Combat Wings: Battle of Britain (PC) Review

 

With WWII being such a hot market as well as an easy market to sell things off to gamers, it has been done on the ground so often I think we all have flashbacks at this point. In Combat Wings: Battle of Britain(BoB) you are taken from the fields of battle into the skies of WWII. While many games have done this they have left a stone unturned where city interactive has decided to pick up. In this game you protect the Queens lands of Britain against the Nazi’s Luftwaffe of yesteryear. With the RAF at your disposal will this game excel your expectations and give you some wonderful dogfights? Or will it just ruin WWII for you and force you to watch the History channel over and over to increase your knowledge of aerodynamics? Let’s see…

Story:

I mean it’s pretty simple here, you’re in the RAF and you must defend your homeland from the Nazi’s.You’re a RAF trainee and your superior doesn’t think your cut-out for the RAF yet, but due to the need of pilots and of protection lets face it, they will take damn near anything. So you gotta do your thing and get out there and push back the 3rd Reich! Sound the same? I know, it has unfortunately been done so many times I believe I know WWII like the back of my hand at this point. Story is basic, but realistic.

Story: B

Gameplay:

This is what makes or breaks this kind of game and dear God does it break it here. Attempting to get used to the controls is worse than rubbing your body in Bengay then taking a hot shower. The sensitivity of the mouse and the throttle is just terrible. Not just that, it does actually get worse. My landing gear didn’t work half the time and it cost my ass several replays. The controls are mapped out fine,which is not the problem; the real problem here is the severe sensitivity that the game itself has. I even reduced my mouse sensitivity to 10% and it still gave me a crap ton of trouble. The weapon systems respond relatively slow and I’m running on an Intel Pentium duel core processor T3200 at 2GHz. That is on top of my 120 HDD and Graphics Media Accelerator 4500M. What I’m saying is I have a kick ass strong great laptop with a great graphics card and everything and this game still gave me slow responses. I can run Hellgate: London with no problems and that game takes WAY more memory and processor time than this game. This game just brought me down man.Your bringing me down man!

Gameplay: D

Graphics:

The graphics are decent, but nothing that will make you go “Gee golly holy ass crackers that is something there!” The graphics just don’t have that wow factor that nearly all games need. My laptop is HD and the graphics just honestly are unacceptable for today’s standards. With so many other good looking flight based games out there Combat Wings: BoB just cannot stand tall among it’s competitors. Graphically speaking it is average and compared to bigger games like the Ace Combat series it won’t turn any heads. With gameplay being so poor the graphics could make up for it at least one hopes, but alas they did not.

Graphics: C

Sound:

The sound is…well basic. I mean you got the propeller sound of coarse, and the clak clak clak of the machine guns as well as the rocket and bomb sounds. Speaking of which I didn’t know that the RAF had missiles in the early 1940s? Anyway the sound quality is decent, but yet again does nothing new or impressive. I cannot stress how important sound quality and effects are within games! The better games have great sound quality and great effects! Come on people!

Sound: C+

Replay:

Very minimal here. I mean unless you are a diehard WWII fighter lover and can get over the unbearable control system, this will take you to your last nerve and cause you to hulkout. The missions are very basic and have the same irritating style that Lair for the PS3 has. This just doesn’t measure up as a good flight based combat game.

Replay: D

Overall:

This game is just bugged out and has just too many problems to be called a decent flight game. Combat Wings has just real severe problems and cannot make up for it at all. The actual flying which is about 90%of the game is just way too glitchy for any average gamer. Honestly with Blazing Angels and other games like that out there this game just doesn’t have the raw power that a flight game needs. Combat Wings picks a pretty decent campaign to work with in the Battle of Britain, but beyond the decent graphics this game is flawed to the tip. The biggest problem for the game is simply the inability to fly correctly. Without the ability to fly in a simple form, for anybody it is really a challenge to get into the game itself. Without a decent flight style and with a rough learning curve for the gamer this game is just too buggy to recommend.

Overall: D+

Dec
12
2008

Left 4 Dead (X360) Review

Zombie Killing On A Whole New Level

Ever since the classic film Dawn of the Dead, zombies and zombie killing has become a staple of horror movies. Along with the zombies in some of these fine craptaculars, have been the kickass heroes and heroines who have been dealt with the nasty chore of killing these “things” anyway they can. In the videogame world this concept has also gotten its fair share of hits and misses (Dead Rising anyone?). Of the more successful franchises in the zombie genre for film and videogames is the Resident Evil series. With a film trilogy, at least double the amount of games and anew multiplatform title on the way, one could easily say Valve’s entry into the genre, Left 4 Dead is like Resident Evil. Well if by “like” you mean there are undead to kill then you’re correct. Now take those undead and add a new innovative way to play, an outstanding multiplayer experience, a game that has those classic zombie movie elements, and some genuine scare-the-piss out of you moments and you have a fresh new take on killing rotting humans.While that sounds entirely gross if you dig this type of gameplay then owning this game will be as easy as lighting a zombie on fire.

 

4 Guns are Better Than 1

If you’ve ever wondered what you would do if the world became infected by some virus and you and three other unlikely candidates are joined together to fight to stay alive then Left 4 Dead lets you live out this fantasy. Also, if you are having this fantasy it might be best to seek professional help. In any case the four characters in the game, Zoey, Louis, Francis and Bill all band together to fight the zombie apocalypse. How did it start? It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that you have to live and they (mumbling and screeching undead)have to die. Each of the characters have particular traits and qualities that often get revealed during gameplay from good old fashion movie bravery to genuine fear in their eyes (no really). This translates to characters that become more than just your AI buddies in the single player game. Valve also threw in a player halo that tells you if someone one is hurt healthy or about to die. You can also see this halo through walls. Definitely handy. If you’re playing this game alone, they AI players actually help you through the game. You get jacked by a “smoker” and one of them will save you. Running low on health, one of them will heal you. Need to go see a comedy show – put in GTA IV and call Patrick.

Zombie Killing Ain't So Much Fun Alone

Unfortunately, the single player game is where one of the game’s greatest shortcomings is revealed. This is one of the rare games in recent years that actually plays better in co-op play. The single player in fact ends up being a good way to test out your skills before you jump online. Take those AI characters and get 3 other gamers to join you and what you have is co-op that’s intense, rewarding and hella fun. And this isn’t just co-op where you run around killing together. You actually have to stay together and work together to stay alive. Otherwise your character will be treated to a lot of brain and flesh eating. And if you really suck, the other three players can votes to kick you out. Yeah it’s cold but when you have 100 zombies coming at you and your gang and one dude is off making a sandwich, then they will get killed then booted. Now that’s not to say playing this game alone is not great. Quite the contrary. It’s just not as much fun.

Hasn’t this already been a movie?

If you’ve seen any of the cinematic gems of the last 20years involving infected humans then you will feel right at home in this game.What Valve did here was to tap directly into this genre and give you movie-like experience in a game. Four levels, 5 chapters each that play like individual movies complete with a mock poster at the load screen and credits at the end with even a count of how many zombies were killed. There are even way cool movie moments like when you run out of ammo and are forced to just using your pistol. Or when you do something during a level (like flip a switch) that basically will force a whole mess of zombies trying to bum rush you and your mates. Out of courtesy you do get a prompt on the screen in the form of “Here they come” followed by that look-out-for-all-the-crazy-undead-coming-at-you music. These aren’t your ordinary turtle-paced zombies either. These are those zippy suckers from movies like 28 Days Later and Resident Evil movies.

