24 September 2011

Duke Nukem Forever

Wow, this isn’t relevant at all anymore but might as well talk about it.

Alright, I know what you’re thinking, but please hear me out here. This game isn’t as bad as everyone says it is. In fact I might go as far as to say it’s..good, like really good. There’s a big thing this game is (aside from ancient) that a lot of games today aren’t…Truly fun.  I had a great time with this game, it’s not anything intelligent or perhaps something moving story wise, but it’s fun…and funny, like there’s humor in it.
All the other reviews I’ve read, and even Dave said that this game was terrible, the mechanics sucked, and everything about it was just bad and that after 13 years in development, it should be the most perfect game ever to grace our meager lives. Well, to those people I say, thinking like that is a silly way to go about things. The game may have been announced in 1996 but there wasn't continuous work on it. There were two publishers and THREE engine changes…If you're not hip to the game making lingo….it means they had to start over three times. From scratch.
     Yeah the game isn’t the prettiest, but it’s far from looking bad…MK v DC or Fallout are on the same level graphics wise. The gameplay is pretty solid, it does that whole FPS thing right with the guns shooting and if they get shot, the enemies die. The weapons are unique, sure there’s the pistol and the shotgun but there aren’t too many games that let you have a shrink ray, a freeze ray, and let you throw rats at enemies. Also another thing about the weapons, they feel ballsy. I’m sure Duke wouldn’t have it any other way. When you shoot of the shotgun, you start to feel your pants get tight…or is that just me?
The variety in this game is really something that doesn’t get done in any genre today. All the different things you do, like driving or platforming, swimming. It mixes up the gunplay enough to keep you interested in what’s coming next. I’m hard to find one example that can compare. In all honesty (and I’m sure if anyone reads these there might be a lot of anger over this) I kept thinking of Half Life Two.  (no it’s not that good, but it’s as varied and almost as fun). It’s potty humor and its 90’s mentality is similar to Conkers bad Fur Day (which if you haven’t played yet, go fucking do it).  
That’s another thing, you can play with everything! Vending machines, faucets, weights, pinball…sure they’re just little additions, but they’re fun to spend a minute on (except for air hockey and pool both of which can suck major cock and go fuck themselves to the next dimension, seriously they’re terrible and necessary for an achievement so if you’re into that, good luck)
I suggest to anyone who has played the older Duke games to at least try it, there are a lot of nods to the older years and a lot from the older style of game play. I recommend to the people that haven’t played a shooter before halo, try it, it’s a good window into what shooters were, a good way to get your feet wet, and maybe you’ll want to go back and play the older games (I mean Duke3D is on xbla so why not?).
I think it’s very important to go back and see where you came from, and if you turn your brain off, sink down to your primal bro level and just absorb the immaturity, you’ll find yourself having a lot more fun with this silly romp, than you would with days in Call of Duty.
Tl; Dr
+FUN, yeah the three letter word that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention now-a-days, this game is a lot of it.
+Lots of styles of gameplay that will keep you guessing and breaks up the gunplay enough to make you want to keep playing.
+ Great for old school gamers to get a nostalgia kick and great for new school gamers to see their roots
+Duke’s the fucking king
+/-You can throw around a turd (yeah it’s an achievement)
-  It’s immature, which isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s a little much sometimes (boobs galore though)
-Dated…the graphics, the plot, the references…if it came out maybe 3 or 4 years ago it would’ve been ground breaking.
-Had the misfortune of being hyped for 13 years…sure there was a lot going on, but yeah they maybe could’ve sped this up a bit no?
Bottom line: Try it. Don’t expect the world to shake, but try it.


2012 (No, not the movie)

This is just a short blog post, because I want to make sure all of nobody knows that we're back. Or at least I am (I don't know whether Nick has been posting or anything. I've been busy watching Scrubs and not playing enough games. Wallowing in self pity, if you will.). So what I'm saying is I'm winging this. Sorry for the rants then.

So now here's the real deal. 2012 is the fucking year for games. Now hear me out. I know people are saying "But what about Gears of War 3, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Ass Creed, THE BATMAN, Call of Duty (lawl), Rage (maybe?), etc., etc., etc." Well fuck that. I know there are awesome games coming out this year still and some have already come out - potential blockbuster titles,  possible Best Game of the Year shit coming soon, and even some awesome indie games. But have we looked at the line-up for 2012? It's fucking ridiculous. Seriously. Here's a (just now formed, and only possible - with some release dates not yet listed) list of 2012 games I'm excited about/hope to buy and review (and this is only the ones for  X360):

Bioshock Infinite
Borderlands 2
Far Cry 3
Gotham City Imposters *
Hitman: Absolution *
Mass Effect 3
Max Payne 3
Rayman Origins
Silent Hill Downpour *
The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings (please, please, please, please, please?) *
The Witness

*Games of extremely questionable release dates

So how can you not be excited? These are just major game releases (and one XBLA game). That is absolutely why 2012 is going to be an absolutely fucking amazing year for video games.

