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All reviews - Games (105)

Nothing worth watching here, folks.

Posted : 9 years, 8 months ago on 4 August 2014 10:02 (A review of Watch Dogs)

Yup. Five out of a possible ten. That's what I'm rating this game as, marginally average. It has just enough polish to elevate it to complete mediocrity, which is just above where the majority of this game dwells.

This is just one confused mess of a game. I'm not sure I even know where to begin. I'll start with the story and characters, as that's usually one of the most important things in a game, to me at least.

This game is about our utterly bland vigilante "hero", Aiden Pierce. It's strangely fitting that the most promoted aspect of his personality is his "Iconic Cap." That's the only thing that really stands out about him. He has a hat. That's why he's "interesting." Which is odd, because he's simultaneously a master hacker, an expert close-quarters combatant, an expert with all firearms, and he's a expert driver with all vehicles. This man seems to be the epitome of power-fantasy.

Okay, that's our protagonist, right? So who's our villain? At first, it seems like the ultimate bad guy is going to be a powerful tech corporation called Blume. Great, our enemy is a gigantic faceless, corporate entity. It turns out that Blume is just "the man" that you frequently get to stick it to. Further on down the way, it turns out that there are other personalities involved, but they seem to come and go with alarming regularity. A blackmailing military gangsta veteran, a shadowy crime boss, an old frenemy hacker, and a corrupt mayor. Who's really pulling the strings? Well that would depend on what part of the story you're at.

Is our hero out for Revenge? Justice? Trying to protect his family? Uncovering the Truth? As it turns out, the answer is all of the above. It's a lot to balance if you try to stop at any point in the game and pin down just why, exactly, Aiden is doing what he's doing.

Rounding out this cast of lackluster characters are: a damsel in distress sister, a handful of token support one-dimensional hackers, one of which was presumably a love interest, being that she was the only female character who wasn't a relative of Aiden in the game. Seriously, that's the ONLY reason I can think of that the game made it out to seem like she was a love interest in the end, because that stance certainly wasn't supported by any exchange Aiden had with her throughout the entire game.

It's really hard for me to describe what happens in this game, because it all seems like a blur. Rarely would I describe a story as "A bunch of stuff happens," but that seems to be exactly the case here. It doesn't help that none of these people seem to react in a human fashion to the events that transpire in the game. Aiden's sister is the most baffling character in this regard. For the sake of spoilers, I won't elaborate here, but... man... I have no idea how her brain could possibly arrive at the conclusion that what she says and does is in any way a logical or natural way to act.

All in all, what I have to say about the characters in this game is this: the less said, the better. It's really hard to care about a story when you absolutely cannot relate in any human way with the characters in it.

Alright, so the story is a wash, what else is there?

Well, there are the side-quests and mini games! Don't worry, these are every bit as ridiculous as the story for being in this game. What's a good mini-game for a vigilante on a mission for answers and revenge? How about a drinking mini game? That makes sense, right? Ooo, ooo, what about a game of puzzle chess? How about gambling? Slots, shell games, and poker. That's how a vigilante spends his free time. That makes sense, right? There are some admittedly neat tech-oriented mini games like the AR (Augmented Reality) Games and "Digital Trips" which create some truly bizarre (imaginary) scenarios ranging from evil robots to alien invasions. There's also one that is admittedly kinda cool, where you control a robot-spider-tank-thing. I mean, it's cool, but... WHY? Alright the mini games are kinda weird, what about this side-missions? Well, there are various investigations that you can partake in, such as breaking up a human trafficking ring or stopping an illegal arms shipping ring, there's even a series of missing persons to find (read: stopping a serial killer). Okay, these seem like things a vigilante would do, but again, they're all kind of out of context. The only one that's mentioned in the course of the story is the human trafficking, which seems to be a really important event in the story, so naturally, outside of this side-mission, they never mention it again. There are also various vehicle based races (called fixer contracts) and combat scenarios (clearing gang hideouts and stopping criminal convoys). Okay, these seem to fit in with the whole vigilante thing, but again, they're kind of out of context. Also, they apply a whole bunch of completely arbitrary rules. You need to "takedown" (ie-knockout in hand-to-hand combat) a criminal, but you CANNOT KILL HIM. Sure, you can kill EVERYONE ELSE with impunity, but not this one really dangerous, really bad guy.

