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Title: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 04, 2009, 10:14:03 AM
QUICK NOTE AS OF OCTOBER 2015:
Each of these mini-reviews also has its own individual thread inside "bobdog's Mini-Reviews Corner" to assist search efforts. The subject will announce the game title, release date, and bobdog's personal score, based on a 10-point system. Reviews are generally posted weekly on Mondays if possible.


Although I've completed some full reviews here at the Foxhole, for some games I just can't be bothered to do a complete write-up, or I just don't have the time to do so. So I thought I would carry over my "mini-reviews" idea and place them all here in one place. Please feel free to comment on any of these games, many of which might be older, but which I feel compelled to say at least a little something. I'll also provide a score based on a "10" level, just as the regular reviews do. So here we go!!

X-Men Origins Wolverine (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/wolverine/index.html?tag=result;title;1) is a new release that to me featured some great level design, but suffered too much from consolitis. The main problems for me included your over-the-back third-person view all of a sudden shifiting to a side-scroller view mid-level, some quick-time events, and the extremely annoying auto-lock that your character would do on boss battles. For the first issue, you'd be playing the game great, jumping, etc., and then you would have to recall what buttons would work properly -- definitely it was arranged for a console controller. The QTEs are getting heavy in the latest round of games, but here they require you to press various buttons fast to engage; at least you get a screen prompt on which buttons to push. The last issue meant you couldn't run from your opponent for some breathing room, because the lock-on would always spin you back around to face him.

Yet despite these issues, which were fairly prevalent, you have some awesome moves playing as Wolverine, doing spins, claw drills, lunges, ground-pounds, and just generally slicing and dicing everyone in your path. The story meanders back and forth in Wolverine's history, so it parallels but isn't an exact copy of the movie (which itself was somewhat disappointing). You'll spend a lot of time in Africa in the events leading up to the fateful moment when Wolverine decides to quit the mercenary team. You'll also spend a lot of time in Alkali Lake, having emerged from the facility post-adamantium process. And you'll meet many characters along the way, including Wraith, Mystique, the Wendigo, Stryker, the Sentinel (a great fight), Blob, Gambit and a finale battle with Deadpool on the nuclear towers.

SIDENOTE QUESTION: Wraith and Mystique have a conversation where she mentions that she is pregnant and he tells her they should name the child Kurt. I can see Wraith giving his teleport abilities, and Mystique giving her blue skin, but is Nightcrawler the son of Mystique??? Curious comic afficionados want to know....

At any rate, the involved storyline is accented by consisently good voiceovers, a lengthy (10+) hour playthrough, and many secrets within each level, some of which allow you to unlock various Wolverine uniforms. It's not a perfect game, and the consolitis issues really cause some curses throughout the game, but the Wolverine mythos and action kept me going long after I might have given up. 8.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Fanghawk on September 04, 2009, 01:26:13 PM
Actually, yeah. Mystique is Nightcrawler's mom in the X-Men comics. Not Wraith thought, the real father is some teleporting demon mutant from another dimension. Blargh, says I.

I just hope that story won't be dragged up ever again (the demon part, not the Mystique part). Here's hoping Walt Disney won't allow it. (http://marvel.com/news/comicstories.9360.Disney_to_Acquire_Marvel_Entertainment)
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 05, 2009, 03:35:54 PM
I think you mistake Disney as a company with a conscience -- this is the same company who unleashed Miley Cyrus on the world and whored her out for every frikking product conceivable....

Next up, FEAR 2: Project Origin (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/fear2/index.html?tag=result;title;0). Unbelievably, I actually liked this one better than its predecessor and it's ill-gotten spawn. See here (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=983.0) for my mini-reviews of that game and its few available mods.

So why did I like it better, you ask? The first FEAR to me was so linear as to be overly restrictive; the only times I actually liked playing it were the very few outside scenes. It also had the most ridiculous level layouts of any I've ever seen, with labs so intricate you'd have to go through every single one to get to work -- the architect should have been fired! The ONLY things that saved the original FEAR for me were a few Alma incidents (her getting into the elevator with the lady you were sent to save), and the ghosts at the end. Otherwise, the whole game was ultimately forgettable.

Yes, FEAR 2 does have linear elements, but it "feels" like you as a player have a choice. The outside scenes are amazingly detailed from what an atomic/nuclear blast might do to a city area, and I can still remember some of them vividly -- especially where you first see the mushroom cloud, and then when you are boarding the train immediately after. I couldn't tell you any FEAR 1 scenes I remember.

Like the original, FEAR 2 has similar enemies, weapons, and "bullet-time" powers, which I only used maybe twice the whole game. I guess I'm just so damn good....  ::) It also has naked Alma trying to hump you, and a really weird ending that many are still speculating over. So my final score is 8.6 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 07, 2009, 12:30:37 PM
Watchmen: The End Is Nigh (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/watchmen/index.html?tag=result;title;3) is merely an acceptable beat-em-up game. You play as either Rorschach or Night Owl in this uninspired, repetitive slog-fest, and get to use moves appropriate to either. Thankfully the game is short and relatively inexpensive. I played through once as Rorschach and was bored at the gameplay, so I didn't do a double play-through as Night Owl. The moves are somewhat fun at first, but after punching up and putting down the umpteenth goon, it gets stale quickly. Level design is acceptable -- mostly alleys, dockyards, sewers and construction sites. Although the other character joins you most of the time, you do get to branch out on your own at certain points in the story.

So, uninspired, "same"-y play in forgettable locations require me to pin this as a 6.8 out of 10 -- acceptable, but only for true fans of The Watchmen or of the beat-em-up genre of gaming. Let's just say I had much more fun playing Wolverine (mini-review above), with its myriad of problems, than this game. And also that I don't feel inspired to play the recently released Watchmen Part 2.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 08, 2009, 03:02:45 PM
So today I review Still Life 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/stilllife2/index.html?tag=result;title;0), sequel to a game I reviewed (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-adventure/242-still-life) a year ago. Unfortunately, this sequel just did not have the fresh spark that the first emitted. Sure, the first had an over-reliance on some typical adventure game cliches, but the background story more than made up for it: you played as Victoria McPherson, an over-eager FBI profiler searching for clues that somehow lead to a case your own grandfather had in 1920s Prague. The fact that you played as both characters in both times made for an interesting combination.

Still Life 2 also has you play as two characters -- a now jaded and bitter Victoria, and whiny TV news reporter Paloma Hernandez. See, we've already lost the connection. Sure, in this case, you play as both the cat (Victoria) and the mouse (Paloma) and see both sides of the killer's profile. But it all seems so contrived. The killer has a preponderance of using gimmicks, timers, cameras and sadism, straight out of the Saw movies. And this back-and-forth between both women's views is the most interesting part of the game!

I think the other downfall is that rather than experience interesting, exotic or foreign locales like in the original, you're stuck in a deserted farmhouse for the duration. You will traipse past the same staircase at least 20 times or more, whereas I can't recall any part of the first game repeating itself like this. And even more monotonous are the use of your crime lab equipment, which you have to use at least three different ways on more than 40 objects you pick up. It just seems like the first was more original in this context.

Now before you think I'm completely against the sequel, I'll just state that I was glad I played it. It wrapped up who the killer was from the original game (I KNEW IT!!), and does spin out a fairly intricate storyline of the new killer. But the same location and boring use of the crime scene equipment bog down an otherwise decent adventure game. It's no Still Life, but it's better than having your blood used to paint a canvas. 7.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 10, 2009, 12:13:57 PM
Next up (I told you I had a bunch to catch up on!!) is Terminator Salvation (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/terminatorsalvationthefuturebeginstitlepending/index.html?tag=result;title;0), a movie tie-in game. Unlike most of the critics out there, I actually enjoyed playing this -- it's definitely the best Terminator game since Future Shock (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/terminatorfutureshock/index.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssimilargames&tag=similargames;title;5) and its follow-up Skynet back in 1995-96, and tons better than the recent travesty War of the Machines (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/terminator3wotm/index.html?tag=result;title;8) in 2003.

HOWEVER ... if you paid $50 for this game, you were robbed, plain and simple. See, the game sports AT MOST 5 hours of playtime -- I don't know any modern game that expects you to pay so much for so little. That alone takes several points off the score for me.

The game is played from a third-person perspective, and feels more like Gears of War (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-tp/81-gears-of-war) (reviewed by yours truly) than anything else. It's got a cover system, but I actually liked this better than GOW's sticky cover where you can't ever get unstuck to start shooting at someone. You also can shoot over and around cover, which was cool. However, the variation of enemies is pretty limited -- I think there's only maybe 5-6 types of enemies. This unfortunately is a simple downfall of the Terminator universe -- it's humans vs. machines, and they don't need much variety to do what needs to be accomplished.

The rails segments were okay, but not outstanding, and you're led by the leash wherever you need to go, and whatever you need to do. (Red dots on enemies indicate where you need to shoot....) I think the highlight is where you stumble upon an underground human colony in the subways, and you must put up a stand against the robots until everyone can escape. Everything else was pretty much a blur.

The storyline is adequate, and takes place before the movie, with John Connor starting to stand up for himself and for humankind, so it follows his tracks through the day to meet up with a downed set of pilots. Because he had the gumption to strike out on his own, he makes a name for himself, and lets the other human resistance feel like they can actually win against the machines.

So, gameplay is actually not bad, but the short length, limited number of enemy variation and hand-holding bring the score down to 6.8 out of 10 for me. Only get it at $30 or less.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 11, 2009, 09:47:13 AM
Okay, with all the low-scoring games I've already mentioned, I thought it was time to introduce one I especially liked: Prince of Persia (2008) (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/princeofpersiaworkingtitle/index.html?tag=result;title;0), a self-titled and relaunched look at the venerable POP series. I loved this new version and the changes that were made, although some will decry its more simplistic and forgiving design. Personally, it is the only POP game (and I've played all the previous trilogy in the long-standing series -- Sands of Time, Warrior Within, and Two Thrones) that I was able to actually finish. The previous three always let me get to about the halfway/two-thirds point, and then would require me to complete the most intricate moves known to man -- challenging with a gamepad, and nearly impossible with a mouse/keyboard setup.

This is discouraging as a player, because I WANT to go deeper into the game ... I want to see how my character grows and changes. But when you create something so difficult that only fanboys/girls with 16 digits can possibly complete, you create animosity in us regular players. If you want to create difficult gaming for the uber-elite, take the latest Tomb Raiders' approach: make extras and secrets optional for only those players who truly want to do them, and or have the mad skillz to do so.

That said, this new POP does get a little stale at times, because you basically have to play each of the 30+ levels twice -- once to "cleanse" the level, and another to get all the energy balls necessary to build your skills to move to new levels. The new powers were kind of cool though, and having the Princess along to assist you when you fell was a nice asset. Level designs are brilliant, fantastical and soaring, and the new cel-shading technique to the main characters is pretty cool.

POP is a worthy retread of the series, yet puts a fresh coat of paint on the jalopy and upgrades the gameplay for everyone to be able to finish it. The lengthy (20+ hour) game provided lots of value, and it was a fun tromp with the Prince. 9.1 out of 5
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 14, 2009, 07:30:05 PM
Cold Fear (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/coldfear/index.html?tag=result;title;0) drops you on an ocean tanker to learn what has happened to the crew. Last contact indicated some genetic experiments "may" have gone awry. Well, at least the scientists were smart enough to leave the experiments in the deep ocean.

Cold Fear is a (mostly) third-person action shooter that occasionally has a few parts that don't allow you to change your camera angle. It starts out on the derelict tanker, where you've got to figure out the mystery of what happened to the people onboard, and to gain an ally. Then it switches scene and places you on a deep-sea oil derrick, where you learn the rest of the mystery, and how to stop it.

The story kept me interested, and it was pretty fun to play through, although I couldn't quite finish the finale monster battle. You'll do lots of wandering in your treks, and might get lost, so a walkthrough (http://www.gamefaqs.com/computer/doswin/game/924870.html) is not a bad idea. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 16, 2009, 05:23:20 PM
I found Reservoir Dogs (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/reservoirdogs/index.html?tag=result;title;0) to be a delightful romp as a criminal in the game based on the cult movie. Sure, the graphics aren't great, but they're serviceable, and you should be able to pick this game up on the cheap. The game mixes on-foot levels, where you play each of the various characters who have been separated after the failed diamonds robbery attempt, and then has various driving missions, which to me were the most fun because of the many "Starsky and Hutch" type moments where your car gets some air.

While on foot, you can choose to take hostages, engage in some primal butchery (stab the hostage in the head with an icepick, pistol whip, bludgeon, etc.) that freezes all the cops on your tail, or attempt some one-on-one shootouts (which you'll probably fail). Levels are basically back-street alleys, although there were some "outside" scenes as well. Depending on how you play (kill everyone as a "psychotic", minimize your damage as a "professional", or mix it up as a "thug"), you'll get a different ending.

Although this game has gotten butchered by reviews, I'm going to say it was a blast for me to play, and I played many of the driving levels several times because of the visceral thrill they gave. 8.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 24, 2009, 11:18:46 AM
Cool your jets -- all 5 of you who are reading this!!  :'(  I'm back today with Manhunt (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/manhunt/index.html?tag=result;title;1). I did not think I would have any desire to play this, but after starting, I just got hooked. Manhunt is another of those "gore" games where you must dispatch your enemies in the most gruesome manner possible, depending on the "tool" you have in hand. Have a plastic bag? Then smother your foe and knee them in the face. Hammer? Perfect for digging out cranial matter. Baseball bat? Aim that melon for the fences. Shiv/icepick/knife? Perfect for eye sockets. This is NOT a game for the faint-hearted, in other words.

The story is that you're a criminal about to spend some time in the slammer, but a "freak" accident frees you and puts you on the run. Unfortunately, your "benefactor" is a sadomasochistic video director, and he controls the reins to your freedom. If you want to exit an area, you must do as he asks. Maybe you have to free someone held by a gang and bring them to the door. Maybe you have to kill a certain number of foes in the gruesome ways mentioned above. Regardless, the stealthy approach is key to surviving in this third-person "sneaker," and you'll pass through a variety of environments before finally meeting your benefactor: slums, city streets, run-down zoo, dilapidated house. It's all good and it's got plenty of atmosphere that makes you afraid to move forward, except for the need to get out.

Gameplay is very challenging, and you only have savepoints to mark your progress. Some areas will be be a bear to get through and you'll have to tackle them multiple times. However, sticking that over-the-top finishing move is delicious fun nonetheless. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 29, 2009, 10:07:37 AM
After a brief hiatus, and in recognition of Silver Sorrow's recent Mirrors Edge review (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-fpp/283-mirrors-edge), I wanted to provide my own take on this title. As Silver alludes, this game is not to everyone's liking because it has a huge difficulty factor to it. However, it provides a fresh gameplay idea in taking parkour into the First-Person view.

If the game could have lowered the number of challenges and just let you tool around in the game world, it would have appealed to more people. In between the timed puzzles, the overly challenging gunplay and the forced fisticuffs, there are some elements of pure gaming bliss, when it's just you against the environment: jumping, sliding, hitting wallruns -- for me, it was these rare opportunities that kept me moving forward.

The story was interesting, and had a nice twist towards the end into who your real enemy was -- I'd like to see it continued, at any rate, if they could lower the aggravation levels significantly. Also, change out the crappy animated scenes. 8.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 30, 2009, 05:09:07 PM
Here's another recent release: Velvet Assassin (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/sabotage/index.html?tag=result;title;0), which has had some punishingly harsh reviews. although I didn't have any major problems with it. The gameplay is akin to Thief and Hitman, played in third-person view and set during World War 2. Your female character is an espionage agent set behind enemy lines, so you do a lot of sneaking around, but also occasionally must get into an enemy uniform to move past certain areas.

The sneaking is an area where Velvet Assassin gets the most complaints, as you must be quiet to approach your Nazi foes. The only way to do this is to sneak SLOOOOOWWWWWLLLLYYY up on your enemies, and often times they turn around before you've had an opportunity to reach them, which requires you to then rush them and hope you can stab them before being shot or the alarm sounds. However, in some areas the stealth works fairly well, as you can hide in shadow within arm's reach of enemies, and then just step out and whack them as they traipse by. Generally, if you can knock out the lights or turn them off, you'll have a better shot of survival.

The game offers some bits of adventure elements, where you must gather certain items, or do certain actions before you can progress in the game. You also get bonus points for finding certain intel items throughout each level that can be applied to your stealth skills. Occasionally you get to pull out a gun or sniper rifle and go to town, but those areas are fairly rare. However, toward the end of the game, you are stranded in a church without ANY weapons (you're actually running around in your skivvies), and this area took several hours to get through, because the game is sometimes sparing with its savepoints. But boy, getting past everything really tests your stealth skills to the utmost.

I actually rather enjoyed this game, so how about 7.4 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 31, 2009, 09:57:47 AM
You want the truth?? You are unable to be handling an approximation of the truth. You also cannot handle Exodus from the Earth (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/exodusfromtheearth/index.html?tag=result;title;0), but for completely unrelated reasons, but mostly because it's a Russian-designed piece of crapola. The fact that it came from the Russians is important for two reasons, which I'll detail in just a bit.

Within the first 2 minutes of Exodus, we learn that Earth's sun is going supernova in only 20 years -- not in the millions of years that we expected. So humanity's only hope for survival lies in the depths of space. Conveniently, one technology company has the answer to survival -- a synthetic drug named AX, which will alter human DNA to allow us to survive.

Pretty compelling, right?!

Well, if so, please tell me why you spend the next 8 HOURS on an espionage mission to figure out if this is all true?! That's right, Exodus presents you with the apocalypse and then has you meander through chemical plants, storage corridors, offices, and even the requisite FPS staple -- the warehouse filled with containers.... Then you enter an OUTDOOR container area, another office/lab setting and then guess what... you get to retrace your steps through every fricking level again as you escape the complex!!!  >:(

It's not until two-thirds into the game that it gets interesting, as you finally get outside the office complex and then get to drive a 4-wheel rover through canyons and blockades to reach a craft taking off to the source of where AX is found. This new planet is of course alien and much more interesting than earth, but only one-third of your time is spent here. You'll finally realize you've been suckered and then the end credits take over.

So I said it was important to note that the game is Russian in origin for two reasons. First, it's bloody hard -- expose yourself for any length of time and you'll get killed within moments. Spawning shooters with ESP who know where you are located are par for the course. I don't know if it's because Russians hate themselves, hate other people, or are just pissed that they have to eat borscht, but the difficulty level in any Russian game is greatly elevated from normal U.S. standards.

The second reason is that the language translation to English in both writing and the voice-overs is so awfully bad, it's funny. But this is the only time you'll laugh -- the rest of the time, you'll be cursing that you have to go through the same scene multiple times because some unseen sniper keeps hitting you from beyond your vision. Oh, that's right -- no quicksave, but only save points that you have to gain.

So ultimately, Exodus is a true disappointment, in every part. Boring, tedious gameplay; inability to implement a unique story; confusing level designs; and horrible translations all add up to a bad game -- 6.3 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 07, 2009, 11:23:58 AM
Damnation (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/damnation/index.html?tag=result;title;0) is another game that's just been assailed and reamed in reviews, mostly fairly, although I did find some fun elements to it (thanks to Grey Mouser for the loan!!). The highlight of the game has to be the huge levels that you play around in -- jumping, ziplining, and shooting stuff up. The design is interesting and could essentially be considered an open game world within each level, as you have unlimited paths to take from one point to the next. Unfortunately, the huge levels are a detriment when the enemy AI is so shoddy, and in many parts of levels actually nonexistent -- it makes much of the levels seem empty and shallow.

Another drawback is the movement of your third-person character, which seems to be missing some key scripting to allow it to navigate effectively, especially in tight places and up ladders. And when your character is standing on a ledge and flips backward up into the next story, it just looks extremely odd.

But I was able to get past all these details because I found the original story intriguing: essentially, you are in an alternate U.S.'s Civil War that has never ended, and weapons have now evolved into a steampunk atmosphere, with robot troops and drugged humans under the rule of a corporate despot. Your goal is to infiltrate his resources and stop him any way possible. Along the way you'll get some comrades for various missions, and you'll be granted some mystical powers to aid your efforts.

For a former Unreal Tournament mod to make the big time, it's an impressive effort. However, it never should have been considered a AAA title and originally priced at $50, because all the elements just don't add up to a good gamer ROI. It should have been dropped at a value/budget $30 price point, and I think then that the backlash wouldn't have been quite so negative. It still would have been bad, but not *SO* bad. In all, I enjoyed it for what it was, but I'd rate it 6.7 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: GreyMouser on November 07, 2009, 11:54:20 PM
Damnation is another game that's just been assailed and reamed in reviews, mostly fairly, although I did find some fun elements to it (thanks to Grey Mouser for the loan!!).

What loan?....:realconfused:
I gave it to you for keeps......I hated the game! :throwup:
And have no desire ever to play it again...:P

...................:smoking:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Starfox on November 08, 2009, 12:36:43 PM
Yeah, there are some games like that... You *lend* them to someone in the hope that the damn things will get lost  :lol:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: GreyMouser on November 08, 2009, 03:46:03 PM
Yeah, there are some games like that... You *lend* them to someone in the hope that the damn things will get lost  :lol:

Hmmm...That's one way to look at it...:realconfused:

But, no, my motives are different.... ;)
You see, if I buy a game that makes me regret it...:computermad:...and then if I can pass it on someone who gets more enjoyment out of it than I did, even if it's just a little....That makes me feel better, knowing that my money didn't go completely to waste; and it also helps to ease my pain of "game anticipation letdown".:P


............................. .:smoking:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Starfox on November 08, 2009, 04:03:31 PM
It was a joke... based on my own experience but well it didn't come out as I wanted.

I guess that NVidia and their piece of  *utterly censored* crap that they name PhysX has been growing a bit too much on my nerves today and eroded my sense of humor. But I'll keep that for another board.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: GreyMouser on November 08, 2009, 04:08:27 PM
It was a joke... based on my own experience but well it didn't come out as I wanted.

Hey,....No problem, Starfox!....:onethumb:
I knew you were joking...:ok:
"It's all good.", as my daughters would say....;D


............................. ........:smoking:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 24, 2009, 05:29:04 PM
If you guys are FINALLY done hijacking MY thread, I'll get back on topic!!!  :funup:

Call of Duty: World at War (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/callofduty5/index.html?tag=result;title;0) was the fifth game in the franchise, and unfortunately, its weakest. The developers took the award-winning Modern Warfare engine and put a World War 2 spin on it, but the result was a stale, unoriginal and very linear affair, especially as compared to COD 2, which to my mind is the best of all the WW2 games out there. And after playing Modern Warfare, WAW is just disappointing. Sure, there are a few levels that get your blood pumping, but at this point, I can't even remember any levels that stood out for me, whereas I strongly remember many of the COD2 levels I played.

As with previous COD games, you alternate playing either an American or Russian soldier. The Americans are trying to take some Pacific islands, while the Russians are pushing into Germany. I really hated the American maps because of the setting, but the Russian ones were more appealing with the European-city fighting and sneaking around.

In all, I'd recommend any other COD game first over this one, and give it 7.9 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 10, 2009, 07:22:27 PM
As much as I loved The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/chroniclesofriddick/index.html?tag=result;title;1) and wanted a sequel, Assault on Dark Athena (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/chroniclesofriddickassaultondarkathena/index.html?tag=result;title;2) is not the sequel that I would have chosen. Dark Athena is the follow-up to the award-winning Escape from Butcher Bay released in 2004, which has received a graphical update in this release (yes, you get EFBB along with DA, so that's a great value!).

Now, EFBB, was a GREAT game -- graphically, storyline, action/adventure gameplay, multiple plot twists -- but DA feels like a very poor substitute to the Riddick of the original game. See, in EFBB, you are deposited in the infamous Butcher Bay prison, with no hope of escape. However, you are able to work your way through the ranks to finally penetrate the only possible exit -- down a hole. After your "escape", you must find a way through the bowels of the planet to attempt an escape off-world. One botched attempt later, you're now thrown into the triple-max slam, where the worst scumbags in the universe are found. Again, you must make your way up the ranks to get into the depths of the mines to free a pilot. As you make your way to a liberated ship, ONCE AGAIN you are captured and must find a way to free yourself. Plot twists aplenty, my friend.

The story of Dark Athena is that you've finally escaped Butcher Bay, only to have your ship snagged by the mercenary crew of the Dark Athena. You manage to hide from its captain, someone you know from way back, and to enter the ship. Along the way you'll meet a little girl trapped in the vents (shades of Aliens), who assists you from time to time and directs you to her mother, who is trapped in the brig along with a few other reprobates -- all of whom send you on various tasks to get yourself free from the Dark Athena for good.

Dark Athena unfortunately has too much reliance on shoot-outs, rather than Riddick's patented sneaking in the dark gameplay. That's what makes playing the character of Riddick fun -- to go lights out, sneak up on someone, and then snap their neck. If I want a shooter, I'll play Half-Life 2. Additionally, there's too much linearity on the ship that you've been captured by -- you go to one location, and you come directly back the same way; in EFBB, you traveled a circadian route to finally end up where you started, which always came as a surprise in how you managed to do so.

There were truly only a few highlights to the gameplay. One was an area where you must sneak up a wall while lights circle all around you. The second was when you manage to take an escape pod off the Dark Athena to the nearest planet. This was the only time I really felt some freedom in how I played the game, and it was 3/4ths of the way into the game and too brief by far.

The gameplay that made EFBB appealing was Riddick's vulnerability matched by his bad-ass bravado. Dark Athena unfortunately takes Riddick another direction, choosing to be a mindless shooter rather than an atmospheric sneaker. 7.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Starfox on December 12, 2009, 01:59:23 PM
I agree. Dark Athena puts too much emphasize on brute force and not enough on sneaking. What's worse is some amount of stupid encounters at some point. I remember after the escape pod landed on the planet and I was forced to go my way through the town to the Dark Athena (that alone is mildly funny... you escaped a ship and then must go back to it... again), I hit some kind of big mutant that has the habit to launch grenades at you and that was a pain in the ass to take down (not to mention that the town is in full daylight so shadows are scarce, to say the least; it's really brute force involving tossing back grenades at him). After that fight I assumed that I hit the big boss of the level since it was a real pain in the ass compared to the other enemies. Then I fight another one... and another one... and another one... well, you get the idea. After the second monster it was "You must be kidding me", but after the fifth one I started to turn to yoga and practice my patience skills.

Point is Dark Athena is definitely NOT Escape from Butcher Bay. I had a lot of fun replaying this last one though. Much more fun than playing Dark Athena. Some areas of Dark Athena make sense in a Riddick style gameplay but alas a lot don't fit into this category.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 24, 2009, 11:48:25 AM
After Silver Sorrow's vitriolic reviews of open-world sandbox games such as the Grand Theft Auto series (which I can't seem to find on the main site....), I've been put off of playing such games because -- and I can't believe I'm saying this -- I generally respect Silver's opinions on such things.   :P

However, another game reviewer I sometimes listen to is Yahtzee, and when he gave a favorable impression (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/312-Saints-Row-2) of Saints Row 2, I took notice and decided to give it a shot. Yes, Saints Row 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/saintsrow2/index.html?tag=result;title;2) gets a mediocre score on GameSpot, but since I've started doing these mini-reviews (mostly due to lack of time to hunt down screens and to all the formatting necessary), SR2 is the only game I've even strongly considered doing a full review.

And here's why: SR2 is both FUN and FUNNY, tempered by mature language and offering a touch of heart and pathos.

It's like the game designers went on an adrenaline binge and lumped all the possible things they could think of into a "gangsta" sandbox game. From the start of the game, where you can design your character's look with a multitude of options (mine was an African-Asian woman, slender but athletic, with green spiky hair and pink tips), you can then live out your fantasy in an open game world where the sky (literally!) is the limit. And every possible activity has some relation to your character's growth by giving you "street cred."

Find extra stunt jumps with your car and gain maximum air time. Find extra CDs to play on your car radio. Find Secret Areas or tag your enemies' territories with your own gang tag. Take on jobs to drive ambulances, fire trucks, taxis or tow trucks. Become a hoe. Drive the wrong way in traffic and rack up experience. Do gang drive-bys, become a flasher, hold-up stores, take hostages, mug people, play poker, race in all kinds of vehicles, use the TV in your "crib" to play the game Zombie Uprising. Do a variety of stunts to learn combat tricks, driving skills, or to base jump off skyscrapers. Take boats and jet-skis out to outlying islands. Pilot helicopters and planes and rain missiles down on the unsuspecting.

As I said, the sky is the limit!!  :o  But these mini-games only give you entre to the main missions, of which the key is regaining control of the city Stillwater (similar in size and scope to New York City) from three rival gangs and ultimately from an overbearing company named Ultor. You'll do this through some 30+ missions that will take you at least 55+ hours to complete.

Graphically, things are not ultra-detailed, but vehicles have great collision damage animations, and everything looks realistic. Driving a vehicle down the highways has never been more fun. Cut-scenes are extremely well done, and feature loads of talent including Jay Mohr as a sleazy exec, Michael Dorn as a rival gang leader and Neil-Patrick Harris as a hippie flunkie.

And ultimately, the game has heart. I dare anyone not to choke up when one of your long-time friends gets taken down by a rival gang, or when you have to confront a kid you sent out on a mission, or the loss experienced by Michael Dorn's character. These rare moments are buttressed by some of the funniest writing I have ever seen/heard in a game. "You know what would really make this crib shine?" A huge-ass flatscreen and a stripper pole!!  ;D

If you play a game to have fun, and not to have the utmost in graphical detail, then I think you'll enjoy SR2. It isn't for everyone, and the language can be off-putting (but after all, this IS a gangsta game!), but the sheer variety of ways to play the game will ensure an unrivaled experience. 9.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 04, 2010, 02:59:33 PM
After spending one month and 60+ hours playing Saints Row 2 and all its chewy goodness (i.e. driving and gang activities), it was hard to get into Wheelman (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/driving/thewheelman/index.html?tag=result;title;1) , which is similar in gameplay through its main/side mission context. Set in Madrid, Spain, you play a 3rd-person likeness of Vin Diesel, who is playing a tough, no-nonsense, bad-a CIA operative (who casts this guy??) gone undercover to figure out the gang situation in the city.

There's lots of driving about the city streets, some firefights, and plenty of cutscenes between missions, but it's all stuff you've seen and done before in GTA 4, Saints Row, etc. What Wheelman DOES bring to the table is the idea of "focus" -- hit enough objects, take jumps and speed through traffic to build your focus meter. Once full, you can hit turbo boost, or even cooler, do a bullet time moment to shoot at enemy cars' hotspots. OR, you can spin your car backwards and shoot foes behind you, before spinning back to the front. Realistic? Absolutely not. Fun? You betcha. The other unique element is the use of your mouse to "melee" your car into those beside you or in front of you, simply by sliding the mouse to one side.

Overall, the game is average, and other than the cool elements mentioned above, just didn't add anything to the genre. It is fun in spots, cutscenese are nicely done, and vehicle damage is really good, but only play Wheelman if you've exhausted the other games in the genre. 7.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 05, 2010, 08:31:12 PM
You want another game review already?? My, you're a fickle crowd.... But you know what ... I like you, so I'll make an exception this ONE time, okay?! Just don't shoot the messenger!  :computerfix:

I might as well get off my chest that Turning Point: Fall of Liberty (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/fallofliberty/index.html?tag=result;title;3) is very, very disappointing, and I strongly urge you not to spend more than $5 total on it. This console knock-off is based on an alternate World War 2 timeline where Germans have conquered Europe in toto, and are now moving on the U.S. The concept is sound and I'm a sucker for "what if" scenarios. But the execution is poor.

The opening scene shows a massed fleet of Nazi dirigibles and airplanes descending upon New York City with a vengeance, taking out landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Chrysler Building. You are Schlo Mo (I don't know what my name was, and I don't care -- you won't learn enough about you to make a difference), a skyscraper construction worker who sees the invasion coming and attempts to escape, somehow becoming embroiled in an underground resistance effort whose activities are curtailed by a Nazi-leaning U.S. president. Upon making yourself useful in New York, you hop a train to Washington DC to free a useful general and kill the puppet president. This leads to new information regarding a nuclear facility located in the Tower of London, so you'll have to cross the Atlantic, only to learn the nukes have been loaded aboard an ultra-zeppelin that is NYC bound.

No, none of this makes logical sense, but it IS an alternate timeline, after all. The story is generally okay and the game is short enough to play in an afternoon. Graphics are supposedly on the Unreal 3 engine, but I sure couldn't see that, as graphics are marginal, and the designers only allow a MAXIMUM screen size of 1024x768. I suppose I could generously call the graphics passable, as they get the job done and show a variety of different environments. But imagine what the original Medal of Honor Allied Assault looked like, and you'll be close... and TPFOL came out in 2008!!

AI interaction is pretty spotty, as some enemies take multiple headshots to kill, while some can be shot in the foot and keel over dead. Some areas took multiple play-throughs because of their tough difficulty. Oh yes, because it's a console port, it has no quicksaves -- only save points that are scattered haphazardly.

The alternate timeline is a fresh approach to the stale WW2 genre, and even though the graphics appear last-gen, I'd say TPFOL is still slightly better than some other games I've played. Just pick it up on the cheap, and only with low expectations. 6.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 08, 2010, 08:03:55 AM
How my tastes in RPGs have changed over the years! When Divine Divinity (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/divinedivinity/index.html?tag=result;title;5) first came out, I logged many hours in it, trying to get every last secret and matching set of armor. Then the sequel/expansion Beyond Divinity (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/beyonddivinity/index.html?tag=result;title;0) arrived, and I just zoomed through the main mission in a bored haste -- I don't actually remember finishing it.

So now comes Divinity 2: Ego Draconis (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/divinity2egodraconis/index.html?tag=result;title;0) into the 3rd dimension, with a 3rd-person perspective a la Gothic or Two Worlds, and gameplay somewhere between both. The focus of this game dwells on your training as a dragon-slayer, so how ironic is it that you eventually have to mind-merge WITH a dragon?! The first third of the game focuses on developing your human skills, but the next two thirds alternate gameplay between human and dragon. Of both, the human part of the game is somewhat generic but the dragon form is fairly fun to play.

The game is a mix of combat and main and side missions that can be picked up from a variety of NPCs dotting the landscape. The overall story has something to do with raising the soul of a deceased queen to kill her husband, who is currently razing all the lands with his dragon army and sorcerors.

Graphically, the elements are the slightest hint cartoony -- not detailed as you might see in Dragon Age Origins, but also not quite so cartoony as Overlord or Fable. You'll see the same "dungeon" design throughout the game (although I wouldn't truly classify them as dungeons in the proper sense), but the cities and forts are individual. Flying and fighting as a dragon is fun, and you must use your dragon form to get around the later stages of the semi-open gameworld (meaning there is some open room, but your overall path is linear). The hardest part of the game is fighting against the floating fortresses sent by your enemy to wipe out the land. You will die many, many deaths on these levels, so the quicksave comes in especially handy!  ;D

As an RPG, it provides a plethora of skills to choose from, but concentrating on archer, mage and fighter. You also will be able to allocate special skills to your dragon form. One of the somewhat interesting things you can do is to read people's minds, which affects how they feel about you, perhaps allows them to favor you, or gives you insight into solving a quest. You also will be able to create a necromantic monster who will accompany you and fight by your side.

Overall, I "mostly" enjoyed Divinity 2 -- the RPG experience was pretty formulaic, but the option to switch back and forth between dragon/human form livened up the gameplay. The ending is bittersweet, but the path to get there is lengthy and full of swatches of humor. 8.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 15, 2010, 10:42:26 AM
Prototype (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/prototype/index.html?tag=result;title;0) is now my third open-world sandbox game, featuring a rich storyline with a character (Alex Mercer) who sports almost heroic powers. Much of the game is told in flashbacks, starting with Day 12 of a horrible infectious epidemic gone awry in New York City’s Manhattan. The city has been blockaded from the rest of the world and effectively quarantined, all because of the actions of one individual who infected himself with a horrendous viral weapon that was intended to create super-soldiers. You are that individual and you died – what arose from your actions has claimed your body, but it has given you untold powers. And now you must clean up the mess created by your former self.

From this point, we see the effects of the virus as it unfolds over the next 12 days, infecting the public, creating super monsters (and even super-size monsters!), bringing the hammer of martial law down upon the island, and unfolding a conspiracy that reaches back 40 years into the past. In the beginning, you have some minor powers that gradually grow in strength and sophistication until you are literally able to leap long distances and fly across Manhattan, cause earthquake pounds with your massive fists, cut through swathes of enemies with blades or claws in place of your hands, throw objects hundreds of yards – you are a modern-day Hercules, extracting vengeance on those powers who have wronged you. But plenty of civilians also die at your hands, so you are no angel; in all respects, you are an anti-hero – doing the right thing only because it happens to be in line with your own selfish needs for answers and self-preservation.

Your powers also encompass the ability to absorb people into yourself and then take their shapes, skills and memories – much of the storyline is actually told in snippets of memories that you digest, leading gradually into a more comprehensive story of what happened, and why, and perhaps more importantly, who is behind everything. In someone else’s skin, you can falsely accuse others of being you, you can enter restricted areas, and you can gain their skills to call military strikes, to drive tanks, or to pilot helicopters.

Powers are gained by doing anything – causing destruction, fulfilling main missions, and doing side missions that are as diverse as they are fun. Some side missions have you jump-flying to various checkpoints, floating from great heights to land on target, absorbing foes spread out around the city, fighting against infected or military forces, piloting tanks or copters, and infiltrating restricted areas. I was able to get bronze to gold medals on all side missions, although I admit that infiltrating military bases became unattainable to me when they hit Medium difficulty, simply because it was nigh impossible to get past all the base’s 6-7 scanners that could detect my presence.

Graphically, the cityscape is impressive. Having been to NYC a number of times, I found areas such as the Javits Convention Center, the hockey arena, the docks, Empire State Building and Chrysler Building – and you can climb/fly/jump all around them. The camera from the 3rd-person view hardly ever got in the way, and maintained a high FPS throughout the game, even on hectic battles with dozens of foes.

The difficulty ratio is absolutely perfect: you start with minimal powers and face foes and situations that you can just barely master. As you gain new powers and experience, the challenge grows correspondingly, until the finale event on a battlecruiser in the harbor. I was challenged to remember some of the moves for each special fighting skill you might employ, but the game has a guide that lists the buttons if necessary.

You might get bored flying over the city for the umpteenth time, but the game includes 200 “points of interest” and 50 “tips” (both marked by glowing balls), which are scattered haphazardly on the tops and sides of buildings and other areas. Finding these gains you experience that you can apply to your skills. (I was able to find 75% of each). You also want to find the people from the “web of intrigue”, who provide a fuller picture of the story when you absorb their bodies and memories. And finally, when the game is over, you can actually go back and finish up any tasks remaining, so it doesn’t necessarily end after you’ve beaten the final boss.

It’s never been so fun to be an anti-hero, even one who started such a nasty mess as the complete infection of New York City. The storyline is compelling, the powers are awesome, and the destruction is chaotic. Sometimes ... it just feels good to be bad. 8.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: wadey1 on January 17, 2010, 07:56:36 AM
Prototype is indeed an amazing game, the feeling of infinite power and destruction is something thats been missing from super-hero games. Picking up a bus, whilst running up the side of a building then jumping 100's of feet into the air, then flinging said bus into a crowd of new yorkers on the street far below, is this the first game that seems to reward genocide? its easily the best free running game since crackdown. puts assassins creed to shame.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 18, 2010, 03:23:18 PM
Quantum of Solace (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/jamesbondquantumofsolace/index.html?tag=result;title;0) is definitely the best James Bond 007 PC game, and perhaps one of the better movie-to-game adaptations out there, although I admit that I haven’t seen either of the two movies that serve as source material (Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace). Regardless, the storyline as played offers some serious consistency issues, bouncing back and forth haphazardly and leaving out key plot elements and character introductions.

However, as a game, QoS is a pretty satisfying experience. Levels are nicely crafted with some impressive graphics, textures and motion capture efforts. Through the course of approximately 6 hours, you’ll venture through Siena and Venice, a science center, an opera house, a shantytown in Madagascar, a sinkhole in Bolivia, an airport, the famed Casino Royale, a crime boss’s estate, a funky “eco” hotel in the desert, docks and a barge, and an impressive train level.

Played from a 3rd-person over-the-shoulder perspective, Bond can wield a variety of arms, for which his ability to get behind cover comes in especially handy. I did find the cover system kind of sticky and sometimes hard to break out of when under direct frontal attack. Bond also can beat on his opponents by sneaking up on them – a circle appears on the target that you must move and click your circular cursor. This also turns into a mini-game when hand-to-hand fighting against various bosses. You don’t use any gadgets, but you can hack into cameras and open locked doors.

Overall, the game is fairly fun to play through, and engages you with its various setpieces and graphics. The frantic storyline brings the final score down for me to 7.9 out of 10, so it’s not a bad game but lacks a few key elements to put it in the “great” category.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Joshua-kun on January 19, 2010, 11:33:40 AM
Considering that the Quantum of Solace movie was a bit confusing and narratively-idiotic (is that a word? Can it be now?), I'm pretty sure that the game developers were just working with what they had.  ;D
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Fanghawk on January 19, 2010, 12:34:55 PM
At least they had SOMETHING to make a game from. Imagine if they'd made a Casino Royale video game: "Play cards for two days. Press X to bluff your opponent. Wiggle the mouse to avoid the poisoned drink. End the game in an tacked-on, over-the-top shootout. Game Over."
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 20, 2010, 03:58:06 PM
Alone in the Dark (2008) (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/aloneinthedark/index.html) is the buggiest POS I have ever had the displeasure of installing -- thank goodness I only paid $4 for it. From the fact that it took about 45 minutes to reset my key bindings (but at least you could do so), to attempting to figure out the probably 40 buttons necessary to run the game, to finally getting in-game, only to have it crash BSOD EVERY 15 MINUTES OF GAME TIME!!! you can finally see my ire at this title.

I REALLY wanted to like this, and I could see shots of brilliance laced throughout, but the bugs, the poor driving situations, the lack of saves in crucial areas, the camera kicking you from 1st-person to 3rd-person every 5 seconds, the overly gratuitous swearing -- all contributed to me only getting through the 2nd episode before yanking it in disgust. The pity is that Atari did patch the console versions of the game to address almost ALL of these problems, but basically left PC owners out to dry. In all the forum entries I've read, such action has left a very bitter taste in PC gamers' mouths.

The graphics and background effects (rooms splitting, roads crumbling, buildings falling, the fire effects) are intensely spectacular. The view overlooking Central Park, and the driving portions through a disentegrating city are manic and amazing. But integrating you and everything else into these scenes is the problem. I would switch to 1st-person to navigate rooms, only to be kicked to 3rd-person when some thematic element occurred (barrier falls in place, electric line swings, etc.) and would have to manually switch BACK to 1st-person -- the programming wouldn't automatically do it for me.

And then the buttons ... the buttons, the buttons... which darn button do I press now to open my jacket, or to use an object, or simply to walk forward??? Crysis had fewer buttons to use and I could still finish it without much complaint. The keyboard configuration is masochistically obnoxious, and you will curse it every time you have to play the game.

Ultimately, AITD is a game (as Doc mentioned earlier) that swung for the fences, but I'd dare suggest it was still in the locker room when it did so, as it is so incomplete for the PC version. Shame on you Atari for creating something that could have been great, shackling it with game-stopping bugs, and finally forgetting about your PC enthusiasts. 4.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 27, 2010, 11:10:13 AM
The premise of Darkest of Days (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/darkestofdays/index.html?tag=result;title;0) is sublime – that you are an agent of a future agency that monitors time travel. Unfortunately, someone is messing with the past, so you must go back and make corrections. Your own history is equally alarming – you were an MIA from General George Custer’s famous “Last Stand”, so the agency saved you for their own uses, expecting that saving your hide would buy your gratitude.

Your “teacher” is another time transplant named Dexter – an NYC fireman who entered the Twin Towers on September 11 and was snabbed by the Agency before he was crushed. He also curses like a belligerent sailor, which is extremely offputting, so be forewarned. His role is to scout out missions and prepare you for entry and removal, all while keeping within the mandate to minimize timeline disturbances.

Because “someone” has been messing around with the timeline, your initial tasks are to locate two individuals – one in the Civil War and another in World War 1 – keep them safe from harm and return them undisturbed to their original timeline. However, by the third level, you learn more about the Opposition, and actually meet its founder in the 7th level. You don’t learn until the end why they are making these substantial changes.

Unfortunately, things are never simple – make one little change to events and it skews the whole timestream... so you are constantly having to fix the results of your previous actions. Moving back and forth between timelines, you are taken hostage in a WW2 POW camp and marked for death – clearly the most moving levels in the game. Fortunately, Dexter pulls out some futuristic weapons every now and again (you’ve been fighting with period pieces mostly), to turn the tide of battle. I didn’t mind fighting with the period muskets, cannons and other “ancient” weapons, but the reloading mechanism (you have to time your button press to actively reload) gets to be a pain in the toucas if it jams and then takes twice as long to load.

Once both individuals are returned to the appropriate timeline, you need to find the Agency’s administrator, who happens to be taking holiday in Pompeii right as Mount Vesuvius erupts. Several firefights (and one NASTY game-stopping bug) later, all are returned home, only to learn the dirty truth behind the Opposition’s efforts. And then roll credits, just as the game started getting good....

Ultimately, DoD could do a lot more with the time-traveling premise, but it somehow misses the mark. Instead of spending the first 12 levels in the Civil War and WW1, maybe they should have skipped ahead a bit in the storyline and brought you into the overall premise earlier. And although these catastrophes kept getting billed as “biggest and bloodiest” battles, I never really felt the overwhelming numbers against me – not like when playing Call of Duty and entering those war zones. So really, what DoD needs to do is hop back in time and spend a little more effort on the overall game. 6.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 30, 2010, 11:40:54 AM
Okay, quick and easy review of Infernal (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/diaboliquelicensetosin/index.html?tag=result;title;0) -- it sucks. Big time.

This below average 3rd-person shooter has clunky controls and buggy gameplay (I experienced 3 BSODs in the first one and a half levels). After the 3rd BSOD in the second map, I decided I'd had enough. Not to mention, the storyline (or what I could glean from the cutscenes in between BSODs) is stupid: you were an angel cast out of heaven, who God has decided to kill off with human military troops, so you defect to the devil's team and regain your powers.... what part of ANY of this makes sense?

Do not buy this game, no matter how cheap it is. Do not rent this game for console. Do not play this game. 4 out of 10, only because it has a cool sports car model.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 04, 2010, 11:24:04 AM
Timeshift (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/timeshift/index.html?tag=result;title;0) was kind of shoved by the wayside when it came out, but I’d like to recommend it to FPS players. The background of the game is interesting, because it’s one of those few games to get a second chance. I don’t remember the specific details, but after the first beta was shown to the publisher, they pulled it and gave it to an internal team, who almost completely reworked it. The end result went from a bright, almost cartoonish, graphical scheme to a more realistic, grittier tone, and the work put into the graphical revamp shows, featuring detailed levels with detritus and various paraphernalia.
 
Story wise, Timeshift finds you in an alternate World War 2 that has been conquered by a scientist from the future – the same scientist who seemingly caused the explosion in the lab where you were testing out the “beta” suit, whose time features subsequently kicked you back into the past. The interesting storyline gradually unfolds through between-mission cut-scenes to show you what happened in the future to stick you in the past, although the end result could have used a bit more explanation. The world itself has more of a 50’s Soviet influence in how things look.

Your suit offers three specific time-related powers – stop, fast forward and reverse – that affect the world around you, but leave you unchanged. For example, the “stop” feature stops all things, including elements such as water, flame and electricity, and bullets and rockets, allowing you to pass by them unharmed. “Fast forward” is basically “bullet-time” and propels you faster than everything around you, causing the world to seemingly move in slow-motion. And “reverse” turns back time before your eyes, such as a collapsed bridge reconnecting so that you can cross it, only to have it collapse after your crossing. Unfortunately, this power was not used as often.

Unlike FEAR and FEAR 2, in which I barely used my time-powers (because I’m so LEET!!!   :onethumb: ), you absolutely will HAVE to use your time-powers to succeed in firefights and various environmental puzzles. The suit’s onboard A.I. will choose the necessary power for you, or you can go manual.

The finale against the future scientist could have used at least one more tier of challenge, because it felt a little rushed. However, Timeshift is overall a solid game that you should be able to pick up on the cheap. 8.8 out of 10

EDIT: I totally forgot to mention about the hefty weapon selection -- you've got a number of cool weapons to use, although I admit my favorite was the sticky missile bomb: fly that baby up to your enemies and watch 'em explode!!  :onethumb:
Title: I, also, liked TimeShift
Post by: GreyMouser on February 04, 2010, 09:58:28 PM
I'd really enjoyed the game,;.....except the last two levels...::)
The biggest complaint I have with the game was the "Lame" ending....:P

Good review, Bobdog...:ok:
I completely agree with your overall review....;)


............................. .:smoking:

Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 08, 2010, 12:21:50 PM
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/kanelynchdeadmen/index.html?tag=result;title;1) just leaves a vile taste in your mouth after playing it, especially with its two bummer endings. I guess you shouldn’t expect happy endings when you play a convicted mercenary and his psychotic, drug-addled partner.

K&L definitely gets the organized crime thing down right, with some thugs busting you out of the pen, where you as Kane have spent the last 14 years on a murder rap and are about to be zapped in the electric chair. It seems you robbed an organized crime “family” of something very important – although we never once learn what is in the briefcase you are hauling around – and to get this “whatever” back, the family has kidnapped your ex-wife and daughter for insurance. They also saddle you with  Lynch, a psycho who probably killed his own wife while under the influence of heavy hallucinogens, and must report back to the family every day on your progress.

What should be an easy job turns into a nightmare as a result of Lynch’s monumental screw-ups, making your task an impossibility from the start. Ironically, by the story’s end, Lynch seems to be the sane voice of reason as you become manic in your desire to rescue and protect your daughter.

Even with some significant plotholes, K&L does have a meaty – though short – story and this is the only thing that really drove me to finish the game. Graphics are fine, with a variety of urban and rural environments, and the engine does some cool things with crowds, such as in a packed nightclub that you must escape through the masses without alerting the guards. If you’ve played any of IO’s previous Hitman games, it feels very similar with its 3rd-person view, although your character can take cover and shoot around corners. However, you can only carry two weapons that you can switch in the field – a pistol and a rifle.

This is a mature game and the language is very explicit and graphic non-stop. On medium difficulty, it was a challenge, but you generally have 1-3 partners that you can somewhat rely upon and direct in various actions. Unfortunately, the game has no quicksaves (console port   :redhot:  ) and maybe only 3-4 autosaves within each level that you’ll have to start from. However, if you quit out of any level at any point, you’ll have to replay the whole thing, regardless of whether you hit an autosave or not.

K&L is short at about 6 hours gameplay, but the storyline mostly propels you forward effectively, like a decent organized crime movie. I’d recommend getting it on the cheap, and then have a bar of soap and some Lysol handy at the end when you finish it. 6.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Fanghawk on February 08, 2010, 02:38:59 PM
Kane & Lynch is on my list, even though I'm not expecting a "best game evar" experience. It seems to be the equivalent of a bad action movie; not everyone will admit it to be a quality piece of work, yet a certain amount of entertainment can come from its "badness" as well. But since this is the kind of game I would play for the story anyway, and since that seems to have emerged relatively unscathed in your review, there's probably nothing for me to worry about.

Do you think the game would be more bearable if you suffer through with a partner in co-op? All the levels in the story mode are available with one player as Kane and the other as Lynch, and you are able to choose from any level in the game, skipping those you don't like. (Which may not be a good thing... Yahtzee once noted (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/130-Alone-in-the-Dark) that games which advertise being able to skip levels usually do so because they aren't very good in the first place.)

But it's the "Fragile Alliance" mode that looked especially interesting. You play as one of up to four bank robbers who attempt to rob a building. If successful, the stolen money is split among the survivors and can be used to buy new weapons and armor while adding to your score. The key phrase there is "among the survivors": if one of the teammates happens to take a bullet from behind, that's more cash for everybody else, and it also forces you to be wary of someone betraying you. Of course, if you kill the rest of your team too soon, you'll have to hold off the hordes of police and armed guards all by your lonesome, which is also the side your dead teammates will be respawning in. It's a great concept, but I'm not sure how well its been executed, especially considering that there are supposed to be only four maps included with the game.

I’d recommend getting it on the cheap, and then have a bar of soap and some Lysol handy at the end when you finish it.

Done (http://www.amazon.com/Kane-Lynch-Dead-Men-Pc/dp/B000UUFR12/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=videogames&qid=1265661516&sr=1-3) and done (http://www.amazon.com/Lysol-Brand-Concentrate-Original-Scent/dp/B000P9WR34/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=hpc&qid=1265661484&sr=8-1).
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 15, 2010, 10:19:55 AM
Stranglehold (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/stranglehold/review.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssummary&tag=summary;read-review) is the game follow-up to John Woo’s famous Hong Kong flick Hard Boiled, starring Chow-Yun Fat as Tia Tequila ... er ... Tequila Sunrise ... whoops ... Detective Tequila. The game plays like a six-hour action movie with a robust storyline, nicely-done cutscenes that actually advance the plot, amazing graphics through the Unreal engine, and fun, but challenging, gameplay.

Basically the game plays like Max Payne, which itself was an homage to John Woo’s cinematic action style, so it’s all come around again. However, Stranglehold tosses a few new things into the mix, namely the ability to accrue special points when you complete unique kills. Points go toward four main powers: healing, scoped kills (that follow the bullet to the target), an invincible barrage of gunfire, and the roundhouse, which spins you around and kills all enemies in sight. So yeah, it plays just like a John Woo movie, in other words. Unique kills are gained generally from using the environment somehow: sliding down banisters, dropping signs or barrels on foes, running up railings, shooting while on a rope swing, sliding over counters, riding on wheeled carts, and even plain old head shots.

Gameplay is basically wave after wave after wave of foes attacking you in a specific location – restaurants, ruined buildings, apartments, docks, boat yards and even the Chicago Museum of History – until you manage to kill all spawned foes and move to the next location, where it all starts again. The waves are split up by Mexican standoffs and boss fights. In the first, you must dodge bullets and bring your reticule up to shoot a foe before circling around to shoot the next foe, until all are dead. The boss fights usually end up as shoot-outs between you and gang leaders or even armed helicopters, and most foes require you to use your Tequila powers to effectively take them out.

It’s fun for what it is, has a great, cohesive storyline, and provides just enough challenge to keep your interest for its short length. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 17, 2010, 06:47:55 AM
Despite being 3 years old and featuring “last-gen” graphics, Commandos Strike Force (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/commandosstrikeforce/index.html?tag=result;title;0) was actually pretty satisfying for me to play through, with some amazing challenges. I will temper my enthusiasm by reminding readers that I am big on stealth games such as Thief and Deus Ex, and my experience with this game is a direct reflection of my love of that FPS sub-genre.

CSF is a graphically-updated version of what originated as an overhead/isometric view action Real-Time Strategy game. Although not an RTS in the normal sense of extracting and allocating resources, Commandos put you in charge of 3-5 specifically skilled characters and was set in World War 2 in a real-time gameplay environment. In other words, the world continued on its way, guards walk their routes, workers do their tasks, etc. The challenging fun of the original Commandos and its sequels was to make it through the map, accomplish tasks and extract yourself without setting off alarms. Occasionally, you'd need to use 2-3 characters at once to get past obstacles. Some areas were devilishly hard, making your escape all the more fulfilling.

Well, CSF takes us back to this style of gameplay, only now in a full first-person experience. You have three characters to control (no more than two in any one mission): spy, marine and sniper. Of them all, the spy was most fun to play, allowing you to just go balls out and cause havoc behind the lines. The marine was my least favorite because he was simply too generic, but the sniper’s silent kills and sniping opportunities were fun in various missions. Now, alluding to my original line about loving stealth games, you can see why the spy and sniper were most fun.

Missions consist of infiltration, assassination, hold the fort, etc, and are set in three campaigns for France, Norway and Russia. The first two missions also serve as training exercises, and I liked that if you explored maps further, optional objectives arose, making for a richer experience. The best mission was a three-map infiltration set in a French city with winding streets, where the spy was responsible for a number of objectives. This required him to have to obtain various upgraded uniforms to sneak past and kill his Nazi foes. Another highlight followed the sniper into a bombed-out Russian city, where he must eliminate five Nazi leaders; going further into the map unleashed new goals. The most challenging map was a bridge stand-off supported by your marine and sniper, forcing you to revert back and forth between them. This single map actually took me several hours to get past.

There is an underlying storyline to the game – something about how your unit continues to be betrayed, and this causes some suspicion among the team members. This could have actually been played another way and would have really turned the game around, but they went the safe route.

Overall, despite its dated graphics, CSF had a Thief-like feel to it but set in WW2. The opportunity to play several character types gave the tired WW2 genre a new life in my eyes, although the marine was far too generic and could have used some more definition. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 23, 2010, 05:34:33 PM
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/modernwarfare2/index.html?tag=result;title;5) offers probably the most powerful gaming experience I've ever had through its single-player storyline and situations. The destinations are varied -- Middle East, South America, Russia, Norway, and even American soil -- but the underlying terrorist thread threatens to spill the whole world into chaos. It is a game with consequences and disturbing imagery that impact our sense of normalcy and safety, and that is what makes it so powerful.

I don't want to spoil anyone's play, so I will simply say that I enjoyed MW2, it was challenging, and it made me think more about the results of our actions in the broader world. Also, the Special Operations that you can access have some fun replay factor once the main campaign is completed.

I originally wanted to give this game a full 10 score, but its high price and 6-hour gameplay require me to knock it down slightly to 9.2 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 16, 2010, 11:26:00 AM
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/lostplanet/index.html?tag=result;title;2) was neither bad nor great – just averagely good. The story throws you in the mix of action right at the start, which is always nice, and sets up the flow of the game. You are on an ice planet that has the unfortunate problem of also being home to some critters called Akrids – basically big bugs of all types. If that wasn’t enough, someone wants to destroy the planet!!   :o  Oh noes!!!

This world, Eden 2, was one of humanity’s first colonized worlds. However, the resources spent in sending these colonists basically destroyed Earth’s economy, and promised future assistance never arrived, stranding the colonists on an uninhabitable ice planet that suddenly sprouted Akrid, who came in search of the new “heat” that they sensed. Humans had to evacuate back to their space shuttles, although some “snow pirates” remained to tough it out. Only some years later did humanity create mechs called VS (virtual suits) that allowed them to successfully fight the Akrid and harvest the heat that they accumulated – heat that can be used to keep the humans alive on the icy wastes.

The game alternates between human, mech and Akrid foes, taking place in both interior and exterior locales, and each level ends in a boss fight between a super-mega-monster Akrid or an advanced Mech. The boss fights are sometimes abnormally tough, with boss Akrids towering 50, 60, 80 feet tall and dwarfing your mech and especially you on foot. For most encounters, I was able to manage through the game on medium difficulty, but after several boss fights forced me to spend 90+ minutes on them, I installed a trainer to grant me God mode.  ;)

The complex story is told in lengthy (sometimes 10-minute) cutscenes between missions and has something to do with a terra-forming project that will wipe out all life on the planet, including the Akrid and the “rebel” snow pirates of which you now belong. The story takes places over several years, but sometimes lacks tension, alluding to possible romances that never come to fruition between your character and a female buddy. Actually, they showed some restraint in this respect, but I felt it could have been accomplished effectively within the storyline.

At any rate, the character models are amazingly textured and detailed, and the level design is generally very good, although none of them really stand out in hindsight. The Akrid, however, are the cornerstone of this game, because each of the bosses are unique, taking on the shape of moths, spiders, scorpions, beetles and other “buggy” pests. Their presence ensures that Lost Planet is more than just another average shooter.

Pet Peeve Alert!! Lost Planet does not allow you to customize your key bindings. You also are unable to save anywhere, as it is a console port. Final score: 7.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 18, 2010, 06:44:47 AM
So Blacksite: Area 51 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/blacksite/index.html?tag=result;title;0) is another game that’s gotten some poor reviews, although I think somewhat unfairly. Maybe the v1.2 patch fixed some initial issues that players had with it – what I do know is that I had a pretty fun romp on this cross-platform FPS, and it exceeded my expectations.

Graphically, the game uses the Unreal engine for some pretty amazing level designs – I did notice some graphical inconsistencies in some in-game cutscenes, but this only happened a few times and was certainly nothing to detract from the overall experience. I also noticed some wonky physics on occasion, but again, this was rare.

Blacksite is a generic FPS with some slight squad control, but never really takes advantage of this skill like other squad games such as the Rainbow Six Vegas series. One unique new element is “squad morale” – if you make headshots and push aggressively, your squad morale goes up and your squad mates are aggressive in engaging the enemy; if one of your mates goes down, squad morale falls and your remaining mates simply hunker down and return fire from behind barriers.

Harvey Smith of Deus Ex fame made a comparison between these two games, but other than the sci-fi plot and overall conspiracy, there is no other link. Well, some of the levels are kind of small, so that would compare to DX: Invisible War.... The story is fairly strong however, with events in modern-day Iraq leading into what occurs in the Nevada desert. You are brought in for a similar reason with the same team to assess a blooming threat in a small Nevada town that then appears to lead to a full-blown -- possibly alien?? -- invasion. You’ll find the truth along the way although the game is relatively short at about 6-8 hours.

Blacksite features some of the best driving sequences I’ve had in an FPS (from a third-person view), as well as the nicest trailer park I’ve seen since No One Lives Forever 2, and some cool helicopter scenarios. So the game tries a few new things, has a good story and is a decent shooter. 7.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 22, 2010, 07:15:57 AM
Well, speaking of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/rainbowsixvegas2/index.html?tag=result;title;0), here’s my review of this action shooter. Let’s start with Starfox’s Rainbow Six Vegas 1 review (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-fpp/35-fpp/176-rainbow-six-vegas) as a primer.... Okay, all read up there? Fine.

Vegas 2 was good, but not nearly as engaging as the first game. I mean really, what’s exciting about going through gyms, libraries and convention centers?? Yes, it is realistic perhaps for Vegas, but it’s not so unique to play through, especially compared to the first game’s high-rises, casinos, and even a dam.

Gameplay was challenging but just didn’t feel as original and inviting. The storyline also was a little convoluted, especially when we learn the whole scenario is one huge grudge match by a disaffected former good guy who just happens upon unlimited caches of money to fund this terrorist takeover of Las Vegas? C’mon!

Regardless, Vegas 2 is a pretty fun romp through some realistic scenarios and really provided that visceral feel of taking out the “bad guys” with your team, especially when your actions have consequences. 8.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 21, 2010, 07:16:04 AM
Wanted: Weapons of Fate (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/wanted/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is an atmospheric, third-person action game that serves as the gaming sequel of the Universal Studios movie Wanted. I never saw the movie when it came out, but after playing the game tie-in, I’m at least interested in seeking it out.

The game follows Wesley, the son of a super assassin, who has now become an assassin in his own right. The game apparently takes off after the ending of the movie, in Wesley’s apartment, and he is being sought by one of several assassin fraternities. Likewise, he’s interested in finding out who killed his mother, and why he was forced to kill his own father. What follows is a 5-6 hour journey of discovery, featuring some flashbacks where you play as Wesley’s father (aka The Killer).

The game excels in making the use of cover as simple and fun as possible. And you will need cover, constantly. Hordes of underlings, snipers, kamikaze fighters, and enhanced assassins with similar powers will attack you. The best way to pick them off is to hide behind cover, pop out occasionally, and then take them out. A single button click will allow you to leap between cover almost instantaneously – probably the best use of cover of any game I’ve played.

Your foes also use cover efficiently, so you’ll only get micro-seconds to take them out as they pop up. That is, until you learn how to curve bullets, something your assassin’s heritage allows. Again, the process is simple: press two buttons simultaneously, you will pop up from cover, and you’ll see an arc form from you to your selected target. Once the arc goes from red to white, let loose your two buttons, and your bullet will arc around and hit the target, sometimes simply stunning them enough to force them out of cover, but more often than not killing them outright, occasionally with a scene that follows your bullet to the target. Another super skill that you learn is the ability to slow time as you leap between cover, but this wasn’t as useful except during certain boss battles.

Oh yes, you’ll take on a number of bosses at the end of each level, all with differing methods of play: one’s a shotgun toting Russian, another sports a sniper rifle, one perches behind cover and lets his minions tackle you, another rappels down from above .... You just need to figure out which of your powers is most effective to take them out.

Between levels, and sometimes within levels, you’ll have cutscenes indicating the broader storyline. As mentioned, someone killed your mother, and pitted you against your father. But there’s an underlying dilemma surrounding the “Loom of Fate,” which all the assassin fraternities are protecting, but one head assassin – The Immortal – now covets for himself. Overall, it was a pretty cool story, making me want to rent the movie to find out more.

Locations are a mix of downtown apartments, office buildings, cathedrals and crypts, abandoned bell towers, European streets, and decrepit factories, but perhaps the most distinctive was a level on an airliner where you play Wesley’s father. Besides going through the first time and causing your foes to get sucked out of the airplane, you also go back through the falling airplane, where you experience a slow-motion version that requires you to shoot bullets out of the air and leap from seat to seat to get to the back of the plane.

As I said, it’s a fairly short game with little replay value (except to collect all the intel files placed throughout the game, which result in extras such as comic book covers, posters, game art, movies, etc.), but bending bullets never gets old. The story propels you forward, and makes the game feel like you’re playing a movie. 7.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 23, 2010, 01:29:32 PM
Yes, I’m one of those gamers who sometimes seeks out esoteric shooters like Scorpion Disfigured (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/scorpiondisfigured/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B3). Then after playing it, I wonder what the hell I was thinking... such games are cheap for a reason.

Basically, Scorpion is a hodge-podge of games, and doesn’t manage to get any of them right. It’s set in a futuristic, abandoned facility where human experimentation has resulted in the development of zombie-types, so it feels much like Doom 3. And it has a power suit like Crysis. But if anything, the quality and style reminded me of a darker (as in color-scheme), poorer version of Alpha Prime (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-fpp/68-alpha-prime), which itself was a bit of a suckfest of a game.

Scorpion is so boring, so banal, that I found myself looking at my watch to see just how long I’d been playing. And how much longer I could stand to play. Environments are boring, weapons are boring, foes are boring, story is boring – the whole game is uninspired. Only one week after playing through it, I can't remember ANY of the levels I played through -- that says quite a bit, right there.

Odds are, you’ll never even find this game in the States. Thank goodness for that, because really, you’ve got many better games to play instead. 5.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 25, 2010, 06:59:57 AM
I honestly tried to give Halo 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/halo2/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) a decent shot. The game came out for Xbox back in 2004, and was finally released to PC users in 2007, but only if you’d upgraded to Windows Vista. That simple fact alone should have given me pause, but come on – it was cheap, and I wanted to see if I could stomach it.

I didn’t necessarily like the first game, but I did actually enjoy the outside levels where you’re driving around. However, the interior levels (and the majority of the game, unfortunately) were boring, cut-and-paste levels that repeated the same design over and over and over.

Halo 2 repeats this process ad nauseum – the outside vehicle levels are fun, while the interior FPS levels are boring and repetitive. Add to that the fact that the graphics were atrocious: the art seems to be cel-shaded animation, completely out of context to the attempted realism of the human characters. Okay, it’s in reality 6 years old, but still....

And the final straw for me was the actual image on the screen – somehow the ratio was off and everything appeared too close up for my tastes. I play on a 22 inch monitor in 1600 x 1200 and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this feeling of nausea while playing a game, but I had to actually stop after about 15 minutes because I started getting a headache. I gave it two more attempts and it just wouldn’t work for me. So, I only made it through about the end of the Arbiter’s first levels before uninstalling.

