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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Project Aftermath is an indie 3D topdown game where you get to lead a bunch of heroes around and shoot at dudes. Oh, and there are awesome little bridges and doors you can open and close! Games Faction was kind enough to give us a copy, and we had a lot of fun reviewing it--if you can call playing for hours on end "reviewing" it.
Project Aftermath puts you in charge of four heroes. These heroes attempt to take down the New Order, a group of fighters that want to take over. The game features a meager ten levels. While these levels are not excruciatingly long, they're not exactly what you'd call a Half-Life 2. Which is perfectly fine. None can expect an indie game studio to pump out a story to match the finesse and quality of Valve's Half-Life 2. Project Aftermath has a perfectly fine story, for what it tries to accomplish.
The audio in Project Aftermath is basically composed of many short sounds, and that's it. Sure, there are characters talking to you a lot of the time, and while the voice acting is superb, the actual sounds accomplish little more than telling the player what's happening. Lasers all really sound the same, sticks and claws don't make any different sounds (even though you're bashing with sticks and puncturing with claws), and almost every other sound effect is in the same matter. I really don't mean to sound harsh, seeing as this is an indie production and they don't have an entire team dedicated to sound effects, but they really could be better.
Now this is what I'm excited to write about. Project Aftermath boasts incredibly addicting gameplay. Players will never want to stop beating the crap out of enemies with pointy sticks, or shooting people over and over until there really isn't a reason to shoot any longer. There is a huge variety of weapons, augments, field effects, and upgrades to be had. The game boasts thousands of different customization options. In order to buy new weapons, you must spend GOOP, the currency in Project Aftermath. Players have a set amount of GOOP when they start a mission, and if the GOOP meter goes into the red zone during the mission, it's perfectly fine. But if they finish the mission and the GOOP meter is still critical, the mission is counted as a failure. Players lose GOOP by resurrecting fallen warriors, or using field effects and augmentations. GOOP can be collected by picking it up, and the pickups are scattered throughout each map.
Players can literally choose thousands of customization options. First you have your heroes. You can add or remove soldiers from each hero, costing GOOP for every soldier. Then players can choose their hero's power, a trait that determines how well they fare in combat. Power is quite expensive, though it pays off. After those customizations, players can determine what augmentations the hero receives. Augmentations are powerups that effect objects within a certain radius. These can be speed, attack, defense, or even resurrection of fallen soldiers. Field effects are quite the opposite: they're devastating attacks that can wipe clear enemies. Field effects often cost GOOP, so players use them only in emergencies. After customizing the field effects and augmentations, players can finally choose what weapons a hero receives. There are only two types of weapons: melee and ranged. Players can choose around four weapons for their hero to use, and can switch between them during battle. Additionally, if a player chooses to use a melee weapon, they get the added bonus of being able to rush very quickly towards their opponent.
Weapons are split into four groups, or elements: red, light blue, green, yellow. Players must choose carefully what elements they choose, because enemy's armor can also be these four elements. If a player attacks an enemy with a weapon of the same element as the enemy's armor, the attack will be drastically weakened, up to 100% in rare cases. A few enemies can have double armor, so they have resistance from two different elements. Field effects are also split into these four elements, and follow the same basic rules.
Project Aftermath is a piece of visual excellence. Environments are painstakingly detailed, giving the player a sense of envelopment. The graphics in Project Aftermath really help get the player into the game, full alert for any signs of resistance. A neat particle system really adds to this--without it, everything would look a lot more bland. The fire is simply beautiful. In addition to all this, Project Aftermath is constantly being updated, so we can expect more beautiful artwork in the near future.
Players can constantly go back to previous levels and attempt to get a higher GOOP score, in an attempt to get more weapons and soldiers to beat a more challenging level. In addition, players can control how hard it is. For the more "hardcore" players, they can simply drastically weaken their soldiers in an attempt to show off how awesome they are. Casual players can use all their GOOP up to defend themselves as well as possible. In addition, there are medals awarded per level depending on how much GOOP players have left after completing a mission. For the extremely hardcore, they could get 100% GOOP while having no armor and no weapons aside from sticks! The replay value is strong in Project Aftermath, and players will spend hour upon hour in attempts to perfect their playstyle. I know one person that will strive to win every level on "expert" mode.
