Monday, December 26, 2011
Still, in case you’re curious (and I know you are), I thought I’d explain how I choose a difficulty when I play video games. I could easily tell you that I mostly choose harder difficulties because I’m super like that, but it wouldn’t be any fun; especially since there are several factors that go into making my decision.
Factor 1: The Challenge. As I stated earlier, some gamers like to embrace a challenge (hence the reason I torment myself with Demons’ Souls and Dark Souls). Video games offer an opportunity to test your senses and reflexes. After playing them for such a long time, there are moments when I want to see if my eyes and thumbs are up to a tough task (such as dodging six grenades thrown towards me at once in Call of Duty: World at War on Veteran difficulty).
Factor 2: The Story. While I love a challenge, sometimes I don’t want to bash my face into my basement wall because I can’t surpass one obstacle (I also don’t want to spend any more money on controllers). Sometimes, I just want to experience the story and, for a while, live as a character in another world (who doesn’t get killed every couple of minutes). For example, I have always played an entry in the Uncharted series on Easy or Normal for the first playthrough. Once I’ve enjoyed the spectacle, I’ll usually come back for another playthrough and amp the difficulty up to Hard or Crushing.
Factor 3: The Achievements/Trophies. Sadly, you can consider me a bit of an achievement whore. But, come on! I’m almost at a 100,000 Gamerscore (93,140 as of now)! If there is no achievement or trophy for beating the game on a harder difficulty (like Saints Row: the Third), I’ll play on Easy or Normal so I can have a good time. However, when I see that I can boost my score (or collection) by overcoming a tougher difficulty, I’ll usually accept the challenge. I don’t know why I do it, but receiving recognition for beating a game on Hard or Insane (I’m looking at you Gears of War) feels good. Also, I get to brag to all my friends. What gamer doesn’t like to brag every once and a while?
Factor 4: Co-op. If you don’t know, I’m a huge fan of co-op (especially couch co-op). The fact that I am able to play through an adventure with a friend/sibling (or the fiancée) is exciting. There are times when I will not play a game on Hard by myself (like Resistance: Fall of Man); but when someone I know is kicking ass by my side, I’ll change my mind and raise the difficulty. (Oh, and before I forget, damn you Resistance 2 for not having co-op campaign!)
Now wasn’t that fun? Okay, maybe not; but think of it as an eye-opener. These are the factors that run through my mind when choosing what difficulty I want to play on. Yes, I know it may seem like I’m overthinking the situation, but I’m only trying to figure out how to have the best gaming experience possible (in terms of difficulty). Maybe you’ll even have some of these thoughts next time you get your game on. Speaking of which, I want to ask you: what difficulty do you play and what helps you make that choice? Oh, and as always, thanks for reading!
to finish my military training, I haven’t been able to post on this blog for some
time. However, I am now finished with college and back home where I ought to
be. This means I will be posting on this blog more often. I’ll also put a pause
to the formal articles I was posting before. There still will be some here and
there, but I’m also going to post some of my opinions and views so you can all
get a sense of what kind of gamer I am. Well, I’m off to my first blog post
which can be expected in the next hour or two. It’s good to be back doing what
I love: writing about video games (after playing so much of them, that is). As
always, thanks for reading.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Here ya go! Decided to do a news article on the rumors of Nintendo's new handheld being harmful to players. Enjoy! And, as always, thank you for reading!
NINTENDO 3DS HARMFUL?
Since the 1980’s, Nintendo has always been known to be the best when it comes to handheld gaming. With releases such as the Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, and Nintendo DS, they have made sure to secure that title. Nevertheless, with Nintendo’s newest creation, the Nintendo 3DS, they have reached a potentially devastating problem. Released on March 27th of this year, the sales of the 3DS have posed no problem for the company as they have continued to break records. However, Nintendo’s true dilemma lies within the fact that there have been many reports of minor health problems, such as headaches and migraines, due to the handheld console’s 3D images. Some critics have also been cited stating that playing the 3DS is simply uncomfortable to play.
For those that do not know, the Nintendo 3DS is able to display multiple planes on a flat screen. Although, when well developed, the images are crisp and clean featuring what seems to be a 3-dimensional universe, this is where the handheld’s problems occur.
When a person notices an object, their eyes focus completely on it creating a clear observation. At the same time, the vision of everything else around that object is blurred. This feat cannot be done with the Nintendo 3DS, causing discomfort as the player’s eyes try to focus on a certain plane displayed on screen. This is especially worse with children as doctors’ have reported that prolonged exposure to 3D images can have an adverse effect on eyesight development.
Nintendo quickly combated these reports with its legal shield: the Health Risk Warning. Nintendo states in their warning that:
· Nintendo recommends players take a break after 30 minutes of play
· If your physical condition worsens or you become ill, please stop playing at once
· 3D not recommended for children under the age of six as the vision of young children is still in developmental stages
· It is possible for anyone to enjoy playing Nintendo 3DS since it can be changed to 2D to avoid any effects on young children’s vision
While this warning is informative and clearly presents any problems that may be associated with the 3D images, it also raises some pertinent questions.
It is recommended that children under the age of six to not be exposed to the 3D images the console displays. Nonetheless, Nintendo’s handhelds are usually aimed toward the younger crowd and the main selling point of the 3DS is the 3D mode it offers. Not allowing one of the largest consumer bases to utilize the device’s draw point could warrant the public’s undesirable frustration with their purchase.
Another debate arising from the 3DS’ health warning is that it is recommended for players to take breaks after thirty minutes of play. For many handheld gamers, this can become a reoccurring problem as these consoles are mostly used for extended amounts of playtime when away from home, during road trips, or when on a plane. Players are able to turn off the 3D mode and play in 2D but, once again, the 3D images are the main selling point of the console. To be forced to turn off the 3D mode or take a break every half an hour because of a headache or your eyes becoming uncomfortable seem to only hinder the usefulness of the 3DS.
