Fable 2 (X360) Review

In the world of RPG gaming there are many games that are great as well as many games that are just good. From the Elder Scrolls series to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic there are many greats but, there is one that stands out among games as mature, violent, sex-addicted, and…flatulent. This is the review of Fable 2.

Story:

The storyline itself is a story within a story within a story, so forth and so on. You are (insert name here),a soon to be renown hero of Albion. You and your sister Rose are poor paupers in old town Bowerstone just looking for some gold for a few days of food, when you come across a magical music box that you are enticed to buy because of what an old blind gypsy told you about it (that it was truly magical). You set off to do some simple tasks for some gold pieces. You need a total of 5 to obtain the box and some of the decisions you make as a child are crucial to your future in the game weather you want to be good or evil. The game takes a twist when you get the music box, open it and it disappears…you then are asked to the castle where Lord Licien Fairfax lives and he proceeds to find out that they are eventual Heroes that could get into his way and he kills your sister Rose and shoots you out of a window. You are saved by that blind gypsy who is Theresa, from the first Fable.

From here you go on your quest of revenge on Lucien with Theresa’s help. Theresa has you seek out 3 other Heros that will aid you in Lucien’s destruction. The first is Hannah (Hammer) from Oakfield who is the Hero of Strength, you then find Garth, the Hero of Will in Brightwood but must fallow Lucien’s men who have captured him to the Spire in order to rescue him, and finally you have Reaver from Bloodstone who is the Hero of Skill. Throughout this story you will make decisions that impact you and those around you which will determine your side of good or evil, pure or corrupt.

Overall: A

Gameplay:

The gameplay is wonderful and just as addictive as the first Fable. They give you a new and fun interactive addition to this game in the form of a companion, your new dog. You can choose to rename him, I named mine Murphy after my first dog, and he can do tricks along with your different expressions. You can still fart, belch, flip off, dance, growl, seduce and slap your way all through Albion just like in the first game. My favorite edition to the game is your secondary weapon which can be crossbows or firearms. I love my repeating rifle; you can also get pistols, and blunderbusses, which are like old school shotguns. The aiming system is still on par, your blocking, and combos are strong as well just like before. Your Will powers are exceptional and entertaining. I wonder if Lucas Arts might pursue a lawsuit regarding Fable 2 having a Will move called “Force Push”. Just something to keep your eye on. Anyway, the gameplay is as solid as the original and you can buy damn near everything in the game, houses and stuff alike. It takes an estimated 100 million gold to buy everything in the world says lead designer Peter Molyneux. There are loads of clothes and weapons to buy. Solid gameplay here.

Overall: A

Graphics:

The graphics are solid and keep that same graphical style from the original game. A somewhat dark kiddie graphics style that is different from all other games. The details are good, not great but keep itself respectable. Your facial features such as eyes, facial hair, hair and so on are again on par but not something that will catch your eye like Elder Scrolls: Oblivion or the newly released Fallout 3 that just came out. The graphics will not wow you but are in great condition for the X360 and for what the game brings. The graphics stay true to Fable and to its heritage that Molyneux proposed during the original Fable creation. Why add more to something that needs no fixing?

Overall: A

Sound:

The sound is great and is helpful in certain situations. When your looking for the gargoyle heads the sound helps you by selectively giving you sound bites from only the are they are in. To help you from the confusion of my previous sentence, if he is behind you, you will only hear his voice from behind you. It helps a lot when looking for someone or something. The weapon fire is nice to hear too, good crackshot sounds.

Overall: A

Replay:

The replay is very good actually. There are 3 endings you can get and all three are worth their point totals. The online play is interesting and fun although it doesn’t chalk up the same fun as Saints Row 2 in any way; it is still respectable on its own rights. Taking a different tour of Albion from the good side and evil side is always worth another few hours of gameplay. It is also a great looking game and has some fun achievements to pick up along the way some of which can only be achieved while being online. Good replay value here.

Overall: B+

Overall:

This is a great addition to the Fable franchise for Lionhead Studios. Play through this game and you will get a glimpse at a possible 4th installation of the series here with an interesting twist to the plot here. As long as people enjoy making their own characters, facial features, and careers via games these types will live on until the day will die and Fable will be there at the brunt with the other powerhouse games out there to choose from. Just remember, this is the only game you can be gay and get married in. It’s funny that Albion has a tyrannical ruler yet is liberal. That is funny in this day in age of Repubs and Dems. Albion is a heavy conservative seeming place but hookers and gay marriage are a norm. Some life lessons here maybe? You decide!

Overall: A

 

Achievements

 

Sort:
The Pooch Pamperer 5
Play fetch with your dog, or see another Hero's dog play.
The Archaeologist 5
Dig up something the dog has discovered, or see another Hero do so.
The Dog Trainer 5
Teach your dog a trick, or see another Hero's dog learn one.
The Persuader 5
Convince a villager to give you a present, or see another Hero do so.
The Show-off 5
Impress a villager with a perfect expression, or see another Hero do so.
The Romantic 10
Take a villager on a perfect date, or tag along to one. Location and expressions are all-important.
The Spouse 10
Marry a villager, or attend the wedding of another Hero.
The Parent 10
Have a child, or be there for the birth of another Hero's child.
The Hunter 5
Kill a sweet, innocent, fluffy bunny rabbit (remember, safety's off!)
The Gargoyle 25
Find the gargoyles' legendary treasure.
The Chicken Kicker 5
Kick a chicken a good distance, or see one getting kicked.
The Cliff Diver 5
Cliff dive 500 feet, or see another Hero do so.
The Workhorse 10
A Hero must achieve a high-enough chain while performing a job.
The Hero of Many Names 5
Change your Hero's title, or see another Hero change theirs.
The Teaser 5
Make bandits respond to expressions with fear, anger, mirth, and confusion... during combat!
The Property Magnate 10
A property must be sold for twice the price it was bought for.
The Rogue 5
Steal something undetected from a building while there are people nearby, or see another Hero do so.
The Illustrated Hero 5
Tattoo every part of your Hero's body, or see another Hero do so.
The Executioner 10
Sacrifice ten people in the Temple of Shadows, or see another Hero do so.
The Gambler 10
A Hero must win 500 gold at a pub game in one sitting, having tried each game type at least once.
The Bigamist 10
Get married a second time, whilst already married, or attend the second wedding of another Hero.
The Swinger 5
Take part in a debauched bedroom party with several participants.
The Pied Piper 10
Start a party where at least five villagers are dancing, or see another Hero do so.
The Party Animal 10
Get five villagers drunk in under three minutes, or see another Hero do so.
The Menace To Society 5
Commit an act of public indecency, or see another Hero commit one.
The Black Knight 10
Shoot the weapons from a hollow man's hands, blow off his head and then kill him for good!
The Duellist 10
String together a full-speed chain attack, or see another Hero do so.
The Sharpshooter 10
Hit three enemies with one shot, or see another Hero do so.
The Archmage 10
A Hero must kill five human enemies with one spell.
The Ruler of Albion 100
Amass a 2.5 million gold real estate empire, or be there when another Hero does.
The Hoarder 25
Collect every silver key, or see another Hero do so.
The Goth 5
A Hero must dye their hair black, and wear a black outfit and black makeup.
The Completionist 50
Get all expressions, pet tricks and abilities, or see another Hero do so.
The Paragon 15
Reach 100% good or evil, or see another Hero do so.
The Extremist 15
Reach 100% purity or corruption, or see another Hero do so.
The Celebrity 50
Reach 50,000 renown, or see another Hero do so.
The Artisan 10
Succeed at one job to Level 5, or see another Hero do so.
The Dollcatcher 10
Collect all the Hero dolls, or see another Hero collect them.
The Muse 5
Inspire the Bard to compose songs celebrating your great deeds.
The Companions 10
Perform a perfect co-op expression.
The Double Threat 10
Get a co-op combat bonus.
The Philanthropist 10
Send a gift to an Xbox LIVE friend, or watch another Hero send one.
The Whippersnapper 25
A child Hero must collect five gold pieces.
The New Hero 50
The terror of Bower Lake must be defeated.
The Hero of Strength 100
Complete The Hero of Strength.
The Hero of Will 100
Complete The Hero of Will.
The Hero of Skill 100
Complete The Hero of Skill.
The Sacrifice 25
A Hero must choose 'The Needs of the Many'.
The Family 25
A Hero must choose 'The Needs of The Few'.
The Egomaniac 25
A Hero must choose 'The Needs of the One'.

 

Oct
30
2008

AudioSurf (PC) Review

Audiosurf was a triumph. I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS! It's hard to overstate my satisfaction. Pun aside, Audiosurf is a technical achievement. Using something as simple as a music synth in something as complex as a game is a triumph indeed. Not to mention the fact that its highly addictive gameplay is just one of the uses for Audiosurf! It includes a ton of variety in the gameplay, plus it's graphically astounding!

AUDIO

Audiosurf is like an mp3 player on crack. Load up your favorite song, and listen to it while playing an awesome game. It's somewhat hard to rate Audiosurf on its audio, because the audio is endless! The only way to rate it is to rate The Orange Box Soundtrack that came with it, and that is some awesome music. My favorite song has to be "4000 Degrees Kelvin", which was a song I spent HALF AN HOUR looking for! Why didn't they just name it "The Do Do Do Do Do Do Song"? It would have saved me a lot of time! Since the game comes with TOB Soundtrack, you have all of your favorite songs, ready to synth and ride along at any time. It features an in-game file browser, so you can easily look for your songs without any annoying pop-up. Plus, it has a link to TOB soundtrack right on the first page of the file browser, so you don't have to go through anything to find your music! Also included is a link to your iTunes music, right under the link to TOB Soundtrack, so you don't have to go through anything difficult to find THOSE songs, either!