Alright, that about covers what needs to be said about what you can do in the game, how does the game actually play?

Well the driving is extremely weird. All the vehicles really seem "floaty". Like they only have the most tenuous relationship with the surface beneath them. Also, it seems like everything in this game world of Chicago is made out of cardboard and kindling. Light poles, telephone poles, and fences seem to just collapse like a house of cards as soon as a vehicle touches them.

The gunplay is okay. It's not really anything to write home about. Mostly ho-hum. Nothing special here. None of the weapons really feel any different from one another. The only thing worth noting is that once you acquire a silenced weapon, that's all you're really going to need for the rest of the game. The only thing that seems to set Watch Dogs apart from other third person shooters is the fact that Aiden seems to get taken out with disturbing ease. For as many things that Aiden seems to be a master of, surviving a couple bullets is not among them. Okay, if you're going to make the argument that it's more "realistic" I'm going to reply with silence as you reflect on what an idiotic thing it is that you just said when you think about the context of absolute fantasy and suspension of disbelief that this game already asks of you. If you want to get into the "realism" topic, understand this, when Aiden hits someone in the head with a collapsible steel baton, it is highly likely that he just murdered that person, or at the very LEAST gave that person SEVERE brain damage. So... let's not go there, hmmm?

Alright, what about this much ballyhooed smartphone control of the city infrastructure aspect? Well it's kind neat at first, especially the first few times that you use a new ability. But those abilities rapidly lose their luster once you realize that they mostly just boil down to quick-time button presses. Sure, raising blockers up in the road after you've driven past them, to lose your pursuers is kind of a neat idea. However, in the middle of a car chase, it's inadvisable to rotate the camera around to look at it, because you know what'll happen if you do. (You'll inevitably crash into something you're not looking at. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD!) BUT! Every once in a while, the game will automatically do this to you. It'll slow down the game and switch to a cinematic view of your pursuer being disabled by your clever quick-time button press. And then BAM! Back to where you were, usually as you slam into the car that you were trying to swerve out of the way before you game forced you to watch that. Well, I guess there's no real way that was going to work out well. Oh, also, it doesn't particularly matter that you just disabled a pursuer, because shortly thereafter, another will just appear out of the ether to join the chase.

Well, how does the game look and sound? Okay, here's where the game does get some high marks from me. It actually looks pretty good. I suppose you can take that for what it's worth, because that's usually one of the things that I really don't care about. I mean, it doesn't matter how good a game looks if it's just not fun to play, right? You can polish a turd as much as you want, you're not going to change the fact that it's a turd. That said, it does look like a very pretty turd.

Sound on the other hand is a very mixed bag. The environmental and sound effects are good. Nothing particularly stood out as being either bad or good. It worked, and ya know what? That's good enough for me. HOWEVER, the radio station was just godawful. Seriously, I highly advise anyone playing this game to just disable the radio as soon as you can. There aren't radio stations, there's just radio on or radio off. That's it. That's your choice right there. And for the most part, the music on the radio is just bad. First off, it's a VERY eclectic mix. You can go from techno sounding music to ball-less pop rock to some kind of reggae-fusion, back to back to back. There's no reason or rhyme. But, even if you turn the radio off, there is the bewildering fact that the game will still deliver "breaking news" regularly. Is anyone else disturbed by this? I'm not sure if this was intentional or not. If you're driving along in your car, and you turn the radio off, and then later on down the road, the radio turns back on to let you know about some recent events, isn't that profoundly weird?

Given how much this game leans towards the bizarre, it really stands at odds with how seriously it wants to take itself. It is just all about coming down regularly with heavy-handed messages about invasion of privacy and the perils of a tech-reliant, interconnected world. And you know what? That's fine, that message is one that I'm sure would resonate with a lot of actual human beings. I'm just not sure that this is the game that should be trying to have that discussion, especially when one of the activities you can partake in is the random eavesdropping of innocent civilians. When Aiden is trying to pass himself off as some kind of moral crusader, privacy invasion stands in stark contrast to that assertion. That seems to sum up this game fairly well. It's trying to have it's cake and eat it too. It wants you to be a vigilante striving for justice as you murder people wantonly, invade random people's privacy, and annihilate half of the telephone poles and street lights in the city.

