Armored Warfare: A Slight Spin on Tank MMOs

Whether fighting on the frontlines in a heavily armored MBT or causing havoc from the back in a tactical artillery vehicle or finding someplace in-between one can always find their place of enjoyment in Armored Warfare. Set in the modern world, players find themselves either playing the role of a mercenary making his way into the world in Armored Warfare’s notable PVE environment or making the difference in immersive PVP settings. When ready to go even the most casual players can dive right in with a simple WASD movement controls and a point-and-shoot mechanics; unique maps, tanks, and tactics however it also keeps even the most hardcore gamers engaged in the action.

The Basics

Similar to its biggest competitor and predecessor World of Tanks, each player starts out with a personal “garage” and two starter tanks. From here the player can look at possible upgrades and retrofits for their selected vehicle, look at the two currently available dealer trees, customize their “base”, look at their dossier, choose to create or join a battalion, or hop right into their first battle as a PVP or PVE tanker. The most original idea being the “base”; simply put it is a players own customizable buff-station. By using the 100 free “raw-materials” given to the player on a daily basis he or she could choose to purchase buildings which would increase the rate crewman earn experience, cut premium costs, or even cut the repair cost for a tank!

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As for the dealer trees, Armored Warfare took an inventive spin on typical progression trees by allowing players to change their mind at the end of a tree instead of forcing a player who realized a certain role isn’t their style abandon their work and completely restart their progression on another tree. How does this work? Simple, currently the trees are set up in a tier system of 1 through 9 (similar to other progression trees the lower numbers are generally needed to be unlocked before the higher) for each vehicle type other then artillery. However the big twist comes into effect between tiers 8 and 9. After becoming renowned (completely maxing out the experience needed to advance to the next tier) with a vehicle, instead of simply continuing down the progression, the player can redeem one “tier 9 unlock” which allows the player to research and purchase any tier 9 from the same dealer without specifically having to complete the vehicles tree.

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Sadly Armored Warfare is close to identical to its competitors when it comes to vehicle customization. In the actual garage tab the player is able to change a selected vehicles ammo type, consumables (such as repair kits to fix damaged modules), retrofits (such as intercom systems to boost crew skills), and some aesthetic options such as decals and paints. The distinctive portion comes in the way the crew members work. Unlike other games in the same genre, Armored Warfare not only has a set crew for a specific tank that provides set bonuses but it also has a commander with unique attributes that can transfer from tank to tank. These commanders are both given to the player at his or her first launch of the game and can be unlocked through dealer progression trees. Another slight difference is when you select the upgrade tab for a specific tank. Although it resembles World of Tanks in its module progression it has a slightly different experience bar. Instead of simply getting to 100% completion and being able to move onto the next tank, Armored Warfare also has tank exclusive unlocks that can be researched after reaching 50% of the total progression on a chosen tank (such as the commanders that were mentioned earlier)

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Last but not least are the dossier and battalion tab. In comparison to similar games Armored Warfare has the same basic dossier (statistics page) layout with a slightly different format which allows the viewing of certain stats in graphic form. As far as the battalion is concerned from the looks of it – it is just a standard clan layout but because I have not experimented with it I cannot say with 100% certainty.

Gameplay Mechanics

When inside the game, be it PVP or PVE, Armored Warfare isn’t much different from any other game. The main objectives consist of either destroying all enemy vehicles or capturing and securing a specified point. Nevertheless it still does have its differences. When playing an artillery class a player’s attention is increasingly brought to counter battery as a large indicator on the players minimap occurs to opposing artillery upon firing as well as a set sound alert. If you are in any other form of tank and you are fired at by an opposing artillery a large text indicator will appear to warn the player of an incoming artillery shell. Also artillery get two special shell types: smoke shells and illumination flairs. The smoke shells can be placed between a spotter and a specified target to cover the advance or retreat of an ally. Likewise, an illumination flare can be shot to bring vision of any target within a certain radius underneath it to the entire allied team.

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Another big part that sets Armored Warfare apart is its ability system for both scout and tank destroyer type vehicles as well as specific MBTs. When playing a scout vehicle (whether it is a recon or a fire support type) by default your “E” key will trigger one of a few specific abilities. These range from marking a target (force lighting them even if they go out of view as well as guaranteeing max pen rolls) to decreasing terrain resistance for a short period of time. Some of the fire support type scout vehicles even get rockets which are medium pen high damage guided missiles. The tank destroyers’ ability is very beneficial as well; upon activation a TD can fire three shots from the same position and only lose a small percentage of their camo rating. Lastly certain MBT’s come with the ability to launch smoke shells a small distance in front of their turret which would act in the same way as artillery’s smoke shells upon landing. Along with this some MBT’s unlock a active protection system which, while active, can shoot down incoming heat and missile rounds (artillery not included).

Final Impression

Armored Warfare is a fun and easily immersive MMO tank shooter with competitive graphics and some unique gameplay mechanics and whether you are new to the genre or an experienced tanker you are likely to enjoy its style.

Darkspore

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Originally, I picked Darkspore up because I wanted to see what Maxis would do with an action RPG built on Spore’s creature creator.  Spore was a mediocre sandbox game in which you guided a species through its entire evolutionary process.  The highlight was the creator, which offered the player a deep level of customization.  How does this system carry over to an action RPG?  It’s not quite what I expected, but the game does a bunch of things well.

Darkspore - Gameplay

If you’re like me, you thought you’d be making your own genetic heroes from the ground up for this game.  Wrong.  While this is disappointing, what they’ve done instead is fairly robust.  Customization of your heroes is driven by what gear you pick up, which is then integrated into their bodies.  You can mount dropped items almost anywhere on the hero’s body, with a couple exceptions like boots and weapons.  There’s a wide palette of colors and color schemes, for even more tweaking.

Darkspore - Gameplay

I didn’t spend too much time playing dress up, but there were definitely a lot of options for crafting a unique appearance.  In addition to making cosmetic changes, the gear solely determines your level.  That is to say, there are no skill or stat leveling trees for individual heroes.  Instead, you gain “Crogenitor” levels as you play, allowing you to do things like unlock additional squad slots, heroes, and the option to chain-finish levels in succession for better loot.

Darkspore - Gameplay

Not everyone will like it, but I feel it’s a fresh twist on the classic RPG formula.  Probably a consequence of this leveling system, there is no way to trade with other players.  I suspect the devs don’t want people getting power-geared too much, which would definitely happen if trading was a feature.  I’ve been told that they’re implementing a way to drop items on the ground, which will allow friends to trade but doesn’t help much for trading with untrustworthy strangers.

Darkspore - Gameplay

You start the game on your ship, which is your hub for genetic hero customization, multiplayer chat channels and anything else that isn’t standard gameplay.  To prepare for actual combat, you make squads of 3 heroes each.  You select one of your squads for each deployment and you can swap between squad members at will, albeit on a short cooldown.  Each hero has a unique standard attack, 2 core skills, one or more passive abilities/auras and a squad ability.

Darkspore - Gameplay

The squad ability is interesting because it is shared amongst all 3 heroes.  Since there are upwards of 40 heroes in the game, there are many combinations of squad abilities to mix and match.  At higher difficulty levels, you will need to find the right balance of survivability, damage and crowd control to avoid becoming dead.  The possible combinations only increase as you add more buddies to your squad in multiplayer, which capped out at 4 in beta.  There are two other considerations for squad composition.

Darkspore - Gameplay

There are 5 genetic types that your champions and enemies alike share: Necro, Plasma, Bio, Quantum and Cyber.  Enemies of the same type as your hero will deal double damage, so you’re not going to want to bring a bunch of Cyber heroes to a planet that’s all Cyber monsters.  Additionally, heroes are separated into Tempest (Mage), Ravager (Rogue) and Sentinel (Tank) classes.  You’ll want to mix and match appropriately for different situations.

Darkspore - Gameplay

My overall impression of the game is mixed.  On one hand, the combat is crisp and fun, especially when you’re cooperating with friends.  The abilities are satisfyingly destructive and the heroes that I played all felt unique.  It’s like playing league of legends in action RPG flavor, in that you only have a handful of spells available at one time, but a ton of different characters to choose from.  There’s a good mix of enemy types with various special abilities you’ll need to adjust to.  On the other hand, there are aspects of the game that worry me.

Darkspore - Gameplay

The level design is boring.  All the missions unlocked for the beta had simplistic layouts, making you feel like you’re on rails.  There’s only the bare minimum of exploration.  The game rewards you with loot for finding badly hidden obelisks, which is hugely disappointing to me.  Level randomization is almost nonexistent.  Zones layouts do not randomize AT ALL when you replay them, other than obelisk placement and location/composition of monster packs.

Darkspore - Gameplay

This has the potential to get incredibly stale, especially since the game follows the Diablo format where you play it 3 times over on different difficulties.  Additionally, the game offers arena style PvP which may prove impossible to balance given the sheer number of heroes.  The hero customization, while not a failure, is mostly cosmetic, which is basically a cop-out.  I would rather they left out any attempt at PvP balance and gave the player some manner of ability customization outside of items.  Lastly, the hero editor interface is somewhat clunky.  If there is a way to view all a character’s equipped gear at once, I haven’t found it.  You have to assess it one slot at a time.

Darkspore - Gameplay

That said, I will be playing this game.  The core gameplay is solid enough to provide action RPG fans with hours upon hours of casual fun with friends.  But Diablo III this ain’t.

Wasteland 2 Review

Wasteland 2 loading screen

Wasteland 2 Review by Honorabili

Overall Score: 8.5 out of 10

Wasteland 2 is the direct sequel to the original Wasteland, the game that Fallout was based on. Wasteland 2 takes the setting from the original game and updates it with isometric gameplay elements we love from similar games such as Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics, Jagged Alliance, Jagged Alliance 2, the X-COM series, and Silent Storm 2, as well as the lost Amiga classic RPG Perihelion. In spirit, to me, this game is what Van Buren would have been like for Fallout 3 rather than the Fallout 3 Oblivion-like game that actually got made. The writing for Wasteland 2 is also a lot like the one in the games I previously mentioned as well as Fallout: New Vegas.

Storyline:

The game takes place in an alternate timeline. The nuclear apocalypse happened in 1998 (although if you play the game it feels like 1988, maybe even 1983 based on the computer technology you find in the game) and it’s now nearly a hundred years after the end of the world. The kind of destruction of civilization and barbarity that take place would be at home in the Mad Max universe. Out of the chaos of the apocalypse, some engineers and military personnel in the territory that used to be the United States of America organized itself in the shattered remains of Arizona to become a paramilitary organization that would police the wastes. They are called the Desert Rangers. Your party are new members of this group that are quickly sent to investigate the murder of Ace, one of the characters from Wasteland 1.

Survival Elements:

Not only must you contend with the surviving psychopaths of the Wasteland but you are also trying to survive in an environment where you are not only battling radiation, limited ammo, limited healing, but also the lack of water. This is an element that was also found in original Wasteland and it will make you feel a lot like playing a Dark Sun Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

Gameplay:

Every location and they way you interact with the people in those locations affects the world in a large or limited way, depending on how relevant they are to the storyline of the game. Much like Fallout 2, this game is also filled with easter eggs, pop culture jokes, and inside jokes. Exploration is encouraged as the game will reward you with rare items which usually don’t seem useful but they may be useful to a character that you might meet after 10-20 hours of gameplay later. It’s this kind of depth that makes Wasteland 2 as enjoyable as playing all the RPGs I mentioned previously.

The game consists of making your characters explore and interact with locations (people and objects) as well as a LOT of combat. I would say this game is the polar opposite of Planescape: Torment (another favorite RPG of mine). Whereas Planescape: Torment had very little combat, the slaughter in Wasteland 2 is legendary! Combat happens very much in the same manner as Jagged Alliance, Fallout Tactics, and X-COM games. You position your crew in a square-system based grid and they move and shoot based on Action Points. These action points are based on your characters’ statistics as well as reduction in AP based on what armor you are wearing and also a bonus/penalty to AP based on whatever trinket you have equipped.

The game uses a hit point based system, much like most games do, which although is not the most realistic system is not as punishing to new RPG players as some other systems are (Vampire or Shadowrun proportionate health systems). Much like the original Wasteland, the game uses a very intricate healing system for which first aid and surgeon are two separate skills. First aid is mainly used to increase the efficiency of first aid kits in healing hit points, whereas surgeon is used to recover fallen soldiers and bring them back from the brink of death, as well help them recover from bleeding, and other status ailments.

Combat aside, the game has a very straight forward attribute and skill system. Most of the skills have a use which is self explanatory towards objects in the environments of locations. What’s interesting is that what is the speech skill in Fallout is implemented in this game instead as three separate kind of social skills: smart ass, kiss ass, and hard ass. Smart ass applies towards dialogue options in which logic is usually involved. Kiss ass involves towards stroking other people’s egos. Hard ass involves threatening (usually physically) some weak minded fools to bend to your will (basically intimidation). Much like many other games only social skills will open up special dialogue options that will lead to new plot lines.

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SUMMARY:
Pros:
Deep storyline
Hectic combat is a lot of fun
Completely customizable player characters
Well written characters for NPCs (including party members and town NPCs)
Really well made audio (both sound effects and music)
Can run on most systems (even obsolete ones)
Amazing dialogue
Very immersive environment
Many hours of game relative to the cost of purchase
Buying this game will continue to fund more games like this
Using the radio saves having to return to home base and that saves time
NO DEADLINE (aka gun to your head) like in Fallout 1 and 2
The funny, detailed combat log from the old Bard’s Tale games as well as the original Fallout games is implemented in this game too
This game is proof that really good games that people need can come out of crowd-funding projects

Cons:

Single-player game only
No editor for making custom campaigns
AI is not that effective in combat (in fact, it’s pretty dumb)
Unity graphics engine looks dated
Unity engine is sluggish (latest updates have made it faster though)
Limited replayability
Inventory management could be a little bit more polished
People who did not play 80s-90s-early 2000s RPG games will be not interested in playing it
Lots of loading and saving because of sometimes ridiculous skill tests (10-13% probability of passing with 45% critical failure rates)
Loading games on a hard drive can be slow and since loading happens often because of critically failed skill tests the game can get boring
I found some bugs/expoits (they have been patching the game every week or two since it came out so soon there will be none)

CONCLUSION:
We finally got the Wasteland sequel that we needed. How much did we need this? Well, fans of the original game had reverse engineered that game in order to modify it. That was a project that took years and a lot of patience. It’s been years since an actually good science-fiction, especially post-apocalypse RPG has come out. The wait was worth it.

All fans of the original Wasteland and especially fans of Fallout 1, 2, and Tactics MUST play this game. I highly encourage you to BUY IT especially since inXile did such a great job and they will continue to make the RPGs we crave. Keep the dream alive! Now here’s to hoping they make Wasteland 3! 🙂

The Night of the Rabbit

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The Night of the Rabbit

The point-and-click adventure game is not extinct, but it has been largely in hiding over the last several years. It is not a surprise, video games have evolved a great deal over the years, with a lot of AAA titles sporting amazing, fully animated visuals and high-priced voice and musical talent. Still, I have a soft spot for the genre. They are not generally the first games I go out to play when I see one released, but every now and then a storyline, or some gorgeous artwork will catch my eye and I settle in for a good old fashioned bit of video game nostalgia.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

I think perhaps my most recently point-and-click adventure was also courtesy of Daedalic Entertainment, back when I reviewed The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav – which I liked quite a bit. I happily scored it an 8 overall and it was definitely time well-spent.

I was fortunate enough to get a chance to play The Night of the Rabbit, and it has a lot of the same hallmarks found that title as well – a likeable main character, a distinctive art style and good audio that helps present a story that is probably the biggest Daedalic has released to date and definitely worth your time if you are a fan of this genre of video game. It is still somewhat short of a play compared to some titles, but for an adventure like this, it holds up nicely.

Graphics – 9:

These are not a technical achievement by any means, but sometimes visuals simply resonate with you.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

The art style here is bright, colorful and shows incredible style and detail. The animations are quite good, especially for the lead character Jerry Hazelnut, a twelve year boy reaching the end of his summer. It is not going to tax out anyone’s video cards, and that is a good thing in this instance as I was able to just settle in on my laptop and run it very smoothly from my bedroom.

Sound & Music – 8:

The sound effects are usually minimalistic in nature, but are woven into the game’s events skillfully.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

The music was also quite good, never grating on my nerves and offering up enough variety to keep it from ever really getting repetitive. Best of all, there is a ton of well-voiced dialog to be had here. You can skip it if you want, but you lose some of the vibrance of the world all around if you do.

Gameplay – 7:

This is a click-and-point adventure, so from an interface standpoint you should know exactly what you are getting here.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

I never had any detection issues, it all ran smoothly enough. The puzzles generally work well, but there are a few that can strain your patience. I admit that sometimes I wish the games would point you in the right directly a bit more than this one did, but maybe that is my own personal preference.

Intangibles – 8:

I thoroughly enjoyed the story in general, and Jerry in particular as our protagonist.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

I touched on the length above, and I would guess I spent about fourteen or fifteen hours with the game. I suspect a big factor is how often you get ‘stuck’ on puzzles – which can certainly happen. There is some bonus content in the game as well, most notably a fairly basic card game called quartets – all of which is welcome because once you have beaten the story and seen it through to the end, there is not much reason to give it another go.

Overall – 8:

I actually liked The Night of the Rabbit a bit more than The Dark Eye.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

Both games have a distinctive style about them, both are point and click games, but they do some things differently as well. The spells you can learn on your quest in The Night of the Rabbit are actually quite fun to attain. As soon as I got one, I found myself pondering how it might be used in an upcoming puzzle of some sort. Point-and-click adventures are not for everyone, but if you are a fan of the genre, The Night of the Rabbit is very easy to recommend.

Game of Thrones

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Game of Thrones

Ever since first hearing about an RPG set as a parallel story (and not just a retelling of known events from the television show and books) in George R.R. Martin’s amazing fantasy world, I was holding out hope that it would lead to an excellent game with a compelling story.  My basic thoughts on the matter?  Well, we got halfway there.

Game of Thrones - PC

Game of Thrones is a third person action-RPG that follows the exploits of two characters, Alestyr and Mors, though their own stories that eventually wind up intersecting in later chapters.  Much like the books (but on a much more limited scale since it is just these two characters), you go from one point of view to the next, getting pieces of the story delivered to you along the way.  While the narrative execution is excellent, the game itself was sorely lacking.

Graphics – 3:

Game of Thrones - PC
The graphics are just terrible and I do not really have anything to sugarcoat that opinion with.  The textures lack detail and tend to be very bland.  The colors are dark and limited.  Character animate stiffly and little graphical oddities and artifacting popped up regularly as I played.  Considering how pretty Skyrim was on this same PC with settings set to half, it is amazing how bad Game of Thrones looks by comparison.

Sound & Music – 6:

Game of Thrones - PC
Some of the musical scores, including the television introduction (which I am very fond of) sound pretty good.  The sound effects by and large do their job – they are unremarkable and not terribly varied but they never got on my nerves either.  The voice acting was a mixed bag of mediocrity.  Almost none of the voice actors stood out as particularly impressive, though there were a handful that were painfully bad in their delivery.  Honestly most of them just muddled around average at best,which is a shame since the game is so heavily voiced and relies on these voice overs to tell the story.

Gameplay – 5:

Game of Thrones - PC
I really disliked the controls using a keyboard and mouse, but I could never get the game to recognize my PC controller.  I am not certain if a control would have made it any better, but I have serious doubts it could have been any worse.  Even adjusting all kinds of settings like sensitivity, I found the control of your character’s movement and the camera in particular to be awkward at best and frustrating the majority of the time.  A few gameplay items were implemented like a slowdown system during combat that does not freeze the action as you make tactical choices, but dramatically slows it down help.  The character customization of class and skills was fairly detailed as well.  Still, when basic movement is such a chore, it does drain a lot of the life out of the game.

Intangibles – 9:

The story is excellent.  Fans of the series will not be disappointed on that front.  Both of your main characters are well-written and very different protagonists who have very distinct roles in this twisting story.  At first their paths are completely disparate, but by the time you reach the last portions of the game, they are interwoven very nicely.  There is also a good deal of freedom of choice and some of these decisions do nothing more than change conversation branches, but most seem to have some tangible impact on things like whether or not a character will be around to talk to later in the game.  Beyond that there are multiple endings that branch off events in the final chapter, so there is some replay value to be had here as well.

Overall – 5.75:

You would think that with a score like this and the remarks above that I completely regretted my time with Game of Thrones.  While I regretted the technical shortcomings and some of the painfully awkward movement and combat, I enjoyed the story a great deal.  For me that was enough to at least enjoy the journey for the most part, though I will probably not replay this title again any time soon.  Unfortunately I suspect a lot of people, even those who are fans of the books, may not want to put their time into this game because of those shortcomings.  That is a shame too, because it is an excellent story with some good gameplay ideas that never really reached their full potential.

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.

Frozen Synapse

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Frozen Synapse

When Frozen Synapse first came out, I really did not pay much attention to it.  The visuals were really bad, and it was something that had almost no pre-release buzz.  Then I picked it up cheap as part of a bundle and finally decided to see what all of the fuss was about.

I went into this title blind.  I will admit that I saw the blocky, basic visuals and thought it might be a puzzle game of some sort – wow was I off-track on that one.  What you have is a turn-based strategy game that actually feels fresh.  Now, I cannot give the graphics a pass – they are pretty rough in my opinion.  The map and characters would feel right at home on a PC from two decades ago, though there are some decently rendered sequences between missions that show peoples’ faces and locales.

Frozen Synapse - PC

The reason this game works though, is because the strategy is actually interesting.  You really do get back what you put into it.  At first the learning curve was a bit high – there was a lot of information to take in right away.  That said, the layout was clean, the menus are helpful and easy to navigate and those elements helped ease the transition.

Frozen Synapse - PC

Essentially you are in command of a number of soldiers, who have different weapon types.  You move them to specific locations, set them up with options like hiding behind shorter barriers, guarding windows or trying to control intersections by positioning and aiming them.  You make these choices without knowing what your opponent has planned.  Then both sides ‘go’ and move through their commands, and the sides engage in firefights if they call into each others’ cones of vision.

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If this all sounds a bit strange, that’s because it sort of is at first.  But there is a very long single player mode, and a fairly interesting multiplayer mode that handles rankings and matchmaking.  I enjoyed the multiplayer, and had a frustration with it at the same time.  The game plays out just like it does in single player mode, in that both sides plot out their turns and then flag themselves as ready to proceed.  Once both sides are ready, the computer handles how the scenario plays out, and you are informed that you have a new turn available.

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You can then access that game again and watch your turn play out.  This was neat because I could react very quickly and have a handful of rounds roll out one after another if my opponent was still online at the time, or I could check back the next day and see if I was up yet.  I really enjoyed that sort of measured play.

Frozen Synapse - PC

 

The downside is it is way too easy for players to abandon games they have no hope of winning.  I had several matches I was almost certainly going to win, having my opinion down to their last soldier or two, but then they just never finished the map.  This can create a very false win/loss record.

Frozen Synapse - PC

The music is decent – certainly better than the graphics, but the meat and potatoes here is in the gameplay itself.  Adding further value to it, these maps are randomized.  So even if you lose on a map, you start the level over and you will likely have an entirely new situation.  I liked that because it forced me to actually get better at the game and not just memorize maps and movement patterns.

