Metro: Last Light

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Metro: Last Light

It’s time to return to the underground world of Moscow in a post apocalyptic world. Will Metro: Last Light make you care enough to save what’s left, or should it all be left in the dark and damp underground subways of Moscow?

Read our review to find out.

Metro Last Night

Back in 2010, 4A Games teamed up with Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky to take his post apocalyptic book and turn into a top of the line video game. Metro 2033 was unleashed on the masses for the PC and Xbox 360 and received better than average scores, and turned out to be a fun and well thought out IP. Fast forward to 2013 and the sequel, Metro: Last Light, is ready for its world premiere.

Metro: Last Light picks up the timeline right where Metro 2033 left off. Our hero Artyom has just wiped out a race of creatures known as the Dark Ones by raining missiles upon their hive. These are creatures that could fight you from within your own mind and make you see things that weren’t what they seemed. A dream sequence shows us how the Dark Ones led Artyom to kill his own friends by simply making him hallucinate and see his friends as creatures that were trying to kill him.

Metro Last Night

We are introduced to the different characters in the story through a first person narrative that really puts you right into the world of Last Light. Instead of cut scenes, most of the story is told during the game play, meaning you’ll need to stand around and pay attention or you may miss some finer points of the plot as well as some side quests that pop up from time to time.

After the destruction of the Dark Ones in the first game, the underground world becomes thrown into a power struggle between several groups with Artyom being a member of The Rangers who are tasked with defending D6, which is believed to be a huge food cache amassed by the previous government. Those that control D6, will control the known world. The other groups are the Nazis of the Fourth Reich, the communist Reds, and bandits that will do anything to help themselves.

Having never played the first game or having read the book Metro 2033 I was worried I might have to read up on it, but the story was pretty easy to follow and understand and the intro gave me enough information from the previous story. Quite often story lines aren’t the first thing a developer starts working on, and there aren’t too many games that have a story that could stand by itself. Developer 4A games, with direction from author Dmitry Glukhovsky, seems to have made sure that this story could stand by itself. It is well written and left us having actual feelings about Artyom and his decisions in the game. The story consists of thirty one total chapters and should take most gamers ten to twelve hours to finish.

Metro Last Night

Gameplay will have you moving between the dark and dangerous tunnels of The Metro, which hold not only human enemies but other deadly creatures as well, and above ground where your breaths are measured in seconds and death can come from anywhere, including from above. Creatures you’ll run into, and that may run into you, vary from shrimp like critters, to ground crawling things on legs, to flying dragons that want nothing more than to pick you up and take you to their nest to feed their young.

Two things that are in short supply, and that are key to your survival, are your gas mask filters and ammo for your weapons. Gas masks have replaceable filters which can be found, quite sparingly, in boxes and on the bodies of the recently deceased. You can also damage your gas mask, so keep an eye on the face mask. If it starts getting cracked, grab another as soon as you have a chance. You wear a very useful watch that might not look like a Rolex, but is worth more to you than any diamond encrusted timepiece you may have coveted in the past. Your watch has a timer counting down the life of your current air filter, whenever you are actually wearing your mask. Pulling up your menu will show you how much time you have as far as filters in your pocket, but don’t swap them out until your watch hits zero because each filter has a set amount of time and this time doesn’t stack. Once a filter is swapped out, it is gone for good and you lose that time.

Metro Last Night

Almost all levels give you the ability to stealthily move through them and when sneaking up behind a bad guy you’ll have the option of either killing him or just knocking him out. There is an achievement for finishing the game without killing any humans unless forced to, so going the stealth route is a distinct possibility. Your trusty watch also has a blue light that lights up whenever you are visible and is dark whenever you are hidden from sight. That blue light becomes key to your stealth as it will light up whenever you leave the shadows.

Ammo for the various weapons in the game is just as scarce, so picking your shots should become second nature because a well placed bullet is much more efficient than running and gunning with guns blazing. Spray and pray will only leave you with nothing more than your trusty knife and no one wants to bring a knife to a gun fight. There are two types of ammo in the game as well. There are bullets that were created down in the Metro that are effective, but not as powerful as the military grade rounds that are much harder to come by.

Metro Last Night

The weapons in the game are many and range from a variety of shotguns, auto rifles, sniper rifles, hand guns and stealth weapons like dart and bolt guns.Stealth weapons are air powered and will have a gauge of some sort to let you know how much pressure is available. Once the weapon is empty of pressure, you’ll have to pump it back up or it will no longer work. On the PS3 all you have to do is hold L2, press right on the d-pad and then R1 to pump it back up. Your flashlight also requires being pumped up to continue working so you’ll need to make sure to check that often. On the PS3 all you have to do is hold L2, press left on the d-pad and then R1 to pump the generator.