This game just absolutely cannot maintain a consistent tone. And you know what? this is just the tip of the iceberg here. I could go on AT LENGTH about what's wrong with every character in this game, and the MANY shortcomings in terms of gameplay. This is probably one of the most over-hyped games of all time. For me, it's up there with Daikatana. Maybe I'm more upset with this game than I should be. I really do respect the developer, Ubisoft. I think they've made a lot of really good, really fun games. It's just a damn shame to see this lackluster game come from such a good Developer. I expect better from you, Ubisoft. A LOT better.

I'm actually forcing myself to stop talking about this game right here, just like I should have stopped playing this game shortly after starting it. But I just HAD to make myself finish it, and I can say, I'm sorry I did. I wish I could have all of the time back that I spent playing this game. Time that I could have spent playing games that are actually fun.

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Digging up the glorious past.

Posted : 9 years, 8 months ago on 4 August 2014 07:45 (A review of Shovel Knight)

Shovel Knight might be one of the best [modern] old-school platformers ever made.

It's not just old school in terms of how it plays, bit also in how it looks and sounds. It takes its cues from the color palette of the days of the NES (with the addition of the SNES era effect of Parallax Scrolling). It also makes use of a soundtrack that wouldn't be out of place on any NES game.

This game has an almost perfect difficulty curve, requiring ever greater precision the further along you progress. I didn't notice any significant difficulty spikes, which speaks to the care that was taken with every single level and boss. Though this game isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination, it never gets to Volgarr the Viking levels of difficulty either.

Part of the reason why this game isn't as challenging as it could be is that there is a fairly generous checkpoint system. However, you do have a risk/reward option to keep the checkpoint intact, or destroy it to gain extra treasure. Why would you want this extra chance at treasure? Well, there is an upgrade system that requires you to acquire greater and greater riches to upgrade the Shovel Knight's shovel, armor, health, and magic, with additional subweapons becoming available for purchase frequently.

Shovel Knight incorporates the Dark Souls idea of dropping money when you die and then giving you the opportunity to reclaim that money by making it back to the point of your death. If you can't do that in one try, then that money is gone forever.

There are new enemies in each level of the game, ensuring that the game never feels repetitive. Each boss has a unique theme to go along with their respective level, much in the same way that the Mega Man games had unique bosses for each level.

Most importantly (to me, at least) there is an actual STORY. Now, it might not be exactly riveting, but it's definitely something that I wanted to see through to the end, which is certainly more than I can say about most platformer games. The titular Shovel Knight is on a quest to reunite with his partner, Shield Knight, who was separated from him during an adventure to the Tower of Fate. Standing in his way is the Order of No Quarter, led by the wicked Enchantress. Maybe this isn't blowing your socks off yet, but there is always a back-and-forth dialogue with the bosses whenever our hero encounters them, and that really helps flesh out the story of this quest. One other nice little touch I appreciated was how each of the townsfolk could be talked to, similar to The Adventure of Link.

This indie gem can stand proudly next to the best AAA developed games of this generation, proving that you don't need to have the most impressive graphics to have an impressive game. All you need to do is have incredibly solid gameplay and a good story. This is easily one of the best games released this year, and should not be missed by anyone.

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Introducing a new genre: The Bureaucracy-em-up.

Posted : 10 years, 5 months ago on 30 October 2013 11:31 (A review of Papers, Please)

I really feel like this game is establishing a new genre, because I don't know of anything quite like it. The Bureaucracy-em-up.

You take on the role of a border check-point processing drone, in what feels like an early 80's Soviet satellite country. Your job is the soul-crushing drudgery of processing hopeful applicants to your (fictional) country of Arstotzka.

Your job is to weed out all applications who do not file their papers in the exact way demanded. Name misspelled? DENIED. Discrepancy between your id and your papers? DENIED. Do your papers have the wrong sex listed? DENIED. More restrictions come in to play later.