The story does seem interesting, and lots of background stuff is going on with the Covenant, who revered the Halo ring that you destroyed. But ultimately, the poor level design, the poor graphics and the poor conversion from Xbox to PC specs prompt me to give this game a 6.7 out of 10. I don’t think playing any further would change my perspective.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Fanghawk on May 25, 2010, 05:55:35 PM
What a coincidence.... I actually happened to finish playing Halo 2 for Vista yesterday. (Although I played it on Windows 7.... so I guess that's Halo 2 for Vista on 7?)

I played the original (also on PC) a few years ago and enjoyed it. I'd occasionally played the first couple of levels on a friends XBOX, but I didn't get the sense that I was really missing something in the transition. The interiors (with a couple of exceptions) were bland but didn't bother me, while the exterior levels I thought were beautifully done. And agreed, driving the Warthog around was one of the most fun parts of the first game.....

.... which really left me wondering why they didn't do more Warthog driving for the sequel. I think there were only a couple of levels where you had the option, and the rest of the driving sections were in bulky tanks or Covenant vehicles that didn't seem to drive quite as well. Even the flying craft felt off, although maybe that's to account for console controls.

As for the visuals, pretty much agreed again: maybe my standards have gone up since playing the original, but the bland levels this time around bothered me a lot more. To be fair, once I adjusted to it and kept going, there were some absolutely gorgeous sections that were so visually stunning I stopped to enjoy them, but usually those moments were either in cutscenes or in the epic background vistas you would see from a distance, not the immediate close-up scenery. I'd have to play the original again to compare, but it feels like there's some visual asthetics and variety that are missing this time around, at least in the story mode (Red Vs Blue uses multiplayer maps from Halo 2 that I thought looked nice that I didn't remember seeing in-game, so maybe multiplayer got the better treatment).

I was happy though that what the sequel lacked compared to the original in visual variety got made up for in the story, adding new characters and expanding on the internal politics of the Covenant. Master Chief still has the personality of a brick though, coming off as the least interesting character of the whole lot, yet somehow I was still supposed to identify with him. I prefer the treatment of the Arbiter, who manages to develop over the course of the game.

But of course, it still had to wreck the story they'd been developing so far with a CLIFFHANGER ENDING. And not even a proper cliffhanger where you defeat the main villain but it turns out things are still going bottom-up anyway. Instead, you go through the entire game, helping Master Chief's dismantle the Covenant war machine, and then just as Master Chief reaches the final boss's lair to stop them at their moment of triumph, the game stops and the credits roll. I suspect they originally were going to have one more climatic level to finish things off, then decided to scrap it. Which leaves me concerned with how they will drag out an entire other game's story when the plot could have been wrapped up in twenty minutes. And with no PC version out that I'm aware of, I'll have to either buy an XBOX 360 or read the synopsis online.

As for your resolution troubles, bobdog, I had that problem at first too. I'm using a widescreen monitor (16:9 widescreen, I think) and the game was set by default to a 4:3 fullscreen standard. There are no options to switch between a fullscreen or widescreen mode (just fullscreen or windowed). I had to go into Halo 2's display options and adjust the resolution to one that matched my monitor's aspect ratio, and if Halo 2 doesn't support yours you might need to fix the aspect ratio through Windows so it automatically resizes to fullscreen instead of stretching out the image.

If that was the problem, but you still don't feel like re-installing, I wouldn't say you're missing out on much. It's entertaining in the way a blockbuster movie is entertaining. It's fun for the spectacle, and well-designed for its time, but I wouldn't say one's life is fuller for watching and eventually you move on to the next one.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 28, 2010, 10:44:01 AM
Jonathan Kane: The Protector (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/jonathankanetheprotector/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is by no means a great game, but it does actually feature some flashes of greatness. It is a bit confusing, as you alternate playing two characters within the story: Kane, a former MI-6 operative, and Jennifer, his former girlfriend that he is now “protecting” from a Middle Eastern terrorist. Both characters are played in first-person mode, with a number of cutscenes intruding into gameplay.

Kane’s levels are generally shooters, where you fire upon waves of foes as they attack you or Jennifer, while Jennifer’s levels are “sneakers”, and actually are more enjoyable as they offer more of an edge to them. I preferred playing Jennifer overall because her levels forced you into some squeamish scenarios as you have to wait out your enemies and then sneak past them quickly.

Both players have to solve a variety of mini-games, from opening locks to setting charges to opening electric circuits. Generally, the computer will give you a hard-save before these actions, but otherwise you cannot quicksave or save within the level on your own.

Storywise, it’s a mixed bag. A Middle Eastern terrorist has killed Jennifer’s archaeologist father to learn the whereabouts of a fabled mask that might give him supernatural powers, which he intends to use to subvert an East-West peace summit that is about to take place. Hmmmm. Why not just blow up the building where the meeting is going to take place instead? Why have to search for a possible artifact that “might” have supernatural powers?? Oh well, the storyline at least gives a thread of a reason for action. And although the game developers might be trying to use the Middle Eastern ideology to frame their villain, they also provide a Middle Eastern “hero” who eventually frees Jennifer from captivity, and states that the villain doesn’t speak for all of them. Interesting.

The locations lean from the everyday – universities, dockyards and hotels – to the fantastic: a trip to a Lost City where the artifact may be found. The Lost City was actually really cool, and something I could see in a Tomb Raider game, so nice job there, developers! You do have to get past some traps as both Kane and Jennifer, and to solve some puzzles along the way.

Graphically, the game is adequate (although still much better than Halo 2, reviewed last time). Characters are not articulated very well, but you get the point in the cutscenes.

Your foes are mostly challenging, with an “arena” set in Mexico perhaps the highlight to that effect. Waves of foes come after Kane, and he has to switch cover spots to find new sources of ammunition as his bullets evaporate. The game does feature some very tough firefights, for which being in cover is crucial.

So no, I wouldn’t pay full price for this game, but generally, I’d recommend it if you can find it cheap, as I “mostly” enjoyed it – one of the better games I’ve recently played, at any rate. 7.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 31, 2010, 09:52:48 AM
I have bittersweet emotions about Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/fahrenheit/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0): on the one hand, I was really starting to enjoy the mystery behind the story. Unfortunately, what uniqueness and fun lay in the game was sucked out by the atrocious Quick Time Events (QTEs) that are so prevalent throughout every aspect of the game.

I made it to an office level where your main character is attacked by giant cock-a-roaches, and after attempting perhaps 30-40 times to get through all the QTEs, I quit in frustration. Not one to give up, I tried using a trainer (worthless) and ultimately found an add-on with all the games saved, and simply moved past that section. However, every time I started getting into the story, again it hits you with the QTEs, which are nearly impossible to pull off with the keyboard and mouse setup, even on “easy” setting. This truly is a game developed for the consoles, and the port to PC, although slightly more attractive, just doesn’t cut it.

And that is disappointing. Just like Alone in the Dark, I was really getting involved in the story, and all the tasks that you could undertake with three playable characters were satisfying to the adventure game enthusiast. And generally, I could do most of the QTEs. But when the colored “Simon says” lights would come up, I would fail miserably. Part of it is that I couldn’t see the symbols because they are pasted directly in the middle of the screen, where the on-screen action distracts you; the other part is these particular QTEs almost require a dual-analog gamepad to complete (as well as much better hand-eye coordination, apparently).

If they could have eased off on the number, frequency and overall extreme difficulty of the QTEs, especially playing in “easy” mode, they would have made the game a winner in my book. For example, trying to get past those office cockroaches, I would have to hit like 25 buttons in a row, using both hands – on EASY!!! Cut that down to 5 for one hand only, don’t make them happen so quickly, move the symbols to the bottom of the screen where I can see them without being distracted by what’s onscreen, and we’re done.

Despite the poor graphics (especially for a 3-year-old game), difficult control options, and wonky camera, I thought the game had a lot of unique attributes, such as playing multiple characters who are either trying to evade the police, or trying to capture the perpetrator. I also liked the split-screen effect where your character is moving in one screen and you see something of interest in the other. The orchestral score was beautiful and voice-acting was nicely done.

Ultimately, I felt that Fahrenheit was a failed experiment in interactive gaming, specifically because of the overly demanding challenge of the “interactive” QTEs. 6.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 03, 2010, 07:12:29 AM
The Experiment (Experience 112 in Europe) (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/experience112/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) was an interesting “experiment” in adventure gaming, where the only action is you anonymously looking through cameras to direct lone survivor Lea Nichols through her surroundings. As such, you don’t directly control the on-screen character, but by manipulating the environment, you cause Lea to move around and interact with items in each area. [Starfox did a semi-review of this game here (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=822.msg6041#msg6041).]

Graphically, the game is decent: humans are lifelike, environments are appropriately drawn, and the strange otherworldly creatures you’ll eventually meet are suitably alien. The interface works like an operating system on your desktop, with windows for multiple cameras, for the area map, for email and notes, etc.

The story is essentially broken into three acts: get the medicine that Lea needs to live, escape the research ship where Lea wakes up, and get outside the ship. And the story is where the game excels. Lea awakes on a derelict research ship and all around you the world has gone kaput, with dead scientists aplenty, dirt and refuse and blocked passages in the ship, and an overall loneliness. As Lea begins to explore, she finds passcodes and written entries that allow you as the controller to open doors, turn on lights and objects, pass environmental hazards, and get the backstory, which I won’t spoil for you. You will find that the other humans onboard had their own agendas and interweaving stories. And as far as I know, you can't place Lea in mortal harm.

As Lea travels, she has flashbacks of various kinds, or maybe they are YOUR flashbacks as the controller?? These provide even more depth to your understanding of the current situation. And Lea will finally meet some living beings as she makes her way out of the tanker.

Puzzles are more to the literary variety, in which you have to read through people's notes and emails to get passwords to move forward and open doors or lockers; or you have to use their knowledge to apply to scientific endeavors, such as communicating in a new language or mixing chemicals. With such little action, I admit to getting a little bored as we entered the third act, and did use a walkthrough (http://www.gameboomers.com/wtcheats/pcEe/Experiment.htm) towards the end, although everything you’ll need has probably shown up in your files at one point or another.

My biggest gripe about the whole game is the absolutely unsatisfactory ending. You work hours toward what you expect will happen, get Lea through the bowels of the ship and into a new land, interact with new life forms and solve mysteries, gain numerous flashbacks that give you insight into what happened on the ship, and have Lea board a vessel bound for her "promised land", only to get an ending cutscene that completely skips over your supposed goal....  :computerfix:  You've got to be kidding me -- the developers do cutscene after cutscene throughout the game, and they can't give me a proper ending? That's beyond lame.

So yeah, disappointing ending, but regardless, I’ll say most adventure gamers will find this worth playing. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 06, 2010, 11:32:54 AM
Needing a quick FPS fix, I quickly played through Contract JACK (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/contractjack/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0), the third game in the No One Live Forever series, which actually takes place between NOLF 1 and 2. And whereas those two games reveled in the 60s, Bond-ian type spy homages, Contract JACK is simply an uninspired, mindless shooter that throws wave after wave of foes at you.

The AI is 95% stupid (sometimes they tip over tables and crouch behind them) and simply charges you, but they’ve all been beefed up so that even two to three headshots are required to kill one, or you’ll literally have to empty your clip into the torso to stop even one foe.

For the story, HARM’s Dmitri Volkov has hired you to take out a competing criminal organization called Danger Danger, which leads you through Czechoslovakia, to a moonbase to attempt the rescue of an Indian mad scientist, and through an Italian countryside and village. If Volkov weren’t in the game, you’d have absolutely no idea that the story had any relation to NOLF. It certainly lacks the charm and humor of the NOLF games – no secret agent gadgets, no funny conversations, no notes and intel to pick up to flesh out the story. Perhaps the only thing slightly humorous is the absolute end of the game, after the credits roll. Jack decides to take revenge on Volkov, and you (in NOLF 2) see the results of his actions. That’s pretty pathetic though.

The game features some drivable vehicles including a snowmobile and a Vespa, but the implementation is poorly done. Truly, the ONLY redeeming factor of the whole game is a space level where you must battle off your foes and incoming meteorites while drifting through space debris. I remembered this scene from my first play-through of the game 6-7 years ago, and it still resonates. That’s the only reason I give this 6.1 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 14, 2010, 08:42:01 AM
After the success of Diablo, every company wanted a piece of that action. Nox (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/nox/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) was Westwood Studio’s answer, and is actually a really decent game. Known initially for mediocre action/adventure games like the Dune series, Legend of Kyrandia and Blade Runner, Westwood is of course now known for the highly successful Command & Conquer series. Maybe Nox, developed in 2000, was the catalyst for changing the game company around??

At any rate, Nox plays like any hack-and-slash, overhead isometric view RPG.... In other words, it’s a lot like Diablo. Where it differs is more in the underlying sense of humor infused throughout, and in how the game engine reacts. The story is that a necromancer sorceress (necromancress??) needs a new power to turn the tide of war in her army’s favor. She somehow latches on to the electricity of your TV set in the modern world, and zap, you get sent to the land of Nox, where you must now regain the source of power to return home, because your wife is cooking sausage. Mmmmmm ... sausage....

The dynamic lighting effects are actually really cool, as the engine only shows you what your own eyes might see, rather than the whole scene lit up. For example, go into a large room with columns, and you can only see in front of the columns, blacking out everything behind them from your perspective. As you circle around the columns, the blackness extends away from you. So sometimes, foes are hiding behind something and you are unable to see them until you’re in line of sight.

Although you can customize what your character looks, like, it really doesn’t make a difference unless you make him all brown and can’t see him on the screen. I just went with bright colors to stand out. Who cares if he has neon orange hair?? Not me! Other than choosing one of three classes – fighter, conjurer (fighter/mage), and mage – that’s where your customization really ends. The computer levels up automatically for you as you gain experience.

One thing the game got right was the overall gameplay balance – I always felt like I was challenged, and that if I just thought smartly, I could get past most anything. Rewards are also balanced; i.e. weapons, armor and treasure. By the end of the game, I had attempted to max out all my gear, some of which kept breaking and needing to be repaired or replaced, and had no gold left over. I hate getting to the end of a game, and having more money than Trump, but nothing to spend it on.

I, for a change, went with the Conjurer class, which had a mix of both magic and physical abilities. I could wield staves, shoot bows/crossbows, and use magic. And apparently, the first 3-4 levels are different for each class, so you might want to try out the other two (although I didn’t). Perhaps your most important spells are Charm, allowing you to draft 2-4 of your enemies onto your team, Fireball, and Giant Fist Coming Down From the Sky and Smashing Things. I think the last had a different name, but I can’t remember....  :turnhappy:  To Charm creatures, you’ll also need scrolls for each specific critter.

The storyline, although broad, is a little chopped up. Once you finish your main task (normally killing off stuff, finding stuff, etc.), your “chapter” ends and a new one begins in a new locale. That’s one of the things I appreciated about Dungeon Siege was that you never left the context of the game-world; in other words, you were the one going to that next city or task, not the computer just dropping you off somewhere.

I mostly enjoyed Nox, and that’s no mean feat for a 10-year-old game. It is difficult to find, but if you just get a hankering for a good ol’ hack-and-slash, Nox should fit the bill and give you a good 20+ hours of fun. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 17, 2010, 09:49:41 AM
Honestly, I think the paid reviewers of Bionic Commando (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/bioniccommando/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1) played a different game than I did, or perhaps they stopped after the first 20 minutes. Because my experience was vastly different than theirs, and most of the recent player review comments also seem in line with mine....

At any rate, I was so impressed by the short tutorial at the start of the game that I intentionally played and cleared out all the other games on my computer so that I wouldn’t have any mental game competition when playing Bionic Commando. I have only done that several times in my gaming life -- that’s how impressed I was with the initial experience.

I never played BC on the early consoles, so I had no background or history, but as I played through, more of it opened up. In this iteration, you are Nathan Spencer, the original Bionic Commando. After helping “Super” Joe free the world from tyranny, it all went downhill. Regular folks got scared of the bionic men and women out there, fearing that they would attempt to take over the world again. So big government passed an anti-bionics act that required all bionics to come in and voluntarily give up their gear. Many who did felt such a keen loss at their “super” powers, that they committed suicide. Several opted to do a Sarah Palin and go rogue. And you? You got shite on a stick – they not only stripped your bionic equipment, but they also made you the fall guy for all bad bionics, sticking you in prison and condemning you to death FOR ACTIONS THAT THE GOVERNMENT FORCED YOU TO TAKE!!! On top of all that, you haven’t seen nor heard from your wife since they initially grafted the bionics to you. That’s a pretty heavy load to take – from being the hero of the world, to getting shafted to the max.

But today, your former enemy has arisen and done the unthinkable – they nuked an entire city with a plasma bomb. And the only thing the glory boys at the top can think to do is to pop you out, grant you a conditional pardon, and send you in after the bad guys. No, there will be no apologies ... you’re a soldier – what do you need an apology for??

So these are the shoes you immediately step into. Nathan Spencer -- the character you play on-screen -- is a huge jerk. There’s no getting around it. Most gamers like to think they are chivalrous and caring, when in reality they are just as guilty of being buttheads. And we don't like that, which is why many of the professional reviewers gave the character such low marks. But I think what the reviewers miss is that Spencer is actually an “anti-hero” in this epic venture. He doesn’t want to be there, he’s been the hero before, and that only got him pain and misery. All he’s concerned about is finding out about his wife; everyone else can go waste themselves. So when he acts like a jerk on screen, there’s a huge underlying reason. I wasn’t as put off by the character as many of the professional reviewers, because I understand the concept of the anti-hero, which is EXTREMELY hard to pull off. Authors have to make the anti-hero overly unbearable to eventually show that there is a slice of humanity in them somewhere. Author Stephen R. Donaldson is a master at this, with his Thomas Covenant fantasy series, and the Gap sci-fi series.

I felt like Spencer was right to show such negative emotions, and as such, I wasn’t turned off by how he acted. (Interestingly, Spencer is voiced by Mike Patton of 80s funk rock bands Faith No More and Mr. Bungle. Another sidenote: a major female character is voiced by Gabrielle Carteris of Beverly Hills 90210 fame. You go girl!!   :onethumb: ) And the game developers do show that there is a kernel of caring emotion in Spencer toward the end of the game, so they did their job in fleshing out the anti-hero.

So that’s the story – how does it play? The main feature of the game is your bionic arm, and everything ties into it: advancing the story, crossing distances, taking out foes, etc. Yes, you have a variety of commonplace weapons (pea shooter, sniper rifle, shotgun, machine gun, rocket launcher), but realistically, those are only good for obtaining the various achievements. And you want the achievements in this game, which net you more powerful weapons and new skills.

If anything, the real hero of the game is your bionic arm. You can use it to pull things toward you, or to pull yourself toward objects. You can whip things up and throw them at foes, like rocks, boxes or even vehicles; or you can “kite” something (including people) off the ground and slam them down. You can “force punch” items off the ground at your enemies. You can whip your arm around in a circle and take everyone down in view. And you can launch yourself off great heights, build up energy and do a “ground pound” that make a mini-shockwave, especially when combined with an adrenaline meter that you build up from kills. It is ALL awesome to play with, and the physics are spot on for everything; i.e. humans weigh less than rocks and thus fling more easily; cars are heavier and take just a touch more effort to pull off the ground and launch, but have more bowling power.

And this is why I cleared my mental calendar: Bionic Commando makes you feel like a super-hero, and gives you the tools (bionic arm) to do so. It's rare for any game to give you that feeling of being awesome and amazing, so I like to relish that feeling for as long as possible.

NEXT: Bionic Commando, Part 2
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 18, 2010, 09:15:01 AM
Continued: Bionic Commando, Part 2
I mentioned the achievements earlier, which generally consist of “stop X enemies using this certain bionic arm feature.” These are fun to accomplish, and accompany the “find the hidden/difficult-to gain tokens” that are scattered all over the place. Some tokens are in plain sight, but require you to swing and/or launch yourself in a certain way to touch them, while others are simply hidden behind features of the game world.

And the game world is rich indeed. As mentioned, your enemies nuked an entire city, so when you arrive, your first view is of a destroyed downtown, where skyscrapers are bombed out (making a perfect home for you to swing around in!). Radiation lurks everywhere, so you’re never sure if you’ll be safe approaching an area or not. One of the complaints of reviewers was that the radiation made the path more or less linear. I somewhat agree, but I also think the radiation offers a risk factor that wouldn’t normally be present in such a linear game, bringing your adrenalin level up appropriately.

From downtown, you’ll encounter your first true obstacle – a floating minefield – which will pose further obstacles / access routes through the rest of the game. You’ll need to turn off the mine field by accessing a data dump, which normally are protected by a variety of humans, mechs and rogue bionics. The data dumps also give you some intel on the state of the enemy. Once the minefield is off, you can use them to cross vast distances safely.

The game gives you plenty to gawk at – the downtown leads to a flooded city (and your metal doesn’t float, so you’ll have to find a safe way across), through a cavern system created by a tunneling mechanical boss, into a scenic park, through a deluged industrial district, out to an oilrig, onto a huge walking spider, and finally to the finale level. Levels are huge and have lots of opportunity to explore, radiation notwithstanding. They are gorgeously designed, and the accompanying vistas of the world you cannot reach are marvelous. I do wish I could have played through two levels – a huge vertical skyscraper, and the oilrig itself – but these were relegated to cutscenes.

I mentioned the bosses... well certainly the most impressive was the tunneling mechanical Mohole. You are trapped in a parking lot with this towering behemoth, whipping cars at it, running away/toward it – it was all very frantic, but very fun and cool and memorable. The other bosses are generally enhanced mechs or rogue bionics that you must overcome. And the finale fight is essentially a quicktime event where you skip from flying mech to flying mech – I’ve mentioned before I dislike QTEs, but these weren’t really any problem for me.

Although you have no quicksaves, the game will autosave for you throughout, and if you have to replay an area, it’s generally not a real far distance you’ll have to traverse. I did have maybe 2-3 times that I cursed this system, but overall it was fine.

So your character is a jerk – big deal. We all are at some time or another, especially if we’ve been royally screwed over. Get past that, understand that Spencer just wants to find his wife (and the answer to that question is as shocking and unexpected as one can imagine!), and you’ll find a rich game that will satisfy your fun quotient for a long time, leaving you with a memorable gaming experience. I only wish there could be a sequel to continue the journey, but with the closing of GRIN Games, that looks highly unlikely. 8.5 out of 10


Almost forgot, you might find this handy to see how to gain the BC Achievements & Challenges (http://faqs.ign.com/articles/986/986369p1.html).  :onethumb:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 21, 2010, 08:55:03 AM
A Note About Developer Grin Games
GRIN developed Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (PC); Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 (PC); Bionic Commando Rearmed (downloadable via Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, PC); Bionic Commando (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC); Wanted: Weapons of Fate (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC) and Terminator Salvation (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC). The last three were the latest titles that were released in 2009. However, poor reception, and the removal of a Final Fantasy spinoff codenamed Fortress, forced Grin to file for bankruptcy on August 12th, 2009, and to announce that the company was closing down.

I have reviewed the last three games, and with hindsight, I can see how the mechanics of each somewhat assisted the next. Terminator Salvation was basically a Gears of War clone and used cover mechanics to go from one point to another to hide from foes, but it was too short (4-5 hours) and the same 3-4 foes got old quick. Wanted reused the cover mechanic, but improved it significantly, so that it’s the best I’ve played; unfortunately, it suffered from the same type of problem – hide behind cover and shoot back against the same types of foes. However, the parabolas used to develop Wanted’s bullet-bending could have been used toward Bionic Commando’s arm whipping mechanics. BC is definitely the best of the games, had a greater “fun” factor, longer length, richer storyline, and more interesting foes.

RIP Grin – I think you could have made a great impact with your next game, if the growth shown to date is any indication.
 :'(
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 27, 2010, 05:57:39 PM
Batman: Arkham Asylum (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/batmanarkhamasylum/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B2) is not just the best super-hero game I’ve ever played – it’s also one of the best games PERIOD that I’ve ever played. I would place it on par with Deus Ex in terms of brilliance.

That’s heavy praise indeed for someone who’s been slogging through mediocre shooters, action games, and adventure thrillers over the past year. Not one of them has reached BAA’s level of perfection. In fact, the ONLY things that detracted from a perfect score for BAA is that I had some clipping issues that wouldn’t allow me to move further without the use of a trainer. But more on that in a bit.

The story is pure bliss, because it automatically relates you to your character of Batman in everything that you do. Everyone should know WHO Batman is, so you move beyond the need to identify his origins (which is actually done in an interesting way through ... nah, don't want to spoil it  ;) ) straight into a night that devolves into a nightmare. Within minutes of escorting the Joker back to Arkham Asylum, where he somehow escaped, he springs a well-defined trap against Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and Arkham’s hierarchy, security and medical staff.

Joker has you right where he wants you – on an island in Gotham Harbor – with no one else to rely upon but yourself. As the game progresses, you do get some assistance from the Arkham staff, and also from Oracle (formerly Batgirl before Bane snapped her spine in half). But most importantly, your handy utility belt gets you out of more scrapes than anything.

The first part of the game serves as a training scenario, allowing you to learn how to fight and block your enemies, stringing your moves together into more powerful combos. You learn about Detective Vision, which gives you an eye to resources that Batman might need. You face off against your first boss battle. And most intriguingly, you start down the Riddler’s trail, picking up nearly 250 clues scattered around the game’s environs that lead to more insight, special achievements, and new rewards. In fact, the integration of the Riddler’s riddles was an over-riding fun factor for me to explore and run through the same areas multiple times.

Arkham consists of a series of buildings on the island, some connected by tunnels. Within the larger map, you can choose which buildings to enter, and sometimes how. Within the buildings themselves, you often are relegated to a one-way path. You will probably go through each destination at least 2-3 times, especially if you are attempting to get all the Riddler’s clues. But I never got bored about traversing the maps, because the detail and design were top-notch uses of the Unreal 3 engine. (Speaking of detail, over the course of the evening, you start seeing cuts in Batman’s cape and armor, scratches on his face, etc. – GREAT level of detail there!)

Occasionally, you’ve got to tackle a boss fight, which vary in intensity: some have you going against tough ultra-steroid creatures such as Bane; some throw wave upon wave of critters at you; and some simply have you outrunning your foes. Occasionally, the villain Scarecrow will pop up and you’ll enter another realm of the Scarecrow’s making, which mixes the gameplay up nicely. You’ll also tackle some environmental puzzles that require use of your Detective Vision and your utility belt.

The number of Batman’s enemies you get to interact with are fantastic, and some are still left out of the puzzle, so one can hope you’ll get to size them up in BAA 2, which should be out shortly. Over all is the king of the crazies – Joker himself – and the way he and Batman finish the game is epic. Also, the voice-acting is amazingly done, with Star Wars' Mark Hamill reprising his role as Joker from the animated Batman series. Batman, although not played by Christian Bale, is done perfectly, and so are the rest of the villains and supporting roles.

For a game that has you mostly in hand-to-hand fighting, the number of keyboard buttons required is minimal. Basically you’ve got a button to fight (punch, kick, throw), one to block, two for batarang and bat-hook, one for actions (pick up, climb over), and one for movement (run, etc.). And that’s mostly it! Sure, a few extra ones for occasional use, but overall, it’s very simple to master, and Batman moves fluidly. And I never felt like I was in an impossible situation in these fights, as long as I could move out of the way in time.

Okay, so if you’re keeping score, I’ve got:
- STORY: Awesome!
- GRAPHICS: Awesome!
- LEVEL DESIGN: Awesome!
- VOICE-ACTING: Awesome!
- GAMEPLAY: Awesome!
- FUN FACTOR: Awesome!

So why can’t I give it a full 10 out of 10, you ask? About 5 times I encountered some areas where I would have Batman in a room, and need to climb up/bat-hook grapple a vent or opening above me. Where in 99% of the cases the computer would automatically notify me that I could grapple to that spot, these few scenarios never did so. If I did get a grapple notice, it would actually pull me out of the room, across the length of the map and dump me outside the actual level design itself. The only way I was able to nab these openings was by using a trainer, switching on zero gravity (because none I found had no-clip), and flap my arms to “fly” high enough that Batman *might* grasp the opening when he got close enough. These were infrequent enough that they didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the game, but they did offer some serious hair-pulling incidents.

But overall, I HIGHLY recommend Batman: Arkham Asylum, and tell you that you owe it to yourself to play this gem of a game. 9.5 out of 10

 :onethumb:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Joshua-kun on June 28, 2010, 03:12:47 PM
I have to thoroughly agree with your review, Bob.  I have the Xbox 360 version, and it is indeed a masterpiece.  Doubtless one of the best Superhero games ever.

<comicgeek>
Quick correction, though: I believe Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) was paralyzed due to the Joker shooting her in the Killing Joke; Bane actually snapped BATMAN'S back. </comicgeek>
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 28, 2010, 04:53:43 PM
Well, on Earth-12, my version is correct....  :lol:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: The Rogue Wolf on June 28, 2010, 06:11:08 PM
Also gonna agree about Arkham Asylum. I honestly couldn't tell you what I loved more- the flowing, bone-crunch-ballet maneuvers Batman pulls off when somehow outmatching nine beefy inmates at hand-to-hand combat (I got a 32-hit combo once, I swear to you, it was a work of ART), or the predatorial satisfaction of hunting down five cocky and heavily-armed thugs from the rafters, one by one, until the last one is literally shaking in his boots and firing wildly at shadows.

The last battle was kind of... meh. But it was a hell of a buildup, and the ending was sweet.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 30, 2010, 05:22:11 PM
It’s not that Crysis Warhead (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/crysiswarhead/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is a bad game – it’s just that we’ve all already played its like before, dozens, if not hundreds of times over. Maybe playing 20+ hours of Crysis mods spoiled me, but on booting this game up, I was bored within seconds. That’s not a great attitude to start a game, believe me! But the things I do for you, my adoring fans, is unbelievable.... ;)

CW travels the same linear path as the first game, and is set as an “alternate” view of the events through Joker’s eyes. Or at least that’s who I think I was playing. [I just did some research – it seems my codename was “Psycho” – who knew!? And more importantly, who cares?] Psycho is going through some stuff on the opposite side of Korea at the same time that Nomad is doing something in the original game. You go through forests, Korean Army encampments, more forests, an underground mine, even more forests, a moving train level, frozen forests, and finally an intense airfield affair.

Action is pretty hot throughout, and generally you’re on your own except for a few areas where allied soldiers take off some of the heat. Most levels and set-pieces are pretty uninteresting, although there’s an area outside the underground mine that lends itself to a manic firefight with the aliens. And the finale battle is very intense on a lot of levels.

Voice-acting is pretty decent, and Psycho establishes himself as a cocky, arrogant Brit, who eventually shows a different side to his character. Supposedly he is crazy, so that’s why you got volunteered into this scenario. There’s some pilot who keeps buzzing you and supposedly screwed up in the past. I wanted to see him lay Psycho to waste, but such was not meant to be.

I regret that some of the coolest scenes take place in cutscenes – not in the game. What could have been a cool final battle with the Korean leader turns into a movie that you watch sans popcorn. Ah well.

There’s a suit, and I think I used it once or twice. Poor gimmick, really. You have guns. You shoot them. A lot. And sometimes the Koreans fall down after 12 headshots. You drive some vehicles around. They get shot out from underneath you in no time and you explode. You reload.

So, not a bad game, but not inspired in any way. 8.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 05, 2010, 10:58:00 AM
Gothic Family, Part 1

I’ve mentioned before that my favorite RPG series is definitely Gothic – I love the little touches about the games: how there is treasure hidden and tucked away wherever you roam, enticing you to explore everything; how you can choose multiple paths to follow and multiple groups to ally with; how you start the game as a fledgling who gets his butt kicked by every critter on the scene, and then gradually grow in power and skill until you can take on nearly any foe.

Gothic (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/gothic/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B8) started it all off, and you can see the flashes of brilliance that eventually led to its sequel Gothic 2, which I consider perfection indeed. Gothic has those exploratory areas, but in some cases, where you think you should find something special (a cave located up on a hillside), nothing’s there. Perhaps the most troubling thing behind the original game is the controls, which are absolutely ridiculous. The first time I played, it took me hours to figure out the controls to my liking, so this is definitely one area that needed attention and was later addressed in the sequels.

I also had a continuing bug through about the first three “chapters” of the story that would randomly kick me out to the desktop, saying something about an Orc’s axe was misplaced or somesuch. Then it would take like 5-6 tries to reboot the game before it would finally catch. This was extra annoying, even though the game loaded ultra quickly. But somehow the game internally reset itself after those first few chapters, and I barely saw this bug again. So you will need to save, and save often. If you kill an animal, save. If you walk 50 feet, save. If you just bought something, save.

However, the story is so rich, the ability to level up is so broad, the characters so real, that you can get past the control issue on this game with some practice. You’ll get to choose from three different camps to start, and this play-through (my third), I decided to go sorcerer with the Magicians of Fire. Turns out, I became so powerful, and was able to level up so much faster, that I could also boost up all my other attributes to be able to handle the strongest swords and bows/crossbows, as well as all levels of magic. Simply awesome!

The key to playing the Gothic games is to play all sides against the middle: take assignments from everyone and don’t commit to one camp until you’ve cleared off all of them possible. Then keep working with everyone to continue gaining experience. In Gothic, you’ve also got to pay for and choose which skills you want to enhance through trainers – it doesn’t happen automatically.

Perhaps the key difference between the Gothic series and Morrowind/Oblivion is that you don’t have that annoying thing where all your foes level up with you and appear randomly. Once you clean out an area in Gothic, you feel like you’ve actually mastered something, and it stays cleaned out for quite some time. It’s an awesome feeling to know you took out some really tough creatures and can now walk through an area with pride.

I can only say that this is a great game with so much going on, and so many elements to keep you entertained for 50-60 hours. It does have some bugs and some control issues, but overall, this is a great, although fractured, masterpiece that you should attempt to play if you get the chance. 8.1 out of 10

Next: Gothic 2
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 07, 2010, 03:11:05 PM
Gothic Family, Part 2

I consider Gothic 2 (with Night of the Raven add-on) (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/gothiciigold/index.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssimilargames&tag=similargames%3Bimg%3B4) to be the pinnacle of RPG awesomeness. Developer Piranha Bytes took all the criticism leveled at the original game and made the sequel even better.

The story begins with you (The Nameless Hero) waking up from your actions in Gothic 1, namely killing some critter and destroying the magical bubble that kept you caged in the penal colony. However, in doing so, the world has been upended -- quakes have shaken the island you're on and threaten its stability. The mage Xardas is there from the start to give you advice, mostly of the "Get us off this island!!" variety.

So, like the original, you must venture forth into the huge island of Khorinis, which is strategic to King Rhobar's defense against the Orc armies threatening the land of Myrtana. This will give you the opportunity to once again choose among three separate factions -- soldiers, mages and mercenaries -- to effect change upon the land. With the Night of the Raven add-on, you'll also be introduced to the underground thief faction. Gain their trust, and you'll get the chance to enter a whole new dimension filled with pirates and lizard men.

In all, both brought me some 90-100+ hours of intense RPG action, as you search every corner of the world, fulfill quests, and level up. I loved that the game designers hand-placed treasure, bonuses and notes all around, for those who are clever and choose to explore further. For example, under the first bridge into town, you'll find change (gold) underneath the bridge, as well as some odds and ends further down the dry stream bed, which were washed up there.

Like the original, you are effectively barred (by wildlife) from entering certain areas if you haven't matured enough as a player. However, once you clean those areas out, they remain mostly empty through the future.

You'll also get to visit the former colony from Gothic 1, although not in its entirety, due to the earthquakes, and the wooden barricade that the Orcs have erected in certain areas. But you will meet ALL of your old friends and foes from the original game, who take starring roles in this game and serve as your mentors.

Yes, G2 still has some control quirks, but the game world is as alive as ever, you have multiple ways to define your character, and the storyline is one of the richest out there. This is my very favorite RPG, and is among my Top 5 game list. 9.2 out of 10

Next: Gothic 3
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 09, 2010, 06:52:29 AM
Gothic Family, Part 3

Gothic 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/gothic3/index.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssimilargames&tag=similargames%3Bimg%3B2) brought the world of Myrtana into next-gen graphics, but somehow missed the mark. I’ve detailed my playthrough of the game here (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=803.msg5937#msg5937), but generally, the game had too much “sameness” to it, unlike how the first two games seemed to be unique in all respects. As such I rated it 8 out of 10.


Gothic 3: Forsaken Gods (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/gothic3forsakengods/index.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssimilargames&tag=similargames%3Bimg%3B1) is the official add-on to Gothic 3. It is also the worst of the series. You see, when Gothic 3 got slammed for its many bugs, publisher JoWood pulled the series from game developer Piranha Bytes and then gave this half-ass add-on to an Indian game company called Trine Games. I’m not knocking Trine because they are Indian (although some of the writing is bizarre, to say the least), but because they managed to take what was already a buggy POS and magnify it times 1000!!

I gave Forsaken Gods a good 8-10 hours to get a feel for it (and I did install the 3 current patches), and each hour had me checking my watch, wondering why I was wasting my life here when I could be scraping the gum off the local school bleachers instead. Yeah ... that bad.

The story starts as this: after the end of G3, where you (The Nameless Hero) and Xardas walk off into the sunset, you start looking over all the work you did in Myrtana. And you are not happy. Gorn, Lee and some of your other old buds are taking power to their head and re-starting the war all over again. Just when you had brought some peace and civility to the land! You and Xardas have a spat over it, there’s a flash of light, and you wake up in Sildern, where some guy named Anog (or Inog – they’re twins) tells you what’s shaking in the old town tonight. You are not happy, again, and you decide to set things right your way.

Anog (Inog?) gives you some orders before he’ll back your claims as The Nameless Hero. And here’s where this mess of a game begins. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but TNH is a complete jerk, in everything he says and does. His tasks are mean-spirited, he’s arrogant, and completely unlikeable as a character. Throughout the series, I could identify with TNH because he was mostly neutral, and just trying to get stuff done. In Forsaken Gods, TNH has an agenda to bring peace to Myrtana whether they like it or not!

So bad writing, sure, but then it just gets worse. Example: one of your tasks is to find and kill a traitor in Anog’s village named (I think) Akon. You also must bring Anog’s brother Inog over from another village, so they can support your claims to free Myrtana. However, Inog alternately tasks you with collecting taxes from Akon. Since you’ve already killed Akon, you can’t complete the task for Inog. If you can’t complete the task, you can’t convince Inog to go with you to visit Anog; ergo, neither of them will support you in freeing Myrtana, and the game won’t progress.

So after that, you’re basically just free-running all over the land with no goals in sight. But even that sucks. Where G3 was a game teeming with life at every moment, Forsaken Gods is empty and barren. You find treasure chests galore, but caves are deserted, fields are deserted, forests are deserted. I bet in 10 hours, the most wild animals I fought was less than 50 total. In G3, you would have already fought at least 10 times that number.

And the cherry on top? The graphics are horrendous and make G3 seem like a dream in comparison. It’s as if Trine took the original G3, ran it through a copier and then pasted it back onto a blank canvas. Graphics are often fuzzy, and there are zillions of graphical “anomalies” scattered in every type of texture: on rocks and trees and water and buildings and walls. Quick saves are adequate, but quick loads?? Get your book ready for that one.

So the story sucks, the task system sucks, gameplay sucks, graphics suck. I was actually relieved when the game crashed, and upon recovery, Norton said it found a huge piece of malware on my hard drive called G3fg.exe and automatically removed it. Do yourself a huge favor and for any love you might have of Gothic, don’t pick up this game. 4.6 out of 10

Next: Gothic 4?
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 10, 2010, 08:02:17 AM
Gothic Family, Part 4

Rounding out my reviews of the Gothic family is Risen (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/risen/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1), the “spiritual” successor to the Gothic franchise by the same game developer Piranha Bytes. Where they erred on G3, PB has attempted to make amends here. The end result is completely satisfying in so many ways, and in my mind makes this the 2nd-best game in the “family” compared to G2.

It’s hard to describe, but everything about it just feels “right.” The story is that you are another Nameless Hero who crashlanded on an island where mages are trying to call up some elemental forces of nature for their own ill ends. You must ally yourself with one of three factions (rebels, soldiers or mages) and stop this from happening. You’ll meet many creatures that seem so familiar from the previous Gothic games. Graphics are great but not so over-the-top that they stress your system, nor do things look plastic-y like in G3. Hidden items and treasure hunts make it worthwhile to explore every nook and cranny. And the personalities of the many people you’ll meet are refreshing.

I loved Risen – just loved it. It was another lengthy (60+ hours) affair that felt like putting on an old T-shirt that I hadn’t seen in some time... comfortable, familiar, satisfying. A few niggling broken quests and the knowledge that G2 is slightly better bring the score down to 8.6 out of 10.


And coming in Q4 2010 is Arcania: Gothic 4 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/gothic4/index.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssimilargames&tag=similargames%3Bimg%3B2) from new developer Spellbound. Initial teaser videos look promising, but so did Gothic 3’s.... I'll be intrigued to give this a test when it comes out.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 15, 2010, 12:45:25 PM
Syberia 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/syberia2/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) completes the story arc begun in the first game, where your character Kate is a lawyer from New York who has been sent to France to expedite a buyout of an automaton plant there. Unfortunately, Kate learns that the owner who died may not have been the only one with rights to the company. So you’ve got to find the owner’s brother Hans and convince him to sign over the company for the sale. Getting to Hans is quite the challenge though, and forces you to use your wits to get past a plethora of challenges.

Once you reach Hans, you learn that he has dreamed of a “lost” island in northern Russia called Syberia. What makes it unique is that living mammoths are supposed to be found there. Hans asks you to accompany him to Syberia and learn the truth. Along the way, you may learn the truth about yourself too.

Thus begins Syberia 2, an adventure game of the point-and-click variety. You must use your mouse to search every highly detailed scene for “hotspots” that might indicate something to pick up or an activity to complete. I played through the game on a long Saturday, with some occasional forays into a handy walkthrough. Mostly I could figure everything out, so in a way, it was perhaps simpler than the original game, and certainly half the length.

From what I remember of playing the original Syberia, it was filled with intricately designed locales that took your breath away. You often encountered mechanical puzzles where you’d have to use an item on some automated mechanism before moving  forward. Syberia 2 has a few puzzles, but mostly relies upon using an inventory item on a “hotspot” on screen. It also features some unimpressive destinations, barring the underground cavern 2/3rds into the game.

Unfortunately, many pieces of the game feel tacked on to try and extend the length just a little more. For example, the narrative is continuously interrupted by your former boss in New York, who has hired a private detective to find you. There is no conclusion to these actions, so this was all just wasted space. The narrative also changes from the puzzle format of the first game to more of a “journey” -- you are along for the ride to fulfill Hans’ dream of getting to Syberia. It also introduces a minor “foil” to the story, an adversary that you must outwit on various occasions, and much of the storyline is due to your actions with this adversary.

But it does have the cutest seal-dog thing I’ve ever seen!! :)  In the end, it was an interesting journey, the game is quick and simplified for most people to figure everything out, and there is a proper payoff to the story arc, so I’ll give it 7.8 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 20, 2010, 08:38:25 AM
Dark Sector (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/darksector/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is a decent 3rd-person shooter that has some memorable gameplay elements, but ultimately falls flat in the end. I got about 3/4ths through the game and basically got bored with it and didn’t actually finish it. [Yes, I know – BAD REVIEWER!!! But at least I’m being honest about the game’s true appeal.]

The essence of the story is that you are some special ops dude who is having second guesses about your job, but you’ve been guilted into moving forward. Some bad guy has developed a virus and intends to unleash it upon the world, so your job is to take him out. Unfortunately, when you find him, he infects YOU with the virus!! Interestingly, it causes your arm to mutate and create a bladed glaive that you can throw or melee up close. Like Bionic Commando, the true hero for this game is your mutated glaive.

Besides just taking out enemies, the glaive is necessary to get past various environmental obstacles. Charge the glaive when it turns yellow and open chained locks. Take control of the glaive in flight and steer it towards enemies or through gaps. Hit electricity, flames or frozen tanks to affect your foes or the black gloop blocking your path. Use it to shield and redirect fire back to your enemies. It’s like a can-opener (for decapitation) and screwdriver, all in one!! But wait, there’s more!!!

The graphics at the start of the game are filmed in a sepia tone, indicating a flashback scene, but nothing else captures that essence. Graphically, the game is beautiful – buildings and surroundings are nicely realized and everything has an overall darker “mood” and “grittiness” due to the lighting. Overall, you’ll venture through destroyed buildings, city streets, sewers, abandoned churches and other locales. Perhaps the most interesting level takes place on board a freighter, where you must fight off zombies while navigating various environmental hazards – all with a countdown blaring in your ear. It made for one hectic push!

Your foes are tough and range from some fast zombie types to armored grunts to mechs to missile-firing helicopters to infected enemies to mutated bosses. The zombies are ultra creepy, generally because you have to take them on in dark rooms, but also because they’ll grapple you and you must use a hotkey to kick them off. The grunts take up strategic position behind cover and are hard to hit with your glaive or guns, and some of them approach you with shields, requiring a two-step process of stunning them with the glaive and then following up with your guns. Mechs and helicopters need missiles or the glaive to finish off. And the mutated bosses require a mix of gunfire and strategic glaive use.

Level design is a (mostly) straight line from Point A to Point B, with some searching for secrets (ammo, cash or weapon upgrades) along the way. Characters are introduced, but quickly discarded, all taking place in cutscenes rather than within the game. Weapons are decent and can be upgraded at black market shops found in the sewers (accessible through manholes on most levels). Saves are allocated at the start of each level and in several key locations in-level. For a recent game with such high graphics, boot time is remarkably fast for each level load.

One huge complaint was the amount of time it took to reconfigure the key bindings, which required me to open up one of the .ini files and tediously go through and rewrite the whole code for that section. When I attempted to reconfigure in-game, it would only allow me to save certain bindings, and sometimes none at all. So this was a hassle I didn’t really want or need ... but it is a console port so at least they tried??

Dark Sector is not a bad game – it just lacks any motivation to continue playing after the first part of the game. You’ll likely get 10-12 hours of game time out of it, but you’ll probably realize that you could have been playing something more interesting. 6.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 30, 2010, 03:17:37 PM
For what it is – a freestyle, open-world racing game – Fuel  (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/driving/fuel2009/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B2) is a nice distraction from what you’ve probably been playing. You get a huge world to roam around in, with limited structure to define the game’s overall outline.

Basically, Fuel consists of races that you must win to earn stars. With more stars, you can unlock new zones within the game world, as well as new races. Within those zones, you can then take on optional contest races that earn you fuel, which is used to buy and upgrade vehicles.

And a huge selection of vehicles it is: motorcycles, three-wheelers, four-wheeled ATVs, race cars, monster trucks, monster MONSTER semi-trucks, etc. Races will only allow you to choose certain vehicles to participate, which is where earning the fuel comes in. Each vehicle of a certain type has numerous characteristics: some are faster, better off- or on-road, have more traction, etc. Generally speaking, try to get the best vehicle available to ensure you’re better than the other racers.

The final bit of gameplay is a free-roam mode, where you can drive around to your heart’s content. On the way, you might open up more contest races, or get new art designs for your vehicles, or simply visit various scenic locales.

However, after you’ve done this a couple of times, you’ll probably have the same epiphany that I did – that the game is actually pretty boring. You’ll race the same types of races in each zone, just through different scenery. Racing fanatics (Stubby!!) probably will find this a great game, because there’s no story, no distractions and no underlying urge to do anything else but race and drive around.

But after playing open-world games like Saints Row 2 (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg10277#msg10277), where racing is core to moving the story forward, or you’re rewarded for your racing / jumping skills, Fuel just comes off as a bit empty. The opening cutscene seems to imply that the world has just been devastated, and so now you’re just driving around, wasting gas that can’t even be pumped out again? Bit of a disconnect, I’d say.

Try it out if you’re a hard-core racer. If you’re not, pick up something else that has more gas for the long run. 6.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 01, 2010, 09:20:44 AM
Manhunt 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/manhunt2/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) (link to PS2 version provided) doesn’t quite meet the atmospheric level of the original game (reviewed earlier by me here (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg9820#msg9820)), and I found it slightly disappointing in that regard. The first game washed you with feelings of dark dread, such that you were scared to move out of the safe shadows because you had to sneak up on your foes and take them out quietly lest you arouse their chums. Everything was hands-on and up-close dirty work.

In the sequel, they’ve dumbed it down significantly. You obtain a gun about one-third of the way through the game, and never really have to worry about sneaking past your foes any more – just blow them away from afar. That simple design choice removes the dread that permeated the original game. Additionally, I hardly ever had to replay sections from dying.

I did appreciate that the sequel didn’t force me to pull off any of the trickier Executions (requiring you to stay motionless behind your enemies for a significant length of time) to move forward. I also felt the story was more concise, with a bit of a surprise at the end. While in the first game, you were an escaped convict, in the sequel, you are on the lam from a secret “Project” that you once were part of. I think you started killing off some people because the Project leaders messed with your mind, and they decided to finish you off for good.

Level design is not as distinctive as the original game (whose zoo was a humdinger), but tends to make sense overall as you move forward. You’ll do a lot of wet-work in office buildings and neighborhoods, so the settings are a bit tame.

I did actually finish the game, which is more than I can say for several other recent games, and the length is a good 10-12 hours, so it does provide some decent value. What else can I say: it’s not as good as the original, but is definitely worth kicking around if you find it on the cheap. 7.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 09, 2010, 10:35:10 AM
Wolfenstein (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/returntocastlewolfenstein2006/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1) is a delightful FPS oozing tons of atmosphere. Initially, I had some trepidation that perhaps my computer wouldn’t be able to handle it, but the game runs so smooth, it’s unbelievable. Levels load in like 5-10 seconds and I never had any slowdowns. Part of this is because it uses the aging Quake 4 engine, but it still looks purdy.

Wolfenstein is of course the sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein (RTCW), which itself was a great FPS. In this go-round, you again play B.J. Blaskowicz and have been sent to Europe to take care of more Nazi paranormal activities. This time, those nasty Nazis have broken the Veil between our world and that of the Black Sun, which is I suppose an antimatter universe. The Veil is only accessible by use of special crystals that the ancient Thule religion used to venerate. And although you quickly become the only holder of a special multi-powered crystal disc, the Nazis have been able to put the crystals to use in other ways.

The game is almost an open gameworld, allowing you to tool around the city of Isengrad, go into sewers, enter various buildings, etc., but it’s probably more accurate to call the game world a modified hub system. Within the city, you can visit several safe houses, where you will receive special assignments that then allow you to leave the hub en route to various locales. Within these locales, and within the city itself, you can find special mystic tomes that increase your crystal’s power, intel items that give you more information on what you’ll come up against, and of course gold, which can be used in various black market pawnshops to upgrade your gear. This “treasure hunt” reminded me somewhat of No One Lives Forever 2 in this regard.

Levels span the scope of a single officer’s home to a canning factory to a farm with a HUUUUUUGGGGGEEEE underground laboratory to a hospital to an SS barracks to a creepy castle to the finale onboard a Nazi zeppelin. It’s all good fun, and some of RTCW’s opponents return here, such as the black leather-clad female assassins. But there are a host of other new foes, many which are linked to the aforementioned crystals. You also get the return of the Boss Fight.

Breaking the Veil with your crystal will be necessary both to move forward into seemingly blocked areas, and to face down certain foes. And it also gives you a huge advantage in many situations. Entering the Veil automatically makes your foes light up green, so you can see them hiding around the corner. One application stops time and also sends a blast into your enemies that instantly disintegrates them. Another blocks your foes bullets and even sends them flying back. Piercing the Veil also allows you to see hidden ladders and openings in walls.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this game and can definitely recommend it to you as a great FPS. 8.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Review : "Wolfenstein"
Post by: GreyMouser on August 09, 2010, 05:20:54 PM
Good review, Bobdog!....:thumbsup:
I enjoyed the game too....; up until the final boss battle, which I totally hated!....:alieninvasion:
Not that it's hard or anything. I just hated the whole design of the setting....:P
I mean.....first you start on stage with rotating columns,....then you fight your enemy on some M. C. Escher looking platform...then you fight your way up a winding ascending path to, finally, the last battle ground,...a mountain top plateau of ruins of ancient buildings....
This seemed way too familiar to me and I really didn't enjoy playing through that part!....I thought it was lame and ruined the game.... :P
But... then again,...that's just me....::)
If I ever were to play the game over again, I'm definitely going to skip that part.... :ok:


.........................:smoking:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 07, 2010, 07:00:18 AM
Let’s get this out of the way quickly – Rogue Warrior (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/roguewarrior/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is probably the shortest, most foul-mouthed excuse for a AAA-labeled FPS that I’ve ever seen. It should take you all of 2-3 hours to play through the single-player portion of the game, but do not even attempt it if you’re leery of bad language, because of that two hours, voice actor Mickey Rourke certainly spends 90 minutes channeling all the worst language ever spoken, written or thought. I thought Kane & Lynch were bad, but those two have nothing on this game!

The story is that you play real-life former Navy Seal and now wet-work merc Dick Marchenko, of whom a whole series of cheap dime-store paperbacks have been written. And certainly if you just put his work to pen, it should make a pretty satisfying game to play through. In this case, the Koreans and Russians are working on some new missiles and missile defense plans (in the early 1980s) that Dick has to disrupt.

Gameplay is primarily first-person, but switches to third-person when you enter cover or take ladders/ropes. The graphics are pretty decent, although there’s not much interactivity allowed; i.e. no physics or other realism allowed. Wooden or plastic boxes serve as cover from which Dick can crouch behind and take potshots, but never disintegrate. And pathing is generally one-way along corridor crawls, with a few open areas thrown in for measure.

The only really unique part of the game is too short-lived – when Dick approaches a clueless enemy (shown in green on your radar, with red enemies looking for you), he is able to pull off some pretty satisfying silent kills. Unfortunately, you’ll only get to do these on the first 3 or 4 enemies before the enemy goes into alarm mode, after which it becomes yet another shoot-out to the finish line.

If Rogue Warrior were at least 5 times longer, featured a greater diversity of landscapes, and definitely toned down the language, I could give it a pretty decent recommendation, because behind it all, it’s not a bad shooter. But we’ve got so many other games to give us more value for our gaming dollar, that releasing something like this at full price is the ultimate slap in the face to hard-working gamers. 3.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 09, 2010, 06:26:29 AM
Red Faction: Guerrilla (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/redfactioniii/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) switches from being a first-person shooter to a third-person open-world action game. The result is a lengthier, more robust game that builds upon the previous history of the series, while plowing new territory. In this iteration, you are Alex Mason and you’ve headed up to Mars to join your brother as a construction worker. Unfortunately, your bro is a Red Faction rebel, determined to bring the Earth Defense Force (EDF) down. Someone gets killed, revenge becomes real, and thus your role as rebel through the next 20+ hours.

Like any open-world game, you have a mixture of activities you can do, all of which increase your skills as a saboteur, allow you to mine mineral deposits, raise the morale of the rebels, destroy EDF facilities, and drive the EDF out of different districts. The first lesson you learn is that scrap is this planet’s currency, and you need a lot to buy and upgrade your gear. And how do you get scrap? By large-scale demolition – oh yeah!! Your hammer (which can also be upgraded) is a major tool, as are a wide diversity of explosive, rockets, electrical arc welders, and even explosive saw blades.

Gameplay can get a little slow towards the midpoint, as it feels like you’re doing the same tasks over and over: follow/stop that vehicle, rescue those hostages, hold off the EDF, raid an EDF facility. But when you finally start seeing the results of your initiatives against the EDF regime, and the districts start falling behind you with support, then it gets interesting again. The final two districts switch up gameplay a bit and allow you to man satellite-controlled rockets against EDF forces, while the finale battle is a pretty brutal affair.

I admit to lowering my difficulty to the lowest level, because even the medium level was just too much to take on, when you hit the red alert and everyone and their dog is on your tail. The lowest setting gave me just enough challenge without all the headache. Some of the controls are wonky, being from a console port, but I was able to manage through them.

Graphically, each of the 8 districts are fairly unique in setting, although certainly all of them have lots of valleys and craters and an overall red tone. Night and day cycles take place. And the new Geo-Mod engine they are using is wickedly awesome, with everything (except for the rocks) able to be torn apart. I think my only gripe graphically is that the cut-scenes seem to be lower resolution than in-game; maybe because this is a console port.

So overall: big game world, lots to do, a real sense of purpose to free Mars, lots and lots and lots of detailed destruction, challenging but possible to win. A very good game for your consideration. 8.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 13, 2010, 06:38:14 AM
I’ve decided to bundle the following four games – all by developer City Interactive – into the same review, as they’re all so similar in style and design. And they're all budget-ware, so keep that in mind.

Code of Honor 1 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/codeofhonorthefrenchforeignlegion/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is a FPS knock-off of the Medal of Honor series, but based on the French Foreign Legion. The first game is set along the Ivory Coast of Africa, so you’ll play through a lot of arid desert. Although the game sports a dozen or so levels, they recycle four maps pretty shamelessly, and you can play through the whole game in probably 4-5 hours. Regardless, the gameplay itself is pretty decent, with fairly tough AI. Graphics are definitely last-gen, but on a par with the original MOH. Go in without any high expectations, and you might actually enjoy this. 6.1 out of 10

Code of Honor 3: Desperate Measures (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/codeofhonor3desperatemeasures/index.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssimilargames&tag=similargames%3Bimg%3B1), despite supposedly being based in France, never appears to feature any of the customary landmarks, even though the box cover shows the Eiffel Tower. In other words, the only reason you know you’re operating in France is because you’re told so. Levels run the range of being on an airline, in an airport, a Russian druglord’s villa, sewers, and lots and lots of tunnels.

Graphically, this FPS is light years ahead of the first game in the series (I didn’t play the 2nd game, and have no desire to), using a modified version of Monolith’s Jupiter engine, which was used for No One Lives Forever 2. The characters in cut-scenes are not very sharp, but generally the in-game surroundings are fairly detailed and crisp.

The game is short at maybe 5 hours and just starts to get interesting as the ending arrives. For a discount game, it’s not too bad, but don’t think you’ll be seeing the next award-winner with this one. 7 out of 10

Terrorist Takedown 2 (http://www.outofeight.info/2008/10/terrorist-takedown-2-review.html) is a little lengthier FPS at perhaps 6 hours, but still isn’t perfect. This game again uses the Jupiter engine, so graphics are adequate and lip-synching on models matches the sound.

Levels run the gamut of Middle Eastern villages to canyons to a hotel break-in with your Delta Force-style commando. The story is actually pretty decent, with some switcheroos in who you should trust (Trust No One!!). Again, it’s a decent cheapo FPS, but spend your money elsewhere if you really want a good game. 6.9 out of 10

Terrorist Takedown 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/terroristtakedown3/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1) is half the length of its predecessor, but is slightly tighter, resulting in a slightly more fun experience. This game again uses the Jupiter engine, and is probably the best-looking of any of these games.

Levels get out of the Middle Eastern villages from the 2nd game and take you from a tanker to a wild four-wheeler ride in crowded city streets to warehouses to sewers to an office building to the final airport. I noted that the sewer and office building levels regurgitated levels found in COH 3; perhaps not surprising since it’s the same developer. Story is basic – you’re tracking an arms dealer – and could have actually used that switcheroo from the 2nd game to make it more interesting. Well, what can you expect for $10-15?? 7.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 15, 2010, 10:41:43 PM
As you’ve probably noticed, most of the games I list in my mini-reviews are older, partly because I’m playing through a backlog that I’ve stockpiled, but also because I’m thrifty (read: CHEAP!). So for me to get a game upon release says a lot. Coming from Penumbra developer Frictional Games,  Amnesia: The Dark Descent (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/amnesiathedarkdescent/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) was a must-play for me. And the game does not disappoint.

Amnesia returns PC gaming to true psychological horror, partly because everything is experienced through your first-person perspective. Through effective use of lighting, ambient sounds, distorted vision and excellent pacing, the game gets underneath your skin. You will be afraid to enter certain areas ... to continue down that dark corridor. This is the mark of a great horror game – when you can only play for a limited time before you must stop and recollect yourself.

The strong Lovecraftian storyline introduces you to a world of dread and loathing, a world so bad that you intentionally forced yourself into amnesia lest you remember your past actions. You find yourself in a huge European castle ... a trail of blood leading you onward and downward. As you proceed, you’ll learn more about the overarching storyline, and your place in it.

The game’s textures are good, but not great. It’s not terribly important though, because you may not be seeing straight anyway. The game introduces a “fear” quotient – scary noises, dark areas, things creeping about in the dark – all will affect your vision, making it sway and bend, until you can reach the next light, or calm down. You do receive candleboxes to light stray lights, as well as a portable lantern, but by game’s end I had plenty of both. So the graphics are effective, but not elaborate. [Quick note: the game features male models with full frontal nudity, in case that bothers you.]

Like its predecessor Penumbra, everything is physics-based, meaning you can pull drawers and doors open, move boxes and boards, and maneuver wheels and pulleys. The game is an adventure, meaning you collect various objects along your way to be used at a later date, but it’s not overdone, and most puzzles are intuitive if you think about it and read all the in-game notes. If you get stuck, you can always visit the hints section (http://www.frictionalgames.com/forum/forum-34.html).

Amnesia doesn’t rely on “jump-out” scares to be effective. Instead, it manages to instill overwhelming feelings of dread and horror the longer you play. It does have some unsettling enemies that will test your sanity and bring goosebumps to your arms. But in the end, you may come to realize that the scariest enemy in the game ... is you.

Impressively designed by a 5-person indie developer, Amnesia is a step up from the Penumbra series in design and story, and is well worth its low price (http://store.steampowered.com/app/57300/). 9.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 20, 2010, 06:37:46 AM
The Club (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/theclub/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B9) is a simple arena-type FPS whose whole purpose is to lure you online to compete against other players globally. The single-player portion is a short 4-hour affair that takes you through 7 different locales (prison, boat, city, warehouse, steel mill, etc.), where you “compete” against other Club members for the high scores in each locale. Within this play, you’ll experience 6 maps – two gauntlet runs, two siege defenses, a timed gauntlet, and a set of two timed laps.

You rack up points by multi-kills, headshots, quick reverse shots, penetration shots, etc. – all which add multiplier effects to your kills. Add up the points at the end and they go toward your total. The player you choose (among 10) is then ranked, with all rounds added up at the end of the locale.

It’s a simple waste of time, so if you don’t mind being mindless, it might suit your needs of the moment. 6.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 24, 2010, 11:02:52 AM
Yet again I seem to be on the other side of the reviewers for Turok (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/turok/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B2) – maybe the difference is that I played a patched version?? Regardless, I found it to be a tight, immersive FPS that was actually FUN! Most of the recent shooters I’ve tried out have been pretty dog-and-pony, but Turok adds the spice of dinosaurs to the mix.

Graphically, a few outside areas could have used some better texturing. Levels take place in a variety of locales, from outdoor to indoor and mostly look good regardless, though, as the game is built on the Unreal 3 engine. Character models are extremely hi-def, and level designs looked appropriate – plants looked plant-y, rocks looked rock-y, crumbled interiors looked crumbly. You almost always experience the game through a first-person perspective, although some cutscenes do take you into third-person before returning you to FP.

Besides fighting dinos of various sizes and skills – the ones that crawl on ledges are wicked!! –  you’ll also get to take on a variety of grunts. Generally, the dinos are pretty tough, especially some of the standout boss battles like the T-Rex ... yes, you get to take on a T-Rex, and she is ALL THAT and a tub of crackers ... but the human grunts are no slouches either. I did die from a couple of serious firefights.

Perhaps most impressive, Turok has a story, and it’s actually a pretty good one. You play a Kiowa Indian (the Native American kind, not the high-tech Asians that will soon rule the world) who was trained by a rebel named Kane. And things were pretty good until Kane turned out to be not such a nice guy. So you switched sides, but your new crew doesn’t want anything to do with you until they see you’re a pretty decent fella. I was thinking to myself while playing, that the game subtitle should be “And Then There Were 7 ... No, 6 ... Scratch That, 5 ... Err, 4 Maybe? ... Wait....” Your poor comrades keep getting whittled down.

But I digress.... Your journey (both metaphorically and physically within the gameworld) make sense, and your character is maturing from the adversity thrown your way. I really appreciated how the game developers tried to flesh out a back story, and merged it with the current storyline.

There’s probably more I could add, but in short, I really enjoyed this, and think it was one of the funner FPS’s I’ve played of late. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 29, 2010, 01:02:37 PM
Dear Dungeon Siege 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/dungeonsiege2/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0),

I’m sorry, but I think it’s time we broke up. After two months apart, I just couldn’t be motivated to play with you any more. It’s true that I did give you at least 80 hours of my life, so you obviously offer tons of play-time, and I was probably only half-way through the game when I stopped seeing you, but your gameplay formula just grew too stale for my liking.

Unlike your older sister, you offer more flexibility in traveling from place to place through a diversity of waypoints. However, I still had to fight through every single area numerous, if not dozens, of times, either to return to where I left off, or to strategically build up my experience points. The end result was a monotonous slog over and over through the same territory, in a straightforward line to the next point.

My party was capped at four people in the regular campaign, and there were plenty of new skills and traits to try out. But the party maintenance became too much of a part-time job. I’d fight through 50 feet of foes and then have to stop to redistribute backpack supplies and what weapons/magic my party would use next. When I play a hack-and-slash dungeoner, I don’t really want to think so much – I just want some action.

Graphically, your looks are a little tired and last-gen, but you still carried yourself adequately and portrayed a diversity of environments: mountain, forest, ruins, desert. At least it was easy to turn you on and to load and save, without a considerable amount of foreplay. And you gave me plenty of missions to accomplish, some of which extended beyond the current chapter, yet netted me good rewards.

Maybe I’m just not cut out for doing party-style games any more, where I have to meticulously craft each party member’s stats. I just want you to know that it’s not you ... it’s me. I hope we can still be friends? Even if I give you an 8.1 out of 10?

xoxoxo,
Bobdog
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Starfox on September 30, 2010, 05:38:27 AM
Quote
you offer more flexibility in traveling from place to place through a diversity of waypoints

I love it when girls do that... Wait, we're not talking about girls? Damn...

Quote
I just want you to know that it’s not you ... it’s me.

Wow, the standard womanizer's excuse for breaking up? Shame on you  :purplelaugh:

Well, just make sure to address that letter to the right girlfriend :biglaugh:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: GreyMouser on October 03, 2010, 06:14:26 PM
Graphically, your looks are a little tired and last-gen,.....
Of coarse, you can say that now!.... ::)
...But .....when I played the game, way back in 2005, (when the game was first released), the "graphics" didn't look too shabby then...:ok:
Dungeon Siege 2 was my first go at that type of RGP-style game ...and ...I really like it.....:clapclap:
I would rate the game closer to a 9;...but then again that's just me...;)
In fact, I enjoyed playing Dungeon Siege 2 more than I enjoy playing Torchlight recently....:lol:


............................:smoking:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 03, 2010, 10:05:12 PM
Obviously, time changes all opinions. However, the graphics weren't what turned me off of DS2 -- that was accomplished by the overall linearity and complex party management required by the game.

Well, here's another RPG for your enjoyment. At this point, everyone here has probably played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/theelderscrollsivoblivion/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) at least half a dozen times, so I’m not really going to talk about the game, but more about my impressions of finally playing this huge RPG. What does it say about a game when I thought the coolest thing was how they made the "IV" of the title screen turn into the middle of the word “Oblivion”?

Don’t get me wrong, Oblivion is huge beyond imagining, and you could tool around for months (years, some of you have put in) going through every cavern and fort, taking on every task imaginable, talking to every plebe on the street to raise your speaking skills, working with every merchant to raise your sales skills, etc. I intentionally did NOT do this, and concentrated instead on just doing the main tasks of the game. I also did most of the assassin and thieves guild quests, because those had some interesting elements. Finally, I intentionally played the game at the extreme easiest level (the difficulty slider all the way to the left).

