Review: Deadlight

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Deadlight Review

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Zombie Prince of Persia

People like to complain that zombie games have been over done at this point but I’ve yet to feel zombie game fatigue myself. Despite using many of the tropes and themes associated with the zombie apocalypse setting, most major zombie games actually play quite differently. The original Resident Evil games helped create the survival horror genre, creating suspense and tension with its claustrophobic rooms and lumbering tank controls. The Dead Rising series focused on scavenging and escort missions with a healthy dose of wacky Japanese humor. The Walking Dead was an adventure game that was about the human drama that emerges among survivors. Even the three big zombie first person shooters play differently enough to feel like unique experiences. Left 4 Dead focused on a mad run and gun rush to the safe house, the Call of Duty zombie mode was more about holding down an area and keeping barricades up, and Dead Island was basically Borderlands with zombies. The different gameplay in each of these titles kept the zombie apocalypse fresh because it allowed the player to explore this fascinating setting from new perspectives and experience different aspects of it. This notion is essential to our ability to appreciate any art form. Every theme has already been explored by the arts, but originality still thrives in our perspectives of those themes. Each new artist that creates a work provides a new lens through which to explore the most essential aspects of our nature. We do not derive the value of a piece of art from its subject matter but from the angle by which it explores its subject. Repetition in the arts only becomes derisive when an artist tries to imitate another’s voice instead of using his own unique one. Deadlight whispers to us in an old forgotten voice. It isn’t the zany variety show of Dead Rising or the heavy metal splatter films of the first person shooters. Deadlight is poetry. It’s the sad, beautiful story of the end of mankind.

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Omerta City of Gangsters Review

Omerta: City of Gansters Review

I used to think that the key to creating complexity and depth was having many different variables. Omerta: City of Gangsters proved that wrong. If you simply list the elements of the game you would be tempted to infer that it must be a deep and rich experience. The game Consists of two main parts, the city management aspect and the turn based combat. In the city management portion you have to negotiate with politicians, police deputies and sheriffs, city officials, celebrities, other mob bosses and criminals, and establishment owners. You buy and sell in three commodities, beer, liquor and firearms. There are 3 classifications of buildings you can manage and each of these classifications consist of roughly ten different types of buildings. The game distinguishes between dirty money and clean money, allowing you to only use clean money when building legitimate business operations like hotels, law firms, and hospitals. You have to also manage how much you are feared and liked and always make sure you have ample storage space for your goods. You also have to hire gangsters with different salaries and stats, equip them and level them up. You can even send gangsters to do jobs for various miscellaneous effects. The game has all of these elements and still manages to be a fairly simple exercise. It’s not enough to have many variables to create a game with depth, the variables have to interact and affect each other in interesting ways.

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Review: Chivalry Medieval Warfare

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Chivalry Medieval Warfare Review

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Chivalry: Insulting Feminists Since the Dark Ages

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There is a bizarro world version of first person shooters, a game genre where everything is the same yet completely different. Imagine a shooter where guns are the exception and everyone uses knives. A shooter where riot shields aren’t eccentric but common. A shooter where you’re not expected to hide behind low walls in the periphery but to meet your opponent head on out in the open. There’s been a genre lurking in the shadows for many years now that has all of the trappings of a competitive multiplayer PC first person shooter like Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2 but with a focus on sword and shield melee combat. It’s a unique and thrilling experience that should be tried by anyone who has ever giggled his way through the chaos of a knives only round in Counter-Strike. Chivalry Medieval Warfare is the latest entry in this genre and while it’s certainly not for everyone, it’s worth trying out and seeing how the gauntlet fits on ya.

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Review: Runespell Overture

Runespell Overture Review

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High Stakes Pagan Hold’em

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I enjoy watching the birth and maturation of game genres.  It starts with a snow flake.  A game is released that is both unique and beautiful.  This first game does something different, special but the game must also be polished enough and popular enough to catch the eye of other developers.  Then a confusing and painful puberty begins.  Other developers see this first game and are inspired.  They tweak the original game’s systems and aesthetics and make it their own.  Pessimists say these developers are just cashing in on a gimmick and call these derivative games copycats.  But if the original game system is strong enough, tweaking it and changing the aesthetics can create very different experiences.  The only difference between a really good game with a bunch of crappy uninspired copies and a bunch of games that are part of the same genre is how long people keep making copies and how good they are at changing the formula enough so that it still seems fresh.  When Puzzle Quest came out its combination of traditional RPG storytelling, character building, and structure with a bejeweled based combat system was something completely unique and unheard of.  Puzzle Kingdom, Galactrix, and a sequel came after.  Now we have Runespell Overture as the latest Puzzle RPG.  Is it a shameful copycat or does it help establish the Puzzle RPG as a new and exciting game genre? Continue reading “Review: Runespell Overture”