Nevertheless, even with the reports of the 3DS being harmful, there have been no setback to sales. Also, no long term affects have been confirmed as most players who experienced any discomfort were able continue on gaming after a short break. The only action is to wait and see if anything other than minor health problems surface. As for now, Nintendo claims, with responsibility, gamers can enjoy the 3DS without problem.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Don’t worry, it isn’t true. I was asked to write a humorous article for the college’s spoof paper and this is what I came up with. Hope you all enjoy it, and get at least one laugh from it. And, as always, thank you for reading!
PARENTS USING VIDEO GAMES TO TRAIN CHILDREN FOR UNDERGROUND FIGHTS?!
Could it be true? After sales of video games such as Street Fighter IV, Tekken 6, and Fight Night Champion skyrocketing over the past couple months, it was believed that many gamers had become new fans to the fighting genre. However, after numerous accounts of bruised and injured children attending elementary schools across the state there had to be a connection.
To discover the truth behind this mystery, I visited the local Wal-Mart to see if I could discover any inside information, though none of the employees had any details that could help in this investigation. Still, I was able to gain a lead by witnessing a peculiar event taking place in the Electronics section.
A father and mother entered the section with stern looks on their faces while dragging their black-eyed child along with them. He shouted, “I don’t want a video game! I don’t want one!”I could not imagine any child not wanting a video game, so I continued to view the scene. The father held the child as the mother gazed at the glass case, home to the Xbox 360’s catalog of games. She pointed out Street Fighter IV and I overheard her saying, “Maybe we can teach him how to throw a Hadoken (a fireball) . Then we’ll always win,” followed by the father smiling at his son, “How about that? Would you like to throw Hadokens?!”
Intrigued, I stayed put to witness a number of other children trying to avoid Electronics. Adding to my confusion were parents arguing over the last copies of UFC: Undisputed 2010.
To further my investigation I followed one family back to their home. Inside, they hounded the poor child to continue playing video games. Even when he looked up and ask to do his homework they shouted back that he was going to keep playing until he learned every move.
Inching ever so slightly to the truth, I stalked the nearest Play N’ Trade searching for information. Instead of me finding the facts though, the facts found me. A strange man approached me while I was asking around and told me that he would talk, but it had to be someplace safe because “they” were always watching. From that moment, I knew I would have to tread these waters carefully since danger was afoot! (Insert suspenseful music here)
We met at a coffee shop and when I asked his name he refused and said this conversation never took place. He went on to inform me that many parents had discovered a new form of gambling. It involved children battling it out in underground matches utilizing moves from popular video games. I was astounded, appalled, aroused, amazed, astonished, in abhorrence, felt antipathy; I couldn’t think of any other a- words to describe how I felt. I then asked where these matches were taking place and, after much persuasion (and having two less Abraham Lincolns in my wallet), I had discovered the location of these underground brawls.
On my way to Chuck E. Cheese, I prepared myself for the worst. I pictured children performing 12 Hit Combos and fatalities on each other while parents laughed in the background tossing money about. Sick to my stomach, I walked toward the dark corner of the children’s playhouse to find a man guarding a door to the back room. He asked for a password and I told him the one given to me by the mysterious man I conversed with earlier: Toasty (a Mortal Kombat term said by a rather strange man with a high pitched voiced after fighters performed an uppercut for those who do not understand the reference).
I was allowed in after being handed a flyer with the club’s such as rules:
1. You do not talk about Super Smash Children: Brawl.
2. You DO NOT talk about Super Smash Children: Brawl!
3. Moves must be utilized from fighting games only.
4. A $20 donation is recommended but not mandatory.
And then I shuddered! I walked into a ringed arena where children batted each other while parents howling out at them to perform moves such as a Yoga Teleport and Bicycle Kick. They even yelled out Toasty in unison every time a child landed an uppercut on the other.
I immediately left and ran to the police only to be met with laughter. Even when I was able to get one of them to accompany me to Chuck E. Cheese, there was no trace in the back room of the event as if it never happened. They believed me to be crazy but I know what I saw. Do not buy into the lies of these so-called loving parents. I notice many of them giving me an evil glare. They’re onto me because they figured out that I know the truth. But you can pick up where I left off! You can help these children! I plead with you all, help stop this madness and save these poor children before any of them have to suffer another Dragon Punch again!
Sunday, April 3, 2011
No review this time. But what I have is a brief editorial about my opinions on the current state of the survival horror genre. Enjoy! And, as always, thanks for reading!
DEATH TO SURVIVAL HORROR?After years of Disney and other children video games, publisher Capcom wished to deliver something new and refreshing to the video game market. In March of 1996, the gaming community was introduced to a genre unlike any other. “Resident Evil” released on the original Playstation wowing gamers with its distinct game play. No longer could players charge into unexplored areas with guns blazing and infinite ammo. Instead, with a limited inventory, players had to contemplate on important items to carry knowing evil and danger lurked around every corner. The in game characters were made weaker than the surrounding enemies and players never truly knew when and where zombies and monsters would appear. Adding to the tension was the fact that healing items and ammo were not a supplemental value, and that the conservation of the two were of the utmost importance as well as the key to overcoming this terrifying nightmare.
Being the first of its kind, the game was placed into a new genre called: Survival Horror. Following this new craze many other companies released their own takes on the genre; one of the most famous being Konami’s “Silent Hill” franchise. Gamers praised this new type of game play as it forced them to make rash decisions in a moment’s notice. Was it better to carry two healing herbs with a pistol or take the shotgun and ammo leaving behind any sort of healing factor? Is it better to just run past the looming enemies leaving myself vulnerable or waste precious ammo to clear a safe path? These were just some of the questions players had to ask themselves while participating in these horror-filled adventures.
Yet, as the years went on many companies began to stray from the tried and true formula of the genre’s founding fathers. This is because of two main reasons: The first is that many of these games became, in a way, repetitive in the eyes of the community. The formula was not broken, but gamers desired new changes and evolutions. The second is due to a market mostly dominated by casual gamers, whereas releasing these difficult games created weary sales numbers as only the most dedicated and hardcore of the crowd were able to persevere.