Why? Why not flesh this game out and do everything possible? Well, first, I don’t have that much time to kill on one game, and I’ve got a huge backlist of much cooler games I want to attempt. However, I don’t want to say I’m a serious RPG-er and not take on one of the biggest games out there.

Second, the game is overly monotonous. Here are some examples: every dungeon and fort and house and cavern and castle and Daedric ruin all use the same similar layout and look. When you go to close an Oblivion Gate, you know you have to go through the main well, into the Rending Chambers, back into the well a couple times, and then into the Sanctum (or whatever it was called). Every single time – the same damn thing. Every similar interior is laid out nearly the same, and they almost always just use simple straight lines – it’s not natural – nature does not design in straight lines, so why would a cave be laid out that way?

Here’s my other big gripe: you pick a chest or jewelry box with a difficult lock, and someone has left their 2gp shoes or a 3gp bolt of cloth or a 1gp copper pot in there – who in their right mind would lock up crap like that in a box? And why can you find gold pieces in bags of grain or barrels? And how would a store know if the apple you’re selling is stolen? The logic is baffling, to say the least, and again, it seems too manufactured.

All in all, Oblivion just seemed too contrived in its design. I don’t really want, or need, to talk to everyone on the street. I suppose that makes it more immersive, but honestly, it’s just a pain in the toucas. Some of the quests were really cool, like the assassins’ and thieves’ guild ones because they required some thought to complete. And you may wonder, since I dampened down the difficulty, did that remove the fun in my eyes? I’d have to answer no – lowering the difficulty made me actually want to at least finish it – if it had been as high a difficulty as I normally play RPGs, I’m sure I would have quit much much earlier and not completed it.

So for the main game, I’d honestly have to give it a score of around 8.3 out of 10. However, I also played through the Shivering Isles add-on, and I’ve got to tell you, the designers of that were a completely whacked-out bunch, but more importantly, they brought some real fun to the game. The tasks were immensely more interesting, and the final steps to “god”-hood were well thought-out. So for that add-on, I’d rate 9.1 out of 10. Would I recommend Oblivion to RPG fans? Certainly. Would I play it again myself? Not a chance.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 06, 2010, 06:51:10 AM
For once, I agree with the reviewers on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Sith Edition) (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/swtfuultimatesithedition/review.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssummary&tag=summary%3Bread-review). This, unfortunately, is a very, very bad console port, and nigh near unplayable with mouse and keyboard. I guess my first clue should have been that in the starting menu, you have to use arrows to move around, rather than just clicking with your mouse.

The in-game play doesn’t get any better – you have to be pointed exactly toward an object or foe to affect them, and you can only use the WASD keys to visit the eight cardinal directions. I *HATE* using WASD – and since you can’t revise the keys, it put me off from the start.

Graphics were adequate, but not real sharp, definitely showing their console roots. I started out playing as Darth Vader on the Wookie homeworld Kashykk, and basically just punched buttons and hoped I was doing something. Then I played through the first chapter as Starkiller, Vader’s secret apprentice, but when I got to the first boss, couldn’t get any of my buttons to get past his shield – very frustrating.

I’ve read the hardback novel, and it’s an engaging storyline, but unfortunately, the movement and interactive issues just killed this for me as a game. It’s a shame, because I really wanted this to be good. If you want a really good Star Wars game where you can taff about with a light sabre, I think you’ll have to go back to KOTOR or the Jedi Knight/Academy series. For now, Force Unleashed just deserves a 5.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 01, 2010, 06:54:02 AM
After an engaging 90 hours invested into a replay of the awesome RPG Gothic 2: Night of the Raven (in expectation of the just-released Gothic 4: Arcania), I decided to try something quick like Dead Man's Hand (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/deadmanshand/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0). And it was quick -- I got through the first mission and realized that this 2004 FPS set in the Wild West just has not held up.

Graphics are last-last gen, although not nearly as abysmmal as my recent play-through of Halo 2, and level design is a straight-forward slog through endless ranks of desperados. You are able to shoot up just about anything -- hats off caballeros' heads, lights, tombstones, etc. -- to gain points that allow your alternate fire modes to appear, but it feels more like a shooting gallery than a game.

I was able to reassign most of my keys to my satisfaction, but in-game, the view from the mouse's movement was was too choppy, despite several resets. I actually got a bit nauseous after the first level. There was no quick save system that I could see, which required you to go all the way through a mission again if you got killed at any point.

At the start of each mission, you can choose the difficulty, choose your weapons (1 rifle, 1 pistol and 1 shotgun), and even play a game of cards to give you some instant bonuses for the level. However, none of this really makes the gameplay itself engaging.

So, unfortunately, this is yet another in a long line of crappy Western FPS's. If you really want a good one, you'll have to try Call of Juarez. For Dead Man's Hand, I can only give it a 5.1 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 19, 2010, 07:04:53 PM
Total Overdose (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/overdose/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is a meh-GTA clone with a Robert Rodriguez storyline. Gameplay is actually pretty boring with the only redeeming feature being the insane Matrix-like moves you can pull off during shootouts. Graphics are blah but the city blocks you trudge through are fairly detailed in layout.

I honestly couldn’t get very far into this, even with the cool moves and the many car jumps available. I kept thinking instead how much MORE fun Saints Row 2 (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg10277#msg10277) was, and how this game didn’t even hold a candle to it. Try that or just about anything else if you’re this desperate for a sandbox world to play in. 5.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 22, 2010, 06:52:19 AM
Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/tomclancysghostrecon3/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B2) is probably a good game, but it was just absolutely too much for me to worry about – too many buttons to memorize, too many functions to get your team to work together, too hardcore to synthesize ... just too much. Controlling a squad is one of the reasons I didn’t like the early Tom Clancy Rainbow 6 games, and now I remember why. I just want to play a game, which is why the rebooted Vegas series was much more enjoyable to me.

Strategy grognards will probably LOVE GRAW, but for those of us with simple minds  :hammerhead: , it’s just too much. 6.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 08, 2010, 10:00:38 AM
I'm currently playing through Dragon Age, but in the meantime, I had a chance to play the demo for Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/laracroftandtheguardianoflight/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1). The game was a fresh take on the familiar Tomb Raider exercises -- climbing, rappeling, jumping, shooting -- but in an overhead perspective. It also allowed you to play co-op with another player.

I mostly enjoyed the new direction to the game, but was ultimately put off by the impossible control issue of using a keyboard and mouse. I'm sure controllers are the way to go with this one if playing on PC, but I can't be bothered to do so. I couldn't finish the demo because of the control issues, so I can't really give it a fair score, but I will say I won't be buying the final version at this point. It did, however, prompt me to place her more recent adventures back in my "upcoming" pile, so I appreciate that!
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 13, 2010, 12:32:16 PM
The Scourge Project Episodes 1 and 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/thescourgeproject/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0&tag=stitialclk%3Bgamespace) is designed as a four-person co-op third-person shooter, set in a futuristic setting reminiscent of Alpha Prime. The Unreal 3 engine is pretty enough, but the character models appear similar to what we’ve seen in the Unreal 2 game, with lots of robotic armor.

Some players have compared it to Mass Effect, in that you have a multi-person party and each of you has unique skills that you can utilize in conflict. Unfortunately, where you can play ME by yourself, the difficulty level of the Scourge Project truly requires 4 players to get past the single-player storyline. I think the true bonus must be in the MP angle, where your group of 4 co-op players takes on other similar groups ... but of course, this is of no interest to me.

Additionally, the cutscenes are ridiculously long at 4-5 minutes each, and can NOT be skipped; nor are you able to quicksave/quickload. Auto saves are few and far between. So after about the 6th time of getting killed in the third or fourth map, having to suffer through the same damn cutscene multiple times, and then getting killed within 20 seconds of actual playtime, I opted to sit this one out.

There are so many better shooters out there that it doesn’t even make sense to try this one out. 5.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 19, 2010, 09:30:56 AM
Dragon Age: Origins (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/dragonage/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is a meaty 3rd-person RPG by Bioware, and the short review is that this game is excellent, and probably the best fantasy RPG ever. Yes, over even my beloved Gothic series and definitely over the Elder Scrolls games.

Origins gives you a semi-open game world that gradually opens up new destinations based on your activities. You gather a growing troop of team members from all walks of life and are able to visit these new destinations within the framework of a grand, realized storyline. Bioware has gone all out to detail this new land of Ferelden and its protectors the Grey Wardens from a recurring evil phenomenon known as the Blight – an influx of warped creatures called Darkspawn led by an Archdemon in dragon shape.

The story starts out somewhat slowly, giving you a unique starting point based on what kind of player you create – dwarf, elf, human – and where they grew up. I chose a City Elf, so my story started on what was to be my wedding day in an Elven city. And then it all spirals downhill from there so that my only choice is to join the Grey Wardens, who need new blood for the impending Blight.

The story is vast and deep and most every decision you make has reverberating consequences, from the places you may visit, to your team’s attitude toward you, to the chance to find the love of your life. Bioware definitely gets the story thing down right, after creating such awesome RPGs in years past. The voice acting is also brilliant and the scripts vary from humorous to serious to goofy.

Your team, of which you can collect eight different people (plus a war-dog) is diverse and interesting, and each have their own reason for joining you. You can of course ask some of them to leave, but why would you? As you hold conversations over time, you can cause them to trust you more, which raises their feelings toward you. You can also kick-start the process and gift them with various trinkets; only after getting like my 6th team-mate did I realize that each gift is designed for certain team members – i.e. Zevran likes bars of metal while Shale likes pretty stones – netting you higher trust ratings per gift. At any rate, I felt like each of my team was unique, some of them were downright hilarious, and all generally had a place in my band.

Level design is pretty good, with great architecture and unique geography throughout your journeys. Other than a few of the random encounters, most every place is unique. One note on level design: the concept behind the Fade levels when you enter the Tower of Magi is absolutely brilliant, requiring you to utilize four different forms to get through obstacles and face off against enemies. I was extremely impressed in this new twist on the game.

I played DA:O with a couple of in-game DLCs: Warden's Keep, The Stone Prisoner and Return to Ostagar. Of these, Warden’s Keep is probably the best because it takes you to a brand-new location and has you face some challenging new obstacles. Stone Prisoner also goes to a new village, but the actual play-through is fairly short; the bonus is that you gain a new Golem team member named Shale, who also has a back-story to exploit. Return to Ostagar merely ties off the loose ends from the start of the game, although you do net some great weapons and equipment.

Other DLCs include Leliana's Song and The Darkspawn Chronicles, both of which take place outside the world of DA:O. In the first, you play as team-mate Leliana, tackling the events just prior to the first meeting with her. Unfortunately, you play through the same maps done previously, including Denerim and the Arl’s home; fortunately, you can gain a great new set of armor. The second DLC provides an interesting twist, casting you as a Darkspawn general in the final battle of the game. You are able to draft various Darkspawn to your team, including the mighty Ogre and the Shrieks, as you make your way through the city of Denerim and kill off all the normal team members from the main campaign. Both are interesting, but not necessarily as high quality as the original campaign.

So with all this love, where’s the negative?

The voice work is definitely a highlight of the game, although Bioware's propensity for intricate storylines tends to drag after a bit so that I just skipped through conversations to enter my response. Especially the conversations detailing history, because history is boring.

The colors seem very drab and muted overall, consisting mostly of browns, greens and grays. It reminds me of the limited color palette of Quake 2. Maybe this is to make the red blood stand out more as it splashes on your face – I don't know – but I definitely think they could have gone with some brighter tones.

And most importantly, the base (normal) difficulty is too hard in your early levels, compounded by the fact that you are unable to run away. In the Gothic games, I acknowledge that if I come against a foe that's too difficult for my current level, I will reverse course and/or not enter that area. With DA:O, it consistently drafts you into scenarios that are too difficult for your character, and you cannot leave the level until you somehow make it through the foes. This happens often as some of the random attacks that plague you when you move between two points. Early on, I realized that my tactical skills weren’t up to the task, so I employed a trainer to get my team in shape!

But really, these are trifles when compared to the overall depth of the game itself. You have an involved storyline requiring you to pull many factions together, and solve many mysteries, in a large enough game world that will keep you entertained for 40-60 hours. Your team members are unique and interesting and the voicework throughout the game is superb. In the end, my scrawny City Elf rose to the 23rd level and completed all the quests thrown at him, as well as romancing three characters (2 female/1 male) along the way. And he may have even found true love ... what more can you ask of a game?

9.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 21, 2010, 06:59:30 AM
Cursed Mountain (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/cursedmountain/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1) is a 3rd-person action adventure that delivers one of the most interesting storylines, unique locales and distinctive game mechanics I can recall in recent years. You are searching for your brother, a climber who has disappeared in the Himalayas, and who appears to have been in search of some ancient, but powerful Buddhist texts.

The game takes you into the Himalayan mountains, with atmospheric effects surrounding you: prayer flags flying in the breeze, clouds passing along the mountains on the horizon, the wind whipping your clothes ... and the dead walking the streets. Yup. Seems you’ve wandered into ghost central, because *something* has caused everyone to flee from the mountain villages you visit. And it may have been your brother (stupid no good grumble grumble frazzing razzledorf!!).

Lucky for you, you’ve got a third eye (no, Stubby, not THAT one!!) that allows you to see the ghosts, and take them out with an enchanted snow ax. You’re also able to see the hidden signs that must be dispelled by your burgeoning magical powers. And when you enter a ghost’s domain, the screen turns into greys, leeching all the color out of the area – nice effect. Ghosts can be taken out either long distance or up close, but sometimes get past your guard to damage you. Once they are damaged enough, you must draw a sigil (ala Arx Fatalis style) to dispel them for good, leading to some hectic battles. And occasionally you must take on some mini-bosses, using a combination of your powers.

Textures are slightly dated, but workable. However, the gameplay is a bit slow at times because you either must backtrack to the start of an area, or especially because your character’s fast speed is just past the “turtle” setting. And save points are few and far between, although they generally happen just before big battles.

A few NPCs dot the haunted landscape and propel the story along, as do books and journals that you find. Photo-like cutscenes also provide more background. The highlight must really be the feeling that you are indeed scaling a Himalayan mountain, the way the frame of reference scales back or gives you a different perspective as you climb up/down with your snow axes.

I must admit that just past the halfway mark I was about ready to give in the towel, but I stuck it out through the end, giving me a true sense of achievement for this game.

So Cursed Mountain is not the best adventure out there, but it is unique enough that I can recommend it if those are your cup of tea. If you’re not into adventure games, you won’t find much here to appreciate. 8.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Joshua-kun on December 21, 2010, 12:42:52 PM
Dragon Age: Origins (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/dragonage/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is a meaty 3rd-person RPG by Bioware, and the short review is that this game is excellent, and probably the best fantasy RPG ever. Yes, over even my beloved Gothic series and definitely over the Elder Scrolls games.
9.6 out of 10

Not a bad game, but I haven't seen a game since Oblivion so dedicated to delivering the ultimate in oddly proportioned, awkward limbs and bodies.  Have any of these modelers ever seen how real people stand or are built??
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 24, 2010, 10:01:16 AM
I’m sure Boiling Point: Road to Hell (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/xenus/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) was much more impressive when it came out 5 years ago, but by today’s standards, it has not aged well. I began the game and was ready to quit within 10 minutes. While Total Overdose reviewed up above at least had some cool character moves, Boiling Point lacks any real definition as a game.

BP is an open-world game where your character serves as a mercenary in a South American country. I *think* you are trying to find your daughter, who has vanished in the area. If you choose to play for longer than 10 minutes, I understand you’ll get to take on a wide diversity of missions, and grow your character in RPG fashion.

But the graphics are really bad. It looks like a first-gen console game, but not even as good as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City in design. Characters in-game look squashed, voice acting is bad, conversations go on interminably long, and it just wasn’t fun.

If you really want an open-world merc game in the jungles, go play Far Cry 2. I didn’t like that one either, but at least it kept me interested for a week or so. 5.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 27, 2010, 08:55:38 AM
Another World (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/anotherworld/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B5) (also known as Out of This World in the U.S.) was one of those pivotal games in my life, along with Flashback and other similar side-scrollers. So it was with some fondness that I picked up the enhanced 15th Anniversary edition released in 2007, hoping to relive some of those early gaming memories.

My initial thoughts: Damn this game is hard!! How in the world was I able to get all these moves down and complete the game??

Yes, time has taken its toll on my now less-than-nimble fingers, and without an NES controller in my hand, it just isn’t as responsive as the arrow keys on the keyboard. As a result, I found this game extremely difficult in a lot of areas that required absolute finesse and perfection. Jump here, move there, set up a shield, shoot now, go back, etc. Sheesh.

So, as beloved as it remains in my memory, I’ll have to rely on those same memories to know that at one point in my younger life, I was able to complete this gem of a game.

Oh yeah, the new version looks much cleaner and colors are great. 7.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 29, 2010, 10:09:42 AM
Compared to the other games I’ve reviewed (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg11287;topicseen#msg11287) from developer City Interactive, Sniper: Ghost Warrior (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/sniperghostwarrior/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is a friggin’ Monet masterpiece! Please note that I played the latest patched version, and that the initial release did have some buggy elements reflected in many of the other reviewers’ scores.

Level design is broad and expansive, taking place primarily in a South American destination where you will experience jungle habitat, with occasional excursions into small villages and coastal towns. A couple of missions take you to an oil rig and oil refinery, a strip mine, and some absolutely gorgeous native ruins. The Chrome 4 engine (I assume from the Chrome game from way back??) generally looks really good, although I caught a few graphical anomalies and some invisible walls that penned my actions in. It very much reminded me of how Far Cry was so open to interpretation – you can sneak through brush (able to go prone as well as crouch) and do silent take-downs, or you can attempt to go blazing through, but odds are that you won’t last long.

One of the main complaints I read prior to playing was that the sneaking mechanism was busted. Well, the patch must have fixed it because in a couple of large levels, I spent half an hour sneaking through areas on my belly, circumnavigating enemy fighters to reach my objective. I could kill some lone fighters and not raise an alarm, but generally I had to keep my head down. Some players didn’t realize that the crouch/prone button are the same, just hold it longer to go prone.

Perhaps my major complaint is that the right mouse button is hard-corded to bring up your scope/iron sights, no matter what key you attempt to bind to that action. I normally use RMB for my Forward key, so I had to do some refiguring to get it to work. But once that was done, I was able to proceed fairly smoothly.

Enemy AI is only slightly smarter than comatose and generally stands around when being shot at, but once aroused, they do duck behind cover and have pretty good aim, taking your health down quickly. The only option is to duck down and use one of your health shots that you can pick up as you explore, which brings back 50 health. You also will be able to find laptops along the way with enemy intel, which count as secrets within each level, but doesn’t offer any other advantages.

Throughout the game, you switch playing as different characters: a lone sniper, a sniper with a spotting partner (and sometimes as the spotter), and a marine as part of a group. All play slightly different and have different weapons and tools, but are trained to be deadly silent. Generally, you’ll play as one of the snipers, which is of course the intent of the game. Sometimes, you’ll go through the same level as each of the separate players; for example, my sniper had to get to the top of a tower to take out an enemy commander and cover my marines, and next I played as the marine being pinned down until my sniper could free things up. It was a nice contrast in play styles.

Sound is generally good – both effects and voiceovers – and the game has some strong elements of realism. For example, when you snipe, the game takes into consideration your shaking and breathing, and the wind effects, to determine where your bullet will land. So in-game this is reflected by a red dot that you’ll see in your sniper scope’s crosshairs. Lying prone and holding your breath (Shift key) will significantly slow down the shutter and allow you to better target with the red dot and hit your mark. And when you pull it off successfully, you’ll see a bullet cam follow the bullet to your target, knocking through them like a battering ram – it’s sweet!

But then the game has a few UNrealistic elements, like the white dot on the horizon indicating your next objective. I think if it had been on a wristheld PDA it would have been much more realistic. As would the radar that you see in the upper left of the screen indicating your next objective, but also the surrounding enemies. Again, this would have been more realistic on a separate PDA that you must pull up.

So  overall I liked Ghost Warrior – it was fun to play, it was challenging, it had effective sneaking elements, it was relatively filling at 7 hours playtime, and it provided some good thrills for a FPS. The enemy AI, some invisible walls penning me in, and some of the unrealistic elements pulled down the overall experience, but my recommendation is to get it and patch it, and then let the bullets fly. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 03, 2011, 11:38:26 AM
Aurora Watching / Soldier Elite (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/aurorawatching/review.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssummary&tag=summary%3Bread-review) is a bland, derivative 3rd-person action shooter that feels like a hundred other games. In fact, as I was playing through the first few maps I had the strongest sense of deja vu, and I went back to the box to make sure I hadn’t actually played the game before!

It feels very much like a Metal Gear clone, but not quite so good. I think there’s a story that you’re an alcoholic merc whose boss hates you and sticks you on a mission to a Russian ice-base, where you must find out blah blah blah. Yeah, pretty banal. But your first enemy is a Russian colonel with a cyborg hand who strokes a cat and talks to it... sound familiar?

And your journey doesn’t get any better. Your first few missions through an ice base are decently designed, but inside the underground base, it all looks the same for map upon map upon map. As a super-spy merc type, you do have access to a cracking program for closed doors and computers, but all you do is press a button and wait – there’s no challenge whatsoever. And your nifty spy tools really aren’t so nifty, like the rolling mine that rolls about 2 feet in front of you.... The straw that finally broke my back was when my character was captured by a female character ... and THEN I took over the female character to go free the main character I had just captured!!! WTF??

So, no, I don’t really recommend this game. I kept playing to see if it would get better ... and guess what?! It didn’t. 6.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 07, 2011, 08:33:55 AM
When I first played the horror 3rd-person shooter The Suffering (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1141.msg7982#msg7982) two years ago, I described it as a “creepy fragfest” that I “barely made it through alive.” I can remember the feelings of dread I had playing the game, and that I needed to take a break from it every now and then so that I wouldn’t go postal on my family.

In contrast, the follow-up The Suffering: Ties That Bind (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/thesuffering2/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is more of a bland expansion or add-on than a full-fledged sequel. At 4-5 hours gameplay, it brings you back into the shoes of main character Torque from the original game, but doesn’t add anything new to the genre. The storyline is rote, although it does have a completely unexpected twist in the final moments that I didn’t expect, but have seen in other games. Design-wise, the game is serviceable. Levels are adequately designed and look believable. You’ll have a few simple environmental puzzles that need to be completed. You’ve got a diversity of weaponry to sporadically draw from.

Unfortunately, the game suffers from the actual atmosphere of downtown Baltimore’s settings, which are uninteresting compared to the first game’s creepy settings on the prison island. This sequel also removes much of the horror element so prevalent in the original, making this simply a 3rd-person shooter. There are really no unique creatures added to the lexicon, and no boss fights to speak of until the finale. Only at a few points did I feel like I was in any harm due to the preponderance of weapons and health packs. Additionally, the over-the-shoulder camera completely got in the way on a number of occasions.

Honestly, I’d only recommend this if you liked the original game – 7.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 11, 2011, 06:48:09 AM
As the unofficial sequel to the movies Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2, Ghostbusters the Video Game (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/ghostbusters08/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B3) does an adequate job of tying into the mindset of the original movies while offering some new gameplay possibilities. The game returns the original actors Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson to use their likenesses on-screen, and their voices in-game (although Bill sounds very bored throughout), and you start as a new unnamed recruit to the team.

The game features old favs Slimer, Staypuft Marshmallow Man, the Gray Librarian and Gozer, but also introduces a host of new ghosts and deities that you’ll have to outwit and out-slime. Of course, the car Ecto 1 is on-hand and serves a useful role in a couple of maps to trap ghosts on the streets of New York City. And you’ll visit the hotel and public library that played such pivotal roles in the original movies.

The level designers have done a great job of developing new and interesting destinations that you’ll travel through, including a water-filled hotel hallway, an inter-dimensional library, and a really cool castle. One of the coolest settings has you face off (literally) against Staypuft as he climbs the building that you are hanging from.

My main gripe was in the overall difficulty of the game. I don’t mind dying a few times when I play through a new area on a map; however, I DO mind dying more than 20 times on the same area, especially when I am playing the “normal” difficulty level. It’s too late to go change to the “Easy” setting once you’re a couple hours into the game ... so I found a trainer to give me continual health instead, significantly easing the difficulty factor. Otherwise, I would have simply quit in disgust, missing out on 4-5 hours of the rest of the game.

You’ll also spend a significant amount of time reviving your comrades, instead of wrangling ghosts. The wrangling bit was indeed challenging, forcing you to move your mouse this way and that, but I could deal with that issue in the larger scheme. It was the constant knockdowns you had to face as well as running all over the area getting your mates back up that was a bother.

Your pack (which is exquisitely designed, by the way) offers four main and four alternate firing modes to take down ghosts, depending on their general make-up, which you can determine using your ghost “wand”. Some of the alternate fire modes are helpful in getting you through various environmental puzzles, but two of the firing streams were barely utilized as either weapons or within levels.

If you’re a Ghostbusters fan, you’ll enjoy this, but for all others, the overall difficulty, the sleepy voice-overs from Bill Murray, and the under-utilization of all your pack’s weapons show me a little more tweaking was necessary to make this good game “great”. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 17, 2011, 02:11:14 PM
I used to really like adventure games ... Syberia, Broken Sword, The Longest Journey, all the old Lucas Arts games ... but I think in the past 10 years I’ve gotten bored of the traditional point-and-click adventure because the slow pace is just maddening. I guess I prefer a little more action with my adventure any more.

So it’s probably no surprise that I was very bored with Benoit Sokal’s Sinking Island (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/sinkingisland/news.html?mode=previews&om_act=convert&om_clk=gssummary&tag=summary%3Bpreviews). I did put in a couple-three hours to try and give it a fair shot, but it just under-exceeds in every way: lame murder mystery storyline, slow boil to get to the point, pathetic graphics (the character voicework is fine, but their mouths don’t move even when they are emoting to your questions), too much walking monotonously with nothing to show for it. It just was not what I wanted to play. This is a shame because Sokal’s Syberia is one of the masterpieces of the adventure game past, and even Syberia 2 was a decent effort.

I understand that if I got deeper into the game, the island starts sinking, and you’re now in a hotel tower with all the suspects. But honestly, I was just too bored to even try to get to that point. Additionally, I couldn’t find the correct clues to take me to the next stage, even though I’d scoured the island and spoken with everyone numerous times.

I assume more patient players might like Sinking Island and delving into all the crime-scene investigations. But my recommendation is replay any of the masterpieces before investing in this game. 6.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 19, 2011, 08:05:40 PM
In July 2008, I did a co-review of Assassin’s Creed (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-tp/249-assassins-creed) with Silver Sorrow. In general, we both liked it, and I gave the game a final score of 9.4 out of 10, which in retrospect was much too generous. Although I enjoyed it immensely, all the issues I’ll list below should have lowered it to a more appropriate 8.5 out of 10 – still a great game worth playing, but others exemplify the craft. I can only blame my overeager scoring on my awe at finally working with the great Silver Sorrow!   :hammerhead:

The broad concept is that you play as Desmond, some guy grabbed off the street by an unknown research facility. In the original game, your captors hook you up to a machine called an Animus, which extracts memories of your ancestor Altair, who just happened to be a master assassin in the ancient Middle East. Your captors follow your memories until the end, when you discover a unique weapon of unknown origin and power. Only then is the truth revealed – your captors are the modern-day Templars that your assassin ancestor was fighting those many centuries past. The game ends with one of the researchers letting you know that she too is an assassin.

Assassin’s Creed 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/assassinscreed2/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B2) begins in that same laboratory, and your researcher friend rescues you from the facility and brings you to a new location to work with some new techies. Their goal is to again reach back into your subconscious and determine what happened to the weapon found by Altair, as well as to teach the modern-day you the assassin’s craft. This time, you’ll be playing as assassin Ezio in Renaissance Italy.

The setting is absolutely fabulous. After the drab dirt colors of the first game in the Middle East, Italy is a veritable explosion of color and design. It’s fun to just walk around cities in-game that I’ve been to in real life, noting such landmarks as the Duomo in Florence.

My feeling is that the developers made huge strides in the sequel, fixing nearly all the issues I had with the original, and counting them up, they were many.

- AC1 required too many buttons – I think I recall having to use like 3-4 buttons just to jump up walls, and I don’t recall them being able to remap very easily. The sequel still uses quite a few buttons, but it has been simplified somewhat, and you are able to remap. But you still have to remember what each button means when you get an on-screen prompt; ideally, such prompting would indicate the exact button needed to push, rather than some general symbol.
- AC1 felt like you were involved in more swordplay than assassinating – the finale battle stands out in my mind, since it took an actual hour to play through it. In contrast, the sequel minimizes sword battles necessary to actually complete missions.
- AC1 had WAAAAAYYYYYY too many menus to get to the actual gameplay, taking an actual 5 minutes – an eternity in gameplay to both get into the game, and also to save and get out. Thank goodness the sequel loads quickly and gets right to the game within about 30 seconds.
- AC1 has worthless achievements; i.e. collecting flags in the original nets you nothing other than a badge of honor. In the sequel, your collections net you tangible rewards, such as collecting feathers gets you new equipment.
- AC1’s travel between cities was a chore with lengthy boring horse rides through countryside to get from one town to the next. Other than one section on a mountain road, the sequel has replaced this need with fast-travel options from town-to-town, and to specific locations within each town to minimize the time spent on foot.
- AC1 has no use for all the money you loot, whereas the sequel has you refurbishing your family’s villa and surroundings, as well as using funds to purchase weapons, gear, treasure maps and paintings. The developers possibly could have spaced available weapon and gear offerings further to ensure you continue to use funds through the end of the game, as I ended with 500,000 florins in my purse.
- AC1 had way too many required quests, such as saving maidens, killing Templars, stealing items, pickpocketing, racing, etc. and it just got old after a bit – it was almost like (as Silver Sorrow mentioned) “Grand Theft Auto 3 ... but with horses.” In contrast, the sequel incorporates these types of quests into the mission proper, in a much more natural state of gameplay.

All these improvements aren’t to say AC2 is perfect – it still has some detractions.... [TO BE CONTINUED]
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 25, 2011, 06:44:00 AM
Assassin’s Creed 2 – CONTINUED

All these improvements aren’t to say AC2 is perfect – it still has some detractions:

- The biggest one is that a permanent Internet connection is required to play the game. Now, it appears that Ubisoft will be offering a patch to remove this permanent connection, so keep an eye out for that.
- Character models, especially faces, are not ultra-detailed, but the world has a diversity of character models, so that it’s not obvious when you’re seeing duplicates in the crowd.
- And most grievously, the camera angle sometimes switches from a over-the-shoulder view to a sidescroller view – midway through platforming sequences (!!) – throwing off your buttons and forcing you to remember what button to press next to gain the required result. It wouldn’t be so bad if these situations weren’t often linked to timers, where every second is critical.

But all these detractions are negligible compared to all the new bonuses present:

- The ability to take out opponents with hidden blades, especially two at once, or leaping down from above, is extremely fulfilling. As is the ability to disarm your opponents. Again, bringing back the idea that Ezio is an agile assassin – not a sword-fighter.

- AC2 downplays the modern-day scenario, only bringing you back a few times rather than after each individual mission. You have more time to play as the assassin, rather than moping around as Desmond, but what that does is focus how valuable this training is to modern-day Desmond. And the final scene as the credits role is one of the biggest payoffs ever experienced in a game, in only about 3 minutes time – not to be missed, if you want to know exactly what’s going on in the storyline!

- The addition of Assassin’s Tombs scattered throughout the land is a refreshing breather from the normal gameplay, and take place in locales reminiscent of Prince of Persia, requiring agility and forward thinking. After completing all six, you’ll net the ultimate gear reward – your ancestor Altair’s armor, which is the best you can get in the game.

- The overall conspiracy is revealed in side quests for “The Truth” about the unknown object, requiring you to scour certain city landmarks for special glyphs. Once uncovered, then you have a variety of puzzles you must unlock to gain the password. Many of these were downright next to impossible, so luckily you get a hint after a certain amount of time spent on each.

- Your character Ezio shows deep growth through the 20+ hours of gameplay, turning from a surly, spoiled curmudgeon into a political force who uses his assassin’s powers with restraint and respect. Rather than being ruthless to his enemies, he acknowledges their human frailty and releases them from their failures.

- And possibly the highlight of the game is your blossoming friendship with Leonardo da Vinci, who advances the plot in many instances, as well as solves codes and creates new weapons for you. Going to meet with Leonardo was always a highlight as he was always friendly and helpful.

In short, I appreciated AC2 much more than the original, and loved the new environs and characters that I could relate to. I’ll admit I made a slight miscalculation with the original’s score, but in this case, AC2 is definitely desirous of this 9.4 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 28, 2011, 07:58:24 PM
With Dead Space 2 on the verge of release, I figured I had better play the highly lauded original and see what all the hullabaloo was about. What I found was that Dead Space (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/deadspace/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B5) plays like an amped-up System Shock 2 – it seems to be nearly a word-for-word interpretation except for the last chapter when you return to the planet. Humans are hideously malformed due to an alien presence that has been brought on-board a dead ship, requiring you to hit up the medical, engineering, life support and tram sections (among others) to bring them all back online before you escape in the remaining shuttle.

What Dead Space does differently is to force you to interact with your environment in a new, awkward way. You play in a third-person, over-the-shoulder perspective that seems really cramped at times, and playing with your character on the left side of the screen is completely opposite the right-sided (or centered) bias we’ve seen in just about every other 3rd-Person Shooter out there. This little change makes gameplay seem much more difficult because it breaks past our norms.

The second major change is your enemy interaction. Whereas most games reward you when you pull off successful headshots, Dead Space flips that convention – the easiest way to take down the Necromorphs before you is to cut off their limbs with a variety of industrial tools that have been modified slightly.

In some ways, the game makes things TOO challenging, at least more so than we are normally accustomed. The prime example is that you must raise your weapon before you can shoot, whereas almost every other game already has your weapon raised automatically as you walk. This may not seem like a big deal, but it means one more key you have to press before you can fire on your enemies. And when they come at you so fast, you might not even get your weapon up in time to fire before they’re upon you, sucking your head and whittling away at your health.

So perhaps what stood out most for me was that the “realism” heightened the suspense. The difficulty was very challenging, with me barely making it to the next level on a number of occasions. The over-the-shoulder perspective, besides being awkward, was also slow and it seemed to take forever to spin your character around to see what was coming behind you.

However, the developers were thoughtful about enemy placement, so it wasn’t always the regular Doom 3 approach: enter room, doors lock and lights go out for several seconds, enemies spring upon you. Many times I would enter a location cautiously, expecting just this, and nothing would happen, causing me to let my guard down – then randomly something would leap out of the vents. And when this scenario did happen, sometimes you couldn’t even fight the Necromorphs and had to flee instead, running madly to the next closed door, hoping it would open before they could catch you.... It was moments like these that made me realize I should play the game in the light, and not in the dark of night.

The Necromorph enemies are definitely creepy, formed from the remains of former shipmates. I thought it was interesting that the developers introduced some church theology into the storyline, something I’ve hardly ever seen in games. Unfortunately, the story really doesn’t say why the Unitology Church is so hot to retrieve the alien artifact. I found out after playing that the Unitologists believe that humanity will join a cosmic single race, and they believe the artifact evolves humans into beings ready for this change. More info is promised through the animated Dead Space: Aftermath (http://deadspace.wikia.com/wiki/Dead_Space:_Aftermath) to link Dead Space 1 and 2.

Even with all these changes, and the truly creepy atmosphere, the true highlight of the game was the zero-gravity sequences, which really forced you to think in three dimensions as far as incoming enemies and your geo-location. Add to that the additional element of running out of oxygen, and it amped the anxiety significantly. By the end of the game, I was hoping Isaac would just get the heck out of dodge and leave everything behind!!

Along the way, you can open lockers and break open chests and gain new materials, schematics and credits, which you can use to purchase new items in the virtual stores, or to upgrade your equipment. There are (I think) six weapons to choose from, but I kind of just went with the first four I got and started upgrading them. You’ll also want to upgrade your RIG (suit) to carry more supplies and health.

Speaking of your RIG, I liked most everything about it, and how it never pulled you out of the game to do anything. Need to know where to go next? Your RIG will project a map in front of you with instructions. How about supplies? Same thing. Ammo count in your weapon? Raise your weapon and it will show the number. Health or kinetic juice available? On the back of your RIG, a neon strip shows you how much health you have in 50 hp increments, and a small dial shows you your kinetic energy, useful for freezing objects.

Now, Dead Space is truly a great game, but only if you are able to bind the keys to your liking. See, when I first got in-game, I found that it wouldn’t allow me to remap my favorite keys, including the mouse-buttons. I attempted the alternate WASD selection, but found I couldn’t get my mind to work efficiently. I was a hairs-width from just dumping the game entirely, with immense furor that EA wouldn’t allow flexible key-mapping on such a AAA title as this. But I looked online, and lo and behold, others shared my same disgust ... and they had also found this solution (http://forum.ea.com/eaforum/posts/list/32965.page)!! In short, you need to download a program called GlovePIE, which allows you to substitute keys via the program. So if the regular Dead Space key for forward is “W”, you can substitute that in GlovePIE as “RightMouseButton”. Definitely, this is the only thing that saved the game for me.

So, Dead Space definitely generates a feeling of loneliness and dread via its in-game exposition, so much so that I’ll definitely need a good break before tackling the sequel. Gameplay was very, very challenging – both because of the new mechanics, and because of how the Necromorphs must be taken out. In the end, I could have ranked it higher, but the lack of total key-mapping almost killed the game for me. 8.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Starfox on January 29, 2011, 04:33:41 PM
Following your review it's interesting to see how things evolved in Dead Space 2. I won't be squatting your thread to do a full review but just stress some points

First the game is even creepier than the first opus... And still the same reminiscent System Shock 2 atmosphere, which is not a bad thing.

What changed:

- Isaac (Asimov Arthur C.) Clark now talks! No kidding.
- Controls are now fully customizable (they learned from their mistake)
- Two possibilities offered for targeting, either the "floating" laser dots like in the first Dead Space or a more standard centered crosshair (form still depends on the weapon used); that should make aiming easier for some. Although for some reason I kept the floating laser. More realism maybe?
- There's no map anymore although you can still use the tracer which indicates the route to your next objective.
- The game fully takes advantage of its very short loading time (hard to make them shorter than the first game though) and I have yet to encounter an obvious transition between areas like there was in the first game. There it's just like one gigantic map (several maps but seamlessly integrated so short the loading times are). That certainly further helps the immersion.
- Now you make actually more use of Isaac all purpose space janitor skills as there are some hacking puzzle available.
- A few new weapons but also the standard culprits
- Monsters do not instantly drop ammos and other resources anymore. After killing them you have to splash them for that (with a satisfying sound).
- Like Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2, an EA account is required in order for the game to work (existing one can be used).

I'm not very far into the game but I'm enthusiastic so far. Dead Space 2 manages to fix some silliness from the first game and to add more tension.

My enthusiasm maybe be partly due to too many months without any new PC game worthy of that title, though.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: The Rogue Wolf on January 30, 2011, 04:27:57 PM
Nice review, Bobdog, and it fairly well agrees with my own review (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-tp/276-dead-space) (hey, remember when I wrote reviews? Those were the days).

I almost never buy first-day releases anymore, but seriously... I'm gonna grab this. Even at sixty bucks I've seen enough to make me think it'll be worthwhile.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Starfox on February 02, 2011, 04:29:39 AM
Does that mean we can expect a new Rogue Wolf's review sometime down the line. I would do one myself but if you want to take it, you're welcome. Or a collaborative effort perhaps?

Anyway, I just finish it on Normal difficulty and that was quite the ride. Don't exactly remember how the first one was -- I should replay it -- but I get the impression they cranked up the difficulty a notch. Weapon balance is definitely not the same. The Force gun in particular is now much more useful. There are a couple of things that could have been handled differently near the end of the game (specifically they tended to go a little too "Doom 3" if you take my meaning regarding enemy placement) but nothing major completely ruining the experience. And the Zero-G gravity bits are much more fun now that one can move around freely (Zero G puzzle are generally more complex, sometime with enemies; do not fear though as the air reserve has been augmented -- up to 3 minutes if the Rig is fully upgraded -- to accommodate the new challenges.

Also the way the suits are handled is definitely better. When you find a new suit with better stats in armor and inventory, these ones are stored into your Rig so that you can change back your suit (yes you can -- your old suits are stored in your Store inventory now) if you don't like the style. Each suit has one special property (one of them for example adjust the power of the pulse gun, another one decrease the prices of the items). So basically one can switch armor to get a specific property while still retaining the best armor and inventory slot one has found so far.

Icing on the cake, now you can Replay the game (keeping your inventory like in the first game) at any difficulty level. In Dead Space you were stuck replaying at the same difficulty level you already played at.

About the map, I mentioned above that it was removed and now only the tracer to objective remains. That was before I get all the subtlety of the new tracer because it can not only indicate you the route to your objective but also to the nearest save point, the nearest Bench and the nearest Store. So all in all the map is not missing, it has just been more seamlessly integrated.

All in all a very good sequel despite a few (fortunately rare) gameplay decisions that do not have my agreement but may please others.

OK, now I've done it. I just introduced a mini-review in bobdog thread... Sorry for that... Don't hit me, I bruise easily.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 02, 2011, 02:35:36 PM
Hey!! Grab your own thread!!  ;)

To celebrate 100 posts and more than 5,000 views, as well as 80 games reviewed thus far, I thought I might do a quick recap of the best and the worst I’ve played since I started this thread 15 months ago. Actually, it’s kind of hard to believe I’ve (mostly) played 80 games, especially since several of them took more than a month to finish. I say “mostly” because I admit to not finishing some of the lower-ranked games. But generally I’ve tried to finish every game I’ve started – good or bad – I’m just a giver, I guess.

I've placed a few thoughts next to each game as to what distinguished them in my mind. So, let’s start with the worst and work our way upward to the top, just like Casey Casem! Nearly a quarter of the games that I've played are my “bottom-dwellers” – those that irked me, pissed me off, or just otherwise sucked:

Bottom-dwellers:
- Rogue Warrior – 3.9 – ultra-short (3-4 hour) FPS with a dirty-mouthed scumbag through some unique locations, although the kills were nice!
- Infernal  – 4.0 – buggy third-person-shooter crapfest with stupid storyline.
- Gothic 3: Forsaken Gods  – 4.6 – buggy RPG crapfest with stupid storyline that put the nail in the Gothic coffin.
- Alone in the Dark (2008) – 4.8 – such promise, such wasted potential, such bugginess and overall difficulty.
- Dead Man’s Hand  – 5.1 – a Western-themed FPS that hasn’t aged well with poor graphics and simplistic linear gameplay.
- Boiling Point: Road to Hell  – 5.4 – another third-person-shooter that hasn’t aged well.
- Scorpion Disfigured  – 5.8 – graphics were decent but everything about this FPS was booooorrrrring.
- Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Sith Edition) – 5.8 – LucasArts whored out their brand for this crappy console port, proving yet again that Jedi Knight was the best game in this genre.
- The Scourge Project Episodes 1 and 2 – 5.8 – Tough, tough difficulty with NO quicksave options and no way to skip the interminable cutscenes.
- Total Overdose  – 5.8 – the open-world gangsta gameplay has been done much better and with more fun, although the gunkata moves were cool.
- Code of Honor  1 – 6.1 – lifeless, dated copy of original Medal of Honor, without the fun.
- Kane & Lynch: Dead Men  – 6.1 – grab the soap because these boys are downright nasty with no redeeming features.
- Contract Jack  – 6.1 – NOLF this is NOT; overly repetitive arena-type ambushes suck all semblance of humor from this FPS.
- Aurora Watching  – 6.2 – another copycat, this time of Metal Gear Solid; clambers on monotonously without any sense of purpose.
- Exodus from the Earth  – 6.3 – a potentially cool sci-fi concept mired by overly difficult snipers who have perfect aim, as well as making you backtrack throughout a laboratory/office building before finally getting to space in the third act.
- Turning Point: Fall of Liberty  – 6.3 – great concept, poor execution in this WW2 alternate reality that wasn’t ported effectively from consoles.
- Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter   – 6.3 – just plain too many buttons and keys to remember!

So those were the suckoids – consider yourself warned and never play them. You will rue your waste of breath when you could so easily be doing something productive with your life. Well, let’s go a little more positive with my “honorable mentions” – those games that aren’t quite the peak of perfection, but which I enjoyed nonetheless and highly recommend.

- Bionic Commando  – 8.5 – loved the game mechanics of this fun third-person action shooter, which took advantage of your bionic arm to swing you all over the huge levels.
- FEAR 2: Project Origin  – 8.6 – some killer set-pieces distinguish this FPS from its predecessor.
- Cold Fear  – 8.6 – stuck on an abandoned ship with malformed creatures on your tail? Sign me up!
- Manhunt  – 8.6 – the sneaking part of this game is almost as much fun as the many ways you can kill your enemies.
- Stranglehold  – 8.6 – like playing a 6-hour long interactive John Woo movie.
- Turok  – 8.6 – killing dinosaurs was never so fun, and the storyline was good too.
- Sniper: Ghost Warrior  – 8.6 – the first FPS to really make sniping fun and accessible, with great level design and multiple points of view.
- Nox  – 8.6 – old-skool PRG dungeoning that still feels fresh.
- Risen  – 8.6 – a deep, immersive RPG from the original designers of the Gothic series – back when it was fun.
- Red Faction: Guerilla  – 8.7 – like a monster-truck car-crushing contest in a wide-open game-world where you are the only hope for true rebellion.
- Mirror’s Edge  – 8.8 – the first-person free-running opportunities still make me giddy when I think of this title.
- Timeshift  – 8.8 – an under-rated FPS with an interesting storyline, cool powers, and fun weapon choices.
- Dead Space  – 8.8 – creepy, creepy, creepy – this game will stick with you hours after you finish.
- Velvet Assassin  – 8.8 – another under-rated sneaker that forces you to consider all the angles before you get caught.
- Prototype  – 8.9 – the first open game-world that truly made me feel like a super-hero, with a diversity of powers to draw from as you remove a contagion from New York City.

And finally we come to those games that really embody excellence for gamers. You can’t go wrong with these, at least in my mind!

- Prince of Persia (2008) – 9.1 – I appreciated the new storyline and cel-based art concept, as well as the free-running skills of the Prince. And it’s the only POP game I’ve ever been able to complete.
- Reservoir Dogs  – 9.1 – the shooter portion was okay, but the car chases really stood out and felt like you were in a Starsky and Hutch episode.
- Saints Row 2 – 9.2 – SR2 ups the fun factor a gazillion-fold for an open-world gangsta game that allows you to drive a plethora of vehicles through five distinct city districts.
- Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 – 9.2 – one of the most powerful FPS I’ve played, due to its emotional impact and settings.
- Gothic 2: Night of the Raven  – 9.2 – still an amazing RPG experience 10 years later with a rich, huge game world.
- Amnesia: The Dark Descent  – 9.4 – the greatest fear is the fear you invent yourself, and Amnesia is one of the few games to really get this right.
- Assassin’s Creed 2 – 9.4 – beautiful Italian Renaissance cities allow you to practice your craft without all the hassles present in the original game.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum  – 9.5 – truly an amazing experience to be in Batman’s shoes, taking on the worst of the worst in Arkham’s dingy halls!!
- Dragon Age: Origins  – 9.6 – this special game is so rich in back-story, augmented by great quests in memorable locations.

So there you have it – the worst and best I’ve reviewed in the past 80 games. Thanks for reading along, with many more to come.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: GreyMouser on February 03, 2011, 02:20:02 AM
First the game is even creepier than the first opus... And still the same reminiscent System Shock 2 atmosphere, which is not a bad thing.

I'm not very far into the game but I'm enthusiastic so far. Dead Space 2 manages to fix some silliness from the first game and to add more tension.
My enthusiasm maybe be partly due to too many months without any new PC game worthy of that title, though.
So.... Starfox did  you get the "collectible replica Plasma Cutter" with your copy of Dead Space 2.....:alieninvasion:


..................:smoking:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Starfox on February 03, 2011, 06:26:17 AM
Err... No as I didn't buy the Collector's Edition. I got a "Used CEC refurbished like new" plasma cutter which is a reminder from the first game (old model as Dead Space 2 plasma cutter uses a new model) but it's in game so not a real thing with which I could cut pesky people's limbs or at the very least hammer their head. Curious thing is that I prefer the new plasma cutter so I mainly use this one -- both have the same stats anyway and when you upgrade one the other is automatically upgraded too so it's really just a matter of the model used. The new plasma cutter is unique because it is assembled by Isaac at the beginning of the game. So it's a makeshift tool rather than a real industrial plasma cutter like in the first game.

Anyway the replica coming with the CE is a ridiculously tiny thing that a normal adult hand cannot handle the way it's supposed to be. So I guess it's just destined to be covered with dust on a shelf. Can see it there (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1S2VRJtgkg) if you're interested...
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: GreyMouser on February 03, 2011, 06:52:01 AM
Anyway the replica coming with the CE is a ridiculously tiny thing that a normal adult hand cannot handle the way it's supposed to be. So I guess it's just destined to be covered with dust on a shelf.
Yeah...I  don't think "it" was worth the "extra" cost.. :P......They should really call it a " miniature" replica Plasma Cutter....::)


.......................:smoking:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 06, 2011, 11:57:57 AM
In yet another departure from the reviewers at GameSpot, I totally dug Dark Void (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/darkvoid/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) and found it fun and engaging – just what games are supposed to be. Imagine if Indiana Jones was spliced with The Rocketeer in the Land of the Lost, and that’s what we’ve got going on, some old-time Saturday morning serial action. The game even plays out like that, with “Episodes” and “Parts.”

The game starts a bit confusing, as you start flying around in a rocketpack in some canyons, and then the next thing you know, you segue into a “One Week Ago” moment, where you’re piloting a plane with an ex-beau at your side. Your name is Will and you are about to cross over into the Void, a purgatory between our realm and the next, which also happens to be inhabited by some unfriendly shape-shifting alien folk who have designs on crossing over into our world. The time is right before World War 2 and they have been sending agents over to foment war between men, so that they can then step in and take charge easily.

The only thing that stands in their way is the prophesied “Key” – whose identity remains a mystery until deep in the story. The story itself is acted out within levels as you talk back and forth with your chums (mostly by radio), and then within some nicely done cutscenes.

Dark Void is a third-person shooter with time spent both on the ground and in the sky, in huge levels that take full advantage of the Unreal 3 engine. Since you (and your enemies) can fly, levels have a broad variety of both horizontal and vertical design. Additionally, the game introduces a cool feature I’ve never seen: when you approach a ledge below or above you, you can grasp onto it and your entire viewpoint changes to an arced “horizontal” perspective. It’s really cool.

Like most TPS now, the game has a sticky cover system that you can enter and leave at the press of a button. This gives you some cover from most sides and angles. Foes are generally a robotic type, with only a few changes among them: some fly, some blow up, some are tougher. You also see the aliens who inhabit the Void on a few occasions.

Boss battles take advantage of the large maps and force you to get down-and-dirty with them, sometimes with you looking like a veritable flea against their size. But even fleas have bites!! Toss in a bunch of aerial battles, huge buildings and levels to explore, and the fate of the known world, and you’ve got yourself a winning combination. My suggested score: 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 19, 2011, 11:28:46 PM
Alpha Protocol (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/alphaprotocol/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is perhaps one of the most underrated RPGs of 2010. As I played through, I could feel shards of Deus Ex in the overall “feel” of the game, which is no small comparison, to be sure. The game is set in the modern-day, and serves as a third-person shooter/sneaker, depending on the situation. You play as a male spy who has been sent out on your first mission, only to have it all come crashing down at your feet.

The first major action has you go off to Saudi Arabia, where you must find a man who is peddling black-market missiles. You’ll traipse through a variety of locales within the country – airport, warehouse, ruins, etc – and the first few missions have you gather enough intel to finally track down the boss. At that point, it’s up to you what you do with him when you catch him: kill him, make a trade, let him go free – any number of options.

From here, the game truly gains momentum, as you are now on the run from your own government, responsible for gaining intel, paying for weapons, and making all your own decisions. Your next three zones of interest are Moscow, Paris and Hong Kong, and each gives you more clues to what is *really* going on in the world: things aren’t always what they seem. The missions and locales were all diverse and interesting to play through.

The role-playing aspect ties to your special skills, and after each experience level, you can upgrade a number of different areas, such as specific weapon types, sneaking, technical, health, etc. You choose from three different types of spy to start with, or can mix and match your own skillset. One thing that sort of bothered me was that you had to go down each line of skills in order; i.e. the first option in rifle skills might be to increase your stability, the next might increase damage, the third might increase clip size – you have to go 1-2-3 in order and can’t skip ahead to the third option on that line of skills.

As you talk to people, you have the option to gain their trust, to have them be neutral toward you, or downright despise you. Obviously, you get more in life with honey than with flies, so it’s best to tailor your speech choices to each individual. And this does help – in some cases, people that trusted me would pull off their men from an area, or send them in to assist me; also, you can romance four of the women that you’ll meet.

I grew to like my character over the course of the game. He’s got some funny lines in places, and truly engaged me. The NPCs around you also are equally interesting. Interspersed throughout the game are a series of vignettes where you are talking to the CEO of an arms company, who alludes to your next actions. The game’s finale has multiple endings, where you might become a rebel or a kingpin, and have a variety of beauties at your side.

Perhaps my greatest gripe about the game is a simple gameplay mechanic: you can’t jump or climb, but must instead use context-sensitive “signs” to see if you can do a certain action, like leap over a ledge, or glide down a wire, or use a mounted gun. But once I got used to it, I just sort of let it slide and let the story take center stage instead.

The developers are Obsidian Entertainment, who also did Knights of the Old Republic 2, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Fallout: New Vegas. The game has received a fair share of criticism, but I really enjoyed it once I put aside the gameplay mechanic and just delved deeper into the story. 8.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 27, 2011, 09:46:57 AM
 Project: Snowblind (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/snowblind/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) was originally supposed to be an offshot of the Deus Ex family called DX: Clan Wars, but after DX: Invisible War tanked, they pulled the DX moniker off and repurposed it a little bit. You can still see the DX ties in the spiderbots and mechs, which are almost identical to the original game.

P:S uses first-gen graphics, which are most noticeable in the character close-ups and cutscenes; the overall world design is still okay after 4 years though. You play as a soldier in a future Hong Kong that is the battleground from a couple of different forces (and again you see the DX influence in the level design). Unfortunately, you got blowed up but good and the medics decide to outfit you with some augs, which keep expanding as you play the game. Augs include speed enhancement, invisibility, shielding, etc – the good augs from DX, in other words.

Levels consist of your home base (which you’ll play through at least three times), destroyed city streets, and some sewers connecting to the bad guy’s base. No real awesome settings, but nothing real bad either. You can choose to sneak around, but generally everything ends in a huge firefight. You’ll also be able to find special augs to increase your health or power supply.

So, it has definitely weathered from its first release, but it’s still pretty playable for today’s standards. The augs are fun, the shooting is good, and it’s not a bad story. I just wish it were all a little more unique. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 13, 2011, 01:48:41 PM
For this review, you get a two-fer from developer Pandemic Studios. The first is Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/mercenaries2worldinflames/index.html), the 2008 follow-up to the console game Mercenaries. I played Merc 2 for about 4 hours and at that point realized it just wasn’t cutting it for me for a couple of reasons. First, the gameplay was typical for a 3rd-person console shooter, with wonky mouse and keyboard controls and a confusing mishmash of buttons to try and memorize. Second, although the game-world is set in a large-scale version of modern Venezuela, the graphics felt dated. Third, the storyline about revenge because a client reneged on your deal is flimsy at best. Finally, it just wasn’t very fun, especially compared to similar open game-worlds like Saints Row 2. So, I left at that point and thought I’d try a different path.

That different path was The Saboteur (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/saboteur/index.html), a distinctively stylized open-world action game set in 1940s Paris during the height of the German occupation during World War 2. You play as Irish mechanic Sean Devlin, who is unknowingly drafted into a larger battle that is based on revenge, but then grows broader as the story continues and you begin fueling the French Resistance. Now THIS was a game I could invest myself into!!

And I did for 30-40 hours. As in most open-world games, there is a wealth of things to do other than the main missions. In fact, there possibly might be TOO MUCH to do, as your whole goal is to sabotage the Nazi efforts. Sure, it’s fun for a number of hours to simply tool around, blow stuff up using explosives or the Nazis’ own cannons, and then run for the hills to escape. But when you see the HUNDREDS of targets show up on your map ... then it starts to sink in that your work is cut out for you.

Don’t get me wrong, driving around Paris and its outskirts is pretty darn cool, with all the big sites present: Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, etc., as well as the rural countryside and other small villages, giving you a pretty big canvas to appreciate. And the Nazi presence is everywhere: loudspeakers, outposts, petrol dumps, tanks, radar installations, rockets – when the Germans do a takeover, they do it well!

So you get a wealth of guns and ammo to accomplish your tasks, which generally involve blowing things up, serving as the wheelman for getaways and deliveries, actual races both in town and in the country, blowing more things up, freeing prisoners, facing off against your German arch-enemy Hans Dierker, sniping from different vantage points, and finally, blowing even more things up. Did I say that you get to blow things up? Oh, and when you’re not doing any of your main tasks, you can buy maps on the black market that pinpoint all the German installations (that you need to disable by, yes, blowing them up), Resistance caches, viewpoints of interest (a la Assassins Creed), and car jumps (a la Saints Row).

In all, it’s a fun game, and I can’t deny the thrill of climbing up buildings, including the big cathedrals and Eiffel Tower, and tweaking the Nazis by bringing their world crashing down. But after about the 300th time, it DOES get old. Racing around in a plethora of period-piece vehicles also has great appeal, but without a defined purpose, it also loses its edge. A mission on a moving train was probably a highlight, as was your break-in to Notre Dame, and your attempt to reach the Resistance by going through the catacombs.

Graphically, I was fine with the visuals. The developers have provided a unique look: for areas under Nazi occupation, the color scheme is black-and-white, with only a few specific hints of color (red for Nazis and Nazi targets, blue for Resistance, etc.), but after you’ve freed an area of Nazi control, the black-and-white springs into full color. In these new areas, the Nazi presence is diminished. It’s a really neat effect and really gives you that sense of accomplishment.

Occasionally, especially during races, your car would out-speed the graphics, so that it would pause to deliver the next area you were entering. But this was a rare occurrence and didn’t take much away from it. Most controls were okay, although you have to provide a separate set of key commands for the driving portions. Maybe my biggest gripe was the in-game map – the overlay of features never matched the background roads and district lines; all you knew was that your next target was “over that way.” But these were all things I could get past. I truly enjoyed The Saboteur and the simple fact that it allows nudity automatically makes it a “must-play” for Silver  :purplelaugh:.

So, for Mercenaries 2, I’ve got to fairly rate it as 6.1 out of 10, but Pandemic Studios really upped their skills when they created The Saboteur, which gets 8.5 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 21, 2011, 12:33:19 PM
Finishing up my Dragon Age Origins reviews are the expansion pack Awakening, and DLCs The Golems of Amgarrak, and Witch Hunt.

Awakening (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/dragonageoriginsawakening/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is maybe a third as large as the original game, and features much of the same type of gameplay. Nothing really stood out to me as exceptional other than the major choice you make at the end of the game, which has a dire effect on half your crew. However, it is an enjoyable ride nonetheless, and brings back much of the feelings from playing the original.

You have become the Warden Commander of Warden’s Keep, and after being plopped down, launch immediately into fending off a new Darkspawn attack upon the Keep. With the help of a female knight named Mhaira and a sarcastic mage named Anders, you succeed and meet the Seneschal of the Keep, who undertakes the Joining process for both your new cohorts, as well as old friend Oghren. Unfortunately, one of these doesn’t make it through the Joining, so now you’ve got to seek some new Grey Wardens, as well as solve the question of why the Darkspawn attack occurred.

You’ll roam around Amaranthine to a couple of notable locations like a haunted swamp and a dwarven thaig, doing the odd fetch quests and mystery solving. You’ll uncover evidence that the Darkspawn are mutating into new species and seem to have split among two new leaders, which is unheard of. And you’ll finally have to make a difficult decision that will impact all your teammates.

I found Awakening quite glitchy and buggy compared to the original, with several quests unable to complete, and which caused some negative repercussions at the end. Several maps were lifted wholly from the original game and/or recycled shamelessly throughout Awakening, so I thought the level design was lacking. I did like the new skills you can upgrade to, great new weapons and armor, and the ability to craft your own runes.

Overall, Awakening provided another excuse to round up a posse and tackle a new question relating to the Darkspawn, so I can’t complain too much, just warn you that you won’t get the same contact high that the original game delivered. 8.3 out of 10

The Golems of Amgarrak (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/dragonageoriginsgolemsofamgarrak/index.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssimilargames&tag=similargames%3Bimg%3B4) was a nice side-trip back into the dwarven tunnels, although it was too short. However, the challenging golem foes more than made up for it, as did the puzzle-like switches that you must figure out. You do gain a couple of dwarf fighters (one of whom can call up a Bronto sidekick) and your own kick-a$$ golem, but still, you’ll find yourself down in the mud on quite a few occasions.

As stories go, you accompany one of the dwarves to find his brother at a long-lost thaig, hoping to save their party and reclaim the glory of the thaig for his family. You do find the brother eventually, but not before realizing he is on a completely separate plane of existence. Using a couple of lyrium-infused machines, you flip yourself into the brother’s plane, and can attempt to stop the forge’s production line. However, you’ve got another critter stuck inside the mine with you that you’ll need to take down.

The battles are tough, the atmosphere is pretty cool and golem teammates are always fun. It’s not a world changer, but it’s definitely worth playing. 7.4 out of 10

In contrast, Witch Hunt (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/dragonageoriginswitchhunt/index.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssimilargames&tag=similargames%3Bimg%3B5) is a poor send-off to the Dragon Age name. From the short, ridiculous gameplay (“Go to the library ... check out books ... hit a few statues”) to the banal team you gather to the actual lack of Morrigan, this is a lousy substitute and not really worthy of the series. Save your money for DA2 instead. 5.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 28, 2011, 06:35:19 AM
With the recent news that a sequel was forthcoming in 2012, I chose to make a return trip to Prey (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/prey/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0), which was as delicious as the first time. The Doom 3 graphics engine is holding up well, and the gameplay was as fun as ever. Although a short 6-8 hours in length, it feels complete, and perhaps any longer would feel like padding.

My greatest complaint is the in-game human models – especially for your character’s girlfriend Jen and your grandfather. Jen looks like an elf with long ears, and Grandfather’s head looks like an elongated pumpkin. And some of the enemy models looked too Doom 3-esque to me, such as the tall ogre with gun-fists, the half man-beasts with knife hands and the hovering robot-man. The health bars for boss enemies also was a bit old-skool FPS, as was the typical boss-fight arenas.

Level design remains unique and I am continually amazed how the portal system works in the game, as well as the gravity walkways and the ability to spin whole rooms around. Few other games have been so distinctive in their setting, especially including the Native American spin that encompasses everything – spirit walking, health regeneration if you “die”, the Sacred Cave where you receive training. Unfortunately, recent reports indicate Prey 2 will not have you play as Tommy from the original, nor will it feature the Native American backstory. Instead, you will play as a federal airline marshal whose plane is captured by the Sphere, and you will encounter events at about the same time as Tommy before being whisked away to another alien world.

I did try to find the airline pilot from the above-mentioned plane in my replay, but never did – I did go through a few areas kind of quickly though, and may have taken an alternate route before fully exploring my surroundings. At any rate, Prey still stands up as a great game and I highly recommend it. 8.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 02, 2011, 02:46:59 PM
Ten years ago (so long now??! geez, I’m dating myself) I visited a website called Home of the Underdogs (http://www.homeoftheunderdogs.net), which focused on games that weren’t big sellers and were often waylaid by the most popular games of the time. It was/is a great site, and what I always liked was the select list of “Top Dogs” – those games that you should have caught the first time around, but didn’t for whatever reason. This list includes some great games that just never caught on with the mass market, including  (most recently) Beyond Good & Evil, Grim Fandango, Sanitarium, Omikron: The Nomad Soul, Outcast, and The Longest Journey – all of which I think we all agree are stand-outs. So when I read about a game that was developed by the same creators of Tomb Raider, my curiosity was piqued.

That game was Project Eden (http://homeoftheunderdogs.net/game.php?id=4753), and it was one of the best gaming experiences of my life.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve tried to replay the game on 3 or 4 occasions, but each successive iteration of Windows after Win98 (for which it was created) have made it impossible. Until now.

So when I found that I could finally start the game in WinVista, I was beyond psyched. I mean, this is one of my favorite games, on a par with and (to my mind) very similar to Anachronox in design and play style. Unfortunately, not everyone shares my (and HOTU’s) love of the game – witness GameSpot’s review (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/projecteden/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0). But that’s okay, not everyone has to agree with me.

So how was my latest play-through? It was as amazing as I remembered from the first time, so obviously the gameplay holds up very well. The concept is that you control a team of 4 people, all of whom have special skills that only they can use: the leader Carter opens company doors and interrogates suspects; Andre repairs broken items; Minoko hacks into computer systems; and the cyborg Amber can navigate all environmental hazards in her robot-like shell. Anyone can open basic doors and maneuver basic controls, however.

I think what makes Project Eden so special in my mind is the landscape “puzzles” that you encounter as a team, and the sheer scope and size of each of the levels. The best part is when your team is separated (either by your own efforts or through environmental hazards), and then you must move forward on several separate paths until you can finally meet up again. Yes, this is a third-person adventure, and you do have to kill various mutants, but it relies most strongly on your teammates solving the puzzles placed before them. Sometimes you’ll get stuck, and when that happens, you have to switch teammate to see if you can advance down their particular path. You also get a small wheeled rover to fit under cracks and tackle problems, as well as a hovering spycam that can open select doors, and if all else fails, resort to these two to get you going again.

I don’t guess I can really explain why I love this game so much, but again, that Anachronox comparison comes to mind (without the JRPG elements), maybe without the overall humor. At any rate, if you enjoy a thinking-person’s game, make room for Project Eden. 9.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 10, 2011, 10:04:26 AM
Much as I wanted to like Ninja Blade (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/ninjablade/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0), I was denied for three primary reasons:

1) The console-centric key-mapping made a full keymap impossible for PC players; in fact, many of the keys are specifically tied to a controller. I was able to make it work through my GlovePIE program (a nifty tool that converts *their* keymaps to *your* keymaps), but that still left a few unmappable keys for the Quick-Time Events (QTEs).

2) ... which were another main problem. I don’t mind a few QTEs, and in fact, several of the recent Lara Croft games have them scattered throughout. Wolverine had some QTEs. But when I tried to play Indigo Prophecy, which was flush with them, it just became too much – “Hit Y now!! Now hit O!! Ah, you missed it, you schmuck – you’ve got to do the whole level all over again!!” Now, Ninja Blade probably has 25% QTEs as part of gameplay, but to its credit, if you miss one, it backs up about 5 seconds and allows you to do it again if you get stuck (at least on the “Easy” QTE designation).

3) But probably the most egregious problem is sheer gamer fatigue – the game NEVER lets up for players. If you’re not having to attack monster-sized beasties, you’re running from them or to the next area, with creepy-crawlies jumping all over you. Yes, there are some cutscenes, but if you need to take a break, THE GAME DOESN’T START YOU AT YOUR MOST RECENT SAVE!! Instead, you must play the WHOLE LEVEL all over again to get to where you were. And as an example, the first level took me nearly 2 hours to play. So if you’re in, you’ve got to at least get to the next mission or you’ll have to play it all, all over again.