VISUAL

Trying to rate the graphics in Audiosurf is like trying to rate Seth MacFarlane's hilarity: brilliant. This, coming from someone who has an integrated chipset, and had to run on lowest settings. Even on low, the graphics are astounding. Trippy effects play out in the background, while the road frantically dips up and down rhythmically. I just love going slowly up a hill then rushing down into a party of notes. The "cars" (or blocks) are quite beautiful.  It's obvious that Dylan Fitterer put a lot of time and effort into making his dream a reality. Not to mention, the game is mod-able, so the graphics can change as well! AudioSurf boasts shader 3.0 support, though it can be easily tuned down, as mentioned before. So basically, the graphics are astounding. The game is moddable, so you can change any graphics you like, and you will be blown away by the polish put into the effects.

GAMEPLAY

"Holy crap! MOVE! Left! Left! Right! Jump! NOOO!"

Ah yes, the frantic bashing of the keyboard keys as you deftly maneuver past blocks to get to the colorful ones. It gets rather frantic, having to dodge every single block you do not want, and then trying to move past some bad blocks whilst trying to get to some good blocks! It's amazing how quickly the game processes the song, transforms it into playable blocks, and then loads the level! Audiosurf is indeed quite addicting, though it could feature some more elements—such as invisible blocks. In addition, there are a variety of racers(if that's what you should call them), making for a lot of different gameplay options. For example, there's the "mono" type, which turns every block into one of two colors: Grey (the bad), and hippy (the good). The "dual" type of racer adds TWO racers onto the field, for multi-player or ambidextrous surfing.Yet another example is the, ahem, Eraser Racer(Awful pun intended), which lets you choose a block color and eliminate it! Dylan also had the foresight to allow for three different difficulties. When playing on the casual difficulty, the background is white and calm. On pro and expert, however, the background is as black as night, with a black street and bright lights. It really gets you excited to be playing.  As you can see, AudioSurf offers a LOT of variety, which is not missed.

STORY

Unfortunately, Dylan did not feel the need to implement a story. I think it may have been a nice addition--maybe racing against people to get more points or something. Though I do see why Dylan didn't add in a story--it's an MP3 player game, so why do you need a story? Though a story would have been...interesting, it would just feel out of place and wouldn't fit with the game.

REPLAYABILITY

Hold on, let me play just one more game before I write this. Elevator music cue!

Thanks for holding. The replayability is amazing. It's like an entirely new game every time, as new songs are being put onto the "AudioSurf Radio", a neat little utility that hosts music for you to play. Thankfully, this music is free, and is, most of the time, good-sounding (I'm not a music reviewer so don't ask me to review music!). Also included is the ability to install mods, though an in-game mod browser would be highly appreciated! In addition, there's online leaderboards, which motivates you to play again and again in order to "just beat that one guy"! It lets you add friends directly within the game to compete with, and when you start the game it automatically finds your friends on steam that have Audiosurf as well, and adds them. It's completely seamless, so you don't even know it's doing it! Plus, I absolutely love how Audiosurf lets you play most any music file. Unfortunately, it does not have support for .midi's, which is rather disappointing, as I would love to play .midi's. In conclusion, Audiosurf features almost unlimited replayability--though some contests would not be missed.

OVERALL

The game is brilliant. The graphics are astounding, with trippy hippy-blocks trying to lead you down the path of awesome sounds. If you have not purchased this game, buy it NOW. There is no excuse for any music lover to not buy this game. It's a mere ten dollars, and Dylan deserves all of it. I'm surprised it's not a top-seller, because it's so original! Now, it may not be game of the year quality, but it's still pretty fun.

Oct
28
2008

Dead Space (PS3) Review

Have you ever watched the movie Aliens and ask yourself; “How would I handle this situation?”  Would I be like Hicks and stay cool and calm under pressure, like Ripley and take command or like Hudson and panic.  I’m pretty sure that I would be like Hudson.  At the first instance of some real jacked up predicament I’ll be the first one to scream, “That's it man, game over man, game over! What the f**k are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?”  In some ways this is how EA’s Dead Space makes you feel.  You’re thrown into some hellish situation and you have to survive it.

Story:

Dead space is set in the distant future.  The planet Earth has used up all of its natural resources and now entire planets have to be mined for those resources, then those resources have to be shipped backed to Earth.  They use ships called “Planet Crackers” to get the job done and their most important one the famed USG Ishimura (might as well be called LV 426) has gone silent.  A repair crew is sent to find out what happened to cause the communication breakdown.  One of the crewmembers is engineer Isaac Clarke; unlike most of the crew he has another reason to go on the mission.  This reason is Clarke’s girlfriend Nicole, whom sends him a rather cryptic message before the game begins.

After Clarke and his crew (involuntarily) enter the Ishimura the situation goes from bad to worse then to tits up.  Clarke and his colleagues are attacked by strange creatures called Necromorphs.  The Necromorphs are the reanimated dead bodies of the Ishimura‘s crew and come in some of the ghastliest shapes ever, but more on those later.  Eventually the crew decides to go back to their shuttle and in Aliens fashion your only means of escape explodes and along with it every sense of security that you have.   You only get about a second to shed a tear for your only means of escape.  Then you grab your balls and throw yourself into the most nightmarish undead infested hellhole since Raccoon City.  By the end of the game I’m surprised Isaac doesn’t unzip his suit and hose out the feces that must have been collecting in his suit.
Rating:  9.0

Gameplay:

Dead Space falls into the category of survival horror and plays a lot like Resident Evil 4.  The only difference is that the Necromorphs seem to be deadlier and a lot more blood thirsty than the Ganados.  For starters you quickly learn that a headshot really doesn’t mean anything in the world of Dead Space.  You’ll shoot a Necromorph in the head and it will fall off, but they don’t die.  Every time I did this to one they would swing their arms wildly and stumble into your general direction.  The key thing that you have to learn is how to take out the wide variety of Necromorphs thrown at you.  In order to do this you have to utilize strategic dismemberment.  While at first I thought this was some meaningless PR buzzword, but you actually do need to learn this.  For the most part you have to go for the tentacles on them or some other sort of appendage, but the question you have to answer is which appendage and the answer is different for each Necromorph.  This leads to several chaotic situations especially when they throw new ones at you and several different types in one confrontation.  These situations send your mind into a panic.  You wonder which do I kill first?  Do I kill the one that’s easier or do I do my best to kill the most powerful first?  Granted you can try to make a beeline to a door, but they can always just follow you.  One time I ran to another room and about four of these things came crashing through the ceiling to get me.

The weapons you use to combat these monstrosities aren’t exactly weapons.  They’re just tools used to mine minerals.  But to be honest if it’s capable of breaking rocks then flesh doesn’t stand a chance.  The three guns that prove this the most are the Plasma Cutter, Line Gun and the appropriately named The Ripper.  The Plasma Cutter is the only one that you actually find.  It has the ability to blast off chunks of flesh in either a vertical or horizontal path.  Knowing which one to use and when, is key to survival and ammo consumption.  The Line Gun is almost the same, but it’s limited to horizontal.  Its secondary setting is a mine launcher.  The Ripper launches saw blades…need I say more.  There are more in Dead Space, but these are the ones that stuck with me.  In addition to these weapons you have the Stasis and Kinesis modules.  Stasis acts like its own self-contained bullet time mechanic making that object move slower.  It works best on the fast vicious Necromorphs, and it also plays a part in puzzle solving.  The Kinesis module is pretty much just the Half-Life 2 gravity gun.

Each weapon and your armor can be upgraded using power nodes.  It’s very reminiscent of Resident Evil 4, but it was a lot more strategic.  Since your weapon upgrades will carry over to another play through; it makes the most sense to upgrade one weapon at a time.  The same goes for other equipment as well you’re your armor and the Stasis and Kinesis modules.

Another thing to take note of is; despite them essentially being zombies they’re a lot smarter than the shambling Resident Evil corpses.  They seem to realize that you have weapons that can hurt them and they do their best to not attack you head on.  A lot of the time they will come bursting out of air vents.  There have actually been numerous occasions where you actually hear them in the vents or even see them jumping into the vents.  This all ties into the sense of atmosphere that’s provided.  While skulking through the blood smeared corridors of the Ishimura your skin will crawl, the hairs on the back of your neck with stand up and you will become the most paranoid person in your house.

You walk through rooms with corpses strewn about.  Every room looks like a warzone where the crew held their ground to the last man and inevitably lost.  You’ll look at a wall and read words smeared in blood.  It’s like they wanted to leave a last hint in an attempt to make their death mean something.  You’ll occasionally read, “cut off their limbs” or “don’t go near the vents.”  And the dead seem to be the lucky ones.  Anybody left alive (except one person) wishes they were dead, and they have no qualms hastening their departure to the afterlife while they’re right in front of you.