As new survival horror video games are developed and released, such as the “Condemned 2: Bloodshot” and the “F.E.A.R.” series, many of them seemed to focus more on fast-paced action and explosive sequences. For the most part, conserving ammo and health are no immense task any more as each come in great supply. Even the creator of the genre, Capcom, has altered its series greatly with its newest entries to the series, “Resident Evil 4” and “Resident Evil 5.” Even though these video games are not, by any means, poorly made—“Resident Evil 4” is praised by many as one of the greatest games ever made, let alone the best in the series—they just have not been able to deliver the same tension building and terrifying atmosphere that fans of the genre are so used too. They have, instead, delivered cheap scares and thrills with simple game play.
Gamers have realized that the survival horror genre is not brimming with life as it used to be. However, all is not loss. The releases of “Dead Space” and “Dead Space 2”—even though both contain their share of simplicity and cheap scares—have been seen as nods to what the genre once was delivering on chilling atmosphere and horrific enemies and have received much praise because of it. They are not perfect but with more casual gamers turning their heads in interest there is hope for survival horror. Hopefully developers will realize this growing love and be able to resuscitate this dying genre, giving it the life the gaming community remembers it thriving upon.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Sorry for not posting for awhile. I've been busy with the personal life, but here I am back with another review. Expect another post this week whether it is a review or something special because I feel I need to make it up to you all. Anyways, here is my review of a game called Legendary. I hope you all enjoy it, even though I went on more of a rant than just being a proper critic. As I've stated before, I want to test all different ways of writing a review before settling on one specific way. Well, as always, thank you for reading!
I hope your spring break went well because it isn’t too good on my side since I just finished a game on the Xbox 360 that goes by the name of Legendary. It was developed by Spark Unlimited; never heard of them before. The reason why? They apparently have only made two other console games consisting of Call of Duty: Finest Hour and Turning Point: Fall of Liberty. This explains why Legendary feels like a pigeon dumpling to my face.
“Wait a minute Mr. Geek, you can’t say the game sucks just because the company hasn’t released a solid amount of games,” says the random child that will force an explanation out of me.
You are right, little confused child. I can’t say that, but I can say it for the reason that I’ve wasted six to eight hours of my existence playing this game when I would have had a better time trying to figure how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop.
So where to start this review? Oh, I know! The story (or lack of)! Plain and simple, Pandora’s Box is found and then opened releasing creatures into the world that destroy everything and guess who has to save the day? You! You play Charles Deckard, the mute idiot who claims to be a professional thief, but apparently he can’t even get his keypad decoder to work and ends up opening the box. Now, why did he open the Pandora’s Box you ask? Deckard was hired by Lefey, leader of the Black Order. We all should know anyone who runs an organization with a name like the Black Order is bound to have all sorts of evil in him. This soon turns out to be true as Lefey wanted the artifact to rule the world. He has his blonde, sub-par attractive employee, Vivian, to help you with the job. Once Deckard and Vivian find out what Lefey is up to, they try to stop him along with the help of the Council, a military group that works against the Black Order. And that’s it. There is nothing else in this weak narrative. It is good versus evil and we all know what happens. There is a twist—one falling under the category of lame—at the end but I will not ruin it for you. If you really desire to know what happens, check it out on Youtube. I’m pretty sure it’s up there somewhere and you will be saving around seven hours of your life for something worth doing.
There is a little something I omitted from my cliff notes version of the story I stated, and that is Deckard’s left hand. Other than him keeping silent for the whole game Pandora’s Box imprinted his hand (a.k.a. impaling it) with…wait for it… power! The Council labels his left hand the Signet and feels it is a necessity in closing the box and stopping Lefey. This feature would be cool if the damn thing had more than two different uses! With your impaled limb you can absorb the fairy dust left behind by the creatures’ corpses. This is called Animus. As you vacuum the fairy droppings, all of it is stored into the Animus tank displayed by the sphere in the bottom left corner of the screen. With Animus you can use the Signet to heal yourself or send out a shockwave of energy. And there you have it. You use the Signet to power up some machines but who cares about that? What’s the point of giving us some light up masturbation hand if we are not given any other powers for it? Talk about being ripped off. It would have been neat to have the ability to control some enemies, or freeze them where they stand. But alas, Legendary does not grant the player to do so.
The first person shooter (FPS) side of the game isn’t that great either. First off, Deckard has to be the whitest man alive because he can not even jump two feet in the air. Some professional thief he is. Controls for the most part are ok. All your basic FPS elements are there: crouch, reload, aim, shoot, and grenade toss. The problems are with the weapons. There are actually a total of only eleven weapons in the game which include Molotov cocktails and grenades. This would be decent if the nine weapons were somewhat memorable, but they are not. They are just present day guns that are in almost every other FPS. You are allowed to carry two heavy weapons, one small arms weapon and your axe. The problem is that most of the guns will pose no threat to the enemies charging at you. These enemies will soak up entire magazines! Later on in the game this is not too much of a problem since some stronger artillery is given but for most of the game I found myself using my axe more than my assault rifle and pistol. When playing a first person “shooter” does it really make sense to use an axe more than guns? No, it doesn’t.
That was only a fraction of how frustrating combat is. I know I said earlier you get the help of the military organization, the Council, but they are no help at all. It’s not entirely the A.I.’s fault—although that is terrible in and of itself as most teammates will blatantly run into an enemy’s kill zone—as it is more the fact that everyone dies. If you have some troops following you (or if you have anyone in proximity of you), they are most likely going to die in some scripted. For most of the time you, and only you, will have to take out every living thing in the vicinity. Combat also becomes really monotonous as you end up feeling like you are fighting the same enemies over and over. This takes out any enjoyment because you do not feel like you are doing much for the world after you destroyed your five hundred seventy-sixth werewolf. There are times when you fight human enemies, courtesy of the Black Order, yet it is obvious the soldiers are rehashes of the same character design. This is the same for the members in the Council. If you take a second to look, every soldier is only a variant from the same three models. The same goes for the creatures that have emerged from Pandora’s Box. As great as Griffiths and werewolves are there is not a multitude of beasts to fight against. It is saddening that they had such few creatures in the game when the source material has countless.
