Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Epic Comeback...

Well well well, it's been a long time (8 months) since I have updated this blog.

A lot of games have come and gone in that time.
Far Cry 3
Resident Evil 6
The Last of Us
Tomb Raider
State of Decay
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

And while I am playing some, and have beaten most of these. I have not shared my time on them with any of you. To be perfectly honest, this is my fault. There have been a lot of things going on in my personal life that has kept my (heavily divided) attentions elsewhere.

Not to mention that in my absence we had an amazing E3 that, I am sorely sorry I missed the chance to share my opinions on.
(Sony's conference, and then the post E3 tail-between-the-legs move from MS... what a year...)

The good news though is that I am back!
(hopefully to stay this time)

Now, while I may have been dormant online and distracted in real life, I have had a few projects up my sleeve. I do play video games for FUN after all...

So, I had debated on a number of things to do for my epic return but after taking a look at the calendar and my game collection... I knew there was only 1 thing to do. (Well, 2 really but I won't get into why Volition and the Saints Row IV have put such a bad taste in my mouth)

In the coming 6 months, we are going to be slammed with a myriad of release dates and new games. For the first time in almost a decade, we are also being treated to new consoles. Not just the big players this time either... For the first time since the days of Mattell's Intellivision console, we are seeing smaller companies releasing (seemingly) dinky products onto the market.
Between Kickstar legend "OUYA" and Steam's "Big Picture" projects, there are whole new areas of gaming to excite us. Mix in that special flavor of games that you get at the END of a console's era... (I'm looking at you GTA V) and we are up for something really special this year. Kid's are gonna LOVE this Christmas.

With all of this going on... all these new consoles making up jump forward in our love and passion for this hobby. I really wanted to start focusing on some of the games that made gaming what it is today. And while there are an almost infinite number of games and series that fit that description (some better than others...) Seeing my calendar told me exactly what I needed to do.

Operation: Retro Cell

...yeah I know it's a crap name but whatever.

On August 20th of this year (2013) Tom Clancy's: Splinter Cell - Blacklist is being released. This will (I believe) be the last Splinter Cell to be on the X360/PS3 era of consoles. Sitting alongside 2010's absolutely stellar entry "Conviction" as well as the 'cross-gen' entry "Double Agent" from 2006.

What made me focus on this series for my project, is it's link to the previous generation of gaming. With each generation, we see improvements and jumps in the tech and experiences for our video games. However, a major focus of improvement on the PS2 (and more so) the XBOX era was the focus on realism and creating that illusion through lighting effects.

Games like DooM 3 and Splinter Cell are perfect examples of games that pushed the tech forward.

When the first Splinter Cell came out, it was a marvel to be seen. It was so intense, in fact, it was originally an Xbox exclusive. I remember this, because I didn't have an Xbox back when it was released. (I played this entry on the gamecube)

The Goal here is to complete each and every game in the series, PRIOR to the release of blacklist. After which, naturally, complete blacklist.

There are a few things I would like to note here prior to me beginning this project.

The first, is that the first 3 entries are all going to be the original XBOX version. To this point, I mean I have an XBOX and will be playing the games from disc on it.
(These are not greatest hits versions either, if you care to know)

Splinter Cell (2002)
I had originally played this on the Gamecube... Never beat the last level.

Pandora Tomorrow (2004)
Played on Gamecube, but I was playing MGS Twin Snakes instead...

Chaos Theory (2005)
I never actually played this one... (Shameful, I know)

Double Agent (2006)
Naturally, I will be playing this on X360. I barely touched this game when it came out...

Conviction (2010)
I have beaten this game once, and played most the way through again. This was my favorite entry.

Blacklist (2013)
X360 Version, if there is a midnight opening I may post some info from that. (Note that this is the same release date as Saints Row IV, which I will be skipping for now for personal reasons)

So there you have it. Project: Retro Cell. A playthrough, and summation of every game in the Splinter Cell series to celebrate the release of the 6th game and a salute to the previous transition of gaming to our current form.

Keep an eye out for the review of Splinter Cell soon.

'Till then...



Friday, November 2, 2012

Dead or Alive, I'm a Five!