P.S. To all none of you out there: look for my review of Gears of War 3 within the next three weeks. :)

01 August 2011

From Dust: Review (XBOX360)

Developer, Ubisoft Montpellier's From Dust is a God game simulator. One of few that I've heard of, the game already stands out. Using the power of breath, the player controls earth, water, lava, and vegetation in order to create a hospitable environment for the tribe - ultimately providing them with a sanctuary and the memories of the ancients.

The game paces itself, choosing to not introduce everything at once, but rather slowly have everything build on the previous knowledge from other areas. The game comes in strong and never lets up, offering challenges from beginning to end with increased frustration. Giving a time limit to have the tribe learn how to protect itself from water before a tsunami hits, it offers the player the first glimpse into what lay ahead. From here the strategy involved in protecting the tribal villages only becomes more intricate. The main mechanic of the game is simulating actual environments (albeit in fast forward). The spread of the fire, the flow of the lava and water, the erosion of rock and soil - all of these are the key elements behind the game. Everything works as it should (aside from tsunamis, which seemingly just appear out of nowhere). The lava flows naturally and eventually turns to stone when met with massive amounts of water; Lava, soil, and water can be combines in ways to make a very strong bridge; etc. Some levels seem easier than others, but the game extends the play for a while with challenges (with just as much frustration as the game itself). As for the camera mechanics, the ability to zoom in and out, as well as offering an overhead view really help with navigating the land.

The game is also visually impressive. Not only is it beautifully rendered, but the environment offers a much welcome change from the environments in other games these days. Although some levels may seem devoid of color, the game encourages populating the world with vegetation for an achievement. The many colors give this creationist game an aesthetic appeal that most sixty dollar games can't even deliver. The palette suits the story and mood of the game. The camera allows for a zoomed out view to admire your handiwork from afar, as well as an extremely zoomed in view, following a single tribesman throughout their trek across the land, revealing the level of detail attended to. The story isn't delivered directly, but is rather mostly delivered via text of memories. While there is a story to be had, it's mostly back-story. It doesn't really go anywhere, though, and rather just stays right where it began as far as any sort of plot devices are concerned.

From Dust isn't without its flaws, however. The AI is a little shoddy at times, choosing to ignore paths to objectives for more obscure routes, endlessly shouting for help. The game also takes a short time after something has been added to process a path for the tribe, causing a trial and error strategy to be necessary at times. Sometimes the path just doesn't appear, which can occasionally be remedied by creating a new path, resetting the objective, or just killing the current AI. As mentioned before, the tsunamis don't act like they should - they just form at the outer edge of the map and come full force, as opposed to pulling all of the water from the coast-line to build up (which would normally pull away some land on an island as well). Furthermore, a single player game with no substantial story is always a turn-off in the modern gaming era (the game is objective driven). Ultimately this game could probably be stretched out to a week-long experience of an hour or so per day, so it's maybe a ten hour investment to complete everything - definitely a substantial amount of time for only 1200 MSP ($15.00). While not a perfect game, From Dust certainly breaks the mold of monotony and offers a level of freshness and uniqueness that is wholeheartedly appreciated.

+   Interacting and battling the environment to guide tribes that you have little control over offers unique gameplay
+   The graphics and aesthetics of the game levels offer beautiful environments
+   Challenging, but not overwhelming story and challenge modes
+   Great camera controls allow you to navigate easily, as well as admire your handiwork from close-up or afar.
+   Fair and sensible achievements.
+/- Mostly great physics and simulation mechanics.
-/+ Somewhat broken AI is the reason behind a bulk of the gameplay frustration.
-    In this age of gaming, a single player game without a good story is like a multiplayer game without an active community.