What is surprising especially since this is a game from the people that made Half-Life, is the campaign mode seems woefully short. These four “movies” only take about 40-50 minutes or so to complete on the normal or easy mode. Sure they change things up so the walking dead don’t always act the same or show up in the same amounts, but it seems like they could have made this thing a little longer or actually have, a story?A similar issue plagues the multiplayer because the versus mode (humans versus zombies) is not available for all four campaigns but only two thus limiting the different places you can kill zombies.Perhaps the next time around we’ll get to find out what actually happened and get more of a deeply layered story.

No We’re Not All Alike – What Are You A Zombieist?

 

When you’re slaying zombie after zombie you may not pay close attention to what kind of zombie you’re decapitating or bludgeoning but in Left 4 Dead there are some special critters that give this game and extra level of fun and fright. There are five all together, four of which you get to play as in the multiplayer versus mode. Each comes with a requisite, creepy or overly exaggerated gross noise that provides fair warning of their appearance. There’s the boomer, the smoker, the hunter, the tank and the witch. Of these the witch is the worst because just sits and cries loudly. What? Here’s the kicker you can’t use flashlights around her and if you startle her she unleashes a relentless horde of zombies on you as well as gets all crazy on you as well. Online play with the other special infected can be both great fun and entirely frustrating. It takes teamwork and coordination to successfully prey on your human counterparts and since you will get killed a lot more, you have to make your attacks count.

 

Zombie Killing Greatness? Not Completely

Valve did not spare on production value for this game. They spent a great deal of time making this a very movie-like experience (minus Mila Jovavich). The graphics are also solid but not entirely solid. While the lighting is astounding, especially going into a pitch black room and all you have is a flashlight and a gun, there are some graphic glitches especially when you’re in a mass zombie fight. Big props to the voice acting which doesn’t just offer just much needed assistance but also adds actual emotion at the loss of amate and fear and panic as well.

In Left 4 Dead you have an amazingly immersive, relentless, experience that definitely has some great replay value.Whether intentionally or not the developers made a game that is truly best enjoyed with friends or other gamers willingto join you in the fight to survive the zombie apocalypse. For Valve,going into the potential of making a follow up game, they have a great starting point to build off of and for gamers this game offers a fresh new take on the genre that you should not ignore.

Dec
11
2008

Armored Core: For Answer (X360) Review

 

Armored Core stands as one of the few good games where you are a pilot of a large robotic craft that is humanoid, not to mention that this is the 13th installment of the series. We all remember the Gundam Wing game series and how for the most part, it disappointed. Since the early PS1 days Armored Core has prided itself on large fields of gameplay, great weapons and ridiculous customization. With Armored Core 4 under their belts, Ubisoft set its sights on a new AC game by the name of Armored Core: For Answer. Will this mechanized series continue to dominate the genre of robotic warfare? Or will it fall prey to repetitive and boring gameplay? Let’s see with the review of Armored Core: For Answer.

 

Story:

 

ACFA takes place roughly a decade after AC4. The world has become death and is polluted from not only humanity, but also Kojima particles from the waste. The corporations of the original Pax Economica banned together to create large fortresses called Cradles for mankind to survive on. Now, some half of mankind lives within these Cradles while many others die on the planet's surface. The peoples of the surface create a resistance group called ORCA to fight against the League of Corporations and their motives. You are a survivor of the National Dismantlement War, you are a Lynx, a pilot of the most feared of ACs known, a NEXT. You must battle both ORCA and the Corporations as a merc and fight against their Arms Forrts, which are giant mammoths with enough firepower to wipe out continents. You as a NEXT pilot were cast aside from the Corporations and now area merc for hire.

You start with your basic training to get you used to the controls again or to get you used to them in general if you are new to the game itself. After you accomplish that you then must choose a client. You can choose from 4 different operations with many strengths as well as weaknesses. Here are your options:

 

GA: Their mechs have great defense as well as heavy weapon,but lack smaller arms as well as giving up speed. If you choose GA your missions may be limited with other clients.

 

Interior Union: The IU supports TORUS and oppose the GA. Their mechs are very energy efficient as well as utilize laser and energy based weapons, but lack heavy ballistic weapons. If you choose IU your missions may be limited with other clients.

 

OMER: The OMER stay distant from both GA and the IU. OMER uses highly mobile Rosenthal mechs. If you choose OMER your missions may be limited with other clients.

 

Independent: If you choose to go independent there are some major positives as well as negatives. The positives are you are unaffiliated and therefore your missions with not be limited by cliental and that your mech(s) will be very good in CQC (close quarter combat) situations. The downside is you use a very old Rayleonard model mech and getting bigger better mechs is kind of rough.

 

After you choose your client or go indy, you can choose from several missions at a time. Most are on a salary base pay (ex. 500,000) but some are on a commission base where you are paid depending on what you destroy or other objectives that are given. All in all, the story gives you a lot to work through and a lot to work on with your mech. It is enjoyable and a great extension to the Armored Core saga.

Story: A

Gameplay:

Armored Core has always offered pretty solid gameplay and For Answer is no different. This has very solid gameplay. If you have played the series before you know the ungodly amount of customizing that you can do to your AC. From arm and shoulder based weapons to your AC’s core and boosters.Basically it is limitless. One thing that I have to say was done better than Armored Core 4 was the mission settings.You can choose who to work for by taking contracts and fulfilling them. I personally enjoy all the commission contracts which can bring in heaps of credits. While all that is solid I gotta talk controls and battles. The controls are easy to grasp and easy to master which gives you a lot of flex for what your style is. The “boss” battles are generally fun yet challenging especially when fighting against large foes which are as majestic as they are dangerous.

 

Armored Core: For Answer offers some straight up mech warfare with a taste of gunsmoke. From mini-guns to multi-rocket launchers to AC swords this game is loaded with weaponry choices. You will need new larger weapons to defeat the giant and I mean GIANT mechs that you will eventually face. They best part to me about ACFA is that they finally got non-online co-op play in the game. This is something I have been wanting since Armored Core 2 personally. The co-op offers new tactically strategy to what you choose to do. It is much easier to flank and beat your opponents with a co-op teammate. You can do co-op online as well as offline. ACFA offers twice,that’s right 2 times as much customization as AC4. By far the best part is battling the massive weapons that the different enemies have due to their size, strength and the payout that you get from their destruction. It is fun to fight large amounts of enemies and mechs and just watch the ludicrous weapon fire and destruction! This game lets you put the laughter in slaughter.

Gameplay: B+

Graphics:

The graphics are solid and the large distant enemies are astoundingly wonderful. The graphics are really solid and are satisfactory for the X360 system. The detail on the mechs is well put and the color schemes give your AC some good looks. You can create your own symbol (take that Rock Band!) and place it on several places on your mech in great detail. The graphics are exceptional and give the player some good looks for their ACs.

