Metal Gear Solid 4

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Metal Gear Solid 4

Back in 1998 I was almost unaware of Metal Gear Solid on the original PlayStation. It wasn’t until Metal Gear Solid 2 was announced that I was aware of how popular the series really was. I played the remake of the original called Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes on the Nintendo Gamecube and loved it. I also loved the 2nd and (especially) the 3rd game on PS2. However it took me until just recently to get a PS3, and I made sure Metal Gear Solid 4 would be my first adventure on the console.
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 The game takes place five years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 2, with most of the world in some type of war or conflict. Snake is taken out of retirement for one last mission. He arrives in the Middle East but later will visit other areas of the world including one very familiar spot. The newest game-play additions are the 3rd person aim, a chameleon-like camouflage suit, and a new (and ironically inferior) radar.
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I will have to say, even with all my experience with the Metal Gear series I had to take some time adjusting to Metal Gear Solid 4. The first area you land in is a total war-zone and using stealth is much different than before. Also in the older games, most of the non-boss enemies were typically average soldiers, but you are now faced with unmanned vehicles. Such as the walking Gekko tanks which are quite fearsome.
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Overall I thought 4 was a fantastic game. Though while I enjoyed the story, there was some parts I wished were different such as Snake’s accelerated aging. While I enjoyed the variety of each location, some (especially the last one) don’t just make stealth optional but it’s almost impossible to get passed many areas without an epic battle. While the third game is my favorite (so far) in the series, the fourth lives up to its pedigree.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

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Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

When Super Mario Kart landed on the SNES back in 1992, it was one of the most beloved racing games of all-time. Sega countered Mario with Sonic R on the Sega Saturn, and I considered it one of the most horrible games I’ve played. I did play a little of the original Sonic & All-Stars Racing on the Xbox 360, and was honestly shocked by its quality. Impressed by it’s predecessor, I decided to see if the sequel was any good.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Like Mario Kart, Transformed is a simple go-kart (sorta) racer with power-ups that either help you or slow down your opponents.  While I wasn’t terribly familiar with the original, I can tell the new feature in the game is the ability for your car to morph. It can fly in the air as a plane or ride the waves as a boat.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
 The single player features a rather impressive world tour mode which features challenges at your own pace. The good majority of the challenges are against A.I. opponents in a race to the finish. But there are also some unique ones here and there like a drift challenge and a challenge that has you maneuvering through traffic. And of course like any racing game from this decade, an online-mode to race friends and strangers.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Overall I ended up enjoying Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed a good bit. I thought the game had surpassed Mario Kart in offering a more full-filling campaign mode. Though the actual racing isn’t as fun as Mario Kart, and the boat and plane transformations aren’t that revolutionary. When compared to Sonic R, it’s a masterpiece, but overall Mario is still a good bit better than Sonic.
Score: 7 out of 10

Mega Man 9

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If Capcom was so intent in keeping Mega Man 9 in an era of NES classics, why are we paying for downloadable content? All of that work to keep this firmly planted in its roots is wasted if you can unlock secret characters with cash instead of skill. ~Matt Paprocki

Mega Man 9

There’s something wrong with Mega Man 9: It doesn’t fit. That’s not necessarily a knock against the game itself, but purely a poor design call by Capcom. Why have we went back all the way to Mega Man 1 and 2, when the last game was on the PlayStation and Saturn?

MegaMan 9 - PS3

The true 8-bit stylings run deep through this retro revival, in the truest sense. This is a NES game, right down the flicker. The music is phenomenal, the pixel art excellent, and boss design mostly interesting (Galaxy Man looking a little too much like the obscure Japanese monster Guilala).

MegaMan 9 - PS3

Here’s the problem though. Mega Man 9 is hard, and any fan of the series should expect that. However, Capcom has taken that mentality and multiplied it, creating some absolutely absurd level designs that even die-hard masochists will frown upon. While past Mega Man games relied on memorization and precision, Mega Man 9 requires a higher level of both. You can almost hear the level designers laughing at how devilishly difficult certain segments are.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

It’s certainly up for debate whether or not this is an attractive feature or a reason not to buy. Regardless of where you stand, you have to agree that a certain level of fun is still necessary for this game to succeed, and much of the difficulty saps that away.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

Part of the problem is the original 8-bit style, and that means true original 8-bit. Even though Mega Man 3 introduced the slide move and Mega Man 4 brought us the Mega Buster, Mega Man 9 has neither of those. If you can get past the graphical downgrade which doesn’t let this game fit into the timeline, not including these classic maneuvers really messes with your head.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

That’s not saying the visuals are bad. In fact, they’re wonderful, especially just to see the style brought back (the dragon mid-boss is arguably the highlight). The problem is in calling this Mega Man 9, it’s following a 16-bit and 32-bit entry. Making a Bionic Commando sequel that looked like this would have made far more sense given that franchise lived and died on 8-bit hardware.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

Also, if Capcom was so intent in keeping this in an era of NES classics, why are we paying for downloadable content? All of that work to keep this firmly planted in its roots is wasted if you can unlock secret characters with cash instead of skill. This is such an authentic experience, you can’t switch weapons with the triggers. You need to enter the pause menu. Yet, we need to pay more for a complete game.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

From a pure play perspective, Mega Man 9 is fine. It’s the same game any true gamer should have played numerous times before. The platforming is spot-on, as are the controls. The bosses maintain their own attack patterns, acquired weapons do extra damage to the right enemy, and the final castle stage is an absolute nightmare to pass.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

Had this come out and been called Mega Man 7 on the NES, it would have been slammed by critics for being more of the same with nothing new to offer (much like Mega Man 6 was). However, the passage of time has gave way to warm nostalgia, which Mega Man 9 tried to bring back. In most cases, it does, but it more or less limps its way into your nostalgia-fueled mind instead of Mega Busting it.

Batman: Arkham City

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Batman: Arkham City doesn’t really rock the boat, content instead to offer up what is essentially an improved and expanded version of the last game. Apparently, sometimes that is more than good enough.~Aaron Izakowitz

