Category Archives: Videogames

Batman: Arkham Asylum – Review

Can you believe that only 5 years ago, WB games and other publishing studios weren’t trying to scam people out of their money? At least not in the way that has notoriously taken firm root since. The first of the Arkham games has, get this, only TWO suits for Batman. Unlike the sequels to follow, you won’t find any option to spend out the ass for alternate costumes! Crazy, I know. It was a simpler time. A wholesome time; with proper moral values. I give this game 10/10. *gazes blankly yet fondly at nothing in particular*  … oh shit. Wait. I actually have to critique this game. Well, I guess it was a good thing then to start off with something good about it being an older title. Because as I’ve found out, when looking back at games retrospectively, it is difficult to find the same level of enjoyment from elements that got better in quality as the series went forward. Kind of like Emma Watson’s looks in those dreadful Harry Potter movies. (Getting all the HP fans out of here now) After playing through the game again, I was slightly taken aback by how much my memory of the game was tinted in rose. The game isn’t bad by any means, but the series definitely improved from here. Yes, naysayers, Arkham Origins is better than this.You, the Batman, have just caught the Joker for the umpteenth time and have brought him back to Arkham Asylum. The game has you stroll through the immensely dense security process, as you accompany the purple-wearing clown prince while the opening credits appear on screen.  The Joker is currently restrained to an upright gurney, and multiple guards armed with riot gear and automatic weapons line the hallways, as you would expect.  Then the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen happens. Once they reach the first area with rudimentary cell blocks, (not even the kind you would want to put a psychopath of this magnitude either, mind you) for no good reason whatsoever, Joker is transitioned out of his Hannibal Lector restraints and put in handcuffs, and the guards around him have been reduced to two, unarmored, mall cop types and a doctor… Needless to say, I was unimpressed when Joker beat them up and got away. In fact, I kind of rooted for him a little bit, considering how he exposed how incompetent the security was. Batman is literally within eyeshot of him, yet Joker is able to pull a Dr. Robotnik and run away. The entire reason this game even happens had me face palming so hard it left a crater. (Lazy writing is not commendable, Rocksteady!) But if you’ve witnessed the incredibly ludicrous ending of this game, then you’re already aware of the questionable narrative. The main plot functions as a flimsy excuse to have Batman beating up bad dudes (who all have the same 3 voices) and crawling through all the vents of a facility so dilapidated, it’s a small miracle such an unsanitary sanitarium hasn’t been demolished yet. (I guess they wanted their asylum to have a spooky vibe in case something like this game happened.) At any rate, this is no Batman: Year One or Dark Knight; just something campy to get things going. The story of Arkham Asylum isn’t the only component reeling from the effects of dubious decision making. The series might have taken a few too many liberties with the character design in this one. Central pillars like Batman and Joker feel tonally right, and I liked Killer Croc’s monumental, foreboding presence which worked well with his level’s unique, anxiety inducing jump scares. Poison Ivy is kind of ridiculous, (am I really supposed to believe that a teensy blouse and a piece of lettuce was the uniform assigned to her by a mental institution??) but overall she’s alright. In fact, most of the characters who were left intact are all just fine and dandy. However… the other weenies who call Arkham home are pretty stupid. Harley Quinn looks like a trashy, 10 dollar Tijuana hooker wearing boots that would have looked terrible even in the early 2000’s. Bane is an even bigger, dumber version of the meathead Joel Schumacher made him into. And Scarecrow… is just a mess. I actually used to be fine with his 2spooky4me redesign until I really thought about it for five seconds and realized he got turned into a knock-off Freddy Krueger, right down to the nightmarish dream sequences Batman must escape from. Seriously, what is with that glove? Did he watch Nightmare on Elm Street and get inspired? Why does he need four needles attached to his hand? Wouldn’t just the one do fine? Is he really going to be doing any poking with that pinky finger needle? How did he get that glove anyhow? Was it on him when he was captured or did he make it from needles there? In that case, why is there fear serum in it? Wouldn’t they have emptied that out? Or did he concoct that too somehow? How could he have made that intricate device in the hour or so that he was free? Also, why does he have a gas mask on if he uses a fluid to induce fear in this universe? Wouldn’t gas be a smarter way of doing it anyway, since you wouldn’t have to be in arm’s reach to affect people? Is he a fighter now? Is that like some sort of gauntlet? Does he honestly think Batman wouldn’t be able to stop a guy who is basically fighting with one hand? Does his obsession with fear now include transmitting diseases to the people he pokes? Why are so many nerds dressing up like him on Google Images? I’m going to stop now before the lack of logic makes me go insane, too. At least his levels are mildly clever, and are an interesting diversion from the main game. That’s what really matters, right?Wow, all this nit-picking made me neglect the majority of what this game is about. Y’know, in case that part has sort of slipped under your radar in the past 5 years., it’s about you being a bad ass in a cape, who has spider sense (?), and is really good at giving roundhouse kicks.  I will say this, though. The “freeflow” combat system, the one that kicked off this style of aggressive, multiple enemy fighting in games (which everyone already seems to have forgotten started here for some reason) is actually somewhat unreliable in the first entry. Too often I’d find myself in a rhythm, enjoying my role as the head chef at the All You Can Eat Knuckle Sandwiches Buffet, and suddenly see my 40+ hit combos implode because Batman decided to punch next to the guy I wanted him to, as if swinging for the jaw of the baddie’s invisible BFF. The game has no visual targeting or aiming system when it comes to melee combat, so your combos are always at the mercy of the game’s internal aiming. When it works perfectly, and you’re mixing in special moves and batarangs and all that jazz, it’s exactly that: perfect. But every now and then, Batman says “fuck you, I’m a pacifist now,” and that is absolutely infuriating in the Challenge mode. I don’t know what it is about Challenge modes in games, but they always seem to reveal the biggest problems with the game. In order to get the 3 Bat rating, it’s imperative that Bats gets big combos. And some of those missions are already harder than a priest at Altar Boy Con 2015, so it’s not fun when the secret, ever-present enemy making things unintentionally difficult is a wonky targeting system. Collectibles are the fat, sweaty imps of game design. Sometimes they’re necessary, other times they’re not. Sometimes they add a fun diversion to the main game, other times you’re left questioning why the hell they were even put into the game. I like to think that Arkham Asylum’s Riddler trophies and “riddles” are more good than bad. The riddles are generally just a game of eye spy, and the collectibles are mostly dependent on whether you have the right gadget to get them, but it works well in tandem with the Metroid-esque levels the game employs. Returning to previous locations with new items (implying Batman packs unprepared in the Arkham-verse…) means getting that one green question mark that evaded you earlier and the reward of de-cluttering the map. Despite having already solved all the riddles back in 2009, I still found it worth going ahead and getting the 100%. The only problem though is that you shouldn’t expect to get anything out of it. The game’s final prize for solving all of Riddler’s crap (when did he have the time to do this, by the way?) is literally a 1940’s styled radio broadcast in which you can hear the Riddler’s hideout getting raided by the police. Yep, not even a cutscene. It’s not very good either. It plays out like a novice foley artist trying to pass a sound design class or something. You can almost see the Riddler shaking his fist at the meddling Batman, it’s so cornball. For a second, I half thought Chester Cheetah was going to show up, because that finale was DANGEROUSLY CHEESY.Arkham Asylum is what we in the biz call a “juicy contradiction.” Where “we”  refers to myself, and “biz” refers to narcotics smuggling. Stupid jokes aside, my terminology still stands. The game has a lot of personality and doesn’t feel at all like it’s ripping off other successful titles. It’s originality, structure and excellent handling of an existing IP does enough to rank it amongst the best comic book based videogames ever made. Everyone’s already heard all of that from a million and one other review sites, though. The truth is that the game has its fair share of flaws that ought to have been smoothed out. As well as the ones I already mentioned, other minor problems include, but are not limited to, some muddy textures, architecture that makes no sense (like one room that batman must enter in via a grate, even though the room looks like a normal office with paper work and everything), and the fact that 9 out of 10 NPCs look like rubber dolls outside of the hi-res cutscenes. These are things that became more noticeable after having played the sequels that fixed and added on new features that made this game seem very rudimentary by comparison. Definitely still worth playing even if you’re only casually aware of Batman comics. Not quite the 10 out of 10 I gave it earlier, but the game still gets more things right than it gets wrong.

Obligatory Number at the End: 8/10

Footnote: This is a thing that exists.