Dead Or Alive
(also on PS3)

Dead or alive... It's been years since we last saw a real dead or alive game. Back near the launch of the 360, we were treated to the hi-def fighter DOA 4, with all it's female spartan unlocking glory. Since then, the only things we have seen from DOA are virtual boob galleries and the handheld DOA dimensions (3DS Exclusive) Which was essentially DOA 4 in handheld form and showcasing the story of the whole series.

Now that DOA 5 has been released there are some small changes, and some great updates. First off, It's easy to see that the characters have received a large update. Hitomi in particular seems to have had the biggest change in appearance. That's not to say that they are all changed drastically, the creators of the game simply haven't altered much of anything since DOA 2.

DOA has always had a reputation for looking good and moving fast, but it seems as if it was turned up to 11 in this entry. You can turn off the "hit effect" option in settings and change the camera to "action" and it will seem like you are watching a choreographed fight scene. This is made even better by the amazing ways in which they have done everyone's favorite part of DOA... the stages.

Each stage has a number of danger zones, and it was once expected that if you get knocked into one of these you are most likely going to be A.) Going through the wall, B.)Being Knocked off a cliff or C.) Going through the floor. This time around though, they have expanded upon this with lots of flair and you are guaranteed to see lots of explosions and chaos in the background and foreground as a direct result of your fighting.

As always with any good new fighter, there are a couple new entries in this years mix.
The newcomers are named Mia and Rig.

Rig is a tae-kwon-do fighter that has some seriously spin-tastic moves. He's fast and hard to predict.
Character-wise, he is a little cliche-boring... He's lost his memory, he works on an oil rig (he owns it for some reason) and now he's mixed up in DOAtech... blahblahblah... no one cares about fighting game stories except mortal kombat.

The other character, Mia, is an MMA fighter who is fast and direct with her strikes. Her twist is all her holds and throws are more like something Tina would throw at you, and it can throw off people who aren't expecting the flow to change. Character-wise she's a spunky american who loved Bass growing up and wants to enter the DOA tournament.

The online mode works much better this time around, there is only lag when you are connected with someone with poor internet speeds, and the lobbies are entertaining if everyone has a microphone. (By the way push BACK to disable the chat box) My only complaint is that there are more people playing simple matches and lobby matches than just "ranked match" Which seems unusual.

All in all DOA 5 was worth the awesome cash I threw down on the Collectors edition.
In case you wanted to know, it has some outfits (Bunny/Angel sutis) for the characters, a big metal case, a big poster, and (the reason I bought this) a hardcover art book.

Game Over
9 - 10


Friday, August 24, 2012



XBLA game

Deadlight is a 2.5D side-scrolling platform game. I know, I know, there are a ton of those on XBL... so what's this one got? It's got zombies!

That's right, deadlight is a post apocolyptic take on this great genre. The story in deadlight isn't much to write home about, although the ending had a nice twist I won't ruin for you. What makes deadlight great is it's presentation.

Deadlight has a great art style with detailed backgrounds, and dark shadowy foregrounds. The zombies are usually too dark to see, except their hungry eyes. The sense of death is always close at hand as well, and you will die a-lot, because zombies are undead, hard to kill, and impossible to stop in hordes. Not too mention that guns are treated as rare luxuries instead of the bread and butter of gameplay.

If I have to give Deadlight poor marks, it's only due to it's length. The campaign will probably only take you 3-6 hours to beat. (Depending on how many times you die and if you are looking for all the collectables, such as  ID cards with recognizable names haha) There are leaderboards, but I have never cared much about leader-boards because I don't have people playing everything I play so there is little else to compare myself to other than the 12 year-olds who spend their time playing an online game all year like it's crack.

Anyway, Deadlight was way fun. Well worth the 15 bucks (1200 MS Points).


Game Over
Final Score: 8.0
"It's way fun"

Monday, August 20, 2012



The Amazing Spider-man

Version Reviewed: X360

It's 2012 and we are already so tired of what happened with Sam Raimi's trilogy that we are doing it all over again. The Amazing Spider-Man has been rebooted quite quickly, but the result is amazing. So after you have seen the movie a few times, probably in sweet digital 3d, you still crave some web-slinging action? Well look no further, because the Amazing Spider-man is nothing else if not... well... Amazing.