Weapon dealers can be found in a few areas in the game and they offer attachments for your weapons that can make them quieter (but weaker) and add better sights like laser or ACOG. With in-game currency being hard to find though, you’ll find yourself being a very frugal shopper. You may also want to save some of that money for a nice lap dance in Venice, but then again maybe not.

Metro Last Night

This is a dark game and definitely not for the young gamers, with the ‘M’ rating truly being earned. Killing bad guys with a gun is your typical shooter fare, but taking someone out stealthily gives many different variations of executions with your knife. These are all brutal, but some can seem extra disturbing. Plunging a knife downward into the back of a bad guys neck, knowing you just severed his spinal cord, is a pretty effective way to take someone out, but very graphic in nature.

Gameplay is mostly linear, but a couple of locations do allow you to roam freely, albeit in a limited area. Venice has a shooting gallery, an adult theater complete with a stripper pole, and the aforementioned lap dance parlor, as well as an arms dealer and ammo dealer. A couple of other locations are similar, but there’s very little free roaming available. There are collectible items strewn about that will help tell the story through Diary pages, and some of these are well off the beaten path, so completionists will be busy with those for a while. Once you’ve completed a chapter it becomes selectable to re-visit so if you do miss a note, the game will tell you and you’ll be able to start that chapter over again if you quit to the main menu.

Metro Last Night

Metro: Last Light is a great looking game on both the console and the PC. We played in 1080p on the PS3 and were very impressed with the graphics. The level of detail across the board was incredible. When traveling through the darkest reaches of the Metro and using your flashlight, these details pop out at you with a sharpness you might not expect. We did run into a few glitches along the way where we fell through the map and had to reload the last checkpoint in order to remedy it. We never ran into any fatal glitches and the game only froze up on us once during the twelve or so hours of game play.

Developer 4A Games did a great job of staying true to the world created by Dmitry Glukhovsky and wrote a great story, with characters you’ll like and characters we know you’ll want to put a bullet in. Sometimes, there aren’t enough bullets to go around.

Protip: Holding your breath in the real world doesn’t help in the game.

TRINE 2

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Trine 2

Trine brought with it some fun platforming and cool puzzles, with local only co-op. Developer Frozenbyte added online co-op with Trine 2. Does that make the sequel better than the original? Read our review to find out.

Our three heroes, Amadeus the Wizard, Zoya the Thief, and Pontius the Warrior, have returned. Their world is now being taken over by strange plants and goblins. They are once again united by the artifact known as the Trine and it is up to them to save their world. The story is told through text and narrative and can be a little hard to follow at first. This doesn’t really affect the actual game play and doesn’t take anything away from the game.

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The gameplay is a mix of platforming and puzzles, in side scroller style. If you are playing solo, you’ll be able to switch between all three characters. Each one has their own special abilities and that adds to the intricacies of most of the puzzles. The characters’ abilities are upgraded through experience points that you’ll earn as you play along. Once you’ve spent these points, they aren’t locked in. You can reset them and apply them to other needed abilities for any of the characters. This is a nice little feature that comes in handy early in the game while you are still trying to earn more points. Points are earned by grabbing orbs that can be found all over the place in each level.

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The puzzles can be a little mind boggling if you don’t look at them through the eyes of each character collectively. Using the brute power of the Warrior can open up paths that only the Thief can get across. The Wizard is great for reaching higher places, but the grappling hook of the Thief might still be needed to get to those hard to reach places.

All three characters start out with little in the way of abilities, but this changes as you spend those experience points. The Wizard can earn the ability to create more boxes and planks out of thin air, as well as levitate objects and  goblins. The Thief will be given more powerful arrows which can freeze or explode enemies. The Warrior’s hammer becomes an actual throwable weapon, with auto retrieval. His shield becomes stronger and can freeze goblins, which can then be shattered into a bunch of goblin pieces.

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The original Trine used a mana bar, which limited you with the amount of magic you could use at any given time. Trine 2 does away with that and you can use your abilities without any restrictions. This is definitely an improvement and makes the game a little more user friendly.

The game can be played completely offline solo or with local co-op, but playing online with two other players is where this game really shines. Puzzles are a little easier as long as everyone knows their part. You can play with the three separate characters, or play Unlimited where as you can all play as any of the three. Having three Warriors in battle at one time will make any pack of goblins a mere speed bump along your journey. Having three powerful Wizards can also make life easier when you work together building things with your blocks and planks.