You have to process enough applicants each and every day to make enough money to pay your rent, provide food for your family, and pay for heat. Other factors will play in to this later.

The graphics are very primitive, almost like something that would come from the time that the game is set in. It's strangely fitting.

The music is simple, but quite catchy, and incredibly fitting.

There really isn't much to this game, but everything is there that needs to be there. It has this strangely addictive quality, just trying to make it through another day, hoping that you make enough money to get by just one more day. It gets strangely intense, knowing that Big Brother is watching, grading your performance. If you let too many people through who shouldn't, there will be penalties. Penalties that you just can not afford.

I wound up feeling a strange antipathy towards the people I was processing through my checkpoint. I hated them for coming, dreading how they would mess up their paperwork, costing me precious moments I could be using to process more people, to say nothing of the people who could actually be a threat to the country, and more immediately, my checkpoint.

This is an incredible achievement for an indie game, and it deserves to be played, if for no other reason than the fact that I'm fairly certain there's nothing out there quite like it.

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Highway to Hell.

Posted : 10 years, 5 months ago on 30 October 2013 10:49 (A review of Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway)

Okay, there really should be a big warning or sticker or something on the case that says "YOU MUST PLAY THE FIRST TWO GAMES IN THIS SERIES FIRST." Because they're not going to do a damn thing to make you care about ANY of the characters in this game alone.

This game really does seem to pick up where the last game left off, and despite a "Previously, in Brothers in Arms" segment, I really had no clue what was going on. Also, understand this: I'm something of a WWII history buff, so I already know that this isn't going to end well. But the game talks about characters that I don't know about, dropping info that might have seemed relevant if I knew who the hell they were talking about, but I didn't, so it was completely lost on me. Plus, it got kind of hard to care about any one soldier in my squad, because when they bite it in gameplay, they just magically sprang back to life for the next cutscene. So when a character dies in a cutscene, I just wait for him to spring back to life at the next checkpoint. But I guess they took notes from Halo, where in game a story-centric character can absorb an unholy amount of enemy ordinance, but a single bullet will put them down in a cutscene. So much for the story.

The visuals, oh man, the graphics in this game are ATROCIOUS. If I didn't know any better, I'd think this game was RUSHED. [It wasn't, this game had an absurdly long development cycle] Muddy visuals, a horrific framerate, absurd texture pop-in, just run the list of possible graphical issues, and this game has them all. This game is just UGLY. And normally I don't really care too much about graphical quality, but man, it's hard NOT to notice.

Okay, on to the gameplay. I'm a fan on smart, tactical shooters. I'm thinking, especially old-school Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon. I like shooters that require you to use your brain and come up with a plan as much as they require you to pull the trigger. The tactical element in this game is kind of a mixed bag. Sometimes the soldiers in my squad would do what I told them to, and other times it seemed like they were just lollygagging around, doing whatever the hell they wanted. When they did what I told them to do, the plan would usually go off without a hitch, I mean, it's pretty rudimentary strategy, set up a base of fire to pin enemies, then flank them and mow them down, rinse, repeat. But when those same soldiers would just stand out in the open, rather than take cover behind the wall in front of them like I told them to, man, they'd just get cut down like wheat before the scythe. Your squadmates seem to have the self-preservation instincts of a lemming. Still, for a baby's-first-tactical-shooter game, it works, sometimes. They just milk that one-trick pony of flanking an enemy position for all it's worth.

I mean, this isn't the worst game I've ever played, but if you haven't played the first two games in the series, STEER CLEAR OF THIS GAME, because it certainly can't stand on it's own as a game or as story.

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Not exactly a Rockstar of a game.

Posted : 10 years, 5 months ago on 30 October 2013 09:51 (A review of Grand Theft Auto V)

First and foremost: Understand this -- I am a HUGE fan of pretty much everything Rockstar Games has made prior to this. I'm about to lay down the list of grievances I have with this game. And understand this, I'm doing so with the mentality of "This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you." Here we go:

Rockstar Games has always excelled at creating excellent stories with interesting characters. In Grand Theft Auto V, they flat-out failed to do that.