Review: Crackdown

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Crackdown Review

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Super Cop Playground

Crackdown is an open-world game.  That’s it.  It’s not a living world.  It’s not a breathing world.  It’s not a world that feels larger than the player nor is it a small world.  But, Crackdown has a world, an open world, and you do play in it.  Playing Crackdown is a lot like visiting a large building that is still under construction in the middle of the night.  It’s eerily quiet and the air is still.  You can still see the scaffolding wrapping around its exterior and the intestinal piping and wiring line the hallways, exposed through gaps in its unfinished walls.  You could really do just about anything here because you feel alone, truly alone.  Isolated and away from the prying eyes of judgmental observers, you could run screaming down the bare, empty corridors.  You could curse up a storm, throw things against the walls, get on the roof and enjoy the view, or do something else completely inane like opening all the windows and closing all of the doors.

Crackdown feels incomplete.  Like our barren and isolated building, the world of Crackdown feels like the frame of a world under construction.  The structures and layout are there and dime-a-dozen carbon copy cars and “people” wander the streets aimlessly.  Interchangeable “bad guys” sit at street corners and seem more like yellow-shirted place holders than violent gang-bangers out causing havoc.  And then there is you, the only dynamic character, the only thing that breaths in this barren cityscape.  The world of Crackdown is quiet and without music, and the fact that most of the noise in the game will be generated by your character’s leaps and grunts, gunshots and detonations, and squealing tires and revving engines emphasizes the fact that you are the only living entity in Crackdown’s cardboard cut-out world.  As a result, Crackdown winds up feeling very much like a game. Continue reading “Review: Crackdown”

Review: Battlefield: Bad Company

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Battlefield: Bad Company Review

You ever feel like you were born to die?  Well you will after playing Battlefield: Bad Company.  Bad Company starts out as a really fun game but quickly becomes incredibly frustrating to the point that you find yourself constantly asking questions like, “why do I engage in self-destructive behavior, like playing this game?”, “why do we have to die, all the time in this game?”, “If God is both all-powerful and all-good, why would he allow artillery and snipers to exist?” and “Life used to be so beautiful, what happened?”  That last one is easy, you played this game.

I feel like I should preface this review by pointing out two things, one I am a HUGE fan of the battlefield franchise and I have been enjoying the series since Battlefield 1942.  Second, for some bizarre reason, I cannot seem to get into online console games.  I mean, I’ve certainly enjoyed the online multiplayer of some console games in the past; in fact, I don’t think the Halo games (excluding the first), the Gears of War games, or even this game would be worthwhile without their online multiplayer component. However, these games have never been able to keep me playing for longer than a week or two unlike many online PC games such as: Company of Heroes, Team Fortress 2, Counterstrike, or even Demigod. Continue reading “Review: Battlefield: Bad Company”

Review: Assassin’s Creed

Assassin's Creed Climbing

Assassin’s Creed Review

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Crusading in the Cause of Bad Assery!

Let me be blunt, Assassin’s Creed is not a stealth game.  Assassin’s Creed is a bad ass simulator.  And by bad ass simulator, I don’t mean that it’s a simulator that is sweet as hell (although it clearly is simply due to the nature of that which it seeks to simulate); I mean that it simulates the experience of being a total bad ass.

You play the role of Altair, a too cool for school first-class assassin extraordinaire.  Unfortunately, his rebellious shenanigans quickly get the best of him, and after horribly botching a mission by giving the creed a heavy-handed bitch slap, Altair finds himself demoted to the level of a new recruit.  Altair then spends the rest of the game trying to return to his former position as a high-ranking member of the assassin’s brotherhood by assassinating 9 key individuals.

The game also has a second, very distinctive setting and lead character.  Although the idea of having a play with in a play seems to be rather common, I believe this is the first time a game has told a story within a story before.  You also play as Desmond, a current day bartender who has been kidnapped by a mysterious corporation.  The corporation uses Desmond’s “genetic memory” (an old crackpot scientific theory that attempts to explain how birds know where to fly every summer for migration and other similar instincts) to relive important events in the life of Desmond’s ancestor, Altair, in order to find the location of a certain item.  The modern day portion of the game seems awkward at first and plays like a simple adventure game with wonky controls, but as the game progresses, Desmond’s discussions with corporate entities and the subversive feeling that comes from sneaking out and hacking into computer terminals really give the game’s story a sense of scope and help accentuate the importance of Altair’s actions in the past. Continue reading “Review: Assassin’s Creed”

Review: Marvel Ultimate Alliance

Marvel Ultimate Alliance Review

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“(Insert Team Name) ASSEMBLE!!!”