Mortal Kombat: Arcade Kollection – Review

Considering the fact that Capcom has been able to make a killing just by restoring and reselling its back-catalog of 2D arcade fighters (Street Fighter, Marvel Vs Capcom, Darkstalkers) on current-gen online marketplaces, it really was only a matter of time until Netherrealm Studios did the same for its own notorious fighting series. The 90’s arcade games that catalyzed the formation of the ESRB rating system due to its “realistic” display of violence and gore, return in the form of the Arcade Kollection. The digital download title includes Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, and Ultimate MK3, and all are given a decent enough paint job and a handful of different viewing options to make it as much of an authentic experience as possible. However, it’s a lot of that very same authenticity that highlights exactly why Mortal Kombat had for so long been considered  entertainment first, as opposed to a more balanced, competitive fighter. In the end, the Arcade Kollection comes up short, proving itself to be a neat retrospective novelty whose remaining interest lies only with the small audience willing to look past its flaws. The Arcade Kollection can be boiled down to 3 modes. Each of the arcade cabinets can be selected from the main menu, and each allows for solo ladders, offline versus, as well as online competition. And coming from a Mortal Kombat fan, it’s unfortunate to say that all three modes of play suffer from issues caused either from questionable game design or technical issues. The one mode that still has the potential to be fun, offline competitive play, is marred by issues related to out-dated control schemes and finishing moves made needlessly difficult to pull off. Sure, it’s technically not a problem to adhere as much as possible to the original game, but why are strange new criteria added? For instance, the Animality finishing move now requires an act of Mercy to be given by the winner. Seriously, these games aren’t exactly packing as much depth as the newer fighting games, so why make fatalities nigh-impossible to perform? I mean, who would be playing this game for any other reason beside, “I want to do the old school fatalities”? The fact that the original release of UMK3 had the option for one button fatalities and this game doesn’t have that is absolutely bewildering. Instead, you and your friends can have fun doing things like: struggling with asinine button combinations, struggling to know where the game needs you to be, not having enough time to move into the required position, and inexplicably not having it work regardless. Despite playing with various groups on separate occasions, we would always eventually give up on trying to do any of them. The time limit is ridiculous, and the crushing frustration of failing them for unknown reasons is just dispiriting. It was a stroke of luck if it ever worked. So the question becomes: if you’re going to try and sell games that haven’t aged gracefully, and have fundamentally much less to offer than modern titles, why not simplify, or at least give the possibility to simplify fatalities? Instead of  over-complicating your one cool gimmick, maybe let the players enjoy the pixelated bloodshed by implementing advances from the new MK. Thankfully, on a positive note, the game has all your special moves in the pause screen; something the originals did not. But considering how meh each round ended, there never was a need to get any good at really learning a character since we’d moved on to different games anyway. There is another mode of play in which the game does require you to do more than button mash. The single-player offering remains just as painfully, stupidly, annoyingly brutal as the originals. Mortal Kombat 9’s ladder modes can be tough, but they are easy mode compared to the cheap, quarter-stealing AI of the arcade originals. The game difficulty spikes at such an exponential rate, that once you reach the bosses, it will take either a miracle or resorting to a cheap exploit to win. Never have I felt victory quite like dethroning Shao Kahn in UMK3. The original MK proved to be only slightly less nightmarish to complete, if solely because you could count all the moves in the game on your fingers. The developers had no problem making the bosses capable of killing you in less than 5 hits. I understand that this sort of design was intentional, so as to rob 90s kids of their money. I decided to run a little experiment for the hardest of the three games, MK II. I was going to count up how much money it would cost for me to win. Results of my scientific inquiry: this game is a mother f*cker! It was so difficult, that once I’d realized it was impossible to beat on normal, that even on Easy difficulty, it was still harder than an Expert level MK9 ladder. The game is not only cheap, but it legitimately cheats too. The game’s programming works so that in harder fights, the computer can read your button input, and decide more often than not, that instead of letting you make contact with certain moves, it will instead hit you with a grab, at a speed faster than a human could. The nano second timing can best be used with this analogy. Imagine a fan and a lamp in the same room. Also imagine a switch for the fan you can turn on. Now imagine every time you switched on the fan, the lamp turned on first… and then a heap of dung was thrown into the fan. The average gamer would’ve lost 25-30 dollars trying to overcome this, pardon my French, utter bullshit. It also didn’t help that MK II’s bosses required me to switch from my preferred fighter to other ones, based on the fact that mine did not have something I could spam to win, unlike Mileena, whom I’m convinced will be the only person I’ll ever beat that ladder with. Especially since these ladders left such a bad taste in my mouth that I don’t plan on ever returning to them to try other characters. Such a shame considering the endings I did get were rather humorous. Finally, we need to talk about the online play, which is nearly extinct at this point. The online might’ve been a serviceable alternative from other, newer games at one point, but is a barren wasteland now. Of the handful of people I could connect with, nearly half of the games were crippled with varying degrees of lag, both input-wise and visibly. Some games would just crash after a minute or so, while others chugged on like a laptop trying to run Crysis at max settings. I decided I’d tough it out though, even if just to get the trophies and walk away. It became a chore, and the aforementioned problems made it a challenge to enjoy myself. It’s really sad. But then again, Mortal Kombat really should be played with someone holding Controller 2, anyway.The big takeaway from this review should be that this game is only for those who are true Kombatophiles. And even then, someone with that kind of love for the game would probably already own the original Genesis versions. What may have been revolutionary for the time is now just hokey, dated fun at best (and agonizing at worst). The games don’t provide enough content to keep interest and is too punishing for so little reward. It’s hard to even say the cost is justified for this game. Honestly, you could just go onto youtube and watch all the fatalities and character endings without wasting your short life on trying to do them all yourself here. Personally, the only reason I’m still keeping it is because of my adoration of the MK brand and for arcade games AND I never got to own the originals. It’s so niche that I couldn’t even bet on anybody reading this also fitting that criteria because all the bookies would have taken that one off the board. It’s a strange critique to call a game “too hard,” but in this case it’s true. Fighting the bosses is like pulling teeth; not exactly an experience that will have you crawling back for more. (unless you’re Likes also include ballgags, chains, and dressing like an extra from the Matrix sequels) The 1v1 could be fun if the online were any good, but sadly it isn’t. And even more depressingly, the iPhone version of the game had more sensible fatality requirements than this console version! There are ways to spruce up games that have passed their expiration date, but the Arcade Kollection does it Weekend at Bernie’s style. Don’t get this game unless it’s at least half off and you’re a big retro/fighting game/MK nerd.

Obligatory Number at the End: 5.75/10

Sonic CD – Review

Many, many moons ago, back in the days of yore when everyone dressed gawd-awful, MTV was actually about music, and watching the new Terminator 2 movie meant getting a VHS rental, there was a discolored, anthropomorphic hedgehog in shoes. And he didn’t even suck.  (Shocker, I know) Truth be told, I have gone to the mountain top and have seen it for myself. Before Sonic became an absolute laughing-stock; before he was “Sanic”; before every single one of his games became another twist of the blade in Sega’s metaphorical Seppuku, and before he was ever transformed into…