I applaud their decision to split the story between three different characters, I think that had a lot of potential, but unfortunately all of the characters are appalling in their own unique way.

First, Michael. He complains about his life of luxury and how he has sabotaged what could have been an idyllic life. He talks about how he wants to retire from a life of crime, but the only time he seems even remotely happy is when he's pulling off heists and robberies, so it seems disingenuous for him to say otherwise. So at best, he's a massive hypocrite. Perhaps this was intentional, but it still doesn't make him any more likeable, to say nothing of his anger issues, which are never a pleasant thing to explore.

Next is Franklin. He's arguably the character that players are supposed to sympathize with the most. He's trying to escape a life that he recognizes as being a dead-end. Yet all he seems to do as a character is just do what he's told. He just doesn't ever seem capable of saying "NO" to anyone or anything. It's kind of frustrating not to see any growth as a character. Ironically, this seems like a huge waste of potential.

Lastly, Trevor. Ah, what to say about Trevor? He's certainly the most openly revolting of any character ever created by Rockstar Games. He's an absolute monster. I believe that he was created to represent how most players will play a Grand Theft Auto game, and it's just horrifying to see that embodied in a person.

So on to the story. What kind of story can be created with three profoundly unlikeable/unrelatable characters? It turns out, not much of a story at all. None of these characters ever seem to take any kind of responsibility for their actions, nor do they seem to even recognize that they are the source of their own problems. What passes for a story seems to arise from these situations of their own creation, and their inability to deal with it. It's wholly unsatisfying to witness. I mean, the whole sordid affair does end up being neatly wrapped up with an ending, but it certainly doesn't address the fact that none of these characters possessed anything resembling an arc. I've never felt quite so much that the description of a story as being "just people doing stuff" has fit quite so well as it has with the story of Grand Theft Auto V. I mean, if you ask what the story of Grand Theft Auto V is about, I feel like the only answer that you can decisively give is, Stuff.

The next big thing that was hyped up was the focus on heists, and the notion of choice. Granted, I'll say this, the heists were fun to pull off, but they were absolutely scripted events. You just picked option 1 or option 2, and from there on out, you were locked into that choice, with no way to deviate from the scripted path before you. It was like being locked onto a railroad track that splits for a short while before coming back to the same, single track. It was really disappointing. If you think I'm wrong, go play a heist, and try to do something, anything, really, that the game isn't telling you to do. You can't. Choice has been taken away from you. Once upon a time, Rockstar Games were about sweet, sweet, glorious freedom. Even on missions, you always had the freedom to tackle them however you pleased, improvising your own solutions to your hearts delight. Not anymore. It's quite disappointing.

Speaking of freedom, this game was touted as having an incredibly free, open world to explore and engage in all manner of interesting activities. It turns out that those options are primarily confined to sports. And by sports I mean, Golf, Tennis, and Triathalons. I don't know ANYONE who picks up a GTA game and thinks "Gee, I REALLY hope they included golf and tennis in this one!" Several other activities do eventually unlock, but honestly, they're just equally boring. Example: Eventually, you can tow cars for chump change! Wheeeee! [sarcasm intended].

Grand Theft Auto Online was also highly touted. I can't really give this mode of play a rousing endorsement either, as it mainly boils down to deathmatches and races. These game modes aren't anything spectacular that you haven't already played better versions of in different games. There are missions, but they're really just not particularly interesting. Also, there are still PLENTY of glitches and kinks to work out. Understand this, I started GTA Online AFTER they claimed to have fixed the glitches with losing your progress, and it STILL happened to me. They've offered a "stimulus" of in-game cash by way of apology, but what use is that when it just might vanish anyway?

Okay. I've got pretty much all of the negatives out of my system. And even with all of that, I'm not saying it's a BAD game, it's just awfully disappointing, considering Rockstar Games prior track-record of excellence.

The graphics in-game are wonderful, and have been optimized very well. There's almost no texture pop-in that I noticed, and that is all the more impressive considering the rather impressive draw distance.