So instead of being a game based off what happens in the movie, this same name title is actually an epilogue to the film. You may remember that this game released 2 weeks prior to the films debut. A rather interesting decision, but none-the-less I must say that this game seemed to get mixed reactions to the spoilers. I saw the film half-way through the playthrough of this title, and I don't think much of anything is spoiled if you are a spider-man fan in the first place, then you will be familiar with what is happening anyway. 

So you begin your journey in a first-person view as Peter Parker. Your on a tour through Oscorp, now run by Allastaire Smythe. (sp?)  All hell breaks loose and you are greated to a tutorial level. The first thing I noticed about the game is the way they used a combat system almost straight out of the Batman Arkham games.

This is actually what I find to be one of the games greatest strengths. They may not have invented the system, but combine the fluid and powerful combat of Arkham Asylum and the flashy spins, jumps, and flips of Spider-Man, throw in some web-shooting, and you are left with a beautiful and fun-to-play combat system for this game.

Once you are unleashed into the open world of Manhatten, which has finally made a return to spider-man games, you will notice a few things. First you may notice that the web-lines you are swinging on are not constrained to fixed points on buildings (e.g. Spider-man 2 for PS2).

At first I thought this was going to be a big detterent of web-slinging, but the thing is, the web-slinging is so fast, acrobatic, and just plain-ass-fun that you don't even notice. The camera is zoomed in, and alters the FOV when you fall faster giving you a great sense of speed. Things get even better when you are fighting some of the flying spider-slayers around the city.

The bulk of your time outside is spent doing things like collecting the insane amount of comic pages laying around (this unlocks read-able comic books), stopping random crimes, or doing side-missions like using your camera.

The story missions pre-dominantly take place inside, and most locations are just varied enough that you won't feel like you've been there before. This is also where you will be doing the most of your combat, so don't be afraid to go all over the place both inside and out on the island.

So there you have it, a fun spider-man game that extends the story of the great movie that just came out. I enjoyed my time with it, and I think if you like spider-man, the games, and that awesome movie that just came out, then you will too.


Game Over:
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
"It looks Amazing!"

Friday, August 10, 2012

Blood Stone

007: Blood Stone
Version Reviewed: X360

As you may have surmised by the release date of this title, this was not one I picked up on launch. In fact this was never even a game that crossed my radar (aside from seeing the case once in a blockbuster). In fact, I picked this game up as a bonus free game for a coupon I used.

Little did I know though, that this would be the game from that stack that I would enjoy the most.

To start off, 007: Bloodstone is not a movie tie-in, nor was it a novel. This is an original story made for the gaming industry. Originally this was planned to be a 2-parter (or possibly a trilogy) However the developer Bizarre creations was closed not too long after this game was released and we are left with only the first part of this story.

None-the-less this felt like a full bond movie experience with great stealth-action components, a smart-phone that acts as a multitude of gadgets, solid shooting mechanics, and some amazing driving sequences.

The story in blood-stone is average bond-fare. M greets you with good morning, there is some international bad-guy about to unleash plans, and you are sent out to shoot and beat the crap out of as many enemy soldiers as it takes to get to the truth. Luckily, bond movies plots were never the highlight (just the presentation of it) and the game doesn't take long at all to thrust you into Mr. Bond's shoes.

The shooting system in Blood Stone is reminiscent *cough* Ripped off  *cough* of Ubisoft's Splinter-Cell: Conviction. For some this may not be a good thing, but I personally loved conviction, and found this to be a perfect implementation of those core mechanics.

Shooting is cover based, and bullets are strong enough to make you use cover wisely. With cover comes the ability to hide, and hiding is the best part of the action. If you are able to succesfully sneak attack (or even just melee) any guard you are granted a focus shot. This means that for a moment you can slow down time and James will automatically line up for a head-shot. This can be chained together for up to a total of 3 instant headshots.

To be honest I found myself doing a great many of beat-downs, as the animations are stellar and the thrill of taking out a room of enemies completely undetected is the equivalent of gaming ambrosia for any title.

