Thursday, February 24, 2011

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review (Xbox 360)

Sorry for the late post, but I did make sure to get this review before the end of the week. This time, it's Batman: Arkham Asylum. This review is longer and more precise than previous reviews because I wanted to show I can truly break a game to its core components. If you don't like the length, don't worry, I'm not making them all this long. I'm just testing out different writing styles. Well, I hope you all enjoy it and, as always, thank you for reading!
Batman: Arkham Asylum Review
Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

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.
The story is based on the actual comic series entitled Arkham Asylum. Now, don’t worry if you have never read the series because it isn’t necessary. The game gives enough plot, information and background story throughout the game and more, so there isn’t a need to worry if you have never even heard of the series. The game starts off with Batman bringing the Joker to Arkham Asylum. He meets up with Commissioner Gordon at the Asylum and hands over the Joker to the guards. Even though Joker is back where he belongs, Batman knows there is something wrong since the maniacal fiend “gave up without a fight.” Well, his instincts prove true like always. The moment Joker gets away from his arch nemesis, he breaks free and ends up taking control of the entire asylum. Joker then releases all of the prisoners and goes on a rampage wreaking havoc throughout the entire island (yes, for those who don’t know, Arkham Asylum is an entire island). With a long night ahead of him, it’s up to Batman to put away all the criminals and take down the Joker!

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.
The gameplay is unbelievably well done. Everything from exploring the scenery to combating thugs is done so smoothly you can hardly tell that Batman has switched to the next command. First, let’s start off with the investigating of the island. Arkham Asylum is a huge landscape to traverse. There are several outside areas, caves, tunnels and buildings to search through on your hunt for the madman. Aiding you in this endeavor is the trusty map that you can open at any point in the game to find out your location and where to go next. This will definitely be useful as it will point you in the right direction and indicate what area you should be in next.

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.
Nevertheless, that is only a minute shortcoming since the combat in the game is superb. There are three different buttons dealing with combat in the game which are attack, stun and takedown. Using what is known as a “freeflow” combat system the brawls are amazingly enjoyable. Batman can attack in any direction the player leans the analog stick to without any hesitation or choppiness. This means you can attack to the right, stun to the left, attack the enemy in front of you and then go finish off the guy you started with. The combat is remarkably fluid and realistic no matter what combination you choose to take out your opponents with. This also encourages the player to create continuous combos. Button mashing could get you through some of the game but correctly pulling off attacks is what should be the focus of each clash. The higher the combo, the better and stronger Batman’s attacks will be. When you reach a high enough combo, you can perform throws as well as quick takedowns which knockout the enemy instantly. In addition to all this, you can even throw batarangs in mid-combat to spice things up. Oh, the joys of being vigilante.
Batman is a great martial artist, easily trouncing all of his foes. Even so, the Dark Knight can not block bullets; so, contrary to beating your enemies silly, you will have to use stealth in order to clear the area sometimes. This is when you seriously feel like you’re Batman. The vents and passageways I mentioned earlier are a big part of the stealth as you’ll use them to sneak around armed thugs, but it’s the gargoyles that make the experience. With a gargoyle in sight, Batman can grapple on to it and watch the area from above. While up there, he can also grapple to other gargoyles to gain a better vantage point. And then, the goons are all yours. You can throw batarangs at them, drop down and glide kick them or you can do the famous Batman maneuver by dropping down and snatching them (definitely my favorite)! In addition, the explosive compound sprayer I stated earlier can be used to take out enemies. You can spray the gel onto a flat surface, wait for some wandering fool to walk by and then… BOOM! Another tool in the Batman arsenal is his “detective mode.” The special vision allows players to see through walls and find out where enemies may be, how many there are and how many are armed. It also highlights any and all unique items that can be interacted with in the area. The only problem with “detective mode” is, since it’s so useful, you’ll probably end up keeping it on for a good part of the game; which is a downer because players can miss how elegant the landscapes are designed. As you make your way through the Asylum, keep in mind that Batman’s gadgets and moves can be upgraded with experience points you gain from taking down prisoner or finding collectibles.
In contrast to the excellent combat system though are the boss fights. Almost every single one is, sadly, the same thing. You let the overpowered and steroid injected creation charge at you, throw a batarang at its face and then proceed to beat the living hell out of it. This is done over and over again until victory is achieved. It’s great the first time but when you face multiple other baddies and must take them out the same way, it’s a letdown. Even the final fight is ridiculously easy compared to the rest of the game. The only change of pace was when Batman faces off against Poison Ivy because it actually felt like a real boss battle. Scarecrow was also different but you can’t allow him to see you or it is an instant death. Even so, the bits with the psychotic Doctor Crane can be somewhat creepy. The biggest disappointment was when Batman must take on Killer Croc. After hyping this part up since the beginning of the story, it only ends up to be a cat and mouse game where Batman must sneak along wooden planks while Killer Croc stalks him from below. It’s just a long, repetitive and drawn out scene as Killer Croc continuously jumps up at you only to be introduced to a batarang that sends him back down under. Yet, these disappointments do not hinder the grand scale of the game. Each session of combat you face off in will feel invigorating as you watch Batman smoothly transition through his combos.
Exploring and fighting aren’t the only things to look forward to as there are a total of two hundred forty-nine collectibles that the Riddler has left for Batman to find. These are actually quite entertaining as every time you enter an area a riddle will show up on screen for you to solve. The riddles deal with references to other characters in the Batman universe and some can be quite difficult to figure out. Along with the riddles are audio tapes of interviews between doctors and the numerous inmates of Arkham Asylum that are great background fillers for all the villains within the game. There are also trophies the Riddler has placed throughout the island that the player can collect. None of these collectibles are mandatory but they do add some playtime to the seven to ten hour storyline (and worth some nice achievement points).

