being ones that I like is a blessing. Rating: 9.0
There is a nice multiplayer component with both ranked and unranked servers and if you don’t want to go online you can also play split screen co-op. This actually supports four players, but it you’re going to go this route it’s best to have a television the size of a 1950’s Cadillac because you’ll run the risk of going blind, plus there’s the burden of continuous crashes. But it’s nice to have an improvement over the barebones offerings of the original. Rating: 8.5
For anybody looking for an arcade racer that isn’t about pimped out cars, and are looking for something focused around off road racing and insane crashes then Motorstorm: Pacific Rift is good place to look. The sense of speed isn’t mind blowing and wrapping your head around the track layout can take some patience, but it’s purely entertaining after you spend some time with it. Rating: 8.7
As American citizens we are all familiar with terrorism being used and talked about in our daily lives. With Secret Service you take the role of an S.S. agent and are a direct protector of the US President. Will this game kickass and take names, or will it fail and have a horrid buzzcut like the guy on the front of the game's box? Let's see with the review for Secret Service.
The story is interesting actually, it is 2009 and the president (which isn't black in the game) is getting ready for his inaugural speech when you get a call from an unknown person who tells you the President (referred to as POTUS [Pres. of the United States] throughout the game) is in danger of assassination. He refuses to tell you his identity, but warns you of the attack which happens almost immediately after you get off the phone. They are foreign nationals who directly attack the President and you along with 2 other S.S. agents must defend him. The game sounds like a decent story except the part where it is completely unrealistic.
For example, the first level you are defending the Pres from attackers while taking refuge in the Lincoln Memorial, after taking out the waves of gunmen you need to take out several RPGers stationed around the LM. Security seems like it took the day off for a drinking binge and a fatty. You are turned into an apparent one man army. In the second level you are in the Capitol building (again alone) which has been rigged with a crap ton of explosives and you (literally only you) must take out all of the terrorists as well as disarm the explosives. Like I said, it is just too unrealistic for a one man task force to do the work of a six man team. If you take Rainbow Six and make it just you against everything this is the storyline that you get.
The gameplay is typical and forgettable. It is your normal FPS with typical buttons as well as missions. You have to kill these guys, disarm this, keep this guy safe you know, all the typical things. Secret Service is unfortunately a bust when it comes to gameplay ability. The guns are clunky and it becomes increasingly annoying when you are stuck fighting brigades of terrorists on your own. They give you a lean button that is suppose to help but it is actually in your best interest to stay as far away from it as possible.
It does have some decent guns as well as some good firefights, but it is too far in between all the unreal scenarios as well as gameplay that makes it rough to not die 3 out of 4 times. The enemies also are like super human soldiers that can take loads of punishment from you. All in all, the game is pitiful. It has tough controls, enemies that are on another level of strength and unrealistic campaigns as well to sum it all up. This game is lacking heavily is decent gameplay or anything that stands out as superb. This honestly isn't a game that can be saved by graphics or anything else due to the gameplay's poor turnout.
The graphics are actually good, but nothing that goes KA-KOW! or saves the game as well. It is hard to look past the gameplay and see the graphics as a saving grace in honestly, any instance. The graphics are pretty solid and I mean I gotta talk about where it is strong so here it is, the graphics on the buildings are pretty strong [not compared to Fallout 3s rendition of the buildings though] but they lack that true realistic feeling that makes a great FPS. They are pretty much the best thing that game has, but it just can't measure up enough to save the gameplay here.
The sound is...alright. The weapons are solid, but it does nothing to ‘wow' you or make you turn your head a second time. The guns make decent sound effects and the vehicles aren't half bad, but when it comes down to it, it is the same problem as with the graphics. It cannot save the game. The sound effects are solid and do their job, but don't do enough for this game to get any better.
Really low here. No worthwhile online anything coupled with very minimal playability makes this game a hard one to swallow [Haha Boosh]. The graphics and sound are acceptable, but they don't make up for the utter lack of playability. Since it is a FPS game we have to compare it and this is not something that is worth truly any amount of money. The achievements aren't fun, the controls are lacking and most of all, the story is just downright a rough one to believe at any standard. Not the attempted President situation that has happened several times, but the whole game being one S.S. agent vs. the entire terrorist organization. I mean they don't send over one badass John Rambo from the USMC to take out the Taliban or anything so why would you have it in a game? It just doesn't make sense.