Frozen Synapse - PC

All in all, this game was a fun little surprise for me.  It’s not perfect, but it was a title I did enjoy playing all the same and would score a 7.5 out of 10.

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.

trine2_gameplay

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.

trine2_gameplay

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.

War of the Roses

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War of the Roses 

War of the Roses is an interesting title, because it takes a few chances that generally pay off, makes use of perhaps one of the most popular gaming modes on the market right now, and feels like a game with some as of yet untapped potential.  So what is War of the Roses?  It is an online experience that feels to me like a Battlefield or Call of Duty game, but with swords and bows instead of rifles and machine guns.

War of the Roses-PC

Graphics – 6:

The visuals are not particularly striking.  They do the job, and there are some nice pieces of flair here and there, like seeing your coat of arms show up on your shield for example.  One of my complaints is that the video controls lack granularity in the settings.  My PC ran the game fine, but my laptop was much more of a struggle at more moderate settings, so I had to move the game’s video settings to the most basic. There were areas I would have liked to have tweaked upward, trying to find that sweet spot between appearance and performance, but those controls were not there.  One very positive note however, is that the game ran smoothly for me, even when crowds of fifteen to twenty people were onscreen together in the same general vicinity.

Sound & Music – 6:

Again, nothing here that particularly impressed me but at least the audio did nothing to offend me either.  A few of the songs in the sound track were pleasant enough to bump this up from a five to a six and make this a very slightly above average offering, but none of the tunes really struck me as memorable either. Weapons clank off of shields with a satisfying thud and cries of pain are a constant on the field of war.

Gameplay – 8:

I am among that minority that prefers to play my shooters with a controller over a keyboard and mouse.  In truth the only games I prefer keyboard and mouse on are strategy or sim/builder titles.  This game unfortunately does not have controller support, so what you get is an interesting if sometimes inelegant control scheme using the mouse and keyboard combination.  Movement by keys is what you would expect, but combat is handled in interesting fashion.

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For those using a bow and arrow as their weapon of choice, you click one mouse button to draw back the bowstring and you have to manage a few things at once.  You have to aim your shot – while taking into consideration that the arrow will lose height as it travels any considerable distance.  You have to pull back the string, and hope to release by clicking the other mouse button while trying to time it for a ‘sweet spot’ release where the weapon will do maximum damage.  Hold the string back too long, and you will tire and lower your weapon.

War of the Roses-PC

Crossbow is similar in that it is a ranged weapon, but where longbow is rapid aim and release, the crossbow takes time to load each bolt.  When you first spawn using this weapon, I always load a bolt right away and then go looking for trouble.  It definitely packs a bigger punch, but if you have any melee opponents nearby, you will probably have to switch off to your secondary short sword because you will not have time to safely load another bolt.

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Melee combat also makes use of both mouse buttons as one activates block and one swings a weapon.  Melee comes in a couple of different flavors as you can use larger, two-handed weapons that can be used to block, but have a narrow window for being successful.  On the other hand, that heavier weapon can make for some longer reached and more impactful blows when they connect.  Sword and board gives you better defensive options as you have a shield you can raise – particularly useful if you are trying to close in on an archer – but a lighter, quicker weapon in your main hand.

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Swinging a weapon though, can be a slightly awkward affair.  You press the mouse button to swing and then swipe your mouse to swing your weapon in that direction.  It works well enough when you get used to it, and these combat mechanics are touched on in the tutorial.  That said, I think that this could have been handled in interesting fashion with say, a second analog stick on a game controller as well.

Armor is certainly a factor.  Better, heavier armor generally means you stay alive longer in the scrums.  Some helmets have a visor you can drop down over your face, limiting your field of vision but better protecting you as well.  A nice touch, really.

Intangibles – 8:

So here is where I get back to my initial paragraph a bit.  This game is really only an online multiplayer game with two modes: deathmatch and take the checkpoint.  Some people joke about how Battlefield or Call of Duty should not even bother with a single player mode since they are usually short and the majority of the fans spend the bulk of their time in the multiplayer modes.  Well, Paradox took that to heart in their design here because the only offline mode is a training mode that I found more frustrating than helpful.  There is very little hand-holding going on either in training mode or in the actual game.  Players who have played War of the Roses longer have more levels and more money and therefore better toys than newcomers.  That being said, Death does not discriminate much here – everyone dies quite a bit, though there are certain classes and configurations that do seem more successful than others (horseback and heavy armor are very nice).

War of the Roses-PC

The maps are well made, and with as many as 32 players possible on either team, you can find yourself participating in some very interesting skirmishes.  You have opportunities to aid fallen comrades or to execute wounded enemies.  Both are boons in that you gain experience and the executions can be particularly visceral – from either side of the equation.  These do present some risk versus reward propositions though as you leave yourself vulnerable to an enemy sword or arrow as well.

War of the Roses-PC

So with only one component: online – and only two modes, why give the intangibles such a high score?  A couple of reasons.  One, I simply enjoyed the game.  I had some rough initial impressions.  The tutorial annoyed me, I could not really configure my video the way and wanted and the bells and whistles failed to impress.  I found myself greatly enjoying the game as I waded into combat, fighting side-by-side with my teammates.  Even better was the post-match content, however.

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As you gain experience, and levels – you unlock new classes.  The first four are built in advance, but the next few are fully customizable.  As you dive into those customization options, you can unlock various perks, weapons and pieces of armor for the coins you earned playing the game.  Want to use a polearm as your primary weapon?  Go for it – you will have several to choose from.  Want to play an archer?  Unlock the class, pick your type of bow and then feel free to purchase the perk that lets you hold the string longer.  This part of the game is surprisingly deep and enjoyable.

Overall 7:

I mentioned potential in my introduction, and it is here.  There has been talk that the developers will be adding new contact in the near future, and promise that it will be significant.  I have not yet seen what that will entail – more maps?  more online and potentially objective-based modes?  Perhaps more unlockable items or crest customizations?  That part is unclear at this point.  This game probably will not be for everyone with its essentially lacking storyline and limited number of modes, but for those who enjoy some multiplayer carnage, you can do a lot worse than a title like this that focuses only on that aspect of the gameplay while adding a medieval flavor to the proceedings.

Elven Legacy

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Elven Legacy

Recently I reviewed the game Fantasy Wars. Despite the somewhat generic title, I found it to be a pretty effective turn-based strategy game. A couple of years later, they released a follow-up game called Elven Legacy, which in turn has spawned a trio of expansions: Magic, Ranger and Siege. I picked them all up as a combo pack from Steam and finally had a chance to play them. Since they use the same basic engine, I figure I will review them as a whole here.

Graphics – 7:

Elven Legacy - PC

They’re okay – the environments are bland, and the characters themselves do little to stand out at a distance, though they tend to fare a bit better on their close up. The maps themselves are easy enough to navigate visually. The cut scenes are pretty basic-looking, and in places, ugly if I’m to be perfectly honest. The engine looks very, very familiar to Fantasy Wars, which is a bit disappointing given a couple of years development time between titles. Thankfully, there does seem to be more color and the flying units look better, and the environmental textures are a bit more detailed.

Sounds & Music – 6:

Elven Legacy - PC

The music’s what you expect, but it can be a bit repetitious too. There are not a ton of sound effects, but what is there gets the job done. The voice acting is in fact, terrible at times. What’s worse is the tutorial, which is broken in terms of audio. Overlapping sentences, phrases that get cut off early, these things make the tutorial almost completely useless. The expansions don’t seem to have any voice acting at all.

Gameplay – 8:

The menus and overall interface were very similar to Fantasy Wars, which is to say they are easy to get around once you’re familiar with them, but there is a bit of a learning curve. There’s quite a few units though, and the turn-based tactics are solid. The way units progress is entertaining, and gives you a reason to feel invested in them – but be prepared. Like Fantasy Wars, this game is tough. The Fog of War feature keeps you from seeing what you’re getting into at times, and the enemy is very adept at ganging up on and beating a single unit to a pulp.

Elven Legacy - PC

One returning feature I am not particularly a fan of is the time-based gold/silver/bronze system, where you have a certain number of turns to meet your objective, and it seems like gold in several of these is virtually impossible. When you try to rush to complete objectives, you tend to lose more units and overlook things you might have found if you took the time to scour the map a bit, which is a shame. Still, the rewards for gold completion are usually quite nice – solid gold earning, usually a free troop and it unlocks a parallel mission that does not really affect the outcome, but is interesting all the same.

Intangibles – 8:

Elven Legacy - PC

The games are a bit short – I got through my first run of Elven Legacy in about fifteen hours or so, but there’s plenty of replay value with things like the side missions you can unlock and also a separate mission feature on top of the campaign mode. I also found the story more interesting than what was presented in Fantasy Wars, though I felt it was better in Elven Legacy than the additional packs.

Overall – 7:

Elven Legacy - PC

Technically the games are not great. The graphics and sound/music are average, but the gameplay is challenging and there is a fair amount to do within the game. Like Fantasy Wars, this series of games can be found relatively cheaply (though not quite as cheaply). It’s a bit disappointing that the series did not come a bit further over the two year span, but for strategy enthusiasts there is enough here to keep you busy. The AI presents a good challenge and there’s a fair amount to do.

Dungeons

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Dungeons was a game I was really looking forward to, only to be very disappointed by the end product. ~Nick Herber

Dungeons

Sadly, Dungeons is in fact the exact opposite of one of those stories.  The premise is one that caught my attention from the very beginning.  You are the evil overlord who creates, adds to and manages dungeons that foolish, intrepid explorers will visit in hopes of satisfying some deep need or quest.
Dungeons - PC

Your job is three-fold.  Lure them in, sate their interest by giving them what they want, and then finish them off when they try to escape your dungeon.  I have long heard that Dungeon Keeper was a classic PC title (I never did play it) that Dungeons tries very hard to emulate.  I get the feeling though, that Dungeons missed the mark on several points.  Dungeons was a game I was really looking forward to, only to be very disappointed by the end product.

Graphics – 6:

The details and animation are all pretty average.  This is not a game that will tax your video card by any means.  That said, I actually liked the color schemes and ambient lighting used throughout.

Dungeons - PC

The lack of detail and often minimal animations do little to help matters, but at least the visuals do not seem to cause slowdown and do not tear through environments.

Sound & Music – 7:

I really would have liked more music.  What they have here is actually pretty good, but there is not a ton of variety to be had.

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The voice acting is pretty decent as well, which is a big perk since the dialog is pretty well-written for the most part.  The sound effects are nothing special though.
Gameplay – 5:

Where to begin… overall the game’s core mechanics are adequate if shallow.  The idea of luring people in to more or less ‘fatten them up for the kill’ is okay on paper, but quite often I found it frustrating how you had to pander to a hero’s needs.  The lack of direct command over minions only made the missions that much more repetitive as well.

Dungeons - PC
The commands are a bit clunky to access and use as well, though the tutorial does a good enough job of at least getting you pointed in the right direction.

Intangibles – 5:

So, generally I want a long game, but in this case Dungeons just plods on for a bit too long.  The missions really are so similar to one another that I was ready for the game to end well before the last level.  I also had some stability issues with the game.  It would freeze or crash on occasion, but for reasons I could never properly identify.

Dungeons - PC
It was not using a ton of memory and my computer is well above the specs for this title, but somehow I kept getting it into bad states.  That problem did seem to diminish once I got a few levels in, but it got me off on the wrong foot initially.
Overall – 5.75:

What happens when you make a game with a great idea but poor execution?  You wind up with something like Dungeons.  I went into the game with an open mind, despite some negative reviews about it early on.  Usually I can find a couple of high-points for a game to discuss – even if I do not particularly like it.

Dungeons - PC
While there was some witty dialog that was reasonably well-executed, I could not help but feel disappointed in how average the rest of the title was.

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.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

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Nothing like dangling a storm trooper over the edge of cliff using force grip or throwing him halfway across the map! ~James Hare

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

[infobox color=”blue”]Released: Sep 2003 (PC) Developer: Raven Software Publisher: LucasArts & Activision Genre: 1st/3rd Person Action Shooter [/infobox]

Decided to dust off Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy and see who still played it online, I was surprised to see quite a few people still do so I thought why not play through from start to finish. By the time I gotten to my favorite part of the game (choosing between the light path and the dark path) I realized I’d never actually completed the ‘light path’ version of the storyline. All done but I still prefer the dark side ending.

Either way I realized how well this game has lasted for its age, the game play is still as fun and exciting and the lightsaber combat second to none. I’m still in awe of the amount of customization you were able to do (back in the day of course) on your character in a game that is a first/third-person shooter and not an RPG. It was developed by Raven Software and published, distributed and marketed by LucasArts in North America and by Activision in the rest of the world.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

You play as Jaden Korr, (a character you can customize to be male/female, human, twi’lek etc) a padawan who is travelling to Luke Skywalker’s Jedi academy on Yavin IV, along with other new Jedi hopefuls. Kyle Katarn, (the reluctant Jedi you played as in Jedi Outcast) returns as a mentor at the Academy and becomes your master. However your ship is attacked and crashes into the planet, leaving Jaden and one other student, Rosh Penin, to make their way to the academy on foot.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

 

Story

The storyline revolves around solving several questions related to this attack at the start of the game. From here you take on several missions, mostly with Kyle to begin with to find these answers and soon discover that a dark jedi called Tavion (Dessans apprentice in Jedi Outcast) is behind the attacks. Tavion is attempting to resurrect the spirit of dark sith lord Marka Ragnos by using his sceptre to drain dark force energy from locations across the galaxy. On each subsequent mission after the training you set about finding out more about the cult, battling with dark Jedi, the remnant and a few bounty hunters along the way.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

The options of customizing your character does not end at physical appearance, you are able to specialize and train in a selection of different force abilities, light and dark. You start out with eight core force powers; pull, push etc which are automatically upgraded every time you return to the academy after missions. There are also eight advanced force powers to choose from (4 on the light side and 4 on the dark) the light side abilities are; absorb, protection, heal, and mind trick. The dark side powers include life drain, force lightning, force grip, and rage. You receive a point when you complete a mission (each power has three levels of improvement) and you can distribute it in any of these eight powers at the start of the next mission.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

Personally force grip and heal are the powers of choice to get up to maximum level, and whether you choose the light or dark path nearer the end of the game (each with its own ending) you can have as many of the dark side powers as you like. Nothing like dangling a storm trooper over the edge of cliff using force grip or throwing him halfway across the map!

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

Jedi Academy captures the excitement of lightsaber combat perfectly and not to far into the game allows the player to select between single, dual or a staff lightsaber. The problem with Jedi Outcast was the amount of tedious levels you had to play before you got your lightsaber, in this game you have it from the start and can customize it to your liking. I tend to favor dual lightsabers in green and purple, I have no idea why. After completing the single player I was actually surprised when I logged into multiplayer to find servers still running and being played online.

Usually by now they’ve been taken over by bots and the odd nostalgic gamer but these were very full and active. Good times. The game itself is relatively easy to complete (mainly due to the lack of good AI in the enemy) and even has the option of avoiding harder missions if you choose too. Some of the better levels involve locations or characters from the movies. The Hoth mission is particularly good and the fight with Bobba Fett is awesome (although I feel they could have done more with this level).

Star-Wars-Jedi-Knight-Jedi-Academy

Jedi Academy is a great game and still worth revisiting. It is still highly playable in single and multiplayer mode and has plenty to offer in the way of character customization and mission/weapon selection. I love the choice of the light or dark path nearer the end of the game as it actually evokes real emotions in the player and for the situation the characters are in.

All I can say is the dark side path isn’t easier by a long way. The sound effects, music and voice acting really add a great atmosphere to the game and an extra dimension to the characters. Jeff Bennett returns to voice Kyle Katarn and Jennifer Hale and Philip Tanzini provide the female and male voices of Jaden Korr, with some great supporting voice artists Bob Bergen, Kath Soucie and Cam Clarke.

[You can find Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy on Stream]

The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day

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The first time I heard a curse word, I was actually taken aback. The nice, clean comic-book look of the game doesn’t feel like an environment where you would hear R-rated words. Adding to this feeling you also don’t expect to see gratuitous violence and bloody head-smashing, but it’s there too. ~Justin Richardson

The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day

Do you hear that pounding? It’s not the Tell-Tale heart under the floorboards, no, it’s your own heart racing in Telltale’s newest game. A game where you actually care about the characters.The zombpocalypse in media has been popular for a long time now. Many people feel that it’s high time it dies and is finally laid to rest. While this may appear to be the overall vocal consensus, somehow the zombie craze manages to shamble on, selling movies, games, books and perfumes. Well, probably not that last part. There are still groups out there, banding together and hanging on for life, voraciously eating up the zombie media like the living dead gathered around a corpse. Why?Perhaps we like the excitement and the thrill of the concept – the adventure of it all. Perhaps it offers us a way to fantasize about venting our frustrations of humanity, on humanity, without feeling as much as a twinge of guilt. And perhaps we’re just fascinated with the idea of reanimation. Whatever the reason, Telltale Games has just released the first episode in their The Walking Dead Pentalogy, and overall it does what you might expect a zombie adventure game to do, but rather well.

This is my first Telltale game. After going into this without having any kind of expectation I can say that I finished this two and a half hour episode with a smile on my face. None of Telltale’s previous games have ever really managed to grab my attention, but The Walking Dead feels like a good match for a developer that is revered for its focus on story, humor and having a personal touch. While Telltale may not have a lot of experience with heavy material or gritty violence, they pull this off with aplomb.

The Walking Dead - Episode 1 - A New Day - Telltale Games
The proper “I’ve just seen a zombie” face.

It was nice not to be stuck in the conventions of another run and gun game, which, for me, was a much needed break. Come to think of it, the protagonist, Lee Everett, throws down a shotgun in one of the first sections of the game, as if Telltale is saying, “No. This isn’t a first person shooter. We’re going to slow down and look at how these characters interact as the world collapses around them.”The game is quick to get you into the story. Lee, who I immediately feel an attachment to, finds himself in a squad car being escorted to prison for a crime that he may or may not have committed. It doesn’t take long for the player to pick up on the fact that, in the spirit of the show (and comic) you’re in Georgia, and have returned to your hometown after a long time away. There is an accident and the story quickly escalates into the chaotic mess that you have likely come to expect from The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead - Episode 1 - A New Day - Telltale Games
Option A – Not For the Kiddies
 The quicktime events (QTEs) / decisions are just that: quick. They offer only a few critical seconds to make key decisions that could drastically change your game. Many of these decisions have a great deal of permanence and will persist throughout the episodes, so think on your feet and choose well. These choices will change how other characters view you, who lives and ultimately who doesn’t. I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t reload once or twice so that I could hit the desired response. If you don’t respond fast enough your character remains silent, which is a response in and of itself, which not everyone appreciates. Some of these QTEs come in times of great tension, and do a great job of boosting the heart rate a bit. If you hear pounding in your ears, beware, it could be the Telltale heart.You’ll spend your time mostly talking to people, exploring small open areas and reacting to QTEs when they arise. You’ll have to use your head a little bit, but not too much. If you aren’t the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to adventure games, the process of elimination will eventually make the solution clear. There are only so many interactive points. You’ve either clicked on everything available or you haven’t. Unfortunately, I suspect that there is only one way to solve any given puzzle.

With that being said, the puzzles are actually quite fun and varied, even if they are a bit simplistic and linear. In The Walking Dead, you won’t be straining your brain or doing nonsensical things like placing wine in a time capsule and visiting the future where it has turned into vinegar. Nor will you mix cat hair and honey to make a mustache disguise. No, these puzzles are designed to be intuitive. A nice touch is that during these sequences, your perspective is constantly shifting based off of the situation or the nature of the puzzle that you have to solve. Have to unlock handcuffs – first person. Need to get from here to there – third person. Need to see a larger area – here’s a zoomed out view of the yard. I found this to be a refreshing change from static mounted-camera views, and from other games in general.

The Walking Dead - Episode 1 - A New Day - Telltale Games
This picture says it all. Sadness. Emotional depth. Baseball hats.

The first time I heard a curse word, I was actually taken aback. The nice, clean comic-book look of the game doesn’t feel like an environment where you would hear R-rated words. Adding to this feeling you also don’t expect to see gratuitous violence and bloody head-smashing, but it’s there too. As a result, there is a bit of dissonance between the cartoonish look of the engine, and the dark, apocalyptic feel of The Walking Dead. However odd it may feel, it’s not really a problem, and I’m glad they are approaching the material with the gravity that it deserves.

I say all of this not to fault the graphical engine. While it is admittedly dated, it’s still highly polished and works well for the comic book art style that they’ve gone for. It has the polish and feel of a late generation game  engine that has been pushed to its max. Again, not a problem as it serves it purpose while still providing a slick and attractive environment.

The Walking Dead - Episode 1 - A New Day - Telltale Games
I’m an expert tracker. I have followed the bloody marks in order to locate the body.

This is predominantly a character driven story, and to this end the voice acting and dialogue is truly brilliant. A friend of mine was asking me how the voice acting was and I wasn’t immediately able to answer him. Not because I was uncertain, but because I hadn’t really noticed the voice acting at all. And I hadn’t noticed it because it was so well done that it never shook me from my immersion in the game. Bravo, Telltale. Sometimes, I was so swept up in the story that I yelled out in victory, or shrank down and felt shame over a decision I had made.

For the most part my complaints with the game are few. There were a few audio stutters and blips during the dialogue, but it wasn’t consistent enough to really hinder my experience. However one of the most glaring issues wasn’t technical at all. There is a section of the game where a character doesn’t know how to put batteries into a radio, or what kind of batteries it could possibly ever need. This really serves to undermine the believability of that character and to shatter the player’s suspension of disbelief. This wouldn’t have been something to point out in a bad game, but The Walking Dead is otherwise intelligent and well conceived.

I’m not sure how differently the game would have played out had I made different choices, and I’m anxious to go back and replay it in a different way. There are a total of three save slots, so Telltale has accommodated the curious player like myself. Heck, I’m curious like a cat. I have a couple of friends that call me Whiskers. So I intend to fill all three slots.

The Walking Dead - Episode 1 - A New Day - Telltale Games
Hell comes to the suburbs of Georgia. Quick, hide in the tire!

The length of this episode felt about right for the first episode of five. I beat it in one sitting and never felt like my attention was drifting. For $25 this is a nice, bite-sized morsel of splendid content.

Fans of the excellent Idle Thumbs podcast will note the inclusion of names such as Sean Vanaman & Jake Rodkin in the opening credits. At an early stage in the episode, a character mentions “Ol’ Breckon” down the road, which is of course represents another Thumb member, Nick Breckon. This reminds me of the mention of Christopher di Remo and Jackie Rodkins in Bioshock 2, thanks to Steve Gaynor. Also himself. These guys are name dropping each other all throughout your videogames. Oh, Idle Thumbs. If you don’t know who they are, go check out their podcast.