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 voice acting in the game is top notch, especially with stars from the animated series providing the voices of the characters. Kevin Conroy is Batman, Mark Hamill is the Joker and Arleen Sorkin is Harley Quinn. If you were ever a fan of the old Batman animated series, your heart (and ears) will feel right at home as you dive into another adventure. The sound effects are great, particularly the punches and kicks. Each blow sounds beautiful as you beat an enemy to a pulp, especially when the slow motion kicks in at the end of a fight. The music is pure Batman and fits the game perfectly. There isn’t anything that will blow you away or surprise anyone but it fits the dark element trying to be established.

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.
Batman fan or not, this is a must play game. Combat is a pure grace as Batman moves fluidly from one attack to the other. Exploration is pleasing due to the good controls and beautiful landscapes. It is certain that there are some disappointments and letdowns but those are only minor compared to everything else in the game. Some may not find it worth buying since the storyline is only seven to ten hours long but it’s worth renting at least once. So many times have comic book video games fail to live up to standards. This can change now because a new standard has been set by Batman: Arkham Asylum. And there is no doubt in my mind that as of now, this is the greatest comic book video game ever.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood Review (Xbox 360)

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

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 (Xbox 360)

Well, here it is... My "50 Cent: Blood on the Sand" review. As I stated in my last post, I took a more comedic approach to this review than I did in my "[PROTOTYPE]" review. I hope you all enjoy it. Don't forget, I write reviews as I play the games so if you have any requests, let me know. As always, thank you for reading!

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand Review

Yo, what up everybody?! How my dogs and homies doin’ in the hood? I’m just poppin’ a deal over hur in my crib. Yea, what you know about that? Damn, homie… (Shakes head and enters reality) Wow… I’m sorry about that. I’ve been playing 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand developed by Swordfish Studios and I kind of lost track of myself. That’s right, I’m reviewing 50 Cent’s latest attempt at making money, his new video game. This isn’t his first game, however. Sometime during November in 2005, 50 Cent: Bulletproof was released for the Playstation 2 and Xbox. Critics called the game mediocre at best but I never played it because… well, I didn’t really care for it and I couldn’t imagine paying two cents to play it, let alone fifty (drum roll, please). But when I was bored one lonely afternoon and I was searching the racks at my local movie and video game rental store, I saw this game on the shelf and decided I wanted to be "In da Club" for a couple days. I’m not going to lie, I feel hip hop has rotted away from the core it started as. When I’m parading around in my happy-go-lucky lifestyle I don’t want to hear about how someone will put seventeen bullets in my head and beat their whores while shoving a pound of cocaine up their nose if they are even squinted at the wrong way. But I do listen to hip hop. It just happens to be the kind where there’s actually a purpose behind their lyrics.
So, the big question: is 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand any good? Well, before I could even play the game I had to prepare my self for what I was about to see. So I hopped onto the world wide web, surfed over to Youtube and listened to some tunes to get in the mood. One moment please… Aww yeah! I get money, I get money! … ‘Cause I’m a motherf****n’ P.I.M.P.! … If I can’t do homie, can’t be done. I’m a let the champagne bottle pop, I’m a take it to top, sure I’m a make it hot baby! … You can find me in da club, bottles full of bub. Look mami I got the X if you into to taking drugs. I’m into having sex, I ain’t into making love so come give me a hug if you’re into getting rubbed! … Alright homie, I’m black! I mean back. I’m back and now I can play the game.
The story of the game is very simple and ludicrous at the same time. Basically, it’s one of the most comical storylines in a video game that I’ve ever seen. After the full-combat-gear ready 50 finishes his concert somewhere random in the Middle East, him and his G-Unit homeboys want their payment. But what a surprise! This war torn country doesn’t have the money to pay these gangstas. Instead, our lovable action hero is paid with a crystal skull that Indiana Jones must have lost track of. It could’ve have ended here but 50 Cent hasn’t shot anybody yet so not a chance. A few moments later, 50 Cent’s skull is stolen by a mysterious woman and 50 wants it back. This in turn leads to 50 Cent tearing up this country even more to get back what probably isn’t rightfully his. And that’s the story. 50 Cent will accomplish what George Bush failed to do by ending as many human lives possible in the Middle East to get his "ice." What this game does correctly however, is that it knows the story is ridiculous and sticks with it the whole time. The game makes sure you never take the plotline seriously and tries to make sure you enjoy the game for what it is, a third-person shooter.
The first thing I want to say about the gameplay is this: this game is incredibly easy. I only died twice on hard difficulty and even that was only because I was messing around. The game even has an achievement (no gamer points come with it, however) called Not Bulletproof which is gained by dying on easy (I made sure I unlocked this achievement). Basically, anyone can plow through this game whether you are a hardcore gamer or not.