The soundtrack is still amazing, as is par for the course with Rockstar Games, and despite the horrible characters and lackluster story, the voice acting is still top-notch.

Outside of the main heist missions, I did manage to enjoy the Strangers & Freaks side missions that cropped up from time to time, and they are the thing that I have the greatest fondness for in this game. They are easily the most memorable thing about Grand Theft Auto V. ESPECIALLY the Strangers & Freaks you encounter while playing as Trevor. Horrible monster or not, his side-missions were oftentimes QUITE hilarious.

I'll also add that I do enjoy the revamped police. Now having the police on your tail is an actual threat, not just a mild annoyance. The cops in GTA V are absolutely ruthless in their pursuit. I find the change to be refreshing.

I still enjoy how Rockstar Games absolutely skewers popular culture in Grand Theft Auto. That proud tradition continues, undiminished in the slightest.

I think there are plenty of other discussions out there being had about GTA V's depiction of torture, and blatant misogyny, so I won't harp on those topics quite so much. I'll just say that they're both horrible and wrong, but at the same time, I'm not shocked or surprised in the least that Rockstar has both of those elements. Rockstar is not shy at all about controversy, whatever the topic, so I'm not surprised to find a controversial topic like torture being brought up in a Grand Theft Auto game. Also, while misogyny is disgusting, again, I'm not surprised that Grand Theft Auto is being accused of it. It's like your grandma at Thanksgiving saying something offensive and racist. It's wrong, but are you really all that surprised when she's been doing it for YEARS? I don't think any Grand Theft Auto game has ever had a really strong female role. And I don't expect Rockstar Games to change in that regard anymore than I expect Grandma to change, no matter how much I wish they might.

So, I'm not saying that this is a BAD game, I'm just terribly let down and disappointed. I expected better than this Rockstar.

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Brutal Entertainment

Posted : 10 years, 5 months ago on 30 October 2013 08:00 (A review of Volgarr the Viking)

I really dig this game. It's a throwback of early 90's arcade platformers. Most especially an arcade game known as Rastan (the first level of Volgarr is essentially a copy & paste of the first level of Rastan). If you're not familiar with that game, a more well-known, similar game would be Super Ghosts n' Ghouls. However, instead of using the Conan the Barbarian theme of Rastan or the Arthurian Legend theme of Super Ghosts n' Ghouls, Volgarr the Viking utilizes, perhaps obviously, Norse mythology for it's theme. And let me tell you, the brutality of Norse mythology compliments the brutal gameplay perfectly.

This game is essentially all about pattern memorization. The layout of the levels and the enemy placement never changes. You'll proceed along each level, cutting swaths through enemies, dodging their attacks, jumping over spike traps and bottomless pits, all the while keeping an eye out for treasure chests containing power-ups that will allow you take a few more hits, and will eventually allow you to obtain a fire sword that extends the range and power of your attacks. If you can manage to avoid getting hit after acquiring the fire sword, you can collect mystic stones what will allow you to traverse the Path of the Valkyrie, which is essentially the next level of the game, only on a harder difficulty.

I do like the fact that Volgarr the Viking allows a few concessions to allow players to continue on to any level that they have already reached. Granted, doing so will give you the "not so great ending." To get the best ending, you have to acquire the aforementioned mystic stones and beat the game along the Path of the Valkyrie. Oh, also, you must do this all on one playthrough. But given that there are already quite a few flawless speedruns being posted online, it's apparently not that incredible of a feat. It's just not one that I'm crazy enough to pursue.

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Simply Fun.

Posted : 10 years, 5 months ago on 30 October 2013 07:43 (A review of Gunpoint)

I found myself loving every minute I spent playing this game. Maybe I'm just a sucker for detective stories. Maybe I have a soft spot for idiots. Maybe I'm just extra soft for idiot detectives.

You play as Richard Conway. Freelance Private Investigator. The kind of guy who, moments after donning his fancy new Bullfrog Hypertrousers, launches himself out of his apartment window, soars across the way and smacks right into a neighboring office building, and plummets down, through the skylight, and crashes into the lobby floor. The plus side? His impressive display just landed him a job with a woman in said office building.