Graphics: B

Sound:

Armored Core offers great musical symphonies to their gameplay always and ACFA is no different. From the opening cinematic to the actual gameplay you will get some wonderful music that keeps you in sync with the game itself. The weapons are great sounding and the explosions are beautiful and have some good kick to them. I believe music is underrated in games and ACFA really proves that for me with their great musical sounds and the sounds of the battlefield when you’re fighting against several other mechs. The sound in this game is superb and much better than a lot of other games.

Sound: A+

 

Replay:

 

Replay value is essential to any game. Armored Core: For Answer honestly has some great replay value. You can play co-op offline and online as I stated before, the big thing here is that depending on your contractor you can have some different missions as well as the large amount of customization that you will do to your AC. With great battles ahead of you, you’re going to want to pimp you AC and load it up with some crazy ass weapons and looks. What i’m trying to say here is that ACFA brings what we all would want from a mech based videogame. They have lots of firepower, great detail, loads of customization, and co-op play. The replay value here is extensive and gives a large amount of satisfaction to players.

Replay: A

Overall:

Armored Core just straight up delivers in this installment of the series. This is a game that can get people into the AC series, which is usually rare in this late of an installment. ACFA gives the gamer true freedom to decide his fate along with the fate of many others all while getting an array of volatile destruction machines. Being given the reins to pretty much anything you want it to be is fresh and a enjoyable experience for players to have. I have to say that Armored Core: For Answer is one of the better games of the series and shows what the saga can really do. With high–tech weaponry, great customization and a long and enjoyable storyline Armored Core: For Answer really gives it’s punch and a worthwhile one at that. This is one to add to the collection if you’re a fan of the AC series, but if you have never played it, it is worth at minimum a rental. I suggest giving it a test run, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Overall: A-

 

Achievements:

1000 kills 20 Achieved 1000 kills
1000 wins 20 Achieved 1000 wins
10000 kills 40 Achieved 10000 kills
10000 wins 40 Achieved 10000 wins
2000 kills 20 Achieved 2000 kills
2000 wins 20 Achieved 2000 wins
3000 kills 20 Achieved 3000 kills
3000 wins 20 Achieved 3000 wins
4000 kills 20 Achieved 4000 kills
4000 wins 20 Achieved 4000 wins
5000 kills 20 Achieved 5000 kills
5000 wins 20 Achieved 5000 wins
7500 kills 20 Achieved 7500 kills
7500 wins 20 Achieved 7500 wins
AF Answerer 20 Defeated AF Answerer
AF Cabracan 20 Defeated AF Cabracan
AF Eclipse 20 Defeated AF Eclipse
AF Great Wall 20 Defeated AF Great Wall
AF Jet 20 Defeated AF Jet
AF Land Crab 20 Defeated AF Land Crab
AF Soldios Orbit 20 Defeated AF Soldios Orbit
AF Stigro 20 Defeated AF Stigro
AF The Spilit of Motherwill 20 Defeated AF The Spilit of Motherwill
Arena 30 Completed the arena
Arena Rank 10 20 Ranked in the top 10
Arena Rank 20 20 Ranked in the top 20
Chapter 1 20 Completed Chapter 1
Chapter 2 20 Completed Chapter 2
Chapter 3 20 Completed Chapter 3
Class A 30 Promoted to Class A
Class C 20 Promoted to Class C
Class E 20 Promoted to Class E
Ending 1 40 Completed story 1
Ending 2 40 Completed story 2
Ending 3 40 Completed story 3
Hard Difficulty 20 Completed all Hard Missions
Mission Rank S 30 Achieved Total Mission Rank S
Mission Rank SS 40 Achieved Total Mission Rank SS
Normal Difficulty 20 Completed all Normal Missions
ORCA Arena 30 Completed ORCA arena
Ranker 40 Promoted to Ranker
Dec
10
2008

Mount & Blade (PC) Review

Mount & Blade is a Real Time Strategy game that offers literally thousands of hours of gameplay. The game puts you in charge of your OWN character. You make the face by adjusting sliders, and make the stats the way you please. Taleworlds was kind enough to give us a copy, and as such, we have reviewed it. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did, provided you can get over some odd gameplay features.

STORY

The main feature of Mount & Blade is the fact that it has no story--that is, players make their own stories! I mean that quite literally as well. There is no actual set story. Players go through and decide what choices to make--whether to besiege billions of castles or to make tons of money.

AUDIO

The audio in Mount & Blade is short, simple and to the point. A few moans and screams definitely add to the whole war atmosphere. Arrows that whiz by your face make a short "WHIT" sound that leaves players shocked and relieved that the arrow didn't "WHIT" just a little closer to the player's head. There are no other sounds, really, except for the sounds of horse feet pounding on the ground. Mount & Blade lacks a lot of audio that I think could really add to the game, so it definitely loses points there.


GAMEPLAY

Mount & Blade features a fully functional character editor. Rather than spending points on a few all-important skills like strength and vitality, Taleworlds decided instead that they were going to feature a ton of minimal skills. Skills like "Leadership" and "Quick draw" are all stats that do only one or two things. Every level, the player receives one skill point to use on one of these twenty or so minimal skills, one point to use on the important skills like strength, and about fifty points for use on weapon stats (like one-handed, two-handed, etc). Such a variety of skills can easily intimidate players that are new to RTS games, and as such would discourage any further playing past the demo. This, of course, means less sales for Taleworlds.

Ever play a game and shoot an arrow at somebody, only to have the arrows disappear? I hadn't, but then I played Mount & Blade. It's extremely comical to see ten arrows sticking out of a man's chest--then shooting a few more in, just in case. Arrows also stick into shields--I wonder if it's possible to shoot two arrows at the exact same spot, thus breaking one arrow in half? I'll leave it to Robin Hood. Meanwhile, I'll shoot the horses who have lost their masters. Whether or not the horses have a ragdoll engine remains to be said. A part of me says yes, and another part of me says yes--though I'm not entirely sure.

It disappoints me that Mount & Blade followed other games and used a simple health bar instead of pinpoint...hurting. "Pinpoint hurting", as I like to call it, is basically a health system that impedes a player's ability to function when shot at certain places, until the player finally dies or is knocked out. This would be much more amusing, and it's already being used in a Unity game by Flashbang Studios. The game is called Minotaur China Shop, though it's in closed beta so we won't talk about it here.


Unfortunately, Mount & Blade suffers from extreme repetition. The battles are fun no matter how many times you fight, but gathering soldiers and moving around the map is too boring to be called gameplay. There are also very noticeable pauses between dialogue whilst in towns. Talking to someone opens instantly, yet when you leave the dialogue, it takes around ten seconds to go back! This is something that must be fixed, if possible--it cripples the gameplay experience for those of us who go into town a lot. In addition, most of the gameplay isn't fighting--it's outfitting your character with the necessary skills and equipment needed. After you finally get past that, you also get to hire heroes--who, like you, need to go through the long process of upgrading.


SO while Mount & Blade is incredibly fun in some aspects, it does suffer from some bad choices. Hopefully, Taleworlds will realize their mistakes and fix them--I do look forward to future games from them.

VISUAL

The graphics in Mount & Blade leave something to be desired. Even on max detail, the trees still look very...bad. The dynamic lighting and whatnot looks stunning, I admit. In addition, the shadows do look spectacular--on the highest settings, at least. Though, the trees do look awful. I don't know why, but I have something against developers not paying attention to detail in shrubbery. It makes me mad. I do commend Taleworlds for their excellent work most everywhere else--aside from the facial graphics--but I really do think the trees could be better!