Spolier alert! This video shows all of Episode 1

If you’re not entirely sick of zombies and are looking for a fun change of pace and some interesting characters, you should probably pick this up for PC, Mac, on the Playstation Network or Xbox Live Marketplace. I for one am not sick (or infected) of zombies. I realize that I’m in a constantly shrinking minority, but I find that there is something primal and fascinating about the juxtaposition of our modern world with this catastrophic zombie event. Perhaps even more importantly, I feel that we are drawn to the idea because it provides humanity with two important things that we perhaps otherwise lack: unity and purpose. Maybe reading World War Z has renewed my interest in the genre and Telltale happened to come in at the right time to give me an interest boost. At any rate, enough waxing zombitic. Go play The Walking Dead.

Warhammer 40k: Fire Warrior

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The problems with Fire Warrior, you see, are firmly rooted in its dirty console past. The game sports an incredibly annoying auto-save/checkpoints feature that forces you to replay levels again and again (only to be killed seconds before beating them), has pretty clumsy controls, very poor AI, astonishingly few tweaking options and an obviously tacked-on online multi-player side. ~Konstantinos Dimopoulos

Warhammer 40k: Fire Warrior

Now, why would you dear readers care for a review of a spectacularly unremarkable 5 year old game, that was released to public apathy and less than stellar reviews? And why would I bother with a game that dared tempt the PC crowd without a proper save feature, while offering only lackluster multi-player options? Why should we even care about the existence of another generic FPS instead of, say, the joys of Blue Lacuna? Well, simple really. It’s all happening because I’m oddly enjoying playing through Fire Warrior, that’s why. Shockingly for the second time in my life too.

warhammer 40k - fire warrior - pc

Better start at the beginning then. Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior is -as you might have already guessed- a pretty standard FPS set in Games Workshop’s dark and gritty sci-fi/Gothic world of Warhammer 40,000, where -as is customary with these things- there is only war and apparently many interesting stories to be told. You, the player, assume the role of a young warrior of the Tau Empire and set out to fight for the greater good in general and, in a more specific way, against the rather fascist Empire of Man. Actually, you get to live through the frenetic first 24 hours of your service while battling through 21 hour-long levels, essentially making this a properly real-time FPS in the strictest of senses. Interesting innit? Regardless. It still is longer than the average shooter and that sort of makes up for the fact that the game is definitely showing its age. It was after all a 2003 release.

warhammer 40k - fire warrior - pc

Fire Warrior also was the first pure action game set in the Warhammer 40k universe and, frankly, this must have been why I actually decided to give it a chance in the first place. Let me explain my train of thought like this: Shooting Space Marines? Yes, please. Walking through Tau spaceships in glorious 3D? Definitely. Being a nameless grunt in a war-torn universe? Sure. Playing a lazy PS2port on the PC? Well, uhm, not that I’m thrilled with the prospect, but guess I could put up with it.

warhammer 40k - fire warrior - pc

The problems with Fire Warrior, you see, are firmly rooted in its dirty console past. The game sports an incredibly annoying auto-save/checkpoints feature that forces you to replay levels again and again (only to be killed seconds before beating them), has pretty clumsy controls, very poor AI, astonishingly few tweaking options and an obviously tacked-on online multi-player side. Then, it doesn’t even try to add anything new to the genre and its sole innovation is a rather failed copy of HALO’s shield system. And don’t get me started on the extreme linearity of the thing or the truly archaic need to collect color-coded keys…

warhammer 40k - fire warrior - pc

On the plus side -and besides the setting- Fire Warrior does manage to do some things rather well. Or at least, well enough to help you relax, turn your brain off and enjoy many hours of frenetic shooting a la Serious Sam. You get 15 different weapons to experiment with, an impressively balanced difficulty curve, a great (or at least engrossing for FPS standards) plot, a variety of well-presented locations, bits of horror, a couple of smart set-pieces, boss battles and tons of enemies. What’s more, there are more than a few fantastic cinematic sequences and I bloody love fantastic cinematic sequences. I am quite fond of them unlockable WH40K artwork goodies too.

So, and in order to reach some sort of a verdict, should you grab a copy? Well, if you don’t mind Fire Warrior’s flaws and lack of originality, care for a simple though highly atmospheric and extremely addictive FPS to last you for a week or so, then, by all means, I think you should. After all, Warhammer 40,000 Fire Warrior is indeed dead cheap. Oh, and Warhammer 40k maniacs that can forget their miniatures for a while will definitely appreciate it too. Mind you, Amazon has quite a few well priced copies lying around last time I checked.

Homefront

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If you’ve read other reviews or talked to folks who have played Homefront, no doubt you’ve heard it described as “a worse version of Call of Duty.” This is accurate in some respects: it’s not, overall, quite as tightly executed and the range of available weapons is smaller. ~Seth Rosen

Homefront

Homefront packs a punch, and it doesn’t wait for the first bell to ring before socking you hard, right in the belly. The game starts with the player being abducted and put on a bus to Somewhere Bad. I sit on the bus for a few minutes, peering out the windows, unable to move or twist around to get a better view of the proceedings of a depressed suburban Colorado town. At first, the restriction on my view bothered me, but then I realized that it had to be this way: the Korean People’s Army (KPA) guards wouldn’t take too kindly to me jumping around the bus, repeatedly ducking and standing back up on top of the seats (which is exactly what I did on the trains in Half-Life and Half-Life 2). So, I settled in, ready to play their way. Soon I saw that “their way” really delivers on the game’s tagline: “Home is where the war is.” The bus trundles through the town and I see several limp bodies, their heads covered in blood-spattered sacks, strewn across the sidewalk. I see people desperately pleading for mercy. I see parents gunned down in front of their wailing child. Truly a horrible and disturbing scene. What’s more, given Unified Korea’s rise to power as laid out by the game’s alternate history in the introduction, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

Homefront

Though Homefront is not really an adaptation to the interactive medium of writer John Milius’ previous work (Apocalypse NowRed Dawn), you can see their ehem influence throughout the game’s story and setting. The world is intricately and brutally realized and I was itching to join the fight. In short order, my bus was rammed by a Resistance cell in order to secure me, the all-important pilot, for their mission. Unfortunately, the the game’s mechanics immediately got in my way. I was hot-blooded and ready for the warpath, but I had to wait for my savior to finish what he was saying before the game prompted me to press ‘E’ to climb out of the bus, rather than let me duck and crawl out on my own when I wanted to, which would have been immediately. It was primarily little things like this that prevented me from fully engaging with my tasks at hand and immersing myself in the world. All-too-often, I would end up waiting for the game to catch up to me (sometimes dialog and sometimes the actual characters) before I could proceed, despite the fact that I was the slowest runner in the entire resistance force. I would get frustrated watching my comrades press their bodies against cover and lean out, while I was stuck with standing, crouching and going prone. Summed together, these small annoyances would periodically break my immersion.

Homefront

These complaints are valid, but plenty of excellent games came before Homefront, overcoming somewhat clunky controls, so I didn’t want to abandon it. And I didn’t have to stick with it for very long: I finished the single player campaign on Hard in about 5 hours. Though the recent trend of military shooters sporting such short single player components is a disappointing one, it sort of worked in Homefront’s favor. Over the course of the entire game, though your path is oft waylaid, your mission is relatively small in scope: escape the bus rescue, commandeer a few fuel trucks, drive them to San Francisco and then lase a target on the Golden Gate bridge for the newly-fueled air support to bomb the ever-living shit out of.
Homefront
On that note, Homefront rarely lets you lead the charge, resulting in a genuine sense that you’re just another foot soldier, though there are some set-pieces that you have to take down in order to advance.  Your comrades do a good bit of killing themselves and some of their dialog excellently portrayed the atmosphere of the resistance and their venomous hate of the KPA. You’ll also find old newspapers scattered throughout the game that relate more background of how the U.S. got to be in such a dire position. Interesting stuff that helps build the world, but the interface for the blurbs felt more like a game menu than a newspaper in your hand.
Homefront
When it came to handling the futuristic high-tech weapons, it seemed like an order had come down from on-high that you were the only resistance fighter capable of wielding the blasted things. This was to the detriment of the fun and believability of the game. For one, you had a tech-wiz with you for at least half of the game who I’m sure was capable of using the weaponry. Second, the technology behind the Gladiator (a vehicle that riddles with holes any enemy you can look at for a full second) just doesn’t seem to fit with the grittiness of the rest of the world. Lastly, the Gladiator targeter simply wasn’t very satisfying to use. I found it significantly less fun to pop out from cover and target the next KPA soldier and have a vehicle drive over to him and unload a machine gun in his face when compared to the visceral experience of creeping around the suburban yards and through the White Castle, shooting baddies as you went.
Homefront
Similar to this imbalance of how enjoyable the different weapons were to use, Homefront suffered from some uneven pacing. In particular, I found the levels taking place in and around the countryside to be a bit slower. It didn’t help that the vehicle sections were significantly easier than the ground-fighting (which, inexplicably, was suddenly against extremist American conspiracy theorists). I found a few spots to be massively more difficult. Some of these sections I died and reloaded at the last checkpoint 10-20 times. There was, however, one moment that I really enjoyed in the country level: our small force was attempting to cross the camp of the extremists undetected and we came upon a pair of hooligans that were torturing a KPA soldier, shooting at his feet to make him dance. I saw this and I was disgusted. Without considering my actions, I walked up behind one of the men and sank my knife into his back. The mission was failed (I guess the other guy standing there noticed his buddy getting shanked), but I felt vindicated. For me, Homefront was about doing what needed to be done to get our land back, not about acting maliciously towards the  invaders.
Homefront
To that end, it’s in the first few and final levels (out of 7) that Homefront truly shines. These are the levels that take place in the remnants of civilization and you find yourself battling across yards, sneaking through gaps in broken fences, and dashing through a burning computer parts store next to a Hooters. You see what this war has done to our homeland and you are compelled to right the situation. It truly feels like you’re fighting to get America back to its rightful owners when you’re running from abandoned car to abandoned car on the Golden Gate Bridge, getting into a position where you can call in air support and kickstart the rebellion.
Homefront
While the game’s environments were very rich, its graphical fidelity wasn’t top notch. The music, on the other hand, was spectacularly done and very effectively instilled in me a sense of patriotism. I played Homefront on the PC and I am forced to wonder whether the fact that Kaos Studios outsourced the PC development toDigital Extremes impacted the quality of the port.
Homefront
If you’ve read other reviews or talked to folks who have played Homefront, no doubt you’ve heard it described as “a worse version of Call of Duty.” This is accurate in some respects: it’s not, overall, quite as tightly executed and the range of available weapons is smaller. As for the multiplayer, which I played briefly, it is more or less what you should expect from a military shooter: realistic weapons and environments with unlockable content based on your performance. The maps seemed to differ wildly in quality, with the better ones tending to be smaller, more tactical suburban environments and the worse ones being large, open country settings that beg for snipers. Homefront’s multiplayer does feature some ground and air vehicles, which mixes up the gameplay a bit. As far as I’m concerned, there are two interesting aspects of the multiplayer. The first is small deployable bots (also ground and air) that players can pilot remotely. The second is Homefront’s capture point game mode, which has a tug-of-war dynamic: only 3 points active at any time and in order to access and capture the points beyond those, one team had to control that section of the map.
Homefront
Yes, Homefront is, on some level a worse Call of Duty. Honestly, though, how different can military shooters truly be? I say, “so be it, judge the game on its own merits.” Homefront, unlike a certain other recent release, had a somewhat humbler goal in mind than to be the next Call of Duty: tell a compelling story in a rich and emotionally-charged environment where the player is not playing the hero at every turn. Though it wasn’t stellar all the way through, I think it succeeded in that respect.
Should you play it? If you’re interested in emancipating the United States of America from the control of United Korea, hell yes. If you’re a Communist and just want to shoot more dudes so you can rank up and get a new scope, don’t bother. Seriously, Homefront is not one of the best executed interactive experiences I’ve ever had, but if you were at all interested in playing the game just based on the premise, I’d say go for it.

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.

Bodycount-

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.

Bodycount-

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.

Bodycount-

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

Hector: Badge of Carnage: Episode 1

Hector Badge of Carnage
I’m not a particularly cynical gnome. No, not really. I’m just a realist who -admittedly- spends the odd day firmly believing that cynicism and the subsequent nihilism are nasty things, while trying to figure out ways to make this poor planet a better place. Then again, I just can’t help but enjoy the more cynical side of satire, and definitely can’t help but enjoy those rare cynical games. They seem so refreshing in the dire landscape of tired fantasy cliches, gun-ho militarism and vacuous cuteness that mainstream gaming seems to have created, and the first episode of Hector: Badge of Carnage is (probably) as cynically satirical as it gets.
Hector Badge of Carnage
It also is a rather traditional point-and-click adventure, which is always nice and despite coming from Telltale it’s both cynical and -shockingly- actually challenging. Now, don’t get me wrong,Telltale have done some wonderful things for adventure gaming. I can’t deny that, but it seems that after the excellent Tales of Monkey Island and the refreshingly odd Puzzle Agent they have become more, well, formulaic. And pop-centered. And, really, who cares for Jurassic Park games? I for one don’t. I definitely care about Hector though (to cunningly and subtly change the subject).
Hector Badge of Carnage

Hector, you see, the eponymous Badge of Carnage protagonist is a (shockingly and spontaneously anti-authoritarian) cop in what can only be described as Britain’s most run-down town. His moral compass is all over the place, his remarks biting, his humour dark and his pants struggling. He’s also more than willing to negotiate with terrorists, as this game’s full title is none other than Hector: Badge of Carnage – Episode 1: We Negotiate With Terrorist, in which Hector seems hell-bent on fulfilling the ultra-conservative, yet at times rather sensible, demands of a deeply frustrated and particularly murderous terrorist.

Hector Badge of Carnage

What’s more, Hector does this in the most unconventional way imaginable, while inhabiting a beautifully illustrated 2D world and remaining true to the best of point-and-click traditions. He’ll have to combine inventory items, engage in brilliantly penned discussions, use everything on everything, explore the seedier parts of the urban fabric and even use a heroin-addict as a sex doll (oops, spoiler, sorry about that), while sounding both brilliant and very British. The voice-overs are after all excellent, as are the games graphics, music and most of the puzzles.
Hector Badge of Carnage

The only thing that’s not quite so excellent is the control method (click to look, double-click to interact), that simply doesn’t feel that intuitive, especially if you are a seasoned adventurer. Then again, this episode’s hefty size, challenging puzzles and overall quality more than make up for this minor hick-up. Oh, and yes, the humour does actually work.

Verdict: A humorous and gritty breath of fresh, episodic, adventure gaming air. Adventurers should apply here and Hector will definitely amuse them.

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

8

Torchlight

Torchlight is An Affordable, Engaging Dungeon Crawler

torchlight

Torchlight’s art style is a fresh perspective. There is virtually no gray to be seen, unlike in games such as Fallout 3 and Gears of War. Instead, the visual style is bright and almost cartoony, which adds to the charm of Torchlight. The graphics are nowhere near being equal to Uncharted 2 but they serve well to fit the game style. In fact, in the options menu there is an option to turn on netbook mode. This helps scale the look of Torchlight so that your netbook and older laptops are able to play this game. I have not seen an option like this in all of my pc gaming life. When I saw that, I had to try it on my netbook and sure enough, it worked flawlessly. As you venture forth into the dungeons, the creatures you encounter are diverse; you will be killing skeletons, rats, zombies, imps, as well as giant boss monsters.
torchlight
While crawling through these dungeons you are welcomed with a beautiful score. This is no surprise because the lead on music is none other than Matt Uelman the composer for both Diablo and Diablo II. The soundtrack of Torchlight has a gentile quality about it. The music does not get in the way of the game but brings out a mystical feeling. When eerie music is playing, there are enemies nearby, building up what little suspense there is because soon you are in a fight. While fighting, the music does not get loud and obnoxious. It still plays gently in the background waiting for you to finish.
torchlight

You start the game by choosing which class you want to play. The three classes you can pick from are Destroyer, Alchemist, and Vanquisher. The Destroyer is the tank that bashes his way through the enemies. The Alchemist is the mage who can cast magic or summon minions to do his bidding. Lastly, the Vanquisher has a vast array of ranged attacks and weapons that he may use, such as bows, guns, and throwing knives.

torchlight

Each character has their own motives behind voyaging to the town of Torchlight. While you are there, the corruption of the emerald crystals resonates in the mines and you are asked to stop the evil from spreading, putting aside your own motives. If you want to fall off the beaten path of the story there are opportunities to do this as well. There is always something to do in Torchlight. The residents of the town will assign you side quests which are either “go kill so and so” or “go collect X object.”

torchlight

Alongside your hero are two pets that can accompany you on your missions. You can pick from a mountain lion or a wolf. Your pet acts as storage space as well as aids you in battle. The most effective way to have your pet help you vanquish foes is by feeding it magic fish you can catch. These fish transform your pet into a ferocious beast. These beast transformations include spiders, goblins and other monsters. Each beast your pet transforms into has his or her own strengths and weaknesses.

torchlight

Torchlight is not a flawless gem, however. There are some issues such as a lack of multiplayer. That said, I have heard that there is a massive multiplayer online version of Torchlight under development. One thing that consistently bugged me was that the storage space you have while in the dungeon is small. Nonetheless, the developers gave you a pet so that you can give it items and you can send your pet to the store to sell those items, prolonging your need to return to town.

torchlight

The Final Word

Overall, Torchlight is a fun little game with lots of replay value. Despite its minor flaws, Torchlight does a lot of things right. If you are a student like myself and are waiting for class to start or if you are someone looking for a relaxing dungeon crawling game there is no need to look further than Torchlight.

The Scorecard

8

Lost Planet 2

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Everyone knows that it’s more fun to read a bad review than it is to read a good one. One thing you learn quickly in journalism school is that it’s also more fun to write a bad review. This simple fact has led me to always let myself cool off before writing a piece on something that has gotten under my skin. Even with this cool down period, I still find myself cursing Lost Planet 2.

The original Lost Planet was released in early 2007 for the Xbox 360 and later for the PC and Playstation 3. The third-person shooter showcased battles against massive bugs called the Akrid and impressive snow-covered environments. The story focused on Wayne, a young man who joins up with a group of Snow Pirates to combat the nefarious plans of NEVEC, your typical evil corporation.

The unmemorable story was given a pass because of how fun it was to jump in mechs known as Vital Suits (VS) and blast away soldiers and Akrid alike.

Lost Planet 2 receives no such pass. Now, in addition to an even more forgettable story, gamers must slog through a fundamentally broken game.

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Set a decade after the original, Lost Planet 2 features six episodes, each told from a different perspective. The snow-covered world of EDN III has been thawing for 10 years, causing an increase in Akrid activity. Many rival factions are fighting for the precious thermal energy (T-ENG) that is harvested from the big bugs. The plots of each individual episode intertwine in various ways but the ties are not strong enough to form a decent narrative. Characters in each episode are interchangeable thanks to Capcom’s decision to mask every character in the game. Your armor clad heroes are so indistinguishable that in one cutscene I believed my character had been killed, when in reality it was just a teammate that looked identical to the protagonist.

Lost-Planet-2-

The few times the plot gains momentum it fails due to the game’s pace-killing mission structure. Each episode is divided into chapters and each chapter is divided into several missions. The missions last at most 15 minutes, so any action packed sections end just as they really get going. Some of the shorter missions barely last five minutes making the front and back-end loading and statistics reports jarring and disruptive. Breaking up the chapters in this manner seems even more pointless when you consider the fact that you can’t save your game between missions.

The episode environments are varied but you’ll end up doing basically the same thing in every one. While the game tells you that the objective is to take control of a train or cause a mining drill to spin out of control it always comes down the same thing: taking control points. The T-ENG data-posts from the original game seem to be the most important thing on EDN III. These points are apparently the only control scheme on the planet so every mission has you capturing all of the posts on the map while shooting waves of faceless goons.

Lost-Planet-2-

While gaining control of the precious posts various small forms of Akrid will harass your squad and every so often a massive Category-G beast will show up. The battles against these colossal Akrid should be the thrilling highlights of the game. In reality they’re just as tedious as the standard objectives. Everyone weapon in the game, including those attached to the various Vital Suits, slowly chip away at the Cat-Gs’ life bars. The battles start out thrilling but a few minutes in it devolves into shooting the glowing weak point with your pea-shooters until the bug drops.

The Cat-G fights showcase just how little thought was put into Lost Planet 2′s design. In the very first encounter you’ll be forced to spend 15 minutes slowly killing the Akrid with the default machine gun. As the beast rises out of a lake you get a great view of Vital Suits and rocket launchers. The problem is, they’re on the other side of a door that doesn’t open until after thebattle. All the wonderful toys are for mopping up leftover Akrid while activating, you guessed it, data-posts.

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The design missteps drive the fun from Lost Planet 2. The clear focus on co-op makes playing solo an exercise in futility. The mini-map doesn’t indicate the altitude of objectives making finding data-posts in cluttered levels more tedious than normal. There are quicktime events peppered throughout the cutscenes but they’re so infrequent that it’s easy to put the controller down and forget they even exist. When one does pop up you have to fumble to find it and input a single button press. I know just about everyone complains about QTE-heavy games but putting just a random few into a title doesn’t solve anything. Unlocks provided by a slot machine more likely to give you nick-names than weapons, the fact that when hit you can’t fire back, being knocked-back by every attack (often sending you off a level), atrocious AI; the list of poor ideas grows more and more as you play the game.

Then there’s the unnecessarily convoluted controls. Buttons are given four or five uses causing you to often do the exact opposite of what you meant to. Want to transfer T-ENG to teammates so they can heal themselves? Press triangle and L1. Press triangle a split-second too soon and you’ll switch weapons instead. Press L1 a split-second too soon and you’ll throw a grenade at your pals. To activate a data-post you repeatedly tap circle. That also happens to be the button for melee attacks. I often found myself smacking data-posts with the butt of my rifle instead of activating them. It’s also sprint so you could very well just run past the posts.

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Capcom also expects you to read the game’s manual. While this is something I frequently do, major features should also get a mention in the in-game tutorial. The dodge roll, an very important maneuver, isn’t even referenced in the control page of the options menu. By the way, it’s executed by pressing X and L3 at the same time. Yes, dodge rolling forces you to either use the uncomfortable claw method of holding the controller or take your thumb off the right stick, causing you to lose the ability to stay focused on what you’re escaping from.

Also omitted from the game’s tutorial are the T-ENG powered weapon caches. The glowing boxes require an infusion of the precious energy to open up. The weapons inside are almost always worth the sacrifice but if you don’t read the manual there’s no clue about how to open them.

I desperately wanted to like Lost Planet 2. Capcom’s MT Framework engine does a stellar job making the massive Akrid and environments look great. The music conveys an epic feeling and the front-end menus are well-crafted. The game isn’t completely devoid of fun. Playing with friends greatly improves the experience but in the end it’s still a prime example of wasted potential. For every thing the game does right there are three or four truly awful design choices. Lost Planet 2 is easily the biggest disappointment, so far, of 2010.