Batman: Arkham City

When Batman: Arkham Asylum came out in 2009, it was a revelation. For decades, gamers had been conditioned to assume that any game based on a licensed property, particularly a superhero, would be at best decent and at worst execrableAsylum ignored all that, vaulting from relative obscurity to become a surprise Game of the Year contender and making Rocksteady Studios a top-tier developer overnight. Now, two years later comes its sequel, Batman: Arkham City, and the circumstances surrounding its release could not be more different. While Asylum had everything to prove, City has the perhaps even more unenviable task of trying to top its exemplary predecessor.
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Arkham City more than rises to the challenge, and it does, paradoxically, by taking the safe path. This is the very definition of an iterative sequel, with very few if any changes to the formula that made its predecessor a success. The environment is bigger, you have more tools, the combat has been improved with more combos and more varied enemies, you face more of Batman’s iconic villains, and the Riddler challenges are more numerous and more devious. It is what fans wanted and expected.
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It is also an astonishingly good game; unquestionably one of the best released this year. While this is perhaps more a testament to the quality of the first game than anything, the fact remains that Batman: Arkham City renders Asylum utterly obsolete, and makes it look easy.
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The story kicks off six months after the events of Asylum. Following the total breakdown of order on Arkham Island, the city of Gotham has cordoned off an entire district and converted it into a sort of megaprison, the titular Arkham City, with the megalomaniacal Professor Hugo Strange in charge. Surprisingly, Arkham City soon descends to the state of “wretched hellhole,” with Gotham’s supervillains rapidly setting up rival factions to vie for supremacy in the prison and forward their own nefarious ends.
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At the game’s outset, Bruce Wayne finds himself arrested and framed under ill-defined pretenses (more on this later). Before long he has donned the cowl and cape from within Arkham City and set out to get to the bottom of the mysterious circumstances surrounding Hugo Strange and his own incarceration. The plot, as you might expect, only spirals outward from there, and before long many prominent members of Batman’s rogue gallery have a part to play, including the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, a few others I shouldn’t spoil here, and of course, the Joker.
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While Arkham City qualifies as an “open world” game, it is not really a sandbox. Other than fighting random goons, there isn’t a whole lot to do if you are just wandering around. Rather, it is closest to something like Assassin’s Creed II. You always have a single story objective to work towards, but as you grapple, glide, and fight your way across the city, smaller, quick objectives will reveal themselves. By far the most common of these are the Riddler trophies, which are scattered quite liberally across the city, and many of which are in plain sight but require you to solve some sort of puzzle or riddle to obtain. Beyond these, there are crime scenes to investigate, bullet trajectories to recreate, Riddler informants to interrogate (which reveal the location of trophies on your map) and, for some reason, holographic rings floating in the air to fly through. It can all be a little overwhelming at times, but fortunately it’s all completely optional, and it’s always clear where to go next if you are only interested in advancing the story. Even better, if you see a Riddler trophy that you don’t feel like tackling immediately, you can now tag it and it will appear on your minimap, a very welcome feature.
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Once on a story mission, things become very similar to the first game. Stealth and hand-to-hand combat are both back mostly unchanged, with some added wrinkles. In stealth mode, for example, certain enemies might have a signal jammer which disables your detective vision, or a thermal vision upgrade which allows them to see you even when you are hiding in the rafters, which will obviously influence your plan of attack. Combat sees similar additions. Goons equipped with body armor, riot shields, knives, and stunguns are all in the mix, each requiring a unique approach. Fortunately, your arsenal has also been expanded. The game’s story thankfully does not contrive some reason to strip Batman of all his abilities at the beginning, so you start the game with a healthy range of options, and your toolset only grows over the course of the game.
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Once you complete the campaign, which took me somewhere from 12 to 15 hours with moderate sidequesting, there is plenty of additional content on the disc to keep you coming back. The Challenge modes, both combat and predator, return largely unchanged, complete with online leaderboards. A new addition is what they are calling Campaigns, which have a string of different challenges to be played in a sequence, with optional modifiers to either assist the player, such as regenerating health, or provide an extra challenge, like a time attack mode. There is also a New Game Plus, which lets you play through the game with all your upgrades and trophies unlocked but retools the game somewhat to provide an extra challenge. On top of all this, there is a huge amount of supplemental material including concept art, character biographies, and a lengthy history of Arkham City, all of which are unlocked by collecting enough Riddler trophies.
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Again, in many ways these are exactly the sorts of enhancements and tweaks that we have come to expect from a sequel. It’s true that Batman: Arkham City doesn’t really rock the boat, content instead to offer up what is essentially an improved and expanded version of the last game. Apparently, sometimes that is more than good enough.
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In short: Batman: Arkham City, is really, really fun. It’s so fun you will literally yell in disbelief at how sweet whatever you just did was, and you will do it a lot. It’s so fun you will make your roommate/significant other/whoever walks into the room watch you play it so that they, too, can appreciate just how awesome you are. I can think of very few games that are more satisfying to just play. Simply traversing the city, using your grappling hook to fling yourself into the sky and then divebombing and pulling up to gain momentum, is an absolute joy. The predator sections of the game are even tenser than before, with the enemies’ new gadgets robbing you of what little security you once had. The rhythmic combat system, which at first seems like a button masher but which ultimately rewards careful observation and focus, remains the best brawler that I’ve played, period. Whether you just race through the story missions or take your time to explore all the extra content to its fullest, the game is expertly paced, invisibly propelling you forward. Layered on top of all this is a satisfying progression system, which provides you with a new ability or gadget just when you feel like you have mastered the game.
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As in the first game, Rocksteady has taken a fantasy that, let’s face it, everyone has had at some point in their lives and made it as close to a reality as anyone will ever experience. Every aspect of the game’s design reinforces the notion that you are Batman. His strength is in his careful planning and execution, and if you are impatient or sloppy in Arkham City, you will be punished. You are stronger and smarter than everyone else, but you are not invincible, and few games make you feel so powerful in such a tangible and realistic way.
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This pervasive sense of Batman-ness extends into the game’s presentation. Its world is an alchemic combination of elements from the comics, the animated series, and the various movies (even Joel Schumaker’s monstrosities have something to contribute), creating something familiar, yet distinct enough to stand apart from any of those universes. The new character designs are excellent, Mr. Freeze in particular. The game is not afraid to drift into the fantastical, indeed reveling in it at times, yet the universe feels gritty enough to give the characters’ actions some weight.
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Vocal performances are also generally pretty sharp. Mark Hamill reprises his outstanding performance as the Joker, who finds himself in an unusually vulnerable position this time around.  The Riddler remains incredibly obnoxious, as befits the character, with his constant taunts and boasts. The new characters, for the most part, make a strong impression. Unfortunately, nameless thugs have uniformly terrible dialogue and acting, constantly spouting off lines that no person in the world would ever say, shouting exposition at the top of their lungs for any passing Batmen to pick up on, and yelling ridiculous taunts to Batman as he flies by or hunts them from above. It’s not quite Splinter Cell: Conviction bad, but it does infringe on the authenticity of the game’s atmosphere a bit.
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While the premise and setting are very effective, the actual plot has some significant problems. The most immediate concern is that the game’s writers seem to have forgotten to include a beginning. The central conceit of the game, that Gotham would rededicate an entire district for a prison, run by known madman Hugo Strange, is pretty outlandish, even for a comic book property, and this is only made worse by the total lack of explanation. There is a comic book that comes with new copies of the game that fills in the gaps between the last game and this one, but if you haven’t read it (as I hadn’t, and as I suspect many won’t), or actively sought out information on this game online, then the opening of this game will be very confusing, and indeed many things are never explained at all. The plot’s twists and turns can at times feel a little contrived, like they exist solely to get Batman to a new location, particularly towards the beginning of the game. Some of the characters’ motivations also don’t really make a lot of sense under scrutiny. The ending, while better than that of Arkham Asylum, is a little abrupt, and ends on a fairly lazy cliffhanger.