REPLAY

The replayability in Mount & Blade is possibly what the game is about. Players can literally take over the entire land of Calradia--and then do it all over again on a new account. In addition, there is a huge variety of skills available for players to level as they see fit, so no two characters are ever the same. These skills vastly change the outcome of the entire game. I'd like to share my philosophy as to how a small little dust particle can change the outcome of a certain event, but that's for another article.

Taleworlds certainly knew what they were doing with Mount & Blade. The amount of attention to the replayability astounds me. No two games are EVER the same. Some may end up as a rebel, trying to defeat an entire country, while some may end up in possession of an entire country! In addition, players can build mills and whatnot in towns, as an added way to make such a variety in gameplay.

OVERALL

Mount & Blade is an excellent game, well worth a small fee of $29.99--that's not even thirty dollars! Fans of RTS games will not be disappointed, though newcomers will feel slightly overwhelmed. Some annoying aspects are a hindrance, yes, however the game is still incredibly fun nonetheless. I hope everyone has as much fun as I did playing this game.

Dec
08
2008

Mosby's Confederacy (PC) Review

After reviewing Hinterland, a true diamond in the rough, I was excited to dig in to Mosby's Confederacy.

The latest Tilted Mill title, Mosby's Confederacy is a dynamic small unit RTS. You can shape your units (and Mosby himself) by the way you use them in the battlefield. A cowardly foot soldier could become your greatest asset with a bit of luck and prudence. It's also dynamic in that enemy placements are entirely randomized, much like Hinterland before it. A "panic" system for the AI lends some innovation to battles, and faux open ended gameplay makes each path to victory a bit different.

Sounds fun, I know. Sadly, the greatest strategy you could employ in this game is to bring along a book. Mosby's Confederacy has the slowest pace I've ever seen. Here's a great example: I attacked a single Union soldier with all six of my men in the second mission. My units fired at least fifty shots altogether, from ten feet away, and the enemy soldier was STILL ALIVE. I understand that the rifles were crude, but this is ridiculous. You'll spend twice as much time watching these apparently blind soldiers trying to hit each other as you will actually playing the game.

When your enemies have finally fallen (or surrendered and ran away... kind of anticlimatic after all that shooting), put on a movie, because you'll likely spend an even larger amount of time searching for your randomly placed objective. The map is next to useless, the battlefields have very little in the way of landmarks, and your units are painfully slow, even when mounted on horses. A simple rotating arrow or more accurate map marker could have eliminated enormous amounts of eventless wandering, and made the game a bit less of a drag.

Your reward for eventually slogging through these repetitive missions? Fame points and munitions to better stock your crew and butter up the locals toward your cause, as well as a new skill for Mosby. Depending on how well you do, merit badges and the like may also be doled out. You might even nab yourself an achievement or two, if you're playing it through Steam. Whee.

The graphics are yet another aspect of the game that may induce drowsiness. Units are tiny and heavily pixellated, and the fields are basically comprised of the occasional building, random encampment, dirt road, and a metric ton of trees. All of this can be had in either snowy or grassy varieties. Outside of the missions, you are treated to bland portraits and tactical maps. I'm not a graphics whore, but a tiny touch of detail goes a long way. As it is, a Sega Saturn could run this game without slowdown.

At least, it COULD, if the game was at all optimized. There is no reason at all for the system specs to be anywhere near what they are. My computer should not hiccup while trying to render a tree that would not have been amiss in a game made in 1996. It doesn't get as bad as Hinterland's optimization issues, but it's definitely a bit of an annoyance all the same.

Maybe the sound will make up for the other shortcomings, right? Nay nay. And again, sir, I say nay. "Boom. Boom. Argh. Generic music." That's about it. Over and over again. I'm starting to wonder if Mosby's Confederacy should have been titled "Mosby's NyQuil: The Game Based On The Hit Cough Medicine".

If Tilted Mill has accomplished anything with Mosby, it's that the historical accuracy appears to be very spot-on. I personally know little about the real Mosby, but what I do know is represented faithfully in the game. (Although the real man could probably hit a target at point blank with less than 15-20 shots, unlike his virtual reincarnation.) So, you know, there's that at least.

Thankfully, there's some comic relief, albeit entirely unintended. When you start the game, you'l be informed of the many strategies that can be performed with keyboard combinations. Now here's the punchline: None of them are at all needed. I did just fine by using nothing but my left mouse button. Highlight my units, click on the enemies, another victory for Mosby and his merry band of blind Confederates. To be fair, there are times when you'll need to be stealthy to survive, but 99% of the time you'll be able to scrape by even the toughest battles by simply drawing a few enemies away from the pack and picking them off a few times.

I've tried to be as nice as possible during this review so far, on account of how much I enjoyed Tilted Mill's previous titles. But let me lay it out straight for you.

Mosby's Confederacy is just not fun at all.

It is truly and completely uninteresting in every single aspect. It's not a fun kind of bad, like Postal 2 or even Big Rigs. It is just plain and simply a chore. I received absolutely no entertainment from playing this, outside of learning a bit about the man who inspired the game.

I can't understand how such a talented company could put something like this out. Maybe the Civil War isn't an easy subject to turn into a game. Maybe It's just a failed experiment. I can't honestly say. All I know is, Mosby's Confederacy is exactly the opposite of what I had expected.

I do not recommend this game for anybody but the most dedicated Civil War buffs, and even those folks might be less than satisfied with what is presented here. If you want a game that shows what Tilted Mill can really accomplish, stick with SimCity Societies, Children of The Nile, and Hinterland, and give Mosby a pass.

There is one place where this game would fit well, though. With it's historical accuracy, schools could make much use of Mosby's Confederacy. It may not be a good game from an entertainment point of view, but you can't help learning a few things while playing.

Dec
05
2008

Left 4 Dead (PC) Review

I hate zombie games. Yes, you heard me, I hate zombie games. It always seems to be the same polygonal brain-dead corpse running at you, with the same abilities, same personality, creating an experience that is exactly the same throughout the entire game. Do I hate Left 4 Dead? No, I absolutely love it. I could play this shooter all day long; Until the undead cows come home, so to speak.

Left 4 Dead has no single story. The single-player and co-op modes have four separate stories, each designed to look like a different zombie-flick. Each of the characters has a unique and interesting personality. Louis is the technology specialist, Zoey's a college student, Francis is a tattoo-clad tough guy, and Bill is an old grizzled Vietnam veteran. Each character's in-game abilities are exactly the same, to make all of the survivors equal and none of them any more desirable than the others. This is a feature that I'm sure will defuse many arguments before they even begin.

Left 4 Dead is an incredibly fun game, for reasons I really can't put my finger on. Perhaps it's the consistently exciting pace, or the amazingly advanced and fun Director-AI system. Maybe it's the ease of playability, or even the fun of mowing down hordes of zombies with up to three other players, or AI-controlled henchmen. My favorite facet of this game is the Director-AI system, which monitors the player's style of play and abilities, then throws out an event or special zombie to make the game better for the individual player. Upon replaying a level of Left 4 Dead, your experience will be uncommonly different from your other play-throughs.