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The graphics for the game are some of the best looking graphics for a downloadable title to date. The level details and landscapes are crafted to make the game strikingly beautiful. Puzzle and level design give you the sense that much thought was given to their creation. Some puzzles can be solved in different ways, and it is the level of detail that adds to this design. A few glitches here and there may force you to restart a checkpoint or two, but it’s not a game breaker to say the least.

The sounds of the game vary from very relaxing, to up-tempo depending on the level. The rise and fall of the tempo matches the game play. The sound track is already available on iTunes and has some great scores. Ari Pulkkinen, the man behind the music, has created a great collection of music for this game.

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Trine 2 is hard to categorize as a single genre of game, and that adds to its overall appeal. Platforming, while not always perfect, is fun and entertaining. The puzzles can be quite intricate, but tend to be a little too easy once you start thinking using the collective mind of the three characters. The RPG elements are thin, but do give the title a nice RPG feel to it. Battling goblins and various enemies can get a little repetitive, but that doesn’t take away from the overall fun the game offers. Online co-op sets this game apart from the original, and definitely makes this game an upgrade.

Trine 2 is a beautifully crafted game, with a great soundtrack and intricately detailed levels. With it’s low price tag, and hours of game play, it is well worth its price.

The Wolf Among Us

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The graphics portray a part of New York that feels gritty and dirty and makes you feel like these characters couldn’t really be happy in their current environment. ~Louis Edwards

The Wolf Among Us

Set prior to the events seen in the first issue of the FABLES comic book series, The Wolf Among Us puts players in the role of Bigby Wolf, a man once more infamously known as The Big Bad Wolf. Now the sheriff of a hidden community in New York City, exiled from the land of fairy tales, Bigby is tasked by the bureaucrat Snow White to keep order within a society of mythical creatures and characters trying to remain undetected in the world of the mundane.

The Wolf Among Us

From a chain-smoking member of ‘The Three Little Pigs,’ to a car-stealing Mr. Toad itching for his next wild ride, The Wolf Among Us examines the lives of beings straight from the pages of myth and lore, now trying to survive on the meanest and most run-down streets of New York City.

Gameplay is a mix of seek-and-find areas and quick-time events, but don’t be fooled by the names of the characters. While it is loosely based on the land of fairy tales, this is all Grimm with no sign of Walt Disney. This game is clearly aimed at adults, with adult language and murder and mayhem galore. That’s not a bad thing, though. The story is well written while giving the gamer a quick understanding of who and what they are dealing with.

The Wolf Among Us

This is a story driven game that uses its surroundings and language to give the gamer a true feel for each character they encounter. While episode one is a little on the short side, it’s still long enough to introduce several key characters, and even re-writes one well known childhood story. That’s not a bad thing either. The story will give you many choices, and will remember each answer you give. Characters will take note of your responses, and their future interactions will reflect your previous approach to the game.

The graphics aren’t your run of the mill 3D style but more of a graphic novel style. This lends well to the overall look and feel of the game and fits right into the storyline. The graphics portray a part of New York that feels gritty and dirty and makes you feel like these characters couldn’t really be happy in their current environment. Add in the well fitting music and the overall sense of despair can make one feel sorry for these folks.

The Wolf Among Us

Telltale Games has once again created an episodic masterpiece that can’t fully be judged until the final episode is upon us. We know there will be five episodes in all, and it is the anticipatory waiting that will make you enjoy the next episode even more.

Well done Telltale Games, well done.

Rage

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Rage also has a driving element. At first glance, you might think this was just an add-on thrown in without much thought, all just bells and whistles. You would be wrong. ~Louis Edwards

Rage

It’s the year 2029 and our planet faces impending destruction by the Apophis asteroid. Unable to stop it from impacting, groups of people are sent underground into cryo-pods, known as Arks, where they are frozen in suspended animation. Here they are to wait out the destruction above and to resurface at a later time to rebuild the planet. You are one of these people. Upon your awakening you find that your Ark has malfunctioned and you are the only survivor from your pod. Over 100 years have passed since your cryo-sleep began, and it’s now time for you to face the New World.

Rage - PC Game

The story is well written and original, with many unique characters and a deep storyline. The opening sequence itself tells the entire story of the impending doom and how the people of Earth dealt with it, and is worth the time to watch. The story is continued with dialogue from different characters and does not disappoint.