There have been many occasions where I cleared Necromorph filled rooms, which lulled me into a false sense of security.  Soon afterwards some monstrous contorted freak of an ex-human being crashes out of an air vent and gnaws off my head.  One would think that Isaac would just fortify himself in some kind of room and let somebody fix the ship and establish communication with the outside world but he can’t.  This is because he is the one that has to do those things.  There are a lot of times when you will get missions asking for stuff to either be repaired or just plain turned on.  While this makes Dead Space feel a tad on the repetitive side you really don’t mind.  For starters it’s because you’re a maintenance engineer, so it would be like a plumber complaining about fixing toilets all day.  It’s also cool because there are a lot of different ways for you to fix or turn on said crucial apparatus.

One of the big hooks attached to Dead Space is the use of Zero G environments.  These allow you use multiple angles to traverse the environment.  This also plays a part in puzzle solving.  There are numerous times when you’re ordered to clear a room full of hazardous materials.  In order to do this you have to use your telekinesis gun to grab things and shoot the materials out of air locks or gravitation beams.  While this is great for puzzles it does have an affect on combat.  There are times that the camera will shift so you will have to take a second to get a grasp on what the new up is.   Also the Necromorphs can and will use the Zero G environment to their advantage, making combat slightly confusing.  While you get used to it, you might not like having some ugly thing launching at you from some unseen angle.  The puzzles can also have a hurried and tense pace to them when you’re in the vacuum of space.  This is when your oxygen becomes limited and you have to complete your objective within a certain timeframe.

Most of the innovation in Dead Space lies in the HUD, or the lack of one.  Your vital stats and other forms of useful information or found on the character itself. For starters your health can be seen as a segmented bar on Isaac’s back.  The ammo for your weaponry can be found on the gun.  When you ready the gun a holographic readout will be displayed presenting the information.  You will receive mission updates in real-time from holographic and audio transmissions.  Your inventory layout is also in real-time.  This is where you will find your health packs and ammo amongst other stuff.  At first you rely on this to access health packs, but eventually you realize that they hot keyed it to the square button.  At first you think that this takes away from the pressure of curing yourself, but it really doesn’t because you tend to just get attacked when you least expect it.  Besides when you hear something wailing or groaning in the background while your counting health packs it puts you on edge.

Other than the small nitpicks Dead Space borders on perfection.  It does an exceptional job of making its foray into the survival horror genre and should do a good job of holding people over until Resident Evil 5 is released.
Rating:  9.0

Graphics:

The graphics in Dead Space are a sight to behold.  From the interviews I’ve watched the development team said that the lighting is based on dentist chair lights.  And if this is the case I’ll let my teeth rot out of my skull before I ever set foot in a dentist’s chair.  The lights cast everything in some sort of ominous glow.  The lighting casts some of the most freakish shadows as well.  You’ll look at one and just wonder if it’s something that is capable of killing you.  It gets to the point that you’ll ready your gun with every new room you enter.

The creature design is just plain nasty.  You can tell where a person is still a human, but then you notice the protrusions and fangs and claws and parts of the anatomy bent in ways that just don’t seem possible.  Then it just gets worse.  You look at the monsters known as Brutes and say to yourself, “There’s no way in hell this thing was a person.”  Even babies lost their innocence in Dead Space.  There’s this one room on the Ishimura where babies are born and left floating in some goop.  When you see them you don’t say “Oh, how cute.”  You say, “What the f**k?”  And when you see what they become under the influence of the Necromorphs you shudder.

The architecture in Dead Space has a nice attention to detail.  The Ishimura seems to be meticulously detailed echoing numerous ships from other horrific sci-fi movies.  Every room looks like it has a purpose and some of the rooms try to showcase it.  There are numerous recreation rooms and you can even see posters to movies that one would watch on the Ishimura.  It just goes a long way in showcasing that actual people used to inhabit this ship.

The use of gore is just insane.  Not only does it play to the strategic dismemberment, but it teaches you a lesson.  That lesson is, “if you don’t want your head ripped off, or get chopped into sections then learn how to shoot.”  I have died in so many horrific ways that I lost count.  And after seeing what happens to Isaac when he doesn’t use something for shelter, while running across some open area in space, you’ll see why the game was banned in several countries.

There are a couple of times that the shadows look horribly pixilated, but that’s it.  Visually Dead Space does an epic job in showcasing one of the most nightmarish locations in the survival horror genre.
Rating:  9.5

Sound:

After about ten hours of hearing Dead Space I’m shocked that my hair isn’t gray yet.  Part of the reason is that you hear things, but you don’t know what’s coming.  For the most part the ambient noises are haunting.  You can hear the creaking and the groaning of the Ishimura as it floats through the vast darkness of space.  And that only gets interrupted when some thing waiting to pry the flesh from your body appears.  The music will pick up and go into typical horror movie fare.  The only other thing you hear is Isaac’s breathing.  While Isaac Clarke joins Gordon Freeman in the mute protagonist club, he at least breathes…and screams.  His breathing seems to echo underneath that tin can that he calls a helmet.  It sounds like his lungs are working over time trying to force each gasp of air out.  When he screams it’s just blood curdling and makes me wonder what they did to the voice actor to get him to scream like that.  The voice work for regular dialogue is well done with actors that convey the right sense of panic and urgency.  The same goes for the audio logs.  Just like in Bioshock you’ll find a lot of audio logs that help fill the story in.  These things are so chilling and disturbing.  The highlight of one for me was when you found one with a guy worrying about turning into a Necromorph.  So to do people a favor he hacked off his legs.  Dead Space is just chilling and haunting in it’s vocal delivery.
Rating:  9.5

Replay:

Very much like Resident Evil 4 there is no multiplayer and it doesn’t need it.  Just mastering the game and upgrading weapons is enough to come back to it.  Figuring out different strategies with different weapons for different scenarios is rather entertaining.  The story is good and the atmosphere is nightmare inducing.  Pretty much for anybody that has ran through Resident Evil 4 at least nine times and still continues to play it Dead Space is right up your alley.
Rating:  9.0

Overall:

I’ve never played a game that made me wish I had toilet built into my bed, but Dead Space is that game.  It’s creepy, it’s paced nicely and it’s influenced by the right sci-fi horror movies.  Dead Space handles beautifully and doesn’t make the player feel like playing it is some kind of chore.  Dead Space is a passion project from the developers at the EA Redwood Shores studio.  And I have one more thing to say.  If EA Redwood has anymore passion projects then give them the money to make them.
Rating:  9.3

Oct
26
2008

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway (PS3) Review

It takes a special kind of man with big hairy brass balls to lead a bunch of men to their possible deaths. That special man is Staff Sergeant Matt Baker, and he and his men from the 101st Airborne Division charge head long into the gaping maw of death in Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway.

This series especially now seems to receive a lot of flack because of its World War II setting. Granted I’m sick of the time frame too, but if the game it’s based around is good then I don’t mind. The last good WWII shooter (In my opinion) was Call of Duty 2, which was released in November 2005. Ever since then there hasn’t been a good one. I remember splurging a couple of weeks ago on Medal of Honor: Airborne expecting something decent. What I was met with was a game that got worse and worse as the stages advanced, several days later it was banished to the bowels of hell (got traded in). Luckily BIA:HH won’t be meeting the same fate because it’s actually pretty good.

Story:

BIA:HH takes place during Operation Market Garden. This was the disastrous brain child of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. This “plan” called for the airdropping of three divisions (82nd, 101st and 1st airborne divisions) to secure multiple bridges. While troops were able to capture 2/3 bridges they got holed up in Arnhem. Troops were spread thin and supply drop zones ended up getting captured, which caused the German forces to receive the supplies. Due to serious German counter attacks the 101st Airborne had to take position on a narrow stretch of Dutch land leading to Eindhoven. This stretch of land was known as “Hell’s Highway.”

While BIA:HH doesn’t serve as a History Channel documentary it does a more than serviceable job of showing you how soldiers used to interact. Almost everybody has some sort of nick-name and the sense of camaraderie is palpable. You can tell just by looking at them that they are more than willing to sacrifice their lives to protect each other. There are numerous scenes where the depiction of war is just brutal. There’s this one scene where Baker and his men have to charge across an open river with little to no cover available. There are men dying around Baker with mortar fire sending bodies upward with bullets knocking off helmets, the scene is intense and riveting. Unlike most WWII games it doesn’t ooze patriotism or try to get random gamers to sign up for the armed service, it just depicts war as something brutal with men and even teenage boys stuck in the middle of it.

The overall storyline between Baker and his men just isn’t that memorable and ties into the previous games. You can see that watching numerous men (especially Leggett) die is something that haunts him. On a side note there are numerous times where you’ll either see something that references Leggett or hear his last words being screamed out, so it’s something that is interesting to look for.
Rating: 8.5

Gameplay:

Unlike a good chunk of console FPS fare BIA:HH requires you to utilize tactics, such as cover and flanking maneuvers to get the job done. This is not a run and gun game like Halo and Baker is not a one-man army. If you run out in the open expecting to charge an MG42 nest you’re screwed. You’re urged to take cover, pull out your map and search the surroundings to look for a flanking position. Luckily you’re not alone and are able to utilize your men for help. Their job is to provide suppressing fire to pin down the enemy while you and another group of men (if you have some) sneak around and shoot them while they’re caught off guard.