Score: 83%

-Dave Thorne

31 July 2011

Assassin's Creed Bro

Alright, so here we go, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood (ABS or Ass creed bro). This is the third game in the Assassin’s Creed series. Our hero is Ezio Auditore, a renaissance Italian who, fresh out of the last game, gets thrown into a new situation that requires his hidden blades to be implanted into the soft gooey bodies of the Borgia.
So this entry takes place right after the second game, so if you haven’t played that, you’re not going to understand what’s up with this one. If you have played that…well it’s pretty much that. You run, you jump, you stab, and all of it’s done really really well. This brings me to the biggest gripe I had, the controls.  Now please don’t take this the wrong way the controls are really tight and smooth and really work well…most of the time. I don’t know if it’s my perception, but when I play games like Mirrors edge, or Assassin’s creed, the further I get and the more I play, the more I notice when I screw up. I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting better at the game and I notice more of my imperfections, or if the game has gotten sloppier.
                So this becomes perfectly evident in the last parts of the game which you have to make these perfect jumps which can become infuriating! I don’t want to spoil anything, but I have to ask….if there is only one way to go, why would I be able to jump another way? Yes that might make it too easy, but I want to feel like a badass at that point. I’ve spent the entire game honing my skills, so why can’t I just feel awesome for making those jumps and move on instead of raging at the controls or camera for another 20 fucking cockslurping minutes.
                One of the features that I feel gets looked over would be the little snippets of info you get when you find a certain person, or climb a certain building. They’re usually like a paragraph or two long and give a little bit of history about what you’re climbing all over. Now being Italian and actually liking the time period and history of this game, I might be a little more into this than most others.
The other big new feature is the “Brotherhood” part of ACB. You’ll go around helping out poor little townsfolk and in turn they will pledge their allegiance and start with the murdering.  By the end of the game you’ll have a small white hooded platoon and can overcome a lot of trouble by sending them in to go kill people you’re too good for, sort of like some stabby white lemmings. The game also has a small RPG feature with your posse, you pick a few of your pawns and fling them across Europe to do different things like murder a politician or protect a banker or pick up the dry-cleaning. This earns them XP and then they level up until their ready to become fully fledged assassins. Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t mind an Advance Wars style game involving the brotherhood or maybe a Civ 4 type of Turn based strategy minigame, or hell even its own game. Halo got something like that, so why can’t Ezio’s crew?
                Now this game isn’t really much of a technological upgrade from the second one, and you know what? I’m ok with that; there aren’t a lot of clipping issues which I find REALLY annoying. You know, when a characters hair goes through his jacket or someone’s cape flows through their sword as opposed to around it. Yes I know that it takes a lot of power to do that sort of thing but it makes me oh so happy to see that. Also this game will make sweet sweet love to the “large panoramic” shots of the world part of your brain.  Ubisoft knows that people like to climb up really high, look around and then throw themselves off into a conveniently placed hay bale, so it’s good that they didn’t mess with that formula. Oh and from the highest point of the game, you can literally see the curvature of the earth and your house…it’s quite the sight.
                Should you get it? Well that depends, if you’re really really into this series, than you probably have already, if you like it but aren’t sure  if this is just an expansion, get it, at least try it, the multiplayer is a fun time waster and if you’re like me, you thought ASII was just too short, so that alleviates that. Though I would recommend that you play through the story again real quick or look up a guide or something because for me, it was too long of a gap and I found myself asking who people were a lot of the time.  If you haven’t been into this series or just noticed it, go play the others first, then make your decision. It’s fun and well done, and more of what you’ve come to expect. Hopefully when the series ends they’ll come out with some sort of box set of all these games so you don’t have to wait the painfully long years between them.

Whew...ok a little long, but I think you get it....


18 July 2011

AAA Titles and Below

So there seems to be a problem with the game grading system. Everybody knows it, yet it still hasn't been fixed. Watch this for a great video that touches on the topic: http://bit.ly/lDVNnW. It seems that, although payoffs are getting less frequent, fear is still inside of the industry. AAA titles get away with murder of the genre without even a glance from any critics or reviewers. But what about games that are published by lesser known companies, or possibly have a lower budget? I'm a big fan of Official XBOX Magazine, being mostly an XBOX gamer. But their reviews are no better than any other online company.

Let's look at two titles, shall we? Halo Reach: http://bit.ly/pW94Il. Brink: http://bit.ly/n0t7Wr. Now looking at these games, we can see major differences. Sure, Halo is probably undisputedly the better game, but there are similar problems. Let's start with single player. Single player in both games is painstakingly annoying. In both, the enemies are a lot smarter than friends. Many times in Halo: Reach, the marines, ODST, or SPARTANS would just stand around and complain about being shot, as if I was supposed to be, dare I say his name, Master Chief. I'm not a one man team. I am noble SIX out of SIX, and evidently specialize in being everybody's bitch.

Now let's look at Brink. Where should I start? Brink was a great concept, and I'll still defend that. Sure I sold it back to Gamestop for ten dollars, but that doesn't mean it didn't have its moments. The story wasn't very creative, but it was substantial enough for a game based around multiplayer. The real problem occurs when the multiplayer does nothing different. Halo may take its maps from campaign, but they don't copy and paste. But what did OXM complain about with Brink? "Atrocious A.I." What's different about this A.I. and the A.I. in Halo? Oh, right. Everyone has the same amount of health. At least Brink tries to be fair by offering enemies who can't resist damage like they're wearing twenty meter thick, bulletproof armor. Sure your teammates forget that there's an overall objective, and run by enemies sometimes, but at the end of the day, you CAN do most of this alone. Along with having multiple classes with specialized abilities? Sign me up.