As a casual comic fan I was really looking forward to Marvel Ultimate Alliance.  The idea of making my own dream team consisting of my favorite marvel heroes just seemed like an awesome idea for a game.  Unfortunately, the game play could not quite match the appeal of the premise.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance is an Action Rpg in the fashion of the X-men Legends series.  In the game, you create a team of 4 heroes from around 30 or so of Marvel’s most popular heroes.  The game play consists of wailing on countless enemies as you make your way through to the end of the level.  A button punches and B button does a harder punch (which oddly doesn’t do any more damage than the light punches despite taking longer to pull off.)  Each hero can map up to 4 powers to the X, Y, A, and B buttons which can be accessed by holding down the R trigger.

As you kill enemies and accomplish quests your characters level up and you can customize them to a degree by spending skill points on various powers, choosing to focus on certain powers making them more powerful or spreading them out over a wide variety of powers.  Also, a nice addition to the traditional X-men legends formula is that your team, (consisting of the 4 characters you use the most) levels up as well.  As you do various quests, your team gains reputation which operates as experience points for your team.  When your team levels up you can put points into increasing the damage of all members of the team, increase their energy, health, allow other heroes to be benched members of your team (so that you can switch them out with your current heroes and still get the team bonuses) or various other things.

I found the character advancement aspect of the game to clearly be the most enjoyable part.  It really drives the game forward, providing motivation to relentlessly mash the A button and occasionally throw a few powers around.  Unfortunately, maxing out powers can be a bit anti-climatic.  You spend the whole game pouring skill points into a certain move and the final point it takes to max it out doesn’t really give you any big bonus or pay off.  It’s just 10 more points of damage added to the attack and you’re left sitting there saying, “meh” and wondering what else you are going do with your skill points.

The use of money has also changed dramatically.  The uses of money have really been streamlined compared to the previous X-men Legends games.  One key example of this is that the store has been taken out completely.  You can sell your items directly from the menu screen without having to return back to the hub world.  You can also no longer buy items either.  Money now is spent on two things:  buying skill points, and upgrading your costume.  The addition of costume upgrades has also been an interesting addition.   Each character has various costumes (typically 4) they unlock throughout the game and each costume offers different bonuses that can be upgraded with money.  I always found myself unsure of whether or not I should place an investment in my current costume though incase the next one I unlock might have a more appealing set of bonuses, which would render my investments wasted.  Often times I found myself sticking with one of the first costumes after unlocking all of them simply because I had already invested so much money in maxing out their bonuses.

The combat itself was hit or miss.  Sometimes I found myself having a blast and at other times it simply seemed monotonous.  The powers were great fun when they are effective but the game simply felt repetitive if I found myself fighting non-boss enemies who took more than a couple hits to take down.  The beginning also suffers from the lack of powers available.  With only one power available and limited energy in the beginning, the game transforms into a rather pretty version of mash the A button.  There are some combos you can throw in there that did various things such as pop enemies into the air or stun them but they seemed to be of dubious effectiveness and I never really felt inclined to bother with them.  Later on certain enemies can only be hurt by specific combos and when you get your extreme powers you need to pull off combos to charge them up but other than that they just seemed rather pointless.  On harder difficulties they do become a bit more important, but they still seemed rather dull regardless.

Unfortunately, Marvel Ultimate Alliance’s biggest issue derives from a lack of polish.  Some of the skins just seemed ugly up close and it is a bit disappointing that when you complete one of the game’s acts, no one acknowledges it and the characters just keep asking when you are going to get around to doing the thing you already did.  Also, many of the boss fights have quick-time events which at times made the fights a bit more interesting but ultimately felt repetitive as you were simply doing the same canned animation over and over until the boss fight is done.  Another thing about the quick time events is that the sound was often off during them.  You’re characters will be flying about, flipping off things, and jamming sharp objects into places where they shouldn’t be with the soft foot steps of a ninja, barely making a single sound despite the fact that you just toppled a building over.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance however, excels thematically.  The game starts with an exciting full on invasion by a coalition of super-villains on the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, a giant flying fortress, and quickly escalates exponentially to the point where you are battling gods to save the universe from utter annihilation.  The game is at it’s best when the powers being used really feel like the character.  However, this is hit or miss depending on what character you are using.  Spider-man starts off with the ability to shoot web balls at people like a machine gun, which is a good enough power game wise, but it didn’t really feel like Spider-man.  When I picked up Thor later however,  I was having a blast conjuring up cyclones with my hammer and flying into the sky to make thunder rain down on my enemies.

Strangely enough, I found the title to be a more enjoyable single player experience than a co-operative one.  Pausing and sitting through each player deciding how to spend their skill points and money got to be rather annoying, especially in the beginning of the game when the players are unfamiliar with the different options available to their characters.  You can choose to let the game level up your characters for you but seeing how advancing your characters is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of the game, the game wouldn’t be nearly as fun with auto-leveling.

Ultimately, (HAH!) the game was a rather enjoyable experience over-all despite its short comings.  I simply do not get to travel across the universe to battle world-eating cosmic entities enough, and this game fills the niche well. At 10$ this is good gaming on the cheap and well worth picking up.

Is this game worth 10$?  YES!        Rating: B-