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Dead Island Riptide, the follow-up to Techland's cult hit Dead Island, has washed ashore, bringing with it all the highs and lows that made the original so addictive . . . including the game interfering bugs. Not quite a full blown sequel, yet infinitely more than simple DLC, Riptide commences immediately after the concluding events of Dead Island. The four protagonists - Sam B., Purna, Logan Carter, and Xian Mei - have narrowly escaped the infected island of Banoi and the wickedness of Ryder White. But their sigh of relief is short lived as the helicopter they thought would transport them to safety quickly lands on a nearby aircraft carrier preparing to brave the impending monsoon that was hinted at so often during my original play through of Dead Island. Unsurprisingly, the four companions are imprisoned aboard this vessel to research their immunity from the infection just long enough for mother nature to assume control and violently launch them headfirst into the storm. The result sets the stage for the next chapter in what I feel has become one of the best zombie survival franchise of this console generation.
Although Riptide doesn't innovate or promote much advancement from the likes of Dead Island, it does offer just enough updates to keep things interesting; the most notable providing the option to import your playable character from Dead Island - an option I took full advantage of. Having enjoyed the abilities, quirks, and character that Logan Carter offered, it was a simple decision for me to continue playing as the former American Football star and all-around zombie curb stomper. His current level and prior abilities were seamlessly ready to use at the start of Riptide. The only thing not brought over from Dead Island were any of the items or modded weapons that were so lovingly crafted. In a way it makes sense as the opening cut scene to Riptide strips you of all your possessions.
If you're new to the Dead Island franchise, or have made the decision to simply start as a new character, the developers at Techland have provided you with the option to select any one of the (now) 5 playable characters (the 5th being John Morgan - a former Australian Defence Force soldier) beginning at level 15 - thus allowing you to pick and choose which skill trees you would like to enhance.
From here the game is very much a continuation of the events and game play of Dead Island. Although you've been shipwrecked on a new island - Palanai - the objective is still very much the same: 4-player cooperative survival, questing to upgrade your character, all while looking for a way off the island. The story is mostly unimaginative, the characters you encounter are bland and uninspiring, and the zombie hordes continue to attack with the same ferocity.
Although it may appear that Techland has simply taken the the code from Dead Island and put a new skin on it (which they pretty much did), they've also added enough "new and shiny" to keep things interesting. Aside from the fact that experiencing this game in 4-player co-op can be indescribably fun, they've also added a number of new special infected to keep players on their toes and constantly fighting for their lives:
- The Grenadier - A zombie that rips off chunks of his own body to hurl at the survivors
- The Drowner - A play-dead zombie that floats in the flooded waterways of Palanoi only to spring to life when your character gets close enough
- The Wrestler - A hulking brute whose arms have mutated into massive clubs
- The Screamer - Think of the Witch from Left 4 Dead
Also new to Riptide is the ability to travel through large portions of this flooded island by boat. This game play element helps promote the idea that you're not only the survivor of the zombie apocalypse, but also the survivor of a devastating monsoon. Similar to travelling by jeep, the waterways of Palanoi are just as infected with zombies as the streets of Banoi were. Running over - or through - them is just as satisfying, yet it also poses a new threat. The water-bound undead are considerably more active. Get too close to too many and they will claw their way onto your boat, inciting an up-close-and-personal mini-game similar to when a zombie grapples you on dry land. Correctly following the on-screen controller button prompts (ala QTE) will result in smashing their heads against the hull of the boat. Fail to remove them in time and you'll be pulled overboard and quickly surrounded.
Lastly is the inclusion of some tower defense style game play elements. Throughout the campaign you'll have the opportunity to fortify a variety of camps by blocking a number of entrances with rolled up sections of wire fencing. Against the horde of zombies that come at you these barricades will only last so long. Thankfully, you're also provided with a variety of mines and, on occasion, the placement and mounting of some much needed mini-machine guns stripped from a downed military helicopter. These sections of game play are a nice break from island exploration but can last a little longer than I felt was necessary.
As much fun as I've had with Dead Island Riptide it's not without it's bugginess. Although the game would be hard pressed to match the same level of irritating bugs the original Dead Island offered, they do still make an appearance; some more annoying than others. The frame rate is probably the most egregious and can slow to a crawl during some of the more frenetic moments. I also encountered an irritating, yet mildly entertaining, bug when attempting to use my first boat during a single player mission. After carrying the motor through hordes of zombies (easier said than done), I located the awaiting boat via the waypoint - except the boat wasn't there. Invisible except for the floating (yes, floating and spinning) motor placement indicator, it took me several minutes to time it just right. Had this mission been a side quest I could have easily overlooked it and moved on. Unfortunately, this was a part of the main story and was detrimental to the game moving forward. I was eventually able to move beyond this "interesting" obstacle and continue my play through. Other bugs may have reared their ugly head but nothing as drastic as that which I was forced to endure during Techland's first foray into the Zombie Apocalypse.
On the one hand, Dead Island Riptide is more of the same: a melee focused, first-person zombie hunter that some might not agree was necessarily needed. On the other hand, the somewhat more stable game play, inclusion of new gaming mechanics, and new enemy threats is just what the evil doctor ordered. In the end I found it to be undeniably fun, oddly addictive, and enjoyed my time spent playing co-op with fellow A Band of Gamers members; as well as wandering the island from bloody shoreline to bloody shoreline. Techland has proven to me that they can take a solid idea and build upon it with the necessary steps. Riptide may have taken baby steps, but at least they were steps in the right direction.
Below is some game footage of my single player campaign using an Elgato Game Capture HD:
**Dead Island Riptide is available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. For the purposes of this review the game was played entirely on the PS3**
Dead Space 3 was one of my most anticipated games of 2013 and, after playing through it entirely in co-op with fellow A Band of Gamer Cylinder 1024, it's an early contender for my FotY (Favorite of the Year). You can check out our co-op review on Episode 15: Full on Funk.