Lost Planet 2 was developed and published by Capcom. It was released on May 11, 2010 for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. A PC version will be released on May 18, 2010. A copy was purchased by this author for review on the Playstation 3.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale
When I originally previewed Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale I was pretty excited about it, what with it being the first DnD 4th edition CRPG to hit PCs and consoles; an interesting choice supported by its advertised modular system and episodic, thus manageable, lenght. Then the first reviews came -hitting sites a few days before the review copy hit my door- and they were less than stellar. Everyone complained about something and I decided to stop reading before actually playing the game, though the damage was done.
 Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale
I installed the PC version of Daggerdale with the lowest of expectations, only to have them sink further when I was asked to either join or log into gamespy. Now, I’m not a multiplayer fanatic, but I have come to expect to enjoy such overtly social modes of gaming without having to sign up with any service. Always thought that Steam was more than capable and more than enough for this sort of things, and seeing Daggerdale run via Steam yet still requiring me to remember one more password, well, I simply couldn’t be bothered. Then again, in CRPGs it’s the solo experience that counts, isn’t it? Of course it is dear.
Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale

On to the single-player campaign it was then and I went on to choose among the four available characters (a Halfling wizard, a Dwarven cleric, an Elven rogue and a Human fighter), customize him/her and go on and travel to the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms. There I would get to explore the catacombs of Tethyamar under the Desrtmouth Mountains (I’m not making those names up you know; and, yes, I haven’t played any proper DnD for years now), where a dwarven community is having troubles with goblins, undead things, an assortment of nasties and the malicious deity Bane. So far, so generic, I know, but playing through this story felt oddly refreshing and reminiscent of the things a seasoned DM would come up with.

Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale

 The game itself is a pure hack-and-slash affair sporting some great combat mechanics, deeper character customization than one would expect and -impressively- some lovely and pretty varied graphics. What’s more, the thing is properly entertaining and really addictive, meaning that, yes, Daggerdale did manage to endear itself. At heart it’s a great action-RPG with some good ideas and an apparently powerful engine behind it. Even the lack of a proper save function doesn’t completely destroy the experience, despite it being incredibly frustrating.
Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale
The varied bugs, visual glitches, lack of overall polish and shoddy camera, on the other hand, do border on infuriating and keep Daggerdale from becoming the game it could be, which is frankly a shame, especially considering it gets so many things right. Then again, there’s always hope that the first patch will fix things up considerably… Oh, and the game’s length is longer than I expected, without it ever becoming boring.


Verdict: A traditional hack-and-slash CRPG that’s too buggy for its own good. Definitely worth a try if you are into this sort of thing and don’t mind the generic plot.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Kingdoms of Amalur - Reckoning - gameplay - screenshot -1

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an expansive action RPG. It was released as the first of a trilogy by the now-defunct Big Huge Games studio, and feels like a Fable/Elder Scrolls lovechild. KoA sports excellent game-feel, seemingly endless side quests… and a terribly generic and un-inspiring main story-line.

Kingdoms of Amalur

If this had been a JRPG or a turn-based  game, I would not have played it solely for the story. There are plenty of other games to choose from if that is what you’re looking for. Though glitchy in minor areas, KoA is an excellent choice for lovers of action RPGs who have a difficult time finding games that don’t have wonky combat controls. You begin by choosing one of 5 races, each with a couple of unique bonuses. Character models are very customizable, so long as you are only concerned about the face. The beginning features a good tutorial that gets you familiar with the basics, but make sure to manually turn tutorials off in the main menu once you get out into the main game. Amalur is pretty damn easy on Normal mode, so unless you really just want to enjoy the landscape and make a 10 hour speed-run through the main quest, play on Hard.

Kingdoms of Amalur

Primary and secondary weapon slots do not have any requirements. This means you can equip two axes, a scepter and longbow, or any possible combination of the several weapon classes to tailor to your play style. A unique “Fate” system allows you to personalize your skills even further. You are allotted points at each level-up  to apply towards any of 3 ability trees; Might, Sorcery, and Finesse. After a certain amount of points have been invested in the trees, new fates open up which grant special bonuses that correlate with your most buffed abilities.

Kingdoms of Amalur

You can gain some pretty sweet gear through various quests. You can also invest in Blacksmithing and Sagecraft abilities to forge your own unique weapons, armor, and augments. The vibrant landscape is full of herbs and plants you can harvest for Alchemical use, though I preferred just buying potions from vendors.

Overall I would definitely recommend this to friends who were fans of the original Fable, though Elder Scrolls players might find it a bit too  simplistic. If you’re looking to kill 20-60 hours, pick this up used somewhere and really enjoy the smooth controls and pretty atmosphere. 

The Walking Dead: Episodes 1-5

The Walking Dead

I’ve never been a big fan of Telltale Games.  While I certainly enjoyed their official Back to the Future sequel, I never felt the need to actually finish it.  I only made it through about ten minutes of Jurassic Park before I decided I just couldn’t get into their point and click adventure titles.  (I had a similar experience with Escape From Monkey Island, which is a LucasArts,so it’s probably my aversion to the genre, not the quality of the games themselves).  I’d made peace with this realization.

The Walking Dead

Then, something unexpected happened.  I started to hear people proclaiming The Walking Dead as not only a phenomenal title, but to some credible sources (and also Spike TV) it’s been named a contender for . . .  (trumpet fanfare) Game of the Year.  A point and click adventure title beating out such powerhouses as Far Cry 3, Borderlands 2, Mass Effect 3, and Dishonored?  Could it really be that good?

The Walking Dead

Yes it could.  For one thing, it’s very difficult to bring genuine emotional resonance into the world of a video game, but The Walking Dead succeeds at doing just that.  I’ll bypass all spoilers but provide a little exposition to explain how. From the outset of the story, you are partnered with an eight-year-old girl named Clementine.  How you decide to protect her is entirely up to you, but I promise you will have an immense emotional attachment to her before the final episode one credits roll. Clementine provides but one example of the care and consideration taken with all the characters; none of them feel generic or written simply to serve as plot devices.  Each other character you encounter has unique motivations besides survival—some you will love, and some you will loathe, but they all feel like real people and not typical video game characters.  Choosing who lives or dies is never an easy task, and there are always looming ramifications for each difficult decision you make.  You’ll feel empathy for the characters far more than you might in a typical game, a true testament to the amazing storytelling and attention to detail that absolutely gushes from the well-polished narrative.

The Walking Dead

Lee Everett, the main protagonist, is one of the most developed characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. His journey is not some obligatory quest to bash some zombie skulls with a wrench.  Lee casts a real shadow on the player; I genuinely cared about him.  If there is an award given for voice acting, David Fennoy deserves to win it hands down, as he delivers each line of dialogue perfectly.

The Walking Dead

Finally, as a former native of Georgia, each of the locations represented was recreated perfectly, from the opening scene on Interstate 85 to the eventual journey to River Street in Savannah, I actually felt like I was back home in the peach state.

The Walking Dead

Much like previous Telltale Games, you use a four tied conversation tree that corresponds with each direction of your control pad.  Unlike previous titles, however, in The Walking Dead all of your choices are timed (and some you only have mere seconds to make).  There is absolutely zero backtracking to see different options or outcomes.  This gives each of the choices a weight that just didn’t exist in similar point and click adventure games; once you make a decision, you are stuck with it unless you restart the entire chapter.  On top of that, your choices directly affect how other characters react to you and behave in the narrative overall.  This minor tweak to the familiar formula makes all of the difference; it turns what some might describe as an interactive movie into one of the best titles I’ve played in a long time.  This is a game you are going to enjoy multiple times just so you can see the outcome of different choices.

Even if you’ve never enjoyed a point and click adventure before, I’m certain this will be the exception.

The Book of Unwritten Tales

The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot
It’s been quite some time since I last played an adventure game that took me over 15 hours to finish, and, admittedly, that was an (apparently undisclosed) offering released over 10 years ago. Seems that expansive point and clickers are so passé these days… Shockingly and quite unexpectedly then, The Book of Unwritten Tales entertained me for quite a bit more than that, while remaining a brand new game. A rare kind of brand new adventure game actually: the epic kind!
The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot -
Then again, everything epic isn’t by definition a great idea. Epic can easily turn into dull, though that definitely is not the case with The Book of Unwritten Tales. I already mentioned it entertained me, didn’t I? It is after all such a varied, engaging, wisely paced and well-crafted game that it never feels padded, tedious or boring and will, as soon as you finish it, leave a big gaping, err, gap in your psyche in a way only, well, epic, fantasy novels and a rare few games manage. Thankfully, said gap is easy to heal, but you get the point.
The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot
 We are not talking Tolkien, Martin and Moorcock here, we are talking Terry Pratchett. We are talking light-hearted fantasy with more than a few humorous touches, that is neither satire nor farce. The Book of Unwritten Tales, you see, is set in a more or less proper fantasy world. There are mages, there are trolls, there are gnomes (yay!), there are knights and castles, there are undead, there are hidden artifacts, there are heroes, there are elves, there are dragons and there’s a battle between good and evil going on. On the other hand, everything feels like it’s taking place in some sort of tongue-in-cheek version of a standard MMORPG setting. The gnomes’ machines never seem to properly work, the orcs are organizing battles in order to support their weapons industry, mystical rings are trusted to little creatures, dragons get fearsome with the help of manuals and Death himself is despairing over the genre’s lack of dead bodies.
The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot - 1
Intrigued? Well, you really should be, as King Art (the game’s developers) have nailed both the setting and the writing. Even better, they have nailed the humour and have created an atmosphere not wholly dissimilar to the one prevalent in Monkey Island 2The Book of Unwritten Tales (hence BoUT; sorry, can’t be bothered otherwise) can be both (moderately) dark and hilariously funny. And that scene with the forgotten mummy has easily squeezed itself into my funniest gaming moments ever; it’s that good, it is, but not as funny as a certain later segment in the game where a gibberish-talking yet oddly playable character tries to provide with descriptions using only noises and gestures.
The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot
BoUT, as you may have already guessed, does provide with more than one playable characters; it provides with four. There’s a young gnome that craves for magic, a slightly under-dressed elf, a Han Solo inspired rogue and his blobby sidekick. Each one has different abilities and is utilized for solving different kinds of puzzles.
The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot
Speaking of puzzles, they are generally easy, brilliantly integrated in the plot and quite varied, as they do let gamers mix potions, talk their way out of situations, combine items, solve mechanical problems and even navigate maps based on vague and ancient writings. Admittedly a few of them (only a couple I believe) are not particularly well designed, but I do suppose that coming up with dozens of puzzles and expecting each and every one to be brilliant is simply impossible. Even Gabriel Knight 3 and Grim Fandango had their moments of pointless frustration…
The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot - 1
Then again, for every minor flaw one might discover, there’s at least one beautiful (and very dynamic) background, one brilliantly voiced character, one original puzzle or, at least, one smart joke to set things right. BoUT is, tiny problems aside, destined to become classic.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpv9L64PsdU[/youtube]
Verdict: A fantastic, stunning, humorous, fantasy adventure for people that can appreciate humour. Grab it now (here) or -at the very least- try its demo.

Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries

Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries Atlas

In the spirit of Mechwarrior 2 Mercenaries came out Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries. If you’ve never played Battletech or any of the Mechwarrior games, this is a great place to start other than Mechwarrior 2. This game should hold you out until Mechwarrior Online comes out! 😀

Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries Atlas

Mechs are customizable based on what they look like. Some mechs will only use missiles or cannons or energy weapons if that is what they used in the original tabletop Battletech game. Only Omnimechs have no such restriction.

The Good:
– Addicting and fun fun fun!
– A large variety of mechs and all sorts of updated weapons from both the Inner Sphere and Clan factions.
– Whore yourself out to the highest bidder and get paid well.
– As difficult as needed without it becoming impossible to beat.
– Nice music made in the spirit of the music from Mechwarrior 2 but not as good.
– Fun even though it’s old and feels dated. Since Battletech games are nowadays rare, we’ll take it!
– You can play the game free if you download it at MekTek.
– Some people still play this online together.

The Bad:
– The controls are really dated. The mouse control is horrible. It is designed to be used with a joystick which not that many people use anymore for PC gaming other than mainly flight sim people.
– The graphics are really dated.
– The game has an ending.
– Sometimes when you repair a Mech if you don’t have enough parts in your stockpile, it will repair the Mech but some of the weapons will be missing. The requires you to micromanage your configurations after a nasty mission every single time!
– Some missions are pretty frustrating.
– Damage engine does not show realistic depiction of damage on units.
– The Mechlab might be a little intimidating to new Battletech players especially with the variety of configurations available.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

From Russia With Love

Most of the Bond-related games over the past 20+ years have been either 1st or 3rd-person shooters, with a couple of 80′s text-based computer games being the exceptions. But, one game jumped out at me, and it’s something I was looking forward to firing up.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
In 2005, EA put out a game called From Russia, With Love, based on the 1963 movie. This is a spoiler-heavy walkthrough/review of a magical day for me:

Opening mission has Bond, who looks exactly like Sean Connery, and is VOICED by him, looking cool at a party. A Prime Minister’s daughter gets kidnapped by OCTOPUS (no SPECTRE license). Fight my way to the roof, where they’re escaping via helicopter.

Many ways to dispatch the thugs. There are a lot of weapons and gadgets that I accumulate throughout the game, even if I just have a Walther PPK to start the game. When I’m too close to shoot, I automatically perform some Bond-ish hand-to-hand move to take them out. Looks cool, and saves ammo. I found a lot of ammo/armor throughout the game, but there are multiple difficulties if you’re looking for a higher challenge.

When I reach the roof, I beat a guy up for his jet-pack, now I’m flying around shooting missiles at the helicopter. After destroying it, a cool cut-scene has me flying through it, saving the girl. I tell her, “My name’s Bond…James Bond”, then fly away.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
Opening ‘movie’ credits start, with actual scenes from the film! This was just 20 minutes or so into the game, and I’m hooked!
Next, I fight more OCTOPUS thugs through a hedge-maze, then I’m KILLED by Red Grant, played by the awesome Robert Shaw in the film. A cut-scene shows “Bond” to be an OCTOPUS training exercise for Red (the game’s main bad guy, working for Rosa Klebb) to practice killing Bond. I also find out that their mission is to trick Bond into stealing something called Lektor (some decoding device), then stealing it from Bond after killing him, which is payback for Bond killing Dr. No. Ridiculously convuluted, but very Bondish.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
After flirting with Moneypenny and getting briefed by M (I’ll be off to Instanbul to meet Russian-hottie Tatiana), I have a training-session with Q and pick up gadgets like the Q-copter (spies through vents and self-destructs) and the rappel-device (you’ll use both a lot).
Kerim Bey is your contact in Istanbul, and brings you your Aston Martin. This chase level is action-packed with guns/missiles/tire spikes as weapons against the evil Russians. Bonus coolness for taking out a tank.
Next level has me rescuing hostages and disarming bombs, capping off with the first appearance of the bazooka, to destroy another helicopter. Time to spy on the Russians.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
More Aston Martin action, then cut through some Russians to steal a boat. I need to get under the Russian consulate to use a periscope to spy.
My eavesdropping learns the Lektor is in a vault, and that the Russians are going to kill people in a Gypsy camp. Karim heads to the camp to warn ‘his” people. After kicking more Russian ass, I escape through the underground tunnels via jetpack. Some awesome jetpack-on-jetpack action!

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
The gypsy-camp was more hostage-rescuing, and I get the sniper rifle for the first time.
Next mission has me saving Karim’s ass again with a lot of sniping. Feels good killing Russians.
I meet Tatiana for the first time. She’s in my bed, of course, and I show her my 007…she’s now in love with me.
We, along with Karim, have to break into the Russian Consulate to steal the Lektor. I think this was probably the longest level.
Another car chase on the way to the train, Orient Express, which is our escape.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
Red is on the train, kills Karim, and tries to kill me. I fight him off, but he escapes with the Lektor while I’m occupied with some ‘roided Russian flunkie. I fight my way to Red, and kill him, his body taken away by a speeding train. I have to inform Karim’s son that his father is dead…now I’m pissed. Red’s assisstant, Eva Adara, has escaped with the Lektor.
I infiltrate an OCTOPUS complex looking for the Lektor. More jetpacks and car chases. Some robot tank comes after me, as well. I take back the Lektor. Blow the base for the fun of it.
Another Aston Martin chase on the way to the docks to steal a boat. have to get out of the country.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
Long boat ride with Tatiana driving and me turretting people/boats/helicopters.
Rosa sneaks into my hotel room and tries to kill me with a huge-ass blade in her shoe. I keep her at bay, and Tatiana help me kill her…good girl.
Last mission is pretty long. OCTOPUS is pissed, so they’ve threatened to nuke. I break into their secret base, and kill a lot of henchmen. Eva tries to kill me with a jet, but I jetpack-missile her dead. After disarming the nuke and setting bombs to blow the base…….I run in to Red. I should have looked for the body.
He’s the final boss, as he’s taken residence inside a 4-tentaculed mechanical robot that shoots lasers, bullets, and grenades. After destroying the mech, I put a bullet in Red for my friend Karim.
Game ends with Bond in bed with Tatiana, of course. Well done, sir.
From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
This game is overwhelmingly awesome, but I’ll start with the few bad points:
It’s really easy, even with the hardest difficulty-setting. There’s not much need for duck-and-cover stealth fighting because it’s heavy on extra ammo/armor health. You can do a lot of run-and-gunning, but I found myself having more fun being sneaky.
Also, as a lot of these 3rd-person games can do, the camera can get “stuck” and get you turned around.
There’s probably 8-10 hours of gameplay, not counting multiplayer, which I never got into.
It looks beautiful. Character recreations are spot-on, and the backgrounds/locations/animations are great.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
A lot of cut-scenes. Well done, and a lot re-created from the original film.
The music is perfect. Again, taken from the Bond films and gets your blood pumping throughout the game.
Controls, especially with the auto-lock, are done well.
The fun-factor is off the charts, a Bond fan or just one of the action-adventure genre.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tl-FtpJ0fQ[/youtube]

The replayability is there, with multiplayer. But there is scoring in the campaign. A lot of secrets to find buy going back through it. Also, bonus story-levels to unlock.
A ton of gadgets, including sonic cufflinks to stun baddies, and the attache case that has auto-machine gun.
Different outfits for Bond. If you’d rather not get blood on your white tuxedo, go with the black stealth look.
There’s a crazy amount of fun to this game, so if you want to fire up the original Xbox, this is a fantastic game with which to start.

Need For Speed The Run Review

Need For Speed The Run Shelby Mustang

Need For Speed The Run Review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Need For Speed, Michael Bay Edition”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10
Need-for-Speed-The-Run-gameplay-screenshot
The Good:

– Pure action
– Think of this game as Gumball Rally and Cannonball Run meet Ronin.
– Music keeps the action pumping.
– Most cars that you would drool over are in this game; the problem is that many of them require a little grinding to unlock them. I enjoyed my 2nd playthrough more as a result of this since I had unlocked just about everything.
– Super customizable difficulty that you can change on the fly per race. Hardest difficulty is even challenging.
– Pure will make your computer and eyes orgasm eye candy.
– It actually feels like you are racing across the United States.
– Every girl in the game looks like a slut.

Need-for-Speed-The-Run-gameplay-screenshot

The Bad:
– Not the most realistic racing game.
– Most of the driving in this game would get you killed in real life, like instantly.
– Damage engine? Never heard of it other than super wrecks where there wouldn’t even be a finger left from the crash.
– Many races don’t make any sense. Yes, a Nissan 240Z would NEVER beat an upgraded Nissan GTR Skyline (the newest one), no matter if you drop over a million dollars of parts into it, in an open road race. YES, an Audi R8 will always beat a piece of shit Nissan 370Z. The list goes on…
– Ridiculous Nitro system where the more dumb shit you do the more Nitro you regenerate from air.
– Storyline written by porno writers.
– Quicktime events don’t belong in games especially racing games. This isn’t Dragon’s Lair!

Need-for-Speed-The-Run-gameplay-screenshot

Conclusion:
Finally a Need For Speed game that’s as much fun as Need For Speed Underground (1).

Bastion

One Sentence Review:
“A modern remix of the original Zelda, Terranigma, Secret of Mana, and Secret of Evermore… sort of.”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10

Bastion

Overview & Gameplay & Fun Factor & Replayability:

The game is a mix of the original Zelda, Terranigma (a lost SNES gem), Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, and Final Fantasy 6. Those are already all must-play games so imagine how great this game is. The gameplay is a lot like most of those games.

This is a hack and slash game that is a very special distinct style. The world just ended in a magical apocalypse and you’re one of the few survivors. Pretty much everybody you knew is dead and you’re trying to find a way to restore the world.

The game has a special style of its own. The world feels like an extreme fantasy world with the culture and civilization of the world looking like the old west. The music (see below) is a lot of folk, country, and electronic music and it reflects this. The game is original because there is a Narrator describing everything the main character The Kid does, feels, and thinks. This adds a lot of depth to what is otherwise a simple game (simple is NOT bad).

When I sat down to play this game, I figured I would do so and be done with it, not necessarily because I heard anything about this game other than seeing it came out, but rather because I bought a bunch of games on sale on Steam for Christmas. It was late on a Wednesday and I figured I’d play a quick game, beat it fast, and go to bed. By the time I thought it was 10:30 PM that maybe I should go eat something it was in reality 2:30 AM and my body was screaming at me that I was starving. This game is quite a lot of fun since action RPGs generally are that way. The narration keeps you engaged in the game. Not only that but since the game autosaves, you don’t pause to do that either. I give Fun Factor a score of 8 out of 10. Why that score? Well that’s because after a while the game does sort of become repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, the story is great and everything but when you replay the game the story is pretty much the same except when you get to the ending of the game and you have 4 different choices to make. I give Replayability a score of 6 out of 10. The game opens up different modes in which to play the game in after you beat it but I don’t feel like going through the story all over again, myself.

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:

You get to super customize how hard you want this game to be through the use of the Shrine building in the game. You can’t change it in real-time through the menu but you can go back to The Bastion and reconfigure which Gods to piss off, I mean pray for, determining how hard you want to make the enemies.

The default difficulty with no Shrine modifications was really easy for me. You can literally make this game NES-hard, and I’m talking about the original Megaman games level of difficulty. Since you can customize it so much, it’s up to you to make your own challenge. I give both the Difficulty and Difficulty Versatility scores of 10 out of 10. Don’t be a wimp!

Value:

I bought this game and the soundtrack on Steam for $10 during the holiday sale they have every year. I would say, I’d pay at most $15 for it (for the game alone), considering how good it is. It’s worth having played it at least once, sort of like Trine was to me.

Sound:

The sound effects are respectable and are often ques for whether you should dodge or shield yourself. The Narrator (Stranger) makes the game really engaging because he keeps the game flowing by describing what The Kid is thinking about as he continues on his quest, as well as tells you more about the history of the dead world. I give Sound a score of 10 out of 10. The narration really did it for me in making this game rise to a whole new level. This game could have easily have been made on DOS, Amiga CD32, Sega CD, or Playstation 1 but instead of using the CD technology of those systems to create something like this they tried to pack it with shitty video instead but I am getting sidetracked.

Music:

The music for this game is probably one of the best soundtracks for any game that came out in 2011. The music is a mix of folk, country, and electronic music. The general level music sounds a lot like the music from SNES action RPG games like the ones I mentioned before. There are specific folk and country songs that are so good that they are almost chilling to hear, especially with the way the action, the narration, and storyline mix along with their introduction.

The introduction of such music was perfectly made especially with the atmosphere of the game. You’re in a fantasy post-apocalypse world, so imagine getting to hear such beauty in the middle of death. Made me think of some of the best parts of Fallout or Final Fantasy 6.