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More significant problems lie in the game’s handling of Catwoman. She was a major part of its presentation and marketing, and we’ve known for months now that she would be a playable character. This is indeed true, as there are a handful of episodes strewn throughout the game in which you control Catwoman. Unfortunately, these episodes are all very short, and it turns out playing as Catwoman is a lot like playing as Batman but without any of the gadgets that make playing as Batman enjoyable. She has very few combat options compared to Batman, and she gets around more or less just by pouncing really high. Her stealth sections are entirely dependent on her ability to jump up and hang upside-down from chain-link ceilings and then descend on enemies when they are isolated, which…is not a thing that cats do. Also, what kind of building has chain-link ceilings? Beyond that, Catwoman herself is annoying, with absolutely no depth beyond making pointless cat jokes and flirting lamely with everyone she sees.
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There is another, rather ugly, aspect to Catwoman’s presence in the game. In an effort to curb used game sales, Rocksteady (or, more likely, Warner Bros.) have chosen to lock off the Catwoman portions of the game with a code included in new copies of the game. What this means is that the first time you play the game, you will have to enter this code and then download around 250MB of data, just to play a part of the game that was clearly meant to be there the whole time. This is after the requisite patching and, on PS3, installation. If you didn’t buy the game new, you will have to buy the Catwoman DLC for $10. While the Catwoman sections are the weakest part of the game, I feel like their absence would result in some confusion, and it’s disappointing to see what was clearly intended to be an integral part of the game gated behind an anti-used game sale measure. It’s more annoying than anything, but I sincerely hope this does not become a trend.
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Despite all of these problems, the fact remains that Batman: Arkham City is an absolutely stellar game. Its story issues, while substantial, do absolutely nothing to temper the quality of the overall experience. From its thrilling open world traversal to its hair-raising predator sequences to its unparalleled melee combat system, every element of the game reflects dedication to the source material and the talent and expertise of Rocksteady Studios. It’s a tour de force that cements their position at the top of the industry. At the risk of sounding gushy or hyperbolic, Batman: Arkham City is the sort of game that will remind you of why you like videogames in the first place.

F1 2011

F1 2011

For Ps3,Xbox 360 3DS, PC and Playstaion Vita,
release: September 2011 20th(US) 22nd(Aus) 23rd(UK)

F1 2011

F1 2011 (the game) is a sequel to the BAFTA winning FORMULA ONE videogame from Codemasters. And coming with the tagline ‘Be The Driver, Live the Life, Go Compete’ I wish! well the live the life bit 🙁

The first game, whilst a rush to publish, had all the game elements and polish fans of the F1 series were looking for.  Now with more time for the developers to ….erm develop, the sequel promises the following.

F1 2011

Co-op Championships and split-screen mode,
16 players in online Grand Prix mode with 8 ai drivers to complete the pack.
Two new circuits in India and Germany
All twelve teams and twenty-four drivers, all the new rules, KERS, and DRS
New Parc Ferme area, expanded and revamped Paddock, Pit Lane, celebration and reaction cinematics,
Enhanced media interaction system, “Authentic” new damage failures,
New atmospheric effects, dynamic clouds, advanced rain model affecting on-track grip

F1 2011

New!!! however does not necessarily mean better , but I am impressed with the additions.

Early reviews heaped lavish praise for improvements in handling and Ai and the additional layer of strategy in the game with the inclusion of KERS and DRS.  However it was the lauded Ai which also drew the potentially most damaging criticism, suggesting it made the game very difficult. And what about all those “NEW” additions? nope game critics weren’t overly impressed suggesting they did little to change the core gameplay.  Which is kinda good as the first title was a cracker, even though I still can’t get first place at Monaco grrrrrr!

F1 2011

Currently scoring 85% (xbox), 86% (Ps3) on Metacritic, seems we have a winner 🙂

F1 2011

Reviews Summary:
The most complete representation of the sport to date
A must buy for F1 fans, a better game than last year
An absolute blast, whichever skill level you approach it from
Strip away the new lick of paint and it’s tough to tell F1 2011 apart from its predecessor
well-crafted and solid racing simulation, doesn’t shine on innovation
For a seasonal update there’s a remarkable number of tweaks and changes
Play it properly, and F1 2011 is an incredibly satisfying experience
Not without its problems, but it has moved the series forward

Demon’s Souls

Demon Souls

Demon’s Souls has been out for awhile now in the US, but only recently has gotten released in some other locations. I put off picking this up because while it looked and sounded good, I tend to wait until games are a bit cheaper to acquire them. Additionally, the game is always being touted as insanely hard, and in my ‘old age’ I’ve grown to enjoy slightly less taxing games. Sure, as a kid I walloped on Ghosts & Goblins, the Ninja Gaiden games, Contra without the 30 lives code and plenty of others. However, I’ve gotten to a point where getting my butt handed to me by lines of code does sometimes get frustrating and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take this particular plunge.

Demon Souls

However, I can say after giving this game a good long play, it was a lot of fun – despite some frustrating moments along the way. That said, I feel like the game can be had at an incredible value, if you are someone who can enjoy a challenging game without getting too frustrated with it.

Graphics – 8.5:

Demon Souls
The animations sometimes feel just a shade off, but the magic and fire effects are nice, and the world is imaginatively presented. I’ve also seen some slowdown at odd times; and a world of lag and slowdown when one of my matches got invaded. That might fall under something other than graphics, but it was graphics that seemed the most affected (I was blocking but taking huge damage from a guy who also appeared to be blocking. Things were just not lining up at all). That said, the rest of the game looked really good, with some very impressive scenes – some of which really stood out (like the dragon sweeping the bridge to burn everyone on it).

Music and sound – 9.0:

Demon Souls
All in all, it sounds good. Narration is solid, sound effects are somewhat varied with voice acting at most interactions. The voice acting is not always great, and I wish I could just skip through the repetitive people sitting in the Nexus. I have surround sound however, and it should be noted that it has been a lifesaver for me at times in this game; on par with the zings of Modern Warfare’s bullets. The music is also very impressive. It fits the theme of the game wonderfully.

Gameplay – 8.5:
Demon Souls
This is a tough one for me. The game responds pretty well most of the time, though the lock-on mechanism can get you in trouble early on until you master it. As I’ve mentioned, the game can be hard. Now, I don’t think it’s quite as hard as some people make it out to be, but there are some cheap deaths in there (a pit you see that it looks like you should be able to descend but actually leads to death, any time something knocks you back when you’re on stairs/a ledge, or a ridiculously hard enemy you have no business fighting but might not have any idea of).

Intangibles – 9.5:

Demon Souls

New game plus is cool, if brutal. Tons of customization. A deep game that makes you feel like you’re genuinely learning as you play. I mentioned above that there were cheap deaths, but most of the time it’s just your own fault for not handling the situation properly. Also, the online aspects really deserve to be mentioned. There’s a unique, almost beautiful in my mind, system of online play where you can see bloodstains on the ground and see the final moments of a player’s life. There’s been several times I touched it and watched someone barrel ahead only to get dropped from an attack they never saw coming – but I did thanks to that experience. Also you can leave messages that you can rate as useful as well. There was one part with a bridge and a dragon swooping down where the advice saved my arse. The PVP aspects I’m kind of down on. It’s creatively handled when you can invade someone else’s realm, or they can invade yours, but almost every time it’s happened my game stuttered and broke up pretty badly. I’ve seen others complain about the same thing and the general response from others is: play offline. In my opinion, you’re doing yourself an overall disservice if you do so. It adds a tremendous sense of ‘life’ to your world when you see ghosted images of other players, bloodstains and messages on the ground.

Overall – 8.75:

Demon Souls

Demon’s Souls is hard. It’s meant to be hard. There is no easy mode. It doesn’t hold your hand or give you easy replays like Final Fantasy 13 does. It does however create a challenging, atmospheric adventure that if you can play without getting too frustrated, will provide you with a good deal of accomplishment as you conquer new tasks. The online features are pretty unique and for the most part they’re enjoyable, if not perfect. Adding to the game’s value in my mind is how much cheaper it has gotten of late. Gamestop had new copies for $40 and used for $26. Not bad for a game that many people thought of as Game of the Year for the PS3. I’m not sure I’d give it that particular title this year or last, but it is a solid action-RPG game that gives you a lot to do on your adventures.