In-between quick-draw head-shots and stealth take-downs you will be using your smartphone as your swiss army knife of gadgets. Keeping in mind that this is a Daniel Craig era-bond game, the gadgetry isn't at spotlight here and is really more supportive than anything. You can use your smartphone in a number of ways, such as remotely disabling a camera, or hacking a safe (both achieved with a QTE mini-game) but the majority of your phone is used as a radar/scanner. By pushing down on the d-pad the screen is cast with a static-green filter and you can now see where and how many enemies are in a room, what weapons are present, and what environmental objects will explode.

Last, but certainly not least the other portion of your time in Blood Stone will be spent in the few driving levels. Given that this is from bizarre creations it's not surprising that these are some of the most exciting parts of the game, despite the fact the driving is on rails. You are always chasing someone down in your car, and just getting to the end of the route is the goal. This isn't always easy though as you will be dodging traffic, driving on a frozen river, avoiding helicopter fire, and just generally driving like bond.

All in all, it wont take you very long to get to through the story I spent somewhere around 10 hours in the game. As I said it was originally planned to be a series of sorts, and the story ends on a cliffhanger, but I feel it's still bond-worthy and the ending reminded me of some of the old Sean Connery films, where the real bad guys were always still out there.  

The final point I'd like to establish is that I did not get a chance to try out the multi-player for this game. Every time I logged into their servers there was no one to play with... I'm guessing it didn't have lasting appeal?

In conclusion, Blood Stone was a surprising diamond in the rough. I'm sure you passed over it many times, but the next time you see that red 007 sitting on the shelf pick it up. You won't be disappointed.


Game Over:
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
"Diamond in the Rough"

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Max White III

Max Payne 3
Version Reviewed: X360

Max Payne 3 is a sequel that has been overdue for years now. I'm glad to say though, that the wait for this game has been worth it.

Now, it's worth taking note that I did not read anything about this game prior to it's release..
In fact, I hit the midnight opening on a whim. Rockstar games however has earned my trust as a consumer though, and there is something fun about knowing nothing before going into a game.

This feeling is intensified when the game turns out to be as fantastic as this game is.

First off, I want to kill the initial impressions that threw me off about this game prior to it's release. Max isn't bald throughout this whole game. In fact it's only the last level or two. None the less, I found it amusing to play as a bald Max, but mostly due to his resemblance to a certain chemistry teacher, Mr. White.

For those of us who have played and have fond memories of the first 2 games, (Personally playing Max Payne on PC with the various mods still remains one of my top 5 game experiences.) There is a slight adjustment period. This is to be expected though, for various reasons, not least of which being that so much time has passed since Max Payne 2 hit the scene.

Where the first 2 games would have opened with a noire-esque monologue about the dirty city for which Max Payne games are accustomed, we are treated with colorful and glitzy images of the, seemingly, classy lifestyle Max is now in. As to be expected though, there is much more to the brazilian town that most of the game takes place in. (There are a few flashback sequences, some of which take place in New Jersey with Max looking like his old self)

This new setting is perfectly complimented by the many screen effects we see. When you take your painkillers there is a screen shake that distorts your view, reminding us always that Max has a pill problem, he's not just taking a med-kit. The gameplay effects are beautiful, but where I feel the artistic style of the game really shines is in it's transitions and how it presents the "cutscenes". Every video in this game is done IN-Game, and it goes straight from gameplay to video without loading at all. It provides a very immersive experience, which plays perfectly into how the cutscnes will throw a border around an image presenting a very comic-book esque style. This is a vast and amazing improvement over the old style which essentially was a comic with voices.

With such a beautiful style of presentation, it was a joy to sit through the movies, not a burden. Which made my time with the actual gameplay even more memorable.

I will say now that Third-Person shooters are one of my very favorite genres, I feel they have been sadly neglected over the last genre. Max Payne is a refreshing take on this genre, simply because it does everything so well.

The most important thing I think in presenting a third-person shooter is how your character, and to a lesser degree, the NPCs move. Animations are key, and if you have ever played "Enter The Matrix" you will know exactly what I am talking about.

When you finish an amazing bullet-time dive, and are on the ground you can now fire from a prone position (This can also be done on command) But when you stand up you really feel like your character has a weight to his movements. The engine they are using to pump the character physhics out performs amazingly on a consistent basis. Jumping into a wall will cause Max to fall and have to reposition himself to get up or fire his weapon.