Another complaint about Brink was its "pointless story". Reach had a good story, sure -- especially for a Halo game. There was character development, beautifully rendered cutscenes, and substance. Brink had a story that, despite being ridiculous and slightly overused, offered two separate play throughs. But to call Brink's story pointless would also be to call most stories pointless. Brinks story was more overshadowed due to the story being incorporated into multiplayer, but it was not at all pointless. Reach's story really touched some, while it left others slightly offset. A story that portrays a character as being bad ass should have a bad ass character. The ending sequence, showing the death of Noble Six doesn't really do much because he could do things that even I couldn't do. While the ending level was a great concept - giving an impossible objective that would lead to the ending sequence, playing on legendary just wasn't the same as watching the story. Cutscenes that show my character punching an Elite once for a kill, while in-game it took about four hits just ultimately shows a detachment from game to story. So to call a story that is integrated into the gameplay pointless and not call a story that separates gameplay and storyline is just a tad bit ridiculous.

The final negative I can compare between the two in the reviews is "objectives offer little variety". This I can agree with. Perhaps if there were slayer matches, or if the development team went the extra mile to really add something new to the multiplayer it would have been fine. As it happens, the multiplayer element fell short -- way short. Brink fails to deliver anything memorable from multiplayer because multiplayer and campaign are the same thing. In that respect, OXM is right. Although Halo uses portions from its campaign maps, they expand upon those portions, catering them to multiplayer. Halo's one saving grace is that the multiplayer is separate from the matchmaking, and it has support from the team to update the maps, add new maps, add new game types, and so forth. Overall though, it's an addictive multiplayer experience, but it can feel a bit repetitive at times.

Now, I'm not saying Halo: Reach is horrible. I play it almost every night. I'm not saying Brink deserves a better score. A 4.5 is what it received, and that seems pretty fair given all of the bugs. There is certainly a large amount of other problems that contributed to the bad rating. But let's rethink Halo: Reach's score. Did it really deserve a 9.5? No. It isn't an insanely flawed game, but it certainly isn't near flawless. If we're ever to fix the rating system, we mustn't be afraid to tell the developers what they need to hear. You dun goofed. Maybe if developers learn what they did wrong, instead of being praised only for what they've done right, we'd all be better off for it. I'm a fan of a 100% rating system, and am not afraid to say that Halo: Reach can get no better than an 87% from me. As for Brink, if you still own it, enjoy your shiny mini frisbee before it breaks -- or sell it for ten dollars and buy a real one.


13 July 2011

A Look at Catherine (the Demo)

After playing the demo of Catherine, it left such an impression on me, that I had to write something about it, so here goes. The button layout for this game isn't innovative, but everything is where it should be. The in-game tutorial doesn't throw everything at the player at once, but instead paces it so the player only learns the mechanics as they become available or necessary. The difficulty levels (the demo only allows for easy) seem like they will be well-scaled. Even on easy, it offered a slight challenge. Hard will not be just a name. From what I hear of the Japanese version, it will be difficult.Speaking of gameplay mechanics, the morality mechanic offers an interesting twist. Our protagonist, Vincent, converses via text message, and depending on what you choose, Vincent's emotions will change throughout the game. No idea how much this will affect the story, but +points for innovation. At first the way the different things you can text seemed a bit tedious to navigate: pressing A, then B, then A again for a different message, cycling through with this method to see all of your options. But looking back at it, even I text like this -- writing something, erasing it, rewording it, repeat. The text message system allows a connection between player and protagonist, giving a realistic portrayal of life, rather than some Hollywood crafted drama.

The story itself actually seems rather compelling. This is definitely going to be a game unlike many others, if any others. Without more to go on, I can't really comment further (especially since the game has already released in Japan). The horror plays well into the story, by offering an uncanny, other worldly affect to it. Even during the demo, one specific part set my hairs on end. Combining horror with a puzzle-based, story-driven, platformer is something I don't think I've ever seen done. Integrating that many genres into one game can either lead to a masterpiece or a train wreck. Hopefully Atlus worked out a way to allow them to all compliment each other, rather than compete for the spotlight.

Sometimes the animations are beautifully rendered... but then something happens. The characters go off into a different art style. Maybe this has something to do with the contrast between dream and realty, but there is such a shift in the art design that it's almost overbearing. But since we're talking about graphics, they are shifty to say the least. There are no texture popping issues, but at points, the characters look more like cardboard cutouts than animations. The level of detail extends from "We just HAVE to get this crack in the brick right" to "Eh, it looks good enough... I guess." More important than graphics, though, is the grand color scheme and the aesthetics of the environments. This is such a welcome change from the brown-grey color scheme of all of the Unreal powered games out there today. If the full game keeps the pace of the demo, there's definitely a great title out there just waiting to be enjoyed.


06 July 2011

Welcoming ourselves!

The once tumblr account is now being moved to blogger for both ease and convenience! Oh boy! This definitely will work much better.