The world of Rage is separated into several different towns, and all are separated by the vast Wasteland. Each town has a unique set of characters that will want to send you on a task that will have you blasting through bad guys, or racing and shooting your way to the finish line. The tasks will vary, but each one ultimately will have you shooting your way towards a certain goal.

The tasks vary in difficulty and length, but all are fun and non-repetitive. Throw in some boss battles, and you can easily kill 12 or so hours in the campaign. Difficulty can be set to one of four settings depending on your skill level. If you are in the mood for a real challenge try Nightmare difficulty. Fair warning, it does live up to its name. Always be sure to check corpses to see what they may have on them. Ammunition can be hard to come by early on in the campaign, so taking money and ammo from dead bodies is to your advantage. It’s not like they need it anymore.

Rage - PC Game

The Wasteland is controlled by six different clans that you’ll have to come up against.

  • The Wasted Clan is a dim-witted bunch that enjoys mechanics, home-brewed alcohol and fighting. They would rather grab a club than a gun.
  • The Ghost Clan is fearsome and fearless. What seems like a nod to the roots of Doom, they deal in the occult and stage gruesome sacrifices in order to gain power in the afterlife. They use the environment to their advantage while fighting and can be seen climbing around walls and hanging from beams. Their wingsticks provide both melee and ranged opportunities for them to cut you to pieces.
  • The Scorcher Clan believe the asteroid Apophis was the horse of a demigod. They believe that tapping the energy of the asteroid will make them invincible. The Scorchers like fire and cover everything they can in its images.
  • The Shrouded Clan are deserters and are a combined group of all other clans. They use a mix of fighting styles, ranging from clubs, to guns, to exploding RC cars.
  • The Jackal Clan are a vicious clan that covers themselves in fur and look and act more animal than human.
  • The Gearheads are the most intelligent of the wasteland’s factions. These bandits have built advanced machinery and weaponry that make them a force to reckon with.

The cities and the Wasteland are detailed nicely and well designed. Tasks will have you fighting your way through dungeon style rooms reminiscent of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. iD Software definitely knows how to make a first person shooter. Flanking can be used effectively, if you are aware of the side paths. These aren’t always easily spotted, so keep a keen eye out for them.The number of enemies isn’t overwhelming and they use frags sparingly for the most part.

Rage - PC Game

Your path will be mostly linear, but there are a few offshoots where loot can be found and collected. Loot can be just about anything from collectible playing cards to dress shoes in a box….. WTH?….. Dress shoes in a box?….Really?….Why do I need dress shoes in a frickin box??!!….

In each city there will be a shop of sorts where you can purchase upgrades and ammunition. All of the strange items you may find along your way can be sold at these shops. Be careful what you sell though, as some of these items can be used to make helpful items. While shoes can’t be used for anything other than cash, there are plenty of other things that can be used to make useful items. A bunch of rags can be used along with some antiseptic for a nice little health boost, and those are always handy. Blueprints are acquired by completing tasks and these tell you what is needed to build different items. Shops carry everything you may need.

Rage - PC Game

Rage’s weapon system and inventory system turned out to be more RPG than FPS. There aren’t too many weapons to choose from but each weapon can be enhanced or changed by changing it’s ammunition type. You main weapons are the pistol, shotgun, AK style assault rifle, M4 style assault rifle, sniper rifle, crossbow and a rocket launcher. To give an example of how a weapon can be changed, load up some explosive rounds for your shotgun and it’s now a grenade launcher. Throw some electric bolts in your crossbow and you have a perfect weapon to take out a group of bad guys standing in a pool of water. The ability to change ammo type takes your modest arsenal and turns it into a vast array of weapons with exponential choices.

Rage - PC Game

Rage also has a driving element. At first glance, you might think this was just an add-on thrown in without much thought, all just bells and whistles. You would be wrong. Your first vehicle in the game is a small, unarmed buggy that is great for getting from point A to point B. Nothing too fancy, but it has a decent boost so you can get there in a hurry. The vehicles drive with power and precision, and can turn on a dime if needed (gotta love the e-brake). As you progress through the story, you’ll unlock better vehicles as well as mini-guns and rocket launchers to arm them with. These make traveling through the Wasteland a much more enjoyable trip. Taking out bad guys in the Wasteland can also earn you cash, so make sure you talk to the proper person in a bar to activate your bounty hunting task that will then be ongoing. Eventually you’ll unlock even better weapons for your ride, so don’t think your weapons will always be the same.