Project Aftermath is one game that will not disappoint. For all ye who love RTS, hear me. For all ye who love indie and strategy, hear me. For $19.99, players will receive hours of playtime, engaging graphics, and content updates for no charge. The game is available on Steam, and we highly recommend that you buy it. Those who don't will be missing out on a sure hit--I cannot wait to see what a sequel looks like.
If you’ve ever had the displeasure of driving in Los Angeles, you know there is nothing remotely fun about it. Apparently the folks over at Rockstar San Diego beg to differ – at least in the videogame world. The Los Angeles they’ve created in Midnight Club Los Angeles is vibrant, colorful and full with detail and life. Unlike the Burnout series, you have a cityscape that has people and an environment that is actually like a city. Add to that the fact that the newest iteration of this street racing series is just plain fun, and you’ll have yourself a blast tooling around in your beautifully rendered, totally pimped out ride (sorry, no TVs in the trunk).
After you pick your jaw off the floor from the stunning visuals and check out the wicked chrome effects on your car you’ll quickly see just how smooth your car handles. Granted the physics are more Burnout then Forza but if you’re a total gearhead and you really wanted to drive your virtual car more realistically you have that option. The driving experience as a whole lives up to and outshines previous midnight clubs making MCLA pure empty-headed fun. The feeling you get is that you are driving at exhilarating speeds thorough crowded city streets racing other fools for some mad cash and making your way up the ranks.
Never mind the story because if there is a weak spot, that’s it. The Midnight Club series was never really about plot so at this stage of the franchise why even bother to have one? Just know that when the race begins, it’s on. When you’re not racing, you’ll have a grand ‘ol time customizing your car 10 times over. Everything from the hubcaps to the exhaust to the paint. No need to fret too much on what you’re beefing up your whip with.You get a fairly decent guide of what the performance parts do and cost.Just roll on up to the garage and have at it.
Seamless online racing adds to the fun as you careen about the streets of L.A. trying to beat strangers and friends alike. With support for up to 16 players, race and co-op modes that resemble a first person shooter, MCLA has depth and replayability to spare.
For fans of the series if modes and gameplay seem familiar, it’s because they are. What Rockstar San Diego did was not reinvent the wheel, but make a better performing and better looking wheel.
A Massive In Your Face Dunk of Fun
The battle for basketball sims between EA Sports and 2KSports has been going on for several years now and heading into the end of this decade, 2K Sports has edged its way into the lead surpassing gameplay and presentation every iteration. For the plug and play, “I have no time to learn how to play” gamers out there the latest tweaks are not anything that will blow you away but because of the bucket full of game modes and solid gameplay, you can count on having a grand time shooting hoops with the top players of the NBA.
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Really Basketball - Basketball
Much like the tasty fake butter spray, NBA 2K9 looks outstanding. When you look at this game you’ll simply be amazed, almost to the point that if you were going to casually stroll past a TV while a game was in progress you might not realize it was a video game. The player animations, the animated crowd, coaches and the stadium have all been improved in appearance making for a clean, great looking game. Now a few years into the “next gens” with HDTVs being sort of reasonable, everyone expects a game like this to look good --but 2K9 has outdone itself.
What Else Is New?Seriously Didn’t 2k8 Just Come Out?
Like football, hockey and soccer, both 2K Sports and EA Sports have their hoops games as perennials. As for new stuff, the living rosters and updates will keep your players up to date with their real life counterparts. A little too freaky for a sim? Maybe, but it’s still cool. The real gem of this year's release though has to be how close to reality the gameplay is. We’re talking about everything from player animations to AI interaction to play calling on offense and defense. Simply put, it’s unmatched. On top of that,vastly improved game modes like the Association have been tweaked to beef up the trades and the multiplayer now has the option to play 5 on 5 with a minimum one person per console. How’s that for some wacky online fun?
It’s great but not all gravy
One of these days, not sure when, 2K sports will make the free throws easier. Not that this is a complaint but when you try to have free throws mesh with the shooting styles of the players you end up with the killer talent of Kobe as well as the brick throwing mastery of Shaq. There are some other quirky things that people could pick at if they really wanted to but for ballers and casual sports gamers alike NBA 2K9 serves up another plate of quality basketball gaming that has the depth and replayability you’ve come to expect from this series.