The zombies in Left 4 Dead are quick, weak, and dumb as posts. The basic zombies are easily killed with any of the weapons you pick up throughout the game, but incredibly capable of taking down even the most experienced players when in large groups. Stronger, Faster, Sneakier, and much more intelligent than the basic zombies are the special-or boss- zombies. There are five types of boss-zombies, each as different as the survivors. Each of the boss-zombies have unique skills. The Tank is an enormous hulk-like creature that can throw survivors terrifying distances, and can withstand amounts of damage that would scare even the most experienced zombie-slayer. The smoker is a coughing zombie with an infinitely long tongue, which it uses to constrict and hang the survivors. Perhaps the most disgusting zombie in the game is the Boomer. It looks like a morbidly obese man, and uses its zombie-attracting projectile vomit to attack the survivors. Boomers can't be simply killed on sight like the other zombies, because haphazardly shooting a boomer when it's a bit too close will result in a shower of it's zombie-attracting puke. When you get hit with this gunk, the zombies begin to stream out of every doorway and hole in the vicinity. The Hunter is the ninja of the bunch, jumping long distances and slinking around until it's within striking range. The last form of Boss Zombie is the Witch. The Witch is to be avoided at all costs. When you startle a witch by shining a flashlight on her, making too much noise, or attacking her, she turns around and strikes at the survivor that disturbed her. Her swipes instantly incapacitate you, making her one of the most dangerous zombies in the game.

The sights and sounds of Left 4 Dead are not without their flaws, but certainly the best I've ever seen on the Source engine. Each and every detail was well implemented, and never detracts from the overall feel of the game. The atmosphere is constantly portraying an over-acted, low-budget horror movie. The music is quiet, and almost entirely composed of small, heavily-emphasized piano tunes. As if the music didn't immerse me enough, the graphics only make it better. Valve's Source engine is beginning to show it's age, but somehow they've avoided the obvious graphical decay of their engine in Left 4 Dead. Beautiful textures ,film-grain effects, and a very slight but effective "un-sharp"post-processing effect create the look of an old drive-in style movie. The only problems with this game lie with the graphics, and are only minor. The first is the clipping that I commonly encountered while playing. When walking toward a closed door, I heard a loud knocking noise. I wondered what could be behind it, until the head of a hunter clipped through the door, showing a flawed collision and occlusion system. This isn't game-killing, as Left 4 Dead doesn' t work with suspense as its main scare-factor. You're much more likely to be creeped out by the terrifying witch, than anything jumping out at you. My second complaint is the low-poly models that inhabit this game. Yes, it was made that way to help out those of us without high-end computers. I realize why it was done, but I don't believe that they should have neglected those of us with the rigs to run more modern graphics. Don't get me wrong, the graphics are still beautiful and do exactly the job they're meant to. They just don't look as good as they could.

Left 4 Dead is an amazingly fun and entertaining game. I recommend that everyone buy this title as soon as they can. They will not regret it--it's not scary, but the atmosphere is pitch-perfect for the subject-matter. The characters are packed with personality, and even after hearing "I'm reloading" near-constantly for almost three hours it still doesn't irritate me. That's an accomplishment. Valve's most recent game is just as good as the rest of its library, and that's saying something. The bottom line is that if you enjoy games of any kind, you'll enjoy Left 4 Dead. You say you don't have a rig expensive enough to run recent games? You can run Left 4 Dead without a hitch. You say you don't like shooters? You've nothing to worry about, Left 4 Dead sets itself apart from the recent flood of shooters through its attention to detail, and emphasis on simplicity and the fun of plowing down the undead for hours with your friends.

I give Left 4 Dead a 9.5 out of 10 zombie-devoured cow corpses.

Dec
03
2008

Legendary (PS3) Review

There are several things a person should not do.  Some of these things are mate with a close sibling, snort Cocaine cut with rat poison and play a game called Legendary.  That’s because doing acts such as these come with serious repercussions.  These consequences would be conceiving some sort of deformed mutant baby, brain damage or death.

Story:


Legendary has you playing the role of some thief hired to steal Pandora’s Box.  The heist goes wrong fast and you end up unleashing mythological beasts upon the world.  The premise is so bad that it sounds like it could be the premise of the next Uwe Boll movie.  You don’t care about the characters; you don’t care about the story and as soon as it begins you wish that it would end.
Rating: 2.0

Gameplay:


After Turning Point Fall of Liberty, which could best be described as a pile of demon poop, the very talented (wink wink) developers at Spark Unlimited decide to drop this bomb in out laps.  Everything that could be done wrong with a first person shooter has been done wrong here.  The aiming is sluggish and the hit detection of the enemies is piss poor.  The experience of aiming at an enemy and emptying an entire clip into him only to have him get out of cover and keep on shooting at him is disheartening.  I don’t know if it’s because the guns are inaccurate or the fact that precision aiming is a lot easier said then done or if it’s because when you move and shoot at the same time you will not hit the target most of the time.  But this isn’t the only aspect of the gameplay.

Because of the botched heist the Pandora’s Box stabs you in the hand with some kind of spike and leaves some kind of stupid Satanic tattoo on your hand.  This allows you to absorb the essence of the mythological creatures.  This essence allows you to regain health and used for some special attacks.  Because of this there are no health packs.  While I don’t mind the omission of a regenerative health bar, I hate that what you use is tied to magic you’re never going to use and your acquisition of this is tied to enemy encounters.

Levels are also rather linear as well.  In fact I haven’t come across levels this linear and tiny since I played Kingdom Under Fire: The Circle of Doom.  When something important like a building for example goes down it will fall in just a way for the rubble to come down and restrict your movement to a constricted path.  On top of this there are a lot of events that are scripted.  As you’re running across the street in the opening level you’ll see a lot of Griffins flying around and eating hapless pedestrians.  You think to yourself, “maybe I can save someone by killing this Griffin.”  So you take your mighty axe and thrust it into the Griffin only to find that your axe has no effect on it.  It doesn’t even hit it, the Griffin doesn’t respond to it either.  All it does is sit there, eat the person and then fly away.


Another thing gone horribly awry is platforming.  Your character behaves like somebody that flunked out of Phys Ed.  He can’t even hop over an ant and to add further insult to his lethargic physicality he can’ even throw a grenade no more than two feet in front of him.  There are the obligatory jumping puzzles.  One such puzzle has you in a warehouse and you have to get a higher elevation.  You don’t know where to go or how to get there, but eventually you realize that you have to shoot down an elevator.  Sadly as your there trying to figure it out you’re attacked by infinitely re-spawning werewolves.  While on the topic of these werewolves; they look terrible.  On top of that they’re bullet sponges, and can only be killed after downing them and/or decapitating them.  The A.I. tends to just stand there sometimes while you shoot them.  If you do down them it takes several whacks to the head from your axe at a precise spot to decapitate them.