Saints Row IV

Saints Row 4 cover

Saints Row started out as a GTA parody (which in itself is supposed to be a parody of real life) but has grown into something beyond that… way beyond that! Although I haven’t played the first Saints Row game (which I believe only came out on the consoles) I have played every game from Saints Row 2 and up. In Saints Row 2 you are the leader of a street gang and are fighting all the other gangs for control of the city. In SR3 you are fighting an evil megacorp for control of the city (again). Well in 4 you skip the scale of trying to take over a state or a country by saving the world from nuclear Armageddon and becoming the president of the United States of America. That’s not all but very quickly after the game starts Aliens attack Earth, the humans lose, you and your friends get abducted and placed in a virtual jail.

So, right from the start the game skips being a GTA clone and quickly becomes something like the game Prototype, and that’s a VERY good thing. Imagine the movie Chronicle meets the Matrix except that instead of being a pussy like Neo you go around trying to break the rules of reality and morality by doing a bunch of crazy shit! You gain super powers that completely change the game around the more powers you gain, as well as upgrade them to be even more metapowerful. Effectively you are the comic book character The Flash mixed with the main character from Prototype as well as a mage… basically you are a God. 😀

Now think of how awesome it would be to be a God in a universe with little or no consequence as well as being inside of Saints Row a game with some of the best humor ever found in video games. This is a winning combination!

You will find all sorts of references in this game to TRON, the Matrix, Dark City, Chronicle, most super hero comics you ever read, something like Highlander and Buffy, text adventure games, 90s side scroller games, 80s-90s arcade games, every previous Saints Row game, the Commodore 64, space operas, Mass Effect, Inception, pop culture, Pleasantville, Shadowrun, Warhammer 40k, Keith David, They Live, Roddy Piper, and so on.

Graphics: 10 out of 10
The Havok engine is simply beautiful and is efficient!

Music: 9 out of 10
Holy shit they put real songs in this game such as music from Aerosmith and Paula Abdul and others. Some of the game’s score is a remix of SR3 music and that’s amazing!

Fun Factor: 10 out of 10
It’s fun telepathically picking up a flaming garbage truck and flinging it into a stack of aliens. Most of the game involves going around doing mini games which often results in a lot of explosions. It took me a long time to get bored of it.

Difficulty: 5 out of 10
I found the game easy even on hard. Yes, there are a few parts that are freaking hard on hard but it doesn’t take many retries to finally beat them. Since you can summon allies the more you hack the simulation it becomes easy (at least for me).

Value: 10 out of 10
I would say buy it at any price, especially if you have a friend that has it, you can play the co-op campaign.

Overall score: 10 out of 10
Stop reading this and go play it. The universe needs you to save it from an evil alien overlord.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

General

Naughty Dog has come back with the third installment of the acclaimed Uncharted series and each game that has come out has been better than the last. As amazing as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves(2009) was, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception takes it to a new level yet again with utilizing the capabilites of the PS3 graphics engine and now having only a slight amount of noticeable glitches. There is no question why this is my choice for the 2011 game of the year even with Assassin’s Creed Revelations and Batman: Arkham City in the running.

Nathan Drake
The graphics are some of the best I’ve seen…ever.

Naughty Dog and the History of the Uncharted Series:

Naughty Dog is known for their older, not-as-serious series of Crash Bandicoot and Jak. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune(2007) took me by surprise with how impressive it was and reminded me Naughty Dog actually existed. It had the God of War properties of real time actions but still somehow ran fluidly like a movie with its unexpected twists, climbs and drops in drama, and action scenes. It had me on the edge of my seat like the other two that had yet to come. Uncharted 2 was the same concept but improved with better graphics and an even more engaging story. Now I need to mention something about the word “same” in the world of gaming. The word “same” is usually more attached to the negative than positive. If a sequel is the “same” it can mean it’s repetitive and who wants to pay $60 for a sequel when the prequel can simply be played again? Assassin’s Creed Revelations (review coming soon, hopefully) seems to be getting the heap by those who aren’t fans of the series for this reason. It plays exactly like the two others about Ezio before it. I don’t think so but I’m also an avid fan.

Anyway, Back to the Point…

Uncharted 3, considering controls and gameplay itself is not unlike is predecessors in any way, but Naughty Dog made that work. The Story is compelling and always moving forward. The lack of side quests could help make this possible but you will know if and when you play it that isn’t the only reason why it has such an amazing narrative.

Specifics on the Story Which Are Spoiler Free, I Promise

It shouldn’t be new, especially if you enjoyed the last two games, that Nathan Drake is our modern “Indiana Jones” type except with a realistic attitude and personality. The adventure our heroes progress through can be considered such as well with its historical legends, grave digging, and treasure hunting. “Nate” is only human which makes the story that much more agreeable. Naughty Dog has mastered the way of taking something no one has done research on or never seen and coming up with their own background with backup which is created or not.

Sounds Amazing. Why a 9 and Not 10?

The satisfaction the last two games brought you may not be there this time around. The game seemed rushed and too short, and the final boss seems to be the easiest part of the game. Otherwise, it’s a wonderful experience.

Could be played by:
New players to the series with a few things to be considered:
-All story with no sidequests
-Glitches though they are few and far between
-Difficulty randomly spikes
-These are hardly problems

Fans of the series:
-Go get it.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJuyv_ckh98[/youtube]

Notes:
I didn’t mention the multiplayer because I haven’t played it and I can’t considering my copy is rented from Gamefly.

It is rumored Naughty Dog is working on a third person shooting game for 2013.

The soundtrack is impressive but that isn’t a surprise.

Nolan North is the voice actor for Nathan Drake and interestingly enough, Desmond Miles in the Assassin’s Creed series.

 

Heavy Rain

 Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain poster
Heavy Rain poster

One Sentence Review:
“One hell of an interactive movie”

Overall score:
9.0 out of 10

Overview:

The game is basically an interactive movie, where you guide the character through events by pressing different buttons or a combination of buttons in order to progress in the story line.

The game starts off with Ethan Mars, a loving husband and father of two boys. On the birthday of his eldest son Jason, Ethan loses track of him in a busy mall. He finds his son outside in the middle of the street, seconds away from being hit by an oncoming car. Ethan jumps in an attempt to save him, but Jason is killed, and Ethan falls into a coma for six months. Two years later, Ethan suffers from depression. He and his wife had separated, and his remaining son, Shaun, is distant toward him.

Ethan also suffers from blackouts, in which he finds himself waking up in a street corner with an origami figure in his hand. One day, while at the park with his son Shaun, Ethan has a blackout, and wakes up to discover his son is missing.

Shaun’s dissapearance is linked to the Origami Killer, who is known for abducting young boys between the ages of 9 and 13 and drowning them in rainwater. Their bodies are found in the wastelands, with an orchid on their chest and a origami figure in their hand. With only a few days until the rain level rises, Ethan has to find and rescue his son before he is killed.