The second is that this game is incredibly short. You remember how I said I wanted to waste a couple days being a P.I.M.P.? Well, I meant more like three and a half hours. Yes, I beat this game in three and a half hours. And the worst part about this is the fact that there are no other modes to play besides the story mode. There is no competitive multiplayer or minigames or whatnot. Sure, you can play the story mode with a friend via online (one person plays 50 Cent and the other plays Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks or DJ Whoo Kid) but that gets old after the second play through. The only reason one would play through the game more than twice would be to attain piece unlockable content which consists of music videos, stills and songs to make your playlist (more on that later). Once I was finished, I was left with an empty feeling inside just like how I feel after I’ve eaten some Chinese food.

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.

Monday, February 7, 2011

News Update

How's everyone doing? Just letting you know that tomorrow I will be posting my next review, "50 Cent: Blood on the Sand" developed by Swordfish Studios. I took more of a comedic approach for this review so let me know if you like it or not.

Also, in other news, the next installment in the "Call of Juarez" series has been announced. Being a huge fan of the western genre in general ("Red Dead Redemption" was awesome!!) I became very excited. However, it seems this time, the wild west won't be so familiar. Entitled "Call of Juarez: The Cartel," Ubisoft and developers Techland are bringing the wild west to a more modernized setting where our protagonist will be an "Urban Cowboy." Sounds interesting but I'm definitely going to miss the good ol' west this series treated us to even though the games weren't exactly blowing audiences away. Anyways, more details will be delivered as they arise.

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. - This actually gives me an idea for my next review... "Bound in Blood" anyone?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

[PROTOTYPE] Review (Xbox 360)

See, I told ya I would post on either Tuesday or Wednesday! Read it, enjoy it, love it, hate it, admire it, despise it, commend it, degrade it, copy it, paste it, send it, spread the word about it, and/or whatever else you can come up with. Well now for the review and thanks for reading!


Imagine waking up in morgue with two scientists about to cut you open and you have no idea who you are or why you’re there. Well, that’s only the beginning in this third-person, open world, action-adventure game, entitled [PROTOTYPE]. Now this game was developed by Radical Entertainment whose previous games consist of Scarface: The World is Yours and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction; both fun open world games based on their movie and comic counterparts. As a matter of fact most of Radical’s games are open world so you’d hope that they know what they were doing by now to make a good, stand out sandbox game considering the fact these types of games are a dime a dozen today.

Well, that’s what they attempted to do with Alex Mercer, the newest ill-tempered, testosterone overflowing protagonist in video games today. Alex is a shapeshifter that can transform himself into anything excluding cars, tanks, helicopters, buildings, land posts, coffee cakes- Okay, well he can’t transform into anything but he can manipulate parts of his body into blades and gooey wrecking balls. He can also become anybody in the city a.k.a. the nine different models of people sprinkled throughout Manhattan.