This game has a wonderful sense of humor, without being overwhelming. This isn't a comedy game, but it's a game where a lot of funny things do happen. Some of this comes from the witty text dialogue between missions, and some of it comes from the often unintentionally hilarious failures in your plans.

You can laugh at these failures because the game has a generous auto-save system in place, allowing you to go back 2, 5, or 12 seconds to avert disaster. So the price of failure is mitigated.

Much of the games challenge stems from the clever puzzles the game presents. Not long into your case, you unlock a gadget that allows you to rewire electronics. From this point on, it becomes the critical tool that will allow you to succeed, and will also cause more than a few chuckles when a plan of yours turns out to be not so well-thought-out.

This is a game that you can expect to tear through in a couple hours, and there is some replay value, as the story does branch right at the end, so you can see what would happen if you chose differently. Also, you can go back to previous missions to play around with tools that you unlocked later on.

This is a game that I can confidently recommend to just about anyone. And for $10? It's a steal. I definitely got my moneys worth.

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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Enhanced Edition review

Posted : 11 years, 8 months ago on 20 August 2012 07:42 (A review of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Enhanced Edition)

It's very rare that I come across an RPG game as wonderful as this. Granted, this is a game that you might want to do some homework in before you start playing. And by homework, just browse around wikipedia to learn more about the world that this game is set in. It's based on a series of books by the Polish author, Andrzej Sapkowski. Note, I haven't actually read any of these short story collections, but I am highly interested now.

Many RPG games seem to almost shield you from the lore of their worlds, making them optional, rather than being at the heart of it. That is not the case with this game. They'll throw around a lot of names of people and places, and they don't come right out and tell you their importance, you're kind of expected to know something about them already.

This game is a sequel, and it definitely begins en media res. It picks up directly after the events of the first game, and this game rapidly brings you up to speed on the events of the first, when it's relevant.

I suppose I should tell you that you play as Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher. A Witcher is someone who was raised from a young age to be a monster hunter. Potential Witchers are subjected to trials and experiments, many of which are lethal. Those that survive are immune to disease, they're stronger, faster and more resilient than normal humans. This results in a kind of forced evolution -- a mutant, but there are also side-effects, such as sterility and the alteration of a Witcher's eyes so that they resemble a cat's eyes, but they can also see in the dark. In Geralt's case, the process also removed most of his pigmentation, and has granted him the nickname "The White Wolf."

I like the fact that the character you play as is a defined character, rather than a blank slate of a character that most RPG's stick you with. Geralt seems to have a lot in common with hardboiled detectives like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. He's not exactly heroic, but he does have a kind of idealism that he follows. He doesn't like picking sides, instead choosing his own path.

Speaking of which, I also find the fact that the game doesn't arbitrarily have "Right/Wrong" or "Good/Evil" decisions in the game. There are several major decision points in the game that will change how the story progresses. Like I said, these choices aren't right or wrong, there isn't an arbitrary "Morality Meter" measuring your level of saintliness or dickishness. However, the characters that you interact with will often remember your actions later in the game. You just use your best judgement.

I cannot understate that this game is definitely intended for mature audiences only. This can be a very gory game, and there is PLENTY of nudity involved, as well as quite a bit of salty language. But I never felt as though it was doing so just for shock value. It always felt organic to the game world. It only seems natural that Geralt would want to bone anything that moves when he's sterile and immune to diseases.

This game can be brutally difficult, even on the easier settings. My friend was watching me play and he turned away for a few seconds, and I managed to die while he was briefly looking away. This definitely isn't a game that will hold your hand. You have to remember to save regularly. Preparation is the key to winning many of the games more difficult battles. I've never felt like I haven't had adequate tools to deal with any situation, instead it felt more like I didn't make the best use of my available resources. This eases the frustration of dying for me, because I never feel like the game is being cheap, I just reload my last save and then approach the situation that killed me ealier with more caution and preparation.