The story is nothing short of ridiculous – ninjas have been trained for centuries to battle a plague of infectious nematodes that turn animals (including humans) into oversize, over-strong monsters. But it’s a gaudy kind of ridiculous, which when coupled with your avatar Ken’s gravity-defying acrobatic skills, could almost be fun. Set-pieces are crazy ... taking place in, over and under Tokyo’s skyscrapers, while the sheer magnitude of huge monster bosses seems without end.

So, yes, if you’re the controller type, you might actually want to give this a go. For all of us more mature gamers, I rate it 7.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 16, 2011, 10:37:51 AM
Alcatraz (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/alcatraz2010/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B2) is another "value" City Interactive FPS, which generally means it provides adequate gameplay for those who are desperate for something to shoot at. This is no different, supplying about 3-4 hours of decent gameplay.

The story is a bit nonsensical in that you are sent in to “soften up” terrorist resistance on the prison island of Alcatraz before a strike force arrives to disarm some nukes that the terrorists stole; but then, why didn’t they just send in the strike force? Honestly, it could have been any island, in that you barely enter any prison cell facilities. My guess: the level designers went on a tour of the island and mapped it out based on what they encountered. So the levels are actually fairly realistic in that regard.

As in other City Interactive games (except for Sniper: Ghost Warrior reviewed earlier (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg11694#msg11694)), levels are straightforward with only one path to plow ahead. Enemy AI is fairly decent and hides behind barriers rather than just standing around. You’ll mostly face mercs, but you’ll also have to face down a helicopter or two.

Gameplay is only slightly above standard, but just remember that you get what you pay for in this quick game. 6.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 21, 2011, 09:09:52 AM
Mass Effect 2 (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/news/news-foxhole/293-review-mass-effect-2-and-dlc) has already been reviewed quite thoroughly here on the Foxhole, so I won’t belabor the fact. The game is amazing, the storyline is intricate, the voice-work is ultra-professional, and it was just enjoyable and fun to play. And long too – I clocked in at 48 hours, hitting all planets, DLCs, missions, etc. I only actively researched maybe half the planets, but did land on all of them to garner some of the little missions that arose.

The only thing I can really add is a quickie review of The Arrival, the final DLC for the game that was recently released. This DLC is the bridge between ME2 and ME3, specifically pertaining to how the Collectors work for the Reapers.

The Arrival, which I played prior to the final Omega 3 finale, starts with a distress call prompted by one of your old Admiral friends from back on Citadel. He asks you to go save a friend of his, but that you must do it alone. So you go to the base and are welcomed graciously by the friend, only to find it’s a trap. Bloodshed ensues, and you finally escape, getting an ominous message from the Collector General via the Reapers. Things don’t look good for humanity’s fate....

SPOILER ZONE!!
So I finished the game as a female Shepard (thanks Silver!), wooed Garrus, then Thane for the achievement, and then dumped him for Jacob at the end. Ending at Level 30, I maxed Paragon and nearly maxed Renegade choices, as well as maxing out almost all research options (except for Shotgun 4/5 and medi-gel 4/5 – ran out of money....). If I could have gone past Level 30, I think I could have maxed my team’s XP skills at least one more time. I unfortunately lost Yeoman Kelly, Jack and Grunt during the suicide mission, and I destroyed the Collector facility so that it couldn’t be used by Cerberus. But I stand by my choices, and I’m not going to try and see what would have happened otherwise. Come get me, Reapers!!

Excellent game, one of the best I’ve ever experienced. I agree with the Foxhole rating of 9.6 out of 10. And this time I’m saving my character for the upcoming ME3!
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 27, 2011, 07:02:28 AM
Recently I started clearing off some stuff from my hard-drive, and realized I had been hoarding fan missions (FMs) that had been developed for The Dark Mod (TDM) (http://www.thedarkmod.com), a modification to the Doom 3 engine that would allow it to play like the first-person sneaker Thief. There was much gnashing of teeth within the Thief community when Thief 3 came out and wasn’t exactly like Thief 1 and 2, or as easily moddable (never mind that the DarkEngine that powers the first two games is so antiquated that the Smithsonian is asking for a copy), so TDM was their answer to the problem.

Well, I played a good third of the TDM FMs ... and they suck. The AI is absolutely, completely over-the-top aggressive, able to spot you from 100 feet away, and then never calms down ... ON EASY!! Level designs are lame and uninviting, even for the so-called “good” maps. And it’s just not fun to play – it was more aggravating than anything else.

Now let me say that I completely appreciate what the TDM authors wanted to do – I respect the amount of effort that has gone into TDM to pull out a Thief-like experience from the Doom 3 engine. But it was absolutely no fun, and I quit it in disgust.

Unfortunately, I began to wonder if perhaps my love of all things Thief-y was the problem? I can’t play Thief 2 maps any more due to engine issues on my latest rig, as well as just an overall malaise against the 10-year-old game (I’ve probably played the same iterations of museum/mansion break-in at least a zillion times). And now I had quit TDM under less than ideal circumstances. Could that mean that I didn’t love Thief any more, one of my first loves in PC gaming??

To hammer out this situation, I decided to boot up Thief 3: Deadly Shadows (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/thief3/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) again, and see if it was me after all. First I installed the latest patch, and then John P’s texture patch, and then a No-CD patch, and finally I was ready to play. Again, the first “training” mission was a pain in the toucas, but after I finally got to start wandering around the City on my own, and get into the various missions, I started feeling that warm glowing feeling in the pit of my stomach, and it wasn’t just from yesterday’s white chili ... I still loved the Thief experience, as long as it was done well.

Which isn’t to say that Thief 3 is perfect, because it isn’t by any means: small levels split in half, long loading times between levels,  not enough climbing opportunities, not enough thieving opportunities in the City, absolutely horrible character ragdolls with no model diversity (3 maybe, that were also used for Deus Ex: Invisible War?), dying if you get in water over a teaspoon deep.... But TDS does give you that opportunity to run in Garrett’s shoes again, and it’s a good feeling.

Level design is fun and diverse, and you get a mix of everything. The Cradle is still scary, like when you go up into the attic and start hearing a door banging shut no matter where you go in the asylum. But if you go balls-out Rambo, it loses its shock value, though those prisoners are beyond freaky.

The storyline also was rich, and getting to see the Keeper side of things was fun. Unfortunately, there aren’t many rooftop opportunities, which defeats much of the Thief feel for me. I’m hopeful Thief 4 will rectify all the issues that we had with T3, although I kind of feel that Assassin’s Creed has now bettered the Thief experience in every way. Regardless, TC is still a great game and I rank it 8.5 out of 10.

I continue this review in the Thief section of the Foxhole, with a quick update on the most recent T3 FMs released (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=329.msg12085#msg12085)....
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 04, 2011, 05:50:25 PM
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/princeofpersiatheforgottensandspc/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0&tag=stitialclk%3Bgamespace) returns back to the more popular original “Sands” trilogy, rather than continue the most recent “rebooted” POP. Gone is Princess Farah, and in her place is the last remaining djinn, final protector of the city held under your brother’s protection. However, the city is under attack and falling to the hordes, so the only solution your brother can think of is to unleash Solomon’s Army. Unfortunately ... well, you know what happens when you open the floodgates on a mysterious “army” that you think you can command – things don’t always work out so well. Your brother falls under the power of an evil djinn, and now it’s up to you to save both the city and the land from this army!

The good djinn will provide you with special innate powers to freeze water, to turn back time, to jump vast distances at your enemies, and to recall ancient memories. All are necessary to move forward. You’ll also gain experience from killing your foes, which you can then parlay into new abilities such as freeze attacks, stone armor, wind explosions and flame trails, among other things.

Personally, I enjoyed the reboot much more than the Sands games, simply because it was the only one I actually completed. All the others would let me get maybe a third or a half into the game, and then start throwing near-impossibilities at me, where you have to mash like 12 buttons consecutively.

Forgotten Sands is a happy medium between both. I did indeed get to an extremely frustrating point a third in, where you must freeze horizontal water flows. You are freezing the current pipe you are swinging on, then must release, and then must time the second frozen pipe just right, or you’ll continue to fall to your doom over and over again. I was literally ready to shut the game down for good, I was so frustrated, but I did manage to find a trainer to give me some additional powers. And once past that little section, things began to move apace.

Where POP goes right is in creating large, intricate levels that require you to use different jumps and abilities to reach the next area. And Forgotten Sands has plenty of these. I didn’t find levels as graphically diverse and appealing as the reboot, because they still mirror the level design of the original trilogy: lots of palace interiors, traps, etc., rather than the fantasy and outside landscapes from the reboot.

Nevertheless, Forgotten Sands is a little more approachable than the original Sands games because it doesn’t present quite so many “impossible” scenarios. Nothing is worse than getting into a game, only to find yourself unable to continue due to physical technicalities. Note to Developers: Not all of us gamers are X-Box crowds or own gamepads; you are more than welcome to include “impossible” paths and ideas, but make them to reach optional goals, not mandatory to continue the required path.

Final tally: a good game that lacks the originality of the POP reboot, but is definitely easier to play than its “Sands” predecessors. 8.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 26, 2011, 10:17:31 AM
Borderlands (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/borderlands/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1) was an enjoyable RPG shooter, but ultimately, I had some technical issues that prevented me from completing the game. I actually made it up to Level 19, but then kept experiencing a hard-drive crash at the same point in the story. No amount of cajoling could get me past it, and I literally tried everything I read about in various forums – it seems that at least a few others had a similar problem.

But from my play time of a good 4-6 hours, I actually enjoyed it. Similar to Fallout 3 in that it is located in an apocalyptic future wasteland, you earn experience from kills and quests. You can play as one of four individuals (or you and your buds can play them in 4-player co-op mode), each with different skills and traits. I went with a sniper type and was picking apart critters from all over the place.

Graphically, Borderlands uses a cel-shading technique to distinguish it from other grittier affairs. Colors are vibrant without being garish, and tie the ambience tighter to the game’s humor.

Levels are set in a hub system, with you moving in and out of each hub depending on your current quest or desire. Each level is generally distinct without any duplication of design elements.

Weapons are the highlight of the game, with a plethora of unique and individual weapons available, that you can switch among. Of course, the more you use a weapon type, the better you get at it, which increases damage levels and accuracy.

Borderlands differs from Fallout 3 in one positive way: drivable vehicles. You can use these to shorten your path to the next checkpoint. They also provide good ramming force, and have rocket launchers and mini-guns to make short work of any enemies around. Another difference from F3, although negative, is that foes respawn after a certain length of time, so you find yourself killing the same enemies over and over and over and over and over again ad infinitum.

Short synopsis: generally fun, with interesting quests and a good sense of humor to carry it forward. 8.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 30, 2011, 09:27:12 PM
If you’re looking for a decent afternoon FPS, and you can find it on the cheap, you could do worse than Shellshock 2: Blood Trails (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/shellshock2bloodtrails/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1). Oh, it’s not great – not by any stretch – but I’ve definitely played worse, and unlike some games I’ve scored in this section, I actually finished it.

The game takes a rookie in Nam and introduces him to a drug-induced zombie apocalypse. These are more the 28 Days Later type of fast zombies, with some actual scares every now and then as they pop out of the darkness.

The Source engine provides decent graphics and characters, and levels, although straightforward A to B routes, are interesting and actually make you feel like you’re in Nam. Levels run the gamut of city streets, concentration camps, rainforest trails, rivers, temples, abandoned mansions, caves, booby-trapped tunnels and more. Several levels actually had me on edge to get away from the zombies. Levels are full of war-time atmosphere, with bodies strewn everywhere, so it is a bit graphic.

Occasional Quick-Time Events (QTEs) break up the monotony, forcing you to fend off a zombie, or get away from a trap. I actually mapped the QTE keys to the arrow keys so I’d immediately know what to press.

Enemy AI is brain-dead, but you must use headshots to take out the zombies, so it does make it slightly strategic.

The story is passable – you are searching for your brother, who appears to be Subject Zero for the zombie virus – and must get him to the authorities to seek an antidote before the virus lights up the Asian hemisphere. Voice acting is decent and sounds are good.

Really only worth playing if you want a quick, decent game to run through. 6.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 02, 2011, 07:05:12 AM
In August 2008 (about 3 years ago), I played and then reviewed Tomb Raider: Legend (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1105.0), the first in the "new" Lara Croft trilogy. My game time was slightly faster, and I didn't necessarily go after all the special artifacts this time, but the gaming experience was just as fun as I remember. A great start to the new trilogy, in other words, and a great way to reboot Lara after some really crappy Tomb Raider releases. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 06, 2011, 12:55:11 PM
Portal 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/portal-2/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is yet another Valve masterpiece that manages to excel the original by expanding on known gameplay ideas while crafting a unique story arc with new game features that augment the original. Humor is slightly darker, but still provides giggles throughout as you work with the two AI Wheatley and GladOS and hear the story of potato-scientist extraordinaire Cave Johnson, the founder of Aperture Science, and his right-hand assistant Caroline.

For the SP campaign, Valve’s playtesting also ensured that there were no “impossible” movement-related issues, like having to hit a small spot with a portal while being upside-down and sailing through the air backwards. So it’s actually an easier game than the original, but there were still plenty of head-scratchers (and a few which required me to check out a walkthru), although with enough time, I could figure most everything out.

The story is much broader than simply Chell doing tests and learning that there is another world out there that she should escape to. I like how the writers make this more of GladOS’ story, where she learns revenge, then humility, then acceptance. The voicework is spot on magnificent for all characters and Wheatley especially is an endearing character, even when he goes power-mad.

About Achievements: Valve again continues with achievements for the game, and that’s fine. But I have an issue with “empty” achievements that anyone can get, other than a “game completed” achievement. Only 10 of the 29 SP achievements (about one-third) could truly be considered actual achievements that you have to knowingly work for – the rest came about in the normal play of the game. Are these empty achievements Valve’s only way to try and ensure people play the game to completion? How about this: remove all the empty achievements that any monkey could get by simply playing the game, and reward the real achievers with a free $10 game for every 100 achievements you accomplish; that would be enough incentive to try and get achievements.

SPOILER DISCUSSION:
We learn that Cave Johnson bought a salt mine in Michigan, which is presumably where all the testing takes place, Spoiler
not on the Aperture Science boat that was surmised in the original Portal. And apparently Aperture Science creates technology that other companies (Black Mesa included) do a better job of marketing and/or outright steal.


Cave Johnson gets deathly ill by breathing the moondust that he used to create the portal technology, and he mentions trying to fuse human intellect with computers. We also learn that whoever is in charge of the facility is driven to “test, test, test”. Spoiler
Could Cave be that “driver” to ensure that GladOS and then Wheatley keep testing to find a cure for his disease? And might Cave still be “alive” in the computer somehow, waiting for the successful conclusion of the portal technology tests? i.e. new enemy or playable AI perhaps for Portal 3....


Why would Aperture Science create a “moron” AI entity like Wheatley and introduce him into the system? Spoiler
Is his presence to ensure that GladOS is constantly facing randomness to keep her on her toes? Could Wheatley actually be Cave Johnson, as the first effort to merge human and computer AI, and the scientists messed it up but got it right with Caroline??


According to Valve, the ending of Portal 2, Spoiler
where Chell enters the deserted wheat field, takes place many years after the original game, leading some to believe that Chell is now in a world controlled by the Combine. Could a Portal 3 describe Chell’s efforts to join the Rebels? Unfortunately, Chell exits the Aperture Science facility minus the portal gun, but surely she knows a bit about the portal technology. Alternatively, maybe the wheat field is a form of a holodeck and GladOS isn’t done with her testing....


I don’t think we’ve seen the end of GladOS, however, Spoiler
since Valve was originally going to remove all portal technology from Portal 2 and instead incorporate something called “F-Stop”. But then the focus testers wondered how you could have a Portal 2 without portals.... So maybe we’ll see a series of games called Aperture Science, where Valve has GladOS test subjects (all the many humans found in the co-op version of the game) with various bits of new technology, like F-Stop and whatever else comes up.


While doing this review, I found this VERY interesting take on the ending and the true relationship between Chell and GladOS (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/portal-2/video_player.html?id=dnY3kGf85bMPsj7Y&tag=user_vids%3Btitle), and it actually makes a lot of sense. What else did you think of while experiencing the game?

Portal 2 is a must-play for gamers, especially those interested in thought-provoking puzzles bookmarked between an intriguing storyline and fantastic level designs, with the whole thing covered in a veneer of dark humor and great voicework. 9.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 12, 2011, 11:25:46 AM
Okay, so no one has any ideas about my Portal discussion. Either I'm dead on the mark, or more distressingly, no one reads my columns.  :'(

Well, here's something you'll read, and you'll like it!! Or maybe not....

Like previous games in the series, the rebooted Aliens vs. Predators (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/aliens-vs-predator/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B2) offers three campaigns to play through for a human marine, a xenomorph Alien, and a Predator. All three campaigns seemed to merge at certain areas, which provided some continuity as a gamer.

Definitely, the marine campaign gets the horror and terror aspect right as you face off against hordes of the acid-spewing aliens in dark and constricted spaces during the first two missions. Later missions incorporate both alien and predator foes but lack the sheer terror of being in enclosed spaces with aliens popping up all around you and pinging your detection meter.

The Alien campaign starts inside a lab, where you see your unusual birth and then learn how to control the Alien’s unique features, including arm and tail swipes, and ceiling and wall walking. It’s a nice, intuitive process that gets you into the alien’s skin, so to speak, where you must assist the queen xenomorph to escape from the lab facility, where she too has been held for tests. The Alien has to be smart about taking on only one foe at a time; otherwise, it will get chewed up by gunfire. It was interesting to play as the Alien, but there's no true impetus to urge your participation -- no underlying need you have to satisfy as a player.

The Predator campaign also starts with a training exercise before launching you into a campaign against human grunts who have set up a perimeter, and then facing off against aliens and Pred-aliens. It’s challenging to remember all the buttons you have to use. Perhaps the most challenging set piece has you facing off against dozens of Aliens swarming you, while another has you stuck inside a large arena taking on a super-Alien.

The graphical assets throughout the levels are sharp and detailed – especially the gory kills, like when your Predator rips the skull and spine out of a human. However, human character models are not especially good in the cutscenes and It looks like they were made for the original X-Box, rather than today’s generation of graphics. Additionally, about half of the levels are recycled between all three campaigns, which is perhaps more efficient, but feels really lazy.

The difficulty seems a notch hard, as I died continuously in the Normal setting through all three campaigns. I haven’t been so challenged as a gamer in a long time, which certainly enforced the idea of being more cerebral in your planning efforts.

The controls had some severe glitches. Sometimes I’d start backpedaling from aliens as a marine, trying to shoot at the same time, and the whole game would drop out, bounce to desktop, and come back – sometimes in windowed mode, and sometimes back to fullscreen. It’s like the game was receiving too many commands (2!!) at once and couldn’t correlate them correctly. Generally, this only happened in frantic firefights, but there are many of those in the Human campaign.

The truth of the matter is that the first few missions of the Human campaign scared me silly, while I grew immensely bored with the rest of the game and couldn’t be bothered to finish it for a full 3 months. That speaks spades to me when I can’t drum up the desire to finish it (although I eventually did). 6.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Starfox on June 12, 2011, 11:27:15 PM
Okay, so no one has any ideas about my Portal discussion. Either I'm dead on the mark, or more distressingly, no one reads my columns.  :'(

Oh, I do read your reviews but I must confess I didn't play Portal 2 so I'm poorly placed to make any comment about spoilers (that I won't read anyway, not before playing the game).

That point aside, keep an eye on your PM later this week because there are changes coming for you... your reviews, I mean... Well, the way they are stored in the forum at any rate...  :lol:

And I totally agree about the last AvP iteration... Except my notation would have been even more severe... let's say... 5.5 But that's because after 3 or 4 skull ripping I began to think that this kind of violent display was purely gratuitous not even adding one bit to the gameplay. And the human campaign is a joke (when compared to Alien vs Predator 2 of which I have fond memories). The only neat think was probably being able to control exactly were my pred was going to land after a jump. In AvP 2 I fell off trees more often than I care to remember  ;D
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 14, 2011, 06:51:49 AM
I have been wanting to play Duke Nukem Forever (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/duke-nukem-forever/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) for 14 years, since I first played Duke Nukem 3D and its myriad of add-ons and extra levels in 1996. By turns in these very forums, I have been excited, berated as an idiot fan-boy, disappointed, and then cautiously optimistic. For a game that has undergone no less than four different engines in its decade-plus development, an almost release in 1998 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omOPjBoClw0&feature=related), 2001 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDlB2P1leRM) and 2007 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXOhzES4SG4&playnext=1&list=PLE8D55E6717112F3D) (of these, the 2001 game looked close to completion and would have been pretty awesome), and the death of gaming studio 3D Realms, this has not been a pleasant road.

So for me to finally sit at a computer, play the game and give you a report... I’m actually a bit giddy and mystified. It’s so surreal that we’ve finally gotten here. And here’s the kicker: DNF is not a world-changer, and it has some legacy issues tied to its lengthy development cycle, but the final result is a rather enjoyable adventure that gamers should definitely give a chance, reviews be damned. (SPOILER WARNING: Interestingly, the final game almost exactly mirrors the 2009 plot leak (http://ve3d.ign.com/articles/news/46948/Duke-Nukem-Forever-28-Hi-Res-Screenshots-Entire-Plot-Leaked) – see the charts at bottom – minus a major character and the later levels.)

If you play DNF expecting Call of Duty, you will be woefully disappointed. DNF is almost a direct sequel to D3D, with a shinier coat of paint, only it feels like it has been stuck in a time warp for a decade. While the rest of its FPS brothers went the gritty, realistic route, DNF is still stuck in its goofy glory days, which is both blessing and curse: blessing in that Duke can be a little more over-the-top in its craziness and generally get away with it, but curse in that most of D3D’s gamers have grown up and it doesn’t feel like DNF has matured appropriately. I mean, what other FPS has you picking up poo from toilets and throwing it around? Or thinks that boob jokes and porno mags in levels is cool? That's for 12-year-old boys -- not for the 18+ audience this has to be sold to. But similarly, what other FPS game COULD have the audacity to do these juvenile actions than Duke?

Graphic design bounces back and forth between sharp textures and slightly lower-fidelity, offering a weird syncopation within levels. In the graphics, it is readily apparent how Gearbox merely put a new veneer on the work that 3D Realms completed years ago. In fact, Gearbox stated that they simply finalized the game that 3D Realms built. For the most part, this is not a detraction, but I point it out because it becomes obvious quickly, especially with some of the human character models.

Levels themselves are primarily a continuing series of set-pieces that vary from shooters to rail segments to motorized transit to shrunken-Duke versions. I will say this: I never got bored – there was always something new around the bend, or interactive elements to play with, or new puzzles or environments. DNF is not a corridor crawl from point A to point B, and for that the designers should be congratulated. Some highlights include climbing around the outside of a tentacle-encased skyscraper with a view of sunny Las Vegas surrounding you; jumping your 4x4 truck across canyons; a boss fight on top of Hoover Dam; a boss fight when you’re shrunk to action figure size; and a pretty awesome underwater battle and boss fight. Come to think of it, most of the boss fights were pretty good. And yes, they are all arena boss fights, just like old skool FPS games.

However, DNF definitely could have been much tighter in its construction, because it feels like there are too many “empty” situations that serve no purpose other than filler. Take the opening set of maps, which take a full 60-90 minutes to really get into the game proper: after a fairly quick arena boss fight, you come into Duke’s reality, whereby you learn that aliens are attacking earth, and they are now interrupting your next TV appearance. You dither around with various interactive items (toilet, microwave, etc.), then you get shrunk and must drive around a remote-control car through a destroyed Las Vegas casino, before you finally make your way to the basement, shoot a few aliens and turn on the power. It just feels like a lengthy amount of time to not be doing much of consequence. In a way, it is reminiscent of Daikatana, whose earliest levels were blah, and then actually improved the farther into the game you got.

A needlessly gratuitous strip club dream sequence only amplifies this feeling – I can tell you that Valve would have cut out many of these “extra” content areas as filler, getting you right to the meat of the game. Is the filler there just as an homage to Duke? Or to provide some breathing downtime between all the battles? Or is it there because the actual gameplay is short? Could be a little of each, I suppose. For the record, I played the normal difficulty, died quite a bit and ended up with gameplay in the 10-12 hour range.

There are a few gaming innovations, including the shrinking ray and freeze ray, which are used to good effect in various levels, certainly making DNF unique from all other FPS games out there on the market. But most of the gameplay you’ve seen done before in various FPS, including the limit to two guns, and a recharging “Ego” meter in place of a health meter. And I died – a lot. DNF is one of the toughest FPS’ I’ve played in a while, with tons of teleporting/spawning enemies coming from all angles, and some really tough boss fights, all requiring various methods of dispersal. For example, one has a shield so you must bounce explosives past it; all can only be harmed by explosives; and several require you to take them out multiple times after recharging their power.

The voicework, perhaps the only game element to actually provide giggles, is prevalent throughout, and Duke spouts a variety of one-liners depending on the situation. However, both the sound propagation and the one-liners themselves sound 5-6 years old, which is probably when they were recorded. Duke’s voice sounds shallow, like you’re listening to him on a cell phone, rather than a booming, omnipresent voice that should be coming out of your own mouth. Likewise, the dialogue is pretty dated, even going back as far as 10 years ago. More of that archive I was talking about.

I think what is getting most reviewers up in arms is the expectation that after 12 years in development hell, DNF should be better than this. I don't think anyone expected the 2nd coming, but I think they felt that time was thoroughly wasted. And they would be right. Duke feels like an anachronism and 3D Realms didn't grow along with the rest of the FPS scene, like they just hunkered down in their bunker for a decade and made Duke 3D but with shinier graphics. Sadly, Gearbox didn't scrap everything and start fresh ... but then we'd be waiting ANOTHER 3-4 years for release. No, this is the game that 3D Realms made, for good or ill, and now that it is released, perhaps Gearbox can take the Duke franchise in a more modern direction.

Duke Nukem Forever is fun, and I will actually play it again, so it definitely struck a chord in me as a gamer. I understand, however, that the console versions are not nearly as polished as the PC version (and probably those gamers just don’t understand “who” Duke is and what he is all about). It’s no Half-Life 2 or Call of Duty, but it’s also good to be different in a world of same-y shooters. If you enjoyed Duke Nukem 3D when it came out eons ago, I think you’ll also enjoy Duke Nukem Forever; but for those who aren’t Duke fans, I don’t know if they’ll get the joke. 7.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: OrlopRat on June 14, 2011, 11:49:50 AM
I mean, what other FPS has you picking up poo from toilets and throwing it around? Or thinks that boob jokes and porno mags in levels is cool? That's for 12-year-old boys -- not for the 18+ audience this has to be sold to.

 Hey, speak for yourself dude :biglaugh:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 01, 2011, 11:38:18 AM
At one time, I played tons of adventure games – that’s all there was until Doom came out. Remember all the Sierra adventures? They gradually got a little long in the tooth, requiring you to do the most obscure things to pass certain areas. So after Doom and Duke 3D and Quake came out, I sort of migrated to the brainless, “kill-em-all” mindset of the FPS, leaving the iconic adventure games behind.

Well, 10 years ago, an adventure game called The Longest Journey (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/longestjourney/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) came out that was witty, intelligent, intricately plotted, and mature. It was also an amazing game, and one of the best “adventure” games ever released.

Because I’d never played its sequel Dreamfall, I opted to replay TLJ again and refresh the story. A second playthrough was just as amazing as the first. The story is a remarkable joining of sci-fi, fantasy, mystery and government corruption, filled with just the right amount of puzzles that – except for the island telephone puzzle – are thoughtfully solved. You never need worry that you forgot something, because you can’t advance without all the tools you need. And the ending, where your avatar April prepares for the biggest decision of her life, is completely unexpected.

The graphics are sub-par at this point, but still get the job done. On-screen graphics are augmented by various cutscenes as you progress, but the humans just look weird – I guess the modelers were just getting a feel for using the human body in video games.

At any rate, TLJ is probably one of the top three adventure games of all time (another being Grim Fandango), and any self-respecting gamer owes it to him/herself to play it ... again, if you have to. 9.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 01, 2011, 11:38:49 AM
Continuing April Ryan’s initial journey to save the world, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/longestjourney2wt/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) introduces Zoe Castillo, a drifting young woman trying to find her place in life. It takes the disappearance of a close friend to motivate her to actually do something. Once she does, she – like April before her – becomes an integral piece of a quickly broadening dilemma affecting the dreams of two worlds.

Dreamfall extends the vision of Stark (our science-based world) and Arcadia (the world of magic) into the realm of 3D, but also introduces new locations and situations based on three characters’ points of view. You will play about half the game as Zoe, a third as a changed April Ryan, and a sixth as an Azadi warrior who spends more time fighting than conversing. Zoe is delightful and earnest in her desire to do “something” with her life, so when her best friend goes missing, she finally finds a reason to move past her insecurities. April, however, has had the world at her fingertips in TLJ, only to have what she thought was her reason for being snatched away from her, leaving her only with a mission of revenge against the Azadi invaders who have enslaved her adopted homeland.

Author Ragnar Tornquist has crafted living, breathing worlds and an intricate science fiction tale with depth and complexity. The voice acting was excellent, with a diversity of choices and consequences between characters. Who could have guessed that April’s actions in TLJ could have such significant consequences in Dreamfall?! And further, who could have known that another danger would threaten the fate of both worlds again, only this time through the shared dreams that cycle between the worlds.

I have only two gripes with the game, but they could be considered significant. First, you can only map your keyboard in a few limited ways, which any reader of my reviews knows is a sore spot for me. I finally found an arrangement, but not anything I was overly pleased with. Second, although the story takes you to a peak, it never allows you to crest the top and feel like you’ve truly achieved your goals. It would be like if a monk showed you the door to fabled Shangri-la, only to shut the door just as you reached it. There are just way too many loose ends as this tale closes.

The “getting there”, however, is loads of fun and more interesting than a wealth of other adventure games I’ve played of late. And seeing old characters and settings was immensely satisfying. Adventure gamers owe it to themselves to seek out Dreamfall. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 08, 2011, 12:09:03 PM
For those of you keeping track, I'm continuing to add new reviews to the end of this thread, while also adding them to the site individually. I'd like to add at least one new review each week, while also porting some of the older ones as well. At any rate, here's my newest review.

Sniper Elite (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/sniperelite/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is a fairly lengthy and actually pretty decent WW2 third-person shooter, but the only thing that truly distinguishes it is that you play a sniper and will probably spend 90% of your time sniping through your scope. The storyline is that you are a U.S. special op inserted into Germany in the final days of WW2, and you are meant to “rescue” resources for the U.S. before the Soviets get their hands on it in their frantic rush through the continent. You are disguised as a German so your main enemies are Russians, but occasionally, when you are liberating “assets”, you must face down German foes as well.

The campaign was fairly lengthy through dozens of maps, most of which generally had multiple objectives or side objectives to undertake. Missions are set up with a voice-over narrative detailing each of the steps you’ll need to accomplish. Objectives included rescues, assassinations, destroy the armory/tank/explosive cache, protect an area/your squad, etc. – typical warzone duties. A few missions require silent, up-close kills lest you spook your target into an early escape. Maps can be on the small size, but a few large-scale maps had you trekking some distances to accomplish your tasks. Each mission in the campaign continued through several maps so that you logically proceeded through getting to your target, gathering appropriate intel, securing your target, and then retreating. And although maps and objectives were fairly mundane, occasionally you get placed into an encounter that really sizzles with excitement.

Graphically, Sniper Elite is on par with the first Call of Duty (it is from 2005, after all), so today it won’t win any awards, but it does get the job done effectively and communicate that you’re in a war-torn zone. Some invisible walls ensure you stay within the play area, which can take you out of the storyline when you encounter them. But perhaps most egregious in the level design are all the copycat “shelters” that you’ll hide behind on the city streets, each of which “luckily” has holes at appropriate heights for you to snipe through them.

Enemy AI was generally good – most of the time when you shoot a target, his buddy immediately raises the alarm. Luckily you have a silencer for up-close wetwork, and you can drag bodies out of sight. Or you can simply crawl around them on your belly.

This was actually a pretty good game, and probably second only to Sniper: Ghost Warrior in terms of sheer sniping bliss. When you manage kill shots, a bullet cam follows all the way to the target, sometimes with multiple angles. Long-distance kills are nirvana, raising your own adrenaline as you score an “impossible” hit. It’s moments like these that raise this game out of mediocrity and should at least put it on your “to be considered” list. 7.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 15, 2011, 09:01:40 AM
Originally intended to be the follow-up to Ultima Underworld, Arx Fatalis (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/arxfatalis/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B2) instead takes us on a similar journey to the doomed world of Arx, whose diminishing sun forced humans underground into caverns filled with other nether denizens such as goblins, trolls, dwarves and snake women. Arx Fatalis is one of the few first-person RPGs to really give you the flavor of magical battle, with the mouse-based spell system in which you “draw” runes on the screen.

And recently, developer Arkane Studios provided a new 1.21 patch for the game, making it compatible with new-generation Windows OS’s. Despite the patch, I still experienced hundreds of crashes over my 25+hour playthrough. However, loadtime is minimal, so within 30 seconds, I’d be back in the game.

You again start the game in a prison cell ... with amnesia ... and no clothes or tools. Yes, all over-used and trite in the RPG constraints. But at least there’s a reason you don’t have any past – you were sent to Arx by an otherworldly “police force” of the gods. One of the gods – Akbaa – is trying to incorporate into human flesh on Arx, a no-no to your order, so you’ve been sent to deny this request.

You’ll undertake various quests on behalf of all the races through eight ever-deepening levels. Sometimes, the quests are intertwined, like the human king needs the trolls to open up a tunnel, but the trolls are on strike because someone took their idol, so you’ll have to enter the goblin domain to learn who the perpetrator is. Other quests are straightforward, like when you save a little girl from a human sacrifice to Akbaa.

I started the game as a mage-thief hybrid, pumping experience points into the most pertinent skills. This hybridization wasn’t as successful as I might have wished, because although I could open most locks by the end of the game, I couldn’t build my skills high enough to pickpocket or sneak. Likewise, most battles were challenging, especially with the immensely fast Ylside warriors toward the end of the game. But even a straight warrior will need to be able to do some spell-casting, and a straight magician will need to fight hand-to-hand on occasion. Unfortunately, Arx Fatalis doesn’t reward you except for kills, so truly, it doesn’t make sense to pump points into sneaking.

The graphics are still quite good – nothing horrible or fuzzy, like a recent playthrough of Halo 2. Spell effects are striking, foes and NPCs are nicely animated (although a slight bit angular), and props and the landscape are sufficiently detailed to reflect the subterranean atmosphere. I’d compare it to Morrowind, perhaps, which came out at the same time.

What sets Arx Fatalis apart as an RPG is that spell-casting element. You will collect 20 runes through your travels, all of which mean something. Combine them in certain order, and you’ll craft a spell, of which you can use immediately, or you can save up to three for combat situations. To draw the rune, you pass your mouse along the screen in various straight or diagonal lines, as the run specifies. One thing I noted in this playthrough was the overall difficulty of getting the runes to register when drawn; some runes had to be drawn DOZENS of times to register correctly. Various threads have been written on this subject, but overall there is agreement that today’s newer CPUs are “faster” than the game. What I found best was to draw distinct straight lines as required, pause, and then draw the next part of the rune. Also, smaller seemed to be better, maybe drawing runes in about a 3-4 inch window.

The game has a plethora of easter eggs, secrets and extras that you can experiment with, but aren’t found in the manual or your game notes. This includes secret quests, such as Lord Inut’s potion and reward; secret spells such as Harm, that when overlaid can take out the hardest foes in seconds; and secret cheat runes that will allow you to walk through walls (which I had to do once when a rat got stuck in a door and wouldn’t allow it to open) or max out your skills.

You might find this fairly detailed walkthrough (http://www.gamefaqs.com/pc/371212-arx-fatalis/faqs/28139) handy in your travels, especially to solve some of the game “secrets.” And this FAQ (http://www.gamefaqs.com/pc/371212-arx-fatalis/faqs/25743) was especially helpful at helping to draw runes (secret ones too).

In short, Arx Fatalis is a deeply rich RPG that everyone should play through at least once in their lives. And with the latest 1.21 patch from Arkane, that experience has been opened up to today’s computer base. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 22, 2011, 09:16:55 AM
As much as I wanted to like Spiderman: Web of Shadows (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/spidermanwebofshadows/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B6), it’s overall difficulty made that impossible, especially on timed missions. I got hung up on an early mission to destroy a gang’s cars for about two hours before finally succeeding. A following mission to take out 40 (!!) rooftop snipers during a gang parley was no better because I had to be dead-on perfect to hit every successive sniper before time ran out. I don’t mind some tension but something as simple as not giving enough time to complete a mission is ultimately frustrating. So much so that it caused me to uninstall the game.

The concept of black symbiotes taking over New York City and causing SHIELD to quarantine it is pretty cool, and this open-world game gives plenty of freedom to swing around and feel like the old web-swinger, although this “super-hero” game already came out in the form of Prototype. But then you get the nitty-gritty same-old fights over and over and over again to build up your XP, which you can then use to upgrade your web-slinging skills. And generally you’ll use the same couple of moves to pull yourself toward a foe, and strike them at the right time. Yes, it is cool looking. Until about the hundredth time you’ve done it.

All this busy work just wasn’t fun. The actual best parts of the gameplay was when I simply swung around between buildings, watching Spidey’s acrobatics. It’s a shame the rest of the game had to be so overwhelmingly frustrating. 5.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 29, 2011, 10:37:38 AM
I know that Epic Games wants to continue to innovate with their MP series Unreal Tournament, but I found the latest iteration – Unreal Tournament 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/unrealtournament2007/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) to be just a rehashed version of the previous three entries, with only a few new changes. Yep, you’ll get regular Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, as well as Capture the Flag (and vehicle CTF), and these are all fine to play in single-player tournament mode. The newer mode is called Warfare, and requires you to take over your enemy’s nodes before you can attack their central core, and this was significantly challenging as a lone player among the bots.

I started the SP campaign but didn’t realize that all my efforts were for naught since I elected to play “offline” – the computer didn’t save any of my settings or savegames, so when I went back to continue the campaign, like 3 hours of work was gone. So I simply played through a few of the more interesting looking maps and then uninstalled, as I have no desire to go online with this game.

Graphically, the Unreal 3 engine is absolutely gorgeous – beautiful landscapes and environments, and mostly realistic looking foes, although my character looked a little too much like Marcus from Gears of War for my taste.

So, no real surprises here – you’ve played some of these maps before and they’ve gotten some freshening up. The pace is frantic and maniacal, and sometimes, that’s all you need to get a gaming high. But if true MP innovation and botmatch are your nirvana, you'd do better to look elsewhere. 6.3 out of 10
Title: "Unreal Tournament 3".... an "8" out of 10..?!?!
Post by: GreyMouser on August 30, 2011, 04:22:34 AM
You got to be kidding me!!!..... :ss-facepalm
No offense, bobdog, as we all know ..."to each his own opinion"...:bigblinky:
But, even though UT3 may look pretty; as a long time"UT" fan, I won't give the game more than 4.5 score. :ss-meh
For me, it was the "worst" Unreal Tournament game I ever played. I was really sorry I wasted my money on it...:madatwall:
After playing UT2004 for so long and loving it, UT3 was a real big disappointment for me... :cryingloud2:
It lack all the personal customizing options that to I loved in UT2004...You couldn't even create your own individual team... :redangry:
Once I played through the SP campaign, I quickly uninstalled the game rather than waste all that space,(8GB), it took up on my Hard drive.
In truth, I personally wouldn't recommend the game to anyone..... :ss-nono
But, the again, that's just my opinion... ::)
Also, the Unreal modding community doesn't seem to like the game that much, either... :bigblinky:


............................. ............ :smoking:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 30, 2011, 08:40:09 AM
I wrote the review several weeks ago, but in looking back, and in consideration of your response, I'll agree that the game is the worst of the series. I was actually a little bored throughout most of the SP campaign, and I don't remember feeling that way about the other UTs. So I took your opinion and halved the score from mine. Thanks for the honesty.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 06, 2011, 10:16:53 AM
The Precursors (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/theprecursors/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1) is an extremely ambitious RPG/FPS hybrid, with real-time space-sim elements. I’d even go so far as to say it’s Star Wars meets Mass Effect crossed with Red Faction. I had been reading (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/news/news-fpp/200-new-qearthlyq-shots-for-the-precursors) about the prolonged development of the game along with sister release White Gold, the sequel to Boiling Point: Road to Hell. And what I saw intrigued me enough to try and make this thing work.

I’ve found a good review of the game from Rock, Paper Shotgun (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/01/04/wot-i-think-precursors/) that really says everything I would say about the game.

An English version has been released on GamersGate (http://www.gamersgate.co.uk/DD-PREC/precursors) that often features half and 75%-off sales on the game. You’ll also likely want to download the unofficial English translation patch 1.3 from here (http://dlh.net/cgi-bin/dp.cgi). I attempted v1.4 and it remained buggy, but v1.3 worked great. This patch unleashes the English text and sound files that were embedded in the main game, and cleans up a few of the missions. If you continue to have problems, this topic (http://www.spacesimcentral.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=42&t=1671) was indispensable.

The Precursors is perfectly imperfect in its execution, probably because it attempts so much. But unlike games such as Alone in the Dark’s recent reboot, this game generally gets everything right. I spent a good 40+ hours going through five worlds and a breadth of varying missions, and although there were some idiosyncrasies, it was generally playable. I admit that the game’s ending seemed to come out of nowhere, and probably should have used a little more finesse in its very blatant push into a possible sequel. But you know what? I’d actually look forward to that sequel.

I give the game much higher marks than is seen on the Gamespot review, simply because it does aim for the fences and generally gets the ball into the outfield. If you're looking for a unique, space-flavored RPG/FPS, and can put up with a few niggles, I think you should give this game a chance. 8.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 12, 2011, 07:10:09 AM
XIII (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/xiii/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B2) takes the unique concept of applying cel-shading to a FPS. That, and its comic-book look and style – paneled art, graphic interpretations of noises – are the cool things about the game. The rest of it is cookie-cutter FPS 101, replete with linear maps, blind and deaf AI, and a mediocre amnesia storyline.

XIII is also bloody hard – made even more so by the inability to quick-save, belying its co-developed console roots. I had to play through some areas many, many times, because I was unable to stop someone from reaching an alarm panel, or because I didn’t have enough health to get through an area. These continual frustrations caused many a curse word in the depths of my computer nook.

The cel-shaded look actually holds up better in today’s computer than the original UT engine would, freeing you to appreciate the game a little more. The settings are diverse, from prison breakouts to banks to military bases and submarines to canyons. But the path is a linear affair, with only a few opportunities to employ your sneaking skills. Generally, you’ll have to take down everyone you meet.

AI is sight-based, so you can kill someone in a room with a shotgun, while outside no one notices. But show yourself or a dead body, and watch out – you’ll be going through health packs like a box of TicTacs. AI don’t really exhibit great movement, primarily coming straight at you, but occasionally they shuck and jive and throw off your aim.

You are an amnesiac who has washed up on a beach – who immediately gain the attention of some thugs. Everyone wants a piece of your hide, saying that you are Number Thirteen and that you should be dead. The story gradually releases bits of your past through hazy flashbacks, and you go down the list of the top 20 people in a growing conspiracy until the reach the head himself.

XIII has some interesting concepts via the cel-shaded art and comic book look, and the storyline has just enough twists and turns to keep you going, but overall, this is a pretty mediocre shooter only worth revisiting when nothing else is around. 7.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 19, 2011, 06:42:51 AM
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/battlefieldbadcompany2/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B2) is perhaps the best modern warfare game I’ve played, including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1 and 2. Part of the reason for its success in my mind is your team of four soldiers, all who have interesting quirks and side-stories, such that by the end of the game, I knew who was saying what, and why. I only wish Bad Company 1 were available for us PC-only players so I could learn the first of their story.

The single-player campaign in this FPS is interesting and makes sense, even though we’ve seen its like before (again, pointing to COD:MW). The character arc, showing how your squad grows over time, is rich and causes you to empathize with this bunch of yahoos.

Level design is over the top, with such a diversity of locales, actions and vehicles – you never knew what you were going to face. Some levels were extremely large, including a Chilean desert towards the end of the game, which requires you to drive rather than walk to save time. Foes come at you from all sides and heights, truly making you “watch your six” at all times. The battle situations are ultra realistic with destructible battlefields, clouds of dust affecting your aim, pounding explosions affecting your hearing and sight ... just awesome to behold.

The game was extremely challenging too, such that I had to play a number of parts over multiple times to get to the next checkpoint (no quicksaves, sorry). Your AI foes are as good or better than you, so it’s a good thing that the rest of your team are nigh indestructible to bullets, perhaps one of the few niggles I had with the realism factor. The rest of the game is so realistic, so why are your comrades able to soak up more bullets than you? The flipside is that I wish your comrades could come help you if you go down and they can get to you in time, like what COD: World at War allowed.

But those are minor glitches on the chewy goodness of this game. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to seeing what the Bad Company will be up to next. 9.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 23, 2011, 10:16:39 AM
Metro 2033 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/metro2033thelastrefuge/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is a tense, driven affair, placing you in the intriguing story of nuclear apocalypse, as seen through the eyes of a Muscovite. In this FPS, mankind has been reduced to living in the subway Metro tunnels, building their communities into the old subway stops, while mutants live in the tunnels and above ground. Having seen its like in games like Stalker and Fallout 3, both of which are a bit more open-world in design, it’s interesting to have a more straightforward game like Metro 2033, with level changes.

The communities are living, breathing entities among themselves, with people sitting at the bar, laying in their bunks, working on various tasks to keep the place alive, and selling you gear in the market. That’s right – you’ll need to buy weapons and gear to continue forward, in which you use shiny “old-world” bullets as currency. So you’ll want to do a lot of looking around each level to find those crafty buggers, who hide in the darnedest places. And level design rewards the intrepid explorer, with little “secret” areas.

Just about each of nearly 40 maps through the seven chapters has some unique feature to it – some spark to pump you up. Whether you’re trying to escape sewer dwellers, or silently sneak past a Nazi patrol, or escort a child to his mother, or run from the Communist hordes, there’s always something just ahead of you – something different that you hadn’t experienced before. I really think a lot of thought and consideration went into this game, and seeing some of the low scores it has received is very surprising.

Except for a few QTEs, you are fairly immersed in the game, with a minimal HUD recording your weapons as you switch among them and then disappearing. Your flashlight and night-vision goggles must be constantly charged, while your gasmask must replace its filters. Your make-do weapons are a modified version of today’s equipment, found in a post-apocalyptic world without factories. You must pull up an actual map and written objectives if you need to know where to go. It all felt very natural and sucked you in to the game.

You’ll face tons of human and mutant enemies, as well as some mystical beings known as Homo novus – humanity’s next generation. And you’ll meet many characters along the way, who will help you reach your ultimate goal, which is only realized toward the last quarter of the game. The first part of the game is merely the hero’s journey, and I loved every step.

So stop reading this, find Metro 2033, and give it a whirl. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 8.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 26, 2011, 09:12:45 AM
While it lasted, Nail’d (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/driving/naild/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) was an intense, full-throttle funfest of adrenaline, allowing you to barrel down hills, jump wicked ramps across canyons, and race against competitors and trains. I say “while it lasted” because I encountered a game-stopping bug in the SP campaign as I entered the second of four tiers. But the gameplay I got was awesomely fun during this stretch.

Realism takes a backseat, differing somewhat from other competitive racers like Pure, Grid or Fuel (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1870.0). In Nail’d you’ve got a choice of either a dirt-bike or a four-wheeler, but both are exactly the same. You can upgrade them with your winnings, but to be honest, I stuck with the vanilla model and won nearly every race during my first play-through. When you hit jumps, the perspective changes somewhat and seems to rotate toward you, but you can change how your bike might land. Unfortunately, you can’t do any tricks during this “free” time, which could have added a whole other facet.

The locales include a desert-like Arizona, forested California, Grecian ruins and more, with zany tracks and jump extensions, tunnels, flaming hoops that you can hit for points, flaming poles to pass through, and moving obstacles such as trains. Each track has multiple paths that you can take throughout, resulting in different obstacles and opportunities to get past your opponents.

Each tier of the campaign has three base maps, but you’ll play through them each at least 3 times in different fashions – once as a simple race to the finish in either three laps or one single lengthy race, another as an unlimited nitro version where the landscape shoots by, and a third where you have to gain the most points. Then you’ll need to replay them for the final rounds.

I really enjoyed the fantastical gameplay, but the lack of tricks and the game-stopping bug pull my score down to 7.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 03, 2011, 06:16:00 AM
Splinter Cell Conviction (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/tomclancyssplintercellconviction/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1) is the fifth game in the franchise, diverging slightly from the ending of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, where protagonist Sam Fisher (again voiced by Michael Ironsides) Spoiler
was arrested for the murder of his NSA handler.
In Conviction, Sam learns that his daughter may still be alive, after the last game killed her off – some canon inconsistencies, to be sure, but it’s enough to get the plot started.

Sam is now considered Fifth Echelon; i.e. he’s “gone off the reservation,” so now he can act on his own, but he also has to take full responsibility for all his actions and doesn’t have a government to bail him out. His world is a (mostly) living, breathing entity, with other people walking around in each map with whom he can interact. Text scrolls across walls, up pipes, and along the ground, indicating Sam’s next objectives, how he’s feeling, or whether he can interact with certain objects. It’s a bit disconcerting, actually, and makes you realize you’re playing a game.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous, even though the settings are a bit pedestrian. You’ll tour through various Washington DC hotspots, including a carnival around the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and DC’s own streets leading up to the White House. You’ll also go through an air base, and a couple of decrepit warehouse districts. Nothing was quite as striking as previous games where you were in Hong Kong and other hotspots. But it all looks good, and NPCs are striking in their close-ups.

Conviction is a bit more action-oriented than previous games that relied primarily on stealth. Sure, you have some stealth options here – hanging from pipes, skirting the outside of buildings via windowsills, keeping low in darkened corners – and you can shoot out lights to assist your skulking, but inevitably, you’ll end up in a firefight with tons of thugs. The set-ups are pretty good, allowing you to execute said thugs in a variety of ways, either close-up work, pulling through windows or over ledges, tossing them out windows, using them as shields – and then you can mark other thugs in the vicinity and do a one-shot kill in quick succession. You’ll need that ability because you’ll be in some pretty tough scrapes before you finish. And interestingly, all the various kills, escapes and tools tie into a scoring system that rewards you with weapon upgrades.

Levels are primarily corridors with only a few open areas to give you multiple routes, but you do have generally a full three-dimensional playground to work within, crawling under floors or over rooms, hanging from pipes to get the drop on unsuspecting foes, crouching against objects to hide your head from flashlights.

Voices for all the main NPCs are well done, although your regular enemies – ay yay yay!!! The same freaking chatter, over and over and over and over and over again – no matter where you are. If I could have turned off their voices, I would have been so happy.

The story is pretty engaging, explaining why all the subterfuge in the previous game had to take place to smoke out a mole in 3rd Echelon, and who Sam’s true friends are. You’ll also get a happy ending, even in the midst of the disaster that takes place. Sam often is taken over by the game to show you something new or to take a specific action, and then returns to you within the same scene, creating some fluidity within gameplay.

I like the direction they’ve gone with Conviction, although I do miss the more stealthy opportunities of past games, but perhaps Ubisoft thought the series needed more action in its diet to continue. And you’ll definitely have plenty of action to dine upon. 8.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 10, 2011, 10:50:52 AM
As a long-time confirmed Gothic series fan, I admit a bias that will unfortunately creep into this review of Arcania: Gothic 4 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/gothic4/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0). I’ve played every (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1876.0) game (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1875.0) in the series thus far (some multiple times), including the suckfest Gothic 3 add-on Forsaken Gods (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1874.0), and the “other” Gothic known by the name of Risen (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1873.0). Coming from new developer Spellbound, how does Arcania fare against the previous works of former developer Piranha Bytes?

Well, getting into gameplay, you can see Gothic elements – familiar friends and foes from previous games, searching for treasures and plants, the ability to craft new elements – but the whole process has been dumbed-down significantly. I almost consider it a “limited” open game-world because the designers have placed limits on you, whereas in Gothic, you were encouraged to do and try everything. For example, your character seems to be stronger in attacking foes than in Gothic, but instead of an unstoppable foe keeping you from an area, in Arcania a door is locked, or a landslide is in place, or guards prevent you from continuing further. Invisible barriers keep you away from edges in the game so that you can’t fall off bridges or ledges or jump onto rocks above you (not that there’s any treasure there anyway). If you decide to jump over them, you simply start sliding down uncontrollably to the bottom and get stuck and have to reload.

Pathing is very linear and 2-dimensional, requiring you to complete an area and then move to the next, whereas in the first 2 Gothics and in Risen, designers created a three-dimensional world with caves and nooks and crannies that interconnected with one another, making you start in amazement when you saw what they had done. Everywhere you looked, you would find a tunnel you could crawl into, or rocks you could climb to gain more treasure or pelt your foes with arrows. Gothic allowed you to go anywhere your avatar had the power and the means, but Arcania’s “nodes” are largely one-way affairs – once you finish an area, you have to move to the next and you never return.

Arcania does include an extremely involved treasure search where you must find 30 (!!) of each of four different objects, scattered throughout the whole game, to gain a new spell or power. This was too restrictive because you couldn’t make use of these abilities until maybe the last 90 minutes of the 40-hour game. Diego gives you a set of lockpicks early in the game that you can only use to open chests (not doors or gates, though), but the lockpicking mini-game is so easy a baby could do it, plus you never break your picks – why even lock anything if this is the case? Likewise the crafting system is a simple keyboard tab – if you’ve got the instructions and the materials, you can craft anything you like, from potions to food to equipment. Gone are the needs to find an alchemy table, a fire, a boiling pot and a smithy, although Arcania has a button on the menu if you’d still like to engage in the “role-playing elements” – but why would you when that takes extra time with no return. And finally, you can use teleporters, but only within the same node, when it’s almost quicker just to run between each. As I said, the whole thing has been dumbed down and simplified beyond belief.

But let’s get past the Gothic comparisons for a bit. On its own merits, Arcania is actually engaging and inviting, and sucks you in to keep playing. I had it installed at the same time as Splinter Cell Conviction and Star Wars Republic Commando, and I kept finding myself opening Arcania to play over those. So there is a glimmer of hope here, despite the following game-specific issues:

Fighting seems fluid, and you definitely start as a much stronger character, but the camera draws back for some unknown reason, making your character tiny on the screen. When you pull a bow, you can zoom in for a close-up view of your opponents, but not when you cast spells. Although you have thieving elements, the best character configuration is a strong fighter/bowman/single-power mage. Spending points on sneaking skills is worthless because you can never do enough damage, and you can’t pickpocket. A pure mage is never strong enough to blast his opponents away, like the original Gothics eventually allow. So you’ll need strong fighting skills for all the up-close work, and a mix of archery and/or magic for long-distance battle.

The voice-work runs from atrocious to decent. Your character (again “Nameless”) affects a slight British accent, but you can tell that only a limited number of voice actors were used, some using new cadences to mimic another accent. The main NPCs are generally done well, but not sure if they used any of the voice actors from the previous Gothics.

Although the graphics are nice, individual NPC faces range from hideous to decent, but the developers only created maybe 8-10 different designs, so you’ll see the exact same face dozens of times. Even more disturbing, all females have the exact same “cocked” hands-on-hip pose, whether they’re supposed to be old hags or young women. Worst is the spaghetti-looking hair that everyone sports; it is really, really bad.

For what it’s worth, you can get into the game quickly, which is a step up from Gothic 3, so perhaps there is something to be said for the node system after all.

All told, it must appear that I hated this game, and that’s far from the truth. It was not a “Gothic” game, which upset me somewhat, but I enjoyed it much more than some other 3rd-person RPGs I’ve played including Two Worlds and Divinity 2 (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1915.0). Arcania is an “entry-level” fantasy RPG, for people who need the easiest experience possible to get them into these games.

As a Gothic game, I’d give it a 6.1 out of 10 because it only slightly follows the established Gothic formula. However, on its own merits as an action RPG, I’d actually rate it higher to 7.5 out of 10. It’s no “true” Gothic, but it certainly gives off a pretty good vibe anyway.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 13, 2011, 06:33:58 AM
Sometimes, in between all the RPGs and FPSs I play, I need a fresh tonic to wipe the mental slate clean. Nothing does that better than a good, mindless racing game, and Need for Speed Underground (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/driving/nfsunderground/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B4) is a great offering in the genre, even though it is 8 years old.

Unlike some previous games I’ve played, I completed NFSU without getting utterly bored, even though you have to conquer 111 races to take the crown in five different brackets: best of multiple laps, straight run, knock-out the last racer, drift and drag. Of these, drag racing was the most challenging for me because you really have to hit your shifts at the perfect moment to ensure you stay ahead of your competition.

Despite the numerous races that will take you to the crown, you’ll use the same tracks (forward and reverse) dozens of times, sometimes with the only change a different opening on the right instead of the left. Regardless, the tracks are fun enough to keep your attention to the end.

As you race and gain money, you can spend it on new changes to your car – both visually and mechanically. The visuals increase your street cred, which ties into the scoring system, while the mechanicals ensure your car is better than your opponents. Toward the half-way mark, I felt like the computer cheated you just a little bit by slightly overpowering the other cars so that you really had to have a perfect race to win. When that happened, I simply found a trainer with continuous nitro boost, shutting that off right away.

Fun, mindless, frenetic – it was all good. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 17, 2011, 07:04:30 AM
Feeling somewhere between Half-Life 2, Wolfenstein (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1865.0) and Timeshift (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1905.0), Singularity (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/singularity/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is a bit of a mixed bag. But, if you’re going to borrow, borrow well, I always say.

After the atomic bombings of World War 2, the Russians became very wary of the U.S. Until they stumbled upon their own discovery of Elementium. Numerous tests on objects and human test subjects wheedled out some significant results, namely that this new energy source could be used in a variety of ways, but generally based on bending time forward or backward. The head scientist creates a portable Time Manipulation Device (TMD) that allows wearers to manipulate time as needed (i.e. Timeshift).

You are an American soldier in 2010 who has been sent in with a small group of commandos to liberate the island where Elementium is found. You experience some distortions in the time stream (a la Wolfenstein) that take you back to 1955, where you gain the TMD and meet the head scientist. Unfortunately, a Russian soldier also came into the past, and has since changed the future timeline, putting Russia on top as the dominant super power and destroying the East Coast of the U.S. So it’s up to you to right history, or at least make it more favorable. But it seems that every time you make a change, something else happens, which is I suppose the problem of modifying the timeline.

Graphics are nicely done, with plenty of detail in every level, and NPCs and most enemies are very detailed. Unfortunately, most levels are simply corridors, so only in a few cases can you branch out to flank your enemies. Levels consist of destroyed outdoors, sewage tunnels, office complexes, secret labs, a container ship, etc.

Weapons are slightly futurized versions of a pistol, SMG, shotgun and sniper rifle, although you also briefly gain a “guided-bullet” rifle and rocket launcher. Again, nicely detailed and comfortable, while being slightly exotic.

Your TMD also affects the gravity of objects, pulling them toward you or blasting them away (such as HL2’s gravity gun), but you can manipulate the “time” of certain objects, aging them forward or back as needed. For example, you might notice a chest underneath a bridge; simply age the bridge  to rubble, slide down to the chest and climb back up, and then reverse the aging process to get a brand new bridge again. Or you can take a destroyed chest, prop it under a large door, reverse the process to pop the chest back to full size, and push the door up at the same time. Generally, this time affects inanimate objects to help you find treasures, but you can also apply it to animate objects as well, such as aging humans to dust in a firefight.

Other TMD powers include launching a stasis sphere, which holds an object (other than you) in one place long enough for you to pass through to the other side. You can use this on doors, fans, and even groups of enemies. You can also widen time rips to pass into the past/future. In short, it’s a pretty handy device to have.

Your enemies are diverse, ranging from soldiers and heavily-armored versions, mutated humans of all shape, size and power, large critters, and small critters. One standout battle takes place on a train that’s hanging off the rail of a bridge, where a big daddy (momma?) wants to give you a little what-fer – and you actually get to fight rather than mash buttons for a Quick-Time Event! I didn’t die all the time, but that may be because I was able to continuously upgrade my weapons and equipment.

You see, Singularity has three options to upgrade equipment, two of which are linked to finding either E-99 caches or weapon upgrade cases (the third happens in the course of the game and upgrades your TMD with new powers). You’ll find weapon cabinets and E-99 upgrade cabinets throughout the game, and if you have enough of either, you can upgrade your weapons (or switch them out) or provide ancillary bonuses through your TMD.

When you finally reach the end, you’ve accomplished some pretty amazing tasks, but you’re still not done! You have three (and an unofficial fourth) endings that you can attempt, based on your choices. In all, I really enjoyed Singularity and had a blast playing it – storyline was interesting, gameplay and levels were well-thought and had good delivery, and it was just fun. Unfortunately, sales were so low (only 30K) that a sequel probably isn’t in the cards. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 20, 2011, 06:52:57 AM
Count me as one of those few who did NOT like Resident Evil 5 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/residentevil5/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B2). The point of view was too tight/close to my character, and I had to worry about another character at the same time, while being unable to really lash out against my foes effectively. I couldn’t even make it past the first axe-guy after multiple tries!!!   :computerfix:

I know this game has gotten rave reviews, but since I couldn't even make it through any substantial part of it, I'm not going to give it a score. And for the record, I also have attempted RE4 a year or so ago, with the same results. I guess the more "realistic" zombie shooters aren't my cup of tea.

Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 24, 2011, 09:25:07 AM
I first played the demo for Star Wars Republic Commando (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/starwarsrepubliccommando/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) when it came out in 2005. It’s taken me this long to finally get the game in full and play it. Yes, sad, I know. Little did I realize that my ATI graphics card was the culprit for yet another bug – this time a CTD caused by raising the “bump-mapping” anywhere above Low. Argh! But a quick video option change, and the game was now mine to conquer.

RC is now showing its age both graphically and design-wise, but it’s still a fairly challenging affair. For the first part of the game (about 4 hours of play-time), you’ll go through the first day of the Clone War on Geonosis, the bug world where they created all the robots. Your troop of four specially-modified clone commandos will take on all the various robots, including the big spider bot, as well as many Geonosian flyers. You’ll make your way through the canyons of the rocky world, into the bowels of the robot-manufacturing facility, where you’ll finally take out the whole works, hopefully tilting the war in the Republic’s favor.

The next maps find you in space several years later, where you’re split from your troops. The derelict spacecraft you’ve boarded was hijacked by Trandoshians (walrus-men), who interestingly attack you like gorillas. Hmmm. It’s a pretty tough map set because you only have yourself to rely upon for the majority of the game.

The final maps are located on the tree-world of Kashykk, where the wookies live. You’ll need to free the wookie leader, who’s been captured by Trandoshian slavers, before moving on to assist the wookies in rebelling against their masters and taking back their world. Lots of tough spots requiring you to take out the heavy mechs and their respawn pods while under fire. I died a lot on these maps.

Overall, the graphical inconsistency was disconcerting, as was the primarily corridor-crawling linearity of the maps. The toughness provides a quantifiable challenge that you want to get past, but it’s not necessarily the “funnest” game I’ve played of late. However, you could do worse with 9 hours of your gaming time. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 27, 2011, 11:56:58 AM
Adventure gaming just isn’t the same since Doom and its brothers came out – where once they were the staple of PC gaming, they have now fallen by the wayside and good releases seem to be few and far between. AlternativA (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/alternativa/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) is one of those pretty good options, in the vein of the classic point-and-click variety. It does have a few annoying drawbacks, but in general, it’s probably worth any adventure gamer looking it up. Here are (http://www.indiegamereviewer.com/pointclick-through-a-good-looking-dystopia-so-whats-the-problem/) a couple of additional reviews (http://www.adventuregamers.com/article/id,1252/p,2) for some other viewpoints.

First, the good: the game’s story is set in a sci-fi future not too far off from that seen in Blade Runner and The Longest Journey (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1880.msg12405#msg12405) – a world full of several competing powers who employ robots to be their police force. The first scene of the game has these robots revoking your personal ID card, keeping you from traveling or getting a job. And from there, it’s only a short distance to join the Resistance and get some payback.

A couple of other things that I liked: 1) the Tab button automatically highlights all the hotspots, so you don’t necessarily have to go pixel hunting like previous adventure games of yore. 2) Also, when you need to exit a scene, you *could* walk through the whole scene – one of the worst reminders of older adventure games – but here, you merely double-click the exit and it immediately takes you to the next scene indicated. 3) And voice work meanders between good and pathetic, but is generally on the plus side.

However, the game also has some negatives that might keep you at arm’s length. 1) You will have to backtrack significantly among scenes to pick up something you now need, or to talk to someone. Fortunately, the fast-pass to each scene is just a double-click, but it’s still annoying. 2) You may need to click on an object multiple times to get what you need. How come, if I need an oil can from a busted robot, I can’t get it the first time I click on it? I guess you could say you don’t know you need something at that particular time, but it really feels more like padding. 3) And some of the puzzles are extremely difficult and don’t really give you enough clues to figure out, so a walk-through (I used a “Let’s Play” on YouTube) is almost mandatory.

The ending itself is a bit abrupt and references something that seems a little too fantastic for what has gone before. But the story is unique enough, you’ll experience some twists along the way, and the game is generally fun and interesting – more so than some other adventure games I’ve played recently

If you’re an old-school adventure gamer, I think you should give AlternativA a chance. 7.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 31, 2011, 04:46:45 PM
I’m not really sure what the title of James Bond 007: Blood Stone (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/jamesbondbloodstone/index.html) references, as the starting music sequence has all these diamonds in it, but the game doesn’t have anything whatsoever to do with diamonds or South Africa. I guess it does reference economic takeovers, but it’s a poor connection at best. At any rate, I thought this was a pretty good action shooter interspersed with fun driving sequences, which may be no coincidence since the developer was Bizarre Creations, who specialize in racing games like Project Gotham Racing and Blur. They also did The Club (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1831.msg12247#msg12247), which I’ve reviewed here.

As with the movies, Bond starts the adventure with a bang, stopping a mass execution of foreign dignitaries in Athens, Greece. Even this involves some shoot-outs, a car chase, and a boat chase. And the action just continues from there. Basically, you’ll have some areas where you do some sneaking, some shooting, lots of hiding behind objects, and then you’ll have some racing opportunities.

As Bond, you’ll traipse across the globe in search of ... something .... Honestly, I’m not really sure what you were supposed to be doing, other than stopping some WMDs from being distributed and then finding the person behind it all. And the ending doesn’t help anything either, leaving you with more questions. But regardless, you’ll travel to Russia to break into an oligarch’s domain, explore Istanbul ruins, sneak through a Monaco casino, and tear up half of Bangkok in a crazy race with a huge dumptruck.

Gameplay is simple, with only a few button presses really required to conduct melee attacks or to get into/behind cover. These opportunities allow Bond to take out opponents and then charge up a “focus” meter, similar to Splinter Cell: Conviction (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1975.0), where you can mark foes and take them down with one shot.

The action features lots of over-the-top cutscenes on par with what you’d expect from a Bond movie. It’s not a “great” game, but it’s certainly “very good” and fun to play. 7.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 07, 2011, 06:39:42 AM
I wanted to finish this review for Halloween, but just couldn’t manage it in time. However, despite being 8 years old, Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/nosferatu/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0) manages to eke out plenty of scares with its brooding atmosphere. Set in a Transylvanian castle, you are dropped off ... alone ... and must find your family and friends before they are turned into vampires. I found myself jumping numerous times when a werewolf or vampire or other minion of the dark would come at me from around a corner, the violins shrieking in my ears.