This is just a blast once you get the right rhythm of it. Going from taking out three teams of entrenched men, and then silencing a machine gun nest is great. It’s even better when they give you access to a man with a bazooka. Once you have an enemy pinned with machine gun fire you can use the bazooka to easily wipe them out. It also becomes equally satisfying when the camera does a slow motion zoom in on the bazooka blast. You see the occasional arm or leg go flying and watch the rest of the body go flying in the opposite direction. Along with the Bazooka squad you have access to a heavy machine gun squad. These guys can also pin an enemy, but they can also destroy soft cover (fences, crates, anything wooden). This can also be done to you and your men, so it pays to watch what you put your men behind. There were a couple of sequences where all of the breaking cover and flanking tactics really shined and came together to be really exhilarating. In one of them my mission was to silence a bunch of German 88 artillery cannons. One of them was right down the road taking aim at my men and I so I had to find a safe route to it. For starters I had to use my firing squad to pin down enemy soldiers while I made a route somewhere for my bazooka squad to travel through. When the coasts were clear I brought in my assault squad to assist with back up while also using the bazookas to wipe out machine gun nests. Eventually we made it through and took out the 88’s. While the flanking maneuvers are a blast they tend to take you away from them.

There are numerous situations when they take you away from the team and you’re forced to go solo. When this happens you’re forced to rely on the unintuitive cover system. Unlike Gears of War or Uncharted you don’t hit the aim button to pop out of cover you use the sticks. While this is something you get used to it doesn’t work as well. To be honest if they used Rainbow 6: Vegas’ cover system I would not have a problem with it. That’s because you hold the trigger to get into cover and depress it to get out. But the cover system in BIA:HH is just too sticky and there are times when you just don’t out of the cover or get into it fast enough. Granted the cover is a pain but you grow rather used to it. The main problem at times is your ally A.I.

When you order them to take cover there are times when two of them will take cover properly. Then one of them will take cover on the opposite side (the one that won’t protect them from the bullets) and get Swiss cheesed, luckily anybody dead gets revived at checkpoints. Granted there pathfinding does seem to have gotten better. Instead of taking the long way to where I would point them they do hop over obstacles a lot more. Yet on the flipside of that their aiming isn’t so sharp. You’ll definitely notice this with the bazooka squad. There are a lot of times where you’ll tell them to shoot something, they’ll shoot and they’ll hit 20ft to the left or right of the target. Eventually you’ll reposition them and they will hit the intended target. The oddest thing I’ve seen involves your allies running; it’s honestly something straight out of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. When you order them to go somewhere they’ll run for it, and every now and then you will see them running in place for a couple of seconds, only for them to literally zoom off to that destination at twice the pace.

While not perfect BIA:HH can be likened to an interactive version of HBO’s acclaimed Band of Brothers series. As long as you don’t let the fact that it’s a WWII shooter dissuade you from a purchase you will enjoy it.
Rating: 8.5

Graphics:

BIA:HH is full of rich detailed graphics and actually offers a color palette outside of grey and brown. Skies are blue and grass is actually green. There’s a lot of detail on the character models. Baker’s face is scarred from his constant battles. It’s nice picking out the little details on uniforms like what some people have written on them. Your weapons aren’t shown to be in pristine condition like in most shooters. Your weapons in BIA:HH actually look like they’ve been used with nicks and scratches on them (sometimes covered in blood). There is the occasional time where there is texture pop in and this even occurs during some of the games cinematics. It’s not going to give you an eye orgasm, but the visuals are pretty good.
Rating: 8.5

Sound:

The voice work for the most part is good. In one scene you have Hollywood’s military consultant, actor and retired Marine Captain Dale Dye barking orders at people. This just helps to make the game more authentic. Matt Baker screams orders at his crew shouting over machine gun and mortar fire. When the battle situation goes into dire straights your teammates will scream at you to do something. All of the weapons sound different and they do a good bit of service to the MG42. The MG42 was known to be a rather intimidating sounding weapon and in Hell’s Highway, when I hear it I don’t want to stick my head up. During some of the spoken dialogue between the crew every now and then there really just seems to be a lack of emotion between them.
Rating: 8.5

Replay:

Well there’s the prerequisite multiplayer which I’m not touching…ever. Brothers in Arms isn’t known for outstanding multiplayer and I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t fixed for this version. The single player is a blast though and if you’re looking for shooter action where using your head is emphasized then it can be found here.
Rating: 7.0

Overall:

Gearbox Software has slowly been able to polish the gameplay mechanics that the Brothers in Arms franchise is known for. Anybody looking for a good bit of strategy in their first person shooters knows where to look for. While it’s not as groundbreaking as Road to Hill 30 when it was first released it still provides players with an engaging experience. As long as they can iron out their little A.I problems I can’t wait to play Aliens: Colonial Marines, which is currently being developed by Gearbox Software.
Rating: 8.5

Oct
17
2008

Rock Band 2 (X360) Review

 

As Guitar Hero and Rock Band duke it out for supremacy in the music gaming world, Rock Band 2 is released before Guitar Hero: World Tour(GHWT) and how will it measure up? Will Rock Band 2 blow GHWT out of the water and allow no trace of its existence? Or, will Rock Band 2 fall on its face and allow GHWT to deliver its World Tour all over Harmonix candy ass? Let’s find out…here’s your review of Rock Band 2.

Story:

 

Well there is technically a story but you know the gist of it. You are in a band which you create (My band name is the White Swallow. Haha…yeah…)and you start in your hometown (Dublin, Boston, etc.) and work small gigs for fans and cash. The best thing about this I believe is the track lists you play weather it’s 2, 3 or 5 tracks back to back. You still can play single songs and must get stars to open new venues and tracks to play. You do get stuck playing the same songs over and over which does suck but in the end you bought this game to play music so why complain? There will always be about 10 or so songs you will never like to play but you get over it and play them to get through it. Fun story with a lot of buyable clothes for your created character as well as tats and instruments.

Overall: B

 

Gameplay:

 

The guitar works just the same and just as well as the first Rock Band and the mic isn’t as pitchy as the original was. The real thing that people were looking at is the drum set. New and improved it feels more like a drum set should and is much more fluid compared to the original for Rock Band. The other thing is always the song list and Rock Band 2 provides an exceptional amount of music as well as free downloadables. Also you can move your original Rock Band tracks to Rock Band 2 for just a small nominal fee of $5 for licensing issues. Rock Band 2 provides 84 tracks with 9 being unlockable. The unlockable tracks are not bad but there are much better tracks such as my personal favorites;

System of a Down “Chop Suey!”

Nirvana “Drain You”

Bon Jovi “Livin’ On A Prayer”

Linkin Park “One Step Closer”

Interpol “PDA”

Paramore “That’s What You Get”

Jimmy Eat World “The Middle”

Alanis Morissette “You Oughta Know”

Dream Theatre “Panic Attack”

Alice In Chains “Man in the Box”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_songs_in_Rock_Band_2 Rest of the tracks here for you.

These are my favorite tracks off of here. The gameplay is solid overall and is more fluid than Rock Band which is a great asset for the 2nd round of Rock Band. They also added in a no fail ability which can help you train for harder difficulties as well as the training sessions for all interments. The gameplay is solid and will be hard to beat when Guitar Hero: World Tour is released.

Overall: A

 

Graphics:

 

The graphics work well for its system but, are not in anyway what the game is built upon. The graphics are beautiful and flowing when playing tracks and your wacky looking characters and attire you can choose from. Everything hits on all cylinders and works well and is amazing in HD.

Overall: A

 

Sound:

 

The real important part of the game here! The sound quality is amazing and exceeds all expectations. Still being able to switch your guitar or bass around to say the wowowowow thingy your guitar can do as well as the drum set is amazing and has a lot to offer for the people who get to play the drums. I loved the drums and the sound that they offered. The drums are not as loud when you band on them which I found to annoy the hell out of me with the previous drum set. The sound is great and works beautifully with the game. Wonderful sounds and great for the music you offer.

Overall: A+

 

Replay:

 

The replay value is of course outstanding. The online is great and band battles are a huge plus. Playing tracks you know and love are a huge addition especially when you consider than AC/DC live is coming exclusively to Rock Band 2 which leaves you to wonder who else might go exclusive between Guitar Hero or Rock Band.This leaves a lot to be seen in the musical warfare that counsel systems will face and the downloadable content wars that still continue on.

Overall: A+

 

Overall:

 

Overall I loved the co-op band and online play. The game lacks some true hardcore tracks to finish the job but that will be taken care of with downloads. The graphics are strong and the sound is booming and orgasmic for your ears. The instruments are worth the price tag if you want the new drum set or need some new polished instruments. Time will tell on who will win this war of attrition via downloadable content. In these wars downloads matter more than the tracks you give them to start out with. Rock Band 2 has put their foot into the door and is fighting their way to try to tackle the #1 spot in the music gaming world. In the end it will be Guitar Hero vs. Rock Band and whoever has the better music and better instruments will win. The simpler the gameplay and the better the music will determine the overall victor of this cult hit. But until then let us bask in the glory of this musical warfare as only us the consumer will will truly win. But still seriously Rock Band and Guitar Hero where the hell is "The Final Countdown" by Europe? That track could determine the winner...for me at least. haha.

Overall: A

Achievements:

 

 

SolidGoldBaby.jpg Solid Gold, Baby! (25 points): Gold Star a song.

TheBachmanTurnerAward.jpg The Bachman-Turner Award (25 points): Maintain deployed Overdrive for 90 seconds.

FlawlessFretwork.jpg Flawless Fretwork (25 points): Score 100% notes hit as a guitarist on Expert.

FlawlessGuitarSolo.jpg Flawless Guitar Solo (20 points): 100% a guitar solo on Expert, using only the solo buttons.

FlawlessDrumming.jpg Flawless Drumming (25 points): Score 100% notes hit as a drummer on Expert.

