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MAFIA II

January 4, 2011 1 comment

3.5 / 5

MAFIA II is a more than satisfying follow-up and calls back nicely on some of the most unforgettable moments in past “wise-guy” movies. Colorful characters and responsive environments really bring this game to life — don’t worry — so do the guns, women and excessive drinking. The game adopts a similar story-telling method to the original in that the games events are again reflected back upon and the end result expectedly unclear. Empire City may seem like a big open-world playground but the game implements a more linear experience in MAFIA II, more centralized than your recollections of the original. With some physical similarities reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City’s Tommy Vercetti, Vito Scaletta’s story is a surprisingly interesting one.

 

BORDERLANDS

August 12, 2010 2 comments

2 / 5

How this game was runner-up for Game of the Year in 2009 is beyond comprehension. Borderlands presents a shoddy weapons selection, uninspired/repetitive game design, and an inconsiderate health system that will leave gamers’ frustratingly repeating near insurmountable moments throughout the game. Add a near non-existent story and limited gameplay abilities and you’ve got yourself a game that critics are either foolishly misreading, or are being payed handsomely to write favorably of. Forget about the fact that 2009 was a great year for consoles; games like Assassins Creed 2 and Uncharted 2 attracted a lot of attention, as did games like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Infamous, and Dragon Age: Origins. Even without the comparison BORDERLANDS is considerably “thin.” Between feathers, glyphs, and hidden chests in Assassin’s 2, blast shards and unmatched electrical powers in Infamous, and Uncharted 2’s treasure hunting and astounding visuals, BORDERLANDS merely offers a shoot em’ up and “We’re sorry you can’t take cover type system.” Sure the competition for Game of the Year was big, but even games like Left for Dead 2, Flower, and Super Mario Bros. Wii should have easily overshadowed this game.

JUST CAUSE 2

June 9, 2010 2 comments

7 / 10

Just Cause 2 isn’t a game that should be on the top of your list of games to play. At the same time it shouldn’t be on the bottom. If you’re concerned about playing the original first my advice to you is to curb your curiosity entirely; it’s a terrible game. Certainly comparable to the mixed reception of Assassins Creed: tedious and unexciting. As for 2 we see some intriguing improvements, but a continuing lack of depth in what could have been an unbelievably expansive open world sandbox game.

Getting around in Just Cause 2 is a hell of a lot of fun. The convenience of releasing your parachute at any time adds to the entertaining part of traveling, coupled with the newly introduced grappling hook. As you become more familiar with the grappling hook you’ll quickly and creatively incorporate it into the way you get around, as well as in the way you take out various enemies throughout the game. If you like causing destruction and chaos this is definitely the game for you, but do prepare yourself for a game that gets very old, very fast.

Chaos is the key to furthering the story and unlocking objective missions in Just Cause 2, and it gets pretty repetitive. If you are one of those people who thought Assassin’s Creed pickpocketing missions were tedious, Just Cause 2 redefines the term. Aside from the occasional race challenges, which bear near meaningless rewards and often involve airplanes with some of the worst handling and controls you may ever encounter, the game is surprisingly limited for an open world game. If you’re not discovering a civilization, then you’re trying effortlessly to blow one up, one fuel station or army base at a time. While there are sidemissions, like joining a military faction, the objectives and missions are just as, if not more lackluster and unexciting. The run and gun system is entertaining but often annoying as there is no way to take cover. In that sense, when you are introduced to a room of baddies, your only choice is to hope for the best and pray your rambo-esque attack is enough to keep you alive. It’s almost laughable the lack of stealth this game provides you with, given the nature of the game. It would be so much easier if you could sneak attack a few guys first before throwing yourself into the open; especially considering the aforementioned inconsistency and unexpected results of run and gunning.

This whole seek and destroy concept is fun, but would of course be more effective in smaller doses. What this game forgets to do is to take and tweak aspects of other open-world games to help create a more involving and still original gaming experience. If you do decide to play it you’ll likely find yourself, more often than not, rattling off to yourself things you COULD be doing that developers neglected to include.

BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM

May 28, 2010 Leave a comment

9.5 / 10

Who would have thought that Rocksteady Games, a fairly fledgeling developing company, would have their second project be the juggernaut of a game it has turned out to be. Expectedly in the running for game of the year, alongside Assassins Creed 2, Modern Warfare 2, and Game of the Year Recipient Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Batman: Arkham Asylum heavily appeals to gamers of any particular skill/commitment level; and, if you’re into the comics and the whole Batman thing, you may even learn a thing or two.

If you’re looking for a game with smooth gameplay this is your game. The opening minutes of the game you’ll immediately realize that. Fighting sequences in this game are unmatched by others, and future games will no doubt take traces of this game’s astounding gameplay success and incorporate it into future titles. Button mashers beware, hand to hand combat in this game is very sensitive, what button mashing may have helped you with in other games WILL NOT help you in this game. Hand to hand combat is easy, but a great deal of patience is required to build the largest combinations possible. Like other games variations score big points, so while fighting opponents you’ll be prompted during combinations to vary your moves, which as you’ll see will be nothing other than personally rewarding for Batman, and any upgrades that become available throughout the game. The more varied your combinations the more points (duh!), and the quicker you’ll be able to purchase items from “WayneTech.” WayneTech is a branch of Wayne enterprises where Batman gathers his equipment; a pleasing callback to avid fans of the comics and series.