The game just straight up blows. I have to be honest people, I have played some bad games [Drake of the 99 Dragons], but this one exceeds many expectations of bad games. Poor story, terrible gameplay and sound and graphics that cannot make up for it either really just kills this games possibility. One of the big ‘additions' to the game is actually one of the biggest busts of it with the leaning ability. Leaning is not only ridiculously hard to do, but it leaves you totally immobile and gives you very little help when shooting. The replay value is non-existent and it is due to many reasons which I have talked about frequently thus far. I cannot recommend this game even for a rental due to how boring and unrealistic it is.
I can usually find something in a game that makes it mildly playable, but not here. It offers nothing worth even $20 in all honestly and fails in the wake of post-terrorist fear mongering. If you were part of a team [Rainbow Six style] this game could be decently playable, but no you have to end the threat all on your lonesome. It pains me to say that this is one of the worst games that I have played on the X360 and that is a pretty steep fall. This game ranks down there with Dark Sector [isn't that bad though] and is just downright not worth the money. Sorry, but Secret Service is just not much of a service for gamers to enjoy. [Zing!]
Don’t Tase Me Bro
Electrocute 35 enemies using the Stun Gun or Taser.
Accumulate 30 kills using pistols in any level.
Accumulate 50 headshots throughout the entire game.
Gives Instead Of Takes Bullets
Complete the game without dying on Agent or POTUS Detail difficulty.
Complete the game on any difficulty setting.
Yeah, I'm Pretty Awesome
Complete the game on the POTUS Detail difficulty setting.
Loves Fire, Hates Red Containers
Blow up 10 fire extinguishers.
No Body Cares
Destroy 20 busts in Capitol Building levels (Coup D'etat and Filibuster).
Just Like The Real Thing
Win 30 hacking minigames.
What Are You, A Cat?
Complete the entire game without ever using nightvision (excluding while gunning in Marine One).
Like Static With Unconciousness
Zap 75 enemies with the Stun Gun or Taser.
They Shouldn't Have Bunched Up
Kill 30 enemies using hand grenades and/or the RPG.
The Memory Of A Goldfish
Kill 1 enemy using the tripwire laser bombs that were set by the Sentavans.
Turns Out They Don't Hail A Cab
Initiate the explosion of 5 tripwire laser bombs by crossing their lasers.
Too Lazy To Jump And Crouch
Blow up all tripwire laser bombs in the Rogue Agent level.
Run for over 3 minutes, crouch 30 times, lean 30 times, and jump 30 times.
Shock 1 enemy with the Taser while they aren't looking.
Some Of Them Still Have Minutes
Pick up 10 Cell Phones.
Haven't Found A Color I Like
Pick up 35 Cell Phones.
Opening A Local Wireless Store
Pick up all 50 Cell Phones.
Beat the game without killing a single Secret Service Agent.
Fire each weapon in the game at least once.
Kill 5 enemies in 5 seconds.
Bow To No One!
Complete any level without crouching.
From The Hip
Complete any level without using gun sights.
White House Electrician
Complete Habeas Corpus using only the Stun Gun and Taser on Agent or POTUS Detail difficulty.
The Best Defense…
Complete Extraction with more than 50% of the helicopter armor intact.
Master Of Spin
Win 10 hacking minigames in a row.
Complete any level without getting hit even once by a turret.
Playing For Keeps
Complete any level on POTUS Detail difficulty without dying.
Hopefully No Long Term Effects…
Receive 15 hits from high voltage fences without dying from electric shock.
In Just 30 Seconds A Day
Perform 5 crouches, 5 leans and run for 10 seconds all in under 30 seconds.
Five Birds With One Boom
Eliminate 5 or more enemies with a single explosion (use grenades, RPG or Trip Wire Bombs).
Destroy 25 turret cameras.
Destroy all turret cameras.
Complete Inaugural Assault on Agent or POTUS Detail difficulty.
Complete Coup D'etat on Agent or POTUS Detail difficulty.
Complete Filibuster on Agent or POTUS Detail difficulty.
Complete Urban Legend on Agent or POTUS Detail difficulty.
Complete Collateral Damage on Agent or POTUS Detail difficulty.
Complete Rogue Agent on Agent or POTUS Detail difficulty.
Complete Habeas Corpus on Agent or POTUS Detail difficulty.
Complete Last Stand on Agent or POTUS Detail difficulty.
Complete Extraction on Agent or POTUS Detail difficulty.
Complete Expatriate on Agent or POTUS Detail difficulty.
Xbox Live Arcade, one of the cornerstones of Microsoft's power hungry juggernaut that is the X360 has produced some great games. While some games are older games brought back, there are some totally new and fun games. One of those games is Castle Crashers made by those at newgrounds.com and also the makers of Alien Hominid. With side scrollers being something they find fun, can they make a damn good one that also isn't boring or just overall stupid? Let's see...