Based on our enthusiastic response it's no surprise that we were both excited for Awakened, the DLC that was released shortly after the full retail game. To give this DLC its proper due it would be nearly impossible to talk about it without including some full-on spoilers to Dead Space 3 . . . so readers beware!
Awakened picks up immediately after the concluding moments of Dead Space 3. Isaac Clarke and John Carver have amazingly survived the terrors of the Necromorph infection and have been given a second chance to escape Tau Volantis and return home - return to Earth. How they survived the end of Dead Space 3 - the explanation - is probably the one and only complaint that I have about this DLC. It's just not provided in much of any detail. The situation could not have been any more dire for both protagonists, and their ending (what many might consider the conclusion to the franchise) was nicely done. Although always wanting more Dead Space I was content with how things were resolved. I was ready to move on. The opening moments of Awakened changes everything.
Isaac and John may have rid the planet of Necromorphs and destroyed the alien signal that was the root cause of it all, now their primary goal is to find an available escape shuttle to leave the planet. Easier said than done, especially when a remaining cult that takes the Church of Unitology to new heights of craziness is determined to stop them.
What begins as a routine mission quickly transforms into the Dead Space reminiscent of the first game: action set-pieces are replaced with scenes of terror, human mercenaries give way to self-mutilating lunatics, and most important of all, hallucinations are turned up to 11. More often than not you are unsure of what is real and what is purely the result of the Marker's influence - and it's done to near perfection.
Having played all of Dead Space 3 as Isaac Clarke I was often left out of the hallucinatory madness that John Carver was more prone to experience. One explanation for this is that Isaac has better adapted to the Marker's influence will while John Carver is a straight up noob. Still, continuing my Dead Space experience as Isaac Clarke during the Awakened DLC I was finally able to experience this exhilarating - and terrifying - form of co-op. Similar to Carver's experiences in Dead Space 3, I was given several opportunities during Awakened to break away from my co-op partner and defend myself from my inner demons and fears - and it was wonderful. Difficult, but wonderful!
Although this review may have some spoilers associated with Dead Space 3, I won't spoil the ending of this final chapter. I will say that it changes the course of the series, provides a glimpse of where things may go (it's awesome), and immediately puts to rest all those nasty rumors that EA was closing the door on the Dead Space franchise.
Altman be Praised!
To say that I've been a fan of the Alien movies is somewhat of an understatement. Aside from the lackluster Alien Resurrection, I love everything those movies have to offer. Ridley Scott's Alien was an experiment in tension and fear; James Cameron's follow-up, Aliens, was an action-based sci-fi adventure; even David Fincher's (Director's Cut only please) Alien 3 was an enjoyable experience. After hearing that Gearbox Software, hot on the heals of the successful Borderlands 2, was set to release Aliens: Colonial Marines after one of the longest development cycles known to man, I was extremely excited . . . maybe too much for my own good.
Leading up to its February 2013 release, fans of the series were provided with countless videos, screen shots, and interviews from the developers. Up until the day I finally got my hands on this "direct sequel" to the Aliens movie, all looked extremely promising. It was to be a first person shooter - set weeks after the concluding events of Cameron's film - provide for up to a four player co-op campaign, and add in the option for a robust multiplayer experience. Everyone who saw footage of this game at E3 the previous year couldn't help but rave about it. This was finally gonna be the game Alien fans have been waiting years for. What we got couldn't have been further from the truth.
Upon first starting the single player campaign I immediately realized that it was lacking the polish that was demonstrated several months earlier. Interesting, I thought. Normally when videogames are seen early in their development cycle they are interpreted as a work in progress, with months left to give it the attention and detail it usually needs. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we entered bizarro world, where the opposite is the norm. Instead of visuals that represent a game at the end of a console generation (i.e. mind-blowingly awesome) Gearbox Software delivered what I consider to be an average title from the PlayStation 2; bland and uninspiring hardly come close to describing the final version of Colonial Marines.
I can live with sub-par visuals in a current generation videogame. If the developers saw fit to focus more on the game's experience - the story and the controls - rather than spend valuable resources on making it look pretty, so be it. Unfortunately, that simply was not the case. Aliens: Colonial Marines was just a sorry excuse of a video game and was an even bigger disappointment for those die hard fans of the series.
The story, if you can call it that, was laughable at best. I'm actually shocked that Twentieth Century Fox allowed this game to exist as a part of the canon. Not to give away any spoilers, but the writers for Colonial Marines saw fit, in all their wisdom of the series franchise, to end the game in a way that alters what I always thought to be a mostly solid story - from start to finish. That, in and of itself, is unforgivable and enough to turn away fans of the franchise. As your typical space marine, you are sent in to investigate the final distress call from Corporal Hicks from the ending of Aliens. As one might expect, things don't go as planned and you and your fellow Colonial Marines find themselves in one desperate situation after another as they look for a way to leave behind planet LV-426 and the zenomorph infestation. Not a bad premise for a videogame, but each alien encounter felt more like a nuisance (like swatting at a bothersome fly) rather than what it should have been - a constant struggle for survival.
As much bad as there was about Aliens: Colonial Marines there was still some positives about the game . . . just not enough to save it from its inevitable poor reception. Where the visuals and story fell well short of acceptable levels, the sound effects and musical score helped ease the pain of playing this game. This speaks more to having fond memories of the Alien's hiss and screech, the power of the pulse rifle, and the engaging blip-blip-blip of the iconic motion tracker. In addition, much of the music that accompanied the game was direct from James Horner's epic score. It was the sound, and sound effects, that helped me to look past the other shortcomings of this game; but even that only lasted for so long. After the first hour or two it was clear that man (aka, gamer) cannot live on sound alone.