The castle itself is formed of dungeons, cellars, winding staircases and more – your typical vampire dwelling, in other words. Graphics are definitely last-gen, but the grainy textures actually work to advantage here to evoke a spooky background. One of the creepiest things I saw was when a vampire, asleep in its coffin, suddenly arose erect to its feet, and then started coming toward me. Yikes!!

My problems with the game, and the reason I didn’t finish it, was the overall challenging difficulty of your foes, and the cheap monster-spawning, sometimes in rooms that you had just left. I just don’t cotton to that, especially when you have to drag companions along with you and try to keep them safe at the same time. You’ll also have to search all over for keys to continue deeper into the castle. I suppose I could have lowered the difficulty level to beginner, but that just doesn’t feel right for a shooter.

The weapons are unique to 18th century, but also have all those limitations; i.e. a flintlock pistol can only hold one shot, and you can’t run and reload at the same time, so if there are multiple enemies in a room, you’ll have to stop, start the reloading process and then run again. You’ll also get a musket, a revolver, holy water, wooden stakes, a fencing sword, and an all-purpose cross to ward off the undead.

For what little I played, Nosferatu was plenty creepy, and I think that without the random spawning, it would be a much better game. 7.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 11, 2011, 06:46:35 AM
In The Matrix: Path of Neo (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/thematrixthepathofneo/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B0), you finally get to take on the role of Neo in a game setting, something fans were clamoring for after the missteps of Enter the Matrix (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/enterthematrix/index.html?tag=similargames%3Bimg%3B1) and The Matrix Online (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/matrixonline/index.html?tag=similargames%3Bimg%3B2). But six years on, this game suffers from a number of issues.

First, the graphics are definitely dated in this third-person actioner. That’s to be expected, especially from a 6-year-old game. But the facial models are eerily accurate, though funky looking for the main characters. The game also incorporates video from the Matrix movies, showing you what is occurring in between your gameplay.

You’ll learn how to become a martial arts pro, as well as how to avoid bullets and fists. You’ll also gain an arsenal of goodies to do harm with in the virtual world. Gameplay features a mix of sneaking, karate-chopping and bad-guy blowing up, as well as taking on the system’s avatars in hand-to-hand combat.

I made it through the events of the first movie, but as we moved into where the second movie might have started, the fights got harder, less (or no) health was available, and everything seemed to be a bit similar to the earlier levels. Honestly, I got bored and just uninstalled.

So the first part, where you learn to become Neo, is pretty cool, and a good reminder of what made The Matrix movie so special, but just like the sequels, later levels feel a little trite and boring. 7.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 14, 2011, 06:42:10 AM
And now for a recent game: Medal of Honor (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/medal-of-honor/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1) takes a more realistic approach to the FPS war genre than recent shooters COD Modern Warfare and Homefront, placing you instead in the midst of the current conflict in Afghanistan. You’ll fill the shoes of several soldiers, including special ops, snipers, rangers and chopper pilots, as they investigate the streets of Kabul, scout and soften the enemy, take on major Taliban forces amidst overwhelming odds, and reinsert to rescue some downed troops. You’ll alternately sneak through enemy forces, engage in severe firefights, or bomb the heck out of your foe.

Levels are large and interesting through third-world cities, villages and mountain passes, although mostly linear. Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. I was playing on High graphics, and I still got a plastic sheen on various objects, or when you looked close, textures were blurry. And maps seemed to be either too dark or too light – I kept having to bounce my gamma back and forth. Additionally, I experienced several glitches that forced me to start a chapter completely over to start a certain script and proceed.

The realistic chatter between soldiers was a great attention to detail, as were the types of troops you connect with. But the real heart of the story lay in the terse conversations between the on-the-ground Colonel, and a desk-bound General 9,000 miles away – these moments were when you really got the feel of what it’s like for someone to make life and death decisions at immediate notice.

Medal of Honor reaches for, but doesn’t quite achieve greatness, as it strives to showcase the horrors of war. The real-life and current setting really does honor those men and women who have sacrificed much to grant us safety, and I believe the game provides a somber reminder of the true price of war on all sides – soldier and citizen alike. Give this one a shot. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 21, 2011, 10:55:22 AM
I had an ungodly amount of trouble to get Bioshock 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/bioshock2/index.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B3) to run properly on my system, with numerous visits to the Steam forums to try and solve the problem – my screen would lock up after maybe 2-5 minutes in-game, colored vertical bars would appear, and I’d have to hard-boot the whole computer. I searched here (http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1141054) and here (http://www.unigamesity.com/how-to-fix-bioshock-2-crashes-and-freezes/), but ultimately my answer was found here (http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2080258), where I ran the game in DirectX 9 mode by right-clicking on the game in Steam, going to "Properties", then "Set Launch options", and typing in "-dx9" (without quotes) and pressing ok. After this, I was able to go an hour or more without any noticeable problems, including a lot of the graphical “drop-in” that I’d been experiencing.

So, that problem solved, how does it play? As expected, a lot like Bioshock 1 – you’re in the underwater city of Rapture, able to use plasmids to upgrade your fighting skills, and involved in yet another conspiracy to take over the city. You’re also trapped in the body of a Big Daddy, which allows you to venture out into the ocean safely as you take care of (or alternately, harvest) the Little Sisters scattered around each level.

Levels themselves are well-defined and spacious, with vertical floors, secrets and rooms to explore for ammo, money, health packs and other goodies. However, there just weren’t any real jaw-dropping scenes like I remember from the first game, such as your first view of Rapture when you enter the bathysphere. The sequel does take advantage of the watery domain, however, filling rooms with water and raising/lowering water levels as you walk through the ocean depths.

I’d call this RPG-lite, because your skills are basically gained from the plasmids you inject (with several levels) and the tonics that operate in the background (also upgradeable) – both which are purchased with Adam gained from Little Sisters. And you can also upgrade weapons at “Power to the People” stations scattered among the levels. And finally, a camera will allow you to “research” your enemies and eventually do more damage to them.

Storywise, I got a bit confused, to be honest. You are killed at the start, and then eventually brought back to life by Tennenbaum from the first game (who mysteriously disappears about a third of the way into the game, never to be heard from again). We learn that you were placed in the Big Daddy suit and that you came from above, so I’m not certain if you’re the hero from the first game who has returned or not. And then there’s Eleanor Lamb, your “daughter” – I don’t know that she’s your birth daughter, but you were her “Big Daddy”, so maybe that’s the connection. No real surprises like the first game held, although I found Eleanor’s perspective of the world to be interesting in that she sees everything as airy and light, when in fact it’s dirty and dark. And like the first game, you can achieve multiple endings based on how you treated other characters in the game, and whether you harvested or saved Little Sisters. A bittersweet ending though, whichever way you go....

The splicers that you’ll face are a diverse lot, with some who just shoot at you while others are ultra-strong “brutes” and teleporting “Houdini” splicers. And of course, you’ll face the Big Sister in the first level, and in concurrent levels if you choose to use the Little Sisters in any fashion. The other “enemies” are the mechanical security devices.

The hacking system is more realistic this time around than the pipes game of the original – you must hit a “hot spot” of green or blue blocks on a rapidly moving dial. Hit the white blocks and you’ll exit the hack, but hit the red or orange, and security bots will converge on your position. And if all else fails, you can use some automatic hacking bolts to just complete the task automatically for you.

Bioshock 2 isn’t as tight or as surprising as the original game, and the bugs were atrocious, but it does offer some unique settings and the ability to play as a Big Daddy, so I’d still highly recommend it. 8.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 28, 2011, 06:47:10 AM
For some reason, I didn’t expect to like Call of Duty: Black Ops (http://www.gamespot.com/call-of-duty-black-ops/platform/pc?tag=result;title;2) due to my perceived milking of the COD franchise by Activision. However, I was pleasantly surprised as the game went along, especially relating to the (mostly) comprehensible single-player storyline. (Haha, you know I don't do multi-player!  :turnhappy: )

You play as a special ops trooper in the turbulent 1960s, with your actions hidden behind the scenes to ferret out what the Communists are doing in places like Russia, Cuba and Vietnam. As seen through drug- and electric-filled flashbacks, you play through a variety of scenarios and locales, all leading back to you trying to decipher a numerical code in the present. And the surprise twist ending kept me pondering the story long after I finished the 8-hour game (I played at advanced level, so had many areas that required multiple play-throughs). In the end, the story was immediately relatable because it did cue from so much historical precedence, whereas the Modern Warfare series goes into the fantastical with WW3.

You’ll visit a variety of destinations through your storied career, all in the background of America’s spy hotspots: Fidel Castro’s takeover during the Cuban revolution, spy satellite launches from a Russian cosmodrome, even a James Bond-type underwater facility. Some of the most tense scenes take place in Vietnam when the VietCong are over-running your front lines, when you’re running through spider holes, when you’re piloting a chopper through dense canyons, and when you’re freeing compatriots. This game also features THE best rooftop escape scene I’ve ever played. And while most levels are played from the main character’s perspective, you do play as a separate character in the past, ala MW1’s visit to Cherynobl.

The graphics are still astounding, and even though most levels are mostly linear affairs (with some flanking room), they feel real and lived-in.

My main complaint for the game is that it takes too much control away from the player – if my avatar is doing it in the game without my control, I should be able to do it on my own – let me mess up or get it right. I would even take the dreaded QTEs if it meant I got to remain in control during the whole game. And you never know when you’ll have control or not. In several scenes, I was in a first-perspective cutscene, locked in place, and then I got to move 15 feet to a vehicle, and then I’m locked in place again. I know developers want control over how the gamer plays, but let me have to run away from a bomb, or towards danger.

And yet, despite this loss of control, I still really enjoyed the game, much more than expected. The developers, Treyarch, are to be congratulated for stringing together an enjoyable tale that married intrigue with real-life scenarios, and blended in an overwhelming heap of action. I’d have to say in the 2010 race of Medal of Honor vs. Call of Duty, then Black Ops wins the round handily. 8.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 02, 2011, 06:53:19 AM
A short review to reflect the short gameplay of F.E.A.R. 2: Reborn (http://www.gamespot.com/f-e-a-r-2-reborn/platform/pc?tag=result;title;0) – a poor, hour-long add-on that adds nothing to the franchise other than to say how Paxton Fettil can be alive for F.E.A.R. 3. If this hadn’t been part of a F.E.A.R. Steam package, I’d be mighty ticked. And also, the field-of-view perspective was way off for some reason. Not worth it. 5.7 out of 10

The ONLY good thing about this DLC is that I was forced to re-load F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin (http://www.gamespot.com/f-e-a-r-2-project-origin/platform/pc?tag=result;title;0) again, and that game still rocks! I think it’s much better than the original game and add-ons. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 05, 2011, 06:48:07 AM
As the follow-up to Boiling Point: Road to Hell (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1820.0) (which I didn’t like) and the sister title to The Precursors (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1952.0) (which I did like), Xenus 2: White Gold (http://www.gamespot.com/white-gold/platform/pc?tag=result;title;0) had the potential to go either way on my scale. Unfortunately, despite several patches, I continued to get game crashes that deadened my gameplay experience.

I was really only able to get into the first village, after a hectic on-the-water shoot-out, and get some tasks to accomplish in this open-world RPG. The game looks pretty good, and featured a diversity of tasks, in addition to the main quests.

I was actually enjoying the experience but the buggy gameplay proved to be too much to overcome. The game offers a unique way to customize your character with skill points. Plenty of guns of various types but inventory space is limited, so you’ll have to be careful what you pick up.

I think I’d recommend The Precursors over White Gold for a more unique experience, but if you’re able to get White Gold to work for you, you’ll probably find some enjoyment. 7.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 09, 2011, 06:51:39 AM
Planet Alcatraz (http://www.gamespot.com/planet-alcatraz/platform/pc?tag=result;title;0) is a boring 3rd-person isometric RPG-lite. It looks a bit like Fallout 2, set on an another prison planet, but falls short with a series of mainly fetch quests, and horrendously poor cutscenes and voice acting. The overhead view is not as maneuverable as I would like: although you can look straight overhead, circle around the axis and view at a slight isometric angle, it just feels clunky and doesn’t allow the best positioning. The game world is detailed but can’t excuse the banal gameplay. Go play Fallout 2 again if that’s your druthers. 6.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 12, 2011, 06:36:09 AM
I had previously played and completed American McGee’s Alice (http://www.gamespot.com/american-mcgees-alice/platform/pc?tag=result;title;4) back on original release, but this time through I just quit in frustration. The game definitely shows its elder roots, from level design to character interaction – everything just screams “old school FPS”. And I don’t have the patience any more to deal with it. Although a unique idea behind the game – what if Alice returned to a crazy Wonderland – it doesn’t stand up so well any more. Hopefully the newest version is a little more modern. 7.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Silver Sorrow on December 12, 2011, 12:56:28 PM
Even though Alice was weird and somewhat different, I just didn't like it. I think I was on a Half-Life high at the time...
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 19, 2011, 07:12:45 AM
I quite liked Frontlines: Fuel of War (http://www.gamespot.com/frontlines-fuel-of-war/platform/pc?tag=result;title;2), a short, modern war FPS set in Central Asia. According to the plot, the last great oil reserves are now at risk and found only in the Caspian Sea. Russia and China have banded together as the Red Star Alliance, while the U.S. has banded with Europe – all in a race to claim the remaining oil fields and continue their consumptive ways. As a plot, it’s a bit contrived, but fully reasonable in today’s world climate.

Cut-scenes are at a lower fidelity than the game itself, which sports hi-res textures and graphics, but they get the idea across. In-game, your character is a member of the “Stray Dogs” battalion, and you’ve been sent to the front lines, initially to save some refineries, but later to serve as the core force in the battle against the Red Stars. Along the way, a news reporter documents your journey, and what he sees, and what is going on across the globe while the fighting erupts, all which appear in the cut-scenes.

Gameplay consists of various on-foot and mechanized (tanks primarily, but also some helicopters) missions in larger, “open-world” maps. Maps aren’t truly open-world, but do give you enough room to conduct flanking maneuvers. On-foot, you’ll generally be joined by the rest of your battalion, although there are a few solo missions. You’ll be tasked with gaining some strongholds, which you must hold for a certain amount of time before ownership converts to your alliance, sort of like what you’d find in a multi-player map. In the tank missions, you have to destroy certain key targets – both moving and stationary.

Frontlines is no Modern Warfare, but it does have the feel of being in a warzone, especially as you roll into the ruined city of Moscow. Along the way, you’ll have to take out missile silos, forward attack areas, and finally hold out in a central Moscow plaza against tanks, troops and copters. If you die, you have a limited number of 9 lives to use in one of the 8 campaigns (each which have 4-6 missions); I assume if you run out, you’ll have to start that whole campaign again.

Perhaps the most unique part of gameplay is the special tools you get to use, including remote-controlled explosive cars (wheel them under tanks), small helicopters that shoot missiles, hovering aircraft that explode, robot sentries, and more. It’s actually quite fun to use them all against enemy troops.

Don’t expect a ton of gameplay – maybe 6-8 hours on the single-player side – but for what it offers, Frontlines is a pretty decent game and I recommend giving it a shot. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 26, 2011, 09:02:41 AM
I slightly remember trying the demo for the original Brothers in Arms when it first came out, and deleting it after about 3 minutes, so I didn’t have much faith that its sequel  Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood (http://www.gamespot.com/brothers-in-arms-earned-in-blood/platform/pc?tag=result;title;5) would fare much better. I did actually make it through the training mission, which is set in WW2 France, where your battalion has dropped behind enemy lines, but 3 minutes into the first “real” mission, I saw that I was going to have problems again.

The main selling point for the BIA games is that you can direct your squadmates to hold key positions or lay down suppressing fire, while you flank your enemies and take them down. And that therein is my challenge – I can’t really stand to work with other people in a group setting, so trying to manipulate my team is harder than just charging in and going for it, which in this game killed me all over the place. Another reason I can't play the original Rainbow Six games with all their strategy.

So, another one bites the dust. But now I know for certain that BIA is not for me. Add to that the last-gen graphics and level design, and this is one game that just doesn’t hold up well. 7.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 02, 2012, 04:56:57 PM
I was honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed Bulletstorm (http://www.gamespot.com/bulletstorm/platform/pc?tag=result;title;0). From all the reviews I had read, it painted BS as this juvenile FPS, always mentioning that you had to shoot people in the rear or in their baby-making areas. And you do try to do that, but BS offers a bit more to keep you satisfied.

Built on the Unreal 3 Engine and coming from People Can Fly (a subsidiary of Epic Games and developers of the Painkiller series), the world of BS is absolutely stunning, with a diversity of locales competing for your visual attention. Early levels were reminiscent of Na Pali, while the later levels reminded me of Bionic Commando’s devastated world. The backgrounds are gorgeous and intricately detailed.

However, one noticeable loss to all this fidelity are the invisible walls that pen you in so that you don’t go over the edges of the many deadly drops. Regardless, you can’t jump anyway, which is another fault, but the game does offer one unique new feature: the slide. Tap your shift button twice, and you’ll slide as long as you don’t hit anything, great for going down paths. Other new features include a unique electronic “leash” that connects to items – both organic and non – and your powerful kick.

Link all these new features together with your various weapons, and you gain points for pulling off kills, with more points coming the first time you do it. Points can then be traded in for weapon upgrades, providing a semi-RPG aspect to the game.

Boss fights are challenging, but innovative, such as a plant-creature with multi-layered tasks required to take it out, or a giant Godzilla-like creature (both obvious homages to Painkiller’s huge bosses).

This is an adult game because of the extremely graphic language that every character utters. I don’t know if they were meant to be so over-the-top for humor, or if the Polish developers just don’t get American language. Some of the conversations were so bizarrely creative that they did elicit a chuckle or two. Unfortunately, most of the characters are a bit shallow, although your companion Ishi seems constantly conflicted with the computer AI sharing his brain. But you don’t play a game like this for the storyline, and in that regard, Bulletstorm gets it right when all you want to do is shoot-em-up in gorgeously created alternate worlds. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 09, 2012, 07:08:05 AM
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (http://www.gamespot.com/assassins-creed-brotherhood/platform/pc?tag=result;title;3) is the direct follow-up to Assassins Creed 2, which began following the life of protagonist Desmond’s assassin ancestor Ezio Auditore, located in Renaissance Italy. In Brotherhood, we get a few more tidbits to Desmond’s modern-day fight against the Templars, but it mostly follows Ezio’s fight against the Borgia family in Italy.

Ezio is now approaching middle-age, and most of his previous mentors have passed away or been murdered by the Borgia. But more importantly, the Borgia have regained the “apple”, the scientific piece of “Eden” that was left behind by some futuristic benefactors. We know from the end of AC2 that a super-race of advanced beings left devices like the “apple” behind to help guide mankind through an impending dark future as planned by the manipulative Templars.

As I espoused in an earlier review (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1813.0), I really love the AC concept – I love climbing around structures, pulling off kills, jumping around, looting areas – all of that. Brotherhood extends the gameplay with very few new tweaks. Control is slightly tighter than previous games, but I still found myself getting stuck running up a wall, rather than going to the right or left, especially in some of the chase sequences. One improvement on previous games, however, is that the camera only takes over on 2 occasions to default to a side-angle, upon which you need to remember your keyboard commands since you’re not in an over-the-shoulder 3rd-person view.

Rome is a sprawling city full of monuments and old ruins, but it also lacks vibrancy. Where Venice and Florence of AC2 were majestic, colorful cities, Rome just feels drab and dusty. Compared to the soaring towers of AC1’s Middle East, your eagle-spotting opportunities are a bit boring. It may be realistic to Rome of the day, but still, sometimes you’ve got to consider gameplay opportunities.

And Brotherhood provides plenty of those, a true value for one of the latest AAA titles by offering a lengthy, 40-hour game if you tackle all the side-quests in the mostly open game world (some areas are closed off until you hit certain key points). The biggest new twist to the enterprise is that they’ve incorporated an assassin “management sim” into the game. In AC2, you got a taste of upgrading the facilities of Monteriggioni, but now in Brotherhood you have to upgrade Rome itself, including various vendors, historical buildings, aqueducts, sewers, and more – and all of this after first dismantling numerous Borgia towers scattered around the city that restrict your movement. It’s a lot of work, but eventually, you end up rebuilding various friendly factions for courtesans, thieves, mercenaries and your own assassin order – all of whom you can order to assist your efforts.

Ezio’s good friend Leonardo da Vinci returns with a number of set-pieces based on war machines that he supposedly invented, but have been actually manufactured in this case. You must take them down to ensure they don’t get in the hands of the Borgia. Leonardo also fabricates specialized gear, including the critical hidden double-blade, a hook for gaining higher jumps, and even a parachute to support your falls (take off from the top of the Vatican for an amazing rush). Accompanied by great voice-acting and stirring music, the story arc isn’t as strong as in AC2, but we see Ezio move into the role of Assassin leader. And Desmond’s role continues to increase in the real world, with him showcasing his assassin moves in a variety of real-world situations.

Like before, you can interact with five unique Lairs of Romulus to give you that Prince of Persia feeling, and thus netting you some awesome gear. And 10 hidden clues lead to “The Truth” as espoused by a previous assassin who was used by the Templar front Abstergo Industries to locate a piece of Eden.

All in all, if you liked AC2, then Brotherhood has more to give, with just enough new features to keep the gameplay from going stale. The challenges are many and versatile, and you shouldn’t get bored in learning how to keep the Templars from regaining the piece of Eden. Although you just might get a broken heart in the closing moments of the game. 9.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 08, 2012, 02:48:23 PM
Dead Space 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/dead-space-2-working-title/platform/pc/) takes up some time after the first game (reviewed by me here (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1812.msg12226#msg12226)) in a new city setting. And literally within the first 15 seconds of gameplay you are on the run from the Necromorphs, with someone trying to help you along.

Whereas DS1 felt cramped and enclosed in various corridors, DS2 opens up a wall so that you see levels below you, or the outside city-scape. As a result, DS2 doesn’t quite capture that feeling of aloneness that so permeated the first game, which caused a deeper dread to venture further. I’m glad to have more light on the scene, but somehow, making things darker always results in more scares.

However, DS2 attempts to breathe new life into the series in other ways. One of these is to offer some cool new scenes, like setting up a satellite array in zero-gravity and then crashing through the atmosphere to make it back to the station in time. Or taking on larger Necros while hanging upside down.

Besides returning most of the Necros from DS1, they also now feature some with yellow “hotspots” that you need to shoot, a la Lost Planet’s (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1896.msg12446#msg12446) critters. As usual, take out their limbs to dismantle them and slow them down.

DS2 features new projectile-based weapons, and a better use of kinetic and slow-down powers. However, the upgrade tree still takes a lot of your power nodes uselessly, although you can remove some nodes and fit them in your other gear.

The game also still has a problem w/full keyboard and mouse implementation, so I had to result to GlovePIE again to get the right keyboard/mouse combination. But once that was accomplished, I became a killin’ machine!

In short, a good follow-up to the original game, which, while lacking somewhat in scares, dishes out the action whole-heartedly. 8.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 20, 2012, 06:41:48 AM
When compared to the other modern war FPS’s out there, Operation Flashpoint: Red River (http://www.gamespot.com/operation-flashpoint-red-river/platform/pc/) really doesn’t stack up well. The in-game graphics are dated and blobby, making it a challenge to see your foes against the dreary landscape. Level maps, though sprawling, are poorly defined. It almost looks like a game from 2006, not from 2011 – that’s what I’m trying to say here.

The dialogue is clichéd and the blasé story is told through plodding, interminable cutscenes that have your drill sergeant constantly cursing you out for not following his “10 Rules” of safety. When you finally get to play, you spend more time healing your dumb-dumb squadmates than shooting the bad guys.

I got bored after the third mission, which tells me there are just too many other good military games to play to waste your time on this one. 6.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 27, 2012, 10:42:28 AM
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (http://www.gamespot.com/call-of-juarez-bound-in-blood/platform/pc/) is the prequel to Call of Juarez, reviewed here (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1129.msg7747#msg7747). I was very impressed with the original game (giving it 4 out of 5) and am even more impressed with its follow-up. Techland have taken everything they learned from the first and really gone over-the-top for the second in just about every aspect, making this more of an action game than the first.

You’ll first be reunited with Ray, who in the first game is a fire-and-brimstone preacher, but in the prequel is a hard-core liar, womanizer and alcoholic. Then you’ll get the chance to take his brother Thomas on a mission, who is equally degenerate, but more thoughtful. The rest of the game will generally allow you to play as either brother in missions: Ray fires double-handed, as well as specializes in the use of dynamite, whereas Thomas excels in long-range rifles and can use a lasso and bow and arrows. Either way, you’ll have your hands full, and as your kill meter gets to full, you can pull off some slo-mo kills as either player.

At the end of each level, you’ll enter a showdown with the boss character. This requires you to circle your opponent wisely, and then pull and aim your pistol (by using the mouse to move your outstretched hand toward your gun) when the churchbell sounds. It takes a number of tries to get it down right, but fortunately, the game saves just beforehand.

Levels are huge, gorgeously detailed affairs, with huge mesas, overhanging canyons and wide open spaces, as well as dusty Mexican villas and Western towns. One standout level has you escape from a mine and go down thousands of feet along a narrow cliffside, dodging gunmen and dynamite alike. And along the way, keep an eye out for secret parchments, which provide additional sound clips and backstory.

The story feels like a Hollywood version of the Old West, starting with the McCall brothers’ desertion of the Confederate Army to save their family farm, to their ousting to Mexico, to their association with the outlaw Juarez to find a hidden Aztec treasure. You’ll get to know the brothers intimately as they bicker their way across a variety of levels, but you’ll also depend on the other brother to watch your back. And when the old flame of jealousy lights a fire, you know the ending will be bittersweet.

Playing an FPS set in the Old West is so novel compared to most other shooters out there, that I can’t help but strongly recommend you play this. And even more incredible, there seems to be a pretty healthy SP modding community (http://cojmodding.com/index.php?id=maps) for the game, adding even more free content with more than 100 SP maps; not all maps are of the highest quality, but certainly my recommendations would be: Beauregard 1 and 3, Big Red, El Dorado, Hand of Justice, Hellride, Hired Gun, Maria’s Kidnapping, Mexico, Quarry, Raccoon Creek, Steamer, The Bay of the Lawless, The Ghost Town, The Lonely World, Way Out West, and Witching Hour.

Offering unique gameplay that is probably the best Western FPS out there for the PC gamer (Red Dead Redemption may be better, but we’ll probably never know), COJ Bound in Blood excels in so many ways. If you’re looking for something different, give this one a try. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 05, 2012, 09:57:53 AM
Thank goodness for Russian game designers. Without them, we wouldn’t have such unique FPS entries as Cryostasis: The Sleep of Reason (http://www.gamespot.com/cryostasis-the-sleep-of-reason/) – also reviewed here (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-fpp/271-cryostasis) by Starfox. It took me over a year to finally get to play this, primarily due to the configuration of my last computer, made even more challenging by the overly taxing (and undeserved) graphical needs of this game.

But once you get the game working … whoa! What a mind-trip, in every sense of the word! Cryostasis plays like a mix of Penumbra (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-adventure/34-adventure-games/186-penumbra-overture--black-plague) and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (Doc Brown’s review (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-fpp/69-call-of-cthulhu-dark-corners-of-the-earth) and Rogue Wolf’s review (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=320.msg2645#msg2645)), with their dark, confining environs and creepy, plodding enemies, although not quite as scary as either of those titles.

I didn’t quite understand the game’s intro about some lost tribe in the forest, but the main premise is that you’re supposed to meet a Russian nuclear ice-breaker at the North Pole. But when you get there, the ship is stuck fast in the ice and … something … has happened to the crew. When you happen to touch some of the crew members, you will relive their last moments through a “Mental Echo”, and you have an opportunity to change what happened to them, generally saving their lives, while also bringing the ship back to strength and sometimes getting around key obstacles. All of these Mental Echoes were unique and some were very interesting.

The other unique feature of the game is how it uses the dynamics of heat and cold. Venture into a dark, cold corridor, and your body heat goes down precipitously and you must rush to the next heat source: a lamp, a heater, anything that emits warmth. You can then soak up heat and heal yourself at the same time.

Along the way, you gather glimpses into what happened to the crew, leading up to a battle against a titan named Kronos (I told you it was weird!!). Beat him, and you’ll be able to live out one of three final Mental Echoes to turn everything the way it should have been.

Your enemies are a varied sort, but all creepy, and your weapons range from brawling tools like an axe to some Russian single-bolt rifles to a drum machine gun to a water gun that uses icicles for ammo. All your weapons are difficult to maneuver, which is deliberate on the designers part as you are in a heavy winter outfit. It also puts some stress on you to be effective in your shots so that you can escape each encounter. I died many a time because I was stuck trying to reload and got wailed upon.

As unique as the story and setting are, the graphical problems abound, and truly worsen the experience. I turned several key graphical features off, and played it through DirectX 9.0 to ensure I wouldn’t have the many problems that others reported. And I’m glad to say I didn’t have any slowdowns or CTDs during my play experience, and was still able to capitalize on some features like the melting ice, etc.

It’s weird, it’s a slow start, and it’s not your typical FPS, but I still think Cryostasis is worth attempting. 8.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 12, 2012, 06:54:18 AM
Broken Sword IV (http://www.gamespot.com/secrets-of-the-ark-a-broken-sword-game/), alternately known as either “Secrets of the Ark” in the U.S. or “The Angel of Death” in Europe, follows adventurer George Stobbart into a new quest for treasure and information on the past. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t compare favorably to the previous game “The Sleeping Dragon.”

First off, you can only play this game with a single-core computer system – if you don’t have one, you’ll have to set your computer to only play single-core. Go to the Start menu, type “msconfig” into your Run box, and then go under the Advanced Boot Options to boot into 1 core mode (after completing the game, you need to reverse all these settings). Otherwise, you get corrupted black graphics on-screen, and a complete game slowdown. Finding this out took me the better part of a year.

When I finally got the game to work, I was then tasked with interminable slow-downs where the action on screen would pause for several seconds and then continue. Add the wonky controls and camera angles, and the game never really came together for me. It would have been better if the camera were a simple over-the-shoulder affair that followed you around, but then I guess the level construction would have been that much larger, and the slowdowns would have come even more rapidly.

Next, the logic to the puzzles is slightly illogical. I kept having to go to a walk-through to complete tasks because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out certain key areas. For example, you have to get some thugs out of a warehouse – how to do that? Well, obviously you need a fire retardant blanket to grab a flaming log PLUS some melting ice to make it smoke. Does it make sense? Yes. But would I have naturally thought of combining all those elements together? No. And this goes throughout the rest of the game.

It took me about a week to play through the game because I had to quit, pull up a handy walkthrough (http://faqs.ign.com/articles/781/781251p1.html), and then restart the game to figure out the next area. Now, the designers did get that part right, because you can boot into the game within 20 seconds. However, another misstep is that you can’t skip any conversation pieces, even if you’ve already heard it before. So you’re sitting there for 30-60 seconds, drumming your fingers while you wait for a scene to play itself out.

The story is adequate, but the characters and voicework are by far the best part of the game. You get a couple of returning characters from previous games, but then you meet new folks like the drunken viscount, Father Mark and Sister Angelica. The person who voices George Stobbart is right on target with his skewering style, and one conversation in a Vatican wafer factory (yes, that’s what I said) is absolutely LOL funny.

The settings run the gamut of mundane (factory, city streets, prison, hotel), but also toss in a few places with an Indiana Jones vibe, where you must complete a variety of puzzles to open doors and overcome traps. The game also adds a techie feature where you can use your cell phone to hack into servers to open doors or download data, although these ran the range of high to low challenge.

The game ends with a tragic, but abrupt, closure, so you never feel like you’ve come full circle in your gameplay. And that’s kind of the sense I came away with: Broken Sword 4 was trying too hard to check all the boxes, but other than the voice work, they fell short of the overall promise. 6.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 19, 2012, 06:38:31 AM
I generally enjoyed Need for Speed: Carbon (http://www.gamespot.com/need-for-speed-carbon/platform/pc/), except for a few little niggles that I’ll get to in just a moment. Overall, I like that the designers created some framework of a story, even though the live action/CG acting was a bit leaden. You left town some years before, supposedly taking a bundle of cash (stolen?) with you. But the bag got switched at the end of a street race, leaving someone else richer and painting a huge target on your back. But now that you’ve returned, all your old running mates have a score to settle, and the only thing you can do is to race in each of their territories until you win enough races that you force a showdown “boss” race.

Setting the racing game up in a territory structure was pretty cool, and forced you to try a diversity of races. Initially, you start out with the option for three different types of cars, and one backing wingman, but win some races and money, and you can upgrade to bigger and better vehicles, and get a larger supporting cast behind you. And you’ll reach some races that you just can’t win without getting a faster car.

The police play an important role as well, forcing you to evade them, which often gets you additional bonuses outside the main storyline. It’s fun to take the cops around the city after you, knock down structures to disable their vehicles, ram through roadblocks and attempt to evade spike strips without getting busted. But it does get tiresome when they just keep spawning on you.

Now, my two largest complaints with the game. 1) I could master all the racing styles … except for drifting, where you have to wing your car sideways and screech your tires along the side without hitting the wall. I didn’t win ONE drift race, and my numbers were around 10,000 points when all my competitors were getting 50,000. This racing type could have definitely used a tutorial or in-race guide.

2) The multi-tiered boss races required you to win three separate legs (or five in the case of the last boss race) – a start-to-finish course in the city, and two tied canyon races. The hardest part of the venture was the canyon races, which first required you to follow your competitor as closely as possible around winding roads along a canyon to earn points; on the second leg, your competitor will follow you closely and eat away at the points you’ve just earned. And of course if you go off the edge or get passed, it’s game over. The worst part is that if you quit without winning all the races, which sometimes would take several actual hours with all the replays from losing, you would have to start from scratch. Very annoying.

But aside from those little niggles, Carbon was generally fun to play, and you get to use lots of actual cars to drive around and enjoy yourself. Just watch out for all the flashing lights…. 8.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 26, 2012, 06:40:30 AM
The ideas behind Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops (http://www.gamespot.com/shadow-harvest-phantom-ops/) are sound, but the actual implementation is an abominable disaster. You alternate play as either a hardened warrior or a stealthy special ops fighter in a modern-day 3rd-person shooter set in a Middle Eastern locale. Sounds familiar, eh?

But oh, where it goes wrong…. The most heinous crime is the “sticky” cover that you are forced to use. When you approach cover, it automatically sucks you down into a crouch, from which it is nearly impossible to raise your gun and fire. And when the bad guys come up and you’re trying to get away and save yourself, they just keep shooting you shooting you shooting you until the screen turns red with your death.

Worst. Cover system. Ever.   :redhot:

Graphics and level design are … acceptable … but not high resolution, and there’s an awfully large amount of copy-paste going on, from corridors to rooms to shacks outside on the street. And you are unable to modify many of your necessary graphical components, like the gamma. The levels were so dark, I found myself turning on night vision IN THE LIGHTED OUTDOOR AREAS simply so I could see what was in the corner.

Another major gripe was in the stealthy female character. She is given absolutely no ammo to get through a mission, maybe like 9 crossbow bolts, and you are expected to sneak through many areas without making a sound. Add to that the ridiculous “hacking” system, where you simply push your “use” button for 10 seconds to mimic some sort of action taking place. Le sigh….

Quite simply, this game sucks. Do not buy this game, even for 99 cents. Do not rent this game, even if you get a free pass. Do not look at this game’s box in the store. Ignore it, and save your life for other priorities. 3.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 02, 2012, 06:52:58 AM
Boy, Homefront (http://www.gamespot.com/homefront/platform/pc/) is one of those titles that has really struck many gamers’ ire, I think primarily due to the (original) over-inflated $60 price tag and short 6-hour playing time. But for those of us who aren’t suckers and buy on the first day, this is actually a pretty good game, with some truly stirring set-pieces. I actually felt myself choking up when I saw the devastation taking place in “my backyard.”

And that’s what Homefront generally gets right. This is war on America’s home turf. Similar to CODMW2’s suburban warfare in the Washington DC suburbs, we’re now in the Heartland, but instead of the Russkies, it’s now the looming Communist threat of a combined Korea.

The action is very visceral and visual, so the screenwriter (who also delivered “Red Dawn (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087985/)” back in the 80s) has a good idea of how to tug at the patriotic heartstrings. And the whole thing, especially due to its short length, felt like being in a movie. The first act of understanding your oppressors and taking them on ineffectively, the second act of escaping and facing your traitorous brethren, and the final act to support the army and take back a major city.

We’ve played the modern-war shooter enough that there aren’t too many unique twists to the genre, although you can use a support vehicle to take out enemies. And you can pick up interesting newspaper articles scattered around, but those don’t net you any tangible rewards.

In the end, it’s an interesting twist on the FPS gameplay we love, and I’m glad to see a sequel going into production, because there’s a lot of ideas that can take off from this. The fact that it is relatively short means the gaming is straight to the point without a lot of filler. And now you should be able to get it for a much better price in the gameplay-to-cost ratio. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 09, 2012, 06:39:42 AM
Bioware must really be interested in conservation, because they recycled probably 90% of the destinations visited in Dragon Age 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/dragon-age-ii/platform/pc/). Seriously, for a AAA title, you would expect a bit more creativity. Add to that a storyline that aches in comparison with the amazing first game, and you’ve got Bioware’s first recent “flop” in ages.

Let me iterate that DA2 is not a bad game. In fact, it’s a pretty good third-person, team-based RPG, and engages you in some interesting ways. But compared to the near perfection of the original, it comes up way short. For example, in Dragon Age: Origins you are thrust immediately into the world-threatening Blight from the Underworld, and you spend your time as the last of the Grey Wardens ensuring everything you can to keep the Blight in check, if not stopped in total. However, in DA2, you’re sent around running fetch quests through same-y landscapes, with the only real challenges a looming Qunari threat and a long-standing conflict between the Templars and the Mages. In DAO, you’re the quarterback, while in DA2 you’re the water boy.

You just can’t compare the two in scope. I don’t necessarily mind playing a new character in DA2, but I do mind investing my time in a character that doesn’t really do much in the larger scheme of things. Part of the problem is that the original game was so broad in scope that a follow-up couldn’t necessarily compete. In all fairness, the storyline of DA2 should have gone first in the series to build up the momentum, much like Mass Effect has built in scope and size through its three games. Or, the authors should have left the ending of DAO more open, so that perhaps you stopped the Blight in one area, but it arose in another, which is how the sequel proceeded. Oh well.

The dialogue remains thoroughly delightful, with the asides between your various party members a pleasure to listen to. And side quests are plentiful and generally interesting, although you’ll be traipsing through the same environments time after time after time after time, which breaks down your will to progress further. The only bright spots to the gameplay are the two DLCs  – one set in a Grey Warden prison, and the other in an Orlais countryside.

You’ll like playing DA2, but you won’t love it. And after the original set you up as the conqueror of the Darkspawn, your new character just doesn’t measure up on the gameplay scale. I’d suggest if you haven’t played either, start with DA2, and THEN go to DAO – I think your perception will be vastly different for the series as a whole. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 16, 2012, 07:03:34 AM
Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale (http://www.gamespot.com/dungeons-and-dragons-daggerdale/platform/pc/) is such a HUGE step backward in gameplay, I can’t even believe it was released. Graphics are mediocre, the over-the-shoulder camera is awkward and stiff, you can’t remap your keys, close-ups of your quest-givers are cardboard, sound is iffy, and gameplay is banal. I didn’t want to play past the first few chapters, I was so bored.

This game is a crime against the D&D title. Skip it and find anything more fun to play. 4.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 23, 2012, 08:44:51 AM
In general, Fallout: New Vegas (http://www.gamespot.com/fallout-new-vegas/platform/pc/) is a great game, building upon the success of Fallout 3. Based in the Southwest U.S., FNV pushes you to reclaim the dusty plains en route to that hotbed of sin – New Vegas. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to connect with a variety of factions, doing tasks both major and benign, until you arrive at the finale to take back the Hoover Dam powering the region.

When compared to F3, FNV has a different “feel” – its landscape is more wide-ranging and open than the destroyed Washington DC cityscape. You’ll enter a few small communities here and there, but for the most part you’ll be out in the brush and the desert.

You can effectively choose to align with three major factions at the end game, but also can go rogue and let the chips fly where they may. The New California Republic, the Legion, and New Vegas’ Mr. House all require your services, and for 9/10ths of the game, you can generally move back and forth among them and their tasks, but you will finally have to choose at the end, closing off all access to the other factions. You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with various tribes/gangs and even the Brotherhood of Steel, but only in minor roles. You won’t be able to please everybody, so you just need to decide who you want on top at the end.

My game plan was to gain access to all sites outside of New Vegas proper (and the Explorer perk is perfect for letting you know where all destinations are), and then complete the main faction tasks easily at the end. The hardest part is generally traveling from one destination to another, so if you’ve already unlocked all the destinations, it is fairly easy to accomplish each task thereafter.

I completed the main campaign and four main DLCs in 100 hours and maxing to level 50. Of the DLCs, Dead Money was perhaps my favorite, because it brought an intense, creepy atmosphere coupled with a murder mystery, which really required you to hone your sneaking skills. Lonesome Road had amazing level design that had you entering a deep valley with destroyed buildings. Honest Hearts provided perhaps the most colorful of FNV’s maps, but was fairly short. And Old World Blues just didn’t grab me with its futuristic setting.

In the end, I was ready to move on, and I didn’t try all the various factions to see how my ending would change, but it was a great ride to get there. I think with the DLCs and all the patches now in place, Fallout: New Vegas easily compares to Fallout 3. A great game worth playing. 9.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 01, 2012, 02:11:44 PM
With the recent news that Crysis 3 is on the way, I decided to finally try out Crysis 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/crysis-2/platform/pc/). Generally, the game is pretty good, but I somehow feel like I’ve recently played this urban warfare tale before, perhaps through Fallout 3/New Vegas, FEAR 2, Bionic Commando, Homefront, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Bulletstorm, or even Legendary – all with destroyed cities as the backdrop (although to be fair, only Crysis 2 features aliens). And also, Crysis 2 renders this destroyed landscape in a gorgeous vision – crumbling streets have never looked this nice!

The cryo-suit is really the only thing that keeps this game somewhat fresh, allowing you to bull past foes, or to sneak past them instead. You can also use a tactical mapping option or infrared vision. And you’ll generally use all of them at one time or another, so the suit was much more useful to me this time than in the original game, as the powers also lasted longer. I remember in Crysis 1 trying to sneak and the suit’s power disappearing in like 3 seconds, whereas you can sneak around for a full 30 seconds or more in C2.

I did prefer Crysis 2 to the first game. The destroyed New York City setting is pretty awesome to get lost in. The aliens are a little different for some reason, and also don’t utilize the “cold” that they did in the first game. But the only real difference might be that Crysis 2 was a little more open in gameplay options whereas Crysis 1 merely funnels you into the next section.

The sneak option sometimes works – I had a few maps where I was able to sneak past foes – human and alien alike – but generally you’ll get to a point that you’ll have to focus on the gunplay, which is also fairly satisfying.

Storywise, I didn’t quite catch everything, but the person who originally had your cryo-suit was in Korea during the first game’s incidents. The Ceph aliens aren’t actually aliens from another planet, but they’re actually FROM the earth’s past, and were merely asleep for millions of years before somehow awakening. Now they are emerging all over the globe, including, unfortunately, New York City. Your cryo-suit was created to absorb the toxic spores that the Ceph are releasing to return the world back to their original state. And so everybody wants your services. … Um, okay.

Regardless, it’s a pretty fun romp, lots of stuff to shoot, some ways to upgrade your cryo-suit and find collectibles, and New York City in ruins. What’s not to like?  :lol:  With the knowledge that Crysis 3 will take you back to a more open-world NYC and strand you against the overwhelming forces of the Ceph, that could be a pretty fun game. For Crysis 2, I’ll recommend it at 8.4 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 07, 2012, 06:36:32 AM
I love racing games, but Grid (http://www.gamespot.com/grid/platform/pc/) is more of a slog than an exercise in fun. The keyboard commands are pretty touchy and (at least for me), I required maybe 9-12 playthroughs of each race to actually finish, since I kept running into walls and other cars and destroying my car. So, the game was TOO realistic for my personal fun factor.

You can tackle lots of types of races, all over the globe, from city street rallies to Le Mans to crash-em-up derbies to more proper race tracks. And you can modify your cars to a limited extent, but nothing near like with Need for Speed Underground, where you could tweak every little thing on your personal vehicle. As you race, you get more money from finishing or placing in the top 3, which you can use to buy new vehicles for certain races.

I guess Grid just wasn’t for me, although I know a lot of people appreciate the management component of racing games. As it is, I’m not even motivated to finish it. 8.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 14, 2012, 06:49:32 AM
Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure (http://www.gamespot.com/marc-eckos-getting-up-contents-under-pressure/platform/pc/) is sort of an older brother to Mirror’s Edge in concept, but more akin to the original Tomb Raider in actual graphic design. I’m disappointed, because I wanted to like this game, with its unique story and gameplay concepts. But the combination of dated graphics and non-mappable keyboard commands made this a no-go for me.

But what promise! Getting Up lets you play as Trane, a graffiti artist in the not-too-distant future, where a merciless authoritarian state has come into power. Your graffiti is the start of a social revolution. So besides tagging walls, you also get to climb around and find new secret areas, beat up dudes dissin’ on yo turf and stick it to da man.

Yes, it’s an older game, and I can get past that – note that one of my favorite older games played recently was Project Eden (also similar in graphical design) – but I can’t get past the inability to revise keyboard commands, even through my beloved GlovePIE program. Hard to play a game when you can’t get the buttons right.

So despite only cresting into the middle of the first act, I see enough promise to give it 7.0 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 21, 2012, 07:00:45 AM
Whereas the previously-reviewed Grid went too realistic, Dirt 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/dirt-3/platform/pc/) perhaps gives you too much flexibility to drive as you like, at the expense of realism. I admit that I mostly used the “Casual” setting (which does all the shifting for you, so all you actually have to do is push the forward button and steer); when I moved to a higher setting it was much more challenging, and I spun out or flipped over much more often. Unlike Grid, Dirt 3 allows you to scale many more areas of gameplay, such as car damage, steering, a guiding line on the screen to tell you how and when to brake and steer, etc.

Dirt 3’s lengthy career mode is made up of four “seasons”, each with four different competition series. As you place, you earn enough points to unlock later competitions, all coming down to the season championship. Place in that and you’ll move into the next season. Along the way, you’ll open a variety of specific event types that you can also compete in for extra experience. With more experience, you’ll unlock new vehicles that grant even more experience as you complete certain tasks in each race, such as placing, beating certain times, jumping/sliding a certain distance, completing the race without damage, reaching certain high speeds, etc.

Dirt 3 offers a variety of race types as well – rally, head-to-head, circuits – all with a variety of (non-upgradeable) vehicle types. It also offers my most hated event: gymkhana – where you have to do tricks such as slides, donuts, spins and jumps – but I was able to eke out enough points generally to proceed. And you’ll experience a diversity of locales as well, including Kenya, Michigan, Finland, Aspen, and Monaco.

I generally had fun with this game, although it still lacks the thrill of other, more open-world racing games I’ve played. Unfortunately, by the end of Season 2, you’ve played every destination and every race type offered, so even though races try to mix things up by introducing timing and weather into the mix, it started to feel stilted for me by that point. I didn’t actually finish the game, and didn’t really want to.

Dirt 3 is fun, but it can get monotonous by the halfway mark. Still, the lengthy gameplay, diversity of locations, vehicle choices, and many race types should keep you entertained. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 25, 2012, 07:27:30 AM
I hope you like fetch quests and having to physically interact with every NPC in a game, because you’ll fully spend two-thirds of your time on these inane tasks in Fable 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/fable-iii/platform/pc/). You see, for you to best upgrade your powers and skills, you’ll need all the reputation garnered with meeting people, dancing a little jig with them or some other silly method, and then befriending them such that they ask you to do some mundane chore on their behalf. And the game just feels drawn out and a bit boring, as a result.

The story is at least a stab at something different. You are the sibling of the sitting king, who is extremely unpopular with the people of the kingdom because he is perceived as a tyrant, overtaxing the public, putting the children to work, etc. From the start of the game, you must escape and win enough support to take on the king in a rebellion. Only when you gain the seat, do you understand what your brother was truly trying to accomplish – and for me, that’s when the game got kind of interesting.

If you’ve played any of the other Fable games, you know the drill – explore the land, pick up keys that you can use on chests and doors, interact with everyone, run fetch-quests, try to open Demon Doors, etc. New to this iteration is your companion dog, who points out treasure and dig spots, but he’s absolutely useless in a fight. You can also earn money through competitions such as pie-making, lute-playing, and sword-crafting, in a “Guitar Hero” type of puzzle. And you can get married, have kids, and get divorced as you like.

The overall quests are generally fun, and you’ll encounter many familiar locations and enemy types (hobbes, balvarines, etc.). Also new to Fable 3 is the option to purchase stores and rental homes to generate revenue, which I recommend you do as soon as possible to start bringing in a lot of revenue at the end of the game for a certain purpose. A map and a helpful servant can assist you immensely in your quests.

Another new option is to add a firearm and magic powers to the basic sword/hammer attack option – all of which are upgradeable over time. I found the firearm best for long-distance attacks, and magic best for group attacks, but your experiences may differ.

Overall, Fable 3 is a lengthy, colorful adventure, and your choices have some meaning toward the end of the game, which was a true surprise twist, but it just feels a bit dumbed down in gameplay function, perhaps to best appeal to its original Xbox crowd. 7.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 29, 2012, 07:20:12 AM
With a name like E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy (http://www.gamespot.com/e-y-e-divine-cybermancy/), I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had heard that the game was an RPG/FPS hybrid, akin to Deus Ex with branching paths and challenges, and level design reminiscent of Blade Runner or other dystopian sci-fi tropes.

The end result is a far cry from anything Deus Ex, and I honestly don’t know that I can recommend it to anyone. Fanghawk asked me on Steam of my initial impressions and the only thing I could think to say were: “This game is really weird – like a bad HL2 mod.” When he asked if I was enjoying it, I had to reply “No.”

And that’s it in a nutshell – EDC is a game built on the Source engine that is darkly lit, nearly impossible to understand due to its poor translation and erratic storyline, spawn central for its antagonists, and sprawling, confusing cityscapes. I can’t think of a part that I particularly liked as it was just a slog to get through, even after 10 hours of gameplay. And the cap on my efforts? I was shot off a walkway into a huge shaft and got stuck in the bottom because I couldn’t even no-clip out. And this was after I failed a conversation tree where a guy didn’t like what I was saying and then proceeded to shoot at me, turning my whole organization against me!

I just can’t recommend EDC to you, not even if you find it on a Steam sale for $2.50. However, I have seen several masochists people on the Steam forums that absolutely love the game – one who said he’d spent 50+ hours going through the various options available. So if you’re one of “those” types of people, feel free to check it out. Just remember ... I warned you first. 6.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 04, 2012, 07:22:39 AM
As a single-player game, Brink (http://www.gamespot.com/brink/) is utterly forgettable. This FPS is more of a multi-player trainer, with only eight real maps, and squad-based combat. You can choose one of two sides to play – the Security forces or the Rebels – but there’s really no difference between them in either gameplay or level design.

You can choose from one of three body types, which have different attributes: skinny dudes wear less armor but can vault up surfaces, while heavy dudes wear more armor and are less mobile. You also can choose from one of four skill types: soldier, engineer, medic and hacker. Inside each map, your team is tasked with several options, and depending on your skillset, you may choose to do any of those, all which lead to the overall success of the mission. A timer counts down in the background; if for some reason, you don’t accomplish the main mission, a second-tier primary mission will start, with less time on the clock to accomplish it. And if that fails, you may fail the mission completely and have to start over.

The character designs are extremely odd: faces are hi-def with every pore, freckle and scar showing, but they are stretched and cartoonish, as if the designers opted not to go the realistic route. For me, that lack of realism reminded me I was playing a game, so that I couldn’t get into the “feel” of the gameplay.

From an SP perspective, there’s no replayability, as even switching sides, you’ll still be in the same map, just doing the opposite team’s actions. Your character has the same skills on either side, rather than retrenching new character types specific to each side, so your gameplay has no consequences. And the story for either side is shallow and doesn’t draw you effectively into the overarching conflict between the haves and have-nots.

Maybe this game is more fun in MP, but I somehow doubt it as maps are too small. What you’re left with, especially as an SP gamer, is something boring, banal and mediocre. Not even worth a rental, this one is. 6.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 11, 2012, 06:35:08 AM
After a spate of mediocre games recently, I was pleasantly surprised with Hydrophobia Prophecy (http://www.gamespot.com/hydrophobia-prophecy/) and feel it deserves a higher ranking than what’s currently out there. This is one of those few games that provides a realistic, positive female protagonist, similar to Jade from Beyond Good & Evil. In HP, Kate is a systems engineer who is caught in the turmoil of a terrorist attack on the jumbo-ship that she and thousands of others live upon. And just like Gordon Freeman, she’s in the wrong place at the right time to get things done.

What’s most unique about HP is the realistic water dynamics that support the game’s infrastructure. If you’re in a corridor with a foot of water, you slow down. Burst a window of a room filled with water, and you’ll get swept away if you don’t watch out, or you’ll be hard-pressed to move forward against the flow, especially with boxes and detritus barreling toward you. Access hard-to-reach areas by raising the water level after shooting out some side panels. And if the passage is completely filled with water, you’ll need to navigate your way through, finding rare air pockets to continue forward before drowning.

At its core, HP is a cover-based third-person shooter/actioner. Cover is a little sticky, but I’ve had worse experiences. And hiding behind objects will keep you alive longer against the foes you’re up against. Between the shooting, you may need to climb around to reach new areas. Again, the controls are a little wacky, but workable – nothing worth knocking on majorly. Hacking computers provides a brief counterpoint to the action and shooting sequences, requiring you to match the amplitude of waves to override and hack into the system to open doors -- more realistic than other hacking minigames I've played.

About 3/4ths into the game, you access the ability to wield water to your advantage. My biggest complaint is that the keyboard command for this action is unmappable, requiring me to reach all the way across the keyboard to do it. Fortunately (?), you only really need this ability in three specific situations, including the final boss fight.

The storyline was slightly formulaic, but passable, and the voice-actors did a good job and made me feel for them. The game and story are relatively short, at 4-6 hours of gameplay, but I was left wanting more, so that’s always a good thing. Maybe we’ll see Kate again, supporting other ships or ports against these terrorists. I certainly hope so – a good woman is hard to find in today’s games. 8.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 18, 2012, 07:27:09 AM
I quite liked Red Faction: Armageddon (http://www.gamespot.com/red-faction-armageddon/), even though it made some substantive changes from the previous game. After the open-world excesses of Red Faction: Guerrilla (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1863.0), where you stage a revolution against The Powers That Be, Armageddon is more directed and linear, with RPG-lite elements. The story is decent but fairly predictable, but at least drives the plot forward to maintain player interest.

You play the grandson of the guy who freed Mars in the last game, so there is a tenuous connection to the previous game, and the game starts with an explosive battle as anarchists hope to return the planet to its non-terraformed roots. You’re part of that battle, and everything goes wrong. Jump forward 10 years, and small pocket communities are still barely holding on in the decreased atmosphere, and you’re just trying to make ends meet. One of your clients asks you to do something seemingly innocuous, which unfortunately unleashes a hibernating species of alien upon the planet. Shades of Gordon Freeman!!  :-X

So, you screwed up and have to set it right. Well, you’ll have plenty of weapons to keep you cold on those cold, lonely nights. From basic guns and rifles to plasma bolts to explosive charges and missiles to the handy concussive hammer to a black hole launcher, your destructive capabilities are awesome and superb. And that’s the other standby of a Red Faction game: destructible surroundings. Just about everything can be torn apart, dismantled, and otherwise destroyed. My weapon of choice: the magnetic beam. Attach the beam to two separate points and watch ‘em collide. I might send the base of a building into an enemy and avalanche them with destruction. Or, I might fling the enemy away from me toward a distant rock wall, just to see the ragdoll dance.

One new feature to the game is a nano forge attached to your wrist, which at first allows you to reconstruct destroyed structures (rebuild a bridge and find goodies), but can be upgraded over time as you collect nano “credits”. You can develop a force push, a protective shell, a shockwave that launches foes in the air for easy pickings, and berserk mode. You’ll also be able to enhance your skills with melee, small guns and explosive weapons, as well as increase your health. So you’ll want to scavenge every bit of every level to make sure you get the most goodies to keep upgrading.

Within levels, you generally have limited open gameplay, where you can go back and forth through the level to complete set tasks, but can only move forward in the greater scheme from one level to the next. Along the way, you’ll meet various folks who may assist you, you’ll pilot walkers, tanks and flying craft, and you’ll have one doozy of a minecart ride.

In all, Armageddon felt like the original game in tone, but had a Total Recall, movie-like feel. I always felt like Arnold Schwarzeneggar was going to come around the corner and say “Get your ass to Mars!!” Call this one a can’t-miss due to the total blast you’ll have blowing everything up. 8.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 02, 2012, 01:41:25 PM
In post #103 (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg11796#msg11796), I recapped the first 80 games I had played. Well, I have just crossed 150 game reviews since starting this thread in September 2009 (just under three years at writing), so I thought I’d give a further update on the latest batch of games reviewed, starting with my lowest scoring, moving to some Honorable Mentions, and ending with my top-rated games.

This first list shows games that I honestly don’t suggest you buy/rent, or at least don't pay more than $3 max. These are my Bottom-Dwellers:

- Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops  – 3.0 – Worst. Cover system. Ever. Dark levels, low-resolution graphics, busted sneaking and hacking systems.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale  – 4.0 – Mediocre graphics, awkward and stiff camera, unmappable keys, iffy sound, banal gameplay.
- FEAR 2: Reborn  – 5.7 – A poor, hour-long add-on that adds nothing to the franchise other than to say how Paxton Fettil can be alive for F.E.A.R. 3.
- Spiderman: Web of Shadows  – 5.9 – Frustrating, difficult and ultimately disappointing, since the story and web-slinging were actually bright spots.
- Planet Alcatraz  – 6.0 – A boring 3rd-person isometric RPG-lite. Try Fallout 2 instead.
- Mercenaries 2: World in Flames  – 6.1 – Wonky controls, dated graphics, flimsy storyline and not very fun.
- Shellshock 2: Blood Trails  – 6.1 – Decent afternoon FPS set in Vietnam but not the tightest game overall.
- E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy  – 6.2 – A Source-engine mod-turned-game that is darkly lit, nearly impossible to understand due to poor translation and erratic storyline, spawn central for its antagonists, and filled with sprawling, confusing cityscapes.
- Unreal Tournament 3 – 6.3 – Beautiful maps, but boring for SP-only players, with few changes from previous iterations.
- Aliens vs. Predators  – 6.4 – Although the Marine campaign offers some scares, the Alien and Predator maps don’t hold up.
- Brink  – 6.4 – Forgettable, boring, banal and mediocre. Not even worth a rental.
- Operation Flashpoint: Red River  – 6.5 – Dated and blobby graphics, cliché dialogue, blasé story, plodding and interminable cutscenes lead to a boring game.

As always, there are many mediocre games, but this next list deserves Honorable Mentions – these games aren’t quite the peak of perfection, but I enjoyed them nonetheless and highly recommend them to you:

- Bulletstorm  – 8.4 – Goofy, crazy shoot-em-up in a gorgeously created alternate world.
- Crysis 2 – 8.4 – A pretty fun romp, lots of stuff to shoot, some ways to upgrade your cryo-suit and find collectibles, and New York City in ruins.
- Dirt 3 – 8.4 – Fun, but can get monotonous by the halfway mark. Lengthy gameplay, diversity of locations, vehicle choices, and many race types.
- Dreamfall: The Longest Journey  – 8.4 – Extends the vision of The Longest Journey in 3D, but falls short slightly from the original.
- Homefront  – 8.4 – An interesting twist on the FPS gameplay we love, setting the events within a Korean takeover of the U.S.A.
- Need for Speed Underground  – 8.4 – Fun, mindless, frenetic racing experience with great vehicle customization.
- Singularity  – 8.4 – Interesting storyline, gameplay and levels were well-thought and had good delivery, and it was just fun with diversity of weapons and powers.
- Tomb Raider: Legend  – 8.4 – Fun, challenging gameplay experience that completes the final Lara Croft saga.
- Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood  – 8.5 – Excels in so many ways, offering unique gameplay that is probably the best Western FPS out there for the PC gamer.
- The Saboteur  – 8.5 – Pandemic Studios’ best game, allowing you to take out WW2 Nazis as a Resistance fighter.
- Thief: Deadly Shadows  – 8.5 – Nice to be in Garrett’s shoes again in this final chapter of the Thief saga.
- Arx Fatalis  – 8.6 – Deeply rich first-person RPG with detailed maps and storyline.
- Dark Void  – 8.6 – Indiana Jones spliced with The Rocketeer in the Land of the Lost.
- FEAR 2: Project Origin  – 8.6 – An improvement on the original with better map design and story elements.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops  – 8.7 – Surprising, enjoyable tale that married intrigue with real-life scenarios, and blended in an overwhelming heap of action.
- Metro 2033  – 8.7 – A tense, driven affair, placing you in the intriguing story of nuclear apocalypse, as seen through the eyes of a Muscovite.
- Bioshock 2 – 8.8 – Not as tight or as surprising as the original, and the bugs were atrocious, but it does offer some unique settings and the ability to play as a Big Daddy.
- Dead Space 2 – 8.8 – A good follow-up to the original game, which, while lacking somewhat in scares, dishes out the action whole-heartedly.
- Prey  – 8.8 – Some graphical anomalies, but tight, unique gameplay makes this a great game still.

And finally we come to the top-rated games that I’ve played:
- Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood  – 9.0 – Offers just enough new features to keep the gameplay from going stale. The challenges are many and versatile, and you finally learn more about where the pieces of Eden fit into this reality.
- Fallout New Vegas  – 9.0 – A great game that builds upon the success of Fallout 3 while based in the Southwest U.S.A.
- Project Eden  – 9.0 – Definitely a thinking person’s game, where you must effectively utilize your four teammates to escape each map.
- The Longest Journey  – 9.1 – Probably one of the top three adventure games of all time.
- Battlefield: Bad Company 2 – 9.3 – Exciting team that shows growth over time, over-the-top level design, challenging but realistic gameplay, interesting story.
- Mass Effect 2 – 9.6 – Amazing game with intricate and far-reaching storyline, as well as great voicework.
- Portal 2 – 9.6 – Thought-provoking puzzles bookmarked between an intriguing storyline and fantastic level design, with the whole thing covered in a veneer of dark humor and great voicework

That's where we stand after 150 games. We'll catch up again later....
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 06, 2012, 05:17:12 PM
With the overriding derision I’ve directed at the most recent adventure games I’ve played recently, I was beginning to think that I had finally grown out of “adventure” gaming, which first brought me to the PC through classics from Sierra and Lucasarts. But recently, I can’t stand to play point-and-click adventure games because they are just so darn slow and meandering!

Well, I’m glad then to mention A New Beginning (http://www.gamespot.com/a-new-beginning/), a very cinematic adventure with a distinctive art style. The story is intense and imaginative, the puzzles are generally well-thought-out, and the action is constant. My biggest complaint is that the voice acting sounds like it came out of a computer. But if you can get beyond that foible, I think you’ll find an interesting game indeed.

The game starts at some point in the future, where the earth has been decimated by changes in the climate. Humanity’s last hope resides in underground bunkers, and unfortunately, an incoming solar flare spells impending doom for the human race due to the lack of protection in the ozone layer. The only way to solve this dilemma is to send trained radio-operators into the past to reach key figures and opportunities, to convince people to make a change. Our main contact is radio-operator Fay, who has been sent into our current(ish) time to contact and convert Bent Svennsohn, a retired Norwegian biochemist who created some blue-green algae that can create energy through photosynthesis.

See, heady stuff!

The first third of the game recounts Fay’s actions to reach Bent, where her time capsule crash-landed into a decimated 2050 and she had to connect with another crashed crew to fix a craft to keep going further back in time to reach Bent. The second third deals with a climate change conference and Bent showcasing his blue-green algae’s potential, while the final third takes place at a nuclear power plant that we learn will meltdown and decimate the Amazon forest, unless stopped.

The action within each scene is rapid, your character can “jump” to the next screen without having to walk all the way across it, you can click through text as fast as  you can read (rather than waiting for everyone to say every single word that you finished reading seconds ago), the animated "comic-book" cutscenes impel the story forward, and for the complex puzzles, you have an option to skip them after some time has passed. All of these made me want to stick with the game to see what was going to happen next in the story.

You can click on objects and pull up a radial menu with various options to interact, inspect or combine them. Just about everything makes sense in real-life scenarios, so none of that “combine monkey tail with pig bladder to create balloon” kind of stuff here. (Although that might be a good option for a future game….)  ;D

Once I set aside that the voice-work isn’t spot on emotionally, I was quite delighted with the game. It never panders to a preachy message, and it actually has a few reveals throughout to keep you guessing until the end. Definitely recommended for adventure gamers. 7.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 17, 2012, 01:18:15 PM
Unfortunately, The First Templar (http://www.gamespot.com/the-first-templar/) has gotten some pretty poor reviews overall, because it means people interested in an intriguing story will probably miss out on this title. No, it is not excellent, and it has plenty of faults. But at its heart, it’s a fascinating look at history, with a fantastical bent and a great reveal about 3/4ths through the story.

If you know anything about history, in the early 1100s, the Templars began as a type of fighting monk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templar), who lived a life of poverty and assisted travelers seeking to visit the Holy Lands during the Crusades. But, so the backstory goes, the Templars came upon something while stationed in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount – probably it was critical information used to blackmail the Catholic church, although speculation has arisen that perhaps they found the Ark of the Covenant, or maybe even the Holy Grail itself. Regardless, they became very influential throughout the Mediterranean until the early 1300s, when the Catholic church and French aristocracy decided to band together and overthrow their ranks, resulting in the infamous Friday the 13th of October 1307. Yes, that’s where we get the date from – the Templars’ destruction.

So back to our game. You play as Celian, a Templar knight tasked with an impossible goal by the Templar Grand Master – to find the Holy Grail and return the Templars back to power as their influence is waning in the French court. The game starts in September 1307, amidst the Holy Lands. Your first partner, with whom you can switch back and forth, is Roland, another Templar who is a bit more brash in his actions. Eventually, Roland is replaced by Marie, a French assassin who specializes in dual-welding knives.

The first levels of the game give you a chance to figure out the controls for this hack-and-slash RPG. Get experience points from kills that can be applied at any time to increasing each of your character’s skills. Graphics are fairly gorgeous, with bright, sunlit areas, intricately designed cities, creepy caverns and dungeons, and spooky forests.

The game alternates between fights, sneaking sections, puzzles, boss fights and cutscenes to provide a diversity of gameplay styles. I wish you had more clothing and weapon options, ideally with an upgrade toward your overall stats, but the treasure hunt idea behind this is kind of fun.

So, it’s not as rich as the Assassin’s Creed series, but it feels like a close cousin in style due to its subject. Not a life-changer, but I think you should get some satisfaction from it, especially when you realize who our hero truly is. 7.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 20, 2012, 09:12:06 AM
To renew interest in their sci-fi television series Doctor Who (as well as provided educational content), the BBC created a number of free adventure games (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rs69w/profiles/the-adventure-games) in episodic content. The games are geared more toward younger audiences, but I think you might find something of interest here, between point-and-click adventuring, stealth sections and mini-puzzles – all wrapped in the Dr. Who mythos.