FlawlessSinging.jpg Flawless Singing (25 points): Score a 100% rating as a vocalist on Expert.

FlawlessGroove.jpg Flawless Groove (25 points): Score 100% notes hit as bassist, up-strums only, on Expert.

ComebackKid.jpg Comeback Kid (25 points): Defeat the last player that defeated you over Xbox LIVE in either Score Duel or Tug of War.

BraggingRights.jpg Victory! (15 points): Defeat a player in either Score Duel or Tug of War.

BandSavior.jpg Band Savior (20 points): Be a savior three times during a single song.

OverdriveOverdose.jpg Overdrive Overdose (25 points): Achieve an 8x Band Multiplier.

HelloCleveland.jpg Hello Cleveland! (20 points): Deploy Vocal Overdrive 4 times in a single song.

MillionPointClub.jpg Million Point Club (25 points): Earn more than 1,000,000 points in a single song.

YoureHired.jpg You're Hired! (10 points): Hire a staff member.

NeedsMoreUmlauts.jpg Needs more Umlauts! (10 points): Make a band logo.

TheSanDimas4thAnnualAward.jpg The San Dimas 4th Annual Award (15 points): Compete in a Battle of the Bands event.

YouKilledtheRadioStar.jpg You Killed the Radio Star (15 points): Make a music video in World Tour.

ClothestotheEdge.jpg Clothes to the Edge (20 points): Buy over $100,000 worth of items from the Rock Shop.

AlongfortheRide.jpg Along for the Ride (10 points): Beat an instrument-specific challenge while playing another instrument.

ChallengeNovice.jpg Challenge Novice (10 points): Complete either 25 challenges on Medium, 10 challenges on Hard, or 5 challenges on Expert.

ChallengeMaster.jpg Challenge Master (15 points): Complete 25 Challenges on Hard Difficulty or 10 Challenges on Expert Difficulty.

ChallengeSavant.jpg Challenge Savant (25 points): Complete 25 Challenges on Expert Difficulty.

TheFinalCountdown.jpg The Final Countdown (15 points): Unlock an Impossible Challenge.

GrooveAssassin.jpg Groove Assassin (20 points): Beat the Impossible Bass Challenge.

LordoftheStrings.jpg Lord of the Strings (25 points): Beat the Impossible Guitar Challenge.

StageIgniters.jpg Stage Igniters (25 points): Beat the Impossible Band Challenge.

AN-I-MAL.jpg AN-I-MAL!!! (25 points): Beat the Impossible Drum Challenge.

Virtuoso.jpg Virtuoso (25 points): Beat the Impossible Vocal Challenge.

WestCoastPerformer.jpg West Coast Performer (10 points): Play a set on the West Coast of North America.

HeartlandPerformer.jpg Heartland Performer (10 points): Play a set in Middle America.

EastCoastPerformer.jpg East Coast Performer (10 points): Play a set on the East Coast of North America.

GodSavetheBand.jpg God Save the Band (10 points): Play a set in the United Kingdom.

WesternEuropePerformer.jpg Western Europe Performer (10 points): Play a set in Western Europe.

EasternEuropeanPerformer.jpg Eastern European Performer (10 points): Play a set in Eastern Europe.

WorldwideSensation.jpg Worldwide Sensation (25 points): Gain access to every venue in the world.

RoadDog.jpg Road Dog (30 points): Play in every venue in the world.

OneMillionFans.jpg One Million Fans (30 points): Reach 1 million fans in World Tour.

OpenRoad.jpg Open Road (20 points): Win a Bus in World Tour.

GotWheels.jpg Got Wheels (20 points): Win a Van in World Tour.

JetSetter.jpg Jet Setter (20 points): Win a Jet in World Tour.

BeatIt.jpg Beat It! (10 points): Complete all beats at 60 BPM or higher or half of the beats at 140 BPM or higher.

TheBeatGoesOn.jpg The Beat Goes On (20 points): Complete all beats at 100 BPM or higher or half of the beats at 180 BPM or higher.

FillMeIn.jpg Fill Me In (10 points): Complete all fills at 60 BPM or higher or half of the fills at 140 BPM or higher.

FillLegend.jpg Fill Legend (20 points): Complete all fills at 100 BPM or higher or half of the fills at 180 BPM or higher.

 

Secret Achievements:

 

BuyaRealInstrumentAlready.jpg Buy a Real Instrument Already! (35 points): Beat an "Impossible" Challenge with all players on Expert Difficulty.

RockImmortalInductee.jpg Rock Immortal Inductee (20 points): Joined the Rolling Stone Rock Immortals list.

vinylartist.png Vinyl Artist (20 points): Finished the Endless Setlist 2 in World Tour on Medium.

goldartist.png Gold Artist (30 points): Finished the Endless Setlist 2 in World Tour on Hard.

PlatinumArtist.png Platinum Artist (50 points): Finished the Endless Setlist 2 in World Tour on Expert.

TheBladderofSteelAward.jpg (25 points): Completed the Endless Setlist 2 without pausing or failing.

 

Oct
07
2008

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (PS3) Review

Who here can honestly say that they have never fantasized about being a Jedi?  I mean really why not?  You have a laser sword that can cut through almost anything and choke people from across the galaxy.  They’re like the ultimate fictional destructive force but the only problem is that there has always been a focus on being good, but this has now been solved in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (SWTFU).


Story:

You take the role of Galen Marek (Starkiller) the new lightsaber swinging, Storm Trooper throwing guy on the block.  Marek is the secret apprentice of Darth Vader and his main objective is to assassinate Jedi’s in hiding and bring down the Emperor.  The first part of the plan works, but the latter really doesn’t.  The problem is that he has to remain hidden from the Emperor and survive the arduous task of being Darth Vader’s apprentice.

He isn’t alone in his journey and there are some rather interesting characters, but the most interesting is actually a droid by the name of Proxy.  His main objective is to aid Marek in his training and he does this by using programs based off other Jedi.  He takes the demeanor of a friend, but at other times he keeps his intentions truly ambiguous and he keeps you guessing.  Another character is Juno Eclipse whom serves as your personal chauffeur to missions.  While she isn’t integral to the plot she serves as someone for Marek to be attached to and have feelings for.

Not only is the story about Vader’s secret apprentice, but it also reveals the birth of the Rebellion Alliance.  Many other things are entertaining to see like the incomplete Super Star Destroyer and the innards of the Death Star as it’s being constructed.  More character development would’ve been nice though.  This is because you’ll see allegiances made and by the time the game ends you would like to see a couple of things fleshed out.
Rating: 8.0

Gameplay:

SWTFU can be described as a less polished Heavenly Sword with force powers.  It’s a rather competent action adventure that could’ve been great, but it falls short on a mechanic or two.  For starters I’m going to be in the minority and not complain about the lightsaber not killing people with one hit.  Your giant sword in Devil May Cry doesn’t kill things with one hit, the Athena Blades from God of War 2 don’t one hit kill and Ryu Hayabusa’s cavalcade of chopping utensils don’t one hit kill so it’s nothing new to the genre.  What I don’t like is how uneven the use of the force is.

According to SWTFU a Jedi can yank a Star Destroyer out of the Sky, grab Tie Fighter’s in mid-flight, but they can’t push around an AT-ST or a Purge Trooper.  Another thing to note is that a lot of these Storm Trooper variants were not included in any of the movies.  Though SWTFU is to bridge the gap between Episodes 3 and 4 it takes several liberties with the license.  You have Storm Troopers that have flamethrowers, ones that are resistant to the Force; ones that shoot electroshock flechettes at you and snipers.  In the movies these guys couldn’t hit Han, Chewie, or Luke when they were running towards the Millennium Falcon. 

The only way to come to grips with the enemies thrown at you is to develop strategies for everything that comes at you.  Your average Storm Trooper is pretty much a red shirt in the original Star Trek series.  They’re only there to get killed by you; they pose no threat unless one is manning a gun emplacement.  But all you have to do is wait for them to reload the turret and kill them.  Killing is where a lot of the fun lies in SWTFU and this is because there is a wealth of options depending on what you’re fighting.

Say you walk into a room and Storm Troopers just come barreling into a room.  You can either take a lightsaber to each one of them or you can use the Force and grab one and throw him into his own comrades.  Or you can take a barrel and shoot it with force lightning and hurl it at your enemies only for it to explode and take out about five or six men.  One of my favorite methods of death is throwing people into energy shields.  There’s just something so satisfying about picking up a hapless soldier, toying with him for a few brief moments only to then throw him into an energy shield, and see that body disintegrate on impact.

I also like using the Force Grab to launch people into orbit.  The only thing that I don’t understand is that when a person comes crashing down back to earth they SURVIVE.  Regardless of energy a person should just die after falling 200ft.  If you don’t want to rely on the Force you can use lightsaber combos.  Once you get over the fact that your lightsaber might as well be made out of stale French bread you get used to it and use a bevy of combos to take down your foes.  Once you level up enough times and put some skill orbs towards your lightsaber proficiency it will become stronger.  It also helps to unlock combos because some do some rather interesting things.  One combo combines the lightsaber with Force Lightning and does some serious damage to robots.  It also does a good job on the Storm Troopers wearing jet packs.  This is because the electricity will actually overload the jet pack and will launch them skyward uncontrollably.

You get access to more combos by leveling up and acquiring force combo spheres, but you’ll only rely on a couple of them.  And you seem to gain a new force power after every level.  You then get to upgrade those with force power spheres.  You can also upgrade health, force usage, force recovery and other attributes.