Another frustrating element is how often enemies will attack from all angles. Soldiers and monsters will constantly charge your front and rear to try and cut Deckard’s life short and this sometimes includes the room you had just cleared. This situation increases largely when the Black Order can get the creatures to fight on their side later on in the game. But that only proves this one statement: Enemies are very obnoxious in this game.
The Black Order soldiers are not what drove me crazy because a headshot, for the most part, will put them down. It is the creatures who escaped form the box that will drive you into the mouth of madness for one reason and one reason only: respawn. That’s right. These creatures will respawn over and over again until you either leave the area or find someway to shut down where they are coming from. This can really get under your skin when you are working on one of the games few puzzles while a surprise fireball hits you from behind every couple of moments. And if this game succeeded at anything it would be creating some annoying enemies. The worst enemies are these little fairies called Nari. When they are in pixie mode they are invulnerable. You can only kill them if when they transform into their half lizard, half little boy mode. This forces you to wait as they fly in circles around you only becoming vulnerable the moment they attack. Adding to the Nari are the werewolves. They are not as annoying as the Nari but they make no sense. The game tells you that a werewolf isn’t permanently killed until it is decapitated. If this is not done the werewolf will regenerate in a short period. This is where a paradox occurs because if you do end the beast’s life another werewolf will respawn in a couple moments. There soon becomes no point in killing the werewolves because either way they will return to torment the player some more.
I tried to see if online could redeem this title at all but that, not surprisingly, did not go over well. My entire experience with online only added to the theory that this feature was rushed into the package. I played on the Xbox 360 and to my sad, sad surprise; there was only one online mode. There is no deathmatch, team deathmatch, or capture the flag. This is surprising because these three modes appear in almost every online shooter. What you have to do is kill werewolves with your teammates and fill up your Animus Tank—an actual machine that holds Animus—before the other team while stopping them from doing the same. Many players will lose interest after the first round (if there is even anyone still playing this game).
I would like to say the music in the game will make your ears bleed but I can’t because there is hardly any music. Throughout the game, out of the six times I heard music playing it was the same tune three times. When the songs did play it was only for about thirty seconds at a time. The soundtrack does nothing for you so I suggest you play some music from your hard drive. The rest of the sound in this game consists of up and downs. The creatures sound pretty good with their roaring and hissing and crawling, but the guns sound weak adding to their uselessness (with exception for the rocket launcher although a little more boom would have been nice). The graphics did not help the feel of the game either. They seem unpolished and uninspired. They are passable for a next-gen game but I would expect more coming from the Unreal Engine. Environments are boring, minus the opening scene of New York getting destroyed by Griffiths. Both the character and (most of) the creature designs are awful; one example being the Fire Drakes which happen to be bland stone textures on fire. As much work as the graphics needed I would have rather Spark Unlimited work on gameplay to make the experience somewhat enjoyable.
However, after all of this the game reaches its biggest flaw: it’s boring. I never got into the story or cared about any of the characters and the creatures do not awe players in any way, shape or form. The game did nothing to stand out. Not even halfway into the game I realized Legendary, like many other FPS games in the market, will be long forgotten. The game is also really easy and most hardcore gamers shouldn’t have a problem plowing through this. There is a hint at the end of the game of an impending sequel but I doubt that we will never see that arise due to this game’s flaws nor will many even care. I do not recommend this game in the slightest. If you really need to try this, rent it. But, I’m warning everyone! Let your curiosity go and learn from Pandora’s mistake by leaving this unopened.
Monday, March 7, 2011
However, returning to my original point, this is all going to change due to Ninja Theory's new take on the DmC franchise. Instead, they believe Dante should look like a cross between Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones and Edward of Twilight. Fans have, of course, expressed their dislike of this new character design but both Ninja Theory and Capcom have refused to turn back and are determined to move forward proudly. I'm not saying the game will turn out poorly and I know I will make sure to try the Devil May Cry before I pass final judgement; Ninja Theory's previous productions, Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: An Odyssey to the West, are well made video games (they weren't anything special but they are a good bit of fun). It's just disappointing to see a fan favorite video game character receive treatment not supported by fans. It also strikes me odd (as well as saddens me) that Ninja Theory and Capcom have scrapped fans request to return to the old Dante, completely ignoring what the majority of their consumers desire.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 Review
There was a time when X-Men video games were not a top priority for gamers. Almost every single game featuring these mutants was shunned because of poor design, poor controls or they just were not enjoyable. That all changed when developer Raven Software, along with publisher Activision, created X-Men Legends. A fun, action-adventure game with RPG elements that gave the mutants a new name in the video game industry. Allowing gamers for the first time to assemble their own team of X-Men, boosting the stats they wished to increase and finally taking on Magneto in the end. Well, with the sales this game made, a sequel was quickly spawned granting players a larger playable cast and more powers. It wasn’t long until Marvel and developers realized this formula would work perfectly with an entire cast of Marvel superheroes and they leaped for the idea. In the year 2006, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance was released. It featured a cast of over twenty superheroes from the franchise, each with their own unique and individual powers. The game received positive reviews around the board. And now, a couple years later, developer Vicarious Visions has taken the reigns releasing Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 for gamers around the world to eat up and enjoy. But is this a sequel that will satisfy our superpower hunger?