You also take the role of three other characters who’s stories also interwine with Ethan and the Origami Killer:

Scott Shelby: A private detective investigating the origami murders.
Madison Paige: A journalist suffering from insomnia who crosses paths with Ethan Mars.
Norman Jayden: An FBI agent addicted to Triptocaine, who is also investigating the origami murders.

heavy-rain-image

Fun Factor:

You have the power to alter the outcome of each senario in multipule ways. It all depends on what you say and what you chose to do. Of course, this game will have you on the edge of your seat, wanting to know what happens next.

Difficulty:

There is no difficulty in the game. The thing I like about this game is that there is no fail, there is no Game Over. No matter what choices you make, whether it’s right or wrong, the story continues, and its characters move on.

heavyrain-gameplay

Replayability:

Very high. Like I said earlier, you have the power to alter the outcome of every senario in multiple ways. So it’s always fun to replay the game and make different choices to see what happens.

Sound:
8 out of 10. Overall sound effects are great, but sometimes its hard to hear what the characters say, especially for Jayden.

Graphics:

10 out of 10. Awesome. Amazing graphics. This is the only game I’ve seen so far where the characters and the surroundings look so real.

Controls:

8 out of 10. It very easy to move the character around to interact. During cut-scenes, which is like 90% of the game, you have to press certain buttons or a combination of buttons depending on the situation you’re in. Usually it’s X, O, triangle and square, or moving the joystick in different directions… but some combinations are hard getting used to, especially when you’re given a certain amount of time to do it. It’s sometimes hard to see what the character is thinking, especially when they are jittery and nervous, so you’ll often find yourself pressing the wrong button.

Heavy-Rain-Wallpaper-2

Conclusion:

A very original and innovative game. A must have, or to at least experience for any PS3 owner.

Demon’s Souls

Demon’s Soul box
Demon’s Soul box

Demon’s Souls

If the hype surrounding the PS3 exclusive Demon’s Souls was to be believed, I was looking forward to a game with a brutal difficulty not seen since the heyday of Rygar and Battletoads; one that had a more terrifying atmosphere than Silent Hill; and with more varied and gruesome ways to die than Dragon’s Lair combined with Space Quest. In short, the ultimate challenge for the hard-core. With the bar set so high, it seemed likely to disappoint in at least some respects. What I found was a flawed but thoroughly enjoyable third person hack and slash/dungeon crawler that threatened to send me to a video game addiction clinic before I finally managed to best it.

The basic mechanics of the game can be summed up as follows: “Kill Demons, Get Souls”. Souls are released by killing enemies and they can also be found on the corpses of deceased adventurers. Souls are effectively the unit of currency in this game and can be used to buy items, repair or upgrade equipment, learn miracles and magic, and even upgrade your character’s stats. If you die, you start back at the beginning of the level as a spirit and with all of your souls gone. There will be blue-glowing bloodstain at approximately where the game determined you messed up (if you fell down a well, for instance, it will be just before you left the ground), and if you can reach it before dying again, you can get your souls back.

Demon's Soul character
Demon’s Soul character

Combat is action-packed and extremely unforgiving. Button mashers won’t make it very far, as many of the enemies have good shields and are only vulnerable after they attack. Defensive players can turn a fight their way with a perfectly timed parry/riposte combo or open themselves up for a flurry of blows. Almost anything can kill you, so situational awareness is a must-have to survive. The game’s wide variety of weaponry and shields can be equipped in either hand and there are spells and items that can be used to enchant them. Demon’s Souls has an item upgrade system where blacksmiths can fortify your equipment in exchange for various types of ore. Some of the benefits include adding poison, bleeding, or fire damage; health or mana regeneration; and bonuses to critical hits, to name a few.

Demon's Soul
Demon’s Soul

Player characters are customizable down to the bone structure of the face and there are several “classes” to choose from that ultimately only effect your initial equipment and stats. One is free to upgrade their combat skills as they see fit and pursue different avenues of magic or types of weaponry. It may take a considerable amount of stat upgrading to do so, but it is very possible to turn a robe-clad magician into a full-plate wearing berserker with a sword nearly twice his size.

The game consists of a central hub called the Nexus that serves as your home base and has passageways to the five worlds. Each has its own distinctive art style and feel including a European castle with all the requisite archers, pikemen, and a couple of fire-breathing dragons; a shantytown filled with plague-rats, mosquitoes, and leeches, all surrounded by some of the most disgusting swampland imaginable; a temple full of samurai skeletons and flying manta-rays; and a mine that seems to go the depths of capital H hell. Each world has three or four stages each with a boss Demon that must be defeated. The souls of the boss Demons can be traded to different NPCs in exchange for spells and miracles, and in some cases, can be used to create powerful weapons.

Demon's Soul nexus
Demon’s Soul nexus

One of the innovative features in Demon’s Souls is the world tendency system. Tendency ranges in a continuum from pure white to pure black and can affect many aspects of the game. The player’s health in soul form is higher in a white world tendency and lower in the black. The amount and difficulty of enemies ramps up the blacker you get, and the type of loot dropped is also a factor. Some NPCs will only appear in pure tendencies, and there are even portions of the levels that are otherwise inaccessible until a certain world tendency has been reached. There is a system in place for keeping track of character tendency as well but it has a less dramatic effect on the game except in a few select situations.

Demon's Soul nexus
Demon’s Soul nexus

Players navigate through the game’s areas while either alive or dead. In corporeal form, the player has more health and the ability to summon up to two Blue Phantoms (spirit form players) to help him defeat the stage’s Boss Demon. Being alive has its drawbacks: dying in a level will shift the game’s world tendency towards black. There also exists the threat of being invaded and killed by a soul-hungry Black Phantom player. Spirits gain bodily form by defeating a boss Demon or assisting a player as a Blue Phantom (both of which will shift world  tendency), successfully invading and killing a host player as a Black Phantom (world and character shifted to black), or by using a magical item.

Demon's Soul shrine
Demon’s Soul shrine

In addition to the relatively seamless co-op and PVP experience, players are able to see ghostly images of other adventurers in the same areas, as well as the ability to give them hints or lure them to their doom. One of the first things you’ll notice while playing online are pools of blood scattered around. These are grisly remainders of other players that have died. By touching a bloodstains, you are able to see the last four or five seconds leading up to that player’s demise. This can be a great way to spot traps and ambushes that would otherwise give little to no warning. Another way that players can interact is by leaving messages, which can be entered through a Madlibs-style system using a library of the game’s terminology. Players can vote up useful messages and this will reward their creators with health. There is no way to down-vote messages that are misleading, false, or simply situated in places that will kill you if you try to read them, unfortunately, but there are a couple of messages (“beware false messages”, “liar!”, etc.) that can be left as tip-offs.

Demon's Soul shrine
Demon’s Soul shrine

For players that manage to finish the game’s main quest, a NG+ is available to start at the beginning with a character’s weaponry and stats intact to fight through an even more sadistic challenge. The game’s difficulty increases the more times you beat it (up to NG+8, at least!).  There is an in-game hall of fame called the Pantheon to show off the players that have the highest number of souls, most trophies achieved, etc. and this can be helpful to see what sort of equipment is favored by the best.

I had been following this game for a while, back before it was announced that there was even going to be a North American version and many people were importing Demon’s Souls from Japan. Gaming forums were full of people trading war stories about how many different ways they died before beating the first level, and I think the average was about twenty. Import sales continued to rise to the point where Demon’s Souls was released stateside. I snagged a copy from Amazon but it languished on my shelf for a couple of months before I decided to break the plastic and possibly my spirit by playing it for myself.