Multiplayer has also been included with Rage and offers a few choices. You can opt to play through one of nine side stories with a friend in Wasteland Legends. Either online or split screen, you can play through missions that you may have heard mentioned in campaign mode. You can choose either Normal difficulty or Nightmare difficulty.

Road Rage offers a mix of different styles of vehicle game play. Meteor Rally has a mix of Zones and CTF styles of game play where you collect meteors and drop them off to capture Zones. Chain Rally will have you capturing Rally Points and chaining them together for an increased score. Triad Rally has you capturing three consecutive Rally Points to score. Carnage is exactly what you think it is. It’s a free-for-all death match where killing the other drivers earns you points.

Rage - PC Game

iD Software introduced us to a genre that has long been a staple across every gaming platform known to man. Wolfenstein 3D took us on a mission to eliminate Hitler in WW II, while Doom took us on a mission to eliminate Satan’s minions. So many franchises owe their very existence to both of these games. For id Software to break away from known franchises and to embark on a brand new one took guts, ambition, and balls of steel. Not only did they succeed in creating an incredible game in RAGE, they also created a story that can easily be built upon and expanded on in this age of DLC.

Where Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake created the bar that all FPS games are measured, RAGE raises that bar a few notches above any other shooter this generation by using RPG elements, mixed in with vehicle combat, and downright awesomeness.

Bodycount

Developer/Publisher Codemaster has released their next first person shooter. Does it equal their last generation title Black, or should it be taken out back and tossed in the dirt? Read our review to find out.

Bodycount-

First person shooters are a dime a dozen at this point, and all do basically the same thing. Here’s a selection of firearms, the world is in trouble, pick your weapon loadout and go save it. It’s a recipe that has worked for Call of Duty, Battlefield, and countless others. Most games give those with patience an edge over their AI opponents. Sneaking around corners, lying low, or crawling all have their benefits. Bodycount tries the same recipe but with no bonus for patience.

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Bodycount is a FPS for those that want to run-n-gun Rambo style, through as many bad guys as your console or PC can handle. You are given a silenced pistol at one point, but once you find your weapons cache you will want to say to hell with that pea shooter. Give me my G36 assault rifle and/or Super 90 shotgun. This game wants you to be a killing machine, and does a good job of creating that experience.

Bodycount-

The story for the game is fairly generic. You play as Jackson. A former US soldier who is now an agent for an organization called The Network. It is your job to find solutions to problems that governments can’t handle. Genocide in Africa? No problem. Grab a few weapons and grenades and wipe out the genocidal horde. Want to end a civil war? Take out the leaders and their forces. While on these missions, you’ll run across some enemies that don’t belong, and it’s up to you to find out who is really behind the civil unrest in both Africa and Asia. The story isn’t exactly gripping, but it’s not thrown in as an afterthought either. There was some thought put into it, but the bottom line for Bodycount is the gameplay.

Bodycount-

Gameplay for Bodycount is simple. Here’s your objective. Here are your weapons. Complete the objective. Sounds simple. Now add a huge number of bad guys, with a largely destructible environment, and you get the big picture. This is an arcade style, in your face shooter, where killing is always your main objective. The name of the game is Bodycount, and that’s what you want to rack up. Leave a trail of lifeless, limp bodies in your wake, along with shredded walls, doors, and windows. If it’s not made out of tin, you can blast through it. There are few places to hide in this game, and most of those places will disintegrate when high amounts of lead are applied. Concrete barriers, plywood walls, even wood doors are no match for the bullets. You can shred through a wall in a matter of seconds, and anyone hiding behind that wall is dead meat.

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Each mission level gives you multiple paths to choose from. You aren’t locked into a linear path and this is a double edged sword. Not only are you not locked into one set path, the AI isn’t either. While they aren’t the brightest bulbs in the box, their thought process can still be tricky enough to outflank you, and drop a grenade in your lap. If you are on a mission that requires you to defend your position, be sure to take note of all paths around you.

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At the end of each story mission you are given a grade based upon how well you did on that mission. During your firefights, you can achieve Skill Kills with headshots, backstabs, and shred kills (killing through walls is soooo fun). String these together and you’ll keep a combo going that will affect your overall grade at the end of each mission. Rack up as many kills as you can, but remember that well placed shots will net you a better overall grade than just running and gunning through each level. We found this to be a little counter productive for an arcade style shoot-em-up, but it does add replayability to each mission. More than one run through for each mission isn’t a bad thing.

