Call Of Duty: World at War (360) – Review

cover With this iteration of Call of Duty flipping back to Treyarch, Call of Duty: World at War returns to the historical setting of World War II, this time focusing on two theaters of war that haven’t been explored in depth: the Russian invasion of Germany, and the retaliation of America on Japan.  While the game does little to change up the formula of the game (including keeping some of the more disliked elements such as infinite enemy respawns, while using the same experience-based approach to multiplayer as Call of Duty 4), the game is otherwise a decent and solid title

Continue reading

F.E.A.R. 2 – Project Origin (360) – Review

cover The first F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) game was a decent game for its time, combining elements of a first person shooter with aspects of horror and suspense films to create an dark and scary experience.  While FEAR 2: Project Origin attempts to continue both the gameplay and the story in the same fashion, still having you chase down the nearly omnipotent Alma before she brings destruction to the world, there are several places where it faults mostly for doing more the same and not really attempting to distinguish its gameplay from other first-person shooter games, as well as for having too much broadcasting of soon-to-take-place surprise events, thus diminishing it as a horror title.  There are still faults from the first game’s overall design that also linger.  It’s still does a good job when it gets to the horror-aspect setpieces, but the points in between are mundane.

Continue reading

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii) – Initial Impressions

I played through about the first hour of this yesterday (that is, up though the first boss); the trouble with those Wii games that actively engage both hands that if you’re not used to it, it’s hard to jump in and do long doses at the start (had the same problem with Zelda for example).

However, I have to say that the word about the control scheme being near perfect holds true – yes, I’m still at the stages of trying to get used to all the controls, but they feel tons more natural than Red Steel’s version.  The lock-on with side aiming is a very nice feature.  My only nit is that the “pull-twist-push” actions for door seals seem difficult to pull off, the same issue I had with Elebits’ door handles, because of the in/out motion with the remote seeming to not be registering well.  I believe there’s a setting on the Wii main menu that might help that, so I’ll check that again.  The only nit is the scan visor activation process which requires a bit more finger movement to hit the “-” key, then to select the visor, THEN to aim and target the scan area.  Again, haven’t gotten far enough to determine if this could have been mapped any differently.

I’m trying to figure out if the graphics look any better than the GC Prime games — certainly after playing lots of 360 games at 1080i and coming back to 480p, jaggies are very notable, but ignoring that, it doesn’t seem like the engine pushing too much beyond what Prime was doing before on the GC — not that this wasn’t bad or the like.

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.

Continue reading

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

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.

Continue reading

The Darkness (360) – Mid-game Thoughts

I was worried before about this game not offering much, but there’s actually a pretty good bit of content here.  The game does a good job of keeping a story telling pace while keeping the action going at the same time.  It’s got a Max Payne head-warping feel to it, particularly with at least two sets of areas that are completely unexpected for the setting that you’re introduced to.  I also like how, while being an FPS, it had small but simple side quests that help give the game more depth.

And yes, the latter powers that you get are pretty damn impressive.  “Black Hole” may be fireflower-cheap, but it’s got its drawbacks, and its quite fun to watch ragdoll physics at work.

The Darkness (360) – Initial Impressions

Played through about 2 or so hours of the game so far.   It’s got a weird combination of Deus Ex and Condemned: Criminal Origins to it in that there feels like there’s some non-linearity and that you have a couple opinions besides pure firepower to deal with tight situations (including some stealth attacks and the Darkness powers).  The setting (in this case, NYC late one night) also brings these games to mind.

I’m a bit odd about what the game considers “dark” where your powers are supposed to manifest themselves better; the graphics don’t see to have a strong contrast between light and dark, but there are several profiles that can be set depending on your TV along with a gamma setting to adjust this further; however, there’s no ‘guide’ (eg, selecting a profile to make a near-black square disappear or the like) to help with the lighting setting.

My only concern in the longevity of the play is how many more powers the character manifests.  When you defeat a foe regardless of method, you eat their heart, and eating so many hearts raises your Darkness level, but there are only 5 such levels in the game; the fact I hit one within a couple hours makes me hope this game isn’t too short.

I was almost tempted to see how long into “To Kill a Mockingbird” (the movie with Gregory Peck) is used within the game, shown somewhat early in the game.

Haven’t tried multiplayer yet.