Maybe I'm letting my inner Alien fanboy get the better of me as I continue to look for excuses that help me to digest this game. As bad as the visuals, story, and overall experience was, I was still searching for reasons to accept Aliens: Colonial Marines . . . until I recall the unending stream of glitches that came with this full $60 retail game. Bugs - and I'm not referring to zenomorphs here - were in abundance and broke an already damaged game. Doors had trouble opening, weapon load outs wouldn't always function, audio consistently dropped out, the list goes on and on and on. Probably my favorite (and recurring) defect was watching Aliens approach me, drop through the floor (while the tips of their tails still poked through), and then reappear directly in front of me - clawing, spitting, and biting with no longer a chance to defend myself. This was a level of "fun and excitement" I had not experienced in many years.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is not a game for the faint of heart. It may have been developed with the best of intentions, but good intentions will only get you so far. Although the high number of easter eggs throughout the game - dog tags of fallen Marines, Hadley's Hope in disarray, Newt's doll head floating in the sewers - was somewhat of a treat, it wouldn't be enough to satisfy and please those super-fans that were the most excited about this game's release.
Although there is a multiplayer component to Aliens: Colonial Marines, my single player experience has left enough of a bad taste in my mouth to prohibit me from ever considering placing this game back into my PlayStation 3. I have yet to hear anything to suggest that the multiplayer is the game's saving grace. As I am mostly disinterested in multiplayer games to begin with it's a safe bet that I have completed the game as much as I ever intend to.
Randy Pitchford and Gearbox Software should be ashamed of themselves. For months leading up to this game's release they provided their fans with images, videos, and discussions that were misleading. I've heard references to this game being a classic "bait-and-switch" and, in all honesty, that's a fairly legitimate description. Borderlands may be the developer's claim to fame, but it'll take nothing short of a miracle for me to trust this studio again or have any interest in giving them my hard-earned money. Had I been playing this game in space you most surely would have heard me scream.
Revenge is sweet but Revengeance is sweeter. So you liked the new Devil May Cry? or you really enjoyed the button mashing fun that is Lollipop Chainsaw? Well Metal Rising Revengeance is for you! I had my doubts about this game but they've been all washed away. An action Metal Gear game with Snake wouldn't work but an action Metal Gear game with a cyborg Raiden does thanks to Platinum games. For a game that went through development hell it turned out pretty good. Also I would like to point out since the demo didn't have tutorial guess what the full game does so there you go!
Raiden is back with a vengeance taking on the evil of the world. This story is not for the weak of heart it has slicing and dicing and it's just plain wicked. It has all the crazy Metal Gear story going on. Enough about the story just experience it yourself and enjoy. I had very little faith in this game until I brought it home popped it in my ps3 and let the carnage begin. Im not going to bore you with all the graphical detail and such because well there will be plenty of other reviews that have that but it does have that gritty war torn Metal Gear Solid 4 look to it which is nice and not a bad thing. Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty looking game, I just think seeing it for yourself will speak more about it. Now on to some important factors that matter.
So you played the new DMC and liked the controls? Well you're in luck MGRR controls about the same way which is a good thing. You slice you dice and occasionally throw a grenade or use a rocket launcher and it all works well. Raiden movements are smooth and elegant for the most part. The LOCK-ON system works pretty well for what it is. I didn't really have much trouble with it but sometimes it would go whack-o on me. Slicing and dicing and parrying all work very well especially when you enter blade mode at a certain time and can chop the enemies up or in half if you prefer. Which gets really detailed and bloody at the same time. Raiden can do what they call a ninja run by holding R1 (PS3 controller) that lets him move super fast and automatically jump over boxes, slide through holes and whatever else gets in his way. I would almost say the control is perfect if it wasn't for having no lock on and occasionally the camera going screwy at certain times.
While it is an action game it's not terribly long there's only seven chapters but with lots of replayability and collectibles. If you're not trying to improve you grade your collecting intel from computers or trying to severe that one enemy's arm to collect, oh yes one of the collectibles is certain enemy's left arm for data. As you play through you get points which can be used to upgrade Raiden and purchase new skills and weapons. So there's plenty to do even though it's only seven chapters there's still lots to had. Put down the COD and the Halo and try something that's a button mashing good time. You might surprise yourself and smile the whole time you're playing and have some good old fashion fun, you don't even have to be a fan of Metal Gear to enjoy this game.
In closing controls are not perfect but what controls are? Graphics? Nice and pretty with the war torn gritty look to them. Sound? It's good and Raidens new voice fits. Just don't pass this gem up and all the pop culture references with it. Like I said in the beginning, I had no hope or excitement for this game but that's all been washed away and im glad I decided to give this game a shot and you should too. Now go pick the game up and GO NINJA GO GO NINJA GO!!
Video games are often complex and extravagant creations. Gone are the days when simple falling blocks kept us entertained. Or are they?
When Jetpack Joyride appeared on EU PlayStation Plus recently, I figured this was the chance to play through Australian developer Halfbrick Studio's side-scrolling jump-'em-up. This game is simplicity itself: progress from left to right by using one button to avoid oncoming obstacles. Yes, one button. One!
Playing as the sole character Barry Steakfries, there are but two objectives to fulfil with your single, one hit kill life. First, simply travel as far as possible along the level before meeting your inevitable demise, and if you feel adventurous, secondly, aim to complete a number of "missions" by interacting with specific environmental objects as they come rushing by. By completing the missions, Barry levels up and can eventually be made prestigious, with a silver PSN trophy and a nice in-game badge as reward for his efforts.
The position of life-ending barriers in Jetpack Joyride is random, so no feat of memory can see you to the goal. Each and every game is different, which is just one of the elements that makes this such an addictive title. As you traverse the level, Barry's speed becomes gradually quicker, until your reactions are simply unable to keep pace with the moving scenery and our plucky hero is returned to the starting blocks. If score chasing is your thing and you, like me, have the impulse to next time make it just that extra one meter further, be prepared to spend your next few hours in 60-90 second bursts of fun filled jetpacking!
Transformers, Bazza in disguise
Besides the trusty back-pack-booster, there are a small number of vehicle types, again randomly placed, to aid our man along. Each of them, whilst maintaining the single button control approach, function in unique ways and add a welcome level of variety to keep your progress interesting. A single hit destroys the vehicle, leaving you to proceed on foot until the next vehicle pick-up comes along. If you make it that far.