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The firearms at your disposal are basic at first, with a pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, and knife to start out with. This expands to include ten overall weapons to choose from, plus your knife. The weapons are highly detailed, and vary in power and rate of fire just like they should in real life. You can’t access your weapons cache until you are in a mission, but most missions have them near the beginning. Use your mini-map in the lower right corner to locate it. Grenades have three ways to be thrown. You can do the standard one button press that has a short timed explosion, you can cook your grenades by holding the button for a few seconds, or (our favorite) you can double tap the grenade button and it will explode on contact. Why cook when you can have instant gratification? See a large group of bad guys congregating in one spot? Double tap that frag for a fun little skill kill that will grow to whatever number was in that group. You also have mines at your disposal, and occasionally a defense position is needed and mines become a priceless, albeit limited, commodity.

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As you take out bad guys, they’ll drop ammo and intel energy. This energy is gathered and fills up your intel meter. As you progress through the story, you unlock four different enhancers that show up on the bottom left of your screen. The Adrenaline boost makes you invincible (as long as your meter is full) and is very effective against a large group of enemies that you want to run through. They can’t hurt you, but you can definitely blast them all to hell. There is also an Exploding bullet enhancer that is very effective against the heavies with mini-guns. The Artillery enhancer can be used to take out emplacements or groups of bad guys. The Target Pulse Wave starts out as a way to better see the AI, but once upgraded becomes a way to disable some of the bad guys.

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Online Multiplayer is also available. You can have a free-for-all deathmatch, team deathmatch, or you can buddy up with another player and play some co-op. Co-op will have you facing wave after wave of bad guys and it’s a fun way to rack up your online kills.

If you are looking for a game where you can sneak around, leave this alone and pick up Deus Ex. If you are looking for a game that allows you to blast through bad guys, walls, and doors with no worries about noise or alerts, this is a title you might enjoy.

Bodycount provides the guns, glory and bad guys. You provide the balls.

Bodycount: Rambo Welcome.

7

Half Life 2: Episode Two

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Half Life 2: Episode Two begins right where Episode 1 left off. The Citadel has come crashing to the ground, City 17 is in ruins, and your train out of dodge has derailed. You awake to find Alyx outside, thankful you’re alive. She helps you out using the Gravity Gun, and thus begins your mission.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Host to a data card that the Combine desperately wants and needs, Alyx and Gordon must rush to White Forest, the resistance’s new base in the wake of City 17’s destruction. The game follows Gordon and Alyx as they make their way across the countryside that surrounds City 17 and to White Forest, where Doctor’s Vance, Kleiner, and Magnusson  are waiting for their arrival with the data, which is needed to launch a missile that will close the Combine portal, leaving the Combine trapped on earth without reinforcements.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

The story is fantastic. The characters are well known by now, as is the struggle, and never does that struggle seem more important than in the final hours of the game, when the portal can be seen looming in the dark sky and striders are flooding the forest towards the resistance base and the missile silos.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

The story is excellent, but, the journey to get to White Forest begins a little too slowly. After leaving the train we are treated to a stunning view of City 17 and the outdoor environment of Episode 2. However, the game quickly leads you underground, into Antlion nests where you feel confined and frankly, a bit bored. Antlions just aren’t fun. And tight spaces aren’t a whole lot of fun either when there beckons an entire world of forest and mountains above.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Nonetheless, Episode 2 throws you into the outdoors after about an hour and a half of crawling in Antlion tunnels, and you rarely venture back in. The huge difference in this game is the size of the environment. You are surrounded by wilderness, small towns, farmhouses and lone radio towers. There are rivers and stunning mountains rising in the distance. It’s liberating and it creates a feeling that the Half Life world is truly real. While playing, I was left with a very certain impression that the world had been abandoned with the Combine invasion fifteen years earlier. Everything was falling apart, buildings left to rot, and it was overwhelmingly awe-inspiring to see the world as a place where humans had been shepherded into ghettos and where the Combine used the earth as a mine, taking natural resources over time.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

One of the main questions surrounding the game was the introduction of a new enemy: the hunter, which is a difficult foe in the different gaming environment. Episode 2, however, also introduces three more enemies as well: an acid-spitting Antlion, an Antlion guardian, and the Combine Advisor. While serviceable enemies, the Hunter steals the show. A vicious, fast-moving, and deadly adversary that stands about eight feet tall; the Hunter seems to travel in packs and it shoots electrical bolts that stick to surfaces and explode, zapping health and energy. It is a welcome addition the Half Life story, and I expect that we’ll see more of it in Episode 3.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