First released in July 2010 was City of the Daleks (http://www.gamespot.com/doctor-who-the-adventure-games-city-of-the-dale/). This game gives players a chance to see what would happen if perennial villains the Daleks conquered earth. The Doctor and Amy find the last surviving human, but realize they must go to the Dalek homeworld to see how this could have happened. A bit simple overall, but an interesting story. 7.3 out of 10

Also released in July 2010 was Blood of the Cybermen (http://www.gamespot.com/doctor-who-the-adventure-games-blood-of-the-cyb/), which was actually my favorite of all the episodes. You’ve landed in Antarctica upon hearing a distress signal and must rescue a scientist. When you take him back to his base, you learn that the Cyberman are up to no good, so you’ll have to shut them down. 8.4 out of 10

Released in August 2010, TARDIS (http://www.gamespot.com/doctor-who-the-adventure-games-tardis/) is the worst of the episodes. It is short, takes place only in the Tardis, and seems relegated to Dr. Who trivia. For Who-o-files only. 6.0 out of 10

However, it does lead into the next episode: Shadows of the Vashta Nerada (http://www.gamespot.com/doctor-who-the-adventure-games-shadows-of-the-v/), released in December 2010. Now you’re located under the ocean in a science complex, with “shadow monsters” killing off all the scientists. An overabundance of mini-puzzles but a decent story. 7.5 out of 10

The final episode released in October 2011 is The Gunpowder Plot (http://www.gamespot.com/doctor-who-the-adventure-games-the-gunpowder-pl/), which was very slow and WAY too dependent on telling history lessons, specifically of the infamous attempt to blow up British Parliament in 1605. You meet all the key conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, and then learn the REAL reason for the event taking place. 6.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 23, 2012, 07:49:26 AM
I was not impressed with F.3.A.R. (http://www.gamespot.com/f-e-a-r-3/) (also known as FEAR 3). As a single-player, it seemed just an average shooter, although I understand it is a different experience with co-op play. But most everything about it was average, and the game has absolutely lost its horror roots, except for one situation in a destroyed Sam’s-type warehouse.

Although it takes place immediately after the events of F.E.A.R. 2, it places you back in the shoes of “Point Man”, the silent protagonist from F.E.A.R. 1. We do learn *why* he is silent, through some weird flashbacks that you share with your brother Paxton Fettil, who is along for the ride as at least a brain-buddy in SP, or as an actual teammate in co-op.

Firefights are pretty frantic, especially since you can’t quicksave any more, so I did a lot of dying. But it all seems so “samey” – we’ve done this five times now in this series, with the same characters and foes. There was really nothing new brought to the table other than the co-op play, which as I mentioned, did nothing for me.

I liked the scoring element, where you get various points based on how many weapons you use, accuracy, shot-type, etc., but it was only of value for co-op play if you made it all the way to the end, when Alma would choose the ultimate victor between Point Man and Paxton.

So in the end, I’m hard-pressed to recommend F3AR to you, except as just “another” shooter. 7.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 27, 2012, 09:20:51 AM
After playing so many mediocre games lately, it was a pleasure to dig into Mafia 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/mafia-ii/) and its DLCs Jimmy’s Vendetta and Joe’s Adventures. The game itself is a meaty 30 hours of action-filled sequences, with gunfights, betrayals, sneaking, explosions, car chases, and just general mayhem. Characters are fully fleshed out, and you even have various treasure hunts to engage your free time.

Although not quite as robust a sandbox game as some others I’ve played, where there are side-quests awaiting you around every corner, it offered a tightly woven storyline showing the life of Vito Scaletta and his buddy Joe. I like how the training mission takes place in WW2 Italy, giving you the primers of movement and weapon use, before returning you to 1940s Empire City. You slowly begin to work your way up the ladder when fate takes a hand and sends you to the Big House. Your continuing adventures in prison are probably the only time I’ve seen that in a game, but it also leads to more practice in your hand-to-hand combat. Once out of prison, it’s back to the mob life to make up for what you’ve been missing, all leading up to one big score, and one huge mistake that takes up the rest of the story.

The story is stupendous, and the characters really grow on you over time – you understand their motivations and desires, and why they stay in the game. And the bad guys are just as detailed, so when the time comes for you to whack them yourself, it's all the more satisfying.

I quit the first Mafia (game, not the organization  :lol: ) due to its poor car controls, but I’m glad I came back for the second helping. Driving can still be a little wonky, but you've got detailed crash animations and it's generally fun to drive around. However, the city streets don't lend themselves to quick egress, as there are very few straight streets - everything is very haphazard in construction. This is most noticeable during timed missions, which take place in the original game and especially the DLCs, and can sometimes be extremely frustrating, requiring many multiple play-throughs to get them right.

Of the DLCs, I couldn’t quite get into Jimmy’s Vendetta, as I had no ownership of the character, but Joe’s Adventures was another satisfying – although EXTREMELY CHALLENGING – gameplay offering. So definitely add those into your package. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 30, 2012, 11:21:10 AM
Hmmm … I’ll be the first to say that I LOVE Portal and Portal 2, so when I heard that the creative director of those two game – Kim Swift – had a new puzzle game coming out called Quantum Conundrum (http://www.gamespot.com/quantum-conundrum/), I thought it was an easy sale. Now having played QC, I like the thought behind the game, but think the presentation was woefully lacking.

Much like Portal, QC employs various physics related elements to drive gameplay. In this case, you’ve got a special glove that allows you to manipulate objects in a limited area on 4 dimensions (5 if you count the normal dimension): fluffy, heavy, slow-motion, and gravity reversal. In Fluffy dimension, all objects are light and fluffy and can be easily lifted. Heavy dimension covers everything in metal, making them heavy and impervious to lasers. Slow-motion slows everything down except for you, and gravity causes all loose objects to lift toward the ceiling. You’ll need to determine which dimensions are currently accessible, and then utilize them at the appropriate time.

Since you play as a 12-year-old kid, I can sort of understand the level design, which is bright and airy, whimsical in nature, and stretches up above you. What I can’t forgive is the monotony of going through the exact same setting between each “active” level. No, there are no noticeable pauses as you cross from one setpiece through the tunnel level to the next setpiece, but it’s still maddening to play through the same tunnel levels over and over and over again.

John de Lancie of Star Trek fame provides the overhead voiceover as your inventor uncle Quadwrangle. His diatribes aren’t really laugh-out-loud funny, but do provide some humanity to the setting.

I’m not really sure why Kim chose to leave what must have been a plum job at Valve to develop this new IP, but maybe she had this idea for a new game and wanted to get it out without taking 4 years of quality control. Valve probably would have placed more restrictions in the final gameplay, which include some extremely maddening jumping puzzles onto tiny moving platforms, which even Valve itself moved away from after the horrendous jumping puzzles of Half-Life’s original Xen levels.

So QC is no Portal – it’s got a lot of similar elements in place (physics puzzles, quirky setting, overhead voice announcements), but it requires very specific actions on the player’s part to link actions together toward the final levels, in order to escape. It is challenging, and for the puzzle-minded player, and those with swift fingers, you’ll find something to like here. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 03, 2012, 08:39:37 AM
It’s easy to see that Payday: The Heist (http://www.gamespot.com/payday-the-heist/) has its roots as a modified version of Left 4 Dead – 4-player co-op, enemy rushes, special enemy types, visibility of your team throughout the map – but instead of facing down zombies, you are a thief looking for a big score. The original game comes with 6 different maps. And all are devilishly hard, generally taking 2 or more tries as a single-player to get through them.

Team bot AI is adequate, but of course they don’t do anything other than support you – as a single player, it will be up to you to get materials, start/restart drills, blow doors, direct hostages, etc. Along the way, you get points allocated to your growing skills, so it has elements of an RPG as well.

Maps are frantic affairs, and fighting off the waves of cops and specials is extremely challenging. But I really couldn’t get into the game as a whole – it just wasn’t my thing, and I didn’t like the idea of having to spend weeks in a game to upgrade my skills to sufficient status to get through the final maps. 7.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 06, 2012, 02:58:23 PM
I hated Dungeon Siege 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/dungeon-siege-iii/). It was nothing like the first two games in the series, and most importantly to me, the camera positioning absolutely sucked. Where both DS 1 and 2 allowed you to move the camera from an overhead position all the way down to “over-the-shoulder”, DS3 only gives you two options looking down on your avatar from 200 feet up. And since your avatar is placed directly in the center of the screen, you’re constantly scanning the upper edge of the always-changing screen for enemies. And most of the time, those same enemies will attack you from afar when you can’t even see them.

I got about four hours in and just had enough. My eyes were tired, I wasn’t having fun, and the plethora of upgradeable loot just wasn’t enough to maintain my interest. 6.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 14, 2012, 08:30:40 AM
Zeno Clash (http://www.gamespot.com/zeno-clash/) is one of the weirdest games I have ever played. Created in the Source engine, the game is more of a first-person fighting game (with some shooting), set in a bizarro alien world. Don’t get me wrong, the designers have done a masterful job of creating an outlandish landscape, with crazy bright colors, odd and interesting character designs, unique wildlife, and an intriguing backstory. What they didn’t get right was the pacing.

The whole game is a series of cutscene, fight, cutscene, fight, cutscene, fight…. There really is no breathing space and you can’t save between levels. The fighting is done well, especially within the Source engine, but there’s just an overabundance of it, especially at the start. I didn’t even want to finish it, I was so tired of fighting. Why can't we all just get along? 6.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 17, 2012, 12:08:53 PM
I can't seem to catch a break on my most recent games played, as Global Ops: Commando Libya (http://www.gamespot.com/global-ops-commando-libya/) continues a downward spiral. This a crap game with wonky cover mechanics, lazy level design, horrible voicework, and the inability to remap your keys. An absolute fail on so many fronts. 3.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 20, 2012, 03:37:47 PM
FINALLY!!! A good game to review. Dead Island (http://www.gamespot.com/dead-island/) offers 50+ hours of role-play gaming in the midst of a zombie catastrophe. The setting is unique, taking place throughout a South Pacific island, and you’ll get a foreboding feeling of dread every time you step out of your safe havens. Oh, and you can play it 4-person co-op if you’re into that.

You wake up in your hotel room and must make your way downstairs to street level to exit. Soon after, you are taken in by a small group of survivors in a beach hut, which starts your quest portion. Essentially, you have to save the group of survivors and find them a safe location to hole out until this whole zombie apocalypse blows over. So you’ll be tasked with finding key items, goodies, people, etc. – all of which racks up experience points along with all the zombie kills you’ll be taking.

Melee items break fairly quickly, although they can be repaired, but you’ll have to get good at kicking back zombies to give yourself some breathing space before whacking them with whatever oar, machete, knife, crowbar, pipe, etc. you can come up with. Later in the game you’ll get pistols, rifles and shotguns to play with, but ammunition is hard to come by, so you’ll always need a good melee weapon(s) by your side.

You’ll also need to become expert at scrounging – food, gear, batteries, scraps, metal, etc. – because you can build new items and enhance your weapons with what you find or are lucky enough to buy. Yes, you’ll also find cash everywhere, but it goes quickly once you start repairing/enhancing weapons or buying those hard-to-find items.

So in the beach map, you’ll also come across a 2nd group of survivors who are entrenched in a lighthouse. These guys are thinking more seriously about how to escape, so they’ll task you with a whole other group of tasks which lead you into the city to get supplies. But first you’ll need a big truck, so it’s back into the hotel for you to get the keys. I actually liked how all the requests and missions led to your getting off the island.

The next mapset is the city, which was definitely challenging, although I found it best to climb up on a car and start whaling away, as most zombies couldn’t climb up after you. You’re constantly facing zombies about the same difficulty level as you. And even if you clean out an area, they’ll be back within 5-10 minutes unless you’re inside a mission “zone”.

From the city, you’ll meet survivors at the church and some warehouses. You do have a few “fast-pass” opportunities that let you go among all the safehouses in all the maps instantly, but they are few and far between, so you’ll still have to do a lot of walking everywhere, with zombie howlers after your brains. The city zone also introduces you to the sewers, which lead to the police station and markets.

Upon returning to the beach, you’ll find that you must get to a prison complex. But not before finding a guide in the jungle. Oy. Lots of crazy zombies in the jungle, let me tell you. Also lots of great scenes, such as a destroyed highway bridge and a downed airliner. And you get to drive around a lot, which is really fun.

From jungle to swamp and the virus lab that may have created this whole thing to start with, and finally to the prison, which is a whole other ball of wax. I found the diversity of locales good, and they generally didn’t overstay their welcome.

Graphically, Dead Island is creepily gorgeous. Scenery and level design are really good, the melee system is great, the concept behind the missions (to escape!) are great. I just really enjoyed it, and there’s a lot of game to love. Co-op play definitely would provide a unique new twist, although everyone has to play at the same level. And the Ryder White DLC was short but challenging. So I’d give this a recommended 8.4 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 27, 2012, 08:06:09 AM
And now a trip back to mediocrity: Call of Juarez: The Cartel (http://www.gamespot.com/call-of-juarez-the-cartel/) lacks the uniqueness of the previous two games of the series – both set in the late-1800s Old West – by being just another modern-day shooter. It does throw in some new twists, including the inclusion of co-op play and introduction of spying on your comrades, but if you’re primarily single-player (like me), these twists fall flat. Add to that the over-the-top, non-stop cursing from pretty despicable individuals and it’s just too much.

It’s average, the colors are flat and drab, and level design is mediocre and linear (although there are some standouts like a forest scene and some of the driving scenes). But I did finish it, so there’s that. Maybe get it on sale. Maybe. 5.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 31, 2012, 12:22:04 PM
Despite attempting to reboot the Gothic brand with Arcania Gothic 4 (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1978.msg12724#msg12724) and failing miserably, developer Spellbound went ahead with the expansion Arcania: Fall of Setarrif (http://www.gamespot.com/arcania-fall-of-setariff/platform/pc/) that is even more pathetic than the mediocre game it’s built on. The only good thing about the game is that it’s over nearly as soon as it begins, but that is still time you’ve wasted. Levels are pretty but small, with mostly linear pathing to the next area. NPCs repeat, and the stand-still animations are absolutely horrid.

The ONLY innovation this game makes is putting you in the shoes of Gorn and Lester during two very quick gameplay sequences. Otherwise, this is more of what Arcania offered, but even worse, if possible. It is playable, but you’ve got other things to do with your time, I’m sure. At this point, I don’t see any hope for Arcania as a brand, even though Gothic is now back in Piranha Bytes' hands. 4.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 03, 2012, 11:34:16 AM
For the universe it’s built on,  Avatar: The Game (http://www.gamespot.com/james-camerons-avatar-the-game/) is somewhat underwhelming. It is playable, but compared to the movie, it falls very short indeed. Graphics are nice and some of the level design (one where you must keep climbing up into the floating mountains stands out) is as well. However, actual gameplay is extremely lacking and kind of boring. One example is when your avatar flies the beasties, they are nearly impossible to control, lacking fluidity and grace – I was cursing my keyboard nonstop during the flying portion as my critter would stop in the middle of the air when it hit an object, then I’d have to back up, try to go lower/higher, hit the object again, back up, etc. This isn’t fun.

The gravity of the situation is also underwhelming. For example, about an hour in, after you’ve gotten your feet wet as both a Marine and a blue avatar, you are suddenly asked to make a decision about which side you’d join, without any sort of warning or recognition other than a fellow scientist’s tepid urging. I would like to think in real life I’d need some explanation before I’d commit myself to the natives, but you don’t receive that here.

Truth is, Avatar The Game is a little boring. Once I did join the natives, I had to go traipsing around in a circle to pick up items or trash Marine hold-outs, without much challenge. Even a boss fight with a warplane only requires you to climb up a ladder, jump on the plane and poke a spear into an engine a couple of times.

The only unique item I really liked about the game is a smaller mini-game reminiscent of Risk, where you start with one area on a global map and must gradually win over more areas. Although fun as a mini-game (but nearly impossible to beat due to lack of resources), there is no resonance in the real world that I could tell, other than giving you some experience points that you can put into upgrading your gear.

So I think I’d have to recommend a pass on this one. 6.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 10, 2012, 07:01:18 AM
What a fun racing game Insane 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/insane-2/) was. With more of an “arcade” feel, you get to choose from a variety of off-road vehicles, all of which you can upgrade by earning points for winning races. Besides a plethora of race locales in desert, forest, tropical and icy climes, you also have a wide diversity of game types.

Simple races with checkpoints start the proceedings, and move on from there. You also have a “survivor” race, where the person who is last through the checkpoint gets bounced out until only one winner remains. Then there are the unique races that I’ve never played before:

1) All the checkpoints are placed on the race map and you must run through as many as possible, extinguishing that checkpoint for your foes.
2) A variation is that you must race through all the checkpoints, and if you are near the first half of racer for each checkpoint, you get more points, with the most points winning.
3) Parachutes fall from the sky with boxes of different colors and points available. Get the most points and win.
4) Capture the flag and return it to a central location without the flag being stolen by a competitor.
5) A variation is keep-away, where you must hold the flag for a certain number of total seconds over the race period; meanwhile, all your speed boosts and car chassis options are lost, making you tipsy as a Boston pubber.
6) My least favorite is a helicopter chase, where it zips around the race map in a certain random pattern. You must accrue the most time in its spotlight to win.

So, a lot of fun, open maps to drive around in, except during specific races, and less punishing gameplay. If you like racing games for the “fun” component, I’d recommend this one. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 17, 2012, 06:38:13 AM
Do not play Deep Black: Reloaded (http://www.gamespot.com/deep-black-reloaded/). You will resent the rest of your life if you waste one scintilla of time on this shoddy Gears of War clone set (sort of) underwater. Besides the inability to remap your keys, you are faced with a clunky character, beyond challenging killer AI, stupid design choices, crappy backstory, and underwhelming voice work.

Let’s see what some of the professionals have said recently:

Gamereactor Sweden – Mar 6, 2012 – Score: 20
Manages far too well in making me furious within just a few minutes. Bad conveyance, poorly executed action elements and the worst storytelling I've experienced in a long, long time makes for an ultimately broken game.

Destructoid – May 2, 2012 – Score: 10
It's a collection of repetitive gameplay, bland levels, a horrible story with forgettable characters, and a poor system of checkpoints that forces you to keep replaying sections of the already tedious levels. The overall experience is mind-numbing and frustrating, making it hard to play it for more than 30 minutes at a time without wanting to throw something or burn things.

If you want to play a 3rd-person shooter set in an underwater world, go try Hydrophobia Prophecy (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2119.0). 3.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 24, 2012, 07:46:19 PM
If Q.U.B.E. (http://www.gamespot.com/q-u-b-e/) seems very, very familiar, you can follow along on how to make a game “like” Portal in five easy steps:
1. Rectangular rooms that modify themselves based on your actions – CHECK
2. Handheld device that modifies certain items within the room – CHECK
3. Different colored objects to interact with – CHECK
4. Intricate three-dimensional puzzles requiring multiple steps to complete – CHECK
5. Short gameplay – CHECK

How to make a game “not as good as” Portal in three easy steps:
1. Lack of story – CHECK
2. Lack of any interactivity with other characters – CHECK
3. Lack of humor – CHECK

Q.U.B.E. is certainly not a bad game, and it provided some extreme thought-provoking puzzles. With its short length, I’d certainly recommend a play-through if you can find it on sale. 7.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 01, 2012, 03:21:33 PM
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (http://www.gamespot.com/the-witcher-2-assassins-of-kings/reviews/the-witcher-2-assassins-of-kings-enhanced-edition-review-6372018/) is an immensely deep RPG – so much that it almost felt like work to play the thing. It was interesting, it was complex, and it had a deep storyline offering plenty of gameplay, but I can’t really say that I had “fun” playing it.

I can’t really fault the game either – Geralt, the witcher – is a pretty serious dude. He was created solely to kill monsters, after all. But when you start involving him in some multi-tiered political fracas affecting various kingdoms, that’s when the game becomes more like real life and all the fun leaches out.

So with that disclaimer, I can still say that The Witcher 2 is worth your time and money, especially if you love RPGs. Just like the first game, Geralt goes around large maps, killing critters and solving quests. You level up as you kill things and complete quests, with points that can then be used to upgrade your skilltree one at a time. And you will have to make wise decisions, as you can’t upgrade all skills completely.

Pick up herbs and supplies to craft potions and traps. Get designs from vendors and have them create new armor and weapons. Swing your sword and hit stuff. And get caught in political pitfalls aplenty, as well as getting down with nude women (yes, you see quite a bit of this).

Gameplay is simplified somewhat from the first game, such that you’re not required to time your strikes anymore. I actually kind of missed that…. The biggest challenges are a couple of setpieces, including a large critter called a Kayran that stands 40 feet above you and you must take it down one scaly tentacle at a time.

Voicework is great, and the motion capture especially is very amazing and lifelike. They used lots of different models and the close-up textures are very nicely done.

So, a very good game, with several routes to take at the end of the first chapter (there’s three in total) to get you to another completely different set of endings. Lots of gameplay to be had, and amazing voicework and textures. I’m tempted to put it in the “excellent” category, but the lack of any real “fun” brings my final score down to 8.9 out of 10 – still very much a great game.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 15, 2012, 06:59:03 AM
Coming from DoubleFine Productions, creators of Psychonauts – one of my favorite games – Costume Quest (http://www.gamespot.com/costume-quest/) has some similar elements, from the bright, oddball graphic design to the quirky sense of humor that covers the game. Besides being an action-adventure game, where you must solve various tasks given to you, you also engage in a hefty amount of turn-based battles.

The story is certainly interesting: on Halloween, you and your twin are going out trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. After knocking on the first house, your sibling is taken by some creepy monsters, who think his/her candy corn costume is actually a large piece of candy corn. You see, the monsters are stocking up on candy to feed their big boss in another world – once he’s powerful enough from all the sugar, he’s going to invade our world. So, the quest begins to save your brother/sister, as well as our planet.

Your first task is to get a new costume – one that will help you in your tasks and battles. So you need the costume design, and then the 3 pieces that comprise the costume. Seek all of them out, and you’ll get a new costume, of which there are about 10 overall in the game. Next, you need to find a partner or two to help you out in battles. Only then does the game really take off, with you having to knock on every house in the neighborhood, and get candy, with which you upgrade your battle powers.

In the gameworld, most costumes offer extra abilities, such as going fast, grappling lines, lighting up dark areas, shielding you from harm, etc. In battle, all costumes are unique and provide key offensive or defensive skills once enough time has passed. It’s funny, because these home-made costumes in the gameworld turn into amazing avatars in the battle scenes, such as a robot, unicorn, vampire, ninja – even killer French fries. You and your monster foes are Godzilla-sized compared to the towns and streets beneath you (which was similar to a scene in Psychonauts), and fights are anime-styled.

Battles are turn-based affairs, with your side starting first and each of your team able to attack any of the other side. Toss in some very challenging boss fights that will require you to strategically re-think your team’s costumes, and that’s the game. But you will fight in many, many, many battles throughout the game.

My chief gripe was that you did the exact same quests in three separate locations (neighborhood, mall, suburbs) – knock on every door, find certain cards for collectors, do some tasks for key figures, find costume designs and parts, and buy stamps to augment your battle skills. But just when each thing got monotonous, you change scenery.

Overall, I recommend Costume Quest. It’s fun, silly, and puts a goofy grin on your face. (Although I could never beat the final boss….) 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 22, 2012, 07:05:56 AM
The first thing you’ll probably notice when you start Rage (http://www.gamespot.com/rage-2011/) is how absolutely shitty the graphics optimization is. On vanilla setting, the graphics will pop and tear horrendously, requiring you to check out a host of fan-made fixes to get it working “okay.” When you do get the scenery to settle down and stop popping in & out every time you move an inch, then you see that the up-close textures on the walls and props are muddy and grainy. Not quite what you’d expect from graphical powerhouse Id Games.

But get past the artwork and get into the story, and this is where the real fun is – and again, that’s saying quite a lot as ID has likewise not been known for the depth of their game stories. I definitely had more fun playing Rage than the Quake series and Doom 3 combined (Doom 1 and 2 don’t count because they were the forefront of my co-op playing experiences). The only issue I really had was that the game alludes to “The Authority” as some totalitarian government, but you really never get the feeling that they're even aware of your actions to bring them down.

The apocalyptic setting and more “open” game world did offer some unique level design, and I appreciated that vehicles were included to get around quicker. You can certainly compare the game with Bethesda’s own Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, as well as the Borderlands series, but Rage still managed to offer a few distinctions. The weaponry was definitely unique and fun to use – my favorite being the boomerang. You also can combine and create items with parts that you find and with the appropriate plans.

I enjoyed the many races and trick-jumps you could pull off in the gameworld, but felt like the missions recycled too much: Clear these sewers! Now clear them again! Clean out this garage! Now do it again! But just as settings started to get old, a new area would open up with new opportunities.

Overall, I liked Rage, and had fun with it. Some of the game levels were pretty awesome in scope, although the story could have been a little tighter. And the graphics were unfortunately abysmal, so even though I appreciate Id shooting for the stars, they need to consider all of us without uber-graphics cards. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 29, 2012, 06:32:31 AM
Jade Empire (http://www.gamespot.com/jade-empire/reviews/jade-empire-special-edition-review-6166271/) was the first original property that Bioware created, after designing several role-playing games for other brands like Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons. And for the most part, it follows the typical Bioware RPG model: gather a party of diverse skillsets throughout the game, select certain party members to follow you, fight, do some tasks, engage in lots of conversations, try to woo a party member, and push your character to “good” or “evil” shadings.

The new Asian atmosphere is delightfully refreshing, as is the overall color and design scheme – there just aren’t enough Western games, especially RPGs, that get away from either the apocalyptic or D&D settings. Graphics are still good, even being last-gen, although character models are starting to look a little less detailed than we are accustomed.

The story is grandiose and draws inspiration from Asian mythology. Your task is to solve why ghosts can’t enter the Spirit World, but such a task is not easy. I played this back in late 2007 and had forgotten all about the turnaround at the end, so it was a great surprise.

The fighting is well-done and fun to do, but I found myself with three go-to styles of the initial Leaping Tiger martial art, upgraded Sword, and the Stone Golem style, which mopped up even the toughest foes in 4 or 5 swipes. I did attempt to upgrade other fighting styles, but none really seemed to work effectively. And I didn’t get the knack of how to make a “harmonic combo”, which I’m sure would have made everything even easier.

Your party members are an eclectic mix, all with differing views, fighting styles and leanings toward good or evil actions. The voicework is Bioware excellent, and all the characters are fun (and sometimes funny) to connect with.

So, a really good RPG that still plays well even 6 years later. 8.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 05, 2012, 06:16:31 AM
From its original video teaser, I was always interested in I Am Alive (http://www.gamespot.com/i-am-alive/platform/pc/), which reaches for, but doesn’t quite achieve, greatness. The game is overloaded with atmosphere due to its apocalyptic setting in downtown Chicago, and your character is searching for his wife and daughter, who were caught in earthquakes and loss of power due to “The Event.” It is never explained what happened, but I would surmise some sort of electro-magnetic pulse due to sunspot activity, which is eerily reminiscent of the new television series Revolution on NBC.

At any rate, you are embroiled in a tense, murky world, where dust from the earthquakes provides a killing field in the lower levels of the city. Stack the desire of survivors throughout the landscape who either want to maintain their privacy, or to take what you have, and even more stress is introduced. Finally, the music, which mostly consists of a whining violin melody, manages to get under your skin at all times.

The game originally started as a larger AAA release, but due to studio budget cuts, nearly went under. The team at Ubisoft Shanghai managed to save it as an “arcade” online release. Some of the changes from the original intent are easily seen, including a shorter storyline (my play-through was 8 hours, but some report 4-5 hours), seemingly abrupt ending, and lack of higher graphical features. But likewise, it cost less than a AAA release. I actually thought the lower-resolution graphics really contributed to the atmosphere, as elements are dusty, you can’t see far distances in the gritty fog, and then, when you get above the cloud, the sun and color are more prevalent.

You’ll be tasked with a number of consecutive goals, which require you to take to the streets, or inside buildings, to find certain key objects. You’ll also do a lot of climbing around on the outside of structures. Although levels may not be the absolute highest resolution, they are amazingly detailed. One has you traversing both the interior and exterior of a fallen skyscraper, which I’ve only seen a few times before in all my gaming experiences. Eventually you find a grappling hook, which allows you to swing to new areas. All the while, you can search for health and food items.

You have both a health bar and a stamina bar: health is impacted when you are physically hurt, while stamina decreases when you exert energy, or when you are in the midst of the dust cloud. You can regain your stamina by reaching a dust-free zone and standing for a second (and you also can eat or drink various items to lower both health and stamina damage). However, when you climb, you are constantly exerting energy, thus lowering your stamina, such that the only way to keep from letting go is to imbibe an item, or to use a piton and then hang from its line. Why is hanging from a piton’s line any different than hanging from a girder? Just a weird thing, I guess.

Your interactions with other humans runs a diverse gambit. Small, feral gangs want to take your life and your belongings. You can act in various ways, including a surprise machete attack, shooting them with the few bullets that you have, faking your way through an encounter, or attempting to run away. And you’ll also meet other survivors, some who need help and some who will help you. For those who need something from you to survive, you are faced with a dilemma: do you dare give up that health pack you worked so hard to gain when your own health is at 20 percent? Helping others does give you a “retry” bonus, as well as some additional knowledge on what the other survivors are facing.

And that’s the game in a nutshell – do you do the honorable thing and help others, or do you act selfishly to survive? This game is tough and you will die often. In my 8-hour stretch, I died about 30 times, and you can’t quicksave, so that means you’ll have to reload from an earlier part. But that challenge is so critical in today’s games, most which baby you to ensure you make it to the end. When you successfully complete I Am Alive, you’ll know that you as a gamer are the true survivor. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 12, 2012, 06:54:03 AM
Set in the storyline between the original movie TRON and its recent sequel TRON: Legacy, TRON: Evolution (http://www.gamespot.com/tron-evolution/platform/pc/) is simply Prince of Persia set to a neon-piped science fiction world. Your voiceless protagonist is controlled 3rd-person and jumps across gaps, completes wall runs, and hops from point to point, just as seen in POP. Toss in some combat with the projectile light disc and you’ve got POP in new bright-colored packaging.

The story is mostly interesting to fill in the gaps, and has voice-overs from most of the sequel movie’s cast, except for Jeff Bridges. But the landscapes you traverse are generally all the same, except for a different hue of neon lighting for each new section.

To its credit, I was never really bored, even though I felt like I was going through the same motions multiple times. Part of that is the generous save system, which leaves you only a few jumps away from your most recent fall (I died 538 times from falling and battles!!!). Another is the insertion at key points of light cycle races through crumbling roads, and light tanks, which are able to take out most foes rather easily.

So, not a bad game, and one that I actually finished, which is more than I can say for the first three POP games. The game is challenging, but not impossible, and is a relatively quick play. 7.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 19, 2012, 06:50:56 AM
Saints Row The Third (http://www.gamespot.com/saints-row-the-third/platform/pc/), the third installment in this crazy series, maintains the fun, insane, offbeat antics found in the second game, although it falls slightly short in the scenery department. After the events of SR2, the Saints find themselves at the top of the heap in Stillwater. So immediately you are taken down by a new power in the new city of Steelport, requiring you to build yourself back up from the ashes, taking down opposing gangs on the way.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous, with lots of detail everywhere as you explore this open world. I did notice more conformity in the city design though, missing some of the rich levels and locations of SR2. But what it misses, it adds in new levels of crazy, such as the initial mission to escape from an airplane, or the gameshow where you kill armed animal mascots. And the final levels as you must beat back a full-on army is challenging but fulfilling.

I liked how you could use street cred to help you gear up and support your gang, so that level of character development was fun. And the sheer amount of activities that you could participate in was almost overwhelming: assassinations, gang kills, taunting gang members, stealing vehicles, destroying tanks and helicopters, surfing on cars, bike wheelies, driving the wrong way, barnstorming with helicopters and planes, parachuting and hitting your landing zone, and on and on. You will never lack for something to do, and these diverse tasks help separate the actual missions.

In the end, your choices along the way will determine who makes it out alive from the whole crazy mess. But you’ll certainly have fun along the way. 8.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 26, 2012, 06:32:14 AM
Jurassic Park: The Game (http://www.gamespot.com/jurassic-park-the-game/platform/pc/) takes place immediately adjacent to and following the events of the original movie, generally following two sets of protagonists. The first people we meet are a father and daughter, who are having some family issues, which get brought out along the journey; the second is a female ex-mercenary, who is tasked with bringing back the dinosaur clone samples that Newman (from Seinfeld) was supposed to deliver. And both get caught between the events that occur in the first movie, where the electricity is turned off, allowing many of the dinosaurs to escape.

Story-wise is where JPTG stands out. We learn everyone’s motivations, why they’re on the island, and what they hope to achieve in the end. The fault, if there is any, is in the plethora of Quick-Time Events (QTEs) that you must undergo. But I suppose that’s the only way to really bring some sense of urgency to what is in essence an adventure game. The challenge is that the QTEs are super-quick, and if you miss some of them, you’re going to die … a lot. To make it fairer, each time you fail a section, the game may ramp down the challenge slightly.

Graphics are decent, but the sound is excellent, from voices to music to ambient sounds (including the T-Rex roar). It’s a great experience that feels like the movie, marred only slightly by the omnipresent QTEs. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 03, 2012, 06:50:58 AM
Ridge Racer Unbounded (http://www.gamespot.com/ridge-racer-unbounded/platform/pc/) is a fun arcade racer set in a downtown area, where you gain points by crashing into buildings and other cars on the track. I had a lot of fun with this, but my main gripe was that the AI cheats. You see, you gain “Boosts” by drifting, hitting high speeds, and damaging opponents. However, the AI would miraculously gain Boost powers without doing ANY of these things, knocking you out, and out-speeding you to the end of the race. It’s a cheap gimmick that takes any fun out of the gameplay.

And there is lots of fun to be had – destruction of the highest sort, allowing you to crash through buildings, crash into tanker trucks filled with fuel, crash through corners, and especially crash into your opponents, during which the camera takes over in a slow-mo follow-up to see how many times your opponent’s car rolls over and over. Unfortunately, this slow-mo action takes place at the same time your car is driving on the course.

Races are broken up by new activities, such as crunching police cars with a semi-truck, or guiding your car through an obstacle course to pick up time delays. In the end, you really want to reach the top three placings in each race, while also crunching stuff along the way – each which give you points to unlock future races – but I found it terribly difficult to do both. In the end, I could only complete maybe a third of the races due to the rampant AI cheating.

So, fun when it lasts, but ultimately a bit of a let-down for this race enthusiast. 7.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 10, 2012, 06:18:23 AM
Having played more than 100 hours in the franchise within the past 6 months, I can tell you that Deus Ex: Human Revolution (http://www.gamespot.com/deus-ex-human-revolution/platform/pc/) is almost as good as the original game – high praise indeed – and light-years ahead of sequel DX: Invisible War. Stylistically, the game draws from both its previous games, with the large sprawling maps of the original, and the upgraded graphics of the 2nd game (without the massive loading times between sections). The game is not quite an open-world game, but has some limits placed, where you enter certain areas that contain their own separate levels.

As is, you can play through levels and maps any way you choose – from a sneaking affair to an all-out brawler. It is interesting then that the game rewards you more for sneaking, yet it ultimately punishes you from completing boss battles in the same way. I’ll provide an example: if you shoot and kill someone, you get 10 points; kill by headshot and you’re rewarded 20 points; stun rather than kill, and get 40 points; and take down by sneaking you’ll get 50 points. You further get additional level rewards if you get through without raising the alarm, and without being seen by foes.

I suppose you could say the designers are rewarding those who play a patient game, but if so, why are the boss battles dependent upon shooting your foes? I also didn’t experiment to see whether you could “ghost” a level – not kill or be seen by anyone – but that should also be an option.

Regardless, this is a small harp to make about what is an otherwise excellent game. Maybe my one other complaint is that cover is too ready, and it never really seemed like I was in any sort of danger. When you approach a cover source, you can hit a button to sidle along the cover source and go around corners – this also takes you into a 3rd-person view so that you can see around corners. I actually liked this.

Along the way, you’ll accrue experience points that will eventually give you a Praxsis Point to apply to various augmentations and skills. You’ll also accrue credits to spend on new weapons, gear and ammunition. Both seemed to be parceled out nicely so that I wasn’t left with much by the end (unlike DX:IW, where I had credits and augs aplenty), but still had to make some intelligent choices. And just when I thought the game was going to end, another act opened up, which I liked.

The settings are nicely detailed, and pretty impressive in their own right. In one, you’re located in Hengsha, China, which is the site of a lower city, while above you looms a second city built into the sky for the rich people. And then you go to the Arctic, where a huge complex surrounding a hole in the ocean serves as the site for the finale. You’ll visit some of these destinations several times in the course of the game, with new locales opening up as the story unfolds. Speaking of, the story about how augmentations will fit into society is pretty deep and insightful.

The Missing Link (http://www.gamespot.com/deus-ex-human-revolution-the-missing-link/reviews/deus-ex-human-revolution-the-missing-link-review-6342304/) was released as downloadable content (DLC) in October 2011, and is set within the scope of the original story, where you have snuck aboard a ship to find a missing colleague. The settings became a little stale as you are literally in corridors the whole time, but what the DLC did get right was that you could take out the final boss any way you wished.

My scores for both: 9 out of 10 for the main game, and 7.6 out of 10 for the DLC.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 17, 2012, 06:46:36 AM
I hope you like roller coasters, because once you board Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/call-of-duty-modern-warfare-3/platform/pc/), you’ll be strapped on without an opportunity to do much on your own. Here’s an example: I’m in the city streets of … somewhere … trying to rescue some people. One of my guides is hand-holding me about when to stop, when to lay flat, when to move, when to pull the trigger. He finally pulls us up to a busy square being patrolled by a half dozen Russians. On the roof are two snipers and he tells me to take them out quickly. If I lollygag and don’t put them in my sights quick enough, they spot us and the whole thing gets wrecked. Yet, if I do happen to get them in my sights quickly, just before I can pull the trigger, a couple of rebels swoop down and kill them from behind instead of me.

At that moment, I realized that my actions had absolutely no effect in this overly scripted world.

Yes, I know the more recent COD games have been heavily scripted, but even so, this took the cake and just made me shake my head in disgust. Why should I even play when the AI is just going to do my job for me? To be fair, there were some very heavy scenes where I felt like I was in a mass firefight, but generally I was just doing what the computer told me, rather than playing my own game.

The story is mostly ridiculous: in what modern reality would Russia think it could attack heavily armed foes on three different fronts? Yet, we are asked to believe that the U.S., England and France are simultaneously under attack by the Russians, who have somehow managed to bring their heavy armor unopposed across half the globe to all three battlegrounds.

At this point, the Modern Warfare series needs a serious reboot, as the single-player game has lost its luster while the game developers seek to control every aspect of our gameplay. Levels should be more open and allow you to make your own mistakes, or get out of them on your own, without all the hand-holding, exactly like the optional Spec Ops missions within the game. See what Crysis 2 has done, or even Half-Life 2’s city-under-attack scenes for examples of fun gameplay in a city setting. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 24, 2012, 09:57:52 AM
We certainly get some revealing moments in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (http://www.gamespot.com/assassins-creed-revelations/platform/pc/), but most of the game is what we’ve played before. Ezio Auditore, our main protagonist from AC2 and AC Brotherhood, is again our main go-to guy in ACR, but for brief moments, we get to play as Altair of AC1, although only in the single Masyef level over and over again. And of Desmond, we play next to nothing.

At the end of ACB, Desmond has had some sort of “fit”, where he killed his sort-of girlfriend and then passed out into a type of coma. When we start ACR, he is inside the Animus, where his psyche has been saved. The only way for him to return to consciousness is to rejoin his separate selves – Desmond, Ezio and Altair – and make their life circle complete. That means going back into Ezio’s older life and taking care of some unfinished business. Notably, we learn that Altair hid something away in a library in Masyef, but it will require 5 circular keys to open the door.

Ezio goes to Constantinople, which is where we will spend 90% of our game time. He will need to build up the Assassin order based in this burgeoning town, learn where the keys are hidden and retrieve them, and stop a little civil war in his spare time. Along the way, he learns how to craft many new types of bombs and falls in love again.

I really like Ezio at this point – he’s certainly grown from the spoiled brat we saw in AC2 and matured along the way, taking the fledgling Assassin order to new heights and spreading his wisdom and words of compassion. He is now a mature man in his 50s, and is in full control of his powers. We get some new tools like the hook-blade, which allows for some unique kills, but more importantly allows Ezio to make higher jumps and to glide along wires from one building to the next. We also get the multitude of bombs, which allow you to kill targets, distract them, or simply help you escape.

The strategic Mediterranean Assassin challenges return – where you must send your Assassins off to sort out problems, gain money and experience, and regain control of cities away from the Templars. You also have many individual challenges to complete for perks on behalf of the Assassins, Romanies (gypsies), Thieves and Mercenaries.

We only have a few free-running opportunities available – for two hidden tombs, and for the five Masyef key locations. These are generally the most interesting and scenic locations you’ll traverse, although a later level takes place in the underground cavern city of Cappodocia, which was pretty cool.

Overall, ACR is more of the same, with just a few new tweaks to differentiate it from AC2 and ACB. The single city of Constantinople is interesting, but not as much as the diverse locales in the previous games. I enjoyed seeing Ezio’s journey, and although I didn’t get hardly any playtime as Desmond, the optional Desmond’s Journey levels (mostly jumping types of puzzles) certainly filled in his history more than ever before. Couple that with the end-game explanation from the Ones That Came Before, and we know about the Apples of Eden, and their true purpose. All of which makes me long for the next game in the series. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 31, 2012, 08:26:31 AM
7554 (http://www.gamespot.com/7554/) is a throwback to older military shooters such as the original Call of Duty, but takes place in the largely unknown (to U.S. audiences) Franco-Vietnamese War that took place in Vietnam from 1946-1954. The game gets its historic credibility from its Vietnamese developer and takes its name from the historic date, 7 May 1954, on which the French Colonist expeditionary army in Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam surrendered to the Vietnam People’s Army.

Scenes are acceptable, but close-up visuals are a blobby mess. It really does feel like the original COD in design, with even a few scripted sequences. “Friendly” AI continues to edge you out of cover into punishing lines of fire, and most scenes pit you against constantly refreshed enemy troops until you take out an unknown number of units.

At the end of the day, I’m glad these new Vietnamese developers are getting a chance to appear on the global gaming stage, but realistically, the best thing about the game is the history lesson. 5.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 07, 2013, 06:40:06 AM
I was quite impressed with Hard Reset: Extended Edition (http://www.gamespot.com/hard-reset/) – it’s a tightly crafted pure sci-fi shooter that eschews the horror elements of Doom 3 and Dead Space, while providing an interesting storyline and great graphical quality. Perhaps what sets it apart is that you don’t interact physically with any other humans, with your foes an insistent yet unstoppable robot force. (Note that the link above goes to the original version, while the Extended Edition that I played and reviewed includes four new creature types, a new boss monster, five new campaign levels and an improved graphics engine.)

As stories go, you are a cop in the last human City on earth, protecting the citizens from a robot horde. Overhead, you can see the upper city, with traffic lanes of flying vehicles. Unfortunately, you’re delegated to the back streets, and it has just been reported that a number of robots attacked humans. From there, you’re taken on a lengthy journey to the center of the madness, and ultimately the downfall of the city itself.

Level design is intricate, impressive and grandiose, and graphically, this world shines. Although you can’t interact with every object in the game world, you can manipulate computer screens to open gates, shoot electrical conduits to electrocute your enemies, and search around for nano particles – this game’s version of experience points. You can then use those nanos to upgrade your equipment, including two separate interchangeable rifles – one of which shoots electrical attacks, and the other shoots explosive attacks.

I really enjoyed the challenge (on Normal level), even though I died many, many times, because it was something I knew I could get past if I just concentrated a little more, and tried a little harder. Ammunition and health are quite plentiful, but definitely needed on some of the arena maps you’re trapped within. And some of the boss fights are extremely impressive with grandiose foes.

So definitely a must-play from the makers of Painkiller and Bulletstorm that I’d recommend to any FPS enthusiast. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 14, 2013, 06:43:31 AM
L.A. Noire (http://www.gamespot.com/l-a-noire/) is a change of pace from the normal shooter or open-world game. You are a cop in 1950s Los Angeles, after serving in the war overseas. Starting from a regular beat, you start solving cases, which bump you further up the chain until you start tackling crimes in traffic, murder, vice, and arson, all while driving around and exploring the world of L.A. In a way, it reminded me a bit of Mafia 2 (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2137.msg13497#msg13497), except that you are solving crimes instead of starting them.

Cases generally consist of an initial briefing from your station commander, and then you and a partner drive to the crime scene. You explore clues, some of which are obscure and some laid out for you by other detectives on the scene. Once you’ve amassed your set of clues, you may have to ask someone questions.

Here’s where L.A. Noire tries to shine, by putting real CGI actors in the game via facial motion capture technology. The game does a good job of capturing people’s emotions, so that when you question them, you have a good indication if they’re telling the truth, or if they’re hiding something. If they are dissembling, you have the option of doubting them, or accusing them of a lie, but you’d better have the clues to back up your charge.

Once the interview is complete, you may gain new clues to follow up. Or occasionally, you’ll have to chase down your suspect on foot or by vehicle if they get scared. Some chases end in an arrest, while others end in a shoot-out. Follow up the next clues until you have enough evidence to close each case. You are then ranked on how you solved the case.

The Murder cases were intricately detailed, with an unknown, un-caught mass murderer somewhere in the city. (Note that this is a mature game, featuring full frontal nudity of several female victims, who have been killed in sordid ways.) But then you get a number of copycat cases to follow up, all leading to a grand finale. Likewise with the Vice and Arson cases, which all tie together in the end. In between, you can collect various true-era vehicles, and stop a multitude of ongoing crimes.

You catch various flashbacks through the game of your character’s past in the military, and various side stories that affect people that you knew from your time in the service. What eventually comes out is a character who has some strong heroic elements, but is ultimately flawed – like a regular human. I found this aspect great because it proves that gaming can tackle some real-life issues in a true fashion.

I can definitely recommend L.A. Noire, as it really reaches for but doesn’t quite achieve greatness. 8.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 18, 2013, 06:13:55 AM
In the mood to get scared, I reloaded Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-fpp/69-call-of-cthulhu-dark-corners-of-the-earth), a 7-year-old game that still packs plenty of nervous moments. I had forgotten just how diverse the game settings are, as my memory of the game was relegated to that intense chase scene from the hotel – you know the one I’m talking about. But that point is only in the first quarter of the game, with so much more that follows.

Based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft, the game has somewhat dated graphics but still manages to ooze atmosphere by the bucketloads. From the starting “training” mission to your first creepy walk around the town of Innsmouth to another harrowing chase scene in the bottom of the metalworks to a frantic ocean voyage to a vast cavern system, you will never feel comfortable. You don’t gain any weapons until the end of the first quarter of the game, and you must sneak around and stay in dark corners to avoid being captured by the Innsmouth residents. Add to that the lack of quicksaves, and you truly have to survive to get to the next save point. It all adds up to a brooding feeling of dread that scratches at the back of your eyes, never giving you any feeling of stability.

The game is more a first-person sneaker than shooter, although it does have shooting elements (which are determined by actually raising the gunsight to your eye, not by an on-screen cursor). In fact, the game was one of the first to remove the heads-up display from the screen, so everything is dependent on what you see. The only way you know you’ve been hurt is you start to see red blood veins fill the corners of the screen. It’s a neat system, and I only wish more games would try it. The game is also an adventure, so you have to find select items and use them as necessary. Sometimes this leads to a lot of back-and-forth through the levels – I’m thinking the final caverns in particular.

Even though the graphics are not up to today’s standards, the grainy film actually sucks you into the dark story that you tread – a story that will stick with you long after the game is over. That’s the mark of some good writing and interesting level design.

I debated rating the game slightly higher, but was struck with the infamous ship bug, which makes the game impossible to complete. Caused by today’s more powerful GPUs, the only solution I found in a vast array of forums was to get someone’s save game from just past that point. So all my efforts from beforehand were wiped clean with someone else’s slate. Regardless I can still recommend this game if you’re ready for a challenging, moody, horrific walk into depression and fear. 8.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 21, 2013, 10:00:47 AM
You may think I’m ranking Batman: Arkham City (http://www.gamespot.com/batman-arkham-city/platform/pc/) too high in my final score, but I think this is one of the best games to come out on PC this generation. The only negatives I’ve read are that the boss fights weren’t hard enough, which I beg to differ, having died numerous times trying to complete them. In fact my only negative was that one boss fight locked me on to the boss so that I couldn’t circle effectively. For a 35-hours game, that’s nothing to complain about, really.

BAC takes the premise of Batman: Arkham Asylum (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1881.msg12406#msg12406) up a notch, giving you a whole city with dozens of blocks to fly around and duke it out with bad guys. Each of the big baddies have a large role, including Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, Hugo Strange and Ra’s Al Ghul, and Bane, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, Mad Hatter, Calendar Man, Zzasz and others have smaller cameo roles that are still important. And of course the Riddler is back, with much more challenging riddles to find and solve – some of which require your full complement of toolbelt accessories.

The stakes are higher this time, as Joker has infected Batman with a life-threatening disease, so both their lives are at risk. In addition, Hugo Strange has something nefarious up his sleeves that will affect all of Gotham. Luckily, you’ve got some help of your own, including Catwoman, and even Robin for the DLC featuring Harley Quinn.

I really enjoyed BAC and had a blast solving all the Riddles and upgrading my fighting skills. Fights were free-flowing with just two buttons required to attack or block. I wish the quickfire gadgets were immediately accessible from the menu, rather than having to move your hand to the numbered keys, but I made it out alive.

So for those of you who haven’t played it yet, here’s one of my top suggestions. 9.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 29, 2013, 01:49:47 PM
I haven’t been so aggravated by a game in a while as I was with Binary Domain (http://www.gamespot.com/binary-domain/). The premise is just so cool, but then the game mechanics get in the way and muck everything up. I grew frustrated so many times, but then would get past an area and choose to continue.

This third-person shooter is set in a future Earth where robots are used heavily as a labor force to improve the lives of regular folks. However, someone has broken the cardinal law of not making robots look like humans. Even more disturbing, some of these “hollow children” are roaming the earth, even occupying places of power, and don’t even know they are robots!

You are a typical Marine hardass type who has been sent in with a team to infiltrate a Japanese robot design firm. Your multi-national team gradually grows by ones and twos to a total of six, which you generally split into two teams to recon and to follow behind. You have the ability to loosely order your teammates to do various actions, and each are specialists in certain weapon types.

What makes the game so frustrating is the battle mechanics. As a console port, Binary Domain won’t allow you to fully map your keyboard and mouse. (And I even tried with my PIE program, but some keys still wouldn’t accept a remap.) Then there’s the actual gameplay. You can crouch behind objects, but it’s a “sticky” touch and you can’t get off without hitting the right button. And that button happens to be the same as your “run” action, so you constantly find yourself running away from trouble only to get hung up on the wall. And then the mouse speed is so squirrelly that it literally takes three swipes with your mouse to get yourself to turn around and face the problem. You can see why I got so frustrated.

And then you go through a cool cutscene or face off against some huge mechanical beastie, and then you realize how much promise the game has…. SIGH….

The game has some really cool design elements, and neat level design. You also can upgrade each player and their weapons via stores found throughout each level, of which purchases are made by collecting “scrap” from destroying robots. And some of these robots are huge Transformer types, forcing you to whittle them down before running out of ammo. But there’s also a really strong Terminator vibe, especially during one section late in the game.

The story premise has several side-stories going on, and you actually see growth in your characters, or at least a change in their initial positions. Add to that a number of twists and turns that you don’t see coming, and by the final act, some pretty cool stuff is happening behind the scenes.

So, although the game forces some severe gameplay issues that were extremely frustrating and had me pulling my hair on multiple occasions, the final payoff is completely worth all the frustration. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 18, 2013, 07:04:53 AM
Sorry for the delay in posting this review -- real-life and job travels got in the way!  :lol:

I never felt truly safe while playing Alan Wake (http://www.gamespot.com/alan-wake/platform/pc/). Sure, during the daylight hours things seem fine, but when it turns dark, and it often does on a dime in Bright Falls, that’s when I would get those willies down the back of my neck. Going through dense forests, you knew something was going to sneak up on you in the dark. And when your only protection is a flashlight or a flickering streetlight, you know you’re in trouble.

Only a few other games have used “light” as a weapon – Alone in the Dark coming to mind, so the play style behind Alan Wake is unique in today’s crowded third-person shooter realm. The only way to really damage enemies is by exposing them to light – from a flashlight, flares and even flashbang grenades – and then shooting them with firearms and rifles once they have been exposed sufficiently. You also need light to simply survive, such as entering a persistent light source to recharge your health. The whole concept is done really well, and the environment lends itself nicely to the experience.

The gameplay takes place through a series of mostly linear levels set apart as television series episodes. At the start of each “episode” you get a recap of what recently occurred to catch you up, and at the end of each episode, the credits roll over some haunting rock melody. The story itself is absolutely mind-blowing and reminiscent of something Stephen King might have thought up. In essence, you are an author who ended a successful crime fiction series and hasn’t been able to lift a pen since. Your wife has brought you out to beautiful Bright Falls in the hopes of both saving your marriage and also rejuvenating your writing career. However, you have entered a nightmare beyond imagining, and somehow have written your own future, as provided in various pages found around the levels. How and why you did this, you’ll find out over the course of the game.

Set in the Pacific Northwest U.S., the levels run the gamut of lush outdoor scenes through woods, waterfalls and valleys, as well as small towns, old mining sites and run-down farms. The level design is gorgeous and intricately detailed and features a diversity of heights to provide perspective on where you’ve been and where you’re headed. And the levels are further contrasted by day and night sequences, rendering seemingly innocent surroundings more sinister once the light is gone. Generally you will traverse these scenes by foot, but occasionally you will drive through larger, more open levels.

The enemies are varied, and reflective of your current locale. For example, in the forest, you’ll encounter hunter “dark souls” who were out hunting and taken over by a dark presence, while in the sawmill you find loggers. The dark presence that is trying to take over your life also reaches into inanimate objects as well as living, so even a relatively benign path may be reason for concern.

Alan Wake (A. Wake, get it??) doesn’t go for the easy scares (which there are some), but relies on an overall feeling of dread to trickle down into your soul. There were times when I would reach a light source and in the real world breathe a sigh of relief to reach a safe haven, only to have the streetlight break and strand me back in darkness. Times like these, I realized how powerful fear is as a motivator. Alan Wake definitely reaches into your psyche and delivers an experience and story like no other. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 04, 2013, 10:12:41 AM
I never watched the TV show Lost, but I got the general gist of the series from overheard conversations and commercials. So going into Lost: Via Domus (http://www.gamespot.com/lost-via-domus/platform/pc/), I had some idea of what to perhaps expect.

The game starts in the airplane, which somehow splits in mid-air – you watch as the other half spins away in flames. When you awake, you are somehow still alive, and inside a jungle. Making your way to the beach, the game really starts, interjecting you into short conversations with characters from the show, and forcing you to exercise your adventure gaming skills; i.e. pick up this object and use it on that object. You’ll also get a taste of the electric fuse puzzles that permeate the game.

No one knows you from the plane, so you are under suspicion from the start from the survivor leaders. Occasionally, you will find out something about your past – your name, your job, what you were doing on the plane – and the game will shift to an interactive flashback where you need to meet certain conditions before taking a photo. These flashbacks provided some density to the game and some additional information on why people weren’t trusting you.

Besides the adventure and puzzle pieces, you also engage in action sequences. On occasion, you’ll need to shoot a gun at offending parties. You’ll need to hide from a “smoke monster” while in the jungle (made more challenging on your second trip through as you are unable to run to the next shelter). You’ll traipse through dark caverns and enter seemingly abandoned army bunkers. You’ll have to outrun the smoke monster while jumping and swerving around objects.

The game follows you from the beach into the lairs of the unknown, and all the while, I never knew what my character’s motivation was, or why no one trusted me. So I was a bit confused through the about 8 hours of gameplay, and actually needed a walk-through for the harder fuse puzzles and to understand anything about what was going on.

Lost: Via Domus is okay as an adventure, but I think it probably does more service to fans than to casual adventure gamers. 6.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 11, 2013, 09:54:27 AM
If you’re going to be the game that brings down a game developer studio, costs the State of Rhode Island millions of dollars, and bankrupts a World Series baseball champion, then I hope you’re worth it. And Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (http://www.gamespot.com/kingdoms-of-amalur-reckoning/platform/pc/) is definitely worth it. It’s not the greatest RPG ever, but is really good nonetheless.

Reckoning is a lengthy (I spent 107 hours and skipped some of the very end quests) adventure that takes you from one end of the world of Amalur to the other. It is not truly an open-world game, but more a series of interconnected open “pods”, with one or several paths linking one pod to the next. Within each “pod”, the player can go anywhere, and each includes a number of dungeons, castles and villages to explore. Loading times to enter new areas are relatively short, so the game is optimized well.

Reckoning is not wholly original, as the bright, colorful art style and design are suggestive of Fable and World of Warcraft; the dynamic orchestral score sounds like a mix of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Indiana Jones; and the gameplay and loot drops are akin to Diablo. But it does provide a fun factor in the actual battle sequences, as your character pulls off a diversity of physical and magical moves that actually seem to impact your foes and knock them back. You can engage in crafting of weapons, armor and potions, but I found most items I needed in my loot pick-ups.

Your character grows when your experience points boost you to the next level. One other new idea that Reckoning introduces is a “Fate” card, which happens when you gain certain levels, or upon completing certain tasks. These Fate cards provide special bonuses, and some of them can be switched around depending upon the type of character you play. I went with a nearly even character between thief, mage and fighter and found that to be a good mix. You can sneak up on certain foes and eviscerate them silently with your knives. Or you can blast them with a lightning bolt with one hand and then attack them with a bow or weapon in the other. You also can carry shields to be used at any time to parry blows.

The story is a bit convoluted but eventually comes to a conclusion. You start as a nameless, memory-ridden character and must find out the truth of how you died, and why you came back to life. Along the way, certain key characters will assist your efforts, leading to a mad rush to the finale. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in certain key faction quests, which of course result in more experience and loot opportunities.

I spent a good 5-6 weeks playing Reckoning, and really enjoyed it immensely, although by the very end, chose to just crash forward to the finale. I’d definitely recommend the game, and am sad that we’ll never get another game in this world, but know that the game we got was a game well-deserved. 8.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 18, 2013, 06:38:45 AM
For me to review a brand-new game, you know it’s got to be spectacular. And the rebooted 2013 version of Tomb Raider (http://www.gamespot.com/tomb-raider/platform/pc/) is definitely spectacular. Game developer Crystal Dynamics went completely back to the start, and have crafted a new, more personal, more grounded approach to Lara Croft’s life, starting in her early 20s as she has joined a famous TV archaeologist’s search for a missing Japanese city of Yamatai. The result is a more intense game than we’ve ever seen featuring the world’s favorite female adventurer.

The island of Yamatai is gloriously defined, with a diversity of ancient temples, caves and tombs surrounded by more recent World War II bunkers. Yet both older worlds also incorporate the detritus of the dead ships and planes that have been stranded on the island. The world is believable and lived-in, and provides a great playground for Lara’s explorations. Some settings are amazing in scope and design, such as a windy temple, burning cities, a shanty-town, and even a hanging ship. Not truly an open-world game, Tomb Raider is formed of interconnected valleys that you can explore and learn more about the island’s past and inhabitants; certain base camps allow you to fast travel from one valley to the next. Tombs are smaller affairs and offer environmental and physical puzzles that you’ll have to deduce to complete – some were brain-stumpers, but with trial-and-error, you could figure them out without a walk-through.

After the initial rush, the story is somewhat predictable, and you’ll figure out a plot twist about midway through the game, so the writers could have gone another direction completely and thrown all your expectations out the door, but they didn’t. Regardless, this is Lara’s story, with the early hours of the game critical to understanding how Lara as a somewhat reserved academic is forced to become more intrepid, more adventurous, and yes, more deadly. And these actions have their consequences, putting everyone around Lara at risk.

After being separated from her friends, Lara quickly finds a bow, which will become your go-to weapon of choice, but soon adds a pistol, shotgun and rifle, all of which feel weighty in Lara’s hands. You collect salvage and weapon parts along the way that can be used to upgrade weapons. The timing of these was good and I didn’t upgrade all my items until about the 90% level in the game, so gameplay was constantly challenging but not impossible.

Lara sneaks around when she encounters foes, and might be able to pick them off individually, or she might just sneak past them stealthily and avoid any fighting. But sometimes you have no choice, so Lara can cycle through her weapons or use them for up-close kills, although she’ll need to move around cover quickly to avoid the dynamite and grenades lobbed at her.

The game is mostly grounded in reality, but some elements are fantastical, and lead to the overall conclusion. Likewise, you are generally in control of Lara, but sometimes the camera will take over and you’ll need to engage in a limited number of QTEs.

This is the best Tomb Raider by far, and although the story could have been tweaked slightly to have more effect, the new look at Lara’s burgeoning career as an adventurer is well worth your time. Now the only question is: will future games have a similar design and take place only in one location, or will they resume the globe-hopping of games of yore? 9.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 25, 2013, 06:09:32 AM
For some reason, I found Dark Messiah of Might and Magic (http://www.gamespot.com/dark-messiah-of-might-and-magic/platform/pc/) to be much harder as I played through it this time, my fourth overall. My character mostly went the thief-mage route, but I still don’t recall having such a hard time as in previous play-throughs, but maybe those were more fighter-focused builds.

Regardless, I still had a lot of fun with this atmospheric sword-and-sorcery first-person game. The best feeling was when you could successfully use the environment to your advantage: kicking foes off the edge of a walkway, kicking them into spikes, freeing prisoners as distractions to allow you to sneak past guards, etc. I loved freezing enemies and then kicking them off the edge of bridges. And my thief was able to do a number of backstabs, back away into the dark, do another ad nauseum. I love that you could play the game successfully in so many ways.

The Source engine still looks pretty good for a 6-year-old game, although some close-up textures are a bit muddied. But the level design is rich, except for the sorcerer citadel in the later half, which features pretty basic corridor crawls. The caves, temples, cities and tombs were generally all fun to explore and see if you could get all the secrets, either by crawling into a new area, or unlocking special chests and doors. (But to be honest, I disdained the Burglar skill because it was not really worth it from the chests I was able to open – the best thing I found was a unique +3 fighter armor, other than all the various bottles that I was already full with.)

The story is good, but most anyone would figure out the hook long before your character does. I still like that you must make a major decision about two-thirds through the game – although it doesn’t really change your gameplay style, it does contribute to one of several endings that you can receive.

So this is still an enticing game to play, and worthy of a replay if it’s been a while. 8.2 out of 10 See other Foxhole reviews here (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-fpp/70-dark-messiah), and here (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-fpp/46-dark-messiah-of-might-and-magic).
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 01, 2013, 06:33:59 AM
Never having played the original game on platform, I can’t speak to how different The Darkness 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/the-darkness-ii/platform/pc/) is to its predecessor. The original game tells the story of Jackie Estacado, a young mob enforcer whose girlfriend Jenny is killed, which unleashes a demonic presence called “The Darkness”, represented by two snake-like tentacles that sprout out of your back. With the help of The Darkness, you take down the people responsible for your loss, before learning how to bottle up The Darkness for good.

The Darkness 2 takes place a couple years after the events of the original. You are now a young mob boss, with a swank penthouse apartment, lots of friends, and more respect than a gat has bullets. So of course everything goes off the rails with a vicious attack in your restaurant in the opening scene. Due to some deadly injuries, you must unleash The Darkness again to survive, and that’s when the fun really starts.

This game is an FPS, but it also gives you the added abilities of The Darkness itself: the left tentacle can grab select items such as fan blades, gas canisters and poles and launch them at your enemies; while the right tentacle can slash vertically or horizontally to attack nearby foes, sever wires or destroy barriers. Together, your tentacles can pull open locked doors or gather the hearts of your dead foes, which increases your health.

The game offers an RPG-lite experience: with each kill, you get a certain number of experience points – the least for simple kills and the most for up-close kills with The Darkness itself. You also obtain points by collecting rare relics and artifacts scattered throughout each level. These points are traded in for a diversity of skills that enhance your weapons, health and offensive/defensive capabilities.

The art is very stylized with a cel-shaded look that really makes everything pop, although textures retain a gritty essence with shadows and contrast. Levels themselves are not the most creative – restaurant, city streets, wine cellar, boudoir, cemetery, etc – although an amusement park that ends in a haunted house ride was somewhat interesting. Occasionally, you encounter Jenny (or the ghost of Jenny?) in some touching and haunting scenes, perhaps reliving your first kiss or dance.

In between levels, you might be treated to a personal soliloquy about your past. Or, you might visit your home and talk with all the people that work with you. The most interesting aspect is when you wake up in an insane asylum, and you honestly don’t know if it is real or imagined. These “slow” points effectively provide a breathing space, or some exposition on what you’re up against.

You see, The Darkness is considered the first “evil” source on the Earth, with an equal and brilliant opposite: the Angelus. Both powers of Light and Dark have been at eternal war since God created them. But another group – The Brotherhood – seeks to subvert The Darkness’ power for itself, so now you have to worry about them as well.

The characters that surround you are an eclectic bunch, but provide some deep insight. Most interesting is Johnny, a crackhead savant that somehow knows all about The Darkness. But the other character that makes an impact is the Imp that accompanies The Darkness – he calls you “Monkey” and proves a great help in several instances.

The Darkness 2 lives up to its name and offers enough uniqueness through its gameplay and storyline to spice up the ho-hum shooter genre. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 08, 2013, 06:39:24 AM
Syndicate (http://www.gamespot.com/syndicate-2012/platform/pc/) is one of those unknown recent FPS gems like Singularity and Timeshift, but it had the misfortune of naming itself after one of the most beloved early RTS games ever. Most players’ main complaint was that this wasn’t the Syndicate RTS game they grew up with, and they punished it at the check-out stand. (In hindsight, the game producers probably should have subtitled this to avoid the confusion – maybe “Syndicate: Agents” or somesuch.) But coming from Starbreeze Studios, who created the Riddick games that I love, I figured I’d enjoy this one.

Graphically, Syndicate looks like the love-child of Mirror’s Edge and DX: Human Revolution with its aesthetic, futuristic game design. Offices are sterile and efficient, public spaces are drenched in neon, and the urban undercity where all the peons live is gritty and pathetic. It’s obviously better to live in the sun.

You play an agent of one of the many business syndicates that have replaced the world powers. As such, you engage in corporate espionage against other syndicates that are intruding on your territory – both physically and intellectually. To undertake your duties, you have been enhanced with an innovative hacking system (called “breaching”), whereby you can take control of other technology nearby. For example, you can cause elevators and doors to move, force drones to drop their shields or target your foes, and even short-circuit your human foes to have them commit suicide or even join your own side against their former allies. It’s a neat system and provides some unique ways to battle that we haven’t really seen before.

For a change, the AI is tough, smart and aggressive, coming at you from a variety of directions and constantly flanking you and forcing you to move to better positions. And better (or worse  ;) ), the boss battles are extremely difficult and require split-second timing on your part to make it through. But once you figure out their weaknesses, things become slightly easier. And afterward, you can take their operating chip and enhance your own skills further to provide additional offensive and defensive capabilities.

The story is fairly typical and doesn’t really offer many surprises, although it is interesting to see your own origin appear late in the game. The main problem I had is that you aren’t given any choices. Why is your syndicate better than another? Why should you care what happens to it? And when the inevitable choice occurs, why should you go with that over sticking with what you know? These lapses, and the lack of true choice in the matter, really drag down the game, as do numerous instances where the game takes over your viewpoint and stalls while some exposition is provided.