Throughout each level, gold coins appear in clusters for you to collect, all pooling towards unlockable perks and costumes from the in-game store. Vehicles may be pimped with gold plating and Barry has a number outfit options, though the real function comes in buffs, any two of which may be applied before each new run. I quickly found a combination that worked for me, though the 5km-travelled milestone remains illusive for now.
The remaining occasional collectable is a spin token, which grants a possible one-hit perk at the post-life fruit machine. Extra coins, invincible head-starts and distance boosters ease the frustration of your once lightening reactions having let you down for the 200th time this session.
10 LOAD "Jetpack Joyride"
20 PLAY for a few frantic moments
30 CRASH and burn
40 PRINT "Awesome. Go again."
50 GOTO 10
10 minute bursts of all-ages, score chasing, arcade action. Play this game once and you're all in. I guarantee it.
As the West awaits with anticipation for localisation news on Yakuza 5, Sega's Dead Souls is the most recently available portal to the video game world of Japanese mafia. With a story arc unlike any other in the 8 year old series, is this departure to a zombie apocalypse likely to interest established fans, or be more attractive to those with a taste for survival horror?
Return to Kamurocho
Those familiar with Yakuza 3 and 4 on PS3 will be immediately at home with Dead Souls' setting, being the vibrant city of Kamurocho. As the story plays out entirely in this location, the vast majority of other external areas found in previous Yakuza titles do not feature this time around.
The city however is partly locked down by the Military, owing to an outbreak that transforms the cities occupants into flesh munching zombies. Four protagonists play an equal part in terms of game time, each with their own sub-stories and intentions. As you might expect, Kazuma Kiryu returns as the lead character, to fight alongside 3 others from past Yakuza games: Sky Finance's Akiyama, the crazed Majima, and from Yakuza 2, Ryuji Goda. What confused me initially in the trailers for Dead Souls was the apparent and stark differences in the game environment, which seemingly switched from a zombie infested apocalypse to regular Kamurocho city life. The exclusion zone within the city, being huge reinforced barriers, keep the infected areas separate from the otherwise normal side. This allows the uninfected zones to maintain the mini-games staple of past Yakuza titles. The batting cage is there, Club Sega, hostess bars and of course the massage parlour. Yes, even the annoying cry baby is back! Along with the many and varied sub-plots & side missions, these mini games keep the recent open world essence of Yakuza alive, which was very welcome in a game that seemed to stray so drastically from the established Yakuza lineage. With variety such as this, life has never been spicier!
Cut-scenes throughout the game follow the Yakuza tradition of exceptional quality and outstanding cinematics. Dead Souls is a fully fledged entry to the series, not just a random half-baked spin off. Of course the dialogue remains throughout in Japanese with sub-titles, which I do not find an inconvenience in the slightest. To me, this arrangement just adds to the overall feel and captivation of Yakuza. The engrossing story will keep you engaged for sure, and with a main campaign of around 10 hours, you can be assured Dead Souls is a worthy addition to the series.
Kill 'em Dead
Besides the obvious story deviation in Dead Souls, there are two further elements that differentiate this from other Yakuza games, being combat mechanic and random interruptions.
While Dead Souls retains the unlock-able level up abilities, inventory management and side quests, gone are the street level interruptions for combat as you travel the map, and the melee fighting system that comes with it. Strictly speaking, melee combat does appear in the game, but this is for such a brief period that it is hardly worth mentioning. The main combat focus this time is unquestionably gun-play, which does have both positives and negatives. On the plus side, this shift of emphasis shows the versatility of the Yakuza engine and is on the whole very rewarding and robust.
The controls however can be quite confusing and takes practice to become competent with. For example, the camera can be difficult to position and control fluidly, until you master the mechanic. When roaming, the left stick controls character movement, and the right stick the camera position. Switch to an over-the-shoulder zoom for accurate shooting however, and the character stops moving altogether and the left stick then becomes the camera control. It took me some time to become fully accustomed to this, and I could well understand if camera control became a frustration for some. Being a fan of Yakuza games since the beginning, I was willing to perceiver and over-come the control limitations myself, yet I could understand if those approaching Dead Souls in a more casual manner would be less inclined to do so.
Weapon variety is good, ranging from hand-guns to sniper rifles, shot-guns to assault rifles. Each type can be modified at the gunsmith to improve damage, accuracy and magazine capacity. On occasion within the story, vehicles and their weapons are available, again something unusual for the Yakuza series. "Heat" attacks make a welcome return and provide some great kill cinematics for you to enjoy. With each "normal" enemy kill (of which there will be plenty, given the vast zombie hoards!), the player's heat gauge increases, which eventually triggers an environmental kill ability. If the associated "heat snipe" quick-time event is successfully completed, the following massive explosion via gas canisters or floods from fire hydrants can wipe out a group of bad guys in a flash. And by quick-time, I really do mean "quick" time. Playing on the hardest difficulty, these heat snipes can be hard to pull off, as the event timers run out very quickly. It's a test of reaction time to hit 1 of the 4 PlayStation action buttons, with the hardest of all being in the later boss battles. You need to be sharp!
As the game progresses, you are aided occasionally by other story characters, which provide co-op heat snipe abilities and some basic team control functions. This makes the game feel somewhat less of a "man versus the world" affair to being part of an over-arching story line that everyone is trying to survive.
Enemies are again reasonably varied, ranging from infected mafia and general populous, to end of level "prototype" bosses that offer a much greater challenge. Bosses become harder to defeat as you no doubt expect, but be prepared to face the mother of all bosses come the end. Stock up on ammo and health ahead of time is all I can say!
Yakuza: Dead Good
Dead Souls wins for me on almost all fronts. Fans of the Yakuza series will appreciate the continuation of defining elements that makes Yakuza what it is. Shooter fans will enjoy the satisfying yet sometimes tricky "blast 'em up" mechanic. Fans of the un-dead get to see their favourite genre realised within an established, polished and historic environment.
Please, Sega, the English speaking world needs Yakuza 5!