The one thing that I’ve remembered being hammered into my skull is DMM (Digital Molecular Matter).  It’s a physics engine that determines how things break.  Say if I was to use force push at a certain angle the door would break or implode a certain way a different time.  They always hyped it to be something really ground breaking that would change the way we look at games (or something like that), but it’s really not.  Another piece of tech that is impressive, but falls short is the Euphoria animation engine.  We were promised Storm Troopers that would grab onto each other and crates in an attempt to save their own skin, but this doesn’t happen much.  What I do notice is that they do attempt to dive out of the way and struggle to get back up after they’ve been knocked down.  The best case where I have seen it work the best was when I smashed a window in a space ship.  Everything was being sucked out and I happened to notice that one of the Storm Troopers was grabbing onto the edge hanging for dear life only for his grip to weaken and fade into the vacuum of space.

For the most part SWTFU is a good load of fun, but there are times when the whole game just seems to fall apart.  The best example of this is when you have to bring down the Star Destroyer.  For starters you have to fight Tie Fighters and when you see them you think “What the F**k do I do?”  You can either Force Grab a piece of debris and hurl it at one or you can actually grab one, or use Lightning (best option).  The problem is that for starters that piece of debris is not always going to go where you want.  The other problem is that you don’t always know if you’re going to grab a Tie Fighter.  This is because the lock-on system is too loose and seems to lock on to anything that you’re facing.  This is a huge pain because there are times when you will try to shoot lightning at an enemy only to hit a barrel above, in back or next to it.

The other problem is that during this sequence the lock-on icon is impossible to see.  When you do manage to destroy the fighters you then have the opportunity to pull down the Star Destroyer.  Just when you think you’re home free more Tie Fighters pop up to interrupt you.  And while you’re busy fighting the Star Destroyer is repositioning itself.  The process of waste Tie Fighters, pull down Star Destroyer, get interrupted and doing it over lasts for a while and took me anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to finish.  This right here sucked a lot of fun out of the game for me.

When The Force Unleashed works it can be a blast and you believe that you’re a whirlwind of death and destruction.  As a Star Wars fan I find The Force Unleashed to be a pretty serviceable and for the most part a really fun game, but the lack of polish on the targeting system and one key segment that could’ve been great is just terrible.
Rating:  7.5

Graphics:

The first thing that threw me off about the graphics was the character model for Galen Marek.  This is mainly because he looks a lot different than he did in Soul Calibur 4.  He looked older and more detailed in Soul Calibur 4, but after a while you get used to him.   When you cause a wide range of destruction and watch DMM and the Euphoria physics engine at work you’ll appreciate the game.  Just charging up Force Push and unleashing it to send a wave of men hurling to their deaths is great. 

There is a good amount of detail in the character models (especially Vader’s) and the CGI is excellent.  In fact they’re almost too good as you wonder for a minute if they actually brought on live actors.  The environments are also nice and varied.  SWTFU has you planet hopping pretty often and the worlds that you inhabit are well detailed and have rather appropriate characteristics for that level.

For example the planet Felucia is a rather colorful jungle world with deadly plants and creatures with many hues.  While on that contrast the scrap metal planet of Raxus Prime consists mostly of scraps of metal and molten metal on it’s surface.  There’s also a lot of scrap iron just floating around in the air.  The worlds in SWTFU are definitely nice to look at, but that comes at a price.  There are some stability problems and most of them actually appear when you’re in Felucia.  There’s something about having one too many Rancor’s, Felucians and poisonous plants on screen along with you jumping and flipping that the game engine does not like.  You will come across instances of major slowdown on top of the occasional freeze.

One more problem is the amount of glitches.  One problem I had was that I fell out of a level.  This happened in the Sarlaac pit level and I ended up getting blown out of the level.  The next thing I see is my character swirling around a void of black.  Another thing that happened was that I ended up getting trapped behind the dismembered head of an AT-ST.  It took me about three minutes to get out of it using jumps and various attempts at Force Pushing and Force Gripping it out of the way.  While this does mar the experience it doesn’t take too much away from the enjoyment from the game.
Rating:  7.5

Sound:

Well what’s a Star Wars game without a sweeping score and composer Mark Griskey does an admirable job.  The music provided seems to borrow a lot from the usual John Williams score, but the original music provided seems to fit right in.  The voice acting is pretty stellar.  Actor Sam Witwer provides a rather convincing portrayal as the secret apprentice.  Marek is filled with rage, confusion and confidence amongst many other emotions and they all get conveyed.  A lot of the other voice actors are pretty good, minus the person providing the Emperor’s voice.  Other than that the usual fare of blaster fire, Tie Fighter roars and lightsaber hums are present sounding the way they did in the movies.
Rating:  9.0

Replay:

For those that follow the rule of “no multiplayer=no replay value” should just stay away from or rent SWTFU.  For those that have nothing against playing solely the campaign you might find a reason to pick it up again once or twice.  For starters you can search for holocrons, which provide a couple of bonuses.  The main holocrons to look for contain lightsaber crystals.  These come in two varieties.  One changes it’s color and the other gives it a special ability.  For example one crystal will increase it’s ability to block blaster bolts, while another will absorb an enemies health.  Another reason to play it again is because it’s actually rather fun.  There’s just something about throwing things at people and discovering a new way to kill something with the force is entertaining.  The best barometer would be to download the demo that’s available on XBL or PSN.  If you find yourself playing it 5-8 times then you might want to buy the game.
Rating:  7.5

Overall:

While I wish SWTFU were more polished I still have to give it some credit.  It’s fun enough to keep me playing to the end and go on to a second play through.  If you can stomach the loose targeting system and the glitches that will have you trapped between walls; you’ll find an entertaining game that almost any Star Wars fan should own.
Rating:  7.5

Oct
05
2008

Too Human (X360) Review

 

Too Human is a game that has been awaited nearly as long as the next installment of Duke Nukem and after its release it was dinged and pinged for how long it took. I will not use this as a crutch against Silicon Knights due to the psycho amounts of trading they went through from Sony to Nintendo where they produced Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem which is widely considered a great game. When Microsoft picked up Silicon Knights they finally, with the help of Unreal Engine 3 finished Too Human and I gotta say that it holds its own as a futuristic Norse based mythology game where you wield badass weapons and annihilate machines in the forms of mythological creatures. This is Too Human.

Story:

 

In Too Human you assume the role of Baldur who is one of the Aesir. The Aesir are gods (cybernetic Norse gods) among men who dwell in the city of Asgard and are heavily cybernetically enhanced. Thor is only 2% human, just to give you an idea of how enhanced they are. By the way if you notice Baldur’s voice (Crispin Freemen) then you probably like Naruto where he is the voice of Itachi Uchiha or a Hellsing fan where he voices the lovely Alucard. Anyway, back to the game, the Aesir are fighting on 2 fronts, against the machines of war that were created and against the dead realm of Helheim. The machine creatures are shaped into Norse mythology as well as they are called Goblins, Trolls, Dark Elves, Light Elves and the such. Baldur who died and was sent to Helheim as the dead always are, is taken from Helheim by the Aesir, namely Tyr and taken back to the landof the living thus breakingthe pact between the living and the underworld of Helheim overseen by Hel the daughter of Loki.

Loki is imprisoned by the Aesir after his capture by Thor who obvious just wanted to bash the hell out of him with his lovely mallet Mjolnir but the Aesir choose to keep him captive instead. As the game starts you get a beautiful cut scene cinematic with Baldur going into a bar of sorts and a mechanical beast fighting sues with who else but the mythological might Grendel…in machine form. This is a 3 part series with this beingthe first installation which leaves for an exciting 2nd part coming. The origination of the title Too Human is from Baldur’s kin saying he is too much like the humans and not enough cybernetic compared to his brethren.

Overall Grade: B+

 

Gameplay:

 

The gameplay gives you some hit and miss style to work with. The right stick free roamingmelee style is amazing and addicting as hell. The firearms used with the right trigger and left if using duel pistols, isn’t bad but not nearly as satisfying. It has a Diablo style level system along with skill set system and skill tree that can be re-configurated accordingto what you need. The big drawback on this game is dying. Prepare to die like you never have died before. It is so bad to the point of they have an actual achievement for it (which I got with 117 deaths).The death sequence takes a good 35 seconds to get done as the valkyrieflies down to take you to Valhalla. This becomes the most aggravatingthing I have ever had to f’inggo through. I have never died 117 times in a single game until this. Beyondthe ass loads of dying and forever death sequence it was exceptional.

Overall: C+

 

Graphics

 

The graphics are decent but good when considering the importance of the gameplay over the graphics. The cutscenes are beautiful and the characters are very detailed when seen in these cutscenes. Due to the 3rdperson gameplay style the graphics are a give and take. They are good but nowhere near Gears Of War good. They do get the job done and the is what matters.

Overall: C+

 

Sound:

 

The sound is acceptable but can become restless from hearing your bitching troops whine or boast about what is going on during the fight. The weapon sounds are wonderful and your specialty moves have great effect to back up their power. The sound does the job but does nothing to impress you.

Overall: C+

 

Replay:

 

The replay is actually very good. The online with its Lego game styled drop in drop out multiplayer system is seamless and really really fun. The game while it has some flaws and some problems is only the 1st part in a 3 part series so calm down as they will address the problems from the1st game and indicate them with the 2nd and 3rd. The game can become frustrating with of course the ungodly amounts of dying but the fighting is really very enjoyable along with the weapon and armor system along with runic upgrades. You can upgrade all of your armor and weapons. There play is fairly high due to the online play and the fun smash and bash game style it has.