…this douchebag…

Sonic platformers actually had some charm! After playing through the HD port of the 1993 release for the Genesis add-on, the Sega CD, I came away pleasantly surprised by how fun it was. It’s one of the most pure “videogame” experiences I’ve ever had. I even felt compelled to go ahead and play it a second time over, determined to complete it faster and with more finesse. If you enjoy older games, or are just looking for something other than a first person shooter to waste a day or two on, this game is the answer. The game has some annoyingly difficult parts to it, but is nonetheless, quite possibly the best Sonic game ever made. And no, unlike my previous review, I say that with no sarcasm.Sonic’s story is exactly what it needs to be in this game: defeat Robotnik. No dumbass dialogue. No cringe-inducing relationships. No voice acting that makes you literally roll on the floor laughing at how terribad it is. Just plain and simple, beat the bad guy. After coming face to face with the game’s garishly 90’s styled main menu screen, the game begins with a short animated sequence (yes, real drawn animation!), that immediately hits you over the head with the “90’s kid” thing. The cartoon shows the somewhat childlike Sonic running through a valley and defying the laws of physics (as he should), before gazing upon what is essentially a Death Star ripoff floating in the sky. That’s it. There’s the set up. The game doesn’t bother you with trying to make the game anything more than what it’s supposed to be – just a fun game. The only notable twist is the game’s introduction of the Metal Sonic character, one of the few things I’ve ever found legitimately cool in a Sonic game. The guy will f*ck you up, and he’ll do it in cold blood. It felt oddly refreshing. Not only is his silent, malevolent presence unnerving, but it was a brilliant touch adding in a villain who could mirror the speed of the blue marsupial. Kudos from 20+ years in the future, 90’s Japanese developers! Also genuinely cool:  when Sonic is hauling so much ass that his legs turn into a goddamn infinity symbol. Getting Sonic to stay that sprite feels more badass than anything Shadow the Hedgehog ever provided. *is forced to resist including an image of him so as not to die of secondhand embarrassment*Enough about the window dressing though, how good is this game you ask? Well, I’ll tell ya, son, it’s fun. Damn fun. (Now get off my lap) The majority of the game takes the player through a series of stylistically different worlds, each one with various one-off environmental nuances, and each ending in a fight against Robotnik. The levels are a nice variety of things you’d expect, like the obligatory water levels, as well as new changes to the formula, like the insanely bouncy floors of Wacky Workbench. I was impressed by how many different things they’d managed to put into this game. Pipes, conveyor belts, a shrink ray, and a slew of other environmental doodads are littered all over the levels for Sonic to interact with. If you’re one of those people who carry the misconception that Sonic is all about moving from the left side of the screen to the right as fast as you possibly can, then you may want to curb that notion before playing this the first time around. Not only are the levels incredibly dense with varying paths and areas to explore, but the game will punt you in the rear end for trying to  blaze through it willy-nilly. Older videogames are notorious for being generally more difficult than games of today, and it’s true. Sega gave those 90’s kids no mercy. There are parts in this game (like the race against Metal Sonic) that will have you calling BS twenty to thirty times before realizing that the only way to get through it is to get better. This isn’t to say that it isn’t annoying sometimes. I mean, I can deal with the piles of spikes, or the spring board placed right at the end of a level with the sole purpose of shooting you backwards and messing up your time, but certain gameplay designs are frustrating. For instance, if Sonic lands on the middle section of a walkway angled at 45 degrees, for God knows what reason, he simply can NOT walk up the ramp. Seriously?? You have the legs of the Flash and yet you can’t muster the momentum required to walk up a tiny slope? It’s irritating and a cause for lost immersion. *Poof.* Gone. Fortunately, only a couple levels had areas where this could happen. Two features differentiate CD from its counterparts. The first and most obvious one is the inclusion of time travel. Yes, time travel is a thing that Sonic is capable of, apparently. When going through story mode, certain posts labeled past or future can be ran past. At which point, assuming you can keep traveling at a consistently fast pace for a few seconds, Sonic will literally run through time. In this case, into one of two alternate versions of the level. These levels have a unique look and soundtrack to them, and occasionally contain entirely different level layouts. The feeling of accomplishment derived from warping space-time was enough  exhilaration to entertain me every time (because I’m 7 years old and easily entertained), but there is a purpose for the gimmick besides simply being awesome. The game includes in both the past and future, statues of Robotnik and Metal Sonic generators, which the player is encouraged to find and destroy. However, the reward for your diligence is utterly disappointing. The game features two different endings. One in which Sonic manages to destroy all statues and generators, and one where he doesn’t. Literally, the only significant difference in the ending is that the “good” ending has flowers in the final shot… Needless to say, when I figured that out, I didn’t see the reason to bother. But if you’re into collecting achievements, I suppose there’s that too. The other aspect of the game worth talking about is the bonus levels. (pictured above) Wow. So apparently after ending a level with 60 or more rings in his wallet, Sonic drops acid like nobody’s business and is teleported (through a giant ring no less) to a 3D world in which you must run around and destroy… UFO’s?? It’s easily the strangest bonus stage set-up in any Sonic game, but collecting the Chaos Emera-… err… “time stones” in CD is the most fun I had out of any of them. The bizarre Mode 7 graphics, coupled with trippy backdrops that’ll have you swearing he’s cross-faded, had me trying my hardest to not lose any rings just so I could see what the next one looked like. I only managed to beat a couple of them (they’re pretty difficult and you only get one shot at them), but they were an excellent inclusion to the game, nevertheless.

Back in the early 90’s, the words “sonic” and “game” were met with praise and excitement (or bitter trash talk if you only played Super Nintendo), rather than the outbursts of laughter it has since earned. As adamantly as it seems that Sega is trying to get the last few diehards to stop liking their current Sonic games (seriously, who are these people?), there was a time when Sonic meant excellent platforming. The fact that this game has been made easily available and for dirt cheap on PSN and Xbox Arcade was a good move, and means there’s really no excuse for passing up Sonic at his peak. The inclusion of Time Trials which allow you to choose whatever level you want, the HD visuals, the inclusion of Tails as an unlockable character, and the ability to switch between the Japanese and American soundtracks (the former is more electronic-jazz fusion, the latter more 90’s rock guitar) are all worthwhile bullet points of the new remaster. Initial playthroughs can last between 2 and 3 hours depending on skill level, and repeats an hour or less, making it a quick pick-up-and-play type of game. It isn’t long, but it doesn’t need to be. It offers a (mostly) enjoyable and rewarding experience from beginning to end and doesn’t over stay its welcome. This one is getting a big and broad-reaching recommendation and should be considered a “must play before you die” game. You’d have to be a pretty soulless husk to have a bad time with Sonic CD. This is quality gaming. Obligatory Number at the End: 9/10

Don’t Shit Your Pants – Review

So I guess the first Thursday of the year is actually also the first day of the year. Now, for most, this would probably be enough reason to just scrap the upload, resign to watching the College Football Playoff, and delay the new post for another day or two. But not here. Nay, I’m taking this opportunity to not only review a game, but review what might be the greatest interactive experience ever crafted by human hands. (assuming it truly is a man-made masterwork and not actually a gift parted onto us from a divine being) I am of course referring to the browser-based, flash adventure game, Don’t Shit Your Pants. You are a nameless, purple-hued man. Your mission: to avoid shitting yourself at all costs. This deceptively simple premise is the perfect set-up for a plot that is actually incredibly powerful and is capable of sucking you in whether you like it or not. It’s so captivating, so gripping. And the themes that have been weaved seamlessly into narrative, such as the fragility of existence and the complex philosophical nature of free will,  are both expressed and challenged flawlessly in DSYP. Never before from a videogame, have I seen such a superb understanding of what it means to own agency as a player, and simultaneously be able to convey concepts of such magnitude with unrivaled ease. The fact that the game doesn’t necessarily end once you find a way to accomplish the main goal is a testament to the creator’s ability to make the audience think critically of what true accomplishment in life really is. Is there an endgame to everything? Or are we all just floating through our lives, continually finding ways to simply pass the time? Any fans of Samuel Beckett will be able to appreciate the narrative being told here.As for the aesthetics of the game, well, we all can agree that they speak for themselves. The graphics are absolutely jaw-dropping. I haven’t seen photo-realism this good since the trailer for Batman: Arkham Knight. I mean WOW! Rocksteady might as well just throw in the towel. Wrap it up, boys. Call it a day and try again next year. Hopefully there won’t be a sequel to DSYP that blows you out of the water by then. The audio  too… astounding. Hopefully you can play this game with an $800 surround sound set-up, (or at the very least, a $700 pair of headphones with a rapper’s name attached to them) because this game will make you look at every other videogame soundtrack with disdain. The Mario and Halo themes ought to just go into hiding, because they don’t have even half the gall necessary to clean the metaphorical shoes of the DSYP score. In fact, it’s so good, you’ll likely not even be able to hear it. The commonly accepted theory as to why that might be is that it is actually not meant for human ears, and that even catching a second of it is like looking through the eyes of God himself.What are you still doing reading this? Hurry! Go! Run (don’t walk) to your nearest browser open up a Kongregate tab so you can consider yourself amongst the lucky members of society who’ve been able to live such blessed lives as to play the best game ever made – Don’t Shit Your Pants. It’s educational. It’s provocative. It’s a testament to human creation.This is something that will be talked about for generations. Be a part of history and play this game immediately.

Obligatory Number at the End: 11/10

 

Obligatory Lists at the end of the year ~ part 2

This is going to be a quick post today, seeing as how it’s New Year’s Eve and all, and there’s many a thing to be done… Actually, who am I kidding? It’s going to be pretty much exactly like that twitter photo of Squidward at 12 o’clock for me. (You know the one) Anywho, this is all about what I’m looking forward to in the next 365 days. 2015 looks to be a much stronger year than 2014, so videogame-wise, things should be fine. Now let’s all just hope that Episode 7 doesn’t suck.