I still remember the internal struggle I had when Prototype and inFAMOUS were set to be released at roughly the same time. Both involved an anti-hero protagonist with radical abilities in an open-world setting. At the time I wasn't in a position to purchase both games when they were released and, ultimately, Cole McGrath - his story, his environment, and his super powers - won out over Alex Mercer's much darker tale.
I eventually completed inFAMOUS and moved on to Prototype but was quickly disappointed. It may have been a combination of Prototype not living up to the recent experience inFAMOUS left me with and a struggle to manage the controls that Prototype utilized. Either way, my interest in the Prototype universe didn't last very long. For some still unknown reason, I recently decided to give Prototype 2 a look. What resulted is a classic example of a developer taking note of a variety of issues that caused a game to fail, reworking and refining them, and producing a sequel that exceeds the original in almost every way.
Prototype 2 begins shortly after the concluding events of Prototype. Alex Mercer is replaced with a new protagonist in the form of ex-military man, James Heller. Heller is fixated on tracking down and killing Alex Mercer for the cause of the original "Mercer" virus and consequent death of his wife and daughter. It's a classic - if overdone - tale of revenge. Thankfully, this weak and rather predictable story takes a backseat to the real highlight of the game, Heller's powers.
Extreme power is what Prototype 2 is all about and the sole reason why I enjoyed this game as much as I did. By the time the credits role and the majority (if not all) of Heller's powers have been unlocked and upgraded, you feel like the bad ass the developers at Radical Entertainment were intending you to be. Words simply don't do justice to the powers and abilities that make Prototype 2 so worthwhile.
Although the majority of Prototype 2 is focused on the action, there is a fair amount of stealth-like gameplay that is also involved. Sneaking past security posts or into highly guarded scientific research facilities is as simple as "consuming" specific military and scientific personnel. This is another useful ability that you'll find yourself using quite often. When your target is not under the watchful eye of his (or her) coworkers Heller can grab them and literally consume their body and, more importantly, their mind. By consuming various characters Heller catches a glimpse of their past (i.e. story plot points are revealed) as well as has the ability to transform his appearance to take the shape of his most recent victim. Although this is mandatory to complete many sections of the game, it's also a nice feature to have when attempting to evade the military. When fleeing from troops on the ground or helicopters in the air Heller can quickly transform his appearance, thus throwing his pursuers off his trail.
I enjoyed my time with Prototype 2 and was pleasantly surprised at the list of overall improvements from the first game in this series. It was a nice distraction while I await some of the bigger titles to launch in the early part of February (Dead Space 3, Aliens Colonial Marines, etc) and I'm glad I decided to give this game a second look. Considering that this game has dropped in price (as low as $20 used) I would recommend giving it the chance is so obviously deserves.
Every so often, a game ably strikes a balance between being accessible yet challenging, simple yet beautiful and short enough to leave you wanting more yet long enough that, upon completion, you are left with a sense of accomplishment. From Q-Games and in the same series of PixelJunk games like Racers, Monsters and Eden, Shooter continues a tradition of taking a familiar feeling game and making it something special. Sure it was released at the end of 2009, but it's new to me and definitely holds up three years later.
PixelJunk Shooter employs the bare minimum in terms of story to motivate the player and explain the end goal. A whale-shaped mining ship, The E.R.S. Piñita Colada, reaches a planet only to discover a distress signal stating that the miners have been captured. You must search high and low in three main areas, each with five associated levels.
PixelJunk Shooter has quickly become one of my most beloved download-only games.
In order to rescue the captured miners, you fly a small ship around each level blasting enemies and avoiding environmental hazards. The ship controls like other twin-stick shooters: left stick to move, right stick to aim and R1 or R2 to shoot. There is also a grappling hook (L1 or L2) that is used to pick up miners and the collectible gems that are scattered around each area. It can also be used to carry tools or, with certain power-ups, allows for parts of the environment to be rearranged. The power-ups change the ship weapons or what will damage it. Normally, lava damages and water cools, but the inverter suit allows you to fly through the lava while avoiding water.
What's that you say? If only there was a built-in video capture with direct YouTube upload to share your gameplay. Well, you're in luck. Check out the video below to see my playthrough of the first level.
Trophy hunters, don’t be dismayed by the fact that PJ Shooter is just a PSN game. The trophies are all related to gameplay elements and the collectibles. These are the types of trophies I like to go for as they encourage the player to experience all things the game has to offer but aren’t necessary to complete the game.
Even after finishing the game and getting all the collectibles, I still have two reasons to come back for more: score-chasing and two-player mode to share with a friend. Score-chasing is all about destroying multiple enemies in quick succession and finishing levels promptly. This can be done on the fly (sorry) or it can be experimented with to find the best order or method of dispatching your foes. Two-player mode allows for a friend to flop down on the couch next to you and join in on the campaign. There isn’t any online co-op here so invite a friend over and share this game with them.
PixelJunk Shooter has quickly become one of my most beloved download-only games. It now shares a spot amongst the likes of Journey as a personal favourite. Between the chill exploration, the variety of enemies and environmental hazards, the collectibles and the frantic boss battles, this game has a little something for everyone. I strongly encourage you to pick this game up ($9.99 on PSN), or revisit it, if you enjoy twin-stick shooters (Dead Nation or Super Stardust), space shooters (pick one) or just games in which everything works and makes sense.
*For the purpose of this review, the PS3 version of the game was played.
Of course the first thought that went into anyone's head when they first heard about this game was "OH BOY A SMASH BROS. CLONE! SONY NEEDS TO BE MORE CREATIVE!" I am here to tell you that other than the fighting genre, and the look of the game it is completely different and very unique.
For starters, you do not have a percentage "health meter" when playing PSASBR (Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale). In fact, you do not have health at all. Your main focus is gaining AP(AllStar Points) to unleash your Super Move(Level 1, 2, and 3). You only are able to "kill" your opponent by successfully performing one of these Super Moves on your opposing fighter. This is how this game has a completely different motive than Smash Bros. In Smash Bros., your goal is to rack up percentage points on your opposing characters high enough to knock them off the map. In this you are building your OWN meter to unleash your devastating attack on your enemy to finish them off. To me this is more difficult as you don't have to easily hit someone that has 500% hit points to get a free point. You must time your attack quickly and accurately to successfully pull off your move.