Overall: B+

Overall:

 

Give it a damn shot! Rent it and try It out. The game has its highpoints and big falters but is solid in the end. They online helps it alot along with loads of good downloadable content such as armor, weapons and even new classes to chose from for your character. This is a good fix until you get ahold of Gears Of War 2 or Fallout 3 which I am eagerly waiting for. It has a great storyline and is a fun game to help you learn of Norse culture and mythology. The end of the game scene is a beautiful prelude to the2ndcoming and to what Loki has in store for Baldur and the Aesir!

 

Overall: B

 

Achievements:

 

  1. In the NORN'S Favor (10p)
  2. Chosen of the Aesir (20p)
    • Achieve Adept Status
  3. Elite Warrior of the Aesir (25p)
    • Achieve Skilled Status
  4. Hero to the Aesir (30p)
    • Achieve Hero Status
  5. Legend of the Aesir (30p)
    • Achieve Legend Status
  6. True Son of Odin (40p)
    • Achieve God Status
  7. Jack of all Trades (10p)
    • Achieve Adept Status or greater for all classes
  8. First Step toward Destiny (5p)
    • Assign the first skill point
  9. Path of Ruin (25p)
    • Defeat 100 enemies using Ruiners
  10. Unrelenting Rage (10p)
    • Execute a 100 hit combo
  11. Show No Mercy (10p)
    • Defeat 25 enemies using a single Battle Cry
  12. Rune Lore (10p)
  13. Relics of a Forgotten Past (5p)
    • Construct a seven-piece Elite Armor suit
  14. I'm Rich... (10p)
    • Collect 1 million in bounty
  15. Artisan to the Aesir (10p)
  16. Aesir Ascendant (10p)
    • Complete a tier three Charm
  17. Fenrir's Bite (10p)
    • Assign a skill point to a sentient ability
  18. Display of Power (5p)
    • Execute a two-in-one: Juggle, Ruiner, Finisher, Slide or Gunfire move
  19. The Final Strike (10p)
    • Eliminate 100 enemies with Finishers
  20. Death from Above (10p)
    • Eliminate 100 enemies using air combat
  21. A Valorous Deed (5p)
    • Defeat a polarity enemy
  22. Without Equal (10p)
    • Eliminate 1000 polarity enemies
  23. Relics of the Ascendance (10p)
  24. Archivist to the Aesir (10p)
    • Acquire 7,500 item drops
  25. One God Enters, One God Leaves... (20p)
  26. Serve Em Up (10p)
    • Juggle an enemy, who will then be killed by a teammate with air combat
  27. Teamwork Takedown (10p)
    • One player destroys the Troll's chest armor, the other mount kills
  28. Blooded of the Aesir (10p)
    • Achieve novice status - Level 5
  29. Hate for the Machine... (15p)
    • Kill 20,000 enemies

 

Secret Achievements:

 

  1. Through the Halls (80p)
    • Hall of Heroes has been completed (all tokens collected) in single-player or online co-op mode.
  2. Frozen Vengeance (80p)
    • Ice Forest has been completed (all tokens collected) in single-player or online co-op mode.
  3. The One That Got Away… (80p)
    • World Serpent has been completed (all tokens collected) in single-player or online co-op mode.
  4. To Hel and Back (80p)
    • Helheim has been completed (all tokens collected) in single-player or online co-op mode.
  5. Unstoppable: Hall of Heroes (10p)
    • Hall of Heroes has been completed without dying.
  6. Unstoppable: Ice Forest (15p)
    • Ice Forest has been completed without dying.
  7. Unstoppable: World Serpent (15p)
    • World Serpent has been completed without dying.
  8. Unstoppable: Helheim (20p)
    • Helheimhas been completed without dying.
  9. Force to be Reckoned With (5p)
    • 100 Elite enemies annihilated.
  10. Avenger of the Slain (30p)
    • 1,000 Undead slain.
  11. Bane to Goblins (30p)
    • 2,500 Goblins defeated.
  12. Hunter of Elfkin (30p)
    • 500 Dark Elves defeated.
  13. Slayer of Trollkind (30p)
    • 50 Trolls defeated by mounting.
  14. Exultation of Steel (30p)
    • Hel has been defeated by the Cybernetic Baldur.
  15. Triumph of Humanity (30p)
    • Hel has been defeated by the Human Baldur.
  16. Feeder of Ravens (10p)
    • Killed 10,000 enemies.
  17. The Blood of Heralds (10p)
    • 100 enemy leaders conquered.
  18. NORN Novice (5p)
    • First Cyberspace Well has been activated.
  19. The Call of Battle (5p)
    • First Battle Cry unlocked.
  20. Trial of Ascendance (5p)
    • Complete a Level 1 Charm.
  21. Valkyrie's Folly (5p)
    • Died 100 times.
Oct
04
2008

MEGA MAN 9 (X360) Review

If you haven’t played any MEGA MAN games, you won’t understand that MEGA MAN 9 will punch your pride in the mouth. For the duration, it will consistently mangle your soul and devour your self-worth. Why then, is it so damn fun?

MEGAMAN 9 is fun because, just like MEGA MAN 2 and 3, way back when, the level design is brilliant, because the gameplay, graphics and soundtrack keep you coming back for more, and because the game rewards effort and persistence. The game is an 8-bit MEGA MAN game, and not just in the graphical sense. The game plays like MEGA MAN 2 did twenty years ago, and is, quite frankly, just as good.

Okay, so the designs of some of the enemies are somewhat… self-deriving. Concrete Man is Guts Man and a few other bots are more or less the same old concepts. That said, I assure you that the design still seems fresh overall, especially when it comes to the level design. Speaking of which…

Screw Jewel Man’s level. Seriously. The design is ingenious and the visuals are lovely, sure, but there are some jumps in that bitch that are just infuriating. Same with Tornado Man. The good folks at Capcom evidently saw it necessary to stick in the wind from Lost Levels (which I’ve beaten, of course) to fuck with your jumps. Luckily, I am a superhero, so it was all in a day’s work.

All kidding aside, I can tell you that in the first 3 hours of playing this game I beat two bosses. After that, things started falling into place and I was able to beat the game within 7 hours, but that’s still a long, long time to be playing a game like this. College guys like myself will have fond memories of their younger selves laying the smackdown on Wily in these games, and I assure you, the feeling is filled with the same warmth and satisfaction in MEGA MAN 9.

The game is GOOD, is the thing. Not only does it fill you with nostalgia, it doesn’t disappoint on quality. It’s not a rush job – work went into this game. I had read that the final fight with Wily was a disappointment, and while it’s not quite as brilliant as the ones in say, MEGA MAN 2 or 3, it’s frankly harder.

That’s only true, though, if you don’t stock up on health tanks and power-ups before you start the four Wily stages. To be clear, the final four levels took me twelve continues and two hours without the energy tanks, and I couldn’t beat Wily. With four tanks bought before trying again, and a cursory knowledge of the stages, it took me one continue and Wily was a pushover.

 
This was my biggest problem with MEGA MAN 9. This was never a problem in any 8-bit series entries. If they were trying so hard to duplicate MEGA MAN 2 that they eliminated sliding and the charge-up shot from MEGA MAN 3, then why even have the shop? If the three or four or five energy tanks laying around in the game are used up before you reach the final boss, and you don’t wanna be a little bitch and buy any shit at the store, it’s not very likely you’ll be beating Wily anytime soon. This happened with MEGA MAN 7 on the SNES, but never on the NES, ever. It’s the one real flaw I can see in the game, but realistically, it only cost me a couple hours of time, and it’s circumstantial, so whatev.

MEGAMAN 9 kicks a ton of ass anyway.

Oct
03
2008

Tales of Vesperia (X360) Review

Cel-shading has come a long way as a graphical concept.  I can’t really remember the first game I played where the style was used.  Maybe it was Robotech: Battlecry or Dragonball Z Boudakai 2, but I’ve always enjoyed the look of it.  From its anime like qualities to the personality that it adds to the game it’s always nice.  But they never were able to blur that line that separates anime from cel-shading, that and they only appealed to fans of the anime, but that changed when Okami made an appearance.  Okami wowed gamers with its watercolor painting like appearance and turned the industry on its ear.  Where the action adventure and fighting genres had numerous nice to excellent looking cel-shaded games the JRPG genre only had one (that I know of) with the Tales Franchise.  And to break ground as pretty much an interactive anime Tales of Vesperia is here.

Story:


You play the role as former Imperial Knight Yuri Lowell as he goes on the hunt for a Blastia (think Materia from FFVII) thief by the name of Mordio.  Yuri has a travelling companion, his trusty mutt Repede, who for some odd reason has an Opium pipe dangling from his mouth and fights with a dagger.  As Yuri and Repede hunt for this person Yuri ends up pissing off some really incompetent guards with funny accents and gets thrown in the clink.  He breaks out and wanders around the castle where he runs into Estellise (Estelle for short), a benevolent kind hearted woman that will do anything to help those in need or suffering.  Like in usual anime fare you eventually find the person you are chasing only to find somebody completely different.