THE 2 GAMES THAT I’LL FINALLY GET A PS4 TO PLAY

– Uncharted 4: A Thief’s EndIf you read the first three reviews that I’ve posted onto this site, then this one is a no-brainer. Naughty Dog has been consistent in their ability to create quality titles since the era of the original Playstation, and after watching the trailers, I feel confident that the next (and most likely final) entry in the Uncharted series is going to be another home run for Sony. ND has always been able to achieve the best of the best in terms of technical achievement on their consoles, and I’m expecting to see what the PS4 is truly capable with A Thief’s End. (I mean, just look at Drake’s face. How am I expected to resist gently caressing that?)

Mortal Kombat XYou know, I don’t often say “yasssss, betch. Yasss,” but when I do, it’s generally because some morsel of news has been dropped about this game. Seriously, every new crumb of sustenance I can find about this game, be it new gameplay or a new kombatant trailer, and it is pretty much the highlight of the day. I’ll probably wait out for the inevitable “ultimate” edition, though, seeing as how Netherrealm Studios has historically put out great DLC add-ons post-launch. Everything about next year’s sequel to the excellent MK9 makes me giddy as a school girl.

THE GAMES I GOT ON PS PLUS AND CAN’T WAIT TO PLAY

Since subscribing to the Playstation Plus service in the summer, I’ve pretty much come down with the console equivalent of Steamsaleitis. I have gotten so many games that I’ve been meaning to play for free or at extremely reduced prices, and am buried underneath them all now. These are the ones that are currently in my metaphorical queue that I really want to just start up. (real life obligations be damned)

Lone SurvivorI know next to nothing about this game, and yet, since picking up the Director’s Cut on a whim for a measly $3, it’s been sitting in the back of my mind, whispering “play me, playyy meee.” From what I can tell, it’s a 2D sidescroller with pixelated graphics (so, pretty much the typical indie game), but the strange, atmospheric trailer did an amazing job of selling me on it. (so, good work, marketing dept. A gold star for you) Lone survivor appears to be a horror game and a pretty disturbing one at that. I’m very interested to see how the scares will translate into two dimensions.The fact that I have so little details on it, and am resisting looking up more, only adds to the building intrigue.

Deus Ex: Human RevolutionI found the Director’s Cut of this title on sale, and I’ve only heard good things about this game and it’s soundtrack, so I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t check this one out. I never played any of the original Deus Ex titles, but from the looks of it, I think I’ll be fine just skipping into this one. The game looks to be sporting a very specific color scheme, and the futuristic world looks interesting. I’m just hoping that, as a narrative focused RPG, Deus Ex allows me to make decisions that are actually impactful. Aside from that, I’m willing to let the other aspects of this game surprise me.

Deadly PremonitionWow, okay, so… this one is another Director’s Cut. Yeah, I feel somewhat awkward about that, too. Can we just go back to the Capcom tradition  of just tacking on incredibly boisterous adjectives? Like, what about “Deadly Premonition: Ultimate Gold Turbo Edition ++” ? Anyway, this game is supposed to be one of those “so bad it’s good” type of deals, and as a fan of the classic film, Troll 2, I’m really excited to play a game with that sort of… “charm.” Did I mention yet that this is supposed to be a horror title? What does that say about me that I have included so many games in these lists with that in common? (Hint: it means I am 2spooky4u) Also, this is a Japanese title. Which is great. If there’s something I love besides hilariously bad idiosyncrasies, it’s hilariously bad, Japanese idiosyncrasies.

Runner Ups (seriously, I have way too many games to play now):

Beyond Good and Evil HD

Okami HD

Strider

Obligatory Lists at the End of the year ~ Part 1

Well, it’s that time of the year again. (< the 14,583,766th time that phrase has been used in writing) The time of reflective thinking and list making is upon us. And like any gaming site worth its salt, it’s time I made some “best of” lists of my own. For Part 1, I will be looking back on the year of 2014. Since the majority of the games I played were from various years not including 2014, these lists are going to be more personal. Think a bit more blog, and bit less review site for this. Also, they don’t follow any preferential order. If I’m considering them to be in the list, they’re already preferred.

TOP 4 GAMES I PLAYED IN 2014, PRIOR TO WEBSITE’S START       As the title implies, I did play games this year prior to starting up this website. And since I don’t plan on doing full reviews for them, I figured I’d at least share my impressions on them in some way.

– Batman: Arkham Origins   

I’m in the minority when it comes to the Batman games. It seems like the generally accepted truth amongst those who’ve played them is that Arkham Origins is a weaker game than Arkham City. I beg to differ. I was turned off from City for 3 reasons. For starters, the premise is absolutely ludicrous. Am I really supposed to believe that the DC doppelganger of New York seriously just portioned off a section of their city in order to make the comic book version of Escape From New York? I mean, if you’re going to rip off illogical, implausible, wouldn’t-happen-in-a-million-years ideas from 3rd graders, at least don’t be so serious about it too. Segueing to problem 2: Joker’s death. In what was probably the easiest “twist” ever written, the attempt to be edgy just ended up feeling lazy to me. Plus, we all know Joker dies in The Dark Knight Returns, so this story has already been told before anyway. Finally, and most glaringly, the Catwoman content was the first time single player content was given the Online Pass treatment. I don’t support the business practice of cutting content in order to “fight” second hand purchases. All it does is hurt the consumer and identify miserly companies. Origins didn’t have these problems, and was welcomed with open arms because of it. It also didn’t hurt that it looks and plays damn good. And, after playing Arkham Asylum again recently (review coming soon), I’m willing to say it’s the best Batman game so far. How edgy of me.

– Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood 
AC: Brotherhood, AKA: the last good one, was a game that I had been meaning to play for about 4 years. It was a series I was dreading jumping back into, considering how many AC sequels were beginning to pile up in my backlog. At some point though, I think it was when the word ‘assassin’ had suddenly been replaced with ‘pirate,’ that I realized this series was quickly nose-diving and resigned myself to give up on it, and instead, just play that one I had already bought the Da Vinci DLC for. So then I did, and I was pleasantly satisfied. The combat of AC2 was refined to allow more aggressive play in combat, the addition of light RPG elements in leveling up a squad of like-minded killers, and lots of worthwhile side content to keep one busy. The game could definitely look better, but the gameplay did more than make up for the technical problems. Also, the story still had intrigue back then. Now, in more recent entries, Ubisoft has pretty much all but abandoned the subplot regarding the first civilization and the future of humanity. I suspect that they’ll eventually bring that back up, but not until sales start tanking. For now, I think they’re content with cruising along with a very fluid sense of the word “assassin.”
The Last of Us            
This one is pretty much a gimme at this point. If you’ve played it, then you know why this is on my list. (It’s because homeless people are cute) I actually do plan on doing a full review of this one once I get my hands on the Remastered version on PS4. I can tell you right now that this is not a perfect game. In fact, I was kind of wondering what the hell was so special for most of the first act. But it did not fail to impress. So expect a critique of the game and its DLC in the unspecified future.
Dead Space 2/3  
Yeah, I’m aware that this is technically cheating and this is now a top 5 list, but the fact is I played these two games back-to-back and they’ve kind of blended in my memory now into one entity. The key thing to take away here is that the Dead Space games are quality horror titles. The third game catches a lot of flak for having a large portion of the game take place in open air, what with the snow planet and all. But it still had plenty of the dim, dark corridors and ambient noises you’d come to expect from the first two games. And the addition of customizable weapons was actually a well-implemented change to the framework. However, the co-op campaign left much to be desired. Overall, these games were fun and had me on the edge of my seat more than I thought they would. (Set the difficulty to the hardest possible for extreme levels of tension) Dead Space is one of the few things EA has done that I’m actually okay with. That’s saying something.

THE TOP 4 GAMES OF 2014 THAT ARE NOW IN MY BACKLOG
I’ve stated before that this year had not exactly been the best in terms of new game releases. There was a serious drought during the summer months, and many of the big name releases not attached to a company named Nintendo ended up being “meh” or worse. That doesn’t mean it was entirely barren however. These are the 4 games of 2014 I most look forward to playing.