Now most of the music in the game is the electronic SNES kind of music, I just wanted to post the best folk songs here especially since they’re sang so well and the lyrics are so relevant to this game.

The music kind of made me think of some of the music by Tom Waits, especially this song:

If you never heard of Tom Waits before, here is one of my favorite songs by him:

Anyways, the music for this game is TOP! I give the Music a score of 10 out of 10. The music makes you FEEL what’s going on. Rather than do some stupid cut scene that makes you have no interaction and makes it like a movie (the opposite of what a video game should be), you live the music as you play the game. A lot of BIG game developers have a lot to learn from this little game.

Stability/Reliability:

The game never crashed, not even while I alt-tabbed, running a bunch of stuff in the background. Stability/Reliability get a score of 10 out of 10. The music gets lower while in the menu and alt-tabbed but does not mute itself.

Controls:

You control The Kid with both keyboard and mouse (for the PC version). The controls are pretty self intuitive. You block with SHIFT and roll away from enemies with spacebar. The left mouse button does your melee attack (unless you change what weapon goes there) and right mouse controls your missile weapon (again unless you decided to have two melee weapons, which is not that smart). Q unleashes your super attack. The controls were great except that the game sometimes lags with some of the weapons kind of making them be useless to me (chaos launcher, sometimes the rifle) but you’ll identify them soon and I recommend you avoid those weapons. In fact, I recommend using the polearm, dual pistols, and pistol super skill all the time. I give Controls a score of 7 out of 10. Maybe it’s just the PC version that has that problem but I think they should have tested this game a little more in development and made sure all the weapons worked flawlessly.

Graphics & Performance:

Here is a game that’s so well put together it’s almost art-like. The character drawings will remind you of playing Terranigma, Secret of Mana, and Secret of Evermore on the SNES, only more polished sort of like having the same kind of graphics as games from the Warcraft 2 era or maybe like Revenant but having much higher resolution. The game has its own style of art, sort of like a Korean anime style. I liked the drawings of the characters and cutscene drawings. For a small game this was really great, blend all that with the narration and music and you have something that is superior to the original games that inspired its style. Graphics get a score of 10 out of 10. A game doesn’t need to be 3D in order for it to be eye-candy.

Performance was nearly flawless, only having a few minor hickups that didn’t have too much of a penalty in gameplay. I give Performance an 8 out of 10. I do run a lot of stuff even while I game since I multitask work stuff a lot. You could see minor lag here and there but if you run with nothing in the background you should be fine.

Conclusion:

The game is nearly perfect except for the few flaws that I mentioned. It feels good to have a game that makes you feel something. Feeling good in a Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Final Fantasy 6, and Psychonauts way is something more games should have. Remember, technology “improving” is not always a good thing. Casablanca > Transformers 3, for example. Empire Strikes Back > everything else SW that came out after, except for KOTOR and Old Republic.

This game is worth playing, at least once. Live the experience that Bastion is!

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

I was looking forward to Deus Ex mainly because I like the stealth style of gameplay, but with the option of going guns blazing if I wanted to. The game did give me what I wanted out of a sci-fi stealthy first person shooter, but there were some let downs for me personally as well.

First off, I write this review expecting people to know about the game and for those who already played it or wish too. Right off the bat I liked the visuals in the game though it still uses static backgrounds for its backdrops, meaning the city you are in is fully 3D, but perhaps the mountains in the far background is just a picture, which really isn’t a big deal.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

The gameplay itself can be either fast or slow depending on your style. However, cover from fire is very important because even though you are augmented you are far from invincible. The cover system is a lot like Gears of War where you can hide behind a structure and peek and shoot around it. This is how you will fight most of the time unless you are sniping someone from far away or my favorite sneaking up on someone from behind.

Now as said you can be more stealth based or more frontal assault and there are various weapons to go with each. I just have the feeling the game was made more for stealth so if you play that way it is a much better experience.  So when going stealth you spend most of your time crouch walking and hiding behind things and sneaking through air vents to sneak up on the enemy.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

Now this is where I have to complain a bit. The AI is pretty stupid sometimes in Deus Ex. Here is an example. You sneak into a room via an air vent and sneak up on a guard and use your silent takedown move. Now if you are smart you hide the body and keep the other guards or the camera from seeing you, but even if they see you all you have to do is hide in that vent until they go away. I sat in one spot and shot guard after guard as they came to check the body and I was in no danger of them coming after me though the vent.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

Let’s talk augments. Your character becomes pretty bionic and you can upgrade a variety of augments on your body for extra run speed, armor, aiming and so on. Now you earn points to upgrade either by gaining experience or by purchasing them at LIMB clinics. Now here is the thing. In my opinion hacking is the most important augment because it opens doors, gets you into computers where you can turn off cameras and turn turrets and robots on the enemy so honestly you want that first.

Another complaint, since they want you to upgrade and add to your augments they make it so certain things kill you that really shouldn’t. For instance, I jumped off a ledge a bit higher than a dumpster and died. A fall of that height should not kill anyone, but they want you to get the no falling damage augment so it does.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

Back to hacking, so for some missions you need a higher hack rating to break into a door or computer so, again, it’s paramount to raise it first. However, many computers are completely useless and if you are like me who looks for everything you spend a lot of time just hacking computers, but it can be good to find codes or other information.

Stealing is also big in Deus Ex. If you want to have money, ammo and weapons then you need to steal everything and really you can even steal from your own company because they don’t seem to care and it can net you some good weapons. The same goes for hacking the doors and computers in your own company it nets you good loot so steal away.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

There is your main mission and side missions in each “City Hub” which is the way the game gives you an interactive city, but keeps you in a sand box. You start in Detroit and go on to places like China and Canada, but it is pretty much the same once you get there. Just remember, for the most part, once you leave a city hub you cannot do any of the side missions there so hit those up first it won’t affect any time table dealing with the main storyline. The side missions can net you experience, credits and sometimes a special weapon, but overall it made little difference on the ending of the game.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

Yet another complaint, there are minor consequences to what you do in the game even though it makes you feel like there are big ones. For the most part you can skip all the side missions and not really miss anything, which I guess can be good for people who hate side missions. The same goes with choosing to knock out over killing, it makes no difference in the end and only applies to a very few mission parameters.

Searching, stealing and information gathering is mostly what you are doing in this game. There are action sequences and some decent fire fights, but honestly, between going the stealth route and hacking everything you see the game is pretty easy except for maybe the boss fights. The key is to search everything and if there are two other augments you should do after hacking it is to upgrade your inventory space and to get the social perk for additional conversation options.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

Overall, the game was fun. I wanted to keep playing and it kept me interested, but besides the lady pilot I did not really care about anyone else including the main character. I had the most fun trying not to kill people and instead sneaking up on them and knocking them out. With that said, the game is still worth a play through, but that is about it. I see no real reason to play it again considering you can save right at the end and see the alternate endings which I hate to say were disappointing.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA_-mhoksL8[/youtube]

Warhammer 40K Space Marine

Warhammer 40K Space Marine title screen

Warhammer 40K Space Marine review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Finally, a game as good as Halo or Gears of War for the Warhammer 40K universe.”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10

Overview, Fun Factor, & Replayability:

From Relic/THQ, we see yet another great game for the Warhammer 40K franchise. This time instead of commanding your space marines in RTS style they bring us the gore and grittiness of fighting for the Imperium of Man in a 3rd person kind of FPS style. Think of the game kind of like a mix of Halo, Gears of War, and Dead Space as far as gameplay goes.

Warhammer 40K Space Marine orksThere’s two modes to play as of this writing: the single player human Space Marine campaign and the online multiplayer capture and deathmatch games. The single player campaign lets you take the role of one of the top heroes from the Ultramarines Space Marine Chapter and fight off an Ork and Chaos invasion from one of the sacred and rare Titan Manufactorum Forge Worlds. The campaign can take you 8 to 12 hours to play if you play it at a good pace. The online multiplayer is pretty straight forward, and is sort of like playing games like Team Fortress 2 or Unreal Tournament. The gameplay for the multiplayer actually feels a lot like the game Transformers: War for Cybertron. You can either play the mode where you capture and hold points with the first team that reaches 1000 points winning or you can play for whoever gets to 41 kills on their side first. In the online multiplayer, teams alternate playing Space Marines and Chaos Marines against each other.

Warhammer 40K space marine bloodyFrom what I heard there is a free DLC expansion coming out in October 2011 and it is supposed to make the campaign co-op multiplayer as well as they are supposed to be adding a Last Stand Mode for online multiplayer similar to The Last Stand mode from Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2. That should be great fun and that might make it more inviting for regular gamers to want to buy this game rather than mainly Warhammer 40K fans.

The game is pretty fun. You have to constantly be focusing on shooting enemies while knowing they will descend down on you at melee range and you’re going to have to start chopping everything down into a pile of meat as soon as possible. In the single player your character has access to a lot of special relics and wargear that makes him much more powerful than your multiplayer’s cookie cutter marine. Both are fun because even the single player is challenging enough that you will get killed even by a simple enemy (especially the squigs that have a pack of bombs attached to them… who ever knew that the orks were terrorists!). I give the Fun Factor overall a score of 7 out of 10.

I probably won’t be replaying the single player campaign unless I have nothing better to do. The meat and potatoes of the game mainly comes from the online multiplayer. I think it’ll add a lot with the upcoming update in October so that will add a lot of replayability to the game. The online multiplayer is pretty fun, especially when you are playing with friends online which is pretty easy because of the Steam integration that it has that’s almost as good as playing online games of Left 4 Dead. I give the current replayability a score of 7 out of 10. I’m just waiting for the expansion now to get excited about this game again.

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:

So far I’ve played the single player campaign once on the Normal Difficulty. There’s Easy, Normal, and Challenging, and even Normal was a little challenging for me. I wouldn’t say it was hard but it was hard enough that I had to pay attention all the time. If I were to play it again I would play it on the hardest difficulty but most likely I will wait to see how the campaign becomes after they add co-op and whether it will scale the difficulty based on the number of players. That’s all as far as single player goes.

As far as multiplayer goes, the matchmaking system is… well, not that good I think because I’ve had games where the high end players (your account rates on a scale of levels 1 to 41, which each level unlocks new wargear and perks for multiplayer in the style of COD:MW1 and COD:MW2) all got bunched together and beat the living shit out of the low level cannon fodder characters. I hope they’ll fix that!

chaos vs ork war bossValue:

The game is currently sold for around $50 US. I got it mainly because I’m a huge fan of the Warhammer 40K universe. I’d say pay that much if you really like that universe that much. I’d say for a normal person to pay around 20-30 tops for this game if you are just getting it as a game.

Sound:

Both the voices they chose for the Space Marines, Chaos, and Orks all sound as they should, again like in Dawn of War. All the weapon noises and the slashing and chopping sound great! You really feel the chaos of battle, especially when you play the game really loud.

My only complaint about the sounds in the game come from the multiplayer. If you have a microphone, it will automatically transmit sounds from your computer with your entire team. There is no push to talk as far as I know. So… you will get to hear people laughing or talking to other people. I even played a game where some guy was singing folk music over the mic. Yeah… WTF. FIX THIS SHIT!

I give the sound effects a score of 9 out of 10. Great shooting, great explosions, great voice acting!

Music:

The music is as good as I would say Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 1. You really feel inmersed in the Warhammer 40K universe with it. I give the music a score of 8 out of 10.

Hi! I'm a Chaos Lord... my mommy doesn't love me!
Hi! I’m a Chaos Lord… my mommy doesn’t love me!

Stability/Reliability:

The game never crashes and I usually alt-tab a lot while playing. Stability and Reliability get a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls of this game are streamlined when compared to Darksiders. The movement is based on the WASD system plus mouse. I haven’t yet tested it with an Xbox 360 controller but it should be the same to play with that on a PC as on an actual Xbox 360 console. Controls get a score of 7 out of 10. They get the job done but they are not as streamlined as pure PC FPS games.

warhammer 40k space marine titanGraphics & Performance:

Finally, we have an FPS action game that lets us see the Warhammer 40K universe up close in good detail. Everything in the game looks great, for all factions. I would say the graphics look as good as any game based on the Unreal 3 engine, which this game doesn’t use; instead Relic wrote their own game engine, the Phoenix Engine. I give the Graphics a score of 9 out of 10.

Overall the performance is pretty great. The single player ran like a champ on my new gaming PC but I did run into problems with the multiplayer. It may just be me but I did hit a LOT of lag spiking in the multiplayer games and I’m using a 3 Mbps DSL connection with no activing on the connection other than just running the game. I think a lot of this problem comes with the stupid microphone always on problem that I mentioned above. Maybe the voice chat client is really inefficient. I suffered less of the problem when I played it on matches where almost nobody used it. I give the single player Performance a score of 9 out of 10. I give the multiplayer performance a score of 5 out of 10. I just always expect this to lag until they patch it. Sometimes it works but hey, I’m not too much of an optimist.

space marine inquisitorConclusion:

If you love Warhammer 40K then get it. If you love the Dawn of War series and want to play something a little different but in the same twisted universe then get it. For most people I would say, wait until the price goes down unless the upcoming DLC expansion is simply bloody amazing. I wish they would have let me play as the Orks too in multiplayer… Most people right now are still playing the new Deus Ex instead but I don’t regret buying this one. Dead Island on the other hand… THE END!

Youda Fisherman

Youda Fisherman menu

Youda Fisherman review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“A really fun RTS economy management flash game for people of all ages”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10

Overview & Fun Factor:

Youda’s Fisherman game is about you taking control of a failing fishing company and turning it around. The game is kind of silly as you have to control your fishing boats, while managing the selling and trading resources to keep your company afloat, while you battle pirates (Nigeria anyone?) and mother nature (sharks, whales, and storms). The game is a lot of fun because it requires so much micromanagement that it won’t even let you look away. There’s pretty much always something for you to activate or ship, while the computer attacks you. You have to complete different maps/levels which all have a time limit. You can either get a gold, silver, or bronze medal and the better the medal the more the rewards you’ll get from completing that map. You in turn use those rewards to research better fishing, manufacturing, and transportation technologies which you can use to complete missions faster and are eventually needed to complete all maps while getting all gold medals. You get both technologies and passive improvements which increase the amount of money you get for goods and other factors as you rebuild the corporate headquarters and infrastructure of the fishing company.

There are many different resources for you to manage in the game’s economy such as fuel, wood, gold (money), metal, as well as all the raw goods, which you turn into products. Some of those products require other raw goods that must be purchased only and cannot be produced by any of the buildings, such as olives, tomatoes, chili peppers, silver rings, etc. This game is all about resource and time management as well as reflexes.

I was surprised as to how hectic this game gets but in a good way. It will keep you on your toes because of the constant ticking of the clock that you are fighting against. Each map has its own strategy and the top concern is to keep your eye on the objectives. Sure, you might build up a super manufacture infrastructure but if you are already getting a bronze medal your rewards will be marginal.

I give this game a score of 8 out of 10 in Fun Factor because it kept me entertained for the 12-14 hours it took me to beat it and it can be fun enough that it can be addictive enough to make you want to keep progressing through the levels as fast as possible.

Difficulty, Difficulty Versatility, & Replayability:

For a casual gamer, this would be a challenging but beatable game. I play a lot of competitive RTS games so I found the game easy but then again this game targets the casual gamer audience. There is no way to make the game harder so that will affect replayability in the future. I will probably play this game in a year or so since the missions are always the same, rather than randomly generated. For casual gamers I’d give the game a difficulty a score of 8 out of 10. For more hardcore gamers I’d give the difficulty a score of 6 out of 10. Difficulty Versatility I give a score of 5 out of 10 because the difficulty stays just about the same throughout the game and rare gets harder, as well as you not being able to adjust it. The only difficulty really is trying to get gold medals on every map and even then eventually you will be able to do it if you go back and play old missions once you unlock everything in the research tree. Because of these factors I give the game a Replayability score of 5 out of 10. Not much of a challenge but I do like this game so I might play it even after I beat it over and over.

Value:

The game is usually sold directly by Youda Games through their website at this link for $9.95 US Dollars. I beat the game playing nonstop in about 12-14 hours. Considering that’s more gameplay hours that are actually fun versus me playing some much more popular games which only lasted me 4-5 hours (like Fallout 3) and were much more expensive, I think it’s a great value for ten dollars. If you have children and would like to enhance their micromanagement RTS skills, then this is a really great starter game for that. If you’re new to RTS games yourself, this is a great game to practice and learn with. I give the Value category a score of 9 out of 10.

Sound:

The sounds are well made and are an integral part of the gameplay. There is a lot going on in this game and audio ques are extremely important. You literally will be clicking on units and products constantly and it’s important to know when you are under attack, a unit needs maintenance, etc. All the sounds for every action are easily identified after a short amount of playing the game and they do their job right. The samples are quite good for such a small game. I give sound a score of 9 out of 10.

Music:

The music fits the theme of the game really well. It’s not as memorable as say the music in Plants vs Zombies or Angry Birds but it does have nice calm tunes for a nice family game. I give the music a score of 8 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

No crashes or complaints here, not even when multitalking and doing alt tab a lot, on Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate edition. I give stability a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

You only need a mouse to play this game. It’s really simple and that’s something that makes it great and easy for anybody to play. Simple controls are always a good thing. Controls get a score of 10 out of 10.

Graphics & Performance:

This game can run on any PC. Even a netbook should be able to run it. Performance gets a score of 10 out of 10.

The Graphics are nice and polished for a flash game. The boats look like real fishing boats and animals such as the shark and whale look cute and funny (especially when you smack them out of the water). I didn’t like the rendered non-animated cut scenes that would give you plot information that much. I thought they looked really cheesy and dated. Graphics get a score of 8 out of 10.

Conclusion:

If you want a fun RTS economy simulator that will run on any computer, get this game. If you are new or old to RTS games, you will most likely enjoy the level of micromanagement this game offers. I strongly recommend its purchase.

Virtua Tennis 4

virtua_tennis_4_pc-box

I first had my experience playing tennis games on console systems and I believed that was the best place to keep them, but after playing VT4 on my PC I have changed my mind. First, I have to report that I recently upgraded my system and use an Xbox controller which is auto-detected by the game and runs perfectly with it even using vibration.

This is a games for Windows game, so you log into your account and if you have a Xbox Live account it also sync’s with that. The game will detect your system settings and select what will work best before you launch the game.

The first think I liked about VT4 was the visuals. The look and feel of the menus to the courts and players are very well done. Also, for those use to a console experience, the game flows just like it would on a 360 or PS3 easily moving from screen to screen and match to match.

Virtua Tennis is more of an arcade style of tennis and while the mechanics are there it is meant more for the novice or new comer to tennis games. This does not mean you cannot up the difficulty setting for a challenge, but the great thing is anyone can pick up this game and enjoy it.

virtua_tennis_4_pc-gameplay-screenshot

The game has several modes including Practice, Exhibition, Arcade and World Tour. In arcade you can select from a number of tennis pros like Federer, Nadal, Williams, and Sharapova and compete in a best of three series match. Sadly, there is a lack of classic greats like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and Steffi Graf, also only Venus Williams is in the game not her sister.

In the World Tour mode you can create your own tennis pro and work your way around the world competing in tournaments and improving your skills. The World Mode has a Game of Life board game feel where you need move cards and star currency to go to certain places. Unfortunately, there are some issues I have with this style including missing out on some tournaments because I did not have the right move card or enough star currency.

You can improve your skills in the World Tour by engaging in a series of mini games. These games are designed to not only improve your gameplay skills, but give you a break from the series matches. Some of the mini games include protecting baby chickens from a volley of tennis balls, playing with large fans blowing across the court and smashing clay signs. These may sound silly, but they are quite fun and Sega added a party mode just so you could enjoy them.

virtua_tennis_4_pc-gameplay-screenshot

There are also silly aspects to the World Mode including dressing up your character in various outfits. You can really create some strange combinations. Being a tennis pro is also about managing your celebrity so there are guest appearances you need to appear at to raise your star level which unlocks other match options. Finally there are rest areas because every pro needs a day off and if you do not rest you will be hurt and suffer in days lose and performance.

The gameplay is fun and not to frustrating to learn. Perhaps tennis game professionals would want a little more, but I as the novice tennis game player enjoyed the mix of easy to learn, harder to master.

When you play as a pro that pro has all his or her signature moves and is designed to play as the real star plays. Now while I do not know tennis enough to confirm how accurate this is, I did see difference between the characters and this allows you to find a play style that you feel comfortable with and enjoy.

virtua_tennis_4_pc-gameplay-screenshot

On the PC the visuals are stunning including support for 3D. The players look like their real life counterparts and the animation and environment design is extremely well done; there is even virtual sweat on the players if you are into that thing. On the sound side the music track is airy and upbeat and you can clearly hear all the grunts and yells from the players and roar of the crowd. IF there is a con here it is that sometimes when running down a ball there can be the ever so slight bit of slowdown, but I have only noticed this once or twice in several games.

Controls work well with the Xbox 360 controller. You have your shot selection on your main four buttons including a power shot that is activated during match play. As you go back an fourth you fill up a bar at the top of the screen, once the bar is full you hit the power shot button unleashing a powerful return that usually gets you the point. Since it takes time for this to occur it is not over powered and is a nice arcade touch to the game. However, fans to tennis simulators might feel the controls and gameplay could be more in depth.

The main points to the controls is having your character in the right place to return the ball and hitting the button at the right time. It may take new comers a bit to figure out exactly how long or when to hit the button for the perfect shot, but overall it is a simple fun system.

virtua_tennis_4_pc-gameplay-screenshot

Overall, Virtua Tennis four has improved greatly with graphics and gameplay. The fun factor and mini games are a nice touch while the World Tour mode could be a little more open and easy to navigate. There is also a multiplayer feature which allows matches online which is great for console fans used to live play.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APzgaSLrNT8[/youtube]

In the end I rate this as a buy even if you are not a tennis fan. The gameplay is fun enough for all and the visual are beautiful, a great all-around game.

Resident Evil 4


Resident Evil 4 - PC Review - Gameplay Screenshot

Resident Evil 4 on the Nintendo GameCube is a uniquely sublime game, sporting some excellent eye-candy, an above average plot and moments of sheer horror followed by extended, yet relaxing, periods of violently shooting stuff. It also is an obvious, major even, evolution of the whole Resident Evil series and the first RE game to do away with zombies and go for the rather more nimble possessed peasantvariety of baddies. Oh, and it’s in glorious real-time 3D.

What’s more, RE 4 has also been made available for the mainstream PS2, which, despite the underpowered hardware, got a pretty impressive port, only slightly lacking in the looks department and more than making up for this drawback by offering a few extra gameplay hours. Kudos to Capcom for successfully pushing the PS2 hardware, then.

Resident Evil 4 - PC Review - Gameplay Screenshot

So, what happens when Resident Evil 4, the same president’s daughter saving supernatural survival horror video game that amazed the console crowds, hits the PC? Tragedy, that’s what. Or to be more precise, what happens, is a tragedy of such epic proportions Sophocles might consider producing it, for Capcom has somehow ignored the hardware muscle of the PC, the fact that the mouse is now (for this deceivingly 10 year long decade, at least) considered a pretty standard piece of high-tech equipment, that contemporary gamers like to have a proper save (let alone quicksave) function and that PC gamers aren’t as game-starved as in the very early eighties, and went on to promptly produce the shoddiest Resi 4 port imaginable.