Demon's Soul shrine
Demon’s Soul shrine

When I finally worked up the courage to pop this game into my PS3, I was immediately grabbed by its atmospheric soundtrack and the bleakness of the art direction. The tutorial level showed me the basics of the game mechanics and drove home the message that a scrawny demon with a broken sword and no shield could easily take me down if I didn’t watch myself in combat. More and stronger baddies are introduced including the dreaded blue-eye knights with the ability to bash your shield out of your hands, chain three or four attacks together, and heal themselves if somebody did manage to wound them. More advanced combat tactics were required, such as the parry/riposte combo. I eventually found out that if I could get behind an enemy, there is a brutal backstab attack that would make the TF2 spy blush. Past the knight was an even bigger foe: the morbidly obese Vanguard demon that swings a battle axe twice the size of your character. I was under the impression that this was an unwinnable fight to utterly demoralize new players since the tutorial level invariably ends with your death, but I’ve read that it is possible to beat Vanguard here, even with the newbie equipment.

Demon's Soul valley
Demon’s Soul valley

The next couple of hours were a blur of gristly deaths. I would get past one obstacle and find myself stabbed, ambushed, crushed by a trap, toasted by a dragon, stabbed again, filled with crossbow bolts, and impaled by the blue-eye’s tougher counterpart: the red-eye knight. I was nearly at the home stretch but missed a step going down a spiral staircase and found myself plummeting to my doom, landing right on the switch that opened the gate to the end-boss. Obsolete Gamer cohort Stirge dubbed this game “You Can’t Win” around this point, which I think has a nicer ring than my nickname: “Kill Yourself Dungeon 3000”.

Demon's Soul tunnel
Demon’s Soul tunnel

There are few things that I didn’t like about this game and I don’t want them drowned out in a flood of praise for the stuff that was done right.

  • The targeting system stinks; when locked on to an enemy, it changes the controls so that moving side to side will strafe around a target rather than turn. This is usually a good thing when fighting one-on-one, but throw two or three extra combatants into the mix, and I’ll find myself dodging right into someone else’s attack or even off of a cliff. Also, if an enemy is out of range to be targeted, it will reset the camera, usually to face the wrong direction.
  • The camera is your biggest enemy. Demon’s Souls has a pretty good third-person camera system assuming you’re in an open area without a lot of debris. The camera fails miserably when in underground catacombs, some of which can be quite twisty and hard to maneuver even when you can see where you’re going.
  • When logging into the server, the world tendency will be reset to the average of all players, which can make it very hard to get to pure black or pure white. There are some occasions where the tendency will be set to pure white or pure black, such as holidays or announcements from the developers, but aside from special server events, logging in shouldn’t affect anything.
  • You can get booted back to the main menu if your internet connection becomes broken while playing online. I’ve found it better to play offline than have to gamble with the PS Network logging me out.
  • Contra-lag. The game can slow down if there’s too much stuff on the screen, like in the old-school space shooters. In some games, this bug ends up like a feature; a free bullet-time mode when things got hectic. This is unacceptable in a next-gen title.
  • This one is a minor gripe, but there is no way to sell items to merchants, so the only way to get any currency is by slaying demons or eating soul items.
Demon's Soul tunnel
Demon’s Soul tunnel

Every time you die, you start back at the beginning of the level, where you will have to fight past the legions of demonic assholes that you barely survived fighting in the first place, just to get back to your bloodstain. Many times, I’d find myself trying to rush through the beginning wave of enemies only to find myself mercilessly swordraped by some of the weakest dudes in the game.

There is a good variety to the Boss Demons. Some are relatively human-sized, others stand two-stories tall; most can kill you with a single attack, even if blocked with a good shield. The Dragon God from World 2 (Stonefang Mine) almost seems to have been borrowed from the Scarecrow sequences in Batman: Arhkam Asylum, as keeping out of the Dragon’s line of sight is the only way to survive.

Demon's Soul tunnel
Demon’s Soul tunnel

The Tower of Latria wins my award as having some of the game’s most freaky moments. You start near the top floor of a prison in a medieval castle and have to go through all five stories of it to find the keys that will let you out. There are narrow walkways and breaks in the floor that can drop you to your death if you’re not paying attention. Through the bars of the cells, you can see the emaciated forms of the prisoners, some of which will drop to their knees when you go by, as if they’re begging to be put out of their misery, others will hide in the shadows and try and shank you to death. Several lantern-carrying guards walk slowly up and down the corridors, and the only sound aside from the gibbering and shrieking of the prisoners is the eerie tolling of a bell that gets louder as the guards get closer. It somehow manages to get more disturbing once you get out of the prison and into the cathedral but I won’t spoil all the surprises. I also wouldn’t recommend playing this part right before bedtime.

Demon's Soul valley
Demon’s Soul valley

I would have to give high marks for nearly every aspect of the game’s presentation. The quality of the in-game graphics are pretty good, but perhaps a bit lacking when compared to some of the cinematic cut-scenes that introduce some of the bosses and locations. The levels are well designed and nuanced for the most part. The sound design pops; there are tons of great weapon clashes, monster growls and squeals, and magic effects. There isn’t a whole lot of voice acting in this game, but what little there is benefits from a diverse cast of expressive voices. The music ranges from epic symphonic scores to stuff that would fit right in to a 1970’s horror movie, but what I found interesting was the way that music cues are held back for boss fights or other major plot developments; for most of your time exploring the five worlds, you will be enveloped in ambient sound. This, along with the ghostly images of other players’ phantoms, helps heighten feelings of isolation and strangeness unique to Demon’s Souls.

Demon's Soul warning
Demon’s Soul warning

Playing online can be a blast if you don’t mind the occasional PVP encounter, as Black Phantom players can and will jump in on your game if you’re in body form and attempt to murder you at the most inopportune times. I’ve been able to recruit a couple of Blue Phantom players the last time that happened, and it ended up turning into a huge brawl. Summoning Blue Phantoms can be a double-edged sword, as the bosses get much harder the more players there are.

I think it was on the second or third night of my Demon’s Souls addiction, after a three hour soul-farming bender, that I left a cautionary sticky-note on the inside of the game’s case; a warning to future-me to think about what I was getting into. Of course, I didn’t pay it any heed; this game is too challenging and deep to blow off just because it’s aggravatingly hard. Also, this is one of the only games in recent memory to give me adrenaline rushes when the action gets furious. In closing, Demon’s Souls is a cruel mistress and if you like to wear nipple clamps or enjoy a good flogging, this one is for you. I’d like to leave you with some survival strategies I’ve picked up from my time with the game.