As an FPS, I can appreciate Syndicate’s gameplay and the uniqueness it brings to the genre. But as even an RPG-lite, it doesn’t offer enough substance to give it higher marks. 8.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 15, 2013, 07:14:16 AM
Ah, Piranha Bytes, how I love you. After playing all your RPG games in the Gothic series and the original Risen multiple times, starting up Risen 2: Dark Waters (http://www.gamespot.com/risen-2-dark-waters/platform/pc/) is like stepping into a pair of old, comfortable shoes. The gameplay is immediately accessible and familiar, and feels like coming home.

Not that “home” is perfect by any means. Risen 2 still suffers from the same foibles afflicting all the main Gothic games and Risen (not counting Gothic 3: Forsaken Gods or Gothic 4: Arcania, as both came from other developers): somewhat clunky fighting mechanisms, semi-dated graphics, sometimes laughable voice-acting, recycled character models and HUGE hands on every character. But what it does offer is a genuinely fun story with a never-before-seen focus on pirates and voodoo magic.

The game follows on from the first Risen game, but several years later, after your actions plunged the world into chaos. The island of Faranga from the first game is gone, subsumed by volcanic activity brought on by the release of the Titans that you unwittingly instigated. You are now employed by the Inquisition, a no-nonsense military unit that relies upon the stock of their blade and their firearms, while all magic use has been banned, as it supported the Titan apocalypse.

So yes, you can wield simple firearms as well as blades in Risen 2. You actually can dual-wield two items – generally a blade and a pistol – and use them at any time during a battle, although all firearms have a cool-down period, as do select special items like magical weapons and “dirty tricks”. Playing along with the pirate theme, you can opt to use a dirty trick, like a kick, throwing sand or salt in the eyes, or even flame balls from your mouth, although few other than the kick were truly effective.

When you kill foes or solve quests, you get “honor” points, this game’s version of experience points. Get enough honor and you can advance in five main categories: blades, firearms, toughness, thievery or voodoo. Special objects that you collect also give boosts to these categories. Within each, you can specialize further; for example, learning how to lockpick or pickpocket under the thievery category, which is only possible as you gain certain key levels.

Foes are generally animal or human, although you’ll take on some huge monstrosities as “boss” fights, and these may require certain key items. But following the general Gothic model, harder foes will keep you away from certain areas until you gain enough experience to take them on. Fortunately, you can bring along at least one buddy during probably 80% of the game, and they are effective enough at taking on foes and supporting you – I felt the game designers did a good job of making them useful without doing the job for you. And sometimes they have some hilarious lines.

And that’s a second point in Risen 2’s favor – the writing has some truly comic scenes, with many subtle nods to real-world movies and shows without being so obtrusive that they pull you out of the game. I could swear I heard some “Princess Bride” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” references, both which of course deal with pirates.

Like previous games, you must choose a faction to support, which in this case is either the Inquisition or the native populations. If you stick with the Inquisition, you can gain rifles and shotguns early in the game, but the natives teach you voodoo. Unfortunately, the voodoo as compared to past games’ iteration of magic is pretty weak. However, you are able to take over people in about 5-6 situations with a curse doll, and this allows you to be them and talk with other people in the region. I ultimately sided with the natives, but downplayed the voodoo aspects other than potion-making.

I would say if anything is lacking in the game, it’s that the skills don’t fully match up with expectations. For example, I learned potion-making so that I could create some permanent potions that upped your skills. However, I only found 2 recipes out of 6 possible permanent ingredients, so this was almost a waste of my experience. Likewise, some of the upper “dirty tricks” are pretty worthless. Probably the best use of experience points was the Thievery, Toughness, and Blade/Firearms categories.

With two DLCs, the game ran around 50 hours, and lets you explore 5 islands, two coastlines and one city. You are sometimes hemmed in by mountains or ocean, but within those boundaries you are fairly free to explore to your heart’s content.

I really enjoyed Risen 2, and it takes the RPG genre in an interesting direction with its pirate and voodoo themes. I definitely recommended it to Gothic/Risen fans, and think other RPG players will find something of interest in it. 8.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 22, 2013, 10:05:37 AM
As much as I liked Alan Wake, the “follow-up” Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (http://www.gamespot.com/alan-wakes-american-nightmare/platform/pc/) is a bit light in the gameplay department. Essentially, you play through the same three maps – a diner/motel, an observatory, and a drive-in theater – three successive times, gathering clues along the way to take out your arch-nemesis Mr. Scratch. Mercifully, each play-through of each map gets more concise so you don’t have to repeat all the same tasks each time. Each level also introduces a new, more challenging enemy type.

For whatever reason, Alan has written a new story set in the American Southwest, but the wide-open plains and skies don’t lend themselves as readily to the scare-factor that the original game offered in the creepy woods and mines of the Pacific Northwest. However, you still feel scared enough to not get too far off the beaten path to seek out missing story pages or ammo, lest the Dark Ones come upon you unaware. Level design is fairly open for each map, and nicely detailed, and you can certainly appreciate the expansive desert views surrounding you.

As a side-note in the Alan Wake universe, American Nightmare is an acceptable stop, especially if you can get it on the cheap, but don’t go in expecting the same atmosphere of the original game. 7.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 29, 2013, 07:08:33 AM
The only things that I can critique about Psychonauts (http://www.gamespot.com/psychonauts/platform/pc/) are the sometimes wonky platforming and bad camera angles that impede your gameplay. Otherwise, the overall storyline, humorous voice work, bizarre but creative levels, and diversity of skills make this one of the best (but unfortunately at the time of release, most under-rated) games of the last decade. Fortunately, this cult classic has gained a stronger following since its release, so perhaps a sequel is not too far off??

From the whacked-out mind of Tim Schaefer, Psychonauts is probably the weirdest game you’ll ever play, with bizarro levels set inside people’s psyches, including a disco, a war game vs. Napoleon, a city where you play as a towering monster, a neighborhood that spirals like an Escher print, a velvet-themed Mexican wrestling match and bullfight, the infamous Meat Circus, and more. Every level is completely unexpected and new to even the most proficient gamer.

Set in a summer camp for psychic children, you play as Rasputin (Raz), a former circus performer who has run away from home to gain training to become one of the famed Psychonauts. Along the way, you gain training in a variety of psychic abilities, and you’ll need them all to survive the many tests placed before you, as someone is stealing the brains of the camp’s kids for some nefarious purpose. You’ll learn that purpose as you go through the game, but you’ll also learn a bit about the people whose minds you enter – why they have become like they are, and what their dreams and goals were.

Along the way, you gain experience from various collectibles, including figments of dreams, special cards, “mental” baggage, and scavenger hunt items. Turn these in for more experience to enhance your psychic abilities like levitation, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, invisibility, and more. It’s a full suite of skills and you’ll be using them throughout the game.

The humor is nonstop and comes through in-game conversations, cutscenes, and even the facial expressions of Raz. I’m not saying that Double Fine actively encourages experimentation with psychedelics, but….

So why isn’t my score a perfect 10? The game does so many things so well, but there are a few things that hold it back from absolute perfection. First is the camera-angle, which is something that many games have a challenge with, but it often won’t let you see what you’re supposed to be doing. And in a game with very finicky jumping situations, this becomes a significant liability. Second is the platforming itself, which is definitely a challenge with mouse and keyboard, as Raz often falls to his doom because he jumped too far or didn’t grab a ledge. Finally, the hated Meat Circus level, which caused me to quit (a second time!!) in frustration as it requires you to babysit a stupid AI that is in a completely different level than yours, and cannot escape from the enemy hounds surrounding it. This was probably the most damning factor in the game for me: if I only had to manage the navigation myself, I would have pushed past the difficulty of the level, but to be dependent upon the computer AI (and stupid AI, at that), is unconscionable and made the ending a huge bummer for me.

Regardless, 95% of the game is excellent and worthy of your time. And hey, if you can get past the Meat Circus, you are a much better gamer than I! 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 03, 2013, 06:43:20 AM
Mad Riders (http://www.gamespot.com/mad-riders/platform/pc/) is a perfectly disposable time-waster that lets you get in and out of races quickly but doesn’t add too much to the genre. You control four-wheelers in a variety of races through innovative, mostly tropical locales, and can do various stunts as you ride along or go soaring through the air.

You feel like you’re speeding through the courses, as the landscape “slides” underneath you in a fluid motion. Courses are multi-level and generally fun to run through, and you can pull off some pretty cool stunts along the way. You also collect “Boost” power-ups, which allow you to hit turbo and accelerate even faster for a limited time, as well as “Special” power-ups that allow you to access secret shortcuts or to gain more Boost power-ups.

Courses are generally 10-person races where you need to finish in the top three to gain “stars” to unlock later races, but you’ll also participate in stunt rallies and “follow-the-leader” events. I managed to go about half-way in the career chart, but ultimately couldn’t pull off the stunt courses I needed to unlock the later courses.

So, a fairly fun time-waster, but nothing earth-changing about it. 7.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 06, 2013, 06:40:24 AM
Spec Ops The Line (http://www.gamespot.com/spec-ops-the-line/reviews/spec-ops-the-line-review-6384776/) bends accepted game consequences in realistic fashion, truly making you doubt what we as gamers find mere “entertainment”. You may enter the game thinking you’re playing just another third-person war shooter, but the story quickly goes way beyond that simplistic classification.

The Line is set in a future Dubai, where the sands of the desert have washed over the glamorous excess of this small Middle Eastern destination. The setting is absolutely fantastic, with numerous awe-inspiring set-pieces and vistas. Imagine a whole downtown with 60-story skyscrapers, filled with sand up to half their height – what would the survivors face? Who would provide security, food, water and shelter? And what happens if something upsets that delicate balancing act?

You are Captain Walker, and you have been forced into this crazy circumstance with two Delta Force allies, and the choices you make during the next 8 hours will determine whether Dubai lives or falls, and by whose hand it occurs. As a shooter, it is perfectly serviceable, and you are often able to use the environment to your advantage, such as crashing glass above your foes to engulf them in waves of sand.

But the story is where The Line truly shines. Your character goes through the literal ringer to attempt to save his commander, but every step along the way, you are faced with difficult choices that are often the wrong one. The nexus point for me was when I had to use white phosphorous on enemy troops – the consequences of that moment actually stuck with me outside the game, making me wonder what the heck I was really doing with my free time. If a game can make me think like that, then it’s doing something right. And you just keep going deeper and deeper down that rabbit hole with every decision you make, affecting both your own mental and physical state, as well as your two allies.

Every gamer, and especially if you play a significant amount of shooter games, owes it to themselves to experience The Line, especially in lieu of the recent controversy surrounding “war games as shooting simulators”. We as gamers should stick up for our pastime, but understand that to a broader world, what we do can sometimes be construed as preparation for killers-in-training. I don’t truly believe that, but I can appreciate that shooter games might appear that way to “outsiders”. (My true feeling is that some individuals are just mentally unhinged, and no manner of protection will deter them from committing chaos.) Just play this game. 9.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: Silver Sorrow on May 06, 2013, 01:38:04 PM
I don't think I've played a real shooter in a while, so I'm a little out of the loop concerning what makes a "good" shooter anymore. But since I've had it up to here [gesturing at an imaginary point several feet above head] with RPG chargen ("I spent an hour customizing my character and I still don't feel comfortable with her cheekbones.") and the like, I played the Spec Ops demo anyway. I liked it to the point where I bought the full game (Steam had a $7.49 sale), even after reading several reviews...

The GameSpot reviewer sounded as if he were insulted by being forced to play yet another *yawn* shooter; he had no shortage of descriptors for how boring and banal the gameplay was. Knowing GameSpot though, it just means that 2K didn't pay them enough to be enthusiastic in their review.  ::)

Some other reviews were of the same opinion ("yawn boring bitch bitch bitch"), which makes me wonder just how out of touch I am with the state of modern shooters...but screw it, I say; I'm looking forward to playing the whole game.  :ok:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 07, 2013, 06:39:55 AM
It starts out as "yet another shooter", but if you pay attention to the cues, you'll quickly find that something is different about this one. The storyline really opens up to a lot of different interpretations, so even though you're going from point A to point B, it's not as cut and dried as you might originally think.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 10, 2013, 07:50:37 AM
With such a pedigreed storyline to draw upon, Game of Thrones (http://www.gamespot.com/game-of-thrones/platform/pc/) is ultimately disappointing, even to a hardcore RPG gamer like myself. Although the atmosphere of the dark and foreboding land of Westeros is appropriately captured in the visual tone, the actual gameplay is an atrocious mess.

I gave the game about an hour, playing as a swordsman of the Black Watch, and although it was cool to see the icy Wall stretch above you, that’s not enough to save the clunky gameplay mechanics. The non-mappable buttons use the directional keys to move, but you must hold down the right mouse button to swing your view around to see what you’re doing. On top of that, the fighting itself is awkward and unwieldy, with your avatar barely able to move while getting his ass handed to him.

I understand the game has some good quests to undertake, but honestly, the whole “feel” of the game was off and no amount of cool quests can offset a crappy presentation. 5.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 13, 2013, 06:34:38 AM
I haven’t played a side-scroller in decades, although I grew up on the likes of Flashback, Another World and others. So for me to give Deadlight (http://www.gamespot.com/deadlight-2012/) a shot, and to generally enjoy it, is saying a lot.

Set after a zombie apocalypse, Deadlight borrows from time-honored zombie tropes seen in “The Walking Dead” and games such as Left 4 Dead. You start the game in a bunkered warehouse with a few other survivors, but someone accidentally left the door open and got bit…. Cue your quick escape, as you try to lead the zombies away from the other survivors, while searching for your wife and daughter. Later on, you’ll be reunited with the other survivors, but right now, it’s time to run run run.

The story seems familiar, with you going through the city to escape the zombie hordes, climbing through seemingly abandoned buildings, traipsing through trap-strewn sewers (my favorite), entering a hospital for medical necessities – the only thing missing was the obligatory mall sequence. The addition of a human “survivalist” army as a foe is an interesting sidebar, but you also go into various flashbacks of your own experience of when the zombie situation began. You get inclinations of how the story will end, but it’s not immediately obvious.

The gameplay is primarily a mix of running, jumping and interacting with various objects (push something in front of a door, turn on electricity, climb across a wire, etc.), with a few instances where you’ll need to shoot something/someone or use a slingshot to advance. On a couple of occasions you’ll have to reach safety in a timed sequence, before a building collapses or a helicopter catches you in its sights – these are challenging and thrilling scenarios. And you also can pick up objects such as ID cards or journal entries to better explain the background of this world's history.

The game is built in the Unreal 3 engine, but effectively uses shadows and 3D textures in the background to make the game come alive. Save points are fairly spread out so you don’t normally have to replay huge swaths of the game if you mess up.

As a zombie survival story, the ending is of course poignant, but I don’t think you could expect anything else. I do appreciate that Deadlight made me glad to play a side-scroller again after all these years. 8.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 17, 2013, 06:32:37 AM
I really wanted to like Miasmata (http://www.gamespot.com/miasmata/), an independently-designed first-person game that incorporates research, map-making and survival elements. But the execution was too buggy.

The two-person team that developed the game created an all-new engine with a Far Cry-like island atmosphere: forests, paths, wildlife and flora, streams and shoreline, day/night cycle, etc. But instead of filling bad guys with lead, you are searching for a cure for a disease that is slowly killing you. The only way to do so is to gather various flowers on the island, bring them back to a base camp, research their properties, and create healing potions and pills.

This sounds pretty cool in concept, but actually doing it not so much. I looked all over for a couple of hours and only found three different flowers – of which one was worthless for my needs – and then I had to find a base camp to do the research. This was made even more difficult because you can’t locate yourself on the map unless you know your bearings. And the map has to be manually updated by lining up two known landscape features and then filling in the middle, so if you’re lost, you have NO idea where you really are.

I never saw it, but there also is some sort of “cat” creature that will stalk you. I think perhaps I didn’t get deep enough into the game for it to come out. Additionally, my character kept stumbling down inclines and I’d lose control.

Again, the concept is really cool, and everything is done in the first-person: instead of a HUD, you’ll manually bring up a map, or a compass, or your notebook. But it’s more like a job than being a fun game to play. 6.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 20, 2013, 07:23:02 AM
200 Games Reviewed!!
Wow! We're already at 200 game reviews? Sheesh -- where do I spend all my time?  :)   Also, this thread has just topped 15,000 views -- awesome and thanks for your readership!

Well, like before, I wanted to give a quick round-up of rankings for my "best" games, high recommendations, and stinkers. You can see previous "best/worst" lists at post #103 for the first 80 games reviewed (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg11796#msg11796), and at post #182 for the next 70 games (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg13453#msg13453). This list, then, will cover games reviewed from 151 to 200.

So, starting from the ground up, we have the following bottom-dwellers -- don't waste your time or money with these:
- Deep Black: Reloaded – 3.0 – clunky mechanics destroy the cool underwater setting
- Global Ops: Commando Libya – 3.9 – absolute fail on so many fronts
- Arcania: Fall of Setarrif – 4.2 – not close to being worthy of the Gothic signature
- Game of Thrones – 5.7 – another clunky mess that fails its lofty pedigree
- 7554 – 5.8 – the Vietnam focus can't save this clone of the first Medal of Honor game
- Call of Juarez: The Cartel – 5.9 – loses the unique edge of the Wild West
- Dungeon Siege 3 – 6.0 – messes with a successful formula

Okay, so this next group is highly recommended:
- Binary Domain – 8.4 – a unique storyline about robots with feelings makes this shooter shine
- The Darkness 2 – 8.4 – interesting graphical style accompanied by a mature story
- Dead Island – 8.4 – probably the best zombie-killing shooter out there (next to Left4Dead)
- Assassin’s Creed: Revelations – 8.5 – completes Desmond's story in a satisfactory way
- Hard Reset: Extended Edition – 8.5 – who knew killing robots was so much fun!
- Mafia 2 – 8.5 – great driving sequences punctuate a great story
- Alan Wake – 8.6 – unique gameplay mechanic uses light to your advantage
- Psychonauts – 8.6 – funny and fun ... and bizarre as heck
- Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – 8.7 – lengthy RPG puts a new sheen into the genre
- Saints Row The Third – 8.7 – cranks the crazy up a notch with fun, destructive gameplay
- Deadlight – 8.8 – poignant side-scroller presents the zombie apocalypse
- L.A. Noire – 8.9 – excellent acting and motion capture enhance great open-world detective story
- The Witcher 2 – 8.9 – continues the story of Geralt and ups the political ante significantly

Finally, these are my top-rated games -- those that should not be missed. I've gotten a little more focused on the overall quality, so there are fewer of these than previously:
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution – 9.0 – successfully brings back one of my favorite game franchises, while freshening up the overall look and atmosphere
- Spec Ops The Line – 9.0 – plays with your emotions and makes you take a look at how your own simple past-time may be more than you think
- Tomb Raider [2013] – 9.2 – Lara Croft returns with a more realistic scenario to her past in a vast open-world game -- but needs more tombs!
- Batman: Arkham City – 9.6 – a pleasure to play and literally perfect in every way

So there you have it -- my last 50 games broken down to best/worst overall. Hope you've enjoyed the selections, and thanks again for reading about it!
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 24, 2013, 06:16:56 AM
And back to the games!

Whereas the first game followed several different character’s viewpoints, the sequel Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/sniper-ghost-warrior-2/platform/pc/) sticks with one person over the span of about 15 years. Additionally, where the first game offered several different types of gameplay (sniper, commando, marine, etc.), your character in the sequel is only a sniper, with some up-close sneak-kills scattered here and there.

The game does a good job of mimicking real-world physics situations as they pertain to the art of sniping, including bullet drop over distance, air speed and movement, etc., but the first two difficulty levels babysit you the whole way, giving you a red dot for where the bullet would pass through. That makes the game a pretty simple cakewalk. To test this theory, I played the original levels on medium difficulty, and the add-on Siberian Strike DLC on hard – the result was a simple main campaign and a MUCH more challenging DLC that ran almost the same length of time for one-third of the number of levels.

So my recommendation if you’re a seasoned FPS player is to forget the first two difficulty levels and go straight to hard. It will be a much more demanding game, but I think you’ll enjoy it much more than the hand-holding evident in the lower difficulties. You’ll also find the infrared binocular setting much more useful a tool under the hard setting.

That said, the game can be played through in a couple of evenings. The main campaign has three “acts” separated into 11 actual levels, while the DLC adds four more levels. The first three campaign levels are set in the Philippine jungle, the second set takes place in a past-tense Sarajevo, and the final set in the Tibetan mountains; the DLC is set in Siberia, with specific levels along a pipeline, within a large city, and at an ice-captured tanker. Graphically, the game is striking, built on the Cry3 Engine. Although up-close plants look like 2D graphics, the actual surroundings are nicely detailed; the Tibetan levels are absolutely gorgeous with eye-popping colors.

Gameplay mainly consists of sneaking past foes, providing support for on-the-ground forces, or sniping from afar to clear a path or to take out other snipers. Fairly simple in its own right, especially if you choose the lower difficulties that show you exactly where you must aim to hit your far-off foes. But much different in the hard difficulty because when you miss and alert all the forces in the area, they’ll target you fairly quickly and accurately. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game is when you are temporarily without weapons, which happens on a few occasions – then you must improvise and sneak past foes, providing some tense moments.

Game AI varies from comatose to hyper-vigilant. When you are in up-close situations, the foe always seem to have their back to you, allowing for an easy sneak kill. Yet if you snipe from afar and happen to miss, they will raise the alarm and be on you like fleas. But pulling off a headshot from long distances, and watching the subsequent bullet-cam, is always cool.

So, I can’t give this my highest recommendations, but I think you’ll find it worth playing if you push yourself to the hardest difficulty and experience the game that way. 7.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 28, 2013, 06:45:17 AM
I know that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (http://www.gamespot.com/the-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim/platform/pc/) has already been recommended, reviewed and revisited ad infinitum in these fora. I will simply agree and say that Skyrim is a great game and every RPG lover should play it, end of story.

What I would like to perhaps discuss is my perception of how the series has changed, and what Skyrim meant to me. Honestly, I can’t say I ever had “fun” playing the game. I’ve had a more fun experience playing Fallout 3 or New Vegas. Some of that could be that Skyrim – the destination – felt too monotonous, with winter and snow always abundant, no matter the time of year inside the game. As a person who lives in a northern climate with a full six months of snow and ice, I can tell you I’m sick of snow by April, so to be stuck in a game that was so vastly “white” was actually pretty challenging mentally. (Yes, I know there are mods to change trees and colors within the landscape, but that’s not the point.)

That said, Skyrim is the most aesthetically appealing of the Elder Scrolls games, winter textures notwithstanding. The individual ruins, caves and lairs felt distinctly crafted, which was a huge step above previous games in the series and their copycat dungeons. Some were amazingly detailed, such as the Dwemer ruins, and the castle cities were fantastic.

Playing Skyrim also felt like too much of a job, both because of the vast landscape to traverse, and the sheer number of quests you could follow, which quickly gummed up my journal pages. The game offered a variety of factions with dozens of specific quests, although only the “main” quests truly offered much substance. For example, if you chose to enter the assassins guild of the Dark Brotherhood, the main quests will lead up to bringing honor to the guild, taking out a very high-ranking official through several steps, dealing with a traitor, and finally rebuilding the guild from a state of disrepair. However, all the secondary, or “radiant”, quests are a simple “go here, kill/fetch x” mission. And once I received the same kill order for the same person! It was the same with the other guild questlines.

Regardless, you do have lots of activities to soak up your time, especially with the added DLCs for Dragonborn (which gives you a whole new island to explore) and Dawnguard (which has you face off against the head vampire). If you want to explore, you’ll have 100+ lairs and caves to traipse through, all individual.

Myself, I was satisfied after taking on the main quests for the various factions (except the Civil War element) and spending a good month of playtime in the game. I just hope you like white as a primary color. 9.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 03, 2013, 07:01:09 AM
Unlike most sequels, I think Max Payne 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/max-payne-3/platform/pc/) actually improves upon its predecessors in every way. Yes, this is the same burnt-out New York cop we’ve seen previously, who lost his wife and daughter, and then a girlfriend, and was betrayed by everyone and their dog. But this “new” Max is the end-product of all those misfortunes, and consequently, everything he does in this game is more understandable.

The game removes the comic-style cutscenes of previous games and instead uses in-game cutscenes with Max’s voice-over. The motion capture work is probably the best I’ve seen in a game, and the art direction is fantastic. Max will move back and forth between the streets of New York (via “flashback” levels) and the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo. Although the diversity of destinations you face is amazing, I was particularly struck by what an incredible job the designers did on the favelas (run-down tenements) district.

The story expresses the film noir sensibility present in the first two games, but perhaps with a little more sunshine than rain. A fatalistic Max still hasn’t gotten over the mistakes and problems of his past life in New York, and even moving to new digs and a new bodyguard job in Brazil can’t abate his suicidal aspirations. But when his responsibilities fall apart around him, and a mystery of epic proportions presents itself, it’s time to take charge of his life again. You’ll also get your fill of crosses, double-crosses and more shady dealings.

I am just unabashedly impressed with this game, and I can only give it my highest recommendation to play. 9.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 10, 2013, 07:07:51 AM
Rather than rehash a review of Condemned: Criminal Origins, I’ll point you to Doc Brown’s great review (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-fpp/215-condemned-criminal-origins) of the game, as we both scored it about the same and came away with the same overall feelings. I’ll merely say that the game is creepy beyond imagining – one of the great “scare” games out there for its foreboding atmosphere. It’s also hard as heck since you don’t have unlimited ammo and you have to block every blow against you.

Pointing at the mall level ... THIS is the horror game that F.E.A.R. wanted to be. 8.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 17, 2013, 11:18:12 AM
If I had two games to take to a desert island, the first is the original Deus Ex because of the diversity of gameplay options. The second is Anachronox (http://www.gamespot.com/anachronox/), a “Westernized” JRPG that is funny, interesting and extremely well-designed. Despite being 12 years old, the game appears timeless. This play-through, I decided to figure out why that is, exactly.

Despite being created on a highly modified Quake 2 engine, Anox doesn’t appear “ancient”. That may be that I love the game regardless of what it looks like, but I think there’s something more, as I also recently tried both Omikron: The Nomad Soul (another unique RPG) and Jedi Academy (built on the Quake 3 engine). I could barely manage an hour on each game, as my eyes kept noticing how flat the terrain was, and how flat the textures were.

Anox, due to its age, also has some muddy textures, but it masks them effectively through use of light and shadow, as well as using vertical space to its advantage. There are no flat floors anywhere in the game, but constantly rising/falling walkways that circle in and around themselves. And the overall visual design is interesting and alien, yet approachable. In other words, your eyes are tricked into thinking the game looks better than it actually does.

One trick they use is the cinematic camera angles that the game constantly uses. Rather than always using a fixed camera angle over your back, the camera sometimes zips around you, or up and down the corridor, or does a slow-mo three-stop close-up (bam … Bam … BAM). That and the facial animations will get you far.

But the humor – oh man, the lines you’ll hear … the humor is what keeps you playing. Listening to your hero Sly Boots belt out some verbal poetry, or Grumpos telling you to “Eat it!”, or Democratus wanting to hold a vote before you take action. Each of your 7 team members, except for perhaps the super-hero Paco, are convincingly fleshed out, with unique side stories to endear them to you. Trust me – the game is funny – with many laugh-out-loud moments. This walk-through (http://lparchive.org/Anachronox/) puts down most of the in-game text.

And the special effects during battles hold up surprisingly well. Besides having an individual weapon, each party member can also specialize in a form of Mystech, the game’s “magic”. Each Mystech spell has a unique special effect that looks spectacular when used. This walk-through (http://dlh.net/chtdb/chtview.php?lang=eng&typ=Solution&sys=pc&cap=&search=&match=&layout=&disp=e29970&page=1) goes into a pretty good, but still confusing, explanation of Mystech and how it works. Basically, you don’t need to “grind” through this RPG to get experience – the game will automatically raise your level if needed to enter a new area. But you will want to “grind” getting at least 100 life petal flowers, found in various levels and worlds; you’ll also need at least 8 of each different color of beetle, representing specific powers for each character, plus various Cobalt Crawlers that you earn through quests. Each life petal flower renews after about 90 seconds, while each beetle renews after about 2 ½ minutes.

Here’s how the Mystech elementor works: at the top will be a hexagon (2 – 3 – 2) of seven colored slots. In each slot goes a correspondingly colored beetle, although you can sometimes substitute white (neutral) beetles in empty spots. At the bottom of the device is from one to three additional slots that determine the specific power of the device, and can be given to specific party members based on their magical affinity. Take whichever color beetle you want and “feed” it a life petal, shown on the left side of your screen as a leaf; each leaf you feed will give the beetle more power until it reaches level 7.

So say your character Rho is partial to poison powers: take a green (poison) beetle, feed it until it reaches level 7, and then place it in the bottom slot of the device (you can have multiple powers – say, poison and freeze – if you get a device with 2 or 3 slots at the bottom). Now fill in the top hexagon with as powerful of beetles as you can fit – I tried to feed them all to at least level 6, and fill in any empty spaces with White or Obsidian beetles. Using a Cobalt Crawler will spread your effects to either all your foes or all your party; i.e. Rho can poison all her foes by only targeting one, or remove a poison effect from her team. The more beetles, and the more high-leveled they are, the more power your Mystech will emit (but also use and need to be replenished).

Finally, you’ll probably need a specific walkthrough like this one (http://dlh.net/chtdb/chtview.php?lang=eng&sys=pc&disp=e19598) to ensure you beat all the sub-quests, like finding the TACOs, red bipidri and Cobalt Crawlers. Some very specific actions are required to get the best weapons for each character.

Despite a somewhat cliffhanger type ending, there has been talk about a sequel, but the game designer Tom Hall can’t get the rights back at this time. I any continuation of the story of Sly Boots and the gang won’t be in Anachronox any more, so just name it something different. Regardless, this is a great game, and with its availability on Good Old Games (http://www.gog.com/gamecard/anachronox) for just $6, plus formatting for today’s machines, you shouldn’t miss this one. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 24, 2013, 11:02:00 AM
Based on Starfox’s review (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2235.0) of Two Worlds 2, I went ahead and got the Velvet GOTY Edition (http://www.gamespot.com/two-worlds-ii-velvet-goty-edition/), which includes the main game and the Pirates Of The Flying Fortress DLC. Like Starfox, I rather enjoyed the game, which has vibes of both Gothic 3 and Risen 2, but the game does have some issues that limit its greatness.

The main campaign clocked in at 40 hours for me and about 18 hours for the DLC. The storyline was vastly improved from the first game (reviewed by yours truly here) (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-tp/245-two-worlds), and gameplay was improved in just about every way. Starfox noted the inability to really use horses effectively in the game, as well as a super-crappy finale battle – which I’ll discuss shortly – but overall, this sequel improved significantly upon the original game’s shortcomings.

Graphics are gorgeous, and the game takes place in some non-fantasy landscapes, including a desert-like savannah (reminding me of Gothic 3’s desert area), various islands (shades of Risen 2), a “cursed” land, a college campus, and other locales. Enemies run the gamut of savannah animals like cheetahs, hyenas and rhinoceros, to demon-like critters. In the Pirates DLC, you’ll face a lot of tree humanoids. The only issue I really had was the rampant recycling going on in the dungeons; although each one was “technically” unique, they were comprised of the same general hallways, staircases and rooms, just rebundled in each dungeon.

Dialogue is improved from the original game, and your character has some continuously humorous lines and laughs like a maniac when he pulls off cool kills. There are still some weird translation things here and there, but nothing overly onerous. Quests are also much more relevant, interesting and unique.

One change to your skill upgrades is that you can choose whatever skills you most want, rather than being driven down a certain path. So you have the flexibility of taking skills in magic, fighting, archery, thievery, crafting and your health. Another change is that you can upgrade all your equipment to have slots for magic gems that cover base categories like accuracy, strength, willpower and endurance, as well as specialized skills and resistances.

Where the first game allowed you to “stack” items on top of each other to increase their overall properties, this one requires you to have certain crafting levels to enhance your gear. And rather than stacking, you can dismantle weapons and gear to get base components like leather, iron, steel and wood, which you can then use to enhance your current weapons. I found this an engaging approach, constantly measuring whether I should exchange my current equipment for something that was rated higher but would have to be upgraded to match my current stats.

So why am I not ranking this game higher, if it seems to get everything “mostly” right? As Starfox mentioned, the finale battle is absolute BS, and that’s being extremely polite. All the skills, gear, resistances and other things you’ve built up over 40+ hours are essentially wiped away and the game becomes a protracted, drawn-out affair. I gave it three chances, watched a YouTube video on what I needed to do, tried two more times, and then gave up after spending 20 minutes (with no saves) attempting to complete it. Here’s what you’ll face – SPOILERS:

Spoiler
A dragon attacks you on top of a tower. You have to hit it a total of 4 times with a slow ballista while getting burned by dragon fire, which you CANNOT block, even if you have 100% flame protection. After hitting the dragon, it drops a lava troll that you have to kill, while also evading dragon fireballs. Then the sequence starts over: hit the dragon 4 times with ballista, avoid dragon fire, kill TWO lava trolls, evade dragon fireballs, rinse repeat with then THREE lava trolls, and on the fourth round, FOUR lava trolls. And the game NEVER saves after each round, so if you got all the way to the end round, ran out of health potions and died, you’d have to replay the whole damn thing ALL OVER AGAIN!!! I estimate it would take from 40-60 minutes to complete in total, so imagine how maddening this would be.


Regardless, I simply quit and loaded up the Pirates DLC, which was slightly more enjoyable and had an interesting premise. You are trapped in an island archipelago by an insane pirate, so you’ve got to complete a lot of seemingly disassociated tasks that come together in the end.

Final thought is that Two Worlds 2 is vastly improved from the original game, and barring the BS finale, is a really enjoyable RPG. If you like the Gothic and Risen games, you should give this a shot. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 01, 2013, 08:32:03 AM
I’ve played a ton of racing games, but most of them lean either one way toward ultra-realistic (see Grid (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2105.msg13365#msg13365)) or more arcade-like with the computer doing everything for you (see Dirt 3 (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2111.msg13395#msg13395)). So I was pleasantly surprised with MX vs. ATV Reflex (http://www.gamespot.com/mx-vs-atv-reflex/platform/pc/), which combines realism with fun gameplay.

Reflex doesn’t automatically imbue all your competitors with super-human skills – any racer has a chance to win, based on the existing track circumstances. And you will have to race hard to win or place in the top 3, the only way to unlock maps and new vehicles. So it felt like an honest challenge that I earned.

Tracks run the gamut of outdoor, indoor and “free-roam”, and you are able to drive a plethora of vehicles including MX, ATV, UTV, and sports trucks. Some races are specific to certain vehicle types. With MX and ATV races, you can pull off tricks, sometimes for points. And you get a ton of tracks, scattered all over the globe, with very few repeat or reverse courses.

One of the interesting features to this game is that it creates destructible tracks everytime you drive through. For example, you may go over a soft, muddy area and leave your tracks in the mud, as will every other competitor. The next lap through, those ruts will be there, grabbing your tires. Sometimes it feels a little TOO aggressive and your bike might get flipped, but the game gives you some chances to regain your balance and keep driving.

So I really liked this one, making it probably my fav racing game after the Need for Speed series. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 08, 2013, 08:45:24 AM
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition (http://www.gamespot.com/dark-souls-prepare-to-die-edition/) is a PC version of a console port of a game notorious for its difficulty. Well, I had difficulty with Dark Souls, but more due to its atrocious lack of optimization for the PC user. Too many keyboard commands, inability to remap keys, clunky controls, dated and jaggedy graphics – all contribute to a failure for a game that might actually be interesting and challenging. However, I just don’t have time to waste on games that won’t perform well out of the gate. 6.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 15, 2013, 09:27:27 AM
Dead Rising 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/dead-rising-2/reviews/dead-rising-2-review-6284806/) strands you in a Vegas-like resort area complete with arenas, malls and casinos, and forces you to solve a mystery and save other survivors while surrounded by the undead. What starts out as an interesting take on the zombie genre quickly grows monotonous due to one simple reason: the lack of an auto-save. Oh sure, you can save in select restroom locations scattered around the semi-open gameworld, but the sheer number of undead you must pass to get from one restroom to the next may take 45-60 minutes or longer, and oftentimes you’ll die before you can get there. All they needed to do was add an autosave each time you enter a new area, which could shave a ton of time.

The main task you’ll have to do is kill lots and lots and lots of zombies, and most anything can be used. Sometimes you can combine objects to form new weapons, and you get additional experience when you do so. While killing zombies is fun the first couple of hours, it quickly grows repetitive, and you never ever make any headway. Even if you managed to wipe out a whole area of undead, once you come back, they’d all be there again.

Along the way, you have one or two main quests you must meet – of which one is to give your daughter anti-zombie medicine every 24 hours – and a variety of incidental side quests. While you can skip the side quests, you have to act on the two main quests before time expires. If it does, you literally have to start the game over from the beginning, or you have to back up to an old save, which might be 90+ minutes previous.

In a way, I can understand the game developer’s idea about these issues. Sure, a zombie apocalypse would be hard, and you’d never feel safe. And yes, having to give your kid anti-zombie medicine every 24 hours is understandable, but why, if I have an extra bottle, can’t I give the medicine to the woman who’s in the room watching over my daughter? What possible reason would I need to come back and give my daughter a shot, other than to force yet more busy work on my character?

So no, not really a lot of fun for me. If you want a zombie-bashing game, play Dead Island – at least you’ll feel like you’re making a difference. 7.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 22, 2013, 08:53:25 AM
I’ve never really been able to get on board with the Lego video games – from Indiana Jones to Star Wars to Harry Potter – but I thought I’d give Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (http://www.gamespot.com/lego-batman-2-dc-super-heroes/platform/pc/) a twirl just in case. And there are elements of fun in this game, but also major levels of monotony.

The best parts of the game are when you have to use a certain hero, or a certain outfit, to reach new places (and get lots of Lego pieces along the way); or when you must use a certain tool to solve a puzzle. The fun is more in the “getting there” than in the “getting”. Roaming the Lego cities of Metropolis and Gotham are interesting, and when you finally get to use Superman, you can fly all over the place. The voice acting is good by both heroes and villains (and I loved how Robin is so enamored of Superman, while Batman wearily suffers his assistance). These are the best parts of the game, as are unlocking new characters and vehicles.

The worst parts are playing past areas over and over again, having to smash every single object in case you need certain Lego bricks. Thankfully, the boss characters are fairly simple to beat, although some may have multiple layers of actions required to make them vulnerable.

For what it is – a kids’ game with Legos and super heroes – it does an awesome job. But if you’re getting a little “too” old, than it might wear a little thin in the gameplay department. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 29, 2013, 09:48:40 AM
NOTE: THIS IS A SPOILER-RICH REVIEW TO DISCUSS THE ENDING APPROPRIATELY. DON’T READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW MASS EFFECT 3 ENDS!!

Mass Effect 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/mass-effect-3/) is the culmination of probably the best sci-fi RPG series ever created. Each game in the series continuously upped the ante faced by Captain Shepard and her (yes – FemShep all the way!   :onethumb:  ) ever-expanding crew against the awesomely imposing Reaper threat. With nothing less than the fate of Earth and the rest of the galaxy on the line, this final chapter in the series will require you to rebuild alliances, stop long-standing rivalries, and gain support from many races to avoid overwhelming extinction.

That’s a pretty tall order, and the pace keeps the overall plot moving along successfully. Shepard, who you as the player have now grown to love and appreciate over three games, must make some significantly challenging decisions that could have far-reaching consequences on how you are perceived and trusted. Do you go the route of removing long-time obstacles like the Geth and the Krogan, or do you hope for peace and civility? One choice could turn enemies into allies, or place one more obstacle in your path to facing the Reapers. And that opportunity of choice is what makes Mass Effect 3 shine, even if some of the gameplay might fall a little short on occasion.

Waiting until all DLCs have been released, I was able to tackle a diversity of missions throughout the galaxy that all melded together into a huge game. And unlike some games that start to get old after 10 hours of “same-y” gameplay, ME3 was still shining because there was something else to do: visit the Citadel and listen to continuously changing conversations, explore star systems for resources while eluding Reaper crafts, prepare for big missions by upgrading your equipment, take some down-time with your friends. The actual on-ground missions were challenging, requiring smart use of squadmates’ abilities and your own weapon skills.

In looking at the individual reviews of the various DLC, they almost all were penalized, but in my gameplay, they added to the full dimension of gameplay, so I won’t rate them individually. These included From Ashes, Omega, Leviathan and Citadel. From Ashes adds Javik, the sole-remaining Prothean in existence to your party, and his insight is both humorous and often-times touching; he reminded me heavily of HK-47 from Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic RPG. Omega takes you back to the space station and teams you with Asari Aria T’loke and a new female Turian character. Leviathan is probably the most insightful of the DLCs, as it sheds light on how the Reapers came to be. And Citadel offered both a new adventure and a poignant reunion with your comrades of the last 6 years; play the adventure portion at any time, but save the big party for last, right before you head to the final conflict with the Illusive Man.

Which brings us to the ending, and an immense feeling of dissatisfaction by so many fans. See these two videos for a pretty good encapsulation of what fans felt was wrong with the original three endings offered:
-   Five Reasons the Fans Are Right (http://www.gamefront.com/mass-effect-3-ending-hatred-5-reasons-the-fans-are-right/)
-   10 Reasons We Hate Mass Effect 3's Ending (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M0Cf864P7E)

SERIOUSLY, THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HAS SPOILERS APLENTY. STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW MASS EFFECT 3 ENDS!!

Okay, just the adults are left, so let's have an honest discussion.   ;D  Having waited more than a year from release to play it, with the Extended Cut DLC in place, I feel like I could offer a more honest view of what has happened here. When I got to the ending scene with Anderson and the Illusive Man, I played it like my own Shepard would – I tried to talk the Illusive Man out of his decision, but then shot him when he wouldn’t back down. So then I get taken up to the top of the Citadel and met the Starchild.

As I understand it, the Extended Cut Edition gives more background explanation on behalf of the Starchild, and adds a “hidden” fourth choice to the three already offered: Destroy all Synthetics, Control the Reapers, or Synthesize Synthetic and Organic Life. In these three main choices, Shepard effectively dies to save the galaxy. The 4th choice is to Deny these three choices and fight it out with the Reapers, ultimately losing.

See, I don’t mind a bittersweet ending. I don’t mind sacrificing my Shepard on behalf of all those she loves. Would it be nice to have a happy ending where Shep and Garrus are sitting on a beach afterward drinking Mai Tais? Sure, but that’s not realistic in a galaxy on the verge of extinction. Everything made it clear that ONLY the Crucible had any hope of stopping the Reapers, so the three choices reflect that fact. If you don’t use the Crucible, and attempt to fight without it, even with all the races combined, you’ll still lose – the Protheans’ loss 50,000 years prior showed that to be true.

But it would have been nice to stop only the Reapers, rather than have to sacrifice all synthetics (Destroy) or universal free will (Synthesize), and also the mass relays scattered about the galaxy (which at the most destroyed whole star systems, or at the least certainly stranded all fleets, causing further chaos and death). This option could have been tied to your overall War Readiness rating, so that if you have between 80-100% readiness, you’re able to use the Crucible to kill the Reapers only. Shep’s demise might still be required if you don’t hit 100%. I think the fans could have lived with this option, because at least it would reflect their gameplay choices.

Instead, the options make absolutely no sense in the Mass Effect universe, and definitely make no sense when compared to the choices players have built into their Shepard. The Starchild says that the Reapers exist to “cleanse” Organics every 50,000 years to ensure they won’t destroy all Synthetic life; so Synthetics (Reapers) instead wipe out Organics to stop them from possibly wiping out Synthetics who will wipe out Organics who will eventually wipe out Synthetics, who will …. It’s a never-ending loop that makes absolutely no sense. All along, Shepard (at least mine) has been attempting to repair relations – not just between various races, but also between Synthetics and Organics. I stopped the Geth and turned them to good, I gave EDI free will, so how can the Starchild say that the two can’t cooperate? Although, this is a wonky AI we’re talking about, so maybe that’s their hard-coded logic and they’re sticking to it, no matter the truths presented to them.

Since my Shep would never destroy all the Geth and other Synthetics (Destroy) after freeing them of their shackles, and she would never sacrifice individual free will (Synthesize), then my only “palatable” solution to end the Reaper threat would be for her to Control them to gain their support. But here’s what actually happened: I went through all the conversation trees with the Starchild, and went to see if I could possibly save the game beforehand so that I could experience all the endings, only to find no save options were available. When I came back, I accidentally pulled the trigger on the Starchild, who then responded “So be it.” and disappeared. “So be what?” I wondered, and next thing I knew, we had lost to the Reapers.

Talk about a bummer of an ending, as I wasn’t even aware I had made my decision.

Cue the credits and final cutscene with Grandpa. I reloaded the last save, but wouldn’t you know it’s from 30 minutes earlier, where you just got hit by Harbinger and are slow-mo to the light and then slow-mo through the Citadel corridor, and then the lengthy conversation with the Illusive Man, and finally the interminable conversation with the Starchild. I said “Screw that” and just went to YouTube to watch the other options.

So yes, I’m also dissatisfied with the ending options, as none of them fully reflect my character’s personal history. But what if the reality of the situation is even deeper, and in fact is a huge F-U from the developers to the players? I’m talking about the very real possibility that the ending was simply a dream because Shepard had finally succumbed to Reaper indoctrination. Don’t believe me? Watch this: Shepard Indoctrinated? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZOyeFvnhiI) If this is the truth of the situation, then the developers are truly flipping us the finger as players because even these final lousy choices never even had a shot of stopping the Reapers.

Regardless, the ending(s) are now all we have to look forward to in completing this game series. So my final score of the overall game with all DLCs is 9.7, but the actual ending for me is a 2. Since the ending is about an hour out of the 50-hour game, the final average is 9.5 out of 10. An amazing experience, but boy did Bioware screw the pooch at the end.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 05, 2013, 09:51:57 AM
For $0.99 during the Summer Steam Sale, I figured it was worth a shot to try Twin Sector (http://www.gamespot.com/twin-sector/). And as a low-priced budget game, I definitely feel the value is there. This is not a AAA title, and it owes a significant debt to Portal in the scope of its design, but it does offer plenty of challenges for 8-10 hours.

You awake in a sterile location, and a computer talks to you while you learn to wield unique physical powers. Sounds like Portal, eh? Well, not quite. In this case, your character (who looks like April Ryan of The Longest Journey) has awoken from cryo-sleep, pulled out by the computer AI O.S.C.A.R., whose monotone voice guides you through the discovery of your two gloves as you save the facility. In this case, you can either push or pull objects, including yourself. So you could pull a canister toward you, or even pull yourself across distance; likewise, you can push those objects, or even push yourself off the floor or a wall.

Challenges gradually increase in difficulty, forcing you to learn how to “leap” distances, get around rocket launchers, avoid floating mines and lasers, and manipulate all sorts of objects to move forward, including in zero gravity. The game is sometimes perplexing and results in death quite often, but you can usually figure out at least what you’re supposed to be doing. I never had to consult a play-through guide for the next step.

Level and art design are simplistic and you’ll see the same corridors, glass windows, elevator shafts, etc. throughout the game. But it gets the job done. Likewise, the cutscenes and exposition are basic and somewhat bland, but you learn where you are and what you’re supposed to be doing. There are several twists in the game that are incorporated nicely into the story.

As a $40 game, I couldn’t recommend this. But with Steam Sales and other options, you should be able to get Twin Sector (which only in the last cutscene explains its title) for $5-10, where it’s definitely worth it if you’re looking for something to stump your brain for a few nights. 7.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 12, 2013, 10:28:59 AM
I suppose I must be a stick in the mud, because I didn’t find Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box (http://www.gamespot.com/burnout-paradise-the-ultimate-box/platform/pc/) as fun as other critics and reviewers. Sure, the racing action is superb and really gives you a feeling of speed and power as you whiz through an open-world city full of streets and mountain passes. But the story itself was missing, and for me, that’s what broke the game.

Basically, you’re plopped in the middle of Paradise City (and I hope you like Guns ‘n Roses, because you will hear A LOT of them every time you start the game), which is a mix of downtown, suburb and mountain roads. And then it’s up to you how to play, as no one tells you where to go or what events to take on. That kind of freedom can be liberating, but in my case, I wanted *some* direction. Otherwise, you drive around until you encounter an event icon, where you can start a race – mostly timed trials, but some that also added a checkpoint system.

And the racing is great – I took off on a souped-up motorcycle and went zipping around corners at high speed, taking shortcuts, jumping off ramps, etc. That part is really fun. And apparently there are other game-types that I didn’t really explore in my short play-through. Because I got a bit annoyed at having to drive around aimlessly, searching for the next race option.

So if you like open-world driving options, and a great feeling of speed, you’ll probably like Burnout Paradise. But for anyone who also likes a bit of story with their game, you may find it a bit mediocre. 7.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 19, 2013, 09:03:19 AM
It’s a testament to Just Cause 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/just-cause-2/platform/pc/)’s design that after 40 hours, I was still interested in playing the open-world game, and had only completed maybe a third of the game. You see, Just Cause 2 gets the concept right – it provides enough flexibility to design your own adventure, but also has some static missions and goals to provide a bit of framework when you desired to move forward in the over-arching storyline.

You are the Scorpion, and have been sent to the Southeast Asian island of Panau (an analogue to North Korea, with its young dictator who has just taken over from his father). Your mission is to find out why one of the Agency’s (CIA??) assets has stopped responding – has he gone rogue? Was he captured? Your goal is to find him and cause massive amounts of financial and psychological damage along the way. You do this by collecting various health and shield power-ups, and by destroying anything associated with the Panauan hierarchy: fuel tanks, statues, pipelines, armaments, water towers, propaganda wagons, etc. Each village or city you come to, if you can complete 100% of the collection and destruction options, you’ll gain additional revenue and build up your “Chaos” meter – which is used to determine whether you’re ready to tackle the main storyline missions. But with every bit of Chaos, the Panauan military will come after you strong, air-dropping more troops, shooting missiles, and sending attack copters, boats and jeeps after you.

Along the way, you also can assist three factions operating within Panau, each which has their own desires on how the country should be run. Each group will require you to pull off various tasks, from assassination to break-ins to destruction to acting as bodyguard. The more faction missions you complete, the more the world opens up to you and the more “fun” races you can participate in. Races include aerial (plane or helicopter), road, and sky-diving events, and you can replay them to increase your best times. Some require upgraded vehicles to complete.

The key component, and perhaps what makes Just Cause 2 so fun, is that you wield a grappling hook. You can use this to pull yourself to objects (like walls or vehicles), or attach two items together (a statue to a car, or a guard to a building). Add to this your handy parachute, and you can start flying. It’s almost like you’re a superhero, but without the worry of saving people. In a way, with its emphasis on destruction, I found the game not unlike Red Faction Guerrilla (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1863.msg12378#msg12378), Prototype (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1914.msg12501#msg12501) or The Saboteur (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1808.msg12222#msg12222).

More than 100 unique vehicles – both aerial and land – are available to drive, and offer realistic physics and crash deformations. For example some vehicles are under-powered and can barely make it up hills or steep inclines, whereas others are extremely fast, but require finesse when handling. I found the planes to be extremely difficult to fly, requiring tiny movements to keep from over-correcting, whereas helicopters offered much more stability and comparable speeds. I always used helicopters in aerial races, and except for one, was able to complete them all with my upgraded Rowlinson copter.

If you’re in a bind, you can always call your black market source to help you out: he can upgrade various weapons and sell you new ones, provide a vehicle (with upgrades) to escape, or even extract you and air-drop you over a previously visited location. It’s a handy way of providing movement opportunities nearly everywhere on the map.

The story is effective, but straight-forward; it could have used a twist or two to keep you guessing. It also could have turned the tables on the three factions or utilized their differences better toward the end-game; i.e. get them to go after each other.

Another gripe (other than how difficult planes were to fly) was that sometimes your GPS coordinates would be super-imposed on the center of the screen, depending on the angle of where the destination lay. When this happened, it actually interfered with your view, making driving more difficult than it needed to be.

My final gripe that continued to upset me to no end, was how quickly the “heat” would rise against you, for no apparent reason. Say you put a timed detonator on an object and NO ONE is around to see you do it. You then go off 150 yards, hide inside a building where NO ONE can see you, and you detonate the bomb. IMMEDIATELY, troops will start to flank your position and attack you. This bit of the game’s AI was just too much to accept, so you just have to roll with it.

But hey, at 80 hours of game time, I only completed 75 percent of the game’s overall goodness, and it was with regret that I decided to uninstall and move on to the next game opportunity. Plenty of fun and plenty of gameplay to occupy your time. 8.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 22, 2013, 07:57:39 AM
There’s some interesting gameplay in the indie first-person puzzler Pulse Shift (http://www.indiedb.com/games/pulse-shift), but not for me and my butter-fingers. Pulse Shift is somewhat similar to Portal, but you can actually move the floor you’re standing on 90 degrees in either direction to access new areas. For example, you may shift the floor, and what was a wall now becomes the floor.

Toss in some finesse-required jumping puzzles, and I’ll take a pass on this one. However, I bring it up, because I think the concept is really cool, and for people into these kinds of puzzlers, they’ll find something to challenge their cranium. 7.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 26, 2013, 06:32:03 AM
Although a little dated now, the original American McGee’s Alice (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2034.msg12957#msg12957) was an inventive take on the Alice in Wonderland story, with a darker imagining of what may have happened behind the looking glass. The game also started McGee’s obsession with twisted fairy tales, a la American McGee’s Grimm and American McGee’s Oz (canceled in 2004, but brought back just recently on Kickstarter (and subsequently cancelled) as OZombies). Definitely, Alice was the highlight of the game designer’s work, so the sequel Alice: Madness Returns (http://www.gamespot.com/alice-madness-returns/platform/pc/) seemed like a sure thing.

Alice is 10 years older than the first game, and has never gotten over what happened to her and her family. The game begins in late 18th century London – decrepit, color-less and surprisingly sinister, where Alice is homeless and considered delusional. But when she is magically sucked back into Wonderland, things seem to have changed yet again. Our first step in Wonderland, the colors are glorious and saturated with life. But then Wonderland starts showing a different side – a ruined, maggot-filled underbelly – and Alice herself may be responsible.

The settings throughout the game are creative and oftentimes jaw-dropping. Meeting the Mad Hatter, you are surrounded by mechanical clockwork apparatus. The Mock Turtle is found in the ocean, and you’ll have to go down deep to solve the mystery of what’s ruining Wonderland. The Queen of Hearts’ domain is filled with castles – both in the air and on the ground – while the Dollmaker’s dollhouses are creepy indeed. Perhaps the highlight are the Asian-themed levels, reflecting American McGee’s new home in China.

In between chapters, you’ll experience some amazingly graphic cut-scenes in a style of 3D paper cut-outs, as well as see Alice return to “present-day” London. Is she really psychotic and just imagining all of this, or is she really visiting an actual place?

Gameplay primarily consists of platforming and fighting, although it is interspersed with various mini-games, collectibles (including memories for more of the story, teeth to upgrade your weapons, and roses to augment your health), guessing games, slides, 2D side-scrollers, pinball-type levels, and even tiny rooms that only shrunken Alice can enter. The game certainly builds upon the first Alice, which was primarily just a third-person shooter. I actually had glimpses of Psychonauts (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2234.msg13832#msg13832) in AMR’s design and game elements – not a bad comparison, to be sure. (And there’s even an Easter egg featuring that game’s protagonist Raz!)

Within the disturbing settings, your foes are also creepy, challenging and require a diversity of weapons and techniques to take down. My least favorite were the porcelain doll babies with scissors for hands. Yeah, I know! And everything is reflective of Wonderland’s destruction. Fortunately, you have a variety of weapons to aid you with both up-close and far-off kills: a knife, mallet, pepper grinder, teapot cannon, umbrella and timebomb.

However, I did experience a number of crashes and bugs throughout my play that left a poor taste in my mouth. Most serious was the “umbrella bug”, which a vast number of players have experienced, so that you cannot equip the umbrella to block incoming missiles. This requires a change to the INI file to fix. I also got some reproducible crashes upon entering certain bonus areas that forced me to skip them altogether. You often get caught on the scenery, or a crack, or a wall, and you can’t get free. The Unreal Engine 3 continues to have “pop-in” textures when you enter new areas.

But man-oh-man, what a crazy ride! The single-player game is about 20 hours in length, and features a great story, amazing destinations, and real gameplay challenges that will have you tearing your hair out until you get past an area. If you can handle the platforming, you’ll appreciate this one. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 29, 2013, 07:04:03 AM
I wanted to like Bully: Scholarship Edition (http://www.gamespot.com/bully-scholarship-edition/), as Rockstar puts out some great games, but it hasn’t aged well. The muddy graphics, blasé colors and impossible key mapping made it too much of a drag. I gave it 3-4 hours, and I can certainly see that the game would have some fun elements for some people, but not for me. Even as an open-world game, it seemed to strain and not really get to the point. Toss in its other faults, and I’d rather move on to something more engaging. 7.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 02, 2013, 10:21:03 AM
Anna: Extended Edition (http://www.gamespot.com/anna-extended-edition/platform/pc/) is a first-person horror adventure game set in an Italian mountain cabin. Similar to Amnesia (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1862.msg12377#msg12377) or Penumbra (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-fpp/186-penumbra-overture-black-plague), you can manipulate some objects like doors and drawers, but most objects cannot be moved, making this a poor substitute for those games, even though this is an “indie” effort.

The game does have some legitimate jump-scares, but its creepiest aspect are the wooden mannequins that seem to move about on their own accord. The only thing worse than mannequins are porcelain dolls and clowns!

The story is a bit disheveled, and it’s difficult to read many of the required books you find because their font is too small.  Fortunately, your notebook generally encapsulates your next objectives. However, the adventure component of the game features too many obscure items and tasks – I had to view a YouTube walk-thru some 7-8 times for a 5-6 hour game. Additionally, you don’t get the complete ending unless you’ve solved every riddle, which I failed to do.

So, it does succeed in scaring you and provoking feelings of dread, but the general gameplay is slightly lacking for a horror game. 7.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 05, 2013, 06:07:20 AM
If Duke Nukem Forever (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1796.msg12208#msg12208) was criticized for being too mired in the past, then Rise of the Triad (http://www.gamespot.com/rise-of-the-triad/) should get tried for conspiracy, hung and quartered, and then set on fire with a nuclear bomb. This type of gameplay is somehow WORSE than “old-school” because it introduces modern graphics into an anachronistic gameplay model but without the fun. At least Duke had some amusing elements to keep you interested in playing.

I tried the first two levels and was utterly disappointed and uninstalled. Get killed and you have to start the level all over again – yep, no quick-saves or mid-level auto-saves. You also can only re-map a few of your keys, another big no-no in my book. This is 2013 people!! And this is a game for the PC!! Give us what we want!!

Graphically, the game looks sharp, and you can tweak it to your heart’s content. But it’s hard to get past the backwards gameplay nods, like collecting huge floating coins, when the AI is so utterly brain-dead as to merely charge you straight-on.

I can’t recommend this for anyone, not even former fans of ROTT, or people who love that “old-school” gameplay model. The negatives just outweigh what little pleasure you might get from the nostalgia of that era of FPS. 5.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 09, 2013, 06:28:58 AM
After collecting a hidden key, I heard a wolf’s growl just outside the hut. I started running madly through the dark landscape, through trees and grasses, all the while hearing a growl just over my shoulder; the sharp chords of the violin from the background music grew ever louder, raising the hair on my arms and the back of my neck. I kept running and finally reached the stone bridge that spanned a deep chasm; the music died down briefly, as I thought I had lost the wolf – then it spied me again in the moonlight and the music flared back up. I took off across the bridge, hoping against hope that I didn’t run into the cultist priest who had knocked me out earlier. However, no sooner did I give the wolf the slip, then I spied the priest’s flaming torch coming up the path. I quickly huddled behind the nearest thick bush I could find, holding my breath as the flames came ever nearer. Again the discordant music in the background raised my hackles. I caught myself holding my breath so that the priest wouldn’t hear me.

Those kinds of moments are what make Eleusis (http://www.eleusisgame.com) excel as another first-person adventure game, this time set in a Greek village. The game starts with a rockslide that has disabled your car, requiring you to seek assistance in the dark. Unfortunately, you stumble upon a sinister plot instead.

The game takes place at night, but the Unreal engine is put to good use regarding lighting and shadows. Textures look sharp and appealing, water appears realistic, and foliage feels convincing as you move through it. The landscape is large, and I initially got lost several times and had no idea how to proceed. You do receive a map, but about halfway through the game, when you’ve already visited all the areas surrounding the Greek village.

The adventure portion of the game is fairly straightforward, although I did use a walkthrough (http://www.gameboomers.com/wtcheats/pcEe/Eleusis.htm) several times. But the first-person perspective, especially with the threats mentioned above in version 1.2, make the game’s horror atmosphere much more effective. Unlike some games that are claustrophobic by being located inside caverns and tunnels, Eleusis manages to instill fear of things that might find you outdoors. Fortunately, your foes can’t see you behind thick brush.

Perhaps not as scary as Amnesia or Penumbra, but definitely a worthy companion to those games. If you liked them, and you can get through the first hour of getting lost, you’ll have a horrific experience. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 12, 2013, 06:52:00 AM
After some hefty open-world games, I just wanted to play a simple, decent FPS. And Sin Episodes: Emergence (http://www.gamespot.com/sin-episodes-emergence/) certainly met those conditions. Previously (and hilariously) reviewed by Silver Sorrow (http://foxhole.starfoxweb.com/reviews/review-fpp/86-sin-episodes-emergence), Emergence was supposed to be the first of a planned set of 9 episodes set in the Sin universe – a world filled with interactivity and lots of great one-liners from protagonist John Blade. Unfortunately, the poor schmucks at Ritual Entertainment didn’t make enough bankroll on this episode to allow them to remain open as an independent studio, so they had to sell out (literally) to MumboJumbo Games, which make casual PopCap-style games for old people and computer newbies.

Sheesh, from hard-core shooter Sin to mindless puzzler Luxor…. What a fall.

Anyway, I can see where their money went: making really realistic boobs for main villain Elexis Sinclair. You’re (again, literally) slapped in the face with boobs at the start of the game, and then Elexis stars in a soft-porn wet-dream that shows off her shimmy. So rather than make AI that can attack effectively, or a well-written screenplay, or likeable side characters, the studio decided to focus on boobs. They also made a lot of stupid telephone commercials, which was supposed to be part of the game’s “interactivity” – like punching in a four-digit number is interactive.

The AI is absolutely worthless, although some of the mutants are pretty challenging. And then you have a huge monstrosity that takes every bit of ammo you’ve earned near the middle. So, I guess it all evens out.

Speaking of side characters, you are stuck with rookie Jessica Cannon, who is extremely unlikeable as a character, let alone as a partner. Impetuous with a disregard for your safety or “the rules”, she dumps you in the middle of a warzone and lets you fight it out over some anger management issues she has. Interestingly, I recognized her voice, and learned that it’s the same voice-actor who also did Cate Archer in No One Lives Forever 2, and also Zoey from Left for Dead!!

One thing I was extremely impressed about Emergence was the efficiency of the level design. You constantly loop around and then realize you’re on the other side of where you started 10-15 minutes ago. That’s good design.

So, a fairly mindless shooter with some decent level design. Like a good HL2 mod. And boobs. Lots and lots of boobs. The boobs that killed Ritual, in fact. 7.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 16, 2013, 06:38:36 AM
Despite being weary of Gears of War clones (third-person co-op shooter relying on cover tactics), I found myself intrigued by the world and background of Inversion (http://www.gamespot.com/inversion/platform/pc/). It appears that you are on Earth, and that a mysterious race of huge GOW-size human savages have attacked and devastated the planet using mysterious gravity-defying powers. But who are these invaders? Where did they come from? And what are they looking for deep in the earth?

You and your police partner are at the heart of the initial invasion, but are captured and taken to a camp to work some mines. A month in captivity, after getting a taste of the gravity-defying powers available from these invaders, you craft a plan to escape and make your way back to the city to find your missing daughter. The search leads to other survivors who are carrying on a guerilla campaign against the invaders.

Inversion’s main focus is to introduce the use of gravity to the tired 3PS format. Initially, you only have a few slots and limited power, so you can blast a single foe or a few objects, and then launch them into the air. But about halfway through, your powers increase, so that you can lift cars and toss them with ease at bunkers and bosses. It’s a bit like a super-powered Gravity Gun from Half-Life 2, or perhaps more like the biotic skills of Mass Effect. Then  you’ll have the gravity wells that actually change the flow of gravity for certain areas; e.g. you flip from the ground to a wall, which now becomes your “floor”. This Prey-like element is especially unique when you have foes shooting at you from their own gravity-reversed zones, so you might be shooting at someone standing sideways on a building, or even upside-down! You’ll also have some gravity-free zones where you “fly” through the air, much like the zero-grav parts of Dead Space; I’d say I’ve never spent so much time in zero-grav in any game.

Graphically, levels are nicely designed and have deformation characteristics; walls and pillars can be destroyed if you stand behind them too long for cover. And when your gravity is flipped, it’s interesting to walk through buildings from a new perspective.

You have guns in this game, and you use them to shoot things. And the gravity “gun” you possess is interesting, but I felt it was underutilized unless you had hordes of foes coming your way. But it’s especially useful against the boss creatures because you can toss things at them to damage them more severely than with simple gun fire.

The story is a bit fragmented. We do learn where the invaders came from, but not really what the whole thing is about. My initial thought that perhaps they were from the future was incorrect, but I suppose you could consider the actual truth a variation on that theme. About 2/3rds into the game, we get a huge reveal, but there’s no real exposition on what the truth of the matter is.

SPOILER: The fifth comment down (http://www.gamespot.com/inversion/forum/whats-the-stupid-plot-twist-then-29193864/) in this SPOILER topic seems to me to be the most interesting and accurate explanation for the game, but the information is very covert in the game and not really explained. Perhaps one of the few times I could have used an exposition dump from the game designers.

Regardless, your only concern is to try and find your daughter. Your buddy is along for the ride, and generally proves helpful; only a couple of times was I cursing him for dying a distance away from me.

And I did curse … a lot. I played a step up from normal, but not quite their version of nightmare difficulty. And it was hard. I had to go through some areas multiple times. And the fight just before the final boss took me over three hours to finally make it through after some 50, 60, 70 attempts? It was a bunch, and I was pretty surprised when I finally made it through.

In short, the game is better than the reviews would lead you to expect. It does offer a unique use of gravity as both a weapon and means of movement. However, it is difficult in a good number of situations, and the story is never fleshed out with sufficient explanation. Regardless, I’ll give it a 7.6 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 19, 2013, 06:36:25 AM
I got Sacred 2 Gold (http://www.gamespot.com/sacred-2-gold-edition/) as part of a Deep Silver Humble Bundle Package (also with Saints Row 2 and 3, Risen 2, and Dead Island), so I was ambivalent about it. I had played the original Sacred some years back and found it merely okay. The new game was accessible through Steam, so there’s no skin off my back regardless.

When first starting the game, you must decide which of 6 or 7 character types you want to play, and then you can modify some of the hair and skin colors, but you can’t change sexes. It’s extremely confusing and there’s no tutorial to help you out – you just have to wing it. I also checked to see whether I could change the key mapping, but it has its own defaults. So I made some decisions and hit “go.”

A short cut-scene later, I land on a beach. My character has a bow in her hand (I think I chose a dryad or something) and some women start attacking her. I killed them and started to move around. WHOA!! My avatar takes like 1 ½ steps for each click I make, so I can’t get right next to an object unless I get really lucky. I try to get through a closed doorway, and it takes 3 minutes to get my character in an acceptable position.