The game, cunningly avoiding to offer mouse control as an option, is virtually unplayable without a gamepad (even though being prompted to press buttons 1, 2, 3 or 4 can still be baffling) as the keyboard-only control method is frankly shocking (WASD to aim?). Even if, and this will be a very ill-conceived if, you do decide to give RE4 a try just to experience the story and visuals, think again.

Resident Evil 4 - PC Review - Gameplay Screenshot

The thing not only plays but looks decidedly shite and doesn’t even bother to provide a way to exit the game without going for the ol’ ctrl-alt-del trick.The graphics themselves are a travesty, which could a) have been easily avoided b) really wouldn’t be so important if they hadn’t removed daylight, night and fog effects in a brilliant attempt to strip away any sense of atmosphere. Then again, instantly disappearing characters have been added, thus succesfuly adding to the hilarity of the whole affair. Obviously anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering and modern soundcard technology have seemed to evade Capcom‘s attention all together. And still, the bloody thing will eat up almost 5 Gigas of your hard drive. For what? I really can’t imagine. Probably just to irritate you.

Warning, obvious conclusion: Avoid Resident Evil 4 PC like the plague. In fact, given a choice, go for the rotting away to death fetish, and if you really desperately need to play Resident Evil 4 -which you do- you’re better off buying a GameCube and the original version. Or a Wii and waiting a bit. Or, why not, a PS2. Heck, you’ll probably enjoy playing the offending Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man more. Oh, and to remind you… THERE’S NO MOUSE SUPPORT. Tsk, tsk.


DiRT 3

DiRT 3 Review by Honorabili

dirt3

One Sentence Review:
“They could have just released a bunch of DLC tracks for DiRT 2 but this is a more polished game (even if just by a little)”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10

Overview & My History With This Game:
Welcome to the third installment of DiRT. If you’re not familiar with DiRt feel free to read my review of DiRT 1 and DiRT 2. The DiRT series are a highly successful series of racing games based on the rally racing discipline, brought to us by the racing game masters at Codemasters. Like previous DiRT games, it offers both modern and retro rally cars.

Dirt 3 America Fuck Yeah
Dirt 3 America Fuck Yeah

There are different kinds of races such as rally, trailblazer, head 2 head, rally cross, land rush, and gymkhana. Rally is a standard rally race, point to point where you race from the beginning to the end seeing who gets there in the least amount of time, with the help of a navigator. Traiblazer is the same thing except you race super rally cars (700+ HP usually) and have no navigator to tell you where to turn. Head 2 Head usually consists of running on two separate lanes in a closed circuit to see who will get to the finish line first. Rally Cross also involved racing in a closed circuit track, with more open tracks thank head to head, and you are race next to other cars with full contact. Land rush is the same thing except with trucks and buggies. Gymkhana is a stunt discipline which involves doing stuff like making your car jump, do donuts, break obstacles, drift, etc. The current world champion is Ken Block and he is INSANE as seen here:

The game consists of a single player campaign which is rather short and the remainder of the game consists of playing it online in multiplayer matches. Overall, I recommend for you to try the rally, trailblazers, and head 2 head disciplines while playing it online if not you’ll get a bunch of 12 year olds that will do nothing but crash into you if you’re winning, and usually crashing is turned off in the manner that Trackmania does it. This is HIGHLY inaccurate and in real life would result in a disqualification from a race. This is racing, not demolition derby (although that’s fun, there’s other games specifically for that).

Dirt 3 1st place
Dirt 3 1st place

You race both the single player campaign and multiplayer campaign accruing reputation and fame (each mode’s way of saying XP) which unlocks more stuff in the game (mainly teams, not tracks or DLC cars). My beef with the game is that you keep gaining different racing teams and sometimes some cars but you will NEVER be able to unlock the cars and tracks they’re now FORCING you to buy via DLC. That’s really upsetting especially when I found out that I couldn’t get to drive my beloved Lancia Stratos.

Dirt 3 Alpine Renault
Dirt 3 Alpine Renault

I’ll say a good thing about the multiplayer though: it is usually much harder than playing against the computer. It’s fun to talk smack with online players. A lot of Europeans seem to be playing this game as I’m often stuck racing against Germans. =P

Dirt 3 Audi
Dirt 3 Audi

I got DiRT 3 because I had bought an ATI 6870 video card and the game came bundled with it. A DVD did not come with it but instead a code for me to sign up for some AMD promo over at this site which after entering the promo code they provided me with a code that added the game to my Steam account. This seems to be a standard method of distribution these days for bundled games and gifted games, especially since platforms like Steam dominate and soon physical media will be a thing of the past.

Dirt 3 Champion
Dirt 3 Champion

Fun Factor & Replayability:
The variety of cars plus different modes of ranked online playing make this both a fun and very replayable game. The single player mode is rather short and I get the feeling that they are trying to force-feed DLC down our throats (the current trend in gaming).

Dirt 3 Eat My Dust
Dirt 3 Eat My Dust

Fun Factor is definitely high since this game has a TON of historical rally vehicles, which I’d rather play than space age modern rally monsters. My favorite ones are the rally super cars like the Toyota Tundra that were insane machines back then and still today. I give Fun Factor a score of 8 out of 10.

Dirt 3 Fighting For First Place
Dirt 3 Fighting For First Place

Replayability will mainly come in the form of Multiplayer. I have a feeling that eventually if you want to keep playing and having fun you will need to start buying some of the DLC, especially new tracks and cars. The game comes with what I consider to be a very limited selection of tracks. Sure, the reverse of the tracks is available but even DiRT 2 had more tracks. I really don’t like any DLC especially since this game pretty much just came out and they’re already trying to get your money. To me that’s like releasing an incomplete game and then charging people for patches and updates. Replayability gets a score of 7 out of 10.

Dirt 3 Flying High
Dirt 3 Flying High

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:
You can now customize the difficulty of the game per race much better than before. This level of scalability lets you set the handicap at which to play and makes the game a lot more enjoyable, especially for both beginners and hardened racing game veterans. I wish they would have made the crashing and damage a LOT more realistic. If it weren’t for that I’d give it nearly a perfect score. Difficulty gets an 8 out of 10 and Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Dirt 3 Ford
Dirt 3 Ford

Value:
I got this game for free so it was an amazing value to me. Rather than say how much it costs, from now on I’ll just say what’s the most I would pay for it. That amount would be $20. I would also say pay more for it if you are a BIG FAN of rally racing and would love to play a game with lots of modern and old rally cars.

Dirt 3 Hyundai PM 580
Dirt 3 Hyundai PM 580

Sound:
The sound effects are realistic, just like in the previous games, maybe slightly better. I give sounds a score of 10 out of 10.

Music:
The music is amazing but again, I guess Codemasters doesn’t read my reviews for all their games: you can only hear it in the menu and never during the racing. That kind of makes the game boring for most people who are not dedicated racing game players. The techno/electronica music is wasted like that. Other than that I give the music a score of 9 out of 10, especially the electronica. Rock music shouldn’t be in a game unless it’s heavy metal or it’s classic rock and the game is about muscle cars.

Check out one of the best songs (South Central – Demons) from the game here:

Stability/Reliability:
This game actually ran really well, even on my machine with a damaged ATI 3870. Even when the video card crashed, the game kept running fine 99% of the time. It never crashed at all, not even while alt tabbing like crazy. I ran the game on a ten dollar video card and even alt-tabbing with this piece of shit, the game never crashed. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:
You can customize them as much as you want so even playing with a keyboard is a breezes. I played DiRT 3 at E3 2011 with different controllers and the game supports a large variety of them. Max score of 10 out of 10 is deserved.

Graphics & Performance:
The game runs like a beast even on my oldest computer, with still really good looking graphics. Before I mentioned that the previous Codemasters games had a problem with some buffering of the game engine, but now that problem is basically gone. I know it wouldn’t happen at all on a brand new computer but this IS Obsolete Gamer and I do test stuff on old machines too. The game was even very playable on a 2005 medium-range gaming PC. I give both the Graphics and Performance a score of 10 out of 10.

Dirt 3 Monaco Victory
Dirt 3 Monaco Victory

Conclusion:
If you’re going to upgrade soon, most video cards out there on sale by ATI (AMD) pretty much all qualify for the DiRT 3 promo so you might as well get a fun racing game for free. If you don’t plan to upgrade, like I said above, try to get it at a discount or simply get it if you’re a racing game junkie. Multiplayer can be challenging especially if you don’t feel like paying for DLC (like me). I will continue to play Codemasters games so long as they keep their DLC in check.

The Lord of the Rings Online Shadows of Angmar

Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

The Lord of the Rings Online Shadows of Angmar

The Lord of the Rings spawned everything from RPGs, to Orcs, Hobbits, Ents, enchanted rings, magical swords, names like Narsil, Iluvatar or Nalroth, Elven and Dwarven stereotypes -you name it- thus effectively shaping the whole fantasy genre us gamers, film-goers and readers have come to love and cherish (in a very cuddly, very manly way). The Lord of the Rings, you see, is the original, the archetype, the book that bloody sold more than 100.000.000 copies, and now, after an even broader popularization through Peter Jackson’s okayish movies, it’s gone all MMO, or to be more specific all MMORPG.
Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

 

The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (hence LotRO), for obviously this is said MMORPG’s full title, is the first fantasy game of its kind that just cannot be characterized as generic. Why? Carefully reread the paragraph above and you’ll see why. Also, it’s quite simply the best online RPG I’ve ever played and the first one I truly enjoyed for more than a week, let alone the first game I feel like paying a monthly fee for. Oh, and so you know, even though I’m not one of those lost fanatics speaking Quenya and dressing up in fancy elven suits, I’m quite enamored with the Professor’s works. To be honest, and to make a another pretty obvious point, I’ll let you in on a sad little secret. This game made me start reading the original trilogy all over again. Yes, for the fourth time wasting time in my life, but thankfully in a brilliant edition I had the foresight of buying myself quite a few years ago.

Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

Anyway, I digress. The truly important thing in LotRO and its major triumph is that it could have gone so terribly wrong in so many ways and it just didn’t. It’s extremely faithful to the original work, uninfluenced by the sacrilegious film-plot, filled with details that will delight every aspiring Arda lore master, avoids most well-documented MMO pitfalls known to man, features an almost intuitive interface -say- a WoW player will immediately understand, has no bugs or lag to speak of, great music and some absolutely brilliant graphics. Let me say that again: absolutely brilliant graphics. Totally above anything seen in any MMORPG, filled with beautiful day-night transitions, excellent fantasy architecture, high-res textures and little touches like falling leaves or random flocks of flying birds. What’s more, a mid-range PC with a half-decent graphics card and 1 Giga of memory should be more than enough.

Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

Consequently, exploring the vast richness of Middle Earth (the parts currently available, at least), which, let’s face it, remains light years ahead of any generic fantasy setting the competition has to offer, both in terms of depth and literary quality, is first of all a visual joy. Over a hundred screenshots taken by me while gaming with my main characters (a 15th level hobbit guardian and a 13th level Elf lore-master) are a testament to LotRO’s beauty. The damned thing made me feel like a tourist. Probably would make for a great Middle Earth geography learning tool too, even though the world isn’t 100% accurate, as it’s been obviously and frankly wisely altered for gameplay needs. A 20 day walk from Hobbiton to Bree would have been admittedly boring. Then again, actually visiting Bree and having a beer in the Prancing Pony is quite a Tolkien fanatic’s wet-dream come true.

Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

Besides exploring and being all LotR happy, of course, there’s the game itself to have fun with, which -while definitely not perfect- comes quite close to being the pinnacle of contemporary MMOs. Players get to choose between the four good races (Humans, Hobbits, Elfs, Dwarfs), a variety of classes from burglars, guardians (tanks), hunters and minstrels to champions and lore-masters, even though thankfully no wizard class has been made available -Gandalf was quite a rarity you see, a roleplaying or normal server and set off for virtual glory in typical MMORPG fashion. Everything you’d expect is there: quests, raids, crafting possibilities, huge vistas filled with critters for the grinders, levels to be reached and gold to be treasured or even sold for real money.

Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

The meat of the game are the quests, be they epic -thus advancing the main storyline, instanced, local, crafting or plain silly, like running drunk around the taverns of western Middle Earth. Despite quite a few quirkier -timed, even- quests such as running a postman’s errands or avoiding certain characters have been included, it’s the quality of the standard fetch and kill quests that manage to raise the level of the playing experience. Every one of them, and there are hundreds, is brilliantly written and quite verbose convincingly conveying the world’s history and offering glimpses at the actual Lord of the Rings events. LotRO feels like playing through an unfolding story. You’ll get to unearth seemingly unimportant conspiracies in the Shire, visit farmer Maggot, uncover a fake Black Rider, barely avoid a proper one, help two Elven brothers see each others point, raid a spider infested mine, try to bring peace between dwarfs and elves, hear a rumour or two about Sharkey and team up with the Rangers of the North to defeat them pesky goblins. All, in glorious prose and in full accordance with the overall works of Tolkien.

Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

Yet, the game still remains a pretty standard MMO in the World of Warcraft gameplay mould. The major, definitely not groundbreaking, innovations LotRO introduces are the Deeds-Titles system, the Fellowship mechanic, a unique way to PvP and the ability each player has been granted to play some proper music in-game and smoke pipeweed. Now, to elaborate a bit:

  • Deeds and their accompanying titles (mind you, not all titles are deeds related; some can also be proof of heritage like Nalroth of Rivendell or Adelecar of the Fallohides) such as Wolf-tamer, Webslasher or Protector of the Shire are gained by killing loads of some particular beastie, fully exploring certain areas of the game world (e.g. discovering every titular farm of the Shire) or overusing an ability, and provide a variety of bonuses and interesting character customization options that have nothing to do with your level or class.

 

  • Fellowships, on the other hand, are something more anti-social gamers won’t be particularly interested in. They are the groups characters organize in, in order to pull through a more difficult quest, and do grant quite a few bonuses like the pretty excellent Fellowship maneuvers; special attacks only available to groups.

 

  • Instead of proper PvP, a decision Tolkien surely wouldn’t have been overjoyed with, you get the nice option of Monster Play in the rather barren Ettenmoors. Reach level ten, find a fell scrying pool (personally used a lovely one over at Thorin’s Gate) and you’ll get the chance to play as a level 50 orc/warg/spider (more baddies to be added soon) against high level players in a dynamic PvP campaign. It’s the freeps versus the creeps.

Truth is, I could go on and ramble about a thousand other little things, you know, if only to come up with the mother of all blog-based reviews, and I wouldn’t have even managed to scratch the surface of what a magnificent beast LotRO is. Things like the recent Solstice Festival, the raising difficulty of quest as one progresses eastward, destiny points, the amazingly detailed beginner’s quests (instanced) & areas, the sheer number of available emotes, the immensely helpful community are all there for you to discover, but -as expected- not all is perfect. LotRO is still very young by MMORPG terms. Monsters have serious clipping issues, the combat is not very tactical and, despite a huge gaming world, not all of Middle Earth is yet available. Oh, and it’s as expensive as WoW; definitely much better though. Still, an absolute must-try.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JztbiHaaMUY[/youtube]

That’s a (nine) out of (ten).


Sensible Soccer: 2006

Sensible Soccer 2006
At last, a chance to toss those silly looking joypads aside and grab what real men were always supposed to grab. Joysticks! Yes, joysticks, even better digital joysticks, for this is a review of Sensible Soccer‘s latest spawn, and Sensible Soccer was meant to be played only in the traditional way. The joystick way. Oh, in case you didn’t know, it also happened to be the best footie ever, on any platform and of every possible universe. Of course not everybody believed this. The unenlightened ones grumbled about the lack of impressive eye-candy, the incompetent ones about the lightning fast gameplay speed, the stuck-in-the-past ones about Sensi not being Kick Off 3 and the really hopeless ones about the lack of realism.
Well, my friends, if you want realism, go out, play football and feel the pain. If, on the other hand, you want the best feel of the beautiful game, the perfect footbaling pace, the anti-goalie aftertouch, and all this without risking a heart attack, then play Sensible Soccer, preferably on the Amiga and if possible with a digital joystick.

What do you mean you don’t have an Amiga? Who says that’s ancient history? Just kill the FIFA fanboy in you, gag your inner PES groupie, and stay with me, as I tell you an almost perfect fairy tale, lovingly named Sensible Soccer 2006, The Rebirth of a Legend, dealing with the second attempt to bring Sensible Soccer in the 3d era and the first one that actually manages it. A story of great successes and minor failures, a story of football wet dreams and ball porn. A story about the best, but unfortunately not without its flaws, contemporary footie on the PC. A story about a game that doesn’t cost a fortune. This is the story of

Sensible Soccer 2006.

Actually, it’s no story. It’s a review. Sorry about that.
Sensible Soccer 2006

Sensi 2006 is played in the traditional 16bit bird’s eye view, just like its revered daddy, only slightly zoomed in, a bit angled and with a quite more dynamic camera. In case you were wondering, that’s totally unlike the FIFA/PES viewpoints and definitely a good thing, as the player can see a much greater part of the field, thus having a chance to get imaginative with his passing, pull through smart long balls, deep crosses, or even score a 40 metre goal. All this was admittedly already there in the original Sensi. What the 2006 version added to the experience are some very stylish 3d cell shaded graphics and excellent replays, a greater variety of stadiums, weather conditions and outfits and quite a few new game mechanic changes.
Every player now has a certain amount of stamina, that has to last him for the whole match. Then -and that’s quite an important bit- 2 more buttons have been added to Sensi‘s original one-button gameplay, the first being for short passes and the second for sprinting. Finally, the (much improved) keeper can instantly be controlled with the press of a button. Oh, and there is a small arrow showing the direction the ball will follow if kicked. Aftertouch has by large remained the same (just flick the joystick right after the ball leaves the player’s foot to the desirable direction), as has the two players mode. Make that the glorious two players mode, that shames the multiplayer capabilities of any MMORPG or FPS. Well, at least in the fun-factor it does…

Sensible Soccer 2006

Unfortunately, though, Sensible Soccer 2006 isn’t perfect. It doesn’t even give you the chance to lead the Dead Rockstars team to victory. There are also slight problems, a mediocre tactics screen, un-funny spin-off names for real players (there’s an editor though), and at times a lack of polish. Nothing that couldn’t get fixed with a patch mind you, but irritating nonetheless. The controls are at (rare) times unexpectedly unresponsive, some offsides spotted by the ref just don’t exist, and graphic glitches haven’t been 100% avoided. Add to this that the original Sensible Soccer was apparently much faster. And better (at least on the Amiga).

Still though. An amazingly fun football game. Codemasters just did it!

That’s an (eight and a half) out of (ten).

Lula 3D

Lila 3D Box
To be quite honest, the way this review was written was heavily inspired by the review summaries posted by dear Elderly Gamer over at his excellent blog. To be even more honest, pc game pr0n (porn for the old-fashioned) has been something of an interest since my days in elementary school, when I first laid my poor innocent eyes on the exquisite Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards.

 

Now, being the much older git that I am, and having avoided the previous Lula offerings, I decided to buy Lula 3D. Not only was it featuring naked ladies engaging in gratuitous sexual acts, not only was it the first game ever to incorporate the Bouncing Boobs technology, it was also quite cheap (less than 20 euros). Apparently cheap in every respect.

Lila 3D Gameplay Screenshot

Being of course cheap isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Lula 3D does have a certain charm, in the way Plan 9 from Outer Space, Dungeons and Dragons the Movie and Jesus Christ Vampire Slayer do. It’s so unbelievably bad it is almost interesting and enjoyable. Mind you, it’s not funny per se. The funny thing is that people decided to sell this kind of crap and I decided to buy it. And there is no such thing as a Bouncing Boobs technology. Lara Croft in the first incantation of Tomb Raider had bouncier assets. It’s neither particularly entertaining, nor sexy (unless of course you are really sad), and even though Lula 3D is (supposedly) an adventure game, it’s such a poor experience, that having a dog hump your leg sounds exciting and fun.

And here comes the Elderly Gamer inspired bit. I’ll present you with what a series of esteemed publications had to say about this sorry excuse for interactive erotica, but before that please imagine this: all of Lula’s inventory is stored in her extra-small bra. Anyway. On to the pros:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZKKDck1K4o

 

Eurogamer (2/10): ‘So, to conclude, let’s return to the Lula 3D box. Turn it over and you’ll see a warning message which reads: “CAUTION: intense erotic scenes may lead to CHOKING, SWEATING and RAPID HEART BEAT.” No one could argue with this as a general statement of fact, but with regard to Lula 3D, the words RAPID BANGING OF HEAD AGAINST MONITOR would be more appropriate.’

PC Zone (31/100): As lovely as it must be to live in Lula-land, with its never-ending intercourse and women who won’t talk about anything other than dildos, I still think that I prefer having sex with real people. It’s a strange hang-up of mine – I’m sure I’ll get over it.’

Jolt (1.8/10): ‘Lula herself would probably be the only person to gain any satisfaction from Lula 3D as, to lower ourselves to using the game’’s terminology, she “loves fucking– and Lula 3D is fucking awful.’

Metacritic (19/100)

Gnome’s Lair: that’s a (three and a half) out of (ten).

 

Telltale Texas Hold’ Em

Teltale Texas Hold em - Gameplay Screenshot
Poker Ladies. The sinuous ladies, that haunted my early youth. A sexy coin-op money-sink, that forced me to (illegally, according to my age at the time) enter seedy arcades in order to see badly-drawn manga-styled nude ladies doing naughty stuff. I did learn to play the American 52-card version of poker though, and I was only 13. Now, that’s something I call a good start in my life. And I owe it all to Poker Ladies. I could have of course waited for something more than a decade and enjoy their dancing for free in MAME, but that would have been too late. No one can pull through high school and university without decent poker skills, just like nowadays nobody can avoid stupidly watching Texas Hold’em tournaments on TV.
Teltale Texas Hold em - Gameplay Screenshot

 

Telltale Texas Hold’Em is not on TV, it’s on the PC instead. It was actually the first game released by the (hopefully) adventure maestros of Telltale, and has been around for quite some time. It is apparently a poker game. Of the Texas Hold’Em variety. This of course is neither a serious gambler’s tutoring software instructor, nor a hardcore/ultra-powerful simulation. Even though Telltale Texas Hold’em does play a decent and varied poker game, its great appeal is the atmosphere and the characters. Characters and atmosphere in a poker game I hear you say? Well, yes. You’ll be playing against four lovingly animated and fully 3d characters, each sporting a unique personality and thus a unique playing style. Their mid-game banter is excellent, amusing and at times downright funny, their facial expressions are great, and the whole thing is well directed. The camera pans, cuts and zooms correctly, the players look suspiciously around, move their chips, Grandma talks about her dead husbands and Boris tries to be a quite desperate bully. Voice acting is superb, and really helps flesh out those four quirky characters you’ll be gambling against. Characters that are a testimony to Telltale’s origins: none other than the 90s Lucasarts adventures.