Instead of creating an original storyline like the previous entry, Ultimate Alliance 2 follows the widespread Marvel comic event, Civil War. Due to large amounts of catastrophes and deaths caused by powerful men in capes and masks (mostly the young ones who have no idea what they are doing), the government has passed the Superhero Registration Act. This act forces all superheroes to register with the government so their identity and powers can be known, they can be trained to fight crime properly, and their activity can be monitored. Thus, the heroes are split down the middle with the heroes who are for the act following Iron Man and the ones against it following Captain America. This was a major event in the Marvel universe when it was first released yet it doesn’t really stand firm in a video game. Due to the fact that the game has so many characters, the story can never truly focus on one waypoint except for the standoffs between Captain America and Iron Man. There also isn’t much back story given by the game, so players who haven’t read the series may get confused at some points but this won’t shield any players from following the overall story. Even though the game is based upon Marvel’s Civil War, it does branch off the guide rails and takes liberty of the story towards the end of the game.
The gameplay is reminiscent of the first Ultimate Alliance, featuring a team of four heroes who punch, kick, pound, zap, shoot or claw up the countless waves of enemies. Players are able to decide which hero will be a part of that team. Just beware that not every character from the first game will be available this second time around. Nonetheless, combat and choosing your team are easily the greatest parts of the game. Choosing your favorite superhero (as long as he is a playable character) and then going out into the world to beat down some enemies is awesome. Plus, you get to use their unique powers to add to the final licking of your enemies. This isn’t anything new though because it’s all been introduced in the previous game. What is new are the “fusion” moves. During combat, two players or a player and a NPC (non-playable character) can trigger a destructive combination of powers that either wipes out every enemy on screen or deals a large amount of damage to a particular enemy (usually a boss). If you choose to go solo for this adventure, you should have some fun but this game truly excels when you play with some friends. Four player multiplayer is back and is available for local play and online play. This is the way the game was meant to be played. Busting up cyborgs and thugs with some friends can bring a lot of enjoyment.
Similar to the first game, there are numerous heroes to choose from. Like I said earlier, there are a lot of absentees who made appearances in the first game, but they have been replaced with some better and some worse. It’s all up to the player’s preference. As the game progresses, you are given the choice to choose Pro-registration or Anti-Registration. This choice will limit some of the characters you are allowed to play (if you choose Iron Man’s side you won’t be able to play as Captain America or Luke Cage and vice versa) but there are enough to make most gamers happy. Players are also given the ability to choose which stats to increase for each individual hero. This is where the RPG element comes in. Every hero has their own abilities and the more you pound baddies into the ground, the more experience points you receive. You will also level up as progress is made and can increase the damage or effectiveness of a hero’s power.
In between missions, players will be brought to their commanding officer’s (Iron Man or Captain America) headquarters. When in this area, you can run around freely, enjoying the sights or conversing with other heroes. There is also a simulator where you can replay completed missions or try out one of the many challenges to earn medals. Players can also look at dossiers and storyboard art collected throughout the game. Lastly, there is a trivia game that will grant experience points with each correct answer. And for all the comic buffs out there, you know trivia equals fun, fun, fun!
Even with all the entertainment that this game can deliver, it falls flat on its face due to technical problems. First off, the camera is made to ruin you in the heat of battle. There were so many time when I was battling away and the camera would set itself behind an object or wall blocking my vision. This is not a problem when the game gives you slight control of the camera but when it locks itself in place, this can be a real hassle. If the game had allowed the player to zoom in or out this problem could have been easily solved. The other fault this game contains is the bugs. Be ready to have your hero get stuck numerous times whether it is in a wall or in the air. One time I was playing as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and after I jumped to get to an upper platform, he got stuck on the ledge. Another time I was masquerading as Gambit and the next thing I knew he was walking in the air. I couldn’t get back down or jump any higher, I was just stuck walking on enemies foreheads. These problems were solved when I switched the hero out of the team but you shouldn’t have to do that in order to get a video game to work. These are bugs that should have been cleaned out way before release.
The sound is another highpoint in the game. Voice acting works for all of the characters except Thor. In the first Ultimate Alliance, Thor actually sounded like a Norse God which made him seem really cool. In this one he sounds like a whiny Shakespearian actor with raspy voice. The sound effects are great as all the powers all have their unique sounds from Spider-Man’s web attacks to Wolverine’s claw swipes. Each punch and kick is delivered in pure comic book fashion with BAM and POW sounds while characters spew out one-liners. The music does its job as it fits the atmosphere. However, you won’t be hanging out with your friends whistling the tunes. All in all, it is a good but forgettable soundtrack.
From an outside perspective, the graphics look pretty good. This game took a major step up from its cartoonish look in the previous entry. The environments aren’t spectacularly designed but they are far from ugly. Almost all of the character designs are done well but you’ll probably question some alternate costumes. The enemies are monotonous but what can you expect from a genre that forces you to fight wave after wave of them? When you take a closer look at this game however, you will see the rough edges. Graphical problems are a haunting factor in this game. Characters will sometimes run straight through walls or each other. Also, during conversations, half or the characters’ heads will block the screen which isn’t a pretty picture. This begs the question, what made the developers believe they were finished when there were so many errors that needed polishing?
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is a fun game that is just unpolished. It seems like a rushed piece of work that needed to be shipped out in order to make some cash. Sure, there are some good points to the game that make it worth the playing time but in the end, players will become annoyed by technical problems. The story is based on a major comic book event that is sure to pull in some gamers and the action packed gameplay is fun, especially with some friends. Yet the bugs just drag the game farther and farther away from the greatness it’s trying to emulate. They may seem minor at first but the continuous occurrences become a major setback halfway through the game. Play this game only if you were a huge fan of the original and you have been eagerly waiting the arrival of a sequel. Otherwise, just let this super powered adventure fly right over your head.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Some call him Batman, others The Dark Knight, or as the Joker says it, Bats. No matter which one you choose, this comic book vigilante is one of the most famous characters to date and his popularity only continues to increase. With the release of the films, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, this character’s mainstream status has risen to new heights. However, video games have never been the strong suit for DC Comics’ renowned costumed hero. Seldom has the reception of video games based on the vigilante been a welcome one. Changing the flow of the tide however, is the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Eidos, this new entry in the franchise has completely reshaped the view of all comic book video games.