The game begins with a pretty cool cinematic of Alex telling us all how crazy and antiheroic he is i.e. I kill people and blow things up. After the cinematic, you can finally push buttons. You are thrown right into the fight with the objective of kill the soldiers that are pumping you full of lead. Your health is displayed in small bar on the top left corner of the screen which will go down frequently with the lead poisoning you’ll be receiving. You find out you have a huge array of powers such as claws to slice and dice, hammerfists to ground and pound, a huge blade carve bodies up, and a whip-like tentacle to probe up people’s behinds. Cool, yes but it’s too bad you don’t know how to use it. But even so, completely disemboweling the unlucky souls that get in your way brings joyful tears to the eyes. You proceed down the street in a linear fashion demolishing everything insight, somewhat understanding your powers by now, until you reach the end to consume the commanding officer.

Then, like snatching a lollipop from a baby, it’s all taken from you. You lose your powers and are forced to try to regain them by playing Alex’s narrative of what happened eighteen days earlier and achieving experience points. I’ve never really liked this sort of gameplay. First you’re teased with an arsenal of powers or weapons for the first minutes of gameplay, then being stripped like an exotic dancer. However, they tried the opposite in Superman Returns and that game turned out horribly so I guess everyone will have to live with it for now. You go through the game completing missions and dismembering anything and everything to attain experience points (EP). With these you can upgrade Alex anyway you like whether it be making him run faster, jump higher, become stronger or buying better shapeshifting moves and attacks. Other upgrades such as weapon use and vehicular ability come with the consumption of certain military individuals.

So, after Alex wakes up with a convenient case of amnesia you have to fight your way regaining your memories and wrecking major havoc in the city seeking out your revenge. Because what else could you do with almost limitless power? Why save the world or destroy it? Why not rob a bank and then runaway to Tahiti and sip on coronas for the rest of your life? Because being able to scale buildings and shapeshift makes me pissed and want to kill the person that gave that ability to me. So you go on with the normal, revenge motivated story. A military group called Blacklight arrives to wipe out Alex and the virus unleashed in the city. As time goes on, people become zombies and you get to mow through them as well as the military and pedestrians. The bigger and uglier freaks of nature (or should I say science) evolve and you have to deal with them as well before you can unleash your wrath on the unlucky soul that made you supreme. The story does have its ups with some twists but it’s nothing that’s going to set a record in the good ol’ Guiness book. The cool thing about the story though is how you learn about what happened to Alex. Forget the boring and lame cutscenes; killing people up and eating their memories are what this game is about.

Well, to gain back your memories you have to consume people. And by consume I mean having your body turn the soldier into mold and inject into your body. Suddenly bursts of memories jump into your screen via Alex’s head and you learn a little bit about the back story. This is how most of the story is told. These little scenes of memory happen with the consumption of certain individuals that link to your past. The more you find, the more you know and the more Alex’s Web of Intrigue is completed. This is a pretty cool way to balance the monotonous amnesia factor that occurs in so many games today. Also, the different consume kills you can perform are awesome. One of my favorite aspects in this game is the people scattered throughout the city that unlock a key to your history. They can show up anywhere at anytime whether you’re in a mission or just hanging around with some infected. You also regain health by consuming any living thing around you which you will be doing… a lot.


With enough experience points you can achieve the skill Stealth Consume which allows you to silently and secretly consume anyone. The game doesn’t let you stealth kill someone unless no one is watching you. And by no one I mean only the military. The funny thing with this is that whenever you stealth consume almost the entire population of Manhattan can see you but walk by like it’s the normal thing to do on the weekend. If you’re being watched you can tell by the little ball on the bottom left of the screen. It’s closed when they can’t see you, yellow when they can but don’t know you’re in disguise and red is when you have a bulls eye stapled to your forehead.

Now when you’re caught with your head in between your legs you can either run or fight. If you decide to run you can sprint which puts you into parkour mode. If you don’t know what that means it’s only a fancy little word for saying he jumps over things for you. That’s right, if you hold the joystick forward and hold the sprint button Alex will dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge his way to the other side of Manhattan without the player having to press any other button. If there’s a building in front of him have no fear, he’ll just run up the side of it with style which I admit is pretty cool when it works. There are sometimes when the animation and design have some trouble running smoothly. For example, when you run into a fire escape, Alex looks like he’s having a seizure. Other times, like when I was trying to climb up a building, he couldn’t understand the concept of running straight up and started dancing in the corner I was in.