The Saints Row franchise has always suffered the problem of being compared to its older brother, Grand Theft Auto. People scrutinized the games first attempt, comparing it pixel by pixel to San Andreas. In a vain attempt, fans sought to give the game a new identity, saying you couldn’t compare the two games, it was like comparing apples to oranges. Alas, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it’s going to be called a duck.
However, since we want to compare games, comparing GTA IV to Saints Row 2, is like comparing apples to apples. Except that second apple is candy coated making it a hell of a lot more fun…
Saints Row 2 picks up a few years after the final events of the first one, with our MC waking up from the coma caused by the boat explosion in the first game. Your city that you once ruled is gone, as are you gang.Three new gangs have taken over Stillwater, as well as the mysterious Ultor Company, whose role in your attempted assassination is unclear. The game follows the MC’s quest to get his or her city back, and restore the Saints to power once again.
Without giving too much away, each gang is unique in their own way. The Brotherhood have sort of a Neo-Nazi kind of feel to them; The Sons of Samedi remind me to James Bond’s movie Live and Let Die; and the Ronin come off as a cliché Triad gang. There are no softies in this one people. At some point all three gangs will attempt to break their foots off in your respective asses.
Perhaps the most disappointing piece of the game is that the story line doesn’t answer what happened on that fateful night at the boat. The game makes an attempt to answer some of the questions, but that doesn’t take much to find, I found it before doing even 1 mission. It just takes a bit of curiosity.
This is where the apple gets candy coated. I don’t say this a lot, but it should be illegal to have this much fun in a video game. Campaign mode offers a nice little co-op, with partners being able to move in and out seamlessly without disruption of the game. It’s almost too inviting to grab a partner, and raise hell in the city. Side missions and activities can be performed with a partner as well, and anything earned during activities stays with you even after you leave.
The game thrives on pure customization. From the jump,you’re invited to make your gang member into whatever your heart desires, manor woman, hood or freak, it’s all up to you. Your houses, referred to as cribs,are customized from the bed you sleep on; to the TV you have, right down to the type of stripper pole your crib contains. Even your gang can be customized in to ninjas if you so desired. Even the way to take a rival gang member out was be customized, from nut-shots and head shots, to sticky satchel charges and chainsaws. Each style of killing earns you respect with your gang.
SR2 dominates where GTA IV failed, and that’s keeping your attention outside of missions. From riding on a flaming ATV setting anything and everyone in your path on fire, to riding around and spraying the locals with crap; the game keeps the laughs coming. Mechanics pretty much follow the first game, with a major addition being the over the shoulder look for better accuracy. Cars drive fairly well, however certain ones don’t handle well after a boost of Nitrous at full speed. The highlight has to be the motorcycles, fastas hell and twice as fun to drive.
The new over the shoulder aiming system rocks out loud,giving better sight to hordes of enemies. Smaller weapons can be dual-wielded,and there's a pretty good variety of weapons. Some are classics from the first game; others are brand new and pack a whole new punch. Try the shotgun that fires at a rapid rate like a pistol; or the rocket launcher that locks on.
The new Stillwater looks beautiful. Point blank. The city isrichly built, from the skyscrapers to the slums. It can get buggy though, I’ve seen buildings just disappear after high explosive activity, and free falling from the sky onto certain buildings can land you inside, with no way out.There's also a tendency for the graphics to cause the game to freeze, but these are seemingly few and far between.
The soundtrack isn’t too much to write about, featuring some well-known artist like Taking Back Sunday, Young Jeezy, My Chemical Romance, Neyo, and LCD Sound System. However,there's a funny little Easter egg, that’s worth 15 achievement points, for each voice, there are two songs on the radio that your gangster will sing. Mine happens to really like Night Ranger’s Sister Christian. If it comes on the radio, you just have to sit there and do nothing. They will sing. It will be hilarious.
Nobody ever said beating all the activities was the way to beat the game. Chances are there are plenty of tags you missed, hidden CDs to collect, and stunt jumps to be found. There is always something to do, and the online multiplayer isn’t too shabby either.
Saints 2 will hook new fans, and drive old fans to beg for anew one. Its pure psychopathic fun, mixed with all the excitement of a sandbox game. There are moments in the story that I really felt for the MC, and personally swore revenge on the gangs of Stillwater. It does a good job of sucking you in and never letting go. Hell, when it’s all said and done, one might be tempted to ask the question, Grand Theft who?
