Rainbow Six: Vegas (360) – Review

Vegas - Cover

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas, developed and published by Ubisoft, is a tactical first person shooter that extends the concept of the previous Rainbow Six games, pitting you as a special operative against terrorist forces. The game provides an well-rounded single player campaign that requires you to use your resources and your team wisely, while the multiplayer definitely has a lot of play styles and maps in addition to a ranking system in order to keep it fresh. Combined with great visuals reflecting Sin City, Rainbow Six: Vegas is definitely a strong game for next-gen systems.

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Black (PS2) – Review

Black - Cover

Black for the PS2 (also for the original Xbox), developed by Criterion Games (the developers of the Burnout series) and published by Electronic Arts, is a first person shooter that really tries to focus in on weapon realism and rather destructive environments. While these parts are captured well by the game, the rest of the game feels lacking in areas such as level design and challenging AI. It’s also got a pretty short run-through that make the game a renter more than anything else. Continue reading

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (PSP, PS2) – Review

Vice City Stories - CoverGrand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (VCS), developed by Rockstar North and Leeds, and distributed by Rockstar Games, is a prequel to the events in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, but adds several new features to the game to make it feel much less like an expansion pack that Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories did compared to Grand Theft Auto 3. The new features, in addition to a new soundtrack, returning voice actors, and Phil Collins (!), really help to make this game shine as a worth sequel to Vice City, and is highly recommended for anyone that is looking for some GTA action to tide them over prior to the release of Grand Theft Auto IV.

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The Bigs (360) – Initial Impressions

I’m not a huge sports game fanatic.  I’ll play golf games like Hot Shots and Tiger Woods, but generally the major pro sports games are interesting but generally have the problem of being too realistic and too slow.  I did get the MLB07 game and it looks great, but again, there’s a huge time investiment to play a game.

Enter “The Bigs”, which is still based on major league baseball (though you start in the minors) but removes some parts and adds others to make it a great pick up and go arcade game.   You don’t wait between pitches to repitch (speeding up that process), and as there’s less focus on making the game presentation like a TV presentation, there’s few if any cuts to celebrations or replays that MLB07 has.  Pitching and batting are simplified significantly.  For pitching, you have 4 pitches and you set where you want them to go; how well they are thrown is set by a meter.  Should you miss the target area, there’s a good chance the batter will hit it, and if it’s a successful hit or worse, you’ll lose some ability on that pitch eventually making it unavailable.  Batting is basically swinging at the right time (but not worrying about area as long as it’s in the strike zone) and directing where you want the ball to go.  Both batting and pitching can active a power shot that boosts that one pitch, the power earned by making successful strikes and outs and hits.  I’m still working out trying to win a game in the career mode, but I’m getting close to that point, and it only takes maybe 15 minutes for the game.

I haven’t tried out all the modes, but there is a mode called “Home Run Pinball” where you are playing in Times Square in New York City; a pitcher repeated pitches balls to you, and you want to hit them to hit signs and other features in the Square to get points.  You keep playing until you miss so many pitches, so it’s a matter of aiming for a high score.  It’s a very simple addition to the game but it definitely is one of the fun aspects of the game.

Bullet Witch (360) – Review

Bullet Witch - CoverBullet Witch, developed by cavia, inc, and distributed by Atari Europe, is a third-person shooter in the vein of some classic cabinet video games such as Time Crisis, with many gameplay elements that suggest an arcade-like feeling. While the core gameplay seems to have several good ideas, there are many technical problems with the presentation of the game and other questionable decisions made in the gameplay that make this title difficult to judge. It’s definitely not a game that everyone is going to be able to enjoy.

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Carcassonne (360, XBLA) – Review

Carcassone - CoverCarcassonne , like Settlers of Catan, has made the jump from a popular tabletop game to Xbox Live in this version developed by Seirra Studios. The game does an excellent job staying faithful to the boardgame and has potential for future expansions. While the online version is lacking some features that Catan had, the result is still as good; a quick fun game that’s easy to learn but has many different strategies to learn.

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Overlord (360) – Review

Overlord - CoverOverlord, developed by Trimuph Studios and distributed by Codemasters, is a game in the same vein of play like Pikmin, a mix of a third-person fantasy hack-and-slash and minimal RTS elements.  The game is pretty fun, offering puzzles and monsters that are just right in difficulty, an entertaining story, and plenty to do outside of the main plot with only minimal problems.

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Overlord (360) – Initial Impressions

(Ok, not quite initial, I’m about 1/2 through, but first time I posted on this).

Overlord is definitely an interesting game; its fashioned off of one of the best games ever, Pikmin, but adds a few twists.  Basically, you’re an evil being (read: somewhere around lawful evil to chaotic good in D&D terms) that needs to rebuild his castle, but to do this, you need to do good deeds to rid the world of nasty evil (chaotic evil!).  To do this, you can’t fight off those hordes yourself but you get access to minions.  Like Pikmin’s Pikmin, your minions come in 4 varierties: Browns are good fighters but otherwise have no special power; Reds can use fireballs from a range and can douse fires; Greens can withstand and neutralize poison and can perform nasty back-attacks; and Blues can attack magic beings, use magic and regenerate others, and can cross through water (the others can’t), but are the weakest fighters.  You “sweep” your minions around the levels as well as set vantage points; you can control all of them at once, or by color, or a small subgroup, and usually it’s a matter of puzzle solving: monsters are there, but it’s usually how you face them that is the puzzle.  For example, monsters wandering around in water need to be lured to land to allow the more powerful minions attack.  Minions themselves will wreck havoc on boxes and the like about, collecting the items for themselves to use as weapons and armor, while giving you money, life and magic potions they find.

Destroying monsters gives you life force for your minions (each color tracked separately), but you can use your minions to upgrade your armor as well.

The game has a decidedly twisted bent, reminding me much of the humor in the (newer) The Bard’s Tale.  E.g. in this game, halflings (read: hobbits) are evil, and their hero “Melvin” is so rotund as to make him a tricky boss.

The only major issue with it is the lack of camera controls: the left stick is used for movement, the right is used to sweep your minions; moving around will move the camera, but I found the easiest way is to turn in the direction you want to look and then tapping a shoulder button to make the camera jump that way.  Also, the game feels like it was built off the Fable engine, not so much in the gameplay, but just how the people respond to you, how the camera follows you around, etc… which is not the best engine, but so far, it hasn’t failed me yet in the game.

Mario Party 8 (Wii) – Review

Mario Party 8 - CoverWith the controls of the Wii at its disposal, Mario Party 8 seemed to be an excellent title to help further demonstrate the controls of the Wii along with the improved graphical output from the system. Unfortunately, it seems like the developer, Hudson Soft, took a lot of shortcuts with this, borrowing heavily from Mario Party 7 in the graphics department, to churn out just Yet Another Mario Party instead of something that could have been more inspired. Outside of using the Wii remote in ways that, by now, we’re very used to from games like WarioWare: Smooth Moves, there’s really nothing new in Mario Party 8 to make a “buy” unless you are the type commonly playing with friends and need another game for additional variety.

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The Darkness (360) – Review

The Darkness - Cover

The Darkness, based off the comic of the same name by Top Cow Productions, developed by Starbreeze Studios, and published by 2K Games, takes a unique approach to first-person shooters that reminds me of elements from Max Payne and Deus Ex. It offers a story that is integrated well with the gameplay, a detailed environment of New York City, and a set of fun powers to use as you gain levels. There are some flaws, such as a rather lackluster online component, but the game still stands out for the solo play.

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