  • Watch your equipment encumbrance weight. You can load up to your maximum with a suit of plate armor and a comically large battle-axe, but this comes at the price of maneuverability. One the things that will save your skin is the rolling dodge, and if your endurance is too low for that amount of gear, you will end up on the ground for a few seconds in a very vulnerable way. The magic number to stay under is half of your maximum equipment weight.
  • Weapon upgrades. There are a limited number of Crystal Lizards that will spawn in each world, some of which are the only source for the various rare ores needed to upgrade your weapons. If you’re trying to trophy-whore this game, I recommend looking up a guide to finding out where the spawns are in advance.
  • On Royalty and magic. When I found out that the Royal class started out with a magic ring that can regenerate MP, I dumped my Temple Knight build and started the game anew. Talk about easy mode! Royals have practically no starting armor or weaponry to write home about, but the Fragrant ring is a great item for a caster, not to mention the fact that they also come equipped with Soul Arrow, the magic missile equivalent in Demon’s Souls. Having a pure caster almost breaks the game, however, as I was able to storm through most of the worlds blasting everything that moved with my pea shooter spell and effectively unlimited ammo, given a book or a magazine to read while it replenishes. I cheesed out some of the major bosses by nuking them from a distance or even by casting poison and running away. I beat the game but I feel like I’ve cheated myself in the process. Now I’m in the process of playing through as a fighter and the game is so much more challenging.
  • Common sense. A lot of this game seems like trial and error, but your biggest defense is not being dumb: keep your shield ready, peek around corners, listen for footsteps, etc. If you see a pile of freshly incinerated corpses, keep it in the back of your mind that whatever caused that will probably like to do the same thing to you.

DiRT

Dirt cover
Dirt cover

DiRT review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“One of the best rally racing games out there.”

 

 

Overall Score:

8 out of 10

 

Overview:

This is the 6th game in the Colin McRae Rally series. Colin McRae was a world champion in rally racing and he passed away in a helicopter accident. Both DiRT 1 and 2 are made in his honor.

Back to the game, DiRT is a refinement of the previous Colin McRae Rally games. There are many different styles of racing available, all off-road. You have traditional Rally, where you race alone with your copilot/navigator that is giving you instructions as to how much distance you have until the next turn and the severity of the turn. You have Hill Climb, which is the same thing, only that you are alone without a navigator, so it’s harder if you don’t know the course. There is a mode where you race on a racetrack with about 7 other racers at the same time, whether in super rally cars or buggies or pickups or SUVs. A neat mode is one called Cross over where you race a track composed of two tracks and you alternate with your rival through a cross over section. The races either consist of who can get the best total lowest time or who can get first place at any cost.

The game has a damage engine, which is relatively realistic (compared to most other racing games). If you damage your transmission, your car will have problems shifting. Damage the cooling system and you risk blowing the engine from overheating. Turbo cars that damage the turbo will suffer a performance hit, and so on. Damage really comes into effect when you play a 3 stage or higher Rally mode race where you will have a chance to repair your car at the end of the 2nd race. You have a finite time to do repairs so it’s better to take care of the most critical damages first. If you don’t know about car mechanics the game has a help system in which two of your team mates will give you a description of real life effects of having damage on real systems. I wish they would have implemented a more severe damage system that makes you rely on having a good team of mechanics and implemented a mini game of managing your employees, but that’s not the case.

DiRT has most legendary Rally cars of recent years and classic cars as well. You will find the Lancia Stratos and the Fiat 131 Abarth as well, as well as the special Colin McRae Ford Escort and the Subaru 1995 Impresa, which he also used to become a legend in. Apart from countless Fiat, Peugeot, Suzuki cars, you will also find the classic Subaru Impreza and the old (and better) Mitsubishi Evo rally cars. The game has some fun cars such as the racing semi-trucks and the 1000-1500 horsepower Toyota racing pickup as well as some old prototype rally cars which are simply amazing. In this sense DiRT 1 is better than DiRT 2.

As far as that comparison goes, DiRT 1 has a LOT more real life tracks compared to DiRT 2, which was a disappointment to me when I got part 2. You will find yourself racing famous tracks in Spain, England, France, and classic Rally trails in Japan and Germany. Of course, DiRT also includes Pikes Peak, one of the best Rally/Hill Climb courses in the world of off-roading.

DiRT has most of the rally world racing personalities racing against you but for the most part they are just names, other than specific people having the tendency to win over others. DiRT 2 added voices and little popup portraits that interact with you as you race with them.

I would say get DiRT 1 if you want more of a classic rally experience.

The game has a multiplayer mode, whether to play via LAN or online. I played it online when the game first came out, but when I replayed it in 2009-2010, it doesn’t work for me anymore, making me think that it has been discontinued in favor of allotting gaming servers for players of DiRT 2 instead.

The game doesn’t let you mod cars, as these are race cars, not street racers. You mainly buy other cars and liveries (think of them as skins) for them. It’s nice to eventually get all cars added to your garage and it’s also interesting that they included the history of the cars, which get narrated to you by your team mates.

DiRT is available on PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3.

Fun Factor:

I always enjoy most racing games as I enjoy racing fast cars in real life, whether on a desolate road, off-roading, or around a real race track (go-karts and similar stuff too!). DiRT will test your reflexes and you will be thoroughly entertained if you enjoy taking a car to its limits and keeping it together in one piece. Some game modes are more enjoyable than others and depending on what kind of challenge you want, you can just focus on those (although sometimes you are forced to do specific races to complete the career mode ladder). Overall, DiRT is a fun experience. Fun Factor gets a score of 8 out of 10.

Difficulty Versatility:

The game allows you to adjust the difficulty through 5 different settings per race, and you will get audio ques if you are doing too well since it is too easy or it will advice you to lower it if you keep losing. If you are a pro at racing games, you will want to play it at the top or 2nd from the top difficulty, always. Since you can keep adjusting it, you can just variate it from race to race depending on how bad you want to win or how bad you want to make the challenge for you.

What I like about the physics of this game is that it actually takes very well into account the traction and suspension system of the car you are using. Knowing your car will make a huge difference in determining which one to use for the courses you are competing on. You can always make it harder for yourself if you want to artificially manipulate the difficulty for you by selecting a car with crappy suspension AND high horsepower to weight ration for a bumpy track and you will be fighting for your life to control that monster.

Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 10 out of 10.

 

 

Value:

You can get DiRT through Steam for $20. Considering how short the game is, I wouldn’t recommend getting it for that price, although you can sometimes pick it up on there for half off. When Dirt 2 came out they were giving you Dirt 1 for $2.

You can pick up DiRT for $15 through gogamer.com which is a much better buy. You can get the PS3 version from then for $19 as of the time of this writing. You can check out all the versions of DiRT from gogamer at the following link: http://www.gogamer.com/searchresults.htm?keywords=dirt&categoryId=&x=0&y=0

ebgames.com has the Xbox 360 version for $20 as well.

I would say pick up the game for sure if it’s around $10. Maybe like around $15. Otherwise, unless you LOVE rally racing, it might not be worth the money, and if you were to spend more money most people would just opt out to buy DiRT 2 instead. Value gets a score of 6 out of 10.

Replayability:

I’ve played the campaign for this game three times through and the game is still fun to me. I love most of the cars in the game and I don’t really mind that this is now becoming an old racing game, since it was great from the start.

I’ve memorized most of the tracks in the game which make the game much easier for me (this is a tactic to be employed in all racing games, if you want to dominate). The tracks are classic though and some of you will find them in other racing games as well. The tracks feel realistic as to their layout, so I enjoy racing them over and over.

Although I have DiRT 2, I find myself playing DiRT 1 more. It’s a nice game to load up once in a while if you feel like getting your car dirty! Replayability gets a score of 8 out of 10.