The lighting and other graphical qualities are fantastic, and even though better graphics can be found across current-gen consoles, Valve enlisted such incredible art direction that the Source Engine’s age is barely showing. The environments look wonderful, the spaces feel appropriately vast, and the character models still look amazingly realistic. They display emotions on a level I’ve never seen before in a game, and I still don’t think any graphical engines model human characters so well.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Sound use is excellent in Episode 2. The music kicks in at the right moments and serves to inspire fear, excitement, or manic abandon. The weapons sound appropriately tuned, and the voice acting is fantastic as usual. And of course, the screaming of headcrab zombies is utterly terrifying and spine-tingle inducing.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

There was some criticism of the length of Episode 1, and that has been rectified in Episode 2. Episode 2 offers a range of diversity that is unrivaled in gaming and is quite long. From the driving segments to the use of the Gravity Gun, to physics puzzles to shotgun diplomacy to huge battles from underground lairs to shaking valleys full of striders, Episode 2 is amazing. It is roughly six hours long, and it is well worth the journey (and the price).

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Episode 2 isn’t perfect. Though the opening sections of the game make the eventual arrival in the forest seem incredibly liberating, they are a bit of a slog and they make it tough to begin the adventure. And though the story is enthralling, I still want to know more about the G Man and the seven hour war. Looking beyond those minor faults, Episode 2 is at least every bit as strong a Half Life experience as the game’s that came before it and has me excited for the final episode. No other game offers such a diverse, fantastic, and entertaining variety of puzzles, strategy, excitement, and story. Episode 2 is well worth adding to your game collection.

Final Score: 93%

+ Great gameplay                                                   – Opening section of game is a bit slow

+ Wonderful art direction                                    – Story could still use some insight

+ Pulse poundingly exciting

Two Worlds II

Polish developer Reality Pump and publisher Southpeak games teamed up to bring us the sequel to an Role Playing Game that was less than stellar. Did they build a better game, or just send out more trash? Read our review to find out.

Two Worlds II

Two Worlds II released last month, and with over 50 hours of play time just to get through the story mode, it is easy to say the game is lengthy. The story picks up 5 years after the end of Two Worlds. Your character, the hero, is a prisoner in the dark dungeons of Gandohar’s castle and any hopes he has of saving his sister, whom Gandahor has taken captive, seem to have vanished along with his freedom. In spite of a self-sacrificing battle against evil, the twins were separated and Kyra is now under the influence of a powerful magic spell from which there is no escape. Evil influences are attempting to awake the slumbering powers of an old generation in order to dominate all of Antaloor, and the hero is powerless to do anything about it.

Two Worlds II

However, just as his despair has reached its lowest ebb, a faint ray of hope appears from a completely unexpected direction. The hated Orcs have put together a rescue squad and the hero is amazed when they free him from the chains of his tormentors.  Still skeptical about this newfound truce between two races which have always been deadly enemies, the hero once again finds himself confronted by a completely new situation. He has to find out why the Orcs helped him – and learn as much as he can about their mysterious leader, the legendary Prophet Cassara. She is both beautiful and mysterious – but the hero must trust her if he has to have his long-planned revenge. So he starts out on a dangerous journey through a land desecrated by evil – a journey he hopes will shed some light on Gandohar’s dark past and help him find a weak point in the defenses of this powerful Mage. Only then can he finally rescue his sister, Kyra.

Two Worlds II

The story is long and the map of the world is huge. Voice acting is good, but not cinematically great. The hero’s voice can pass as Christian Bale’s Batman, even though the hero looks about 5′ 8″ and not exactly buff. A lot of detail has been put into the story, and each sub-quest has its own sub-story. The writers must have spent a lot of time to come up with a story that is not only long, but also entertaining. The characters fit well together and most are well thought out.

Two Worlds II

As expected with a good RPG, there are plenty of side quests to complete that are mini-stories in themselves. They usually pay well and are worth the extra time they take. Some quests you can complete as you progress along with the story, so be sure to speak to people everywhere. You have a map that you can use and each point of interest has a colored pin that represents what that point means. Active Quest Givers have a Sky Blue pin, so keep an eye out for them. Each quest you unlock is added to your quest log, and once open, you can activate a quest and track it on your map. This is handy in showing where you need to go for each quest. The quest log is divided into three categories. Pending, completed, and failed and each quest has a description, and sometimes hints.