The crafting interface is quite cumbersome and initially, quite confusing. Potions play a big role in preparing for the more difficult fights in the game, and you can only drink potions before a battle, not during. Again, this is explained in the books that potions that can heal wounds amongst other effects, are actually quite toxic to normal human beings. Witchers are trained to imbibe these potions in a meditative trance, and this is reflected in game by the fact that you can only meditate when there aren't enemies about. But getting back to the interface, it seemed kind of odd that I would select the potions that I wanted consume, and then I would exit out of the meditation, and I *thought* that I had consumed them, but it turns out that there is one more button I had to press AFTER I selected the potions to drink. So, select the potion(s), and then select the button to drink them. I think it would just be easier to combine the selection of the potion, and the drinking of the potion. Oh well, now I know. Oh yes, the game doesn't actually tell you this.

I suppose it seems like I might be complaining quite a bit about this game that I profess to enjoy. This game definitely has it's quirks, but I don't think they ever really prevented me from enjoying the game. I was growing tired of RPG games with overly simplified mechanics, and overly simple, tired tropes when it comes to storytelling. This game is a breath of fresh air for me. If you go into this game with the right mindset, you can get a lot out of it. The graphics are absolutely beautiful, some of the best I've seen on the Xbox 360. Which is quite a feat, considering that this game requires some pretty hefty high-end specs to run on PC, and the 360 manages to pull off some beautiful effects on 6 year old hardware. The combat is thoughtful and strategic and also fast and brutal. The story is wonderfully unique when compared to other more standard-fare western-styled RPG's. The game world has more of a feeling of Game of Thrones, with it's dirty, byzantine politics. This game is just as dark and brutal as Game of Thrones.

This is a beautiful game that I won't soon forget.

"People like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves. When they get blind-drunk, cheat, steal, beat their wives, starve an old woman, when they kill a trapped fox with an axe or riddle the last existing unicorn with arrows, they like to think that the Bane entering cottages at daybreak is more monstrous than they are. They feel better then. They find it easier to live." --Geralt of Rivia

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Warhammer 40000: Space Marine review

Posted : 12 years ago on 10 April 2012 06:32 (A review of Warhammer 40000: Space Marine)

One of the first 3rd Person Shooters that doesn't rely on a cover mechanic system. I think the best way to describe this game is to say that it's like Gears of War. But that only applies in the broadest sense, because Gears is all about cover-based shooting, and Space Marine is all about taking the combat TO the enemy. In Gears, if you get hurt, you hide behind cover, suck your thumb for a little bit, and then when you feel better, you get back to fighting. In Space Marine, if you get hurt, you have to become even more aggressive and begin executing enemies or go into RAGE mode. Everything about this game screams aggression, but... later on, you have to fight smarter too. You have to know when to wade into the fray, chainsword or thunder hammer swinging, and when to engage the enemy with ranged weapons, and you can change on the fly between ranged and melee combat. It gives Captain Titus of the Ultramarines a more competent feel, like he is supremely capable of dominating the battlefield, as a Space Marine should. I ran through the game once already, and now I'm doing a playthrough on Hard difficulty. I enjoy this game quite a bit. I also enjoy unlocking new armor for my virtual barbie Space Marine in the online multiplayer.

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Gunstringer review

Posted : 12 years ago on 10 April 2012 06:21 (A review of Gunstringer)

This is how you do a Kinect game right. It might be one of the most unique game ideas ever hatched. A humorous wild-west themed marionette out-for-revenge against his old posse who murdered him all set up as a puppet show. The game moves along at a brisk pace without feeling rushed. It is a wonderfully funny game. In particular, I like the narrator who tells the story as you go, it makes it all the more amusing hearing a gruff voice describe how the lord of the underworld, El Taco Diablo approves of your quest for vengeance, and shows his approval by offering up healing tacos for you. The controls for Kinect are beautifully simple, you control the Gunstringer's movement with your left hand, and you paint targets by moving your right hand over them. Once you have your targets painted, you bring your hand up to your shoulder, kind of miming a "bang" move with your hand. You don't HAVE to hold your hand like an imaginary gun, but... why WOULDN'T you? Making accompanying "bang" noises is optional, however. There is a whole slew of unlockables to earn. Not many of them are terribly useful, but they are usually at least amusing. I was particularly fond of the commentary by the people at RoosterTeeth.

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