The attacks as well are different than Smash Bros. You have three unique attack buttons on the ground and 3 in the air by utilizing the square, triangle, and circle buttons. Your X button of course is to jump and L1 to block/evade. Your right joystick is for your grapples/throws that will steal AP from your opponent. In Smash Bros. you have two attacks on the ground and in the air and your throws.
Now onto the fighters you will be able to use in this game. You have 20 selectable fighters from different games at your disposal. All characters have unique fighting styles, and this was perfectly done. Your characters are below and I briefly have described their fighting style.
Big Daddy(Bioshock) - Heavy/Melee
Cole McGrath(Good) - Quick/Projectile
Cole McGrath(Evil) - Heavy/Projectile
Colonel Radec(Killzone) - Projectile
Dante(Devil May Cry) - Quick/Projectile
Fat Princess(Fat Princess) - Heavy/Melee
Heihachi Mishima(Tekken) - Quick/Hand to Hand
Jak and Daxter(Jak) - Quick/Projectile
Kratos(God Of War) - Quick/Melee
Nariko(Heavenly Sword) - Quick/Projectile
Nathan Drake(Uncharted) - Quick/Projectile
Ratchet and Clank(Ratchet and Clank) - Quick/Projectile
Sackboy(Little Big Planet) - Projectile
Sir Daniel Fortesque(MediEvil) - Quick/Melee
Raiden(Metal Gear Solid) - Quick/Melee
PaRappa The Rapper(PaRappa The Rapper) - Quick/Melee
Sly Cooper(Sly Cooper) - Quick/Stealth
Spike(Ape Escape) - Quick/Melee
Sweet Tooth(Twisted Metal) - Heavy/Melee
Toro Inoue(Sony Mascot) - Quick/Melee
DLC(Coming Soon FREE) - Emmett Graves(Starhawk) and Kat(Gravity Rush)
That makes 22 characters which is PLENTY for a starting franchise that could become something huge. The first Smash Bros on the N64 only came with 12 characters so this is much appreciated.
Your game modes are your standard free for all, team deathmatch, or however you want to mix it up (2v1, 3v1, 1v1). You can have it set to a time limit or by stock lives. The point system in time limit is 2 points for each kill and -1 for each death. Stock lives speak for itself once you are out of lives you are out, and last man standing wins.
Your super moves vary. Level 1 when pulled off can guarantee usually one kill but also has the potential if everyone is close to take out all 3 if you are in a full match. Level 2 is a little bit stronger and has the potential to take out more than 3 based on the time limit you have with your characters level 2. Level 3 is at least a guaranteed 3 kill but some characters(Kratos for example) will allow you to stock up on kills as you have a time limit to be invincible and take out as many enemies as possible.
The levels are combinations of two games from the characters in the roster. They can range from Hades in God of War combined with Patapon to fighting in a Cargo Jet from Uncharted while watching Songbird shoot rockets at you from Bioshock Infinite. When you hear the iconic tracks from the game I guarantee it will warm your heart with pure nostalgia.
The key to becoming good at this game is play through the story with each character. The story itself is a tribute to any Sony fan and is definitely fun but you also get to learn how each character fights and moves. You also have the option to practice and learn combos in a few extra game modes. The key is to find your character and stick with it. Learn every possible combo and practice. Just like with any fighting game.
I will admit when I saw the roster I was a little skeptical about this being any good. After picking this up mainly because it is the first retail game to be cross buy which means you get the Vita copy for free I am glad I did. This game provides HOURS of entertainment locally with friends or online with random strangers. I have yet to enter a match online where we did not have a blast beating the hell out of each other. To any Sony fan that has played Sly, Uncharted, Killzone, God of War you owe it to yourself to check this out just for the trip down memory lane.
Just for kicks, here's my Family Guy theme tune cover: http://youtu.be/Dzz3dSaZQLI
It seems today, that all you see, are video-games based on stuff from TV (source: my 007 review, coming soon). No bad thing! Some great TV/movie tie-in games over the years, though Family Guy's recent Time Warped on iOS was a somewhat underwhelming 2D platformer that never really held my attention. Being a huge fan of the TV series I was excited to see a console release, particularly as this time I could play through with a proper controller, as opposed to those horrid soft-keys on tablets.
With a Metacritic score of just 40 you could be forgiven for passing this one up, but "nothing ventured, nothing gained", as they say! Family Guy's appeal was too great to resist, so I re-charged the wallet, cleared some space, and prepared to spend a few hours fighting evil. Hero!
Round 1, fight!
Back to the Multiverse has Stewie and Brian travelling through space and time (easy!) in pursuit of Stewie's nemesis, Bertram. Each game level has a very distinct theme, based on reality but always with a bizarre twist, which offers a great degree of variety and ensures the environments never feel stale. Pirate ships to Santa's workhouse, hospitals to outer-space, let it never be said the game lacks environmental scope!
Sadly, one glaring omission in the level selection though is a Star Wars chapter. With so many great TV episodes devoted to Star Wars parody, it would have been fantastic to have this as a playable element of the game.
Levels are generally "progress from A to B" affairs, with clear progression markers and collect-em-up secondary objectives. Finding the hidden articles unlocks new weapons, costumes and multi-player characters, so they are definitely worth the time to hunt down during missions.
The game rewards kills and exploration with cash to spend on character upgrades, which become important on the later levels when Bosses become that little bit harder. Generally though the degree of difficulty is quite low: power-ups re-spawn and generally enemies do not, even following a continue. There is no difficulty selection from the main menu and the levels generally have some parity, with only a moderate increase in difficulty as you progress though each stage. Until the last chapter that is. Strap yourself in for that one.
Throughout the game, the player has the option to hot-swap between either Stewie or Brian, with each having specific weapons to help waste Bertram's army of evil minions. Besides the primary weapons and grenades, collectable "specials" are also available to offer temporary close support. Joe with a machine gun? Done. Big yellow maniacal chicken? The best!