South Park: The Stick of Truth
It feels like anything Trey Parker and Matt Stone touch turns into comedic gold. I love the satirical, self-aware humor of the show and I have only heard good things regarding the writing in this game. Knowing that there’s stuff in this game so bad that Australia had to cut it out and have it replaced with a placid koala bear instead is just icing on the cake. Throw in the fact that I can make “Jew” my character class and consider that a copy sold. In fact, why haven’t I played this game yet? Why is this in my backlog?? Oh yeah,… money is still a thing. Damn. (If only I could get some of that precious Jew gold)
Wolfenstein: The New Order
I’m pretty much the only person in my age demographic who has ever played the original Wolfenstein 3D. The franchise that had created the first person shooter has had a pretty rough time in recent years. The mediocre reboot, simply titled “Wolfenstein,” (because f**k continuity) was not the answer the series was looking for. The New Order had gotten positive reviews, though, and I’m genuinely glad about that. A game that doesn’t shoe horn in multiplayer and makes shooting Nazis in the head cool again is something the videogame world has been missing for a while.
Alien: Isolation
This is probably the most polarizing game of the year. It seems as though everyone either thinks poorly or very highly of this game. And because of the debate, I’ve only felt like playing it more and more over time, just so I can finally have my own opinion on it. I want to be in that second group. I don’t generally want games to suck and I’m also a fan of the Alien franchise. (I actually liked Resurrection, too) After the s**tstorm that was Colonial Marines, I’m hoping the atmospheric, mano a xeno gameplay can deliver on the promise of a true Alien experience.
The Evil Within
Yes, another horror game, and yes, another game that’s generated plenty of mixed feelings. I have never played through a Resident Evil game, nor do I intend to, but from what I can gather, The Evil Within is a lot like Resident Evil 4. That’s good news to me. I’ve not yet experienced a Shinji Mikami title, and like Metal Gear Solid, there’s just way too much catch-up involved for me to go back and play RE4. I’m expecting gore, horrific imagery, and stupid dialogue. As long as I get that, I think I could put up with gameplay that’ll punish me for playing stupid.

 

Hitman 2: Silent Assassin – Review

2014 has been a relatively disappointing year in videogames. Underwhelming releases like Watch Dogs and Destiny, as well as a continual disregard for the customer by releasing unfinished messes like Assassin’s Creed: Unity and the Master Chief Collection simply to meet corporate quota, made this one of those “clear the backlog” type of years. Just when I was thinking that I managed to dodge out of the way of the over-hype/upset train, The Hitman Collection went free on PSN. At first glance, this was a great thing. I had not had the opportunity to play these highly-rated games when they were new, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to see what made this series popular. What I ended up getting out of the 2002 stealth title was a tough lesson in historical game design. I had to learn (the hard way) a truth that many others who’ve revisited older stealth games, like the original Splinter Cell and Thief, already have: that stealth games age like cheese, not like wine.

http://xboxmedia.ign.com/xbox/image/hm2.jpg

The game begins with a couple of cinematic opening cutscenes. The one before the start menu appears is where the mixed feelings began. The VO work sounded laughably amateur. It felt like the two mysterious figures, who discuss some slight exposition regarding the main character, were actually just a couple of the developers talking into a microphone. Fortunately, that changed once the game started. Player character and protagonist, Agent 47’s voice has that dangerously soothing characteristic of heroin. 47 is a man of relatively few words, but every time he opens his mouth, you want to listen to what he has to say. Especially considering the surprising depth which he conveys thoughts with. Judging by the way he looks (white, bald, suit with red tie), I figured he would be the most cliche assassin type ever penned, but as his philosophical conversation with a priest indicated, the book is not just the cover. The aforementioned priest is actually the catalyst for the story of Hitman 2. Upon Father Emilio Vittorio’s kidnapping and subsequent ransoming for half a million dollars, Agent 47 digs up his past in order to rescue him. But after the first mission, in which 47 fails to find him, he is quickly forgotten about. However, the game wasn’t the only one who found themselves dismissing this mystery of the missing priest. I soon found myself wrapped up in Det. 47 and the Case of the Anomalous AI.

Hitman 2’s mission structure is really quite simple. There are 20 levels, each one with a unique map and a designated target for Agent 47 to hit. The player is tasked with getting from point A to point B, and back to point A again, without dying. There is only a couple minute deviations from that formula throughout the whole game. I honestly would be fine with that if not for two things: The game too often looks and feels bland, and the frustration. Oh, the frustration. Unless the difficulty is set on the easiest of the three options, you will spend hours reloading saves because the game will work against you at every turn. There are problems regarding every single thing that moves in this game. First off, Agent 47 controls in 3 speeds, all of which are too painfully slow for what they need to achieve. His normal walking speed,which he’ll have to go at for most of the game in order to not draw suspicion, is approximately somewhere between the pace of grass growing and paint drying. The crouching crawl necessary to sneak up on guards is marginally faster than a snail. With brain damage. That was stepped on.  Luckily 47 can run infinitely. Technically though, his “run” is really more of a brisk jog and even then the cost outweighs the benefit, as being seen moving at a speed faster than absolutely still will capture the attention of guards. You see, Agent 47’s utter lack of tempo isn’t the only test of patience Silent Assassin will have in store for you. AI problems abound, ranging from simply annoying to absolutely infuriating. Minor stupidities include not being alerted by piles of clothes (which can be changed out of in favor of disguises) to nonchalantly going about their business as bullets literally whiz past their head. More severe grievances generally involve sixth sense levels of detection on the part of guards. You’d think that being  crouched behind a guard, amidst some foliage 50 yards away, would be ample distance and obscurity to work with. Well, you’d be dead wrong about half the time in this game. Because instead of lurking like the human predator you’re supposed to be, the guards can randomly be granted the power of omniscience and down you with their best Billy the Kid quickdraw before you can say “Get Noscoped.” This only gets worse when levels have snipers in them. The worst part of that whole scenario is the “half the time” clause. The fact that the AI is so inconsistent means there’s something of a dice roll as to whether or not something that worked once before will work again. The other mechanic Hitman is well known for, donning disguises in order to hide in plain sight, had just the worst implementation it possibly could. Even dressed up head-to-toe in ninja garb (obscuring the head and face), I was approached by literally every guard who caught me in their peripheral vision. Is this game seriously entertaining the idea that every guard is paranoid to the point where they have to check each other’s ID every time they see one another? Why are they questioning me? I looked EXACTLY like all the rest, had all defining features masked, was walking the insipidly slow walk, and was still being confronted. Logical? No. F**king annoying? You bet your sweet gaming ass it was.

It was once I began questioning just quitting on the game when I decided to look back and actually see what the reviewers had deemed praiseworthy about the game back in the day. What I found gave me a mild surprise. Much of the talk was about how ‘realistic’ and ‘detailed’ the graphics and animations were. Just looking at these screenshots, you can tell that one of those compliments can be chucked right out the window now. As for animation, I had no choice but to laugh at this review of yore, considering I’d actually been jarred on multiple occasions by how stiff and clunky Agent 47 is. (Seriously, the animation to get on a ladder going downward is so bad that I thought the game was glitching out the first time I saw it.) The reviewer also spoke of how the game felt rewarding on harder difficulties, which I can now confidently say is 101% false. The amount of trial-and-error repetition forced onto the player, mixed with the Eagle Eye AI, had the end of every mission feel more like the sweet release of euthanasia than the thrill of victory.  The reviewer did mention the ridiculousness of the ragdoll physics in the game (I can attest to having seen enemies do multiple cartwheels upon being shot), as well as the tendency for random shoot outs, but overall, they stood with the consensus that this was a vastly superior game over its previous entry for having fixed what the last game lacked. Here are a few standouts  of the “new” features in Hitman 2: crouching. silenced weapons. THE ABILITY TO WALK BACKWARDS.

It dawned on me once I finally had enough of the game, and stopped playing it before having beat it (something I can’t even remember the last time I had done), that this particular entry in the Hitman Collection is only for two kinds of people. Those who want to see some of gaming’s history and should not be attempting this on harder difficulties lest they develop stress-related brain aneurysms at the same time, and those who actually played this when it came out. Stealth games have just come so far since then. Not only is Hitman 2 boring by comparison to modern stealth games, but it’s constantly trying to push away those who were willing to look past the flaws. I wish my complaints were limited to the terrible draw distance and bad graphics, but the meat and potatoes here soured and grew fuzzy long ago, as well. A couple of slight commendations for its orchestral score, and the inclusion of a first person mode which showed your feet (something first-person shooters still weren’t doing in the ps3/360 generation), are nothing more than lipstick on a very ripened and musky swine. If you really, really want to see this game in action, just watch the videos of people who mastered this game on Youtube. I guarantee it will be more fun.  I will have no negative feelings about deleting Hitman 2: Silent Assassin from my hard drive.