What you can do though, is when you’re on any vertical surface you can press B for precise movement climbing where Alex clutches to the wall and climbs ala Spider-Man. But compared to sprinting it takes forever! It’s like waiting to use the bathroom while some constipated guy is on the toilet. Yet, even when I attempted to use this as I climbed some pillar-like structure at the top of the building Alex kept swinging to the left or right of the pillar as I got close to the top only to end up falling because he forgot to clutch back on to it again. You can also jump from building to building. This helps when trying to get from one place to another especially since you can charge the jump to go farther. You won’t be leaping any buildings in a single bound but it will get you places. Other techniques one can carry out is the glide or perform an air thrust where Alex thrusts himself forward in the air. The other methods of transportation are vehicles as in tanks and helicopters only. You can hijack them with a small quick-time event that consists of mashing one button and then ride them around town. They are pretty simple to maneuver with one joystick controlling movement and the other your aim.

If you choose to fight which believe me, will be your choice whether you want to or not for most of the game, you can duke it out with a decent combat system. You have two basic attack buttons, one normal and one heavy and both can be charged by holding the button down. You can also pick up cars and people and throw them which also can be charged once you buy the upgrade. First thing you’ll notice as the game progresses is that there are a ton of enemies. There will be times when the one side of your body is being painted with lead while the other side is getting to know rockets and grenades. This gets worse when you have to fight the infected and the military at the same time. You’ll be trying to take out some infected while Blacklight soldiers will blindside you and vice versa. One of the most annoying enemies is the Hunters. They take awhile to kill and will stop at nothing to annoy you by bum rushing your blind side. The coolest thing about combat is the devastator attacks that basically unleash destruction in a large radius around you. These attacks are very useful when surrounded by enemies and very easy to obtain. Moreover, they become stronger and deadlier when upgraded. Another aiding factor is that you can lock on to any target as well and switch through them quickly with the Right Joystick. What I didn’t like about this was that it slowed down time when I locked on. This is supposed to help you be able to focus on a specific target but to me it just put a pause to the action. In addition, when I wanted to blow up a car and tried to lock on to it, I targeted an enemy tank that was down the street. Apparently when the enemy is nearby, you can’t target lock anything except for the enemy. This would be fine if the tank wanted to pop a cap in me but they didn’t even know I was there!


To try and prolong the experience, there are side missions. These consist of time challenges, eradicate a certain number of soldiers or infected, try to land accurately in a designated spot, etc. These are great at first but you’ll realize after time that you’ll be doing the same thing over and over again. The best side missions are the consume missions where you have to either consume a number of military individuals in a certain amount of time, destroy an enemy base or consume a group of scientist guarded by Blacklight soldiers. Even so, these can become wary on a player as they repeat.

The sound in this game is great for the most part. The guns sound decent but some of them, like the assault rifles, sound weak and pointless. Slicing through people’s limbs and torsos sounds great and the background music is there for support. The soundtrack doesn’t have any memorable tunes but it does the game good. The voice acting is all over the place. Alex sounds decent but some characters like his sister, Dana, don’t cut it as well. Furthermore, some of the lines in their dialogue will come off as random and seem awkward.


The graphics are the weakest part in this game. The NPC’s are bland and the landscape is even worse. Everything is box shaped and you would never know that this was Manhattan if you weren’t told. Also, there is an unusual amount of pop-in in the game mostly with the signs, trees, water towers, and even buildings sometimes. It’s clear that marketers hid this in their ad campaign for the game. The pop-in hurts the point behind collectibles the worst. In other open world games you can get to a high point and look across the landscape for collectibles. First of all, you can’t even see a quarter of the city from atop a skyscraper and second, you can’t see a one until you luckily face plant yourself onto it. You’re better off tying a blindfold on yourself and trying to fall onto one while jumping around. What is impressive is the massive amount of people you can see on screen and that the framerate has stayed solid even when there was a three way war going on. In the end, graphics don’t come before gameplay and that’s really what this game is about.

Sure, the mechanics are a little clunky and not entirely smooth but I really enjoyed the game. The visceral feel and the carnage are always a plus in my book. It’s by far not the prettiest game you’ve ever seen but it does its job. This game proves gameplay is much more important that graphics. It provides non-stop, gritty, blood spilling, gut slashing action. If you get this game, there will be things you love about it and things you hate. Replay value is a little shot because there is no multiplayer or any other modes but you will get a good fifteen hours of gameplay with the story and side missions. Overall, this is a fun action-adventure title that I recommend everyone at least rent in order to feel the satisfaction of slaughtering half of Manhattan.