After about two hours (which is anymore then any sane individual should tolerate) you turn it off.  After you do that you seek psychological counseling and do your best to wipe the experience from your memory.  While you are presented with an interesting premise that has you shooting werewolves and Griffins and other crap instead of aliens, you quickly realize that Legendary is a steaming pile of garbage of epic proportions.
Rating:  1.0

Graphics:

Upon start up you're greeted with the Unreal Engine logo, which gives you a false sense of visual hope.  You think to yourself “this game should look kick ass!”  This is a sentiment that quickly fades.  The shadows are terrible and boxy, your character model is some loser in a bad used car salesman suit and the textures at times are of PS1 quality, especially when you look at the ground.  This is pretty much the first person shooter equivalent of Vampire Rain.  The animation on the creatures is stiff and comical.  The only remotely interesting thing I saw was when the Golem cobbled itself together out of buildings and cars like some sort of urban Voltron.
Rating:  2.0

Sound:


I guess I should keep this as brief as possible.  The voice-overs are terrible your weapons, especially the submachine gun sounds like a semi-automatic super soaker and the music is terrible.  It’s like they took the worst Stabbing Westward or Gravity Kills tracks (not insulting either group), mixed them turned off the bass and treble, and then gave them the audio fidelity of a worn out record and then proceeded to play it on a turn of the century Victrola.
Rating:  1.0

Replay:

Nonexistent.  Sure there’s multiplayer, but no one in their right mind would dare touch it.  Besides other people actually have to own the game for it to serve its purpose anyhow.
Rating:  0

Overall:

The only way to enjoy Legendary is to gather up Tom Servo, Crowe T. Robot and Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fame and have them crack jokes as you play it.
Rating:  1.5

Nov
30
2008

Resistance 2 (PS3) Review

If you only had 19 hours to live, what would you do?  Would you repent your sins? Spend quality time with your loved ones?  Partake in a Caligula-esqe orgy?  Well Nathan Hale already knows what he would do.  He doesn’t bother with all that existentialist nonsense.  He just kills every alien that has the misfortune of being in front of him in Resistance 2.

Story:

After over running Russia and England the Chimera have set their sights on the red white and blue.  But before this setup you’re reacquainted with Hale as he wanders around the snow covered fields of England.  After being picked up by a mysterious aircraft he’s forcibly injected with a sedative and goes unconscious.  After waking up he finds out that his would be rescuers are a black ops team called S.R.P.A. (Special Research Projects Administration).   After two years and a really bad situation at the SRPA base Hale becomes a member of The Sentinels, which are a team of soldiers immune to the Chimeran virus.  But in order for their immunity to fully work they need inhibitor packs to help fight the virus.  Over the course of R2 Nathan Hale pretty much just goes cold turkey on the inhibitors for the sake of the mission.  The result of this is that within each passing level he becomes more and more like a Chimera.  As this is going on Hale and his team also begin the hunt for a Chimeran of high intelligence called Daedalus.  He’s pretty much a combination of the G-man from Half-Life and the Queen Alien.  This is because of his constant cryptic messages and his penchant for ripping people in half.

Also throughout R2 you get a better sense of what the Chimeran virus is and how it was created.  What I seem to like the most is how the Chimerans are portrayed.  Outside of Daedalus they don’t speak English, which is good because it lends it a better sci-fi appeal, they don’t want to be reasoned with and they won’t break out into Shakespearean soliloquies about existence.  They want the Earth, they want you dead and that’s all they care about.  On top of this they tend to be nasty and ferocious in combat.  While the narrative in R2 is more personalized than it was in R:FOM it seems to have a grander scope and more of a purpose.  Instead of being told what happened it’s actually happening right in front of you.  It’s a tad hard to get attached to Nathan Hale because all he seems to do is be insubordinate and talk in a gruff voice.  Granted it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s good enough to keep you compelled and entertained.
Rating:  8.0

Gameplay:

I wasn’t blown away with the first Resistance, but I did like it.  It was done well enough for a launch title, but it just didn’t click.  Granted the weapons were great, but the controls weren’t precise enough for my liking.  Eventually when I got accustomed to those I managed to find the lack of checkpoints within the campaign to be ridiculous.  I swear that game gave you a checkpoint every half-hour.  Luckily I can say that the developers at Insomniac Games found those quirks and fixed them.  R2 runs smooth and controls beautifully.  On top of that they improved the checkpoint system and now offers up a game that can be enjoyed by anybody looking for a solid first person shooter.

The only thing that I’m not too much a fan of is the omission of the weapon wheel from the first Resistance.  There was something fun about having numerous options on how to take a certain situation.  But I must admit that you didn’t find a lot of ammo for the numerous weapons that you had at your disposal.  With R2 the weapons management is now in the vein of Halo in that you can only carry two.  Pretty much the rule of thumb is that if you see a weapon on the ground you should pick it up because there’s a good chance that you’re going to need it.

While this does take away from the imagination on how you take a scenario it at least makes sure that you’ll be well acquainted with the weaponry and learn to master it within the context of the situation.  And you’re going to need to learn this because the Chimera are more varied and far more aggressive than they were in its predecessor.  There are Chimera’s as big as houses and dish out more damage than an M1 Abrams battle tank.  And these are actually the medium sized ones, but the bigger ones come in the form of boss battles.

The one that was highly publicized was the sky-scrapper sized Leviathan that stomps through Chicago and swats helicopters out of the sky as if they were nothing but irritating gnats.  For as big as they are they aren’t too groundbreaking from a gameplay standpoint.  You memorize their attack patterns and go in for the kill, but it’s all in good fun at least and one of them actually looks like a monster from Ratchet And Clank: Tools of Destruction.

What the average player really isn’t going to like is the amount of times you’re going to see the game over screen.  You will be bombarded with wave after wave after wave of bloodthirsty monsters that want to take their pound of flesh straight out of your ass.  These are the times when you need to plan when to take cover and when to attack and with what weapon.  When you finally get with the flow and mow down each and every adversary in your path is when the game is highly rewarding.  When you get cheated by a cheap death then you’re not too happy about it.  As a word of warning avoid water; for as nice as it looks it’s pretty much an instant death.  There are these creatures that get introduced early on in the game that inhabit water.  Once you go in the water they kill you.  When you see them in the water it makes sense, but when you don’t it comes off as really cheap.  There are also invisible land based monsters called Chameleons that also kill you with one hit, but at least they have a tell so you can anticipate them.  And that tell is “if the screen shakes then prepare to shoot.”  There is another thing that does this, but I shouldn’t spoil everything.

While a lot of new weapons haven’t been introduced they at least polished the reliable Bullseye and Carbine because that’s what you’re going to be packing a lot of the time.  The Bullseye is a lot more accurate and packs a good amount of punch making it a great standby weapon.  The Carbine is still weaker, but it makes up for it with the grenade launcher.  While the new weapons may be few they are still entertaining.  The most useful of the new weapons is the Marksman rifle, which fires a three round burst and is quit powerful for foes small and large.  Nail anything with a headshot from this thing and it goes down.  Another good addition is the Magnum pistol.  It fires explosive ammo, but also packs a punch.  If your foe dies from the first shot you can still kill the guy standing next to him with the same bullet.  Its secondary function explodes the bullet lodged in something else, so it’s great for setting up booby-traps or dealing extra damage.

While not pushing any boundaries R2 refines and for the most part polishes everything that made the franchise popular in the first place.  While I could’ve lived without the extended waves and one hit deaths I still found myself thoroughly entertained and coming back for more.
Rating:  9.0

Graphics:

For the most part the presentation in R2 is superb, but for everything that looks great you’ll find something disappointing.  For starters I wish doors and anything that wasn’t a weapon or Chimera was better looking.  This is because doors, boxes and some parts of the ground have a really low-resolution texture.  Granted this was probably done to make sure that everything on screen (like the important shooting parts) flowed without a hitch.  The frame rate is smooth and barely dips making the experience flow nicely.