Obligatory Number at the End: 4/10

Review – God of War Saga

Amongst all the games revealed and available to play at Sony’s Playstation Experience event in Las Vegas, many of which looked incredibly promising, was a small confirmation that there will be another entry in the lauded God of War franchise. Considering there are already two trilogies and a comic book miniseries, this news could come off as very exciting, or smell like the curdled funk of a publisher milking a successful property. Nothing can ever have finality in the videogame industry. Regardless of your outlook, what better reason to look back on the titles that have built the story of Kratos (and his need to put a sword through anything moving on screen), into one of the premier videogames available on Sony’s console. I’ll be looking at the Complete PS3 Collection for the purposes of this review, as well as in chronological order. (*included at the bottom are some trailer links for the unfamiliar)

God of War: Chains of Olympus (2008)

Coming second chronologically in the series, Chains of Olympus did exactly what it needed to do as a portable entry in the series, but not much more. The gameplay revolves around mixing the two attack buttons together to create combos and juggle the variety of mythology-inspired enemies until you can press the O button, alternatively titled the “Be the most brutal badass in the room” button. It has the fast-paced, hack-and-slash style of combat, the brutal finishing moves, and upgradeable magic attacks and weapons that are cornerstones of the franchise. However, in retrospect, this outing comes off as the weakest in the series. This isn’t due to it being bad or having any particularly obvious flaws (nothing is fixed that wasn’t broken), but it’s clear that this one is the lite beer of God of War games. The story mode doesn’t take very long to reach the end (about 6 hours), the fights don’t reach the same “Epic!” level of all the others, and the game doesn’t really have that much replay value. The plot starts off with Kratos having to don his Sherlock hat in order to uncover who or what incapacitated the sun god, Helios, and ultimately return the deity to the sky. It’s only within the last hour or so where things get really interesting, story-wise. Kratos is  loses sight of his original objective and is forced to make tough decisions. Following the final boss fight, a tie-in occurs with a character from God of War 2. Some highlight moments like the monster fake-out at the beginning, a brutal boss kill including a chest full of treasure, and going toe-to-toe with Charon on the River Styx, are entertaining and help the game stand out. But for the most part, it is a simplified God of War game. The gameplay is fun on the whole, but this one is easy to go one-and-done with.

8/10

God of War (2005)

The original game still holds up incredibly well. Many of the recurring motifs found in every other game all started here: Epic first levels/boss fights, getting into a scrap with a sea monster, taking a trip to the Underworld, Quick Time Event sex minigames, collecting phoenix feathers and gorgon eyes, the spiral staircase downward camera shot, and bumping a bitchin’ soundtrack whilst putting deities in the ground. The chainblades which became the distinctive staple of Kratos’s combat repertoire still feel incredibly satisfying. They are easy to figure out how to use, but the game has some punishing higher levels of difficulty for those looking to be challenged. (The final boss on God mode still gives me war flashbacks) The game also allows the player to cast four different magic abilities upon acquisition. Poseidon’s power is given within the first level and players can look forward to receiving those of Zeus, Hades, and Medusa. Separate from those is a Rage of the Gods berserker mode, as well as a secondary weapon in the Blade of Artemis (which is so comically large that its only competition is with Cloud’s Buster Sword). There are only three bosses in God of War, but the journey is peppered with iconic beasts to mame and murder. Cerberus mongrels, minotaurs, cyclopes and satyrs will contest you all the way up to the final showdown with Ares. The game mixes in some puzzles and platforming sections for good measure, but to mixed results. Puzzles are generally decent breaks from the action, but platforming is a different story. Anytime Kratos has to carefully maneuver around spikes (found in the Hades portions of the game), it is an absolute nightmare of game design. It’s during those parts when you realize how much Kratos is NOT Jak and Daxter, regardless of the fact that he can double jump. Also, the Desert of Lost Souls level, which has the player wandering around a screen obscured with sand until you find and kill 3 moving Sirens, is the definition of tedium. Fortunately, these problem areas are few and far between. They don’t bring down the otherwise amazing game, but do require the player to grit their teeth and push on to get back to the good stuff.

9/10

God of War: Ghost of Sparta (2010)

Kratos’s life has never come even remotely close to something that can be called cheery, (seeing Kratos smile would be like hearing Kate Upton fart) but beginning with the Ghost of Sparta, everything starts to tumble even further downhill for the cursed warrior. Visually, the game is the best of the titles not initially made for the PS3. ReadyAtDawn studios took the “leftover” ideas from Sony Santa Monica, and constructed a truly awesome side story for the newly-crowned god. (The Atlantis and Sparta levels, as well as many of the story elements, originally started as either unlockable bonus videos from God of War 1 or content that didn’t make it past the cutting room floor of God of War 2) No longer wielding the Blades of Chaos, Kratos now uses the golden, yet functionally-identical Blades of Athena to carve his path through Atlantis and the realm of death in order to find his long lost brother, Deimos. For the most part, everything’s still working as you would expect. Notably however, the Rage of the Gods system, which previously worked upon collection of red experience orbs from slain enemies and acted as a one-time burst of invincibility and enhanced moves, is replaced with Thera’s Bane. The new ability imbues the twin blades with flames and allows Kratos to do more damage and break through certain armors which are otherwise unaffected by his normal attacks. It’s not as flashy or cool, but it’s good to see new ideas being tried out. Likewise, the secondary weapon, Kratos’s old spear and shield, can function as both melee and projectile attacks. Like Thera’s Bane, it’s neither offensive nor showstopping, but works to make GoS unique in the series. Kratos has always been a belligerent antihero, dangerously mixing emotional instability (bordering on bipolar disorder) with dogged hubris and unstoppable willpower, but the character’s descent starts to become noticeable with this entry. Kratos really stops giving a f*** about anything he does or who he offends on Olympus. A pot on the brink of boiling over is the perfect material for a pre-sequel. It should be noted that Ghost of Sparta has what may be the most utterly depressing ending in the series, On the positive side, the sex minigame is the best of the series. How can one not be amused by somehow managing to bed an entire, goddamn brothel? Exactly, it’s impossible.

9.25/10

God of War II (2007)

If there were ever the case being made that Kratos was an ass, God of War 2 would be exhibit A thru Z. Beginning once again in appropriately epic fashion, Kratos fights an animated Colossus of Rhodes statue hundreds of times his own size. Soon after, Zeus reveals he doesn’t really like the arrogant mortal-become-god, and swiftly shanks Kratos. Things begin to go off the rails once time travel is introduced into the plot. Because of course, in order to get revenge on Zeus, Kratos is told to seek the Sisters of Fate and change his own destiny. Upon the initial playthrough, it’s pretty easy to be enamored by the Rogue’s gallery of Greek figures the game brings to the table, and never pay too much mind to the logic at play. Because this game has holes like swiss cheese when you start to put even a modicum of thought into it. So Kratos is set out on another journey to a place from which no mortal survives, fraught with terrors abound, and the god of gods hates him. It’s an uphill battle to say the least, but overcoming the adversity (which in his case includes Greek heroes like Perseus and Theseus), and watching the final cutscene, feels exceptionally victorious. Bust out a Kleenex box, because the twists at the end, to say nothing of the epic cliff hanger of all cliff hangers ending, will have you crying tears of awesomeness. (Like when Batman climbed out of that hole in DKR) You love/hate Kratos for what he’s doing. On one hand, it’s incredibly selfish and destructive, yet on the other hand, you have to give him his props for standing up to literally GODS and seeing his vendetta through. When the guy puts his head to something, get out of his damn way. GoW2 is nice and varied with its level structure. I enjoyed fighting Euryale (Medusa’s sister who loved cheese puffs and lard, apparently) and the Kraken. Riding Pegasus and fighting off griffins was also a pleasant addition, but weirdly, he just sort of disappears from the game. Oh, and the three alternate weapons are a disappointing lot. The cumbersome Barbarian Hammer is too slow to be effective, the Spear of Destiny moves too quickly for its own good, and the Blade of Olympus can only be used in minor instances at the start and end of the game. Dabble with them for a fight or two, if only just to realize how much better the blades feel to control.
8.75/10