A nice touch for each character is a taunt, usable at will which adds a flourish with some amusing dialogue, particularly with Stewie. Peter is playable for one level later in the game, which though quite easy to progress through, definitely added to the experience overall and the game is certainly richer for his appearance.
Your time is most often spent running, jumping and shooting in pursuit of your mission goals, and I'm happy to report the control mechanic is tight and accurate. For the experienced shooter players out there, mowing down hoards of enemies will feel second nature. A few of the boss battles requires some accurate shooting, but thanks to the solid controls, failures are most often of your own doing, which then never leaves you feeling frustrated in having to battle the controls or camera along with the boss guy.
In addition to the main story, the games offers a "Challenge" mode and a couch competitivesplit-screen multi-player. Challenge is a score chase hoard mode, set within various levels as visited in the story mode, with the aim to collect stars for completing objectives within a given amount of time. On the harder difficulty levels, these are really quite difficult, with less time and a greater number of enemies. It's in these additional modes that other characters are available to play, such as Louis, Chris and Cleveland, all with multiple costumes taken from various key TV episodes.
Drawings and Noises
Besides the outstanding animation of the TV show, Family Guy has an abundance of wonderful music, some of which makes it to the game. An additional DLC (Opening Number pack) provides variations of the main theme to menu background music, which in turn adds substance to the overall game package.
Most of the main show characters make an appearance at some point, dressed and voiced appropriately for the particular level design. The constants on each level are the Griffin family, often found in some amusing situation, relative to the stage. My first laugh of many in this game came from seeing Peter being paraded on a show float, performing his version of "Milkshake". Humour is abundant throughout the game, with very many show references, including some subtle ones for the Family Guy nerds (i.e. the likes of me!). Giggidy.
Voice acting is a mix of clips direct from the shows and others recorded specifically for the game. The show audio always works well in context and again will be appreciated by fans of the series. Character animation is slick and all the models accurately represent the show, even down to the fringe characters. Granted we are dealing with reproducing a cartoon, not actual real life locations nor people, but the developers made a good job of bringing the Family Guy cast and set alive as a recognisable environment. Present anyone with Back to the Multiverse for the first time and they will quickly identify it as Family Guy.
Shut up, Meg
Given the fairly forgiving degree of difficulty, I found myself playing this game often in short 30 minute to 1 hour stints, as a quick pick up and play. Without expending too much time (around 5-6 hours), I was able to play through, unlock a few specials and complete the main game. For me, this title sits as an intermediary: something to keep you entertained when gaming time is short, else when you are in-between AAA titles.
Though we don't normally do scores at ABOG, I cannot help but think the Metacritic average is definitely on the low side, given the game has no major flaws and is generally well executed. For a game scoring 40, I would expect clunky controls, poor production values, shallow story or other such annoyance. Truth is, Back to the Multiverse delivers a well rounded, well produced, pocket-sized and humorous experience, much like the TV show itself!
This review is dedicated to the memory of Sir Patrick "GamesMaster" Moore, who sadly passed away in December 2012, aged 89.
Uncharted: Fight for Fortune is a battle card game which pits you against a single opponent. Each opponent is a character from an Uncharted game – either friend or foe. If you’ve played any of the collectible card games currently available, the gameplay elements present will feel familiar.
Uncharted: Fight for Fortune can be played entirely using the front touch screen. However, the menus allow for the use of the face buttons.
The gameplay is simple enough: increase each of your faction points by one (this is how you pay for characters), play a character card in one of 5 “lanes,” randomly choose one of three treasure cards to attach to a character or instantly bank, play a resource card using resource points and then battle with active characters. At its heart, Uncharted: Fight for Fortune focuses on mild resource management but the card battling is also part of the fun.
Character cards are affiliated with one of three factions: Heroes, Villains or Mercs. Each player can have a maximum of five character cards in play simultaneously and can replace an existing character with a new character card at the beginning of their turn.
In addition to faction points, treasure acts as a currency but is instead used to play resource cards. After playing a character, one face-down treasure is randomly selected by the player at which time all three are revealed and the two unpicked treasures are discarded. The remaining treasure can be instantly banked for five resource points or attached to a character card with the hopes of cashing it in later for the full face value. This is accomplished when the character it is attached to defeats an opponent’s character or a card ability allows it to be cashed in or “banked.”
Typical resources cards include armor and weapons. They can be played by spending the resource point obtained by banking treasure, but some of them are free.
Everything you’ve done so far has been leading up to the actual battling of the cards. The active player’s characters will attack the opponent’s characters in the same “lane” resulting in the defending card’s defense number being reduced by the attacking card’s attack power. There is no regenerating health action going on here so a card with five health can only take five damage total before being destroyed. If your character attacks and there isn’t a defending character, the damage is done directly to the opponent.
There can be multiple win conditions which are set before the game starts. Aside from the usual “do X damage to the opponent,” win conditions may include “Survive X turns,” “Bank X treasure” and “Play this character card.”
This game links with the trophies from Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Some of the treasure and resources cards will have their attack, defense or treasure values doubled if you have the corresponding Uncharted: Golden Abyss trophy.
The AI can be fairly forgiving and doesn't always make the best play. If you make a mistake it might not be game over.
If you’re not satisfied with beating up on the AI, beat up on your PSN friends. There are several options including playing asymmetrically against someone on your friends list or choosing pass-and-play to battle someone in the same room on the same Vita.
One thing to note is that there is the option to customize which of your characters are included during each game but this only works during online play. All unlocked cards are used during the single player matches.
If you played any of the Uncharted games with your kids in the room, then you will have no worries playing this with them watching or allowing them to play it. There isn’t any violence per se and I don’t recall hearing any dialogue. However, I played with the sound off while watching TV for most of the game so maybe I missed something.
For all the trophy hunters out there, the time commitment needed to get 100% here may be too great. However, if you do take the plunge, all but the one multiplayer trophy can be obtained by unlocking all the in-game cards. The multiplayer trophy is for winning an online game and can't be obtained during pass-and-play.