While doors look horrendous weapons, enemies the environments look spectacular and have a nice level of detail.  Gone are the browns and grays from the previous game.  R2 uses a far more varied color palette and it shows in various levels.  One level takes place in a Californian forest and the greens of the foliage just pop off the screen.  There’s a lot more detail to the Chimera and it makes it easier to tell which is which so you know how to deal with them.   One of the nice things is that even though the bosses are large and detailed they don’t affect engine performance.  The same goes for the amount of enemies on screen.  You’ll occasionally see almost a dozen combatants on screen shooting at each other with lasers flying everywhere, but rarely does the game stutter or freeze.  Seeing as how this was the same engine that ran the stunning Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction it makes me wonder how much more can be done to it.  Because if the next R&C looks better than this I’ll be a very surprised and happy person.  I just hope they don’t use low-resolution doors and crates of course.
Rating:  9.0

Sound:

The action itself sounds epic and frenetic.  With people screaming, demanding ammo and gunfire all over the place.  The voice acting is decent and it isn’t cringe worthy, but there isn’t much vocal variety.  Everybody with the exception of the lone scientist sounds like some testosterone infused military grunt, and by “grunt” I’m talking about how they speak.  While it would be out of place for them to sound like Kenneth Brannagh it just gets redundant.
Rating:  8.5

Replay:

There are so many aspects to the multiplayer that a person could get lost in the options, but I’m going to stick with the deathmatch options.  Deathmatch, especially Team Deathmatch can be highly chaotic.  Once you get over the constant death and find the right weapon for your skill level you will find a highly frenetic experience.  The experience of running through the level fragging folks is great and the only remote quibble that I can find with it is the re-spawning.  Re-spawning in front of, next to, in back of or turning a corner only to have half of the opposing team spawn right in front of you is irritating and should be taken care of.

When it comes to finding a particular weapon you’re going to have to do some experimenting, which in my case was using everything until you can go a match where my kill count wasn’t significantly lower than my death count.  And I didn’t find a weapon that I liked until I started using the Auger.  Maybe it’s the noob weapon for this game and everyone is good with it, but finding the right time to bust out the energy shield to block projectiles and spray people was rewarding and made me fall in love with the gun.  As you shoot and kill enemies you gain experience, which allows you to level up and gain different options for customizing your character. 

Other than deathmatch you can partake in Skirmish where several squads of five men are on the same battlefield trying to take an objective.  Other then this there is an eight-person co-op mode, which is class based.  There are three classes, which is soldier, medic and special-ops and you are able to level these up to level 30 for different rewards.  It doesn’t follow the story, but there are several different objectives that need to be tackled.  Multiplayer for R2 is diverse enough for any type of gamer to find something for them to enjoy.
Rating:  9.0

Overall:

While R2 is not groundbreaking it proves to be a highly entertaining and refined experience with a bevy of play options.  With ruthless enemies, interesting weapons and rewarding multiplayer.
Rating:  9.0

Nov
30
2008

Gears of War 2 (X360) Review

If Gears of War 2 (GOW2) looks and feels familiar that’s because in many ways it is – that’s kind of the point. Some game sequels or franchises in an attempt to shake things up,will change the entire look of the game (see the new Prince of Persia), or do some other crazy things that disrupt the natural flow, control, or story of the game provoking fans to begin profanely blogging and complaining about it. Well, we do that anyway but this would be more complaining and blogging. What you get with Gears of War 2 is a polished, well-crafted sequel that appeases the millions who loved the first game and will attract a whole new slew of fans who maybe lived in a cave two years ago when everyone was raving about the first game.

 

Chainsaw Gutting Never Looked So Good

The expectation we have in these days of HDTV and Blu-ray is that there should be certain level of quality in our videogame graphics. Even with titles for the Wii you still want them to look good in their cartoonish way. The first Gears certainly did not disappoint but GOW2? Let’s just say that if you have the opportunity to watch somebody else play, step back and really take a look. That exceptional quality you see – that’s Cliffy B and the gang over at Epic Games sitting around for the last two years saying, “Dudes, how can we make this game look kickass?” Okay, so maybe they don’t talk like that but you get the idea. Maybe it was more like, “The exceptional quality rendered in the initial title must be improved, beep, borp.”Everything from the character animations to the background environments to the transitions of cut scenes to the in game action is crisp and wonderfully detailed. Oh and there'S that whole gore factor (no, not the global warming ex VP). The guttingwith the lancers, the curb stomping, bleeding out – it’s all beautifully displayed to the highest level of gross. Just the way it should be. For any parents reading this — this is just one of the reasons you shouldn’t even think about getting this for the kids.

 

This Time We’re Go Deep … Underground

Six months from where Gearsof War left off (something about a hellabig bomb getting detonated) we join Marcus Phoenix and his gang of COG soldiers still deep in battle and prepping to make a stand for the last stronghold of the human race. It would seem that two cities have literally sunk and the last most important one is about to become the grand canyon. So to fight the fight, they’ll take the battle to the horde deep underground and put a hurtin’ on them big time.Okay so the dialogue is a testosterone filled, steroid enhanced script of man talk clichés but that hasn’t changed from the last time. Seriously these guys are big, thick, killing machines. How else would you expect them to talk? (“Frankly Baird, you’re dissection of that alien being was quite horrific.”) Locker room sports inspiration talk aside, there are some new story lines connected to Marcus’ dad, and Dominique’s wife along with some other stuff related to the invasion and the horde. Bottom line? We need to kill every last one of these stinkin’ beasts before they kill us all.

Was That An Exploding Cockroach?

Remember the big ridiculously tough alien beast on the train at the end of the first Gears? Anyhow hard it was to kill him with all the stuff coming at you? Okay well that thing pales in comparison to what they throw at you in the Gears of War 2. Tickers – see header – for example have no particular pattern to them, run at your out of the dark and have bombs strapped to them. Yeah that’s right, bombs. And they’re little, annoying and really mess things up. GOW2 also throws some seriously big badass aliens (some ride giant alien dog things) that add a whole new level of excitement, intensity and difficulty to the game. There are some fresh new weapons both human and alien too, as well as new vehicles and of course, some unpleasantly dark locales where things can and will jump at you. What like you want a warning?

As for the aforementioned cover system – it’s not just about hiding behind wall and cement blocks anymore. There are bullet resistant worms that act as moving cover (you have to see it), almost dead aliens that become human shields and then there’s an actual shield (massive metal shields like all King Arthur style) you carry in one hand and a killer pistol in the other. The rockworm has to be the coolest of the three and it’s nice to have that variety in a game that originally did not always have the hiding spots you needed.