Sound:

The sound in this game is simply brilliant. The cars do sound like real off-road race cars and you will hear the crackle of the engine as you floor the living hell out of your car. The ground and dirt pebbles sound wonderful and real if you have ever gone off-roading in real life. Even hitting a tree or rock at a high speed sounds “wonderful” (although your car will perish… sometimes). Sound surely gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Music:

Like other Codemasters racing games, music is basically absent during racing, which I assume is done on purpose so that you can focus on racing and not grooving. I wish they would incorporate a an option to have it be interactive music (like Need For Speed 2 had) or have it be persistent as well. You mainly only get the hear constant music in the menu, which has a great song, and after each race with like victory music, which is nice itself. Music gets a score of 6 out of 10. The songs are GREAT but they are sparse.

Graphics:

This game might be “old” now but it sure is eye candy. Although I’ve also played part 2 and GRID, and this game came out first, sometimes I find myself staring at the background and it seems like as if you are almost racing in the real location (in some instances). Codemasters are real code masters when it comes to making the best looking, fastest running game possible. Graphics get a score of 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game used to hang up for me while loading rarely when the game originally came out. The latest patch/build makes this hardly ever happen though, which helps in this category.

The problem I have is that there is a lag problem, which I still believe is linked to the cheat prevention system the Codemasters games have which will make the game lag sometimes randomly, usually the faster you are going. This happens sometimes and this is sort of like a killer to have in a racing game. For DiRT often when this happens, the game will lag and then speed up to catch up with the action which can be dangerous, especially when racing. Since that bug is annoying, it hurts the game in this sense. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 6 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls for the PC version are fairly standard, using the arrow keys to drive. You can remap the controls to your liking so that you get a better interface if you are so inclined. I usually map my brakes to the letter Z. I like to drive with both feet in real life, even in an automatic car to have direct control over the brakes, for me the most important part of real racing. Because you set your own controls, if you don’t like the defaults, and they are responsive, Controls get a score of 10 out of 10.

Performance:

The game runs great for the most part but it does have the annoying lag bug I have discussed above. I’ve played this game on 3 computers, each one faster than the previous one. It ran pretty well on all of them, even when it first came out. Performance gets a score of 7 out of 10, mainly because of the lag bug.

My history with this game:

I thought I’d give this game a try since so many games had come out that were great of the Colin McRae Rally series. I played the first one and I thought it was great for its time. This game follows that tradition.

I’m a fan of Codemasters racing games. I always buy their stuff, no matter what (when it comes to racing games, YES). I’m looking forward to them making DiRT 3 and Grid 2.

I enjoy how they release their racing games for PC and also for consoles. I see that they are basically developing for console, but that’s where the money is for racing games, the ones that sell. Sure you have a lot of enthusiasts solely using PCs for simulator racing games but the number of people who do that is very small compared to the number of people who will have a PS3 or Xbox 360 and will play games like DiRT, Grid, Grand Turismo, Need For Speed, Burnout, and some others. The only part that bothers me sometimes is that the PC version comes out 4-6 months later, which is annoying. I hope they come out with both console versions and PC versions pretty close to each other in the coming future.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX

HAWX logo
HAWX logo

One Sentence Review:

“The true spiritual successor to Afterburner, U.N. Squadron, and Crimson Skies.”

Overall Score:

9 out of 10

Overview:

HAWX puts you in the role of being the flight leader for a squadron of an elite air combat unit that works for the US military and soon into a private military corporation in the near, plausible future. The game flies a LOT like Crimson Skies as far as gameplay goes and it has nearly as much action as Afterburner with the spirit of U.N. Squadron’s mercenary attitude and the fun weapon configuration of your squadron of fighters. The game has just about most jets that have been around since the 60s and up and even some hypothetical fighters that are yet to be released in the military for most countries.

Fun Factor:

This is one of the funnest airplane combat games I have ever played and I’ve played both old skool arcade air combat games like Afterburner and hardcore simulators like European Air War. Some of the battles get so epic with your airplane being surrounded by 5-10 enemy fighters that it gives one the feeling of being in an X-wing and fighting for your dear life. I played this game like a crack head even when I had other stuff to do. I give the Fun Factor a score of 10 out of 10.

Difficulty Versatility:

The game overall is pretty easy, even at the max difficulty except for a few select (mainly the escort or time deadline) missions where it will have you screaming at the screen. Difficulty Versatility gets a 5 out of 10 because overall I found this game easy even on the max settings.

Value:

The game currently sells for about US$ 30 on Steam. I picked it up for about 15 or 20 when it was on sale this last Christmas. I would say at the price I got it, it’s worth getting. For 30 dollars I would still buy it considering how much fun the game was for the 9 hours it took me to destroy it. I give Value a score of 7 out of 10.

Replayability:

Some missions are a lot of fun but I already memorized what I had to do for all of them. I would say it might be more interesting to do them with a wingman for they might not be as good as the AI drone pilots that help you in some missions. =P I give Replayability a score of 6 out of 10.

Sound:

Let’s just say that the sound of 4 consecutive Anti-Aircraft missiles taking out a swarm of enemy fighters with me setting my speakers nearly at max volume does put a big smile on my face. The sounds of the electronics and the engine blasting the afterburners are amazing! The beeps even for lock-ons and oncoming missiles are authentic and it makes you feel like a real jet fighter pilot. I give Sounds for this game a 10 out of 10.

Music:

The militant score gets you in the mood to blow shit up and keeps the adrenaline going, soldier. It does sound though like the typical music you find in a Tom Clancy game or a movie like Patriot Games or Spy Game. I give Music an 8 out of 10.

Graphics:

Even running under DX9, the game looks simply amazing. I give Graphics a score of 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game has never crashed although you would think it would fry the video card based on how pretty everything is. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

You are controlling a jet that goes like 1000-2000 KmPH using just the keyboard with total control. The game uses a mix of WASD (actually QWES) and the arrow keys and does it really well. It works enough that you can pull off surgical strikes with precision like a champ. One of the funnest things to do in the game and a VITAL option is to turn off all the safety features that keep you from making the plane make max G turns that would rip it apart or knock you out from the accelaration change. When this happens the camera switches from the back to a fixed angle view and it just looks amazing! Anyways, the controls are perfect. They get a well deserved score of 10 out of 10.

Performance:

The game runs flawless on my 2 year old medium range gaming PC. Considering that you often have like 20-40 units moving at VERY FAST speeds, the game engine and coding they used for HAWX is extremely well written. Performance deserves a score of 10 out of 10 and it gets it. 😀

My history with this game:

On c64, Amiga, and the arcade I grew up playing Afterburner over and over. Later, I played U.N. Squadron and it’s one of the my favorite side scrolling shooter games of all time. I loved how you could pick a plane that fit your style and then outfitted it with the weapons that you needed for the mission and that fit your play style. Around the year 2000-2001, Microsoft/Zipper Interactive shocked me with how amazing Crimson Skies was. Dogfighting was back but many years passed by and I have by now played Crimson Skies about 8 times. With HAWX, I was excepting this game to be generic and just okay based on some reviews I saw that compare it to making it feel like a world war I dogfighting sim. I’m sorry but WWI aircombat was the epitome of air combat and it was the real age of air combat aces. When I started playing HAWX and saw that you could execute real air combat moves like the cobra maneuver introduced by the SU-27, I was shocked, I was hooked. I really, really hope that an expansion for this game comes out. I would recommend going out to get it if you have the blood of an ace in you.