Eventually Estelle asks to go on a journey to find the noble knight known as Flynn.  Eventually you meet Flynn and you find out that he’s too noble and has various ties to Yuri’s past.  There is more to it, but it’s something that won’t be spoiled.  The story isn’t necessarily ground breaking and a lot of the characters meet your standard anime cliché’s but they’re entertaining characters to watch on the screen.

A lot of the characters are motivated by completely different things and they all act differently from one another.  Right now my favorite character happens to be Rita.  Her temper burns hotter than her fire magic and her sarcasm, cynicism and arrogance is a blast to witness.  She’s probably the most grown up and closed off in the game, but there are times that she’ll actually act like a human being.  Another nice thing to witness are the interactions between the characters.  These are called “skits” and pop up after cutscenes and at times randomly.  These are when your characters will talk to each other about what has unfolded before them and sometimes they just try to get a better sense of one another.

Gameplay:

If you’re part of the growing trend of gamers that don’t like turn based JRPG’s you might want to give Tales of Vesperia a gander.  This is because it’s a real time action RPG.  You’re allowed to dodge attacks, roam freely around the field and coordinate your attacks with your allies.  While at first I wasn’t too into it, but that changed once I had more than two characters on the field (with me being the only one attacking).

Once you get a full roster of characters the battles get quite chaotic with two to three attacking characters, with another character launching magic all over the place.  Battling isn’t a chore like in some other games I’ve played, it’s actually a rather entertaining experience.  It almost makes me wish that the battles were random.  You can actually pick and choose your battles because the creatures always appear on screen.  Tales of Vesperia also does something interesting with this by linking conflicts.  Say for instant if you engage in a battle with a monster and there is another monster about two feet away from it; that one will join the fray as well.  It makes for a rather entertaining, but chaotic battle.  Another interesting concept is how ambush attacks are handled.  Unlike most RPG’s every character is there with you and if you are ambushed you will have your default set of battle characters shuffled.  This isn’t too much of an inconvenience because even if a character is not in your battle roster they will still level up and learn new abilities.

As you level up you and your other characters gain access to new abilities known as “Artes.”  Depending on your character these Artes could be used for either combos or magic.  You’re limited to about four Artes for your character Yuri so that means you have to switch them out as you get more powerful ones.  These Artes are controlled by the “A” button and depending on what direction you push the left stick determines the Arte you use.  Because you seem to get new attacks with each level up it gives you a definite incentive to take the time out to level up your characters.

There is also a rather nice synthesizing part of Tales of Vesperia.  It actually functions a little bit like FFIX’s.  All you have to do is go to your basic store and select the synthesizing option to create new weapons or items.  You can find new recipes for this and you always find materials by killing stuff.  The weapons you get from this always tend to be useful, but they’re not overpowered.

All of your characters are useful in their own way and are not hindrances.  They offer different play styles, but finding a party that works for you is part of the fun.  For all I know all of what was listed here existed in previous Tales of games, but it doesn’t make it any less fun.  In fact Vesperia now has me interested in previous incarnations of the franchise because if they’re as fun as this one they can’t be bad.

Graphics:

Tales of Vesperia is definitely a sight to behold.  In this generation where you see color palettes that don’t stray too far from black, gray and brown it’s nice to see a game that brings vivid colors.  Since Folklore came out I haven’t seen a game this vivid or beautiful.  What really helps the visual component is the anime like cel-shaded graphics.  Here is a world where one of the main characters has pink hair and almost everybody’s wardrobe borders on absurd.  I must admit if I didn’t have a rather robust anime collection I might be turned off by the visuals so if you require more of a realistic look to the art design than you might not want Tales of Vesperia, but it does offer a rather nice break from war torn hell holes.

Sound:

The soundtrack of Tales of Vesperia is a good mix of quirky and dramatic.  It’s never one of these two things at an inappropriate time either.  The battle music is kind of catchy, but it’s not too much of a distraction.  That actually describes a lot of the music.  Nothing dips into Nobuo Uematsu levels of epicness, but it still works.  Voice over work is decent (no Japanese option).  Everybody minus Karol is voiced pretty well and I love the voices for Yuri and Rita the most because their sarcastic personalities are almost captured perfectly.

Replay:

This all depends on how much you like RPG’s and achievements.  If I like an RPG I’ll probably play it multiple times for many years.  I like this one and I’ll probably play it again at a time when there are no good games coming out.  In regards to achievements about 80% of them are secret and I have no clue how to get them without referencing a guide.  It makes Tales of Vesperia rather interesting, but from that point infuriating as well.  There is some form of multiplayer in the fact that your friends can control the other characters during battles, but being a purist I wouldn’t touch it.

Overall:

Tales of Vesperia is actually one of the best JRPG’s on the Xbox 360.  Granted it sticks to the mechanics of the genre and doesn’t do much ground breaking, but fans of the genre and franchise will love it.  I honestly wish the environments weren’t so linear, but it didn’t keep me from enjoying what I was playing.  The story is interesting and the characters are engaging making for a rather entertaining experience.

Sep
22
2008

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel (PC) Review

 

In the world of RPG’s like Diablo, Elder Scrolls and HellGate: London there is one game that brings the best of all 3 of these and rolls them into a beautifully crafted RPG that gives you open world freedom, mythical stories and powers along with the ability to ride a tiger (it’s random but I loved it!) and that one game finally has a sequel to it. Say hello to Sacred2: Fallen Angel

Story:

 

Sacred 2 is the prequel to Sacred and asks you to assume 1 of 6 character types (Seraphim, High Elf, Dryad, Inquisitor, Shadow Warrior, Temple Guardian). This is an upgrade from the original Sacred where you could only assume the Seraphim character so this is a great upgrade. Let us start with the characters. The Seraphim is the embodiment of all that is good and can only travel the path of the good. The High Elf and Dryad are able to choose their path of either good or evil. The Inquisitor is the embodiment of all that is evil and can only travel that path. The Shadow Warrior and Temple Guardian have the choice of the evil or good path.

The ancient world of Ancaria is in disarray. The angelic like race called Seraphim guarded Ancaria for it was an epicenter of T-Energy which was the source of great power and peace as well as long life. In essence it encompasses life and everything in the world of Ancaria. As those who walked the land of Ancaria grew and civilized and gained knowledge the angel like warriors looked upon the world they guarded with warmth as the Ancient Elves prospered and learned to manipulate the T-Energy. The Ancient Elves prospered heavily at first as they controlled the flow of the T-Energy. This worked until petty fighting took over and factions vied for control of the T-Energy. This eventually became a full scale civil war. The once powerful Elves that were given an amazing gift but gave into greed and dissent which brought about their own destruction.

As the Ancient Elves imploded the other civilizations grew interested in the vacuum of power that was left behind. This only made the fighting continue and spill into all of Ancaria. As the wars raged on the T-Energy started to change as well, change into something terrible and dark. This change created widespread mutations and one time prosperous regions into desolate wastelands. This destruction resulted in an uneasy peace and one that was doomed to fail. As all the groups attempted to move themselves into a place of power over one another all out war seemed as likely as the grass continuing to grow.

Cries for heros are heard throughout the world of Ancaria and the people are waiting for someone to step up and to reconcile that which has been decimated. Here is where you come in. Will you harness the T-Energy for the good of Ancaria and stomp out the evil it has created? Or will you harness its power for your own selfish wants and bring the lands of Ancaria to its knees? You make the decision. Story gets an A+.

 

Gameplay:

 

The gameplay is beautiful and flows really well. You can modify your combat arts and upgrade and link together you and your alter ego’s combat skills in order to match up to your playing style. The deities offer very unique and useful combat disciplines and can unlock additional quests. You can mount a number of animals like Tigers, Lizards and more which makes it unique and fun and different. There are hundreds of hours of free roaming exploration and many different places to explore along with many different enemies to fight. One of the best things of the game is when you’re fighting a group of enemies and you take out the leader the rest of the group go’s into temporary disarray allowing you to hack away at least until one of your enemies gains command and rallies the rest of his group. Your opponents will react differently to you based on your path by supporting, attacking or ignoring your character. The hotkey and combat system is great but can be clunky from time to time. Gameplay gets an A-.

 

Graphics:

 

The graphics are well done especially considering how large the world is and the amount of different enemy NPC’s along with their tactics and mindsets. The detail on the trolls is my personal favorite considering their huge bulky build. The dragons look beautiful too. The detail on your character is very exceptional and the armor is detailed and very vibrant.Graphics get an A-.

 

Sound:

 

The sound is harmonic and fits the mythological style gameplay and the lushes world that Ancaria is. Everything fits beautifully and works well with the game as you would hope. Sound gets an A-.

 

Replay:

 

The replay value is going to be huge. It is like Elder Scrolls mixed with HellGate: London so the online is going to be very sexy. The large open world added with the characters means this could possibly rival the abilities of WOW in the future. This game has a lot to offer along with several different stories for the characters. Mix that with the choice of going down a light or dark path and the many side quests you can complete and you have a beautiful and well made game. This has a lot of potential especially since it will becoming out on the counsels X360 and PS3 as well. This is an RPG that will keep you playing and keep you going on Xbox Live or Playstation Network. The Replay value gets an A.

 

Overall:

 

This game overall has a lot of good qualities with very few negatives. This is large like Just Cause with the gameplay of Diablo and Elder Scrolls put together. If you’re an RPG lover and can’t wait for Diablo 3 orthe next Elder Scrolls then this game is definitely for you. Along with great combat, a large world and great landscape this has a story that is structured and well done. Give this game a try I promise you will not regret it!

Overall Grade: A

Sep
19
2008


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