God of War III (2010)

The crescendo finally reaches its ultimate climax in God of War 3. (You know it’s serious business when there are James Bond-style opening credits) The only one of these five games to have been developed for the PS3 truly embraces the larger-than-life reputation set forth by its predecessors, as Kratos is flung from one jaw-dropping moment after another. GoW 3 is as impressive as it is ambitious. Part of that is because of the immense scale many of these levels/bosses are capable of realizing due to the increased console power. (PC elitists can go crazy now) Things that simply couldn’t happen on the PS2 happen and happen often in Kratos’s PS3 debut. Fitting, since the plot revolves around the assault and subsequent devastation of Olympus itself. Like how the last game saw the death of so many Grecian figures, so too does this one, however on a heavenly level. Hades, Hercules, Poseidon, Cronos, and the 4-part Zeus battle, are all memorable boss fights. Each one harkens on different mechanics to highlight each Olympian’s unique traits. As well as incredible visuals and technical prowess on display, the story and gameplay are also very strong, outside of some minor nit-pickings. The main theme of GoW 3, that hope can overcome all obstacles, courses through the story framework pretty harmlessly up until you meet the Pandora character, who is just two conversations away from being gratingly annoying. Seriously, the end of the game hammers the word “Hope” into your head almost as much as Kratos hammers his fists into Hercules’s face. Oh, and remember how I said that Ghost of Sparta had the most depressing ending, well… that was a lie. After building a strong connection to Kratos, spending so many hours living out his doomed life (assuming one has played all the games to this point), the ending could leave you feeling wrecked for an hour or more. It’s a good ending, to be sure. Honestly, it’s the only one that would fit thematically and realistically. But, it has the strong potential to leave some devastated (and fortunately not in the Mass Effect 3 way). Up until that point though, Kratos gets to go ham with four different types of chain blade weapons. Ditching the chainblade+something you might not like combo of previous titles, GoW3 allows the player to get familiar with all the weapons as they all play similarly but simply in different styles. The only time one might find themselves going “wtf…,” gameplay wise, is when one of the “puzzles” in the game is actually Lute Hero and has the actual PS button icons IN the game. Aside from that trivial quibble, it’s one of the most memorable action games ever put out by Playstation and is a definitely a must-play for owners of the system.

9.75/10

Obligatory Number at the End for the entire series (so far): 9/10

Darkstalkers Resurrection Review ~ The Halloween Fighting Game

Quick update on the site: I’ve been working on a review compilation of a complete series of videogames, so that’s the explanation as to why no review has been up for a while. (Playing through 5 games takes longer than 1, it turns out) That review will be up by next week and the reviews will return to a more steady stream of output. (1 article per week) That is all.

Halloween, much like the creepy men behind the bushes waiting for that one kid without their parents, is just around the corner. Literally, tomorrow. Which means it’s the time to visit haunted houses, carve up pumpkins, decorate your place in chintzy plastic gubbins, and of course, do exactly what parents have always told you not to do and accept candy from strangers! And if there were ever a game that captured that cheesy-yet-alluring seasonal flair, it’d be Darkstalkers. The HD revamp of the old, arcade classics comes in the form of Resurrection, which features the original Night Warriors title, as well as Darkstalkers 3 bundled in one place. These Capcom fighters were the sister series of the more popular, Street Fighter games, and contained similar ideals and controls, but had a vastly sillier tone. Focusing less on martial artists, Darkstalkers holds nothing back with its cast of characters. From the nunchaku-wielding Wolfman, John Talbain, to the Frankenstein’s monster, Victor, who can grab opponents with his butt cheeks and slam them around with his gluteous grip, the roster and setting oozes creative personality from every seam. Chances are good that you may have seen the more recognizable characters, Morrigan or Felicia, in Marvel vs Capcom or just on Deviantart…(so much deviantart)

but it should be noted that the lesser known characters are very well realized in terms of animation and creativity. This leads to the first problem with Darkstalkers – balance. Some fighters are just, plain-and-simple, leagues better than others at fighting. The mummy Anakaris, for example, is just way too slow and unwieldy and doesn’t have enough other qualities to stand a good chance amongst the relatively fast assortment like Lord Raptor (the rock-and-roll zombie) or even medium speed ones like Pyron (the living flame demon, who may be one of the coolest characters ever designed). On the plus side though, is the fact that if you’re playing this, you’re kind of limited in terms of mode of play. The online aspect of the game is actually really smooth if you can find an opponent. But that’s the key word, “if”. The fact that the game is a digital-only release, means that the audience for such a niche fighter is already small, made worse by the fact that the game’s been out for a while now. The best way to play it though, regardless, is going to be with another person actually in the room. It is immensely fun to dig into this game with a friend. You’ll be getting constantly surprised by  what the insane move set has to offer and will have more “that was so cool!” moments than most fighting games can offer newbie players. This is a fighting game that is instantly fun to play, regardless of skill level.

The single player offering is roughly what you would expect from older titles. Both games have their own ladder modes, complete with unique, often hilariously bad, endings for each character. The story is so hard to understand due to the lack of context provided to the player that one can’t help but burst out laughing at the fact that Felicia is a nun in one of her endings. But, i digress, the ladders are a good way of getting a feel for your character, and to test your ability against some of the most frustrating AI in existence. Blocking protects from almost all damage, and the computer opponents will be able to execute nano-second timing, before unleashing a combo on you in return. The cheapness can be dulled fortunately, by going to the difficulty setting and dropping it. Even on the lowest settings, though, opponents in Night Warriors can still give you a run for your money, if you’re trying to get the trophy/achievement for no-deaths in each game’s ladder modes. It’s not the worst example of super-cheap AI from an arcade fighter, but it’s definitely up there.

Speaking of uber-difficult trophies, the game has some of the worst, most obtuse achievements ever. Trophies are almost entirely comprised of Night Warriors’ Challenges mode. Which is basically where the fun of Darkstalkers gets turned into soul-crushing tedium before sapping your interest in trying to collect the trophies at all. Why? Because the challenges require the player to do a series of complex combos for each character. The frame-by-frame specificity that the game asks of you is laughably ridiculous, as most of the challenges will leave you feeling angry and confused as you attempt to perform inhuman inputs that the computer manages to make look easy. I personally enjoy when games provide challenges for the player, but these literally ruin the game. The fact that their only worth Bronzes (or 10g, for Xbox) makes them completely unrewarding torture. Stay away from these. If you’re a trophy hunter, give it a shot. But you’ll soon find yourself with the feeling that you’re really just wasting your time trying to complete the game’s asinine requests. 

Darkstalkers Resurrection is a refreshing facelift for the older games. It’s a genuinely fun couple of  fighters that don’t take themselves too seriously and doesn’t mind being full of colorful oddities. It’s got its flaws, but the couch competition is where the player-versus-player shines. The online is relatively dormant, sadly, and the ladder mode isn’t the most engrossing thing ever, but that doesn’t make it a game not worth experiencing. Playing what is essentially the Monster Mash videogame, complete with the swamp monster, abominable snowman, and vampires galore, makes this one of the most creative, as well as stylish, fighting series Capcom has ever released. The gameplay is approachable, the animation is amazing, and the Vault is full of character art to ogle at. Handicapped by inactivity online and a truly awful bunch of trophies, Darkstalkers Resurrection’s pros still manage to outweigh its cons. The one other point of contention however, is the pricing. I actually snagged this title while it was on sale on PSN for half-off, but the game is normally priced at $15, which can be enough to make some of the more frugal among us lose interest immediately. However, if you can look past that somewhat high cost of entry, or if you just have 15 bucks burning a hole in your PS store wallet, then this title will not disappoint. Darkstalkers Resurrection is an imaginative take on those classic horror-movie staples, and a perfect game for Halloween (or whenever you and some friends want some goofy entertainment).