Simple story, I know, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. The atmosphere of the entire game is really what adds to the plot. The surreal elements this game delivers are what keeps the gamer on his or her feet and creates intensity all the way to the credit screen. Sure, some things could’ve been elaborated a little better or made more creative, such as the way the Joker escapes. He literally beats up two guys and suddenly has control of the entire prison. Nonetheless, this was just to get the game off its feet quickly so the player can become Batman. And that, my friends, is what you will feel like when playing.
Also helping Batman get around are his gadgets that he will obtain as progress is made. These consist of the grappling gun, the line launcher and the explosive compound sprayer (which can be used for combat as well; more on that a little later). Each gadget is simple to use and will be a necessity in order to complete this adventure. The grappling gun will help you get up to those high areas, the line launcher will shoot a wire that Batman will glide across and the explosive gel will blow those pesky old walls out of your way (you can also use the grappling gun to pull the whole thing down once you get the upgrade). Batman can also use his cape to glide long distances and believe me, this is fun. Climbing on top of the tallest structure and gliding all the way to the ground can be pretty enticing. You also don’t have to worry about damage from falling. Batman will either use his cape in order to catch himself before he face plants the pavement or the game will give the player a chance to use their grappling hook to get back up to the ridge.
You can only jump when you run off a ledge which is fine because Batman is apparently a really good mountain climber. He will climb up ledges easily shimmy himself around to hard to reach places. He can also crouch and crawl into the vents and small passageways (and believe me, you will be using those vents and small passageways). The only problem I have with the entire movement layout is the fact that you have to press and hold a button in order to run. We live in the 21st century! It should be common knowledge to all developers that pushing the joystick all the way will make the character on screen sprint while only pushing it half way will cause them to walk.
Next to the story is the Challenge Mode. There are two types of challenges in this mode. The first is basically an arena mode where wave after wave of thugs take charge and you try to build up a high score. The second is where you must try to take out all of the thugs without being seen as quickly as possible. After participating in either of these modes, your score will be posted online for others to compete against. Other than this however, there isn’t much to the game and only true Batman fans will try to go for a second or third playthrough.
The graphics are absolutely stunning. From Batman to the lowest thug, each character design is beautiful to look at (and you probably will end up looking at Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy… a lot). What’s even better is the fact that Batman’s costume becomes torn and tattered as players make progress. You’ll see bullet dents, holes in the cape and tears in the costume towards the latter part of the game. The environments are gorgeously designed, too as stated before. Each area has its own distinction so you’ll never feel like you are running through the same area over and over again. Whether it be a building structure, an individual cell or the outside in the open, the atmosphere are striking to look at because of the amount of detail that has gone into all of Batman’s surroundings.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Here it is! The review of the week: "Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood" in honor of last week's announcement of the new sequel in the franchise. Read it, love it, talk about it and as always, thank you for reading!
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood Review
If there are two things I love, it's westerns and video games and when they come together like white t-shirts and water I’m as excited as kid who just got his first happy meal. That’s why I was so excited when I got my hands on Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood developed by Techland. To give you some history, this game is actually a prequel to Call of Juarez which was released in 2006 on the PC and Xbox 360.
Developed by the same company the game was a decent first person shooter (FPS) but had some elements that ruined the fun. The game had a great story along with having players control two characters by the name of Reverend Ray, a gun-toting, bible quoting priest and Billy Candle, a whiny teenager that has to hide and sneak around for most of the game. After the death of his father and mother Billy is on the run the law that suspects him of killing his parents. When Reverend Ray hears this he grabs his bible and six shooters to bless and kill everything in sight as he hunts down Billy. Players were switched between characters getting two sides of the story and enduring different styles of gameplay. Ray is a strong character running into the fray blasting left and right while Billy was weaker but faster and focused more on stealth. Some players didn’t like this switch because the stealth element felt incomplete but I liked the change. The other faults were that everyone walked like robots, the shooting mechanics weren’t perfect and some graphical problems hindered the game. All in all, even with the online multiplayer, the game didn’t have lasting appeal.
Well, the developers at Techland saddled back up to fix these problems with a prequel. Released for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, this game planned on taking everything great from the first along with some new elements to give us players a better experience. And by golly they did! The game is a major step up from the original and enhances our understanding of the great story this series has. Sure, there are some things that could’ve been worked out a little better but we’ll get into more detail very soon so keep your trousers on straight and your gun hand ready as we ride through this western tale.
The story of Bound in Blood goes a little something like this. Brothers Ray and Thomas McCall begin their journey by fighting in the Civil War… on the Confederate side. And yes, that’s the same Ray from the first game but he isn’t the cuddly bringer of heaven’s wrath and fury upon the world, priest/gunfighter we know and love from the first one. No, in this one he is a shoot first; ask later, trouble starting, horny man. But he is still is awesome. Suddenly realizing their home will be overrun by the Yanks, they leave their post to protect their family. This in turn causes their commanding officer, Colonel Barnsby, to vow revenge against such deserters. Ray and Thomas succeed by saving their younger brother William, a priest, but their mother had already passed away. Shedding a quick tear the McCall brothers go on the run getting into fights and killing a lot of people. They plan to return and rebuild their home once they have to money to do so. This in turn leads them to hunt for the treasure of Juarez; a treasure that is said to be cursed and bring torment and suffering to any who search for it. Not caring about that they head down to Mexico to begin their treasure hunt. Now, the one thing Ray and Thomas fight about more than actual gunfighters is women. Ray and Thomas have obviously never heard of bros before hoes because they threaten to kill each other over a woman. So, when they meet Juarez and his lovely girl, Marisa, all hell breaks loose. First, Ray wants the girl then she tricks him and falls for Thomas, it’s a whole mess that you need to play the game to find out how it unravels. Of course this is all going on while Colonel Barnsby is playing man hunt with the brothers because he wants to use the treasure to restore the Confederacy. Throughout the game, William will whine and complain to them about righteous ways and sin. I don’t mind him spreading his religious outlook on them because religion is a heavy aspect in both this one and the original, I just wish his voice wasn’t so damn annoying! It’s like shoving a crow’s beak into my ear and letting it sound off as loud as it can every three minutes. But he kind of warmed up to me since he manned up a bit toward the end of the game. I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil anything for you all but don’t think that the story is complicated or confusing. It’s actually a really well thought story that I can’t really explain without spoiling it so trust me when I say the story is interesting.