Shadowrun (360) – Initial Impressions

Short answer: this isn’t worth the $50/$60 out of the box, but it begs for more downloadable content that could make it worth that.  However, I’ve yet to hear of any, so in the short term…

The game takes a tabletop RPG and makes it into an FPS.  For something like Shadowrun, this is actually ok, because a lot of the tabletop RPG’s emphasis was the mix of magic and technology.  But unfortunately, there is no single player missions here: the game is all about the multiplayer combat.  I think that’s a big mistake: there’s nothing in how they’ve set up the game that would prevent even a mediocre single player FPS to be in place, granting the player powers over time like a typical FPS; some of the magic and tech like Gliders and Teleport would allow for interesting puzzles as well.    While you can play against bots in single player mode, this isn’t the same as a full-fledged campaign.

As for the multiplayer mode, the game itself is interesting.  You select one of 4 races with various advantages and disadvantages, and then at the start of each round, enter a Counterstrike-like menu to buy tech, magic, and weapons.  While in a match, you keep all tech and magic, but you have to buy weapons should you die.  Because of the mix of races and the magic and tech, this game then gets some elements of a Team Fortress classes, though well less defined: there’s obvious counterparts: teleporting elves as your scouts and minigun-wielding trolls for your heavy guns gun, but then there’s enough choices that you can create a class that works best for you.  In the current game modes (1-flag and 2-flag CTF), you don’t respawn after dying, though a teammate can revive you with Resurrection; however, this makes for an interesting gameplay mechanic that if that teammate should die, you’ll start bleeding out and either must find a healing Tree of Life to keep your health up, or make a quick sacrificial move before you die.  I played about 3 matches last night (and through the tutorial screens, natch), and there’s already a lot of different strategies that I can see.

Where the game is aching is the fact that it feels like there could be so much more added to the MP experience.  Two gameplay modes is not enough, and there’s no reason for very similar modes like from Halo to work here such as Territories or even simple team deathmatch broken out into rounds.  I think I also would have liked to seen a few more magic and tech powers; I found it very easy to gain all of those available by the end of a 9-round match, where instead I would still like to have options to pick from.  The menus are set up to suggest the possibility of additional modes and content down the road, but I think for a $50/$60 pricetag, this game needed those in here from the start.  I’ve a sneaking feeling that when these modes are released, we’ll be having to put some points to them (though how this works with Vista users is unclear yet).

I will say that, without knowing the development history, it feels like Shadowrun and Crackdown were conjoined twins separated at birth.  A lot of the elements of both games have similarities even though they were developed by different studios but that the combination of the two games (the MP elements of Shadowrun, and the SP elements of Crackdown) would have made for a top notch game all together.  However, that’s just my impression, I may be way off base with that.

Breakdown (XBX) – Initial Impressions

As a short diversion between RPGs and other games soon to be out, I pulled out a cheap pickup of Breakdown.  An original Xbox title now playable through backwards compatibility on the 360, it’s a first person shooter that takes the “first person” concept to nearly as far as it can go without wrecking the fun of the game.  For one, while there is shooting and other weapons, you quickly become more involved with using melee combat to get past difficult foes, so you can swing one-two punches and upper cuts.   Certain actions not shown in many FPS are forced on the player; you have to actually reach down to pick up ammo from dead soldiers or objects from the ground, and when you reach security doors, you need to pull out a security card and then swip it to get through.  These actions aren’t overly trivialized – they’re just long enough that it’s risky to do them in the heat of battle; that is, the game prevents you, as you likely would in real life, from running to a dead soldier to grab their ammo while a gun fight is blazing because of the time it takes, as opposed to many FPS where you can do this as part of the game.  It may seem a bit silly at first, but it actually works pretty well once you start getting into the midgame.

The game is unfortunately very bland in the graphics department.  All the levels have been rectangular hallways so far with minimal decoration, and though while I’m still in a building, it would have helped to have some diagonals as needed.  There was at least one interesting point as per the character gaining memories, I stepped out momentarily into a desert region (possibly part of some hallucination) while still in the middle of the building, to return to find that it likely never existed.  But even there in the desert, there wasn’t much different to look at.

It’s also the type of game where I wish they spent a bit more time thinking about checkpoints (the only points that you can restart your game after game over or a save game load); there’s been a few that have had a semi-difficult fight followed by a rather hard one which, should you fail the hard one, you have to repeat both fights.  I know the idea of quicksaves/loads isn’t really good for FPSs, but it would help with as distant the fighting portions are in this game, to err on the side of more checkpoints.

Definitely no big rush to finish this, but definitely one to finish.