Obligatory Number at the End: 7/10

4 Things God of War Ascension got right that Destiny didn’t

So it’s been a little more than a month now since the overwhelmingly anticipated release of this game, and by now, everyone’s either acknowledged that they’ve wrung the game dry of every damn drop of launch-day content, or is still in the process of desperately attempting to grind out some more “fun” from the game whilst holding back tears of disappointment and gently rocking back-and-forth, silently murmuring to themselves, “No no. It’s got great gameplay. It’s so good. Honest. Bungie can do no wrong. Nuh-uh. Everything… Everything’s fine. It’s supposed to last ten years, guys. It’ll get better. …It’s supposed to last. TEN. YEARS!” *complete breakdown.* And though I find it morbidly hilarious that the videogame hyped equivalently to the second coming of Jesus is actually NOT the “next-gen experience” everyone and they’re retarded, fat cohorts were getting wet dreams over, I do still sympathize. It sucks when things aren’t what you hoped they’d be. It happens a lot in this industry. But, nevertheless, the game did come out, and despite what level of denial you may be in, the game is as meh as meh gets. And since I’m going to review all the God of War games, I figured I oughta mix up how those are reviewed. Thanks to the dwindling attention spans of readers, I’m going to be able to knock out two paraplegics with one stone with this piece, as I look to see how four simple things from a last-gen game are done better than in Destiny. An unfair comparison you say? Perhaps, but I’m a madman and no one is  stopping me.

1. So What The Hell Is Going On?

The most apparent failure of Destiny is it’s disappointing lack of a cogent story. The narrative has an intriguing enough premise: Earth life and humanity is almost extinguished by extraterrestrial beings, except for one bastion of safety located underneath a gargantuan ovum in the sky. And the player character, whom can be customized to be one of three races and one of three class types, is brought back to life inexplicably one fine day by a robotic Tyrion Lanister to fend off… “the darkness.” Okay, so kind of a cliche, but perhaps it develops into something better? Nope. Turns out the story remains carboard flat, confusingly unexplained, and lacks any sort of worthwhile motivation to continue other than, “hey, guardian,  keep doing what you’re doing. Bad guys need to be stopped.” There’s nothing to care about, and the faceless characters are so shallow, they might as well just be text blurbs in the loading screens. Comparatively, God of War Ascension maintains a clear-cut goal from beginning to end, shows (not tells) exactly why the player should venture on and destroy the 3 Furies. Though not the strongest of the series due to the flashbacking confusion and the fact that the plot is, by its very nature as a prequel, auxiliary to the main God of War timeline, it’s a satisfying ride seeing Kratos do what he does best: overcome Herculean odds and destroy epic beings of Greek mythology. Bungie seemed pretty content with just telling confused players to access the “grimoire,” which is pretty much a wiki site online. Nice going, guys.

2. What Are We Doing?

Gameplay is undeniably the most critical aspect to any videogame. Interactivity is the defining aspect of the medium, so it’s important to make players feel that, in one way or another, that what input they have matters. For both God of War and Destiny, the central component is as simple as it gets: kill dudes. The key difference here, however, is that killing dudes is literally ALL Destiny has to offer. The AAA videogame market is absolutely sopping-wet with first person shooter titles trying to give players roller coaster-like experiences or any number of gameplay gimmicks to set themselves apart, and yet, Destiny still manages to be as dry as a box of Saltines. Bungie offers a handful of pretty, albeit small, hubs that have enemies scattered about for the player to shoot. …and that’s it. Literally that is all Destiny is. You get a couple guns, a magic power and a grenade, and then you go from corridor to room to corridor to room shooting guys. Some weapons are genuinely cool, but these are the same machine guns, shotguns, and rocket launchers we’re all used to. And it never evolves past that. Literally, what the game expects the player to do is to wash, rinse, and repeat the same thing over and over again. There is nothing, literally nothing, else to it. It’s the fps equivalent of playing solitaire. When looking at Ascension, it’s easy to just say, “well that’s the same thing throughout,” and then you would be pelted with stones for having said that. All games are roughly “doing the same thing” from beginning to end, but evolution of gameplay matters. God of War’s combat changes as continually more powerful weapons and abilities are made available to the player, changing the number of tricks Kratos can have up his sleeve (like being able to freeze enemies in time, bring in a clone Kratos to fight alongside you, various elemental magic abilities, and a Rage meter that rewards players for maintaining large combos). Also, the game breaks up the action with head-scratching puzzles, light platforming, and some really epic set pieces peppered throughout. Guess somewhere along the way, Bungie forgot that videogames that are only interesting for a couple hours belong on Kongregate, not on retail shelves.

3. What Are We Up Against?

Plain and simple, the enemies you face in Destiny follow this template: Draw some clusters of dots on a piece of paper. Make some dots bigger than the others. Now go about adding a slash through each dot. Make sure to take longer with the bigger dots. Got them all? Now wait 5-10 minutes while doing miscellaneous tasks. And now turn the paper over and do it again.  ^This is what Destiny is without any of the window dressing. It is the definition of tedium. The enemies are just Dude, Bigger Dude, and Biggerer Dude, and then you shoot them. Ascension utilizes a variety of mythic monstrosities to fill up its roster, and uses the opportunity to give each of them unique traits that will make the player approach situations differently. A bunch of flying harpies and a centaur are not going to come at you the same way a cyclops and a group of satyrs will. Bungie might need to take a refresher course in videogames 101 because even the Halo series did a better job of mixing things up for the Master Chief. And Destiny could not have lazier boss fights. Honestly, the term “boss fight” shouldn’t even apply. There is no more interaction than simply holding a button down while a health bar slowly (snails look like Usain Bolt, by comparison) drains. God of War, known for it’s epic boss fights, puts on some of the best in its series with Ascension. The bosses don’t even have health bars to distract the player with, and there are so many twists and turns within them, changing the gameplay on the fly, that the player is left no choice but to be completely engrossed with what’s going on on the screen. Seriously, I can’t say enough about how much Destiny’s bosses feel like you’re just wasting your time. And that feeling, is a feeling no good videogame will give a player.

4. It’s not delivery, it’s Digiorno.

Looking at these two games, it’s easy to notice that what players were expecting from them were very different. At the end of its series’ life, God of War players understood almost exactly what they would be getting out of it. Being the sixth entry means there’s already been five other outings which have established what the game will entail. Delivering on promises built on corporate hype and advertisements like Destiny attempted to do, was not going to be easy. When Sony is touting new console designs, Beta and even Alpha access to the game, and just a ton of hyperbole around “next generation experiences” and “Bungie’s magnum opus,” you’d better make damn sure your game is actually doing something new! Literally, the gameplay is something that was already done fine in the PS2 and Xbox era. What about corridor shooting, having a jet pack, and picking up loot is new? “Nothing” is the correct answer. And even at these rudimentary levels, Destiny flounders to have an identity or come off at all entertaining. Super-punching an alien until he ragdolls is fun. But that can’t be all you do. Destiny is that little kid who says one funny joke that makes the grown-ups laugh, and then continues to say it over and fucking over again thinking it will be just as good as the first time. Surprise! Turns out repetitive ad nauseam gets tiresome. So maybe, Bungie, before you release the inevitable Destiny 2, how about you make sure you don’t back yourself into a corner with a bunch of fancy words and false promises.

Finally, just to address a fault both these games have, I need to talk about the multiplayer. Ascension is the first and only title in the GoW series that allows co-op and competitive multiplayer. It takes the traditional game modes we’re all used to in shooters (TDM, CTF, etc) and transposes them into an action game. THIS is actually doing something new. The execution isn’t perfect, as it suffers from some serious imbalancing due to player leveling, but it’s worth a look. The solution to fix it is in the game, (10X xp can be paid for), but it’s not really a great thing to have fun locked behind a secondary payment. Co-op is still good though, as you and another player face off against swarms of in-game beasts as opposed to the OP players who dominate the competitive parts. Looking one last time at Destiny, you just have to shake your head. Like GoW, the PvP is unbalanced, as higher level characters with access to better weapons will cream the newbies, and the PvE is hilariously handicapped by the fact that chatting into your mic is not an option unless in a group you’ve assembled. So unless you got a group of people who want to play as the same time as you, good luck coordinating an attack with randoms. (Perhaps Bungie wants you to communicate through the stupid dance moves that were included instead) Also, both of these games have crap box art. Kratos usually looks bestial and ready to tear some shit up on previous cover art, now he’s seemingly awaiting his dominatrix for punishment. And just like Destiny itself, the art is just so ridiculously bland that it makes me wonder if that was really what they thought was the best they had, or if some sort of mistake was made.

The large sales for Destiny is what happens when everyone who buys a new console realizes there isn’t much to play on it yet desperately try to find any sort of gaming nourishment following one of the worst summer gaming droughts. So yeah, save yourself the buyer’s remorse and pick up Ascension instead of Destiny. It’s more fun and you won’t feel like you’re constantly waiting for the game to get good enough to defend how much you just spent on it. It honestly boils down to: “Do you like to play boring, expensive games or fun ones?”