Ragdoll physics in this game are amazing as well. It seems like they took care to restrict bodies from moving in unnatural ways once they are killed. A mix of ragdoll/character animations couple to create a realistic way in which a dying person would fall. This accompanied with the realistic gore, which will show the bullet hole and exit wound with a hefty amount of bloodspray, is an incredible sight when you are treated to the bullet-cam. This is a slow motion camera that follows your final shot from your barrel all the way to your target. They didn't stop there though, as these scenes are interactive. You can pull the L trigger to slow them down more, and once your bullet as hit your victim you can continue to fire your weapon. This made for amazing fun.

The interactive scenes don't stop there however, when you melee/disarm an opponent there is a moment of slow-motion and you are allowed to pull the trigger for a finishing move. This happens in a few cutscenes as well, which will earn you an achievement or two if you know when to fire (or not).

Despite the fantastic story mode, which kept me enthralled from start to finish, Max Payne 3 has a few more modes up it's sleeve. All of which are a blast to play.

The first of these modes is arcade mode. You are timed or scored depending on which mode you choose. New York Minute is a fun version in which killing enemies will grant you time. So in addition to not being shot to death you have to kill everyone else quickly or with great style. A nice peak to this mode? You get to choose what Max looks like from every model of him in the game. There is even a bonus model of Max from the first game, from his horrid choice in tie to his goofy looking smirk. I got a good laugh seeing the cutscenes with that face.

The second mode is multi-player.

Now I'm not a big fan of competitive multi-player, though I see why so many people love playing it. None-the-less this is a game where I enjoyed logging into the servers. You are allowed to customize your character's look, loadouts, and "perks" if you will. Fans of Rockstars growing Social Club will be pleased to know that they have integrated a system called "crews" into the game. This allows you to pair up with a large group of individuals and compete on a stats-based level. Even better? The word is that these crews will carry over somehow into GTA V.

All in all... Max Payne 3 was the best spontaneous 60$ purchase I have made in a long time. I enjoyed every second of my time with this game. The presentation was amazing, the gameplay was smooth as butter (every game has an occasional glitch, but NONE of mention in my playthrough) and best of all it was just flat out fun.

Not many games make me yell out in joy.


Game Over:
Final Score: 10 out of 10

"Perfect, in every way."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

SSX (2011) X360

SSX: Deadly Descent!

Ok, they renamed it SSX (2011)

I would like to start this blog off with a game that has been one of the best times I have had playing a video game for a long time;.SSX is an incredibly fun game, however there are some noticeable flaws.

Below you will find a short list of pro/cons about this game, followed by a full review of all it's features.

Exceptional, and I mean "Exceptional" Online Multi-Player
Customizable Music Playlists, that get remixed in-game.
Most realistic mountains in a game. Ever.
Over-the-top, high-speed, gameplay.

No 2-player mode.
Poor avalanche event camera.
Even in online mode you are alone.
Short single player mode.
No 3D support

It's not often that I will call a game with no local play a good game. Let alone a great game. Add to this the fact that the single player isn't more than 10 hours long, and you would expect this game to fail miserably.

However, despite it's few issues (that I feel stand out like a sore thumb) this is a game that I have been hard pressed to turn off at night. I find myself wanting to play just one more race... one more tricky event... one more cycle of survival mode... It doesn't matter, they are all just as addictive.

The special thing about SSX, and really the core of the whole experience, is it's exceptional online mode.

Now let me stress that I am not an online multi-player kind of person. I don't own COD or Halo,  and the only Live friends I had before this game were people I knew in real life, and they don't play the games I play.

But that's the thing that makes SSX so special. I have never made friends on Xbox Live. Now I have a growing friends list, of which I can't wait until they are online again.

This is surprising because you actually don't speak, or even ever see any other players in the game. When you are racing online, you are racing a character with their gamer-tag on top, but it is just a "ghost" or "replay data" for the laymen.