Fight Scarecrow, Bane, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, and more! Solve an array of demented riddles from the Riddler; gather his trophies, and along the way unlock biographies of all the characters of Batman, heroes AND villians. This is a great way to read more into character backstories including factual insight like names, aliases, and their overall involvement in the all-encompassing Batman story. For existing fans of Batman you will love it, and for new fans you’ll find it capturing and interesting. As you progress in the story you’ll see that increasingly difficult obstacles arise, but not to worry. As you progress in the story all your newly acquired WayneTech equipment will guide you through any dead ends you may encounter: whether its the batclaw for propelling you up previously unscalable buildings, batarangs stunning armed enemies, or upgrading your armor – an importantly overlooked upgrade which is most helpful for the frequent “Boss” battles in Arkham Asylum.

Be sure to frequently, if not always use Detective mode, the stand-out feature of Arkham Asylum. Detective Mode, similar to Assassins Creeds’ Eagle Eye, allows you to see items that are not visible through Batmans regular view. Detective mode assists in viewing objects that are potentially breakable, so Batman can get around easier and more stealthily, or, Detective mode will help you follow blood and alcohol trails that are necessary to tracking down clues throughout the story. Detective mode also helps identify batclaw points; batclaw points are where Batman can propel himself to higher ledges or objects. Their are many rooms in Arkham Asylum that are filled with both armed and unarmed prisoners (use detective mode to identify the armed and unarmed, red prisoners are armed, blue are unarmed). As the game deepens you’ll find that most rooms have NO unarmed guards and you’ll begin to see prisoners with tazers, but not to worry. Propelling up to objects (like ledges, gargoyles, etc) will allow you to move around unnoticed and plot an opportune time to take down one guard at a time. Be patient in situations like these; if you’re patient enough when prisoners get close to your location you’ll be button prompted to glide kick or drop and grab them. You’ll see that if your patient prisoners spread apart enough to make this as hazard free as possible. People make the mistake of not using Detective mode enough, and my recommendation to them is that you’ve likely missed a handful of breakable walls that have either lead to Riddler Trophies, Character Bio’s, Interview Tapes, or other important items throughout the span of the game. Did i mention you need to be patient?

Overall the game is a must play for any gamer, fan or no fan of Batman. Remember that combo attacks are very fluid, so sideline your button mashing impulses and plan your combo’s well; the higher your combo’s the more points, and the more points the more frequently you’ll be upgrading Batman. Use these points and upgrades to make present your unstoppable abilities to various Bosses, all of whom are impressively captured by the games design and art team. Don’t forget, a good portion of the game’s story involves tracking down clues using Detective Mode, so be sure to use it to your advantage. As you begin to progress through the game you’ll be pleased to see a “Challenge Mode” bar at the main menu. Transfer your acquired skills from playing the Batman story to climb the online ranks of Challenge Mode. Their is a good mix of maps in this mode, some of which are strictly fighting and combo related, as others involve more stealth objectives, like taking out a room of armed guards in a designted amount of time. Either way, their are enough challenge maps and difficulties to keep you playing Arkham Asylum well after you’ve beaten it.

HEAVY RAIN

May 28, 2010 Leave a comment

9.5 / 10

To those who have played Indigo Prophecy for the PS2, no stranger will you be to Quantic Dreams’ PS3 exclusive release of “Heavy Rain.” For those of you that HAVEN’T, prepare yourself for a gaming experience unmatched by any other game you have ever played.

Enter the dark and expectedly damp world of HEAVY RAIN through the eyes of four strangers, as the hunt for the Origami Killer orchestrates their own personal motives: The FBI Agent, The Insomniac, The Private Detective, and The Father of the victim in question. The first thing we notice when we meet these characters for the first time is how noticeably displeasing the voice acting is. I mean, things like this seldom affect my gaming experience but its tough not to say it’s a little annoying. Getting through the first hour is slow; to be completely honest the whole game is slow, but once through the developmental part of the game is REALLY when those little annoyances like slowness and voice acting are overshadowed by the overwhelmingly involving experience that is HEAVY RAIN.

Adding to this stimulating and often frustrating experience is a system in which deaths and continues are equally non-existent. Dying in this game simply shifts the story to another character still alive in the HEAVY RAIN story. So, you CAN die, but there are no replays. Of course if you wanted to go back for a trophy or just to say you got the better of that specific part, everything is broken down into chapters on the menu screen, making playbacks convenient and appealing. The countless endings and shifts in story via decisions and potential deaths are overall what gives HEAVY RAIN such a high replay value.

This concept of no continues plays heavily into the way your particular HEAVY RAIN story will unfold. Everything comes back to circumstances of decisions made throughout the story. So, it’s quite possible a friend of yours, among others, experienced a different game completely. In an attempt to be brutally honestly their’s no doubt this game will frustrate you. Interestingly the controls make it possible to see whats on your current characters mind, leading you to complete certain tasks or direct your story to a specific person or place. Similarly, in moments of distress or demanding quickness, these fill the screen in a way that’s hard to see, and which allows you a shorter time to choose. Thats the frustrating part of the game, making these last-minute decisions and hoping that they end up serving the story you want to play. It’s tough because their will be times where you choose something by mistake, simply because you didn’t have enough time to feasibly weigh your options.

Despite some of the frustrations you’ll certainly see the rewarding side of this game as every scene becomes increasingly saturated with mystery, suspense, and a rapid rise in difficulty. Overall the game does a good job of evenly distributing the allotted time we spend with each character. Each character shares an equal ability of interaction with things around them, some consequential and some not. Their is so much interactive potential in this game; the only limit is your willingness to do so.

Every gamer should play this game at least once, despite your loyalties to a specific genre. HEAVY RAIN combines a captivatingly mysterious, dark, and suspensful character driven story with a cutting edge gameplay mechanic that’s addictively absorbing. How this story unfolds is entirely up to you.