In the days of Gran Turismo, Need for Speed, among other racing franchises out there, the futuristic racing hasn't been explored very deeply, but one company has decided to tread these waters. A game recently released on Steam by a young company by the name of Eipix, Pyroblazer is a game of futuristic racing. Pyroblazer promises exceptional graphics, intense fun and gameplay, over 40 levels, 15 vehicles, and 20 weapons plus more. The question is will Pyroblazer get people into a racing version of Twisted Metal? Let’s find out…
The story here is quite simple; you have wanted to be a Pyroblazer for a long time and finally have gotten your chance to join the ranks. The game gives you a good amount of maps and ships but the story itself is just bland. You choose your ship and battle race through level to level to attain new ships and glory. It seems just to basic or more or less, a Hexen remake from the N64. The story is simple yet relevant, but nothing to WOW yourself at.
The controls are clunky as hell and hard to get used to. Learning the ropes is the most difficult part along with attempting to race and fight at the same time through the tiny racing holes. I think if you took the time (a lot of time!) to get used to the game it could be thoroughly enjoyable, but honestly most people get turned off by a game they can't "master" or at least feel confident with in about 5 to 10 minutes. It seems like they took Jet Moto and made the racing tougher but not in a good way. It turns into a big turnoff. Jet Moto on the original Playstation is honestly a better and more enjoyable racing game than this. Simple controls, basic story (a.k.a. no story just f-ing race!) and a better overall experience. Pyroblazer just doesn’t hold up.
The graphics are okay but nothing to make you jump. They aren’t too bad but do nothing to impress, if ya know what I mean. Graphics, the backbone of racing games today is just seemingly put on the back burner here. In racing, gameplay and graphics are interesting things. Some offer good variations of both while some lack one over the other but still perform well. As for Pyroblazer they are good as I said before, but they seem a bit sacrificed to the gameplay which made no true sense. They are good looking in their own right yet nothing that will make you go "ohhhh! Ahhhh! Hot diggity damn!" This is something that went overlooked or was sacrificed to the gameplay which is my belief. The graphics are not bad, I reiterate they are good just nothing new/exciting. Unfortunate yet true.
The sound is enjoyable and quirky, but is, in the end, bland. Beyond the explosions of other vehicles or yours, there is a large amount of zoooooooooooooooooom! and zooooooooooooooooooooooom! and occasionally a "bang!" here and there but lots of scraping against the sides of the racing tunnels. It is unfortunate, I wish it had a better sound track to it as well which could have really set the mood for the game. Racing games can be helped by music like the F-Zero series with their robotic announcer and catchy tunes. It could use some techno or some rock or just something besides add your own track kinda stuff. Kind of a knife and fork being scratched on a plate feeling here…
Yet again, you can get the same enjoyment out of Jet Moto or Jet Moto 2 for the PSX which is considerably cheaper. The problem is this is nothing new and the gameplay is clunky and hard to get used too. I constantly found myself struggling to get into it due to my coming in mid- to last-place most of the time. Racing games are a big hit or miss genre so I cannot fault them against replay value. Racing games are just difficult to gain replay value in. Few racing games produce quality replay value and Pyroblazer falls into that black hole of games as well. Unless you and friends get into the game itself, I don’t think it has much replay value.
I just couldn’t get into the game honestly. I like futuristic racing games as Jet Moto is one of my personal favorites of all time to this day. Pyroblazer has a lot of great ideas but just has control problems,an awkward weak story, and in some parts just too many laps. I mean 15 laps is a crap ton! It feels like future NASCAR…although I would watch NASCAR if machine guns, missiles, rockets and lasers were involved…anyway Pyroblazer seems more like a work in progress than a good game. I love seperate companies that try to make something unique, but as we have seen in years past it can fail terribly. Pyroblazer is not a failure by any means, it just needs some tweaking and turning is all. With a few add-ins maybe some characters or something this could be like Armored Core with racing in it, which I for one like the sound of. I am interested to see if they do a 2nd one; I think some vehicle customization and stronger story lines could help this franchise. The game has strong points but too many weaknesses to give it the benefit of the doubt. I know they can do better and hope they do a 2nd one which I would look forward to playing very much if they add a few things here and there!