Then there’s vastness and variety of the game. A lot of people complained that the original game lacked freshness in the levels. Well props to Cliffy B’s mad crew again for dropping you in the action, giving you a ton of amazing environments and switching tings up with vehicles, weather and intense battle everywhere and anywhere in this massive landscape. And for some icing on the COG cake, the solid sound (aliens, effects, guns) are as good if not better than the second time around. For all you lucky punks with a sound system, you may want to call the neighbors. This one gets loud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pappa’s Got A Brand New Bag – of Multiplayer

The single player is a thoroughly rewarding experience. Exciting and immersive, you could easily lose yourself in the game in all its bloody gory. Now though, with some fresh multiplayer modes and the always solid online co-op play, you have something you’ll keep around for a bit instead of heading down to the game store for a trade. The most impressive and “jump in” ease of the multiplayer modes is undoubtedly the Horde more. You and four other gamers join together and fight waves and waves (about 50 to be exact) of Locust Hordes doing your darndest best to stay alive until the next round. You know how you might come home some days and just want to go online and kill stuff? Then take a heaping help of Horde mode (ka-ching on the alliteration) and get your game on. The only thing that would make this and the other online modes rise above the competition is it lacks the upgrading and status boosts of Halo and Call of Duty 4.You can argue the benefits of having or not having upgrades as rewards for online play but it certainly doesn’t take away from the fun of GOW2. This is one of those debates that goes something like, “What about the people that cheat and rank up in 1 day?” versus “I like getting new stuff when I rank up!”versus “Halo Mountain Dew tastes like candy flavored Robitussin mixed with RedBull.”

 

Best Game Ever –Again?

 

Depending on where you look Gears of War 2 will have movie poster like statements attached to it like, “Stunningly Impressive,” “A 10 out of 10,” “Game of the Year,” “Quantum of Solace? Feh!” As far as being game of the year, it’s got some competition forsure but that by no means makes it any less of a contender. In a year flush with sequels there are some fresh faces that joined the fall gaming glut this year (Mirror’s Edge, Left for Dead, Dead Space – wait what’s with all the death?) Bullet for bullet though GOW2 takes the outstanding first game and makes it outstandinger (no that’s not a word).

Will you play through it again? Yes. Will you a get a lot out of the multiplayer modes? Hell yes. Will there be a sequel? You’ll have to decide on that, there’ll be no spoiler alert here. The problem of course with any sequel is the problem they faced with this one. How can you make something that was so well received and enjoyed even better? Gears of War 2 answers that question 10 times over. What Epic accomplished here was no small feat. They took a title and kept it familiar but answered issues that everyone whined about the first time around. And if that wasn’t enough, they beefed up the game, story, visuals and online modes. And just to take it even further, they intensified the gaming experience and gave the sequel enough of its own identity. How many sequels in games or movies can do that? You can count them with two hands – maybe. Gears of War 2 has surpassed its predecessor to make it a standout title that will please fans and newcomers alike.

Nov
30
2008

Hinterland (PC) Review

It's not very easy to pigeonhole Hinterland into a genre. At any given moment in an average playthrough, it seems to switch between real-time strategy, "Diablo" style roleplaying, and something altogether unique in the blink of an eye.

You may be familiar already with Tilted Mill, the developers behind Hinterland. They were the team responsible for SimCity Societies, the first non-Maxis title in the hugely successful franchise. They also developed Caesar IV, another fairly well-known game.

I should mention that I'm not an RTS guy. I do play them, but it's a rare occasion to see me frantically clicking to mine more gold or Vespene Gas. It's not that I don't like the genre; I just suck at it. I always seem to build the most vulnerable bases, the worst fleets of units, etc.

With this in mind, I am very pleased with the accessibility of Hinterland. It matters little where you place each building, since any time the enemy sends raiders after your town, it's more a matter of action-RPG swords and sorcery fighting than massive fleets assaulting your buildings.

This is because, unlike similar games where you are a bodiless general scrolling around the map to direct units, you are an actual character on the field itself. It's you against the world, battle-wise. You can take NPCs along with you to help fight and loot for supplies, but they are merely wingmen.

That brings us to the RPG aspect. Another genre I play on occasion, yet generally fail at. This is easily the more fleshed out half of the game, with a wide variety of character classes to choose, each wildly different than the last in stats and starting equipment. There is also a surprising amount of items and weapons. Daggers, swords, axes, hammers, bows, potions, armors, various accoutrements for your workers... get the picture? You'll not be left wanting for armaments nor magic baubles.

In true RPG style, you'll be on an endless quest for the perfect weaponry to finish off the enemy encampments with. And herein lies the goal of playing. Take out the encampments one at a time, until you and your town are all that's left. Wipe out certain bases, and you'll have access to a new natural resource. Sound easy? Sure, at first. Then you start facing Level 10 Trolls and the like, and you discover the joy of NPCs.

Thanks to the relatively simple gameplay, you won't have to worry about braindead computer compadres hindering your progress. That's not to say they aren't braindead, but there's nothing they can do besides follow you and attack enemies, so don't worry about them suddenly running in circles or attempting to couple with trees.

Same goes for the various creatures you'll battle. They never show any deeper reasoning than "Kill kill kill". Normally I'd hate this, but it serves it's purpose just fine. This isn't Rainbow Six, after all.

It's not all happy days and rainbow puppies in Hinterland, unfortunately. While the game is definitely a joy to play, you may have a hell of a hard time trying to play it at all.

I refer to the loading time. This is not a graphically advanced game. My PC should be able to chew it up without a hitch. Yet, I sat for a good ten to fifteen minutes waiting for it to load. After some research, I'm not the only one who encountered this either. On top of inexplicable slowdown at random points of the game, the engine feels terribly unoptimized.

One thing it does well, on the other hand, is graphics. Take note of the art on the loading screens as well, as they are quite professional looking. Engine-wise, everything looks good for a 2D title, despite a lack of variation in terrain. Characters are well animated, nicely detailed, and the variety of models is just large enough to carry the short running time.

Don't let the short gameplay deter you. The replay value is insane. If you want to see every variation on the Hinterland experience, be prepared to play it through many, many times. You'll easily get as much gameplay out of it as the average big name title, and then some. Randomly generated playing fields push the fun even further.

There is nothing memorable about the sound design, though, no matter how many replays you squeeze out of Hinterland. I'm not saying it's bad, it just made no impression on me whatsoever. Ask me to hum a bar of the game's theme at this very moment, and I'll be struck silent.

The same can be said about the storyline. If there was one, it definitely isn't important to the gameplay. Basically, you work for the king, (who oftentimes gives you small tasks to complete for a gain or loss in Fame points), and you want to take over your part of the countryside. Yeah, it's not Chaucer.

Controls are as simple as it gets without being voice activated. Like most RTS titles, it's all about the mouse. The left mouse button, to be exact. Click to walk, click to loot, click to attack, click to manage your town. You may even need to click a few times, should the action reach a boiling point. Got all of that written down? I know, it's a lot to remember, and it may scare away small children and those with weak constitutions. Clickin' ain't easy.

All outdated jokes aside, Hinterland gives you a lot of strategy bang for your buck, if not a lot of bells and/or whistles. Just don't come in expecting Starcraft from the RTS side, or Diablo 2 from the action-RPG side. Think of it more as a concept game that does things well, if not in a particularly ground-breaking fashion. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that it's a tiny bit buggy.

For the pittance of $20, fans of the genre(s) have little excuse not to grab Hinterland. This belongs on every strategist's hard drive, right next to Blizzard's megahits.

Nov
28
2008


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