Lasting Impressions – One Week Later
I purchased the game when it released at the beginning of December and was still playing during the holidays. I managed to unlock all the currently available cards in both the main game and the two expansions and would wager that I spent 25 total hours on the game - 20 minutes at a time. Now that I’m done the single player matches, I will probably only play some online matches until another expansion comes out.
If you enjoy any of the collectible card games available, this might be the game for you. The best things about Uncharted Fight for Fortune are the value and the digestible time requirements. For under $11 you can get the main game and two expansions that can easily be played in 20 minute chunks. There is a demo available, but since I purchased the game sight unseen, I can only assume it contains the first match from the main game.
*For the purpose of this review, the PS Vita version of the game was played – because that’s the only place it’s available.
Halo 4 is the arguably the best Halo game available. It takes all of what makes the Halo franchise great and improves upon it. Tight console controls, great graphics with a solid frame-rate (30), and a multiplayer experience that has more depth than most players will ever have time to fully realize. Not to mention an intriguing plot that presents new twists and character development to a story that I thought previously might have been running thin. I was wrong. I literally wiped a tear from my eye after sitting mouth agape for a couple minutes when the story concluded. Honestly though, the emotion I felt has everything to do with my being a big fan of the series. I doubt newcomers to the franchise will get as much from the story but that’s OK because it’s presented across a wide variety of scenic backdrops and includes some fantastic action. Starts slow but as the game progresses, the story presents some fun gameplay variety. Love the mech!!
Campaign includes drop in/drop out co-op in addition to a separate co-op specific game type called Spartan Ops. Spartan Ops offers additional story after the conclusion of the campaign (can be played anytime however without need to complete the 1up portion) and is being handled like episodic content with new chapters being released regularly. First five are on the house (no charge) with no word yet on if future content will be available thereafter and at what price. Spartan Ops is fun but not as gripping as the campaign itself and ultimately feels more like a moving Horde mode/Firefight style of battle (kill a bunch of enemies, move to a new destination, kill more enemies, etc.). Not complaining though because it’s nice having more co-op options in a game that has so much more to offer. Its focus certainly isn’t on that aspect specifically. As with the previous iterations, multiplayer is where it’s at and this game is no slouch in that regard.
If you’re a fan of the Halo series don’t worry that this iteration is being handled by a new developer (343 Studios). You can still buy with confidence. Fans of FPS games who don’t mind a space marine opera style of game also should give this game a chance. The controls and gameplay may just win you over. Not a fan of Halo? Well this probably won’t change things for you.
My family has never been a huge fan of the Harry Potter series - the books or movies. Yet, the big man in red (aka Santa) deemed Sony's PlayStation Move exclusive title, Wonderbook: Book of Spells to be a present appropriate for my 6 and 8 year old daughters this year. While I may have gone in a skeptic, I came out a believer.
Loosely based on the world created by J.K. Rowling, Book of Spells resembles the Harry Potter universe in the sense that the gameplay is filled with magic and wizardry, while the story is fantasy-based from start to finish. Although the game only accommodates for a single player experience, my daughters were interested enough to takes turns from one chapter to the next.
Utilizing the PlayStation Eye camera and Move controller, Book of Spells comes packaged with the game disc and said book - a hardcover whose pages replace words and chapters with largely printed QR codes often found on Augmented Reality cards. After selecting a wand of choice from 3 different options, the move controller is quickly and effectively replaced with your on-screen wizard's tool. By pointing your new wand at the various pages when instructed to do so the AR codes are transformed by the Eye as images on the TV and your adventure begins.
Interactive puppet-style story telling provide the historical origins of the individual spells that you set out to learn the incantations and wand waving techniques for. Book of Spells is smart enough to allow the player to skip these stories but my girls were enjoying the total experience that they never did and I would recommend you follow in their tiny, but wise, footsteps. Each back story was short and entertaining, and the pop-up-book augmented reality was always a treat to behold as it came to life on the TV.
After each spell is discovered and learned - there were roughly 20 in all and range from levitation and fire to freeze and shield - you are given the opportunity to test your new skills before confronting the final trial of each chapter. Considering there are 5 chapters in all, each test challenges the player to remember the individual wand movements (roughly 4 per chapter). While this may not seem like much to those comfortable with the PS3 it was somewhat challenging for my 6 and 8 year olds. As a result, I discovered very early on that drawing the wand movement shapes on a separate piece of paper was all they really needed to successfully complete each chapter's test. I consider this to be a missed opportunity from the developers. Although the game may provide hints for each wand movement, a quick reference guide would have been better.
Where the history of each spell is told through a puppet show, the actual spell casting trials are represented on screen in an even bigger and more fantastic way. The PlayStation Eye camera does a nice job of displaying the player on screen; it does an even more impressive job of placing the player into a variety of fantasy settings to perform their newly learned spell. I've played a number of PlayStation Move games with my children in the past that use this same camera functionality and Book of Spells is hands down the best to date. The video is generally clean and clear - not High Definition by any stretch of the imagination- and did a good job overall.
Each chapter's conclusion provides a piece to an overarching story that nicely comes together by the game's end. When completed, Book of Spells summarizes all the qualities that make a wizard great - patience, hard work, bravery, good will, etc. This was a nice touch as it enforces similar qualities that a parent is always trying to teach to their children in everyday life.
Wonderbook: Book of Spells is not a long game. Each chapter takes approximately an hour to complete, if you watch the interactive stories. My girls and I were able to finish it in 2 sittings and were enthralled from start to finish. I lent a helping hand when needed but they were mostly capable of managing the spells and challenges on their own. Although I couldn't recommend Book of Spells for most adult gamers who are not Harry Potter fanatics, I wholeheartedly recommend this game for children and parents to play together. The controls worked exceptionally well, the visuals were better than I was expecting, the story was entertaining, and the AR functionality was flawless. Where my girls believed themselves to be wizards in training I treasured the wonder (pun intended) in their eyes, and we're all looking forward to Sony's next Wonderbook offering.