Not to say that this detracts from the experience, in fact it's hardly noticeable except for the fact that you don't have anyone speaking to you in the game on their headsets. (Something many people will see as a great plus) I find it a little disappointing that I can't trash talk anyone as I pass them up on the races, or land an absurd combo that slides me up 3 slots in trick mode.

None the less, it is a blast racing their replays. There is a great feeling of going head to head with someones character down a mountain. So much so that you will want to add them to your "Rivals" list.

The Rivals list is an in-game friends list. This system tracks what times, scores, and in the case of Survival matches, their distance. It works great, as you spin the virtual earth in look of your next drop you will see pop-up messages (that are much less obtrusive than the X360's notifications). These will inform you if/when one of your friends, or "rivals" has smashed one of your scores/times/distances. It even gives you the option to jump immediately to that level so you can try to reclaim your stolen glory.

Now, with all the multi-player greatness that this game offers it saddens me to once again have to say; "This game has no 2-player"

Once again we are subjected to a game that has thrown off the very part of gaming that brought so many people together in the 90s. The lack of a 2 player mode is a major disappointment, not just for gaming as a whole, but simply because I wanted to sit down with my kid brother and hit the powder.

Which brings me to the single-player mode. Excellently crafted, this "World-Tour" will take you across the planet to the 9 "Deadly Descents". This is by far the most fleshed out story mode for SSX I have seen. As a reboot of the franchise, the SSX "team" has gotten together to beat their ex-member Griff in a race to conquer the planet. (Figuratively speaking of course.)

Essentially you do 3-4 races of each type (Race, Trick, & Survive) On each mountain. Which is about 3 mountains per 9 mountain ranges. Obviously you can see how quickly the different types of races can add up. Especially when you consider that you can switch the type of race for almost any track.

The movies are well made with good animations, and the voice actors of the heli-pilots deserve extra gold stars for their performance. As an awesome bonus, whenever you unlock a new character you are treated to a beautiful (yet short) Motion comic that briefly explains their connection to the SSX team.

Some of their camera choices IN game however, are questionable as well. Specifically, the Avalanche camera. This flips the camera to a helicopter view as you ride down the mountain, trying to outrun an avalanche.

I give them credit for a camera that adds suspense to the avalanche levels (of which their are only a few) However, the lack of an option to use the normal camera which works perfectly in every other level means that you are forced to play these great levels in a way that really kills the fun. You can't see where you are going, and because it is so zoomed out it becomes near impossible to figure out how to land your combos. (Which build your boost so you can outrun the avalanche)

In my opinion, an option to switch that or do the camera they used in a PIP box would have been a much better decision, both visually, and playwise.

Now, one of the features I enjoyed most was the ability to make custom playlists.
Usually to play your own music, you have to open the xbox guide and make it over-ride the game's music.
This was an awesome feature from day one, but some of you may remember how XBOX games (Such as True Crime: LA) would allow you to set music that would be used instead of the games soundtrack.

The ability to set, from my own library, what music would play in a race, or trick, or survive, or even the menus was just awesome. Add to this, that the interactive remix they use in their soundtrack is applied to your music.

This particular feature will drop music out when you take big air, and remix/repeat if you grind. It really ads flavor to the game, and a little to your music as well. I wish every game had a feature just like this.

EA is making great progress with some new and fresh ideas in multi-player. However, I hope they stop charging gamers who buy used copies 10$ to get full online access. In addition, the DLC for the character Eddie is already on the disc, buying this (or getting the pre-order bonus like myself) simply unlocks access. I have not yet played the Mt. Eddie DLC however, and cannot comment on it as of now.

Another strong point that hurt was that they didn't even bother to add artwork to the manual. As an individual that really appreciates box-art, it is sad to open a case and only see the Seizure Warning.

My last, and final comment about this game is one I have addressed with many games lately.
This game does not support 3D, and this is in reality a detriment, because this game would have benefited amazingly. From the snow dashing upwards when you land your board, to the insane drops you take on during your survival runs and the helicopters flying around as you dash down the mountain.

Here's hoping they release an upgrade this summer.

None the less, despite it's few shining flaws, I found SSX to be completely worth the price when I picked it up on launch. I recommend playing this to all my friends, and you should too.


Final Score - 8.5 out of 10

"Worth Every Penny"