The most impressive part of this game is the variety and quantity of the dialog included. You’ll need to play for quite some time before some expressions start feeling overused and even after 25 hours of poker action you’ll still hear the odd unexpected line and/or joke. Great writing and smart programming make all this possible in a download that’s less than 20 megas. Unfortunately not much else is included in those less-than-20- megas. There is only one mode of play, only 4 characters to play against, one room to gamble in, one possible screen resolution and a too simple tutorial/introduction text.

 

On the other hand, Telltale Texas Hold ‘Em only costs $12.99,and will definitely provide you with hours and hours of mindless entertainment. After all, you will quickly learn when to fold, when to raise your bet, when to bluff or when to call the other characters’ bluff.

Visit the official website and have a look. Download the demo; it’s the least you can offer yourselves.

That’s a (seven) out of (ten)

Medieval II: Total War

Medieval 2 - Total War - Gameplay Screenshot 1
Medieval II (that’s latin for 2, mind you, oh uneducated masses) Total War really is an aptly named game, as it’s the second PC wargame in the Total War franchise that is cunningly set in the medieval era. Pointless and not particularly funny observations aside, it also is an excellent game. A game, console owners could only dream about. A sophisticated, smart, historically accurate and complicated game, that epitomizes PC gaming.

For the few of you that haven’t played any of the previous Total War games and dare call yourselves PC gamers and for the action-minded console masses, Medieval 2 is a game that wisely combines turn-based strategy with RTS tactics into a coherent and enjoyable, yet immensely addictive and time-consuming, whole. This means that your Civilization-esque empire building is interrupted by pure RTS battles, while you are constantly witnessing impressive visuals and experiencing a megalomania inducing atmosphere.

 

Medieval 2 - Total War - Gameplay Screenshot 2
What’s even more interesting, and I’m still talking to you dearest Total War virgins, is just how amazingly accessible and intuitively controlled this game is. And, please do believe me, this is quite a feat for such a complex and multi-tiered game. Thankfully, the two brief but enjoyable tutorials, the well-voiced and fully customizable advisors and the ever helpful …err… help buttons will make things even easier. Then, there’s always the trusty 70-pages long manual, only I seem to appreciate.

On to the veterans then. What’s new in Medieval II, I swear I can hear the infidels among your ranks ask. Is it any good? Really? Is it better than Rome? Well, to be rather blunt, yes. It’s definitely better than Rome, and even though it’s more of an evolution than a revolution in the franchise, it also is the best Total War game ever produced. The one offering the deepest gameplay too.

Most of the changes, besides the ones regarding the visual side of things (more on that later), are on the subtle side and mostly regarding the now divinely enjoyable turn-based part of the game. The role of religion for example, be it obeying (overthrowing even) a Pope, or calling for a Jihad/Crusade, even though it’s an evolution of Rome‘s Senate mechanics, plays like a totally new feature, as does the -admittedly 100% original- division of settlements into cities and castles. Non-combat units have also been expanded, now featuring princesses, priests, imams, spies, assassins, diplomats, merchants, whatnot, while the AI feels both better and more organic. Slight changes have also been added to the already brilliant RTS bits. The sieges remain absolutely fantastic, mind you.

 

Medieval 2 - Total War - Gameplay Screenshot 3
And now for the more impressive feat of Medieval II Total War: the graphics. Well, they are bloody amazing, and unfortunately to fully appreciate them you might need a slightly up-to-date PC. The game, you see, builds heavily on Rome‘s engine, updating the strategic level’s visuals and making sure the 3D RTS parts are jaw-dropping, by adding tons of special effects, shadows and quite a few thousands of polygons. The greatest improvement though, is that each unit on the battlefield is no longer a stiffly animated group of clones, but more of a proper unit consisting of individual -thus quite different to each other- soldiers, fighting in an animated way that puts Dawn of War to shame. Yes, it’s that good, really.

Actually, my only complaint regarding this brilliant game is the multiplayer part of it. Still no online campaign option, only RTS battles. Tsk, tsk, someone better have a look at the turn-based multiplayer orgies organized by dear Civilization 4 methinks… Then again, Medieval II Total War does offer you the chance to fight with 21 factions and even be a Native American hero defending his homeland against European brutality. Lovely.

That’s -easily- a (nine) out of (ten).

Play the -oviously free- demo. It’s worth it.

 

Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie And Then There Were None - Screenshot
Truth is they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Point and click adventures don’t have the class and production values they used to have back in the 90s. The genre is no longer cutting edge, no longer adequately funded, but at least still alive.

Since the most talented designers like Jane Jensen, Ron Gilbert or Tim Schafer are no longer producing adventures, since budgets are being cut, production times shortened and since the need for decent storytelling abilities remains, developers tend to look back at classic literary or cinematic material. Be it Jules Verne, Alfred Hitchcock or Agatha Christie, you can’t miss when basing your game on such material. Or can you?

Agatha Christie And Then There Were None - Gameplay Screenshot 4

And Then There Were None the novel (written towards the end of the 30s) is considered as one of A. Christie’s finest moments. It is about a perfect, unsolvable and actually successful crime. About a perfect mass (if 10 people can be considered a crowd) murder committed by Mr. U.N. Owen. And Then There Were None the novel had already been adapted to film and theatre before the Adventure Company decided to publish the adventure game. Adapted -mostly- to critical acclaim.

What could then possibly go wrong in the adventure adaptation? I believe that it should have been obvious to the good people who designed the game. Despite being excellent material And Then There Were None has the problem of dealing with a perfect and unsolvable crime. A bloody unsolvable crime. As in: it can’t be solved by anyone, let alone by a geeky gamer. Thus all the player gets to actually do in this game is to be an observer who might just be able to save a few of the ten guests.

Agatha Christie And Then There Were None - Gameplay Screenshot 3

The player (a.k.a. you) gets to be Patrick Narracott, a character absent from the original, stranded along with the other ten guests on Mr. U.N. Owen’s island. Mr. Narracott is the sole person on the island who isn’t accused of a horrible deed (by U.N.Owen and through a gramophone disc and you’ll have to play the game or preferably read the book to find out more). This gives him the chance to roam around the island and interact with his environments in standard point and click fashion, solving rather easy and not very inspiring inventory based puzzles. Oh and not doing any actual detective work. Unless of course gathering five fingerprints (an optional task nonetheless) can be considered detective work.
Agatha Christie And Then There Were None - Gameplay Screenshot 2

 

Other problems include a constantly repeating and quite annoying musical theme, the inability to skip dialog (and there are tons of it), horrible 3d character models and a few glitches/bugs. On the other hand And Then There Were None is quite enjoyable and atmospheric (for the duration of the 10 to 15 hours you’ll spend beating it). Environmental graphics are okay and with some decent weather effects, the original material is excellent, the voice-overs almost perfect and if you buy the game in the U.S. you will also get the original book as a gift (or so I hear). The manual is also a nice addition, with its decent oldskool booky feel, and you might also appreciate the multiple endings, which also include the original.

So… I guess it really is up to you… This is an adventure that won’t thrill you, but in a peculiar way provide you with some hours of moody (and quality?) entertainment

That’s a (six) out of (ten).

Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront II - PC Box
The pc gaming genre I appreciate the most has always been the Adventure Game. I simply can’t stress enough, how much I enjoyed the vintage classics of Lucasarts and Sierra. How carelessly I danced around them wearing only a green wig and chanting ecstatically ‘Oi, oi, that’s life. Ei, ei, I love adventures’ etc. How I gloriously spent my money on them. How I desperately searched for walkthroughs. How many of them I actually missed. Pah. Those were the days.

On the other hand, I can neither stress how disappointed in Lucasarts I currently am. Not only have they dumped adventures, but also rejected any kind of creativity and/or originality by producing a torrent of mediocre and/or lackluster Star Wars action and(/or) ‘strategy’ games. Star Wars Battlefront was a prime example of this trend. A desperate clone of Battlefield 1942 with Star Wars models and textures, featuring awful gameplay.

Enter Star Wars Battlefront II.

Star Wars Battlefront II - Gameplay Screenshot

It is not an original concept. It is a Lucasarts product. It is a Star Wars game. It’s not an adventure. It is a First Person Shooter with a strong multiplayer aspect. I honestly enjoyed it.

SWBFII is such an improvement over its predecessor it totally surprised me and reminded me how fond of Star Wars games (TIE Fighter is what I am actually referring to) I once used to be. There are lots of excellent maps, vastly improved game mechanics, four different factions, many weapons and classes to choose from, playable characters (Darth Vader and co.) that can be used in multiplayer battles, a decent single player campaign, driveable vehicles and even a small but interesting strategic mode called Galactic Conquest (unfortunately only for the single player mode). By far though, the most interesting new feature is the inclusion of space battles. X-Wings, B-Wings, Y-Wings, TIE Fighters and the rest are all there in a highly enjoyable space flight sim in the style of X-Wing versus TIE Fighter. You can even land inside enemy motherships and fight for tyranny or freedom on foot. You can even play capture the flag in space! Joy. Lots and lots of hours of joy actually, since this is a game that really has dozens of hours worth of gameplay to offer.
Star Wars Battlefront II - Gameplay Screenshot 1

 

Obviously and unfortunately all is not perfect. The 3d engine seems a bit dated, a lack of overall polish is evident, there are some minor bot A.I. problems, no in-mission save points in the campaign and you get to play Princess Leia. On the multiplayer front you wont have any trouble finding people to play against, but you will have lag trouble in some of the larger maps.
And it definitely isn’t the most original or artistic game I have ever seen…

That’s a (seven) out of (ten).

Civilization IV

Civilization IV - PC Box
You can call it Civilization, Civilisation, Civ or even Sid Meier’s Civilization. Fact is that even if you called it Bertha it would still be the best turn based strategy franchise ever. Some –the true fanatics that is- would even go as far as calling it the best gaming franchise ever. And now it’s even better. Not in a radical revolutionary way, but more in a polished thoughtful way.

Civilization IV - Gameplay Screenshot

For the three (3) of you who haven’t heard of Civilization before, let me explain. It’s all about guiding a nation through history in an intuitive turn based fashion. You’ll start from the stone Age, research yourself to literacy and the Bronze Age and keep expanding, building and fighting until your civilization reaches the stars or global domination (or, of course, until you get pulverized). On your way you’ll build wonders of the world like the Pyramids, you’ll explore and tame the land and maybe even lead a workers’ revolution. By the time you reach Civ greatness though, you will be nothing more than an empty shell of a human being. You’ll be thousands of hours closer to your death. This game is the greatest and most addictive time sink ever created.

Civilization IV - Gameplay Screenshot 2

Beside the three (3) aforementioned weirdos, the rest of the world should be happy to know that moving on to Civ 4 is definitely worth it. This seems to be the best Civ ever, even though no one can be absolutely sure unless two or three more years pass. Civ 4 sports a brand new 3d engine that can run decently on almost any modern PC or Notebook. It also features a new simpler but more tactical combat system, a never seen before government system, new religions that actually play a role (monasteries, prophets and missionaries are included), a faster game engine, decent (playable) multiplayer, new Wonders, Great People (something like wonders… but… ahem… in the guise of people), a richer tech tree, a beautiful soundtrack and an amazing attention to detail. Mr. Meier has also included the necessary modding tools that guarantee a torrent of interesting mods and free expansions.

A great game all in all. Great but obviously not groundbreaking. Civilization 4 is an excellent Civ, but even a moderately experienced player wont need to open the manual (the printed and not pdf manual that is). Civ is still an absolutely brilliant game. Just don’t expect to be surprised.

Tron Evolution

Tron Evolution Review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“An okay prequel to Tron Legacy but inferior to Tron 2.0”

Tron Evolution
Tron Evolution

Overall Score:
6 out of 10

Overview:

Tron Evolution takes place in between the first Tron movie and the upcoming Tron Legacy. You take the role of a program written by Flynn to help manage and investigate the activities that have been going on in The Grid (the name of the Tron world). Basically, the regular programs are now known as Basics and a new kind of program life form that started being generated by The Grid called ISOs, which are I guess a trend towards self-generating AIs and a natural phenomenon in computing. Simply put, there is racial tension growing between the Basics and the ISOs with terrorist acts, activism, and the now recurrence of a virus that converts programs to mindless killers (although I found them to be particularly weak).

I don’t want to ruin the story that much for you because it’s the entire setup for the upcoming movie which has the plot I predicted for it. 😀

You’re caught in a civil war and you fight to try to restore things to the status quo. Some NPCs like Quorra help you on the way to try to stop the civil war from getting worse.

The game is a 3rd person action shooter with a lot of jumping involved like Assassin’s Creed and Mirror’s Edge, as well as some very very minor puzzle elements that are pretty much no challenge at all.

Tron Evolution is available for PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable (PSP), Xbox 360, Wii and Nintendo DS. The PC version is basically a port of the other versions. Although this game is solid, I can tell that they just imported the videos from the Xbox version because it shows the buttons you have to press for that version when you pick to watch the tutorials on the different disc weapons you get. Kind of sloppy of them to not notice that!

Fun Factor, Gameplay, & Replayability:

The linear nature of the game makes me not want to replay this game, probably ever again. It’s so linear that the guides I found for the game as just recorded video walkthroughs of the person simply playing the game, sometimes even for the first time and beating every puzzle and area without too much of a hard time. Replayability gets a 2 out of 10.

The game though is pretty engaging and filled with action. The problem with it though is that there are too many run and jump areas. I would have rather it be filled with more fighting instead and a bigger variety of enemies as well as weapons and upgrades. Gameplay gets a score of 7 out of 10 and Fun Factor gets a score of 7 out of 10.

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility & Controls:

Overall, the game is rather simple but most of the game play involves jumping around the map, trying to reach a new area. This felt more like a 3D Super Mario game than a third person combat shooter. Yes, there’s plenty of action but most of the time you have to worry more about whether you will be able to make it to the end of a wall you’re running on to jump on to the next area. At least, it feels more like Assassin’s Creed than Mirror’s Edge.

The problem is that the camera will sometimes switch automatically and whatever direction would make sense for you to push the controller in no longer makes sense because of the orientation of the camera just turned an up into a right or something to that effect. I would say the character needs more automation like in Assassin’s Creed as in the character knowing you want to climb up so that the gameplay is smoother. I give the Controls a 7 out of 10 because of how overly sensitive they are and how stupid the camera can be during a few times in the game.

I found most of the game easy but a few parts were literally annoying mainly because of the control. I give the Difficulty a score of 6 out of 10. Overall it was a simple game and repetitive as well, as well at totally linear. I am not going to go back and play it so I can’t say how versatile the difficulty is.

Value:

You can buy every version of Tron Evolution here at ebgames but for $40-60 it’s totally not worth buying in my book. Rent the game instead. Value gets a score of 2 out of 10. I recommend the game only to Tron fanboys with money to burn.

Sound:

The sound effects are great and it’s nice to hear Jeff Bridges as well as Bruce Boxleitner being involved with this game. The cycle sounds awesome, as well as the disc combat. I was disappointed that the traditional deres sound from the original Tron was no longer there as I always associate that sound immediately with the franchise as well as the sound the floor made in the original movie being missing as well. I give Sound a score of 7 out of 10 because I’m picky like that!

Music:

This is one of the main reasons to get this game. Since this game was a quickly made port of the console versions, they didn’t bother to encrypt the music at all. The entire soundtrack to the game is easily available in WAV format for you to play if you simply browse the game folders. Using a simple audio conversion program you can convert it to MP3.

I would say to simply get the same even just for the music especially if you’re a Tron fan like I am. The Music gets a score of 9 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game crashed only once for me and that’s after hours of leaving it alt-tabbed, so I can’t really blame it. The game alt-tabs like a champ and will react quickly to coming back to the game. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 9 out of 10.

Graphics & Performance:

Since the Tron universe is so beautiful and this game runs on the UT3 engine the game runs amazingly well on my 3 year old gaming PC and it looks pretty breath-taking. I give Graphics a score of 9 out of 10 and Performance a 10 out of 10.

My History With This Game & Conclusion:

Although it’s nice to get a teaser glimpse at what the upcoming Tron Legacy film is going to be about, I was very much disappointed by this game in contrast to the now lost-in-time Tron 2.0 game. Although one dies a lot in this game, the save system was pretty well implemented in loading checkpoints rather than making you save often and waste time doing that. However, since it’s so efficiently made, I simply flew through this game beating it in one sitting.

Like I said before, get the game for the music, if you’re PC gamer. If you’re a console gamer I recommend just to rent the game. It’s a short game and I’d say play it if you’re a Tron fan only and you’re bored of playing anything else.

Alpha Protocol

Alpha Protocol cover
Alpha Protocol cover

Alpha Protocol Review & Strategy Guide by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“A great RPG despite its shortcomings.”

Overall Score:
7 out of 10

Overview & Replayability:

In Alpha Protocol, you take the role of Michael Thornton a secret agent for a “does not exist” US Government intelligence agency by the name of “Alpha Protocol”. The plot of the game quickly consists of you getting screwed over by the agency and its master Halbech (a Halliburton-like company, although Halbech is a military weapons manufacturer and Halliburton is focused on energy/oil) and you set out to get revenge/expose them/cause chaos/sell out to “the man”.

The storyline was very engaging and I might actually replay this game in the future. The characters feel like actual people who have personalities and do respond based on your actions and your attitude. The game pops up a reaction rather than a sentence of text like every other RPG and you have a short amount of time to react (like real life conversations).

Alpha Protocol Main Character RPG dialogue options

If for instance a character likes joking around and you’re acting “professional” and by-the-book they’ll think your character is an asshole and they won’t get along with you. I, for example, got along with most people because I just told them what they wanted to hear and I became the best friend of some character that’s a loose cannon CIA agent that is usually like a serial killer that cleans up their dirty laundry (he literally owns a laundromat in Taiwan).

The game feels a lot like the first Deus Ex game in the sense that it has very good characters that are innovative. Just because they send you on a mission to kill someone doesn’t mean that they are a badguy or that they deserve to die. In fact, my guy was so charismatic (with me at the helm, ahem, of course) that I befriended everybody pretty much in the game, even the villains.

I have a feeling that there are many paths of outcomes regarding letting people live or die in the game and each time you make a choice it changes the total outcome of the game. THIS IS A GREAT THING TO HAVE IN A GAME. This kind of thing makes me want to replay a game even if simply to see all the endings and outcomes. I did it before with Fallout 2 (it had like 50 possible variables for the ending) and Blade Runner (this game had 300 different endings, check it out) and I’ll do it again with Alpha Protocol. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the game has this since the lead designer was Chris Avellone which is legendary for that kind of logic branching in such games as Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale 1 & 2, KOTOR 2, and Neverwinter Nights 2.

The game is very enjoyable and overall most of the way it was made are great but why did I give it a score of 7? The game has a big problem and that’s where most people will just say “fuck this shit”. That problem lies where the controls of the game are…

Controls & Gameplay & Fun Factor:

Overall, the controls respond too slow, especially looking around with the camera which is a deadly problem in an action/fps kind of game. Sometimes I found myself dying saying “where the fuck did that guy come from” because I was too busy trying to aim my gun and some guy just ninja teleports by me (it felt like it) and filled me up with 4 bullets from a heavy pistol or unloaded an uzi into me. I did play it at the max difficulty though but a lot of the time because of how slow the camera panning is on top of making the right mouse aim mode shit when at close range, I was forced to melee the guys and usually the computer can outmicro your attacks and you will die like a bitch.

But… that’s not really my biggest problem with the game. The biggest problem I had is that I had to continually make my guy buy emp bomb/grenade supplies because the hacking system in the game is so terrible. I played this game on a PC and I have both a mouse and keyboard, which are usually vastly superior to me over a gaming controller for a console or joystick (for these kind of games, not arcade games). The way the hacking works is that there is a series of words and letters at the top left and top right of the screen which you have to match up in an ocean of changing letters and numbers. In that ocean, the two sequences of numbers and letters will be there (most of the time) and you have to put the sequence code on top of the corresponding one and press spacebar for the top left one which you control with the keyboard and the left mouse button that you control with the mouse. While doing all this you have a time limit and if you put it in the wrong place or the code changed place you lose ten seconds of time each time. I’m really really good at identifying sequences BUT the controls were really bad and no matter how many times I pressed the corresponding key on the keyboard to move the sequence around the speed at which it can move around is FIXED meaning that even if you press down 6 times in one second, it will only move down one row every second, just about. The other part which you control with the mouse is even worse. If you want to know how bad it is, it’s as hard as trying to drive a car in a racing game with a mouse. I’m not kidding.

Alpha Protocol Sis and papa

As as result of the shittiness of the controls for the hacking I just loaded up with EMP supplies to just skip all the hacking in the game. There is also the security alarm hacking which just makes you pick paths to a reverse puzzle but that is at least beatable although I hate it when they gave you 10 paths to follow in just 18-20 seconds worth of time. You might as well be defusing a real bomb in real life, it felt like it. The only puzzle part that is easy is the lockpicking and I can’t complain about that. I give the controls for the action part a score of 5 out of 10. They should have tested this game more.

Below is a screenshot of how you can’t sometimes shoot through a door that you could in real life:

The game plays like a Splinter Cell kind of 3rd person stealther shooter but to me I just made it be a shooter, especially since the stealth missions are fucking impossible. If you like playing games like that, you will enjoy the gameplay. I give Gameplay a score of 6 out of 10. It’s not the best but the RPG element makes up for it, and by that I don’t mean the leveling up, which this game has but the element of dealing with characters that are real people with real agendas.

I genuinely had fun playing this game and it didn’t feel like “let me just play this crap to review it.” I wondered what characters I would meet next and liked seeing characters with different philosophies interact and fight with each other. Fun Factor gets a score of 8 out of 10. Some of the bugs were FRUSTRATING but the rest was FUN.

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:

I only played this game on hard and it was at times a GREAT challenge. I don’t know what the lower difficulties are like and I don’t care to. The problem that it has is that this game does NOT let you change the difficulty in-game once the game started. If it’s too hard for you you’ll either quit and go play something else or you will start all over again… from the beginning, which I doubt. Just make sure you’re up to the challenge and suck it up! Difficulty gets a score of 8 out of 10, especially for parts like being stuck in a mansion where they took all your gear and everybody you meet is a martial arts expert with a shotgun, pistol, or uzi! Difficulty Versatility fails because it doesn’t let you change the difficulty and that will piss off a lot of players. It gets Difficulty Versatility of 2 out of 10.

Value:

I would say that I recommend renting this game or borrowing it from somebody rather than buying it. I would say it’s safe to buy it for 10 bucks because it’s not that much and hopefully by the time that this game costs that little they fixed all the bugs (which I doubt). If you want to check it out anyways, GoGamer has it for around 40 bucks right now. Gamestop also sells it for 40-50 bucks right now. Steam has it as well. At that price Value is terrible for me and I would not get it! Value gets a score of 2 out of 10 at that price. The game took me about 12 hours to beat. Anything that has under 30, 50, or 100+ hours I usually recommend renting or borrowing.

Sound:

The guns sounded pretty authentic as well as glass breaking and other similar sound effects like the alarms and doors opening or shattering. The voice acting was really well done as well and it helped a lot with the role-playing dialogue process. Sound gets a score of 9 out of 10.

Music:

The music for this game was actually really great. It gives a great feeling of a spy environment as well as it’s exciting enough to keep a feeling of suspense running most of the time during the game.