In Bound in Blood you have the ability to play two characters but not like the first game which automatically switched you back and forth. In this one you are allowed to choose who you wish to play as at the start of each level. Unlike the first game, the stealth element has basically been completely removed (except for the part where you can shank people silently in a corn field). Ray is still the crazy, run in and stuff your face with lead gunfighter he was in the first game, only he doesn’t have his bible this time. That made me tear a bit but I fought through it. Thomas is the more agile, whip using, long ranger gunner. This is a great idea as the game allows the player to choose whatever play style suits them in order to complete the game. Now through almost every level except one, the brothers are together. They help each other climb ledges, flank enemies and work cooperatively. The sad thing is that there is no co-op. This game seems like it was built for that aspect with the fact that two brothers work together throughout the game. It’s too bad really. This game could have received major kudos for some co-op play.
Bound in Blood is a level based game. Once you complete a level you see a cutscene and shift to the next one. But there are some free roaming sections to the game where you can take up side missions if one so chooses. This is great but I feel we were taunted with what we could have had: a complete, free roaming, FPS western game. Oh, Techland, you tease. The gameplay is basic FPS style gameplay. What’s different about this game is that there are no heavy machine guns (except the turret) or lasers or mines and whatnot. These are classic late 1800 weapons such six shooters, rifles, bow and arrows, and shotguns. All take a certain time to reload and will have normal FPS players taking a slight learning curve. But that was the west and the sooner players can get over that the fun will begin. There are horses to ride which are a fast way to get around but you won’t need them in most levels and they never look too good (design wise) anyway. You can also buy weapons from the various shops in the game that are much better than any you will find atop a corpse you just created. Remember, the better the weapon, the faster the reload and the stronger the damage. Once you get over the weapons, the shooting mechanics work great. You aim, shoot, and the people die. Flawless. There is a small cover system where you Ray or Thomas will latch onto a wall or a chest high wall and you can control how far they stick their heads out but the two or three times I used the cover system I found this to lead me to my death more than it ever helped me. You can also zoom in, dual wield, and go into bullet time. Bullet time will really help out as you clear out all enemies on screen in just a couple moments. Just point your reticule at each of the enemies and watch Ray or Thomas pour out lead faster than a chain gun and the best part is that every bullet will hit. Awesome.
Two things that both characters will have to face off with are boss fights and duels. The boss fights aren’t hard but they can kill quickly if you get caught off guard. They’ll hide behind cover frequently can deal heavy damage in only a couple hits so keep your eyes open when you face them. The duels on the other hand are all about reflexes. You have to try to keep your character’s hand close to the gun while keeping your enemy in your sights. Then, when you hear the bell, draw your gun and shoot. This seems really easy but throughout the game I never understand exactly how to work this. I’m used to Red Dead Revolver’s way of pulling down the joystick to grab the gun, push back up to draw the pistol and then shoot. How I completed this game I have no idea because I found myself randomly jerking the right joystick and luckily completing the duel. It’s really obnoxious because it seems the enemies move back and forth in the duel just to annoy you. I mean, when was the last time you saw a duel and both gunslingers walking around in circles? Every duel I’ve ever seen they stood in place. I mean, they may have walked around a bit to get themselves pumped up like Jada Pinkett-Smith at a concert but they always planted themselves like banzai trees before the actual draw. Nonetheless, I beat the system and showed the man that I am a true geek.
Next to the single player is the online multiplayer. There isn’t any splitscreen (another tear) but the online play is fun. There are a good amount of modes and maps which is what online play needs. Like normal, we have the twenty four player deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag and a fun mode titled Wanted where one player is considered wanted and the others hunt them down. These are fun and necessary for any type of online play but the one I found my self playing the most was Wild West Legends. In this mode each team has to complete objectives in order to win the match. One team will have to destroy a mission objective while the other team must protect it. These objectives range from famous western stories many may have heard about such as the hunt of Billy the Kid to the Magnificent Seven’s stand against the bandits. Each map features a different legend but my favorite is the bank robbery. The Outlaw team must break into the bank, bust open the safe with dynamite, steal some horses from the barn and ride out of town while the Sheriff team must stop them from completing any of these. This is the only game where I have ever played a good ol’ western bank robbery and it’s a blast (literally! (bad joke, I know). An interesting feature is the fact that the game doesn’t keep track of kills or deaths. Instead the game deals with bounties. The more kills you get the higher your bounty and the higher chance of people trying to kill you. When you kill another player you receive the amount of money their bounty is, giving you the incentive to try to take out the more experienced players. With this money you can buy upgrades for your characters (for that match only) or unlock more playable characters online each with their own advantages. The online play is fun and should last quite awhile as players try to claim more and more bounties. The only problem that I truly have is that you can’t duel anyone online. I would love to show how fast my random jerking of the joystick is against other players (One more tear. My last one, I promise. I’m not a wimp; I’m just in touch with my inner self).
The sound in the game is amazing. The voice acting blows so many games out of the water. Sure, William may get annoying and I want to give him a backhand at times but all the voices fit game. Listening to two brothers bicker has never sounded so good. The music is pure western and works with the fast paced action. You won’t find your self humming the themes after you shut the game off but they fill a void in order to give a complete experience. All the weapons sound powerful whether it is a meager pistol or movable turret. All the clicking and the little trinket noises that come with each gun from reloading to making the bullet leave the chamber add to this western outlook.