Two Worlds II

Gameplay is along the lines of a good hack-n-slash. Where TW II sets itself apart from other games is in the weapons upgrading system and looting system. As you travel around killing, maiming, and destroying, you’ll find items that you can pick up and take with you. There are chests you can loot from, and some of these require a lockpick. Most of the items can be broken down into their elemental parts and these parts, in turn, can then be used to upgrade your weapons and armor. You are limited as to how many items you can carry, but you aren’t limited as to how many elemental parts you have. Dropping items becomes unnecessary since you can reduce the items to basic parts and carry as much of that as you want. You can have three different weapon sets configured and you need to make sure to not disassemble items you have selected for an inactive weapon set, since no warning is ever given.

Two Worlds II

Having three separate weapon sets is another design that sets TW II apart from other games. You can have one set up as an archer, one set up as a Mage, and another set up as a warrior. This comes in handy when traveling through areas with more than one type of enemy. Different enemies require different weapons to defeat them so pay attention to the enemies on-screen health meter. The meter will indicate their weaknesses, so act accordingly.

Two Worlds II

As you progress along, you’ll earn Skill Points and Attribute Points. These are then applied to different skills and attributes depending on how you want your Hero to evolve. The attributes are basic but the skills system is very detailed. With six different skills categories, and each category with its own subset, you can have your hero evolve in many different ways. If you want to be able fully upgrade weapons, you need to build up your metallurgy skills from the Crafting Skills category.

Two Worlds II

The C.R.A.F.T. (Complete Reshaping And Forging Technology) system is what is used to upgrade weapons. Special crystals can be found in the game and these can be attached to weapons and armor to increase the damage or protection of that item. A fully upgraded weapon can go along way to helping you defeat any foe you come across, so it’s best not to ignore this system.

The menu has an Alchemy tab, and learning this system is key to creating useful health and mana potions. The P.A.P.A.K. (Portable Alchemy and Potions Assembly Kit) allows you to create useful potions from herbs and organic material found throughout Antaloor. Resistance potions are also useful for resisting fire attacks from foes. Killing animals along the way seems pointless until you find out that a baboon heart is perfect for restoring health and a hairball from a cheetah can make potions stronger.

Two Worlds II

The last tab is the Magic Tab. This tab provides access to the D.E.M.O.N.S. (Dynamic Enchantment, Magic, Occultism & Necromancy System). This system governs the creation and use of spells according to the five schools of magic. These schools are Air, Earth, Wind, Fire, and the mysterious fifth element Verita. DEMONS is used to customize spells created by arranging spell cards in a balanced manner. There are carrier cards, which determine a spells core functionality. Effect cards which determine the elemental magic that gives the spell power. Last, but not least, Modifier cards which influence the nature and effects of a spell based on the spell’s core.

Two Worlds II

The story has a depth and character list that goes well beyond most RPG’s, and you could easily spend weeks playing through the entire game. Lockpicking, pick pocketing, sword fighting, quests, and so on, lead you in to a world that is well designed and though out. The overall map of Antaloor is huge, but portals can be found that help you to quickly navigate between the areas of the map. There’s also a portal stone that will allow you travel to any given portal and a personal portal stone which can be dropped in a spot and become a temporary portal so as to be able to move between your current location and another portal. This is very helpful if you need to pick a lock but are out of picks. Drop your stone, teleport to a town and buy some lock picks, then teleport back to your personal stone. Be sure to pick it back up though.

Two Worlds II

The graphics for the game could be better. They are a step up from PS2 games, but don’t quite measure up to top of the line games like God of War III and Uncharted 2. This is the one area where improvements needed to be made. The enemies are well designed, but graphically aren’t as sharp as we had hoped they would be. The game had a tendency to slow down when a lot was going on graphically, and screen blur was often seen. This doesn’t make the game unplayable at all, but does take away from the overall experience.

The music for the game was enjoyable to listen to and well placed. Tempo is used quite often to help create the overall experience of a scene or battle, and it fit nicely. The music goes from soothing and delightful, to haunting and rough.

TwoWorlds2-

There is also a multiplayer element that allows you to play either with, or against online opponents. A seven chapter adventure mode is a fun co-op game. Village mode is a RTTS mode that pits you against an opponent and you race to build villages and keep them happy. Deathmatch, where you’ll team up against another group of online players. Crystal capture which is basically capture the flag. And Duel, where you’ll face off with an equal opponent and fight to the death.

TwoWorlds2-

The original Two Worlds was an utter mess that probably should have been scrapped altogether. Two Worlds II, on the other hand, is what any great RPG should be. Depth in every direction, a story worth having, characters worth remembering, and a game worth playing.

Biggest piece of advice for this game: Read the Manual before playing

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