The authors of the music are BT (Brian Wayne Transeau) and Jason Graves. I give the Music a score of 10 out of 10 because I pretty much enjoyed the songs for every part of the game, even the few slow parts (for which there weren’t many).

Stability/Reliability:

I had the game crash and make my Windows XP run out of memory when I had it alt-tabbed and watched 2 hours worth of video at the same time. Other than that there was a buggy part that forced me to crash the game after completing the 3rd or 4th mission. Those were the only times the game ever crashed on me and I did alt-tab more after that crash. Stability/Reliability gets a score of 8 out of 10.

Sis and her “dad”

Graphics & Performance:

The game uses the UT3 engine but I found the performance laggy at times. Most of the time the performance is fine but when it lag-spikes, it’s really god-awful and that sometimes ends up getting you killed. I found this happens a lot when there is some crazy action about to happen and then some character talks to you especially one over the headset (such as the mission handler). The graphics look nice and they get a score of 7 out of 10. Not the best but not too bad either. There were parts that you could see a character that was trying to walk through a door, like in Thief: The Dark Project. Performance though gets punished because it lagged when I needed it specifically NOT TO. Performance gets a score of 4 out of 10 because of the timing of the lag-spikes.

Sis is a hot mute!

Conclusion of Review:

Although this game has its annoying parts it’s worth at least checking out. Give it a chance. If you do, it’ll grow on you.

Hot Russian Mercenary Babe rawr

Strategy Guide for Alpha Protocol:

As far as armor goes get anything that gives you damage resistance first, then anything that boosts endurance. This will be very important especially on the missions where there are TONS of guys assaulting you. Anything that boosts your health or life is great too.

As far as the weapons of choice, max out assault rifles as that to me is the main weapon to use in the game. You will see this when you fight bosses, especially annoying ones that snipe or ones that will just rape you like the Russian guy that’s obsessed with 80s shit and that loves using dual uzis and knife stabs up close!

Fuck stealth, go full combat build. Fuck hacking, get EMP supplies. Put the rest on one or two slots worth of healing supplies. You can just rape the game with the assault rifle, especially if you headshot everybody. For fun, I made my guy have the shotgun as the secondary weapon. The submachine gun was probably the worst weapon since it had no accuracy.

As far as purchasing info on the blackmarket get anything which increases your intelligence profiles and don’t bother to buy dumb shit like a sniper rifle which you can’t carry in the rest of the map anyways.

There will be one mission where you are in the mansion and they took all your weapons away. This would have been a good time to have put stuff into martial arts training but if you’re like me, you probably didn’t. When you run out to the balcony RUN fast as you can and hit the guy that has the heavy pistol, I found that if I make my guy turn a little and I spam the melee attack it increases the chance dramatically of hitting the computer because he won’t block as well. That’s the only tip I have as far as what I found to be hardest part of the game. I died like a little bitch in that part, probably 40 times in a row until I figured it out. Here’s a screenshot of me getting raped:

Mafia 2

Mafia 2 Boxart
Mafia II Boxart

Mafia 2 Review & Strategy Guide by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“I was expecting more action from this action game…”

Overall Score:
5 out of 10

Overview:

Mafia 2 is the sequel to the original Mafia 1 which took place during the Great Depression. This one takes place from World War 2 to 1951. You’re Vito, an Italian-American that got caught, arrested, and drafted to go fight the Axis in Europe. After getting hurt during the war, you come back stateside and your friend (that originally was there when you got arrested) arranges for you not to go back and you start doing a bunch of crime stuff, GTA-style, trying to become a made-man for the Italian Mafia.

The game is available for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.

Difficulty/Difficulty Versatility & Fun Factor & Replayability & Gameplay:

The game has only 3 difficulty settings and I played it on Hard right from the start. I found the game extremely easy, I would say, 97% of the time. There were some parts where I died over and over by being instakilled by some hiding enemy. Since the game uses autosave checkpoints and some of them are not the most convenient, one gets really good at doing some parts over and over again. Still, I found them most annoying overall, those hard parts, rather than challenging. The game does not let you change the difficulty once you started it, which most games like this now do, so it loses points for that. Difficulty itself gets a score of 2 out of 10. Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 3 out of 10.

I’m probably not going to be replaying this game as I didn’t have as much fun playing it as a I thought I would. I was bored driving around a lot and YES I do like these kinds of games. Compared to Mafia 1, Saints Row 2, and The Saboteur this game was rather boring. The Saboteur was the funnest of those three. Replayability gets a score of 2 out of 10.

Most of the gameplay consists of you just driving around in 1940s-1951 cars delivering packages or going to talk/fight people. Most of it felt like a chore rather than an action movie. Some of it felt like a mob movie but not an exciting one. As far as those movies go I would say Once Upon A Time In America is NOT as exciting as Casino or Goodfellas. Sure, they are all good movies but not everybody can sit through Once Upon A Time In America. This is sort of the same difference here. Maybe I can compare The Sopranos. Sure, it can show a realistic portrayal of mobsters BUT does it really make an exciting action game? There’s a few shootout scenes for which there were a lot more in Mafia 1 but most of the time I just found myself driving at the speed limit. To see how unrealistic some of the game was look below for my strategy guide tips. I give Fun Factor a score of 3 out of 10. I give Gameplay a score of 5 out of 10.

Value:

I beat this game in 8 hours taking my sweet time playing it. Right now the game is selling for about $50 which is way too high for a game that is so short. I would say rent the game if you’re a console player, for sure, if you are into these kinds of games. For the PC people, I would say not to buy it until it hits the value $5-15 range.

Sound:

The sound of the guns firing is great stuff, as well as the sound of the old cars driving around. It sounds like the actual cars. The voice acting was spectacular. The characters even say racist things which seemed realistic to me. Sound gets a score of 9 out of 10.

Music:

The music is this game is authentic to its era. I don’t like 1940s music that much so that part was kind of boring for me but I do like seeing the emergence of Rock N Roll so it added to the factor that you are actually doing things in that time-frame. I don’t know how many people in the console crowd really wants to hear WW2 pop music! The score of the game was really great but there are not many scenes where you get to hear this music play out completely. I wish they had added more. I give the music a score of 8 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game never crashed despite having multiple programs open and alt-tabbing all day long. Stability/Reliability gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls are standard for these GTA-style games. The only really annoying part is that hitting the windows key alone will take you to the desktop. Although that was annoying, the game did have the useful function of letting you press ESC during any cutscene and pause the game and even letting you skip most cutscenes. However, pressing the windows key even if by mistake takes you to desktop. This was really annoying at times. Controls get a score of 6 out of 10.

Graphics & Performance:

The graphics looked really nice, especially the character models. I was surprised by one of the hookers that had actual real looking breasts rather than cookie-cutter breasts like a character in a super-hero comic book. Kudos for that realism. Graphics I give a score of 8 out of 10. As far as performance goes, with my typical 1024×768 on my 2007 Windows XP gaming PC the game ran fine except when I needed it to, which was when I was trying to drive fast or complete some fast maneuvers in a car (like when they are chasing you drilling you with tommy guns). I guess I can’t expect my PC to last forever but I have played other new games on higher settings that run faster. I give performance a score of 6 out of 10.

Strategy Guide Tips:

One of the really annoying parts I found is how much fist fighting there was in the game. My tip on beating those parts easily is simply to dodge all the time. You can try to counter punch if you have good reflexes or you can simply wait until the enemy sidesteps. Once he does that just throw 3 quick punches and he will always get hit. I found sometimes the enemy will try to walk into you (it will look like he is running in place), this is a good time again to launch 3 quick punches. In time, he will go down if you’re patient and it’s easier to just do this every time rather than risk losing and doing the fight again like 6 times.

As far as driving the cars go just drive fast as hell. The game is unrealistic in the sense that cops WON’T pull you over for running red lights or stop signs (the game Driver 1 did) but they HATE speeding. Just make sure you have your finger ready over the L key (PC version) to lock the speed control. It’s kind of like a cheat because the car will slow down without using the physics engine of the tires skidding as you try to force brake. I guess this is a bug and an exploit but whatever works works.

As far as stealing cars, just take parked cars, lock picking them as it doesn’t bring you too much attention and it’s much easier than carjacking somebody that will usually start one of those dreaded fist fights.

For weapons the Dirty Harry magnum is the most powerful weapon in the game. Think of it as the sniper rifle. The tommy gun that holds 50 bullets is the best overall weapon.

My History With This Game & Conclusion:

I was disappointed by this sequel as I was expecting the brutality and difficulty of Mafia 1 all over again. I see more of this trend to make games more noob-friendly and it’s pissing me off even more. I guess I’ll just stick more to more hardcore FPS and RTS games myself. I don’t know if I’ve leveled up too much as a gamer and I refuse to go back but I have talked to other gamers that don’t play as much as I do and they say the same thing.

Well, at least the Obsolete Gamer Crew had fun going to the Mafia 2 release party. ;-]

The Saboteur

The Saboteur cover art
The Saboteur cover art

The Saboteur review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Grand Theft Auto + Assassin’s Creed + Mafia + Inglourious Basterds + The Train”

Overall Score:
7 out of 10

Overview & Gameplay:

The Saboteur is about an Irish mechanic and race car driver, Sean Devlin, that gets caught in a tale of revenge on the eve of World War II. Shortly after the game starts, you see the events leading to his blood-lusted revenge. Sean Devlin competes in the German Grand Prix but his German rival, Kurt Dierker, shoots out the rear tire of his race car, making him lose the race. As a result of that, Sean steals Dierker’s car and drives it off a cliff but then he and his best friend Jules get caught and tortured by the Germans, thinking that they were British spies. When the torture fails, Dierker empties out a Luger pistol into Jules and Sean then escapes vowing revenge on Dierker.

The game consists of Sean joining and helping the French Resistance in now occupied Paris. The game plays out a lot like Grand Theft Auto and Mafia with stealth and assassination aspects borrowed heavily from Assassin’s Creed. The atmosphere of the game is a lot like Quentin Tarentino’s Inglourious Basterds. Basically, you steal a ton of cars, run away from the Nazis, blow a lot of shit up, shoot a lot of people, hide, and do it again and again. The game also borrows even more from Frankenheimer’s classic movie The Train.

There are main story missions and side-missions. When you complete a key objective, such as blowing up a special Nazi weapon or killing a key Nazi, that specific section of the city gets liberated from the Nazi oppression. The advantage of doing that is that it makes it easier for you to escape the Nazis when they are after you. Without spoiling the storyline, unless the game is too hard for you, you can just ignore those side-missions but completing them can sometimes liberate a part of the city, making it easier to escape the Nazis.

A really interesting way in which they made this game is that what you see will be either in black and white or in color based on whether the Nazis control that area of the city or not. The more you liberate an area, the more color it gets back. The more color it has, the more the Parisians support The Cause and the more they will help you escape the Nazis. The black and white style with a few colors is reminiscent of Schindler’s List and Sin City.

The game has nice adult humor. Nudity is optional (I always turn it on… wait, that’s a pun). The game does possess a certain kind of realism in the sense that Sean can only carry 2 guns, along with a reasonable amount of explosives. How he hides them, I don’t know or can explain though!

There are hidden mini-games but they are completely pointless.

The money in the game takes form of “contraband” which you get by either finding supply crates and kicking them or simply from the salvage the underground weapons dealers get from your sabotage operations.

The Saboteur is available for PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3.

Fun Factor & Replayability:

It’s always great fun to drive fast and to blow stuff up. This game has both those things, which I find appealing in an action video game. Although I just beat it, I feel like playing it again in the max difficulty immediately. I’ll give Fun Factor a score of 8 out of 10. Check back on this article in a few days for how replayable it was after I beat it again on the max difficulty.

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:

On the Standard difficulty, I found the game easy. The main character regenerates damage quickly after getting injured, making the game a cakewalk in that setting. The cars all drive pretty realistically (shitty brakes) but they have a million hitpoints, taking enough hits like a tank again. I will update this part of the article after I destroy the game on the max difficulty setting.

Value:

This game is not that new anymore and it’s hard to get. However, my friends at Stardock/Impulse have it for $29.99 at this link. At that price I give it a Value score of 7 out of 10, simply because I found this game enjoyable and it’s not that bad of a price.

For consoles though, the game is much more expensive. At gogamer they sell the PS3 and XBox 360 versions for about $52.90 which is way too steep for me for a game one can beat in a day or two of hardcore playing.

Sound:

The voice actors are well chosen, especially the ones for the sexy girls and for Sean Devlin as well as his allies. The voices however sometimes talk too fast, in the sense that people react like reading a script much too quickly unlike a real world conversation. Sometimes the sound for a car’s engine is missing if you get in it too fast or you accelerate too fast and it doesn’t yet buffer the other sound file. Sound gets a score of 7 out of 10 for that.

Music:

The music of this game goes along great along with the style of the game.

Enjoy my favorite track from the game, Nina Simone – Feeling Good:

The music gets a score of 10 out of 10. It just blends perfectly with the year the game takes place in. Instead of picking boring music from that time, each track is passionate and moving and it goes along great with the intense action of the game. Sometimes it makes me feel as though it’s the soundtrack to a James Bond movie, and that’s a good thing! It’s such a nice soundtrack that I got the soundtrack for this great game. 😀

Stability/Reliability:

The game never crashed for me. The game is ALT-TABbable but… make sure you have at least one other program running BEFORE launching the game or it won’t simply let you ALT-TAB to the desktop. It won’t respond to CTRL-SHIFT-ESC either, so make sure you run another program if you need to multitask while playing. Other than that tiny bug, game runs like a champ. Stability/Reliability get a score of 9 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls are rather straightforward, much like the GTA games and they are quick to pick up. You climb and descend easily, with the character auto-orienting himself towards a hand-hold. You have to tell him to let go in order to descend. Climbable surfaces will have a white color overlay showing you where you can go to next. Overall, I had no problem with the controls except when sometimes Sean would put a bomb down on the floor for no reason because he was a pixel off from the perfect bomb placement. Controls get a score of 9 out of 10.

Graphics & Performance:

There were very few parts of the game where the game slowed down even on my 3 year old gaming PC. The game looks beautiful and considering the color schemes, I will remember the beautiful renderings of Paris. Performance gets a score of 8 out of 10. Graphics get a score of 9 out of 10.

My History With This Game & Conclusion:

My friend James recommended that I check this game out. We usually have similar tastes in fun games so I gave it a go. It’s my kind of action game and it’s immersive, a great combination, although it does borrow a lot from games that came before it. It doesn’t necessarily innovate but it has it’s own style, especially with the discoloration/coloration based on the Nazi control of areas. That style and atmosphere, to me, are certainly worth checking out.

If you enjoy the GTA games, as well as Mafia, Gun, the Assassin’s Creed games, as a gamer you should play this game too.

A sequel is possible for the game based on the story but… the studio that made it Pandemic Studios got axed after this game came out, so we will probably not see one in the future.

Machinarium

Machinarium screenshot
Machinarium screenshot

Machinarium review by Leandro Montesanto (english translation by Honorabili)

Developer: Amanita Design
Title: Machinarium
Release Date: October 16, 2009
Value: $20 for game + OST, physical media collector’s edition, £7
Overall Score: 10 out of 10
Free demo: http://machinarium.net/demo/
One Sentence Review: The new school of games gets its artistic avatar.

Prologue:

The game was created by the small Czech video game company Amanita Design in 2009. We play the role of the nameless robot who we’ll call “Machi” for simplicity’s sake. He is thrown out as junk into a junkyard and his mission is to rescue his girlfriend from the Black Cape brotherhood. The game is a refreshing point-and-click graphic adventure game with a unique cyberpunk setting, soundtrack, gameplay, storytelling, colorful scenery, and intricate puzzles are fresher than more contemporary games.

Gameplay, setting, & my history with this game:

Like I mentioned before, the game takes place in a cyberpunk setting although it’s extremely “cute”, which might seem strange to some. Although it is cute, the setting does remind you well of the urban sprawl, especially since every kind of robot in this society fulfills a specific kind of role. There’s poor neighborhoods filled with artists. A special detail is a church with schedules for specific robots to go pray and complete specific functions until the end of time. With it being a clever graphic adventure game, it tells the story through a comic like style of having characters talk in comic balloon dialogue popups drawn in a style that look as if a kid had drawn them but using symbols so that anybody in any country can understand what’s being said.

The gameplay takes into account distance between your character and the environment and Machi can expand and contract (stretch) his body to modify specific parts of the scenery should you need to manipulate it to complete that specific puzzle.

If we get stuck with a specific puzzle we can click the icon on the top right part of the screen which can give us a tip to try to help us solve that specific puzzle. If we really get stuck we can also refer to a guide that has a more comprehensive solve (and looks like a shoot-em-up side scrolling game in navigation).

The puzzles were hard for me but I’m not a hardcore graphic adventure game player. We see also in the game a cameo appearance of the side of the arcade machine for Space Invaders.

Music & Sounds:

The music is of great quality and at times sounds like jazz, calm then melancholic, submerging you in this bohemian world, and it seems to soothe you as you wreck your brains trying to solve the game’s many, many puzzles. It’s important to note that the music was created by Tomas Dvorak, the Czech contemporary artist, which I recommend. If you liked his work, his other work is usually published under the name Floex. The sounds in the game are well suited for how the game is and the setting is provides.

Controls & stability:

The controls are really simple. Like in every adventure game, we’re constantly using the mouse, although in the minigames we have the option to use the keyboard, which makes the interface much more intuitive and stimulating.

With respects to stability, I personally had no problems, but some friends had problems saving the game as the game saved the save game files as temporary files and any time they ran ccleanr the saved games were deleted. Since the game had that problem, Amarita Design released a patch quickly, which you can get from the company’s blog. The new versions of the game already come patched and no longer have this problem.

Value:

The digital download version can be downloaded for $20 from the Machinarium page, including the OST in mp3 format for Windows, Mac, or Linux. You can also get the game from Steam, Impulse (click here to get that version), Direct 2 Drive, and Gamers Gate. You can also get the physical version of the game for 7 pounds from ebay or amazon which includes the OST, a poster, as well as artwork, the Windows or Mac version.

Conclusion:

An unforgettable experience. I recommend playing the rest of the games from the company, especially Samorost 1 & 2.

Links of Interest:

Amanita design blog: http://machinarium.net/blog/ (you can download the demo here)
Amanita design website: http://www.amanitadesign.com/

Machinarium review en espanol

Machinarium screenshot
Machinarium screenshot

Machinarium review en español por Leandro Montesanto


DESARROLLADORA:
AMANITA DESIGN
TITULO:
MACHINARIUM
FECHA DE SALIDA: 16 de octubre del 2009
VALOR: formato virtual+ost 20 dolares;formato fisico edicion coleccionista 7 libras
PLATAFORMAS: PC (windows,linux,mac)
PUNTAJE TOTAL: 10/10
DEMO GRATUITA ONLINE: http://machinarium.net/demo/
Reseña en una oracion: la nueva escuela de juegos recibe a su artistico avatar

Prologo:

Juego realizado por la empresa Checa, Amanita Design, en el 2009; en el cual usamos a un robot sin nombre, al que se le denominara “machi” con motivos de practicidad, este es desechado como chatarra y su mision es rescatar a su novia de las manos de la hermandad Capa Negra; el despliegue resonante de su simpleza no hace valor al gran juego “point and click” (aventura grafica para nosotros) que hoy decidi reseñar ya que su ambientacion cyberpunk, su banda sonora, su sistema de juego, la forma en la cual esta contada la historia, sus coloridos escenarios y sus intrincados puzzles son lo mas fresco que vi en años de jugon.


Jugabilidad, ambientacion y mi historia con el juego:

El juego, como mencione anteriormente, transcurre en un ambiente cyberpunk, puede sonar extraño para muchos es “cute” en si, adorable, pero a su vez caotico, recuerda mucho a la vida urbana, ya que cada robot cumple un rol. Hay barrios bajos y artistas entre ellos. Un detalle sorprendente es la iglesia que tiene horarios para que los robots vayan a rezar, programados a cumplir funciones hasta el fin de los tiempos. Al ser una aventura grafica novedosa e ingeniosa, cuenta la historia de los involucrados a travez de dialogos globos tipo comics pero con animaciones simples dentro de ellas como dibujadas por un niño haciendo que se pueda jugar en cualquier pais sin necesidad de ser traducido. El sistema de juego aplica las leyes del espacio y el rango de alcance de machi ya que no podemos con el mouse atravesar la pantalla para ver que items podemos asir (agarrar) si machi no esta en un rango determinado cercano al objeto, ademas puede estirar su cuerpo verticalmente para alcanzar objetos en lo alto. Si tenemos problemas para darnos una idea de como solucionar los puzzles (un tip como se dice) podemos clickear el icono superior derecho (una lamparita) que nos orientara para seguir nuestro camino y si realmente te rendis no hace falta buscar una guia solo debemos acceder a un minijuego (en la parte superior derecha tambien) en un libro que recuerda mucho a los antigüos matamarcianos sidescroll. Vale aclarar que los puzzles estan espectacularmente armados y proveeran a los jugones de la vieja escuela un desafio. A mi personalmente me costaron mucho pero no soy un asiduo jugador de aventuras graficas; como agregado hace referencias a juegos de antaño un ejemplo seria un cameo al lado de la puerta del arcade nada mas ni nada menos que Space Invaders.

Musica y sonidos:

La musica derrocha calidad, tiene tonos jazzeros de a momentos, tranquila, melancolica, te sumerge en ese mundo bohemio y como si fuera poco al ser en su totalidad ambiental realiza un trabajo estupendo para calmarte cuando estas “luchando” contra un puzzle en tu cabeza. Ahora mismo la estoy escuchandolo para realizar esta reseña. Es importante destacar que fue creada por Tomas Dvorak, artista contemporaneo checo del cual recomiendo, si les ha gustado, sus otros trabajos musicales firmados con el pseudonimo de Floex. Los sonidos son acordes a la situacion, no destacan pero acompañan.

Controles y estabilidad:

El sitema de controles es simple, como en toda aventura grafica usamos casi enteramente el mouse, pero en los minijuegos tenemos la opcion de usar el teclado, haciendo la interface mucho mas intiuitiva y estimulante; con respecto a la estabilidad personalmente no tuve ningun problema, pero a algunos amigos tuvieron problema con el save del juego, ya que lo tomaba como archivo temporal y al pasar el ccleanr se eliminaba; debido a eso Amanita Design creo un parche de estabilidad rapidamente, se puede acceder a el via el blog de la empresa. Las nuevas ediciones del juego vienen con los parches incorporados.

Valor:

Su version en formato virtual puede conseguirse a 20 dolares en la pagina del Machinarium, con el OST incluido en formato mp3 para windows, mac o linux. Ademas para windows puede conseguirse via Steam, Impulse (para comprar esa version hasle click aqui), Direct 2 Drive y Gamers Gate; como si esto fuera poco, puede conseguirse la vercion fisica que fue lanzada este año que contiene el OST, un poster y un artwork en formato fisico para mac y windows a un precio especial de 7 libras via e bay o amazon.

Conclucion:

Una experiencia inigualable recomiendo que prueben los otros juegos de la empresa, en especial el Samorost 1 y 2

 

Links de interes:

Amanita design blog: http://machinarium.net/blog/ (se puede bajar la demo)
Amanita design website: http://www.amanitadesign.com/