The graphics also stand out and surpass the previous game. The character designs look outstanding especially Ray and Thomas. Even the run of the mill enemies look pretty good. People don’t walk like robots anymore or move around awkwardly from the first person perspective. Like I said earlier, it never looks good when you ride a horse and the design of the horse looks pretty bad too. The back of their head looks like a mesh of expired cottage cheese. But that’s only a small portion of the game. The environments are absolutely beautiful. You’ll travel through towns, battlefields, gold mines, hideouts, open deserts, and forests, all looking unique and detailed. Each area feels fresh and different from the previous which will help make the experience last longer. Fans of the first game may even recognize a couple places.
Overall, this is a great western game. The first may have been a disappointment to some but this prequel fixes many of the problems while keeping all that was great and adding a couple new gameplay elements to blend it all together for an enjoyable game. Some things need to be fixed or designed better but this game delivers on its promise. It has a great story that should pull almost all gamers in and the acting only increases the odds of that happening. Everyone needs to at least rent this game and give it a try. It will not refine the world of gaming as we know it, but it will give many gamers something really enjoyable. So, I beckon to y’all. Saddle up them horses, pull out them ol’ six shooters and get yourself ready for showdown.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand Review
Nevertheless, this game is (and I can’t believe I’m saying this)… fun. The controls work really well and never feel sluggish. There is a cover system that will really help you out during the many, many shootouts the G-Unit will endure. It might get tedious going from gunfight to gunfight but you can’t help having fun at some points. Another fun gimmick is the melee combat you can pull off by getting close to an enemy and performing a small (and very easy) quick time event for an instant kill. There is also an arcade style mode, inspired by "The Club," in the game that keeps track of your score. Your score will consist of kill combos, finding collectible posters and shooting targets scattered around the levels. The higher your score, the better your medal at the end of the level and the more unlockables you receive. You can also buy taunts, new melee attacks and weapons from certain payphones with the money you find in boxes or what you pick up from 50 Cent’s reign of death upon the nation. Like my appendix, I never understood the purpose of the taunts nor did I really try to use them because it usually left 50 Cent in open resulting in damage being taken. The melee attacks are fun but the sad part is how you end up doing the same three attacks over and over again. But this game isn’t about melee, it’s about guns, and they’re great. The weapons are fun and plentiful consisting of assault rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, pistols, and rocket launchers. The shooting mechanics work well with all the guns as well. You aim, shoot and create dozens of corpses in front of you; the way any third-person shooter should work.
Like I said earlier, the game has a coop mode that you can play with a friend. But this leads to my biggest complaint. There is no split screen coop! Online is awesome when you have no one to play with, but what if I want to play with my friend who is sitting right next to me? Now I know some of you selfish people out there want your 50" screen all to yourself but I love playing with my friends in the same room! I’ve lived through the days of Goldeneye focusing on one tiny corner of the screen and I loved every part of it! Why, you ask? Well, because I have friends who come over my house and we like to play video games together in the same room, that’s why. There’s no need for me to say, "Hey buddy, would you like to play 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand?" "Why yes, I would love too! I’ll head home right now!" Also, if you’re going to try and whip out the system link argument, not all of us have the money to buy a bunch of 360’s and televisions for everyone to play with.
The music in the game, well, fits the game. The soundtrack is compiled of 50 Cent songs so I can’t say the soundtrack to the game is bad. I don’t like 50 Cent’s music but there are some tracks I remember back when I was in my "wannabe gangsta" phase. I’m actually glad they didn’t try to bust out some poor version of Arabian music. What you can do with the music is create your own playlist to listen to while you decimate bad guys. Finally, a game where I can headshot someone’s penis head while listening to "What Up Gangsta." Sadly, they don’t have all of his music in the game. I would have liked to shank some poor Middle Eastern enemy while listening to "21 Questions." … Could you love me in a Bentley? Could you love me on a bus? I'll ask 21 questions, and they all about us… Umm… yeah, so the weapons sound great! Explosions go boom and cars go vroom. In other words, they don’t sound your shooting a pellet gun. The voice acting is… different. Everyone from the country sounds like they could’ve starred in a rip off of "The Kingdom" movie. That’s not technically a bad thing because they’ve got the accents to make us feel like we are in the Middle East. What twists this all around is 50 Cent busting down doors like Rambo but spitting out every profane word that one can think of. For example, you might hear, "I am a god and nobody, especially him, will bring a god down," and 50 Cent runs in and says "Yo, gimme back my skull, b***h." It really messes around with the atmosphere but I’m not going to lie, it is entertaining to listen to. Though there are some times when 50 Cent opens his mouth and he sounds like Billy Mays trying to advertise some Clorox.
The graphics in the game are next-gen graphics. They aren’t the prettiest I’ve ever seen, but there’s been much worse out there. They nail the detail of the war torn Middle Eastern country and the landscapes overall look pretty good. The character designs of 50 Cent and his homies look really good but I can’t say the same for the enemies. It’s just the same four or five different models popping up all over the country. The CG cutscenes are ridiculous as they are entertaining but they all look pretty well and pass for today’s video game technology.
Overall, the game is a fun and I recommend as a rent to anyone looking for a decent third-person shooter to spend some time with. Sure, if you’re a hundred percent against the two quartered man, you won’t enjoy it but if you don’t mind him, you’ll have fun. If you have a fancy for 50 Cent, well you probably already own this but if you don’t, you might want to pick this up next time you’re out. Hilarious story and dialogue, good gameplay, a fitting soundtrack and some pretty good graphics come together to make and enjoyable third-person experience. Also you’ll get a hefty amount of easy-to-earn achievement points.
Wait, I’m not done yet. I have one question about this game. This topic didn’t make sense to me so I’ll ask you. In the game, the dialogue of 50 and his gangsta friends along with some of the baddies contains profanity to rival Bad Boys. However, when you watch the unlockable music videos, they cut out the profanity making it sound like you’re listening to some poor kid with a stuttering problem. What’s the deal? Is listening to a non-pixelated 50 Cent swear bad for the youth and fans? Or do they think we would overlook all the profanity in the game because of the gunfights? Oh, well, I guess it’s just another mystery unsolved.