Further, I have to use a left and right key to move the screen around, rather than my mouse controlling the action. That is further compounded by having really crappy camera positioning. I can accept that the game is 3rd-person, but I prefer it over my shoulder so I can see more of the view around me. Sacred 2 will only let you move the camera from perhaps 50 feet away to maybe 20 feet away, and never positions it at an angle I’m comfortable with.

The on-screen HUD is cluttered and clumsy, although it will allow you to reach every menu from there. I can see why they took the screen movement from the mouse, as it needs to be stationary to reach all those buttons.

I’ve got many more games to play that both interest me more, and are more flexible to my play-style. Since I paid less than a buck for it, I’m not too upset, but if you’re REALLY into micro-management and no flexibility in your options, you might find something interesting in Sacred 2. But for me it’s a 6.0 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 23, 2013, 06:45:02 AM
With the release of Grand Theft Auto V, as well as the recent sad news of a young boy accidentally killing his grandmother after supposedly playing a GTA game, I thought it was high time to see what all the fuss was about. I’ve never played any of the previous GTAs as both Silver Sorrow and Yahtzee warned me away. But I’ve played quite a few open-world games now, including obvious GTA clone Saints Row, so when the Steam Summer Sale offered the last game and its DLC for $5, I couldn’t resist. Darn you Gabe Newell!!  :smoking:

Grand Theft Auto IV (http://www.gamespot.com/grand-theft-auto-iv/platform/pc/) offers an engaging and surprisingly likeable main character in Nico Bellic – he obviously does bad things, but only because he wants to get paid and because he doesn’t know any other trade. Not quite a hero, yet definitely not an anti-hero, Nico is basically a normal guy and someone you might actually want to drink a beer with. His past as a soldier in the recent Serbian conflict comes into play, teasing his search for a past associate who did him wrong. And all his interactions with NPCs feel authentic, as he mostly serves a placating role to the manic energy that surrounds him – like his cousin Roman and their associate Brucie.

A recent GTA 5 review on The Escapist (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/reviews/10598-Grand-Theft-Auto-5-Review-People-Suck) docked a perfect score because the reviewer didn’t find himself identifying with the game’s three new protagonists due to their overly evil nature. I can understand – no matter how amazingly detailed a world is, and the number of things you can do, if I just don’t connect with the avatar I’m playing, then it’s not fun – it’s more like work. Nico definitely did bad things, but he had higher aspirations, noted by his conversations with Kate McReary, and his desire to move on from his criminal lifestyle.

Graphically, GTA 4 is a mixed bag. The deformation crash effects on vehicles are great, but as a console port, I can’t increase textures to a “high” setting. This makes characters look more washed out instead of sharp. And although the wave effects in the water are nice, the land textures continued to pop in and out randomly. The game also occasional glitches where your character can’t get around an object or move quickly enough in one direction.

My biggest gripe about the game is that there are no mid-level saves, requiring  you to do many needless actions over and over again. For example, your mission may be to drive all the way across town to a certain location and wait for your mark, which prompts a cut-scene. Then your mark takes off in his car, so you follow him to a new location. A cut-scene shows what happens as he gets out of the vehicle. Then you have to go into the location and take the mark and his allies out. If you mess up at any point, you have to start the WHOLE process all over again, starting from where you first received the mission. I like that you can immediately replay failed missions, but think the developers should have at least placed an auto-save in between the cut-scenes. They may have intended for missions to have consequences to force a replay, but it just feels like punishment rather than fun.

Speaking of, GTA 4 to me wasn’t as fun as Saints Row 2 to play, but the story was fairly engaging, with so many characters coming in and out of the protagonist’s sphere. This also included girlfriends, which was an interesting touch I haven’t seen in other open-world games I’ve played. The girlfriends can bestow certain abilities, like lowering police “heat” or healing you when your health is ebbing. Unfortunately, just like in real life, you have to take them on dates and keep them happy to maintain your relationship.  ::)

You also have to “date” your other friends, which again is a pain. I was constantly getting messages or phone calls in the midst of driving manically in a cop chase, or engaged in a shoot-out, and if I didn’t pick up the phone and answer, I got down-voted by my so-called friends. But when you do feel the urge, you can go shoot pool, play darts, bowl, go to a cabaret or comedy club, or even visit a strip club (and some of your girlfriends like these activities too).

Driving is mostly fun, but piloting a helicopter was harder than it needed to be. And you can steal any vehicle, oftentimes with occupants still inside, but watch out if you get spotted by the police because you’ll then have to escape their range. The “heat” still wasn’t as bad as other recent games like Just Cause 2, where it kept elevating and you could generally never escape until you died.

Tying into recent debate due to the 8-year-old who shot and killed his grandmother with a loaded gun after supposedly just playing this game, I can state the following:
a) contrary to news reports, this game does not reward points for completing kills of innocents – maybe earlier GTAs did so, but not GTA 4. It counts the number of dead, but there’s no “reward” for reaching certain levels.
b) no one under 18 should legally be playing this game, but I’d say no one under 12 should experience it due to extremely rough language, sexuality (no nudity, but you hear sex acts), and violence.
c) GTA 4 is not a gun-simulator, as it’s 3rd-person and gives no true perspective of how to aim and shoot a gun.

Regardless, it’s a sad case where a child thought he was playing with a toy gun that he’d found in his house, and when he played with the gun on the TV game, he didn’t know the real-world consequences. Suffice it to say, ALL firearms should be locked away from anyone who isn’t mature enough to handle them (children and adults), and parents and guardians need to oversee their children’s activities, whether watching movies, playing video games, listening to music, or even going to another person’s house. You wouldn’t let a kid watch porn – why would you let them play a violent game like GTA 4? Until we get these things under control, we’re going to continue to see children and mentally incompetent people killing others.

GTA 4 is definitely a must-play, but the PC version suffers from lack of hi-res textures and lack of mid-mission saves. Still, you’ll get 40+ hours of play time, and can probably find this game for a steal. 8.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 26, 2013, 06:34:42 AM
The concept behind action RPG Of Orcs and Men (http://www.gamespot.com/of-orcs-and-men/platform/pc/) is interesting enough: a revenge tale told from the perspective of an orc fighter, who is paired with an even more hated goblin thief. You’re tasked with a suicide mission to cross through the human’s enemy territory, free a mage, and assassinate the human emperor to end the oppression of the “greenskins”.

The orc is a brute of a fighter, and even goes berserk when his health gets too low. But he can attack and take off tons of hit points from opponents. The goblin thief is able to blend into the shadows and take out foes unaware, helping to whittle away any group encounters. And you can switch among them at any time. You’re also able to “stack” actions in place, so that you might do a quick attack, a power attack, raise your partner’s health, and more – it’s not quite as fun as just mashing buttons, but is probably more strategic.

Graphically, the textures are a hyper-saturated color, almost cel-shaded in intensity. It’s a very pretty game, and character models are nicely detailed – your orc character feels and looks like the Hulk. But all this fidelity came at a cost as I continued to get frame-rate slowdowns, even at 1280x1024 resolution. Additionally, the lip-synching didn’t match the sound, which was disconcerting.

Most disappointing, however, was the general gameplay elements. From the inability to remap keys to your character taking up too much screen space to the linearity of your route to the f-bombs tossed out in every cut-scene, it just didn’t feel right. I’m sure there’s a great story underlying this game, but the gameplay issues killed any fun I might have gotten out of it. 6.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 30, 2013, 06:36:51 AM
As the first DLC for GTA 4, The Lost and Damned (http://www.gamespot.com/grand-theft-auto-iv-the-lost-and-damned/platform/pc/) succeeds in showing us a different view of Liberty City, from the perspective of a biker gang. Interestingly, the gang is referenced several times from the original game – one of the bikers is dating the mobster’s daughter, while two other times you join Niko in a failed drug-bust, as well as at the museum shoot-out.

But continuing the arc of a flawed protagonist, your character Jimmy is trying to hold the gang together when your charismatic leader returns from being in rehab/lock-up. Immediately, your old “chapter president” goes on a rampage, so all the work you’ve done in holding your group together in his absence are undone nearly overnight by someone who appears to be insane. It’s a good way of introducing conflict and pathos into the game. Your character wants the best for the gang, but the gang may have moved on from what you’ve done.

The best thing about L&D is that they finally implemented mid-mission saves, so that when you die, you start from that most recent point. That was one of the most maddening things about playing GTA 4. You’ll still die quite a bit, but it’s not quite as frustrating. The other thing they’ve done is to make riding motorcycles more stable, at least if you use one of the gang’s choppers, which appear to have wider rear wheels. Whatever, it is slightly easier to get around on a hog now.

Besides the story missions, you also can engage in bike races and gang turf wars. And you can call on some of your buddies to come help you out, either as muscle in a fight, or to provide bikes and weapons. Oh, and did I mention how funny Republican Space Rangers is on the TV? SOOOOOOO funny!

I should also mention to those of you who are homophobic, that they do show full frontal nudity of a male character – the first time I’ve ever seen that in a game. It’s a little weird, yes, but only because they don’t reciprocate with nude female characters like strippers.

So, a pretty decent follow-up to the main campaign, at 11+ hours playtime. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 03, 2013, 07:11:23 AM
Opening with a scene from the most recent James Bond movie Skyfall, the game 007 Legends (http://www.gamespot.com/007-legends/platform/pc/) returns Bond (shown as the current Bond played by Daniel Craig) to key moments of his past 50 years. Notably, you’ll experience snippets of gameplay from Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, License to Kill, Die Another Day, and Moonraker, as well as a shoe-horned portion of Skyfall. The idea is interesting – to show these past scenes from Bond’s life – but nothing provides continuity within the story. In other words, out of 25 Bond movies, what ties these random events and locations together?

And that’s the challenge of Legends – that essentially you’re just playing scraps of a real game, from some of what easily are the worst Bond moments. The game includes character models from these movies, such as Auric Goldfinger, Pussy Galore, Gustav Graves, and even Jaws – but then it removes key characters, such as Halle Berry as Jinx in Die Another Day, replaced by a white character. I can understand not getting Halle Berry or her likeness, but surely you could at least make the character black to provide some continuity?

The game does minimize the campiness and go for a more realistic tone – i.e. Goldfinger has a cell-phone now, and Moonraker is creating a space-tourism program – but if that’s the case, why does Pussy Galore still have a hairdo straight out of the 1960’s? Your own cell phone acts as a “utility belt”, taking photos, lifting evidence like fingerprints, and analyzing mechanical contraptions, while your watch gives you a reading of enemy soldiers in the area. Both of these are utilized well within the gameplay.

In a callback to James Bond: Nightfire, the game is played from first-person. This is helpful for targeting your foes, but challenging when you must sneak through areas. Some points required you to remain hidden from foes, and these were challenging – the best was a scenario inside the ice-dome of Die Another Day, where you leap in and out of foliage, behind rocks, and even in a stream to evade troops and cameras. I found this section pretty exhilarating and challenging. You receive an on-screen cue when you’ve been spotted, and how troops are reacting, so that if you can get behind cover quick enough, you might lose their interest. But when the alarm goes off, troops will start spamming and generally never stop. In one instance, I saw three guys materialize right in front of me. Really??? Come on – at least make them come out of a doorway….

Graphically, the game feels last-gen. The character models are detailed enough, but the settings appear sterile without much detail. Almost all NPCs are recycled, with even the same clothes. In Moonraker, the game at least makes the allusion that everyone is a clone and that’s why they all look the same. Besides the shooting sections, you may also need to do some sort of vehicle section: skiing downhill through crowded trees in Secret Service, driving a truck while under RPG-fire in License to Kill, hoping your Aston Martin doesn’t crash into a snowbank in Die Another Day – but these all feel sloppy, with no control.

Ironically, Moonraker – considered one of Bond’s worst, campiest movies – is the best section of Legends and the setting really lends itself to a video game. Sneaking into the spaceport is challenging, rushing to avoid incineration from several rockets, the shoot-out to gain access to a space shuttle, stopping a chemical attack against earth, and zero-gravity firefights – it all comes together in a great conclusion to the game (other than the Skyfall section, which is overly challenging and definitely not fun). So there are beacons of hope within the game.

The sound is okay, and Judi Densch shares her voice (even if the Daniel Craig impersonator isn’t quite up to snuff), but the music is definitely evocative of Bond, including the Goldfinger theme and a derivation of it as the background.

But the nail in this game’s coffin has to be the overly abused quick-time fight sequences. These appear out of nowhere, and even though you can remap your keys, the QTE sequences cannot be changed, so you’ll have to move your hands to the middle of the keyboard. Since I play in the dark to get the full experience, I would have to switch my light on quickly, move my hands to the T, G, U, H keys and hope I got there in time. And then the game prompts you on exactly which keys to hit. Sometimes, you must hit the F and J keys to block. There was absolutely no strategy involved – just be a monkey and do what the screen tells you. And then you have to do this at least 3 to 4 times in each scenario. It’s just demeaning and stupid. Let me have a shoot-out instead, where I at least get to engage my brain in killing the bad guy.

Ultimately, the game deserves a slightly better score than is reflected in most reviews, but by all accounts it is poor fan service and feels rushed to take advantage of Skyfall’s release. It’s not unplayable and has some good sections, but my honest recommendation is to play the No One Lives Forever games – both feel like better Bond games than this one. 7.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 07, 2013, 06:28:01 AM
Finishing my Grand Theft Auto IV reviews up, The Ballad of Gay Tony (http://www.gamespot.com/grand-theft-auto-iv-the-ballad-of-gay-tony/) continues the tale of a faulted protagonist attempting to pull his way out of a negative life. In this episode, we follow Luis, who went to jail for a 2-year stint for getting caught selling drugs on his Harlem street corner. But he’s lifted himself up from that life and is now (relatively) legit working for Tony Prince, a club owner who also happens to be gay. Unfortunately, the club business is a hard business, and Luis finds himself having to walk that fine line between his old neighborhood friends and family, and his new uptown connections.

As a Hispanic, Luis already faces discrimination, but working for a gay man?! That’s like adding fuel to the fire. Nearly every conversation with NPCs derides homosexuals, and uses derogatory language about Luis’ Dominican heritage. It was actually a little hard to stomach, in a game that already takes everything to extremes. I guess I’m just more culturally sensitive than most people, having spent time with diverse people from across the globe.

But the kicker was this: after finishing some 8 or 9 story missions, I came across one that caused me to get extremely upset – a helicopter mission. Now, in playing games like Just Cause 2 and Saints Row 2 & 3, I’ve had to pilot helicopters around the city. I have NEVER had such a hard time in flying copters as in GTA 4, and especially this mission. Every single time I got into a heli, it would start shimmying around, would aim at the ground/water and wouldn’t pull up, would waver to the side and slam into a building. Listen, I understand that this is a console port and that probably flying is very easy with a gamepad. But these other three games were also ports, and they got heli flying right, so why can’t Rockstar?

At any rate, I just couldn’t handle it after spending HOURS trying to finish this single stupid mission, only to keep crashing nonstop. I changed key mappings, I stopped using the mouse – everything I read about online as a possible “cure” other than getting a gamepad. And I figured, you know what, I’ve gotten my money’s worth, and I’ve got other games to play for fun, as opposed to frustration. Walkthroughs indicate further heli flights in future missions, so it’s not really worth pulling my hair out again. So I quit then and there.

My final score takes into account that I quit just before the halfway point, but that I did like where this storyline was going. I appreciate how Luis was really trying to make some changes in his life, but kept getting pulled back into the drug and crime lifestyle despite his best efforts. 8.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 10, 2013, 06:32:51 AM
Disappointing – that’s the best word to describe my experience with Need for Speed: Most Wanted (http://www.gamespot.com/need-for-speed-most-wanted-a-criterion-game/platform/pc/) – the 19th game in the NFS series. Like Burnout Paradise (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2291.0), Most Wanted suffers from a dearth of story-telling, compared to previous NFS games.

You are tossed into a city setting with only a note: to join the 10 “Most Wanted”, you’ll have to race and destroy objects to prove how bad you really are. But as fun as it is to jump Dukes of Hazzard-style through the air to destroy billboards, it loses its luster after you realize you don’t know if you’ve destroyed the same billboard 10 times in a row since the computer replaces it immediately after you leave.

The user interface is confusing with menu upon menu, and I never knew what I was doing. Basically, I had to drive around the map, hoping I’d come upon a race that I could enter. Then I realized that the computer AI was much more competitive than I was, as I didn’t win but one race out of seven, even driving something like a Lamborghini. Add to that the police presence – once they got on your tail, you could never out-race them and they just continued to escalate their presence until you were captured. I miraculously escaped one time, but every other time ended in me getting captured or dead.

The map is gorgeous, with a mix of urban and mountainous settings, but you quickly realize how small this world is once you’ve driven around it a couple of times. The cars you find and can drive are exciting and fairly unique, but they handle pretty poorly, resulting in more crash time than drive time.

Ultimately, Most Wanted is a race of futility because once that initial rush wears off, you have nothing but empty road ahead of you. 6.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 14, 2013, 08:56:00 AM
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron (http://www.gamesradar.com/transformers-fall-of-cybertron-review/) was a much deeper, more diverse game than I expected. I never watched the Transformers cartoons growing up, or played with the toys, but I have a decent working knowledge of who and what they are. I’ve also seen all three movies, for good or ill. [Never mind, how did an artificial intelligence “evolve” to such a sophisticated level without a “maker” of some sort?? That’s TOO MUCH logic, man.)

TFOC takes place on the planet Cybertron, home to both the Autobots (good robots) and Decepticons (bad ones), but these are the last days until the planet and its energy source (Energon) run out for good. When that happens – anyone left will fall into disrepair and “die”. It’s an interesting analogy to our own over-reliance on fossil fuels, and what happens if that fuel source is disrupted or removed. At any rate, there’s been a war for some undetermined time between the two factions, and this also probably lessened the Energon availability significantly.

So now both sides are racing for the last bit of resources, as well as for an option to get off the planet and find a new world full of energy, which just happens to be Earth. We learn snippets of how this war happened through audio logs found throughout gameplay.

What makes the game unique is that you play as multiple robots from both sides, as well as play as the leaders of both groups – as good guy Optimus Prime and as bad guy Megatron. So you might be setting up something for the Autobots to be able to escape the planet, and the next thing you know, you’re trying to stop them from achieving that goal as a Decepticon. Within this gameplay, you’ll do some stealth missions, grapple onto ledges, fly or drive, become a giant super-robot and storm through your foes, etc.

Logistically, you hold one regular and one heavy weapon; you also can initiate melee attacks. Although you can’t always change into your vehicle form (which has regular and heavy attacks of its own), you should be able to use your special skill, which might include hovering, grappling, camouflage; and you may be able to initiate special one-time perks like extra shielding, offensive drones, additional health, and more. Along the way, you’ll gather Energon “credits” that you can use to upgrade your weapons or physical capabilities – these upgrades transfer to all the robots you play.

Graphically, the game design goes back and forth between big and bold levels to more intimate corridors and arenas, with lots of mechanical doo-dads moving around – some areas are really quite spectacular. However, it’s still a linear affair and you’ll rarely find yourself overly challenged by your foes.

So, color me surprised as this game was better than I expected. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 17, 2013, 06:16:11 AM
The wittingly named Sniper Elite V2 (http://www.gamespot.com/sniper-elite-v2/), as in “Version 2”, being the sequel to the original game (reviewed here (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1892.msg12441#msg12441)), also refers to the V2 rocket program that Germany enacted toward the end days of World War 2. You are a sniper turned loose to try and either extract or exterminate key V2 rocket scientists for the U.S. before they fall into Russian hands.

I had the strangest sense of déjà vu while playing, as some of the maps felt like retreads from the original game – a tank circling a square that you have to take out being one – but overall, the game is slightly better from a design standing. Maps are still somewhat small, although it may take you an hour or more to complete each one if you go the “silent but deadly” route; highly recommended so that you don’t bring in additional reinforcements to storm your position. The city you traverse is a bombed-out ruin and gives you a diversity of routes to get past foes, but also hides other snipers.

I found myself using my silenced hand pistol quite a bit, although you can time your sniper shots to echo the falling bombs and tolling bells heard around the city. You also can choose your loadout between missions, giving you a selection of American, Russian and German firearms and explosives.

What V2 gets right is the sniping element. It’s an awesome feeling to look through the scope, account for bullet drop (choose "Hard" difficulty if you truly want a challenge), and pull off a sweet shot, which is rewarded by a diversity of kill-cam angles. Occasionally, you’ll see the bullet pummel through your foe’s body via an X-ray cam that shows bones and vital organs – grisly but cool at the same time.

I feel like the first-person Sniper Ghost Warrior series (first (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1818.msg12233#msg12233) and second (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2241.0)) offer a more “realistic” sniper simulation, but Sniper Elite V2 successfully returns us to the harried final days of WW2 with a pretty decent shooter. 7.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 21, 2013, 07:15:15 AM
Racing game Blur (http://www.gamespot.com/blur/platform/pc/) has a unique premise: collect offensive and defensive power-ups and use them while racing. For example, you might gain offensive mines, missiles, lightning, blast radius and triple-shot powers to use against your competitors and damage their vehicles. Or you can repair, shield or use nitrous to keep your own vehicle safe from harm to cross the finish line first.

The simplistic story requires you to race against 8 “bosses”, but first you’ll have to meet some of their demands before they’ll agree to race. So you have some quests you’ll need to complete to unlock certain races. This might be to knock a certain number of cars off the track with the above-mentioned powers, or finishing certain fan races, or placing at a certain level. I was able to accomplish most all of these, which then allowed you to race one of the bosses and then get their souped-up vehicle for later races.

Races consist of fixed tracks in various locales – airport, docks, coastal pass, city, etc. You’ll race through them several times, with generic 1 vs. 12 races, beat-the-clock and destruction. AI is tough, aggressive and “human”, meaning they don’t automatically win every time – every racer has just as good a chance to win as the next.

As you race, you’ll obtain “fans”, and you also can complete certain in-track requests to gain more. More fans means you receive upgraded vehicles that might be better suited to the current track. You max out at 25 levels and gain 60-some real-life vehicles to choose from, although tracks are rated by three categories, so you only can choose vehicles to fit that specific track. I generally chose vehicles with more tire-grip, as opposed to “drifty” cars, as I felt I had more control.

Blur isn’t a game you’ll want to play straight through, but more like something to kill time between other activities. That, along with the lack of a defined story causes me to rate this a pretty decent 7.9 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 24, 2013, 06:19:11 AM
I mean, surely this game couldn’t be as bad as all the reviewers said, right? But believe it – Ride to Hell: Retribution (http://www.gamespot.com/ride-to-hell-retribution/platform/pc/) is awful, horrible drivel – it should never have been released as a game, and the publisher should be ashamed.

So let’s count up what’s wrong with RTH. First, you can’t remap your keys, let alone change your screen resolution. This is 2013 – both of these options should be mandatory for any PC release.

Next, the game starts with a 2-minute montage of various snippets of gameplay – ride your bike, fist-fight someone, shoot someone – complete with key prompts (not the keys you’ve chosen, but what they have given you). Then you go into a series of cut-scene after cut-scene. Rather than have you experience the story through gameplay, it’s all exposition and data dump. The first time I got to do anything in the game, I walked for 5 seconds, and then had ANOTHER stretch of cut-scenes. Finally, the game started in earnest and I got to ride my motorcycle. Oh, yeah – riding a hog, baby. But….

I once had a handheld game in the 1980s where you have a car that you must move from one of three lanes to avoid other cars and obstacles in the road – something like this (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000R8MD1Y/ref=asc_df_B000R8MD1Y2666921?tag=thefind0033421-20&creative=395261&creativeASIN=B000R8MD1Y&linkCode=asn). That’s what racing feels like in RTH – simplistic, stupid, stifling and unsatisfying. Such “races” are essentially on rails – they don’t even use the tried-and-true WASD configuration; instead, you steer with A and D, but accelerate with Spacebar and brake with Left Shift. Who messes with that configuration? Occasionally, bad bikers will come against your hog, so a QTE pops up to tell you what to do. And if you happen to wreck into a concrete divider or fence, even going 60 miles per hour, the bike merely stops and you motor on with your Teflon adamantium bike. By the way, every stretch of highway I encountered had major construction taking place to block traffic and/or to ensure you had to swerve like mad to make it through.

So, bike-riding sucks in a game about bikers…. What next? Well, I played for about 30 minutes. In that time frame, I got into 8 fist-fights and had sex with two different girls. Well, is it really sex if you both have all your clothes on and you’re dry-humping?! Then it was back to a 3-minute cut-scene followed by 30 seconds of gameplay followed by 3-minute cut-scene followed by…. Intriguing, right?

Graphically, this looks like something from the original X-Box or PS2. Although the Southwest U.S. atmosphere is decent, the character models are stiff and cartoonish with atrocious articulation, NPCs have horrible helmet hair, and there’s extremely poor lip synchronization. Well, okay, I’ve played games with worse graphics, but how about the combat?

You’ll be happy to know that there’s some great lag when you aim a gun, or the mouse skips around the screen altogether. It took forever to pinpoint my target in the reticule: if I moved the mouse too fast, it would skip past my target, so I had to move very slowly, during which time I of course got shot and often died. And no, you can’t change the mouse speed in the menu.

So the shooting sucks in this 3rd-person shooter. Hmmm … can’t you give me ANYTHING? Well, there is the sound and music department. Unfortunately, the voice actors are nearly comatose in their delivery, with no sense of timing, passion or humanity. The sole positive is that the music represents 60s/70s style of Southern rock, although it’s repetition quickly grates.

It seems like the developer simply had to release what they had, which is awful. And rather than fine-tune the problem areas that I’ve noted above, it appears that they spent all their time on worthless cut-scenes; out of 30 minutes, I played maybe 8-10 minutes of that, so one-third. You as a player barely exist in this game other than to complete some QTE mini-games. For the time they spent on animating the whole story, they could have fleshed out their world, improved their character models, got their actors to do a second cut, and even given us some nude models for the rampant sex scenes – the game is rated Mature anyway due to its language and subject matter, so a couple of nude models won’t change the ratings, but might bring “some” satisfaction to players.

This “game” is an absolute waste of time and money. Don’t spend anything on it – don’t even rent it. It’s absolutely that bad. The only reason I’m expounding so much on this worthless title is that it absolutely squanders all its great concepts for a gritty biker game. Now I didn’t give it a 1 like some reviewers because you could actually play through the game; I don’t think it has any game-stopping bugs that I’m aware of. But, really, why would you? Just about anything else will be better than this. 3.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 28, 2013, 06:35:02 AM
I’ve never had much luck with the team-management shooters that Ubisoft puts out under the Tom Clancy label. Rainbow Six and all its follow-ups were nigh unplayable because I wasn’t strategic enough; not until R6: Vegas (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1894.msg12444#msg12444) came along could I play it, and that was only because the team strategy elements were significantly toned down. Likewise, I’ve attempted to play the Ghost Recon games over the years, including the first two in the series, and more recently GR: Advanced Warfighter (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1824.msg12240#msg12240). Again, these were overly strategic and required too much (for me, at least) management of your individual team members.

So I approached GR: Future Soldier (http://www.gamespot.com/tom-clancys-ghost-recon-future-soldier/platform/pc/) with a significant amount of trepidation, lest I get burned yet again because I wasn’t smart enough and quick enough to manage my team before they all got wiped out in a firefight. Well … I was blown away with how much simpler the game had gotten, even since GRAW. Your other three team members, for the most part, are smart enough to get behind cover, take out bad guys and heal downed team-mates without any prompting. Sure, you can still make them do a few of those things, but you don’t have to babysit them.

Future Soldier introduces near-future technology, including adaptive camouflage uniforms, small aerial drones that allow you to scope out the battlefield, sensor grenades that illuminate enemy combatants, and even a walking MULE that can be used as cover. You also utilize “magnet” vision, which is sort of like the sonar vision that Batman uses in the Arkham games. I found myself relying on this a little too much for comfort, as you then spend a large amount of game time in a stripped-down world of “outlines”, rather than in the 3-D true world. But the best part about this new technology is that you’re able to sync and time your team’s shots; target up to four foes and then everyone takes down one bogie at once.

The story – mostly about stopping some global gun-runners – is more robust this time around, and you learn about your team-mates in a more natural way, such as in the off-duty times when you’re just hanging out and waiting for the next mission. The story eschews clichés for inferences made from small talk, so you aren’t getting the exposition dump so prevalent in most games. One interesting scenario has your team return to a naval carrier and you’re going through the food line; other grunts get angry at you for cutting the line, and one of your team-mates responds with “Sorry. We’ve been up for 72 hours straight and just waded through a village full of dead children. We just want to get some food and sit down.”

Cut-scenes are fairly heavy and provide lots of information about your current mission, but they also show your team moving from one locale to another. I resent having control taken away by the computer for a number of the cut-scenes. My feeling is, if you show my character doing something, then let me as the player do that action, especially if it’s something you’ve let us do earlier. For example, let me board the helicopter and look around at the other players – don’t take something even that simple away from me.

GRFS succeeds in simplifying gameplay for those of us challenged by the team-management strategies of the earliest games. It also presents a cohesive, interesting story, and the unique near-future tools at your disposal are interesting and useful in combat. Cut-scenes could have allowed more player interactivity to truly vest you in the experience, however. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 31, 2013, 07:36:36 AM
Set frustration to overload, because Trackmania 2: Canyon (http://www.gamespot.com/trackmania-2-canyon/) will bring out the worst in you. Even more so than previous Trackmania games, Canyon requires meticulous perfection to achieve medals, let alone to finish some maps. The gameplay is made even more difficult exactly because of the introduction of “outdoor” environments to the Trackmania setting.

The new environments are spectacular, with a Southwest U.S. feel through the use of arid environments, canyons, oil tanks, bridges, etc. However, when added to what was normally a race-track environment, the new change proves infinitely frustrating. As an example, to medal in a track, you may need to go at top speed around pitted dusty roads, where one pebble can send you flying madly into the tumbleweeds, never to recover. Certainly, this change from the smooth, tire-hugging surfaces of the manufactured track proves challenging.

The other major frustrating element, at least for me, is the giant loop, which should be easy enough to tackle. However, the game mysteriously wrests camera control away from you just as you approach loops, replacing your third-person view of your car with a first-person view. As a result, you can’t see where to start your turn on the loop. I must have tried making a loop over 200 times, and only made it around three times, each time by managing to FALL from the top because the navigation of the loop robbed my forward momentum. I don’t know what the designers were thinking, but they totally mangled this element that should have been a stunning moment of gameplay.

The game does get a lot of racing elements right, so that when you do manage to hit a jump just the way the designers intended, and land in just the right place, you can move quickly and accurately through the short (20 second to 2 minute) courses. Of course, some jumps over canyons can ONLY be made if you do everything correct – the right speed without hitting the sides of the track – so this is a game written for the designers and not for you as a player.

Where Trackmania shines is in the sheer number and diversity of user-created tracks available, with literally hundreds/thousands of new tracks to play. However, you quickly realize that the tracks are nearly all “the same”, featuring the same ramps, loops, corners, etc, because everyone is using the same assets to build their tracks, just tacked together in different variations.

Ultimately, Canyon manages to frustrate far more than it energizes. The gameplay is sometimes next to impossible and really feels like it was created for the game designers rather than the player. Play only if you have a high tolerance for repetition. 7.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 04, 2013, 07:10:24 AM
Sleeping Dogs (http://www.gamespot.com/sleeping-dogs/platform/pc/) nearly got tossed in the waste-bin, but Square Enix felt strongly enough about the concept that they brought it to fruition. And thank goodness, as this game is a lot of fun. Set in an open-world Hong Kong, Sleeping Dogs features elements from a diversity of games, including Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto as obvious selections, but also the hand-to-hand fighting of the Batman Arkham games, the car-jacking so prevalent in Just Cause 2, and even the gunplay of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. But it manages to put a fresh coat of paint on all these options to deliver something stronger than a simple copy-paste job.

You play as Wei Shen, a former Hong Kong citizen who has moved back from San Francisco. You also happen to be a deep undercover cop, intent on taking down the power structure of the Sun On Yee triad, one of several gang operations that rule the Hong Kong underworld. Throughout the game, you are pulled from both sides by your police bosses and mob bosses alike, although it would have been awesome if you’d been able to actually choose one direction over the other.

The story doesn’t offer many surprises, but has some great scenes: you start out as a lower echelon foot-soldier until you’re able to take down some of the mid-level bosses through treachery and betrayal, leading you to the upper reaches of the triad. And then everything goes to poop. You’re surrounded by a great cast of characters on both sides – led by your cousin Jackie, a sort of scruffy slacker who gets in way over his head. A cadre of ladies also vie for your attention, and get jealous when you connect with another; but they also teach you some valuable skills, opening your world map to the many collectibles present.

You’ve got collectibles of cashboxes that contribute to your money pool, healing shrines that extend your health, cameras that can be hacked to see criminal activity, and jade statues that will earn you new martial arts moves from your old sensei. Some are locked away until certain points of the game, but each is useful, although I admit that I never really had a need for money. You can generally just steal a car rather than have to purchase them. But extra health and new moves were always appreciated.

Your main activity is to take down groups of people, so thankfully you know a number of martial arts moves. Fighting is fluid and exciting, much like the Batman Arkham games, so that you can block incoming threats, or use a variety of moves to disable your foes. Thankfully, button-mashing is kept to a precious few keystrokes, but you either do multiples of each key or hold them longer for a stronger blow. You receive a tutorial every time you learn a new move from your sensei. You also get into firefights, sometimes from a vehicle, so you’ll need to learn how to duck behind cover. When you move however, you can slide over tabletops or other objects, like Jackie Chan.

Your map is helpful, and the gameworld is a gorgeous representation of Hong Kong, with soaring downtown skyscrapers, Victoria Peak towering at the center of the island, tiny back alleys, and working docks. Although you don’t fly any aerial machines, you can get around the whole map fairly quickly via automobile or boat. The world is alive, with cars and pedestrians everywhere.

Driving is a blast, with a diversity of vehicles to choose from. Sports cars have a different feel to them, with more tire grip on corners, but also a blast of acceleration as you go faster. Motor cycles are flexible and great for running through back alleys or zipping between cars in traffic. Occasionally you’ll encounter jumps that you can make, although you don’t get any rewards for them.

Driving, however, brings up my biggest gripe about the game: how the computer throws the camera into disarray when you are backing up vehicles. I’m used to being able to control the camera myself with the mouse, but the computer overrides you when you back up, forcing the camera to look behind you. Well, if you are simply trying to back up because you got snagged on a building or pipe, and if you’re racing at the time, then this literally eats up 10 seconds of valuable time until you can wrest control back from the computer. But honestly, this is the only thing I’d change about the game.

The game has a plethora of DLC, mostly of new vehicles or clothing sets. But it also has two additional “levels”: “Nightmare in Northpoint,” which brings Chinese zombies to the setting, and “Year of the Snake,” which sees Wei put in the boots of an officer to take down a terrorist plot to bomb the city during New Year’s celebrations. Nightmare is interesting, but not as fun as Year, which forces you to play against type from the main campaign.

Regardless, Sleeping Dogs is great fun, and one of my highest recommendations for an open-world game. 8.6 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 07, 2013, 06:51:48 AM
Urban Trial Freestyle (http://www.gamespot.com/urban-trial-freestyle/platform/pc/) is a modified 3D side-scroller, with tons of stuff happening in the background. In this game, you’ll navigate through urban settings, buildings, parks, sky-rises and other locales with your dirt-bike. On the way, you pull off sick stunts like long-distance and high jumps, 360s and balancing acts, generally trying to beat the clock to earn more points.

Points go toward the final score of each level, which ties to both money that can be spent to upgrade your bike’s tires, chassis and engine, and to stars that open up later levels. I played for a couple of hours and completed probably 75% of the levels, before I couldn’t progress any further due to my lack of skill.

It’s a fun diversion, and you’ll find yourself really getting into how you control the bike through a series of Goldbergian-type scenarios. Some frustration is expected, as your skills might not allow you to complete maps fast enough. But not a bad game at all. 7.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 11, 2013, 06:37:22 AM
Borderlands 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/borderlands-2-review/1900-6397018/) builds upon the original’s successful formula as a loot-happy, gun-centric RPG. You get quests, you go shoot stuff and grab the loot from their dead corpses, and then you compare what you have against what you’re currently using. If it’s better, you keep it; if it’s not, you sell it; rinse and repeat.

I hope you like repetition, because you’ll ultimately end up playing through each level (and shooting all the bad guys all over again) from 2-5 times to complete assigned tasks, which does get boring toward the end of the game. Fortunately, the levels themselves are a diverse lot, starting the game with a snowy, arctic perspective and eventually making it to deserts, valleys, cities, prisons, caverns, etc. As you move forward in the story, new maps open up and new quests/challenges become available in existing maps. There’s plenty to keep you busy.

Challenges have been rolled under a new RPG system using “Badass Points” to enhance your skills. So killing tons of enemy types, how you kill them, using shields, and completing level challenges all add up the Badass Points that you can then use to make your player faster, tougher, more efficient. Each level offers unique challenges – like finding the tallest point of the map and making a leap of faith, for example – but each have a standard “find the hidden symbol” that is next-to-impossible to spot.

The storyline plays off the previous game, bringing back the previous four characters that you once played, who are now allied against Handsome Jack. Jack has found a new alien vault and wants to unleash “the Warrior” to fight for him. You’ll experience loss, treachery, heart-ache and more each step you take toward the end. And just when you think it’s over, the story wraps itself in a new direction.

While the main story is going forward, you can take on the many DLCs available, but several of them are for more experienced players. Unfortunately, starting a DLC will give you major spoilers of the main storyline, so you may wish to wait until the end of the game before starting them. “Torgue’s Arena” offers several new maps and quite a few quests, all based around determining who the baddest person is on Pandora. “Captain Scarlett’s Booty” takes you on a quest for missing treasure and a new vault. “Tiny Tina’s Assault” replaces all the foes and environments with more fantasy leanings of wizards, orcs, dwarves, castles, etc.; it also featured the best weapons. And “Hammerlock’s Safari” introduces more exotic critters to shoot up.

(And now they’ve planned 3 more DLCs. Too bad they couldn’t have put the same amount of effort and excellence into their other recent releases Duke Nukem Forever and Aliens Colonial Marines. If they’d down-sized their Borderlands 2 game time to 40-60 hours for the main campaign, no one would have complained, and the effort that went into the extra gameplay could have switched to DNF and Aliens. Instead, they’re left with an excellent game, a mediocre game, and an absolute crapfest – the last two which have really pissed off gamers and put a bad taste in their mouth about developer Gearbox for anything non-Borderlands.)

Overall, the game is generally fun, but does get long in the tooth toward the end. I finally stopped with 120+ hours of game-time at level 41, and still had a dozen active quests and could have continued to increase my level cap to more than 60. Unless you’re obsessed with completing games, you’ll probably start to skip some assigned quests and just move forward in the story to get it over with. But no one can fault developer Gearbox for providing gamers with their money’s worth on at least this game. 8.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 18, 2013, 07:06:21 AM
Despite being 9 years old,  Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines (http://www.gamespot.com/vampire-the-masquerade-bloodlines/) remains one of the best first-person RPGs out there. I’d put it just behind the original Deus Ex in terms of creativity and role-playing opportunities.

Imagine the pressure that Troika Games must have felt in bringing this game to life. They created nine unique clans with different powers and skills (and a male and female avatar for each), and then had to merge in a backstory that modified your abilities even further. Then stretch that story across four major city hubs and a number of smaller locations. No wonder the original game was fairly borked upon it’s precipitously early release.

Fortunately, a dedicated group of modders have continued to modify the game, intending to develop something akin to the now-defunct designers’ original intentions. Incredibly, we’re now up to Unofficial Patch 8.8 (http://www.patches-scrolls.de/patch/4647/59318), which incorporates the Official Patch 1.2 as well as tons and tons and tons of changes to every element of the game -- sounds, weapon models, skins, damage amounts, spells, experience points, conversation trees, and even new maps and NPCs. Unfortunately, unlike Good Old Games, who ensure their older games are ready to play right out of the gate, the Steam version immediately reads an error message. So buy it for cheap on Steam, and then download and install the UP8.8. Note that you cannot apply other mods on top of that, including The Final Nights (http://www.moddb.com/mods/vtm-the-final-nights) and The Camarilla Edition (http://www.moddb.com/mods/vtmb-camarilla-edition). Note that the Clan Quest Mod (http://www.moddb.com/mods/vtmb-clan-quest-mod), however, is an all-inclusive type of mod, including a slightly older version of the Unofficial Patch, plus lots of little mods reflecting changes to the game.

Built on Half-Life 2’s Source engine, Bloodlines is still a good-looking game, with remarkably crisp facial animations in cut-scenes. However, the backgrounds and NPC clothing in cut-scenes is bizarrely out-of-focus. The overall world still looks good as you go through it, though.

A couple of sore spots that were noticeable to me upon this play-through: you can’t re-map all keys to your liking, and you can’t change the music volume separately from the in-game sounds. But I can live with those issues to get through such a great game. The latest patch adds a new downtown Library map, as well as a new Sabbat choice ending if you follow their views. I played as a magical Tremere this time, and the magic is pretty powerful to take down the heavy bosses at the end of the game. Max out Melee and Ranged skills, and you’ll be tough to beat.

Offering about 40 hours of play-time, Bloodlines is still a great game, and you can usually find it pretty cheap on Steam. A worthy addition to every RPG player’s library. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 25, 2013, 06:56:53 AM
With Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag now out, I figured I’d better get to the last one! However, my first impressions of Assassin’s Creed III (http://www.gamespot.com/assassins-creed-iii/) were that it was pretty slow, and that the Boston city was drab and – dare I say it – boring. But about 5-6 hours in, I finally broke out of the city surroundings into the countryside, which is where AC3 really started to shine.

We start the story as Haytham, an assassin from England who has headed to the new Americas in the mid-1700s to find additional information on the Precursors, the enigmatic people who came before ours and have been trying to contact us in the present-day to turn aside an impending catastrophe. However, finding the Precursor source is problematic, as the English Redcloaks are all over the area, and the native Americans aren’t too fond of interlopers either. Fortunately for Haytham, he finds a way into the heart of the natives to earn their trust.

After a couple of twists that I honestly didn’t see coming, we start playing as Haytham’s half-Native son Connor. Young Connor is also a bit boring, but playing as him in his early years, we learn several critical lesson on moving through the trees (which is pretty cool) and also how to use arrows and skin animals for future use.

Playing in earnest as Connor is when the AC3 world truly opens up. The Frontier, away from the blasé cityscape, is where the game overwhelms you with awesomeness. The landscape rolls and you constantly find yourself scaling rock walls, taking on predators such as bears, wolves and cougars, and riding a horse at break-neck speed through the countryside. Winter holds another challenge as you must make your path through waist-deep snow. This is also when Connor begins to captain the ocean-faring Aquila to break the British hold on the seas – these ship-side battles are thrilling, to say the least, but only last about 4-5 minutes tops for each one.

Attacks and actions are much more fluid, requiring 2 buttons instead of 3 or 4. Like in the Batman Arkham games, you receive a prompt when someone is attacking, and a quick button press later, you block and counter their moves. It’s all pretty seamless. Climbing is much smoother as well, so they’ve tightened that area up over the course of five games.

Gone are the challenges like racing other thieves across the city tops in the  AC2 series, replaced with a continuing quest to find the pages of Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac”. You’ll also get to find feathers up in the canopy to earn a new outfit. You can enlist Assassin trainees but their road to training has been simplified quite a bit. The various guilds are still around, but modified slightly: Thieves require thieving acts, but the new Frontiersman guild requires you to do various hunting jobs throughout the countryside, and the Brawlers want you to beat up a ring of contenders.

The free-flowing parkour maps have been nearly removed altogether. Where in the AC2 series you might find yourself climbing around inside huge temples, now these acts have been relegated to much smaller slices: navigating certain areas within the Underground, and some Naval “treasure” maps and DLCs.

But like in the most previous AC games, you create a burgeoning village of free spirits. Throughout the course of the game, you’ll get Homestead missions to add new characters to your village, including hunters, miners, loggers, farmers, and specialists like furniture and dress makers, smiths, innkeepers and even a minister. It’s truly a pleasure to enlist these varied people into your world, and to provide them with a new life. And you’ll learn more about their lives as you grow as a community.

As a citizen of two backgrounds – white and Native American – Connor has a difficult task to tread between both worlds. The Native influence is brought up multiple times, as is the white man’s treatment of other people of differing skin color, background and religious ideals. Connor’s methods and actions often put him at odds with the Assassin creed to operate behind the shadows; his whole goal is to offer people the chance for freedom, even if that leaves them surrounded by chaos. One might assume he is a little boring because he doesn’t speak much, but I understood his character to be more taciturn and reserved, which is very much in keeping with the Native Americans I’ve known, who are primarily “watchers” of human behavior.

Occasionally we dip into present-day Desmond’s story, which is building to a crescendo. He has been tasked by the Precursors to put a machine into motion to save the Earth from an incoming solar flare that will potentially vaporize the planet. You can leave the Animus to explore the Precursor facility that you’ve landed in, and during several occasions you’ll need to leave the cave to gain some energy sources – this means taking Desmond into the real world with his Assassin skills in full effect. I’d love to play more Desmond present-day stuff, but we’re again pretty limited here.

In all, AC3 is a mixed experience. The city maps are truly boring compared to the exotic spectacle we’ve seen in all the previous AC games; however, the Frontier is absolutely breathtaking to navigate with its rolling hills and valleys. Additionally, the naval maps are a blast to play, although short-lived. Some elements have been thankfully simplified, such as Assassin training and overall character control, but some have been nearly removed altogether, including the free-running parkour segments. But the addition of the Homestead and its inhabitants, and fun quests from the Frontiersman guild, bring some needed life to the game.

AC4 looks to bring the exotic back through its Caribbean settings, which I think is a hallmark of what this series stands for. I’d love to see us traipse around early Paris, or Mayan temples (when Spaniards came into the region, maybe as Templars seeking more Apples of Eden), or especially China/Japan (imagine climbing around all those temples!). But I think the “ordinary” of the early American landscape just doesn’t feel right and loses the glamour of what made AC2 especially so inviting to play.

Definitely worthwhile for all AC fans to play, and mostly a positive recommendation for everyone else to consider – you’ll just need to wait it out for the first 6 hours until the training wheels come off. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 02, 2013, 06:48:40 AM
Assassin’s Creed 3 had a number of in-campaign DLCs, including some pirate treasure hunts, Benedict Arnold missions in West Point, and new weapons and outfits. The Tyranny of King Washington (http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/04/23/assassins-creed-iii-the-tyranny-of-king-washington-review) is a separate event that takes place after the main campaign, but goes in a whole other alternate dimension, a “what if” scenario. You play again as Connor, who is extremely confused about the whole thing, as he recalls vividly living through the original campaign, but the DLC imagines a new America that has fallen under the tyrannical rule of self-proclaimed “King” George Washington, who now wields a scepter made of an Apple of Eden.

Split into three episodes and released in quick succession (… ahem … Valve? Take a note here….), Tyranny takes a different direction with each episode. The first – The Infamy – sticks pre-Connor back in the Frontier during a horrific winter, while the second – The Betrayal – treks to Boston to aid the new Rebellion against King George, and the final – The Redemption – takes us back on the ocean en route to a New York City with a huge pyramid.

Likewise, all three introduce new spirit powers. The Wolf allows Connor to travel invisibly between areas, as well as allowing him to summon three spirit wolves to attack foes. The Eagle gives Connor flight powers and can help him swoop down on unsuspecting enemies. The Bear provides a “ground pound” to knock down groups of opponents.

Although the story is interesting, it never really goes all the way. I mean, what if Washington became a megalomaniacal king – what would be the impact on the rest of the world after America had just secured its independence? But it’s still an interesting take. The Redcoats are now your friends, Benjamin Franklin has gone bad, as have other former friends from the main campaign, and even Benedict Arnold is on the side of “right.”

Tyranny offers a lot of ground in each location to tread, but no real reason to do so. At 4-6 hours total play-time, you may want to get this on sale to justify the expense. Worth playing if you enjoyed AC3 to see another view of that period, but nothing critical for a non-fan to buy. 7.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 09, 2013, 06:37:43 AM
I only played The Ship (http://www.ign.com/articles/2006/08/25/the-ship-review) because it came as part of a $3 Single-Player Indie Game Bundle, along with 5 other games. I figured for $0.50, I wouldn’t be out too much if it sucked.

… which it does. I can handle that this was one of the first Steam games released around Half-Life 2’s entry into the world. I can further accept that as a Source mod, it didn’t come with the best graphics. And certainly I was okay with the overall concept – a murder mystery whodunit a la “Clue” where YOU are one of the murderers, with an assigned kill, but conversely, someone assigned to kill you.

No, where The Ship falls apart, at least in the single-player iteration, is in the technical side of the equation. The multi-player game has been reworked into some semblance of a story. You are tasked with killing someone, picking up their money, and reporting to various employees on the 1920s steam liner where you are trapped by the mysterious Mr. X. The problem arose when I made my second kill and was supposed to report back to a barman to give him my share of the money from my mark. I must have hit every single button on the keyboard to try and get him to talk to me, multiple times, because I would inadvertently raise my weapon in front of the cameras, forcing me to go to jail, lose my money earned and have to START ALL OVER AGAIN. After about the 6th time of this, it was too much.

On top of this, you have to maintain your body in various areas: food, liquid, sleep, toilet (!!), etc. This is probably the only game I’ve ever played where I would be talking to someone and fall asleep right in the middle of the conversation, or where I had to drop a load in the toilet before I could kill someone. Very bizarre, to say the least.

So, not my cup of tea, although I assume the multi-player version might be slightly better. 5.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 12, 2013, 06:52:19 AM
Another game included in the Single-Player Indie Game Bundle, Section 8 (http://www.gamespot.com/section-8/) actually has an SP campaign, although I assume it’s kind of a trainer for the main MP portion of the game. Quite honestly, I got bored quick. By the time I was on my third mission, I was done. The graphics are a bit dated, levels lack any authenticity, and the story is ho-hum.

I suppose I could have played further, but I really didn’t want to. I didn’t see anything unique about the game, other than the fact that you come screaming down through the atmosphere and hit the ground at Mach 5. Even that could have been more useful (super ground-pound, perhaps?), and maybe is in later missions, but not at the start. Otherwise, it’s a poor-man’s Unreal 2 clone, without all the political backstabbing that at least made Unreal 2 somewhat interesting.

There are much better games to use your time on than this average affair. 6.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 16, 2013, 06:32:45 AM
And yet another game included in the Single-Player Indie Game Bundle, Shattered Horizon (http://www.gamespot.com/shattered-horizon/) started out as a multi-player game set in space, but has added a single-player bot option, where you can designate up to 16 players per team. Like almost all MP games, Shattered Horizon has two sides playing against each other in various types of point-capture scenarios.

What makes Shattered Horizon unique is that you play in zero-gravity and must manipulate yourself in all dimensions. This is fairly simple, but you can constantly lose your point of focus as you navigate the environment. What seems like “up” and “down” might actually be sideways to another player. You can magnetically clamp onto surfaces to anchor yourself, and this sometimes makes it easier to shoot at others as well.

The art design is striking, reflecting a horrible war gone wrong that actually split a section of the earth’s moon apart. You appear on various space stations, and out in the background, you see the destroyed moon and a ring of asteroids that formed from that destruction. Sometimes, I would just gaze about the background to see what had happened. And then I would get shot.  :hammerhead:

I can’t say I was very good at the shooting in the game, but I was able to hold onto some chokepoints so my team could win. But they’re bots, so really how difficult can it be?   :purplelaugh:   I would have preferred an actual SP campaign housed in this world, but I got enough of a taste for what it could offer. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 19, 2013, 06:52:02 AM
So yes, Aliens: Colonial Marines (http://www.gamespot.com/aliens-colonial-marines/) IS as bad as the reviews indicate. I experienced the wonky AI mechanics of the aliens getting stuck in doorways or simply charging you upright on two legs. The graphics are passable but seem a few years old (I’m not getting into the dogfight of whether or not they match what was originally presented in the “gameplay” video first released by Gearbox, as I didn’t pay much attention at the time).

No, what really killed it for me was a level about an hour or two into the game where my buddy magically shrugged off all alien attacks, while I continued to get hammered relentlessly: aliens morphed THROUGH the floor to take position behind me and hit me in the back over and over again. I must have tried that stupid level 50 times, changing everything I could think of to confuse the AI. And while my buddy kept moving through the alien foes without a care in the world, I could never find any health packs to at least stabilize myself in between waves.

Now, I was playing on Hard, but not “Impossible” setting, so it shouldn’t have been this difficult. Toss into it the fact that I’d have to shoot an alien multiple times while they could one-shot stab me with full health, and I start calling “BS” on this behavior.

Although the setting felt “accurate” to the Aliens franchise, the back-end programming went off the rails during production, and the odds of getting another Aliens game at this point look bleak. Nice job, Gearbox – way to kill yet another franchise. 5.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 23, 2013, 08:31:54 AM
Gunpoint (http://www.gunpointgame.com) is a fun indie game reminiscent slightly of the old arcade game Elevator Action (http://game-oldies.com/play-online/elevator-action-nintendo-nes). However, Gunpoint is more fully a crafty puzzle game disguised as a stealth platformer with noir influences.

The story starts cleverly, launching you out a window and forcing you to go through an office complex. However, someone has been murdered in the building, and you are the prime suspect, having been caught on film. The next few missions serve as mini-tutorials on your skills (jumping and hacking electrical devices) for you to retrieve the data and get in the clear with the cops, only to have future missions continue to refer back to your actions. And everything is coated with a noir detective type of ambience.

The game ingeniously allows you to hack devices such as doors, cameras, lights, outlets, etc. to open new locations or stymie a variety of armed guards. You can go through each mission as a ghost or attempt to Rambo it, but ghosting is much easier and more satisfying. The feeling is a bit like playing a 2D version of Thief, when you see how you can get past guards and cameras to steal something, which in this case is information from computers.

Missions are short and self-contained, and you can start choosing from a variety of jobs and employers after a while. Each mission earns experience that you can apply to your skills, as well as money to apply to new gadgets. The game designer has done a great job of providing useful tutorials on how each new element works.

I haven’t played side-scroller Mark of the Ninja, but I think this would be similar. Gunpoint is a thinking-person’s game that requires a bit of logic and a lot of fun. Even though it’s only a couple of hours long, it’s great fun while it lasts. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 27, 2013, 11:30:37 AM
Based on the Sniper Elite franchise, Nazi Zombie Army (http://www.gamespot.com/sniper-elite-nazi-zombie-army/) strands you in an alternate World War 2, where Hitler has unleashed said army in the death-throes of a Germany caught between Allied forces. Hitler decides that if he’s going down, then so is the rest of the world to his undead.

NZA definitely exudes a creepy atmosphere, and is somewhat reminiscent of a 3rd-person Left 4 Dead, with safehouses in between arenas and multi-stage “events” where waves of enemies attack. However, it’s also deeply monotonous, with restrictive pathing, and such huge hordes that it nearly negates the effectiveness of the sniper rifle that the whole series is built around. So it’s a sniper game that doesn’t really allow use of a sniper rifle.

I played for maybe 2 hours but in all honesty got bored and would rather play something else. NZA may be better suited for a coop game, but I’m sure you’ll feel the same on the single-player campaign. 6.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 30, 2013, 10:07:53 AM
Both Starfox (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2268.0) and Doc Brown (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2352.0) offered some really good quick reviews of Dishonored (http://www.gamespot.com/dishonored/), but I thought I’d also toss in my two cents. In general, I liked the game, but I wasn’t as enamored with it as I have been with the previous Thief games, the most obvious source. However, I felt the game played more like Bioshock set in the Half-Life 2 universe, rather than a Thief game. I say Bioshock because you have a variety of powers that you can unleash upon foes or to help yourself maneuver about the place. And the Half-Life 2 elements are obvious because both these games had the same art direction; I kept seeing the Citadel in every building, and expecting Metro-cops to come bursting out of hiding places (actually, the latter-part Assassins look a lot like Metro-cops….).

So I was a little distracted in playing the game and could never really get into a groove like Thief allows. Part of it is that you’re constantly pulled out of the “moment” by the actual use of your powers. Whereas Thief doesn’t have any and you must rely solely on your own innate ability to sneak around, Dishonored “cheats” by letting you see through walls, or “blink” to a hiding spot, or freeze time altogether so you can get past a guard. I suppose you could handicap yourself (which I did) to simply climb walls and do the same thing in Dishonored, but then that defeats the purpose of the game’s structure.

The other major difference between Thief and Dishonored is that Garrett is a master-thief who is out to steal things, including information, while Corvo is an assassin and is prone to killing. I was able to complete some missions without killing and without being noticed (“ghosting”), but others blatantly require you to kill someone to complete mission main or side objectives. To its credit, Dishonored does give some non-lethal options so that you can go the no-kill route to most of your missions.

I did like that most missions are multi-map affairs, and all have various secret areas that you can only access by searching all around the place – those moments felt very much like Thief. Settings are extremely detailed and give the feel of a steampunk type of universe, although the “world” as a whole is lacking in description.

And the powers are pretty cool. As mentioned above, you can see through walls to find your foes and maneuver around them. You can teleport via the Blink function to zip across maps quickly or find hiding spots above the line of sight. You can call rats upon your foes to eat them alive, or simply possess a rat or fish to find another route through a tricky area. All are helpful and incredibly useful.

As far as the story goes, the betrayal was telegraphed ages ahead of time by what you could read, or to even use the Heart to hear people’s innermost thoughts. Although, they could have gone a different route that would have been truly surprising: Spoiler
what if the seemingly innocent Empress’ daughter had her mother killed in a conspiracy with her eventual new cabinet, faked her own kidnapping, and then betrayed you – now THAT would have been shocking!
Regardless, the story is serviceable, and we get a pretty good understanding of the politics of the situation.

I really like Arkane Studios and all their games, and I’m glad they’ve finally made a hit with Dishonored. It’s no Thief, but I certainly look forward to an extension of this unique universe. 9.0 out of 10

See also Starfox’s reviews of the DLCs The Knife of Dunwall (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2272.0) and The Brigmore Witches (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2308.0) – I generally liked both and felt they were good contributions to the game’s overall campaign, while focusing on a new character and offering some new powers.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 02, 2014, 06:58:55 AM
Although you might be correct in accusing Survival Instinct (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/the-walking-dead-survival-instinct-review/1900-6405891/) of merely being a quick cash-grab on the fame of the AMC television series The Walking Dead, it does offer some challenge and is not completely without merit. But just get it on the cheap.

By no means “great” or even “good”,  Survival Instinct at least offers some decent – though short – gameplay as a first-person sneaker/shooter adventure. It also has some slight replay value, as you can go one of two roads to get to your eventual destination of Atlanta. I didn’t personally play through it a second time, but it is there just in case.

After an interesting start, you enter the game proper as one of two brothers from the TV show, and this is their story before they met up with the rest of the Walking Dead cast. Variation is not this game’s strongpoint, as you drive down the highway, stop in small rest areas to get supplies (car parts, fuel, weapons) en route to the next city, where you have multiple tasks (free trapped civilians, search for specific supplies/vehicles).

If you can ignore the last-gen graphics (especially relating to the stiff, plastic-sheened character designs), these zombies are a little frightening, and each has to be killed in the head or they’ll arise again. I spent the majority of the game with a lead pipe in my hands, as two hits would generally take them down. You do have firearms, but their explosive noise brings other Walkers to your vicinity. And sometimes they do get a little too close and you must undertake a QTE to stab them in the head; one review said this was easy, but on my screen, the prompt kept wriggling about and it was anything but easy to hit the right button at the right time.

Settings run the gamut of cities, log cabins, truck stops, farm houses, logging mill, dam, drive-in movie theater, and even a football stadium. I found the easiest way through each map was to sneak as long as possible, pull individual Walkers your way to bash their head in or get behind them and shiv their brains, and then carry out the task at hand. One map about two-thirds in has you lose all your weapons, so it was a bit stressful. And the finale map in the stadium is very over-the-top and you’ll have to be super accurate with headshots while also running forward against waves of Walkers to the escape helicopter.

The game does allow you to use some of the survivors you find to bring along as a team, but in practice they are nearly worthless. Of the 5 survivors I saved, only two ever brought back any supplies -- the rest ... never returned. It was almost easier just to leave them in the car, but you’re not punished if they die for the cause.

Despite the bad reviews Survival Instinct has garnered, I was at least interested enough to complete the game, so that’s saying something. I’ve played plenty worse games and some I’ve started and never finished because they were boring. Nothing glowing about this one, but consider it a 6.4 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 06, 2014, 06:58:54 AM
The Swapper (http://www.gamespot.com/the-swapper/) epitomizes how creative, delightful and gorgeous an indie game can be. Based in a seemingly abandoned space laboratory, The Swapper plays like a two-dimensional version of Portal with its brand of puzzles. As you wander through the huge dimensions of a beautifully detailed world, you get glimpses of what has befallen here – an interesting story that has a huge payoff at the end.

You have been issued a special piece of equipment that creates up to four “clones” of you, all of which will immediately mimic what your main character does: jump and they jump, run left and they run left, grab a box, etc. You can retrieve clones by killing them (long falls usually do the trick) or running into them and reabsorbing them. You’ll need these extra selves to stand on switches or stand near collectible orbs. And the final ability of your equipment is to project yourself into any of the clones, which is necessary to set them up in the appropriate location.

Because time slows down when you project yourself, you can create some pretty cool moves. Want to “fly” up/down a long shaft without dying? Simply project a clone way ahead of you, flip into the new clone and let the old body crash to the floor to reinvigorate the amount of clones available.

Gameplay continues to evolve as you move deeper into the facility. New security devices require you to re-think how you approach new maps. And the addition of zero-gravity is ingenious both to navigate through empty space outside the facility, and also inside, as your up and down are switched. I do admit to getting stumped by some of these puzzles, but YouTube is your friend in this case. With the handy map, you’ll always know what section of the facility you’re in, and you can quickly search out a video solution.

An immersive storyline, gorgeous graphics, and creative level design all lead to a masterpiece of indie creation. If you enjoyed Portal, you’ll probably appreciate the ingenious puzzles presented here. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 13, 2014, 06:12:56 AM
I finally got around to playing the single-player campaign of Battlefield 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/battlefield-3-review/1900-6342248/), as I’m not really interested in the main multi-player component. And although it’s acceptable, it gives major feelings of déjà vu.

B3 seems like a familiar retread of the most recent Call of Duty campaigns, notably Modern Warfare and Black Ops. You have to stop some world-damaging threat, while recounting your tales in a flashback interrogation manned by two of the biggest jerks I’ve ever encountered. Stranded against over-whelming odds in a Middle Eastern nation, you relive various components of your story. Quick-time events tell you when to stab someone (including rats!!), open a door, crouch, etc. And you’re surrounded by bombastic scenarios such as an earthquake that destroys your surroundings.

It’s all “been there, done that” to the Nth degree. I’ve already played through this modern warfare concept through the recent Call of Duty series and very few things really leapt out at me as innovative. To be sure, you do get to experience jet fighting as a passenger, and I’ve never done that before – to take off from an aircraft carrier, participate in an aerial dogfight, and then land at night; I actually got nauseous because of all the barrel rolls and loops my pilot made. However, although I would probably make a crappy pilot, that opportunity isn’t given to you. You also get a pretty extensive tank-driving opportunity on what is probably the largest (or at least “longest”) map level I’ve ever seen outside an open-world game; this gives you tank battles in the open, but also takes you into a city for urban warfare.

Otherwise, there’s little innovation to be found in the campaign. Plus, there are a number of game-stopping bugs that I had to search out a work-around in game forums. And finally, your view is constantly covered with specks of dust; I could understand if you’re wearing a helmet or goggles that they might get dust on them, but why would your eyes be seeing this? It’s really annoying and takes you out of the game constantly.

I really enjoyed Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1964.msg12621#msg12621), and I wish the B3 campaign could have gone that route. Instead we’re presented with yet another modern war shooter with little to distinguish it from a host of also-rans and wannabes. 7.8 out of 10 for the single-player campaign.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 20, 2014, 10:18:45 AM
250 GAMES REVIEWED!!
Holy cow, where has the time gone? We're already at 250 games reviewed, and it only took 4 1/2 years!  :laugh:

As always, you can check out previous round-ups here:
- 1st recap (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg11796#msg11796) at #103 for 80 games
- 2nd recap (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg13453#msg13453) at #182 for 150 games
- 3rd recap (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg13853#msg13853) at #235 for 200 games

So let's start with the stinkers, and get those out of the way:
- Ride to Hell: Retribution – 3.4 – a game so bad, it made nearly every "Worst Of 2013" list
- Aliens: Colonial Marines – 5.5 – proving that not even a great IP can offer up a good game
- Rise of the Triad – 5.8 – this reboot was absolutely unncecessary
- The Ship: Single Player – 5.8 – poor design marred this interesting whodunit concept
- Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition – 6.0 – ugly, glitchy and just plain hard
- Need for Speed: Most Wanted – 6.0 – a living, breathing city and interesting map are brought low by lousy interface
- Sacred 2: Gold Edition – 6.0 – horrible control options mess up this experience

Moving up the chain, this next bunch were pretty good and definitely recommended:
- Alice: Madness Returns – 8.4 – Quirky, strange, offbeat, but interesting story and gameplay
- Assassin’s Creed III – 8.4 – Although the outdoor settings are breathtaking, the main character and the cities can't compare to AC's past
- Eleusis – 8.4 – Surprisingly horrifying, in a good way; a good substitute for Amnesia
- GTA 4: The Lost and Damned DLC – 8.4 – Continues the sad downfall of a GTA protagonist
- MX vs. ATV Reflex – 8.4 – Great maps and lots of gameplay options
- Gunpoint – 8.5 – Short but fun indie game
- The Swapper – 8.5 – Another indie effort that feels like a 2D version of Portal
- Anachronox – 8.6 – One of my fav games of all time; still holds up well 12 years later
- Sleeping Dogs – 8.6 – Another FUN open-world map that pulls the best parts of other games
- Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 8.6 – On my 4th playthrough, I can still find something new and enjoyable
- Borderlands 2 – 8.7 – Lots of content, but it starts to get old by the end
- Just Cause 2 – 8.7 – Zipping around on a line and hi-jacking vehicles is awesome fun
- Grand Theft Auto IV – 8.9 – An involving storyline about an immigrant who wants to turn a new leaf goes off the rails; poorly implemented helicopter sections keep this from greatness

And finally, here's my top rated games of this most recent batch:
- Dishonored – 9.0 – Like Thief, but not quite
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – 9.1 – Gorgeous game with lots to do, but fetch-quests are boring
- Max Payne 3 – 9.3 – Continues the story of a cop just trying to live one day at a time
- Mass Effect 3 – 9.5 – Despite the last 10 minutes, the first 30+ hours are an awesome ride in an amazingly detailed universe

Hope you've enjoyed some of these games yourself!
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 24, 2014, 12:30:08 PM
After a month-long hiatus, I'm back with some new mini-reviews, starting with Far Cry 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/far-cry-3/), a game that is lengthy without being boring, diverse without being a carbon copy, and offering fun in all the right places. The intro starts with a group of sun-splashed urbanites partying their way through a tropical island vacation. And the next thing you know, you’ve awoken in a locked cage, with a mohawked madman spouting insanity at you.

Once you gain your freedom, you unlock a diverse world of intrigue, power and corruption, with just a hint of fantasy. The world of Far Cry 3 is brutal, but wide open with adventure. Upon climbing a rickety, swaying radio tower, you open up your world map to enemy encampments, land and sea races, loot chests and special finds including lost letters from World War 2, magical totems, and computer cards detailing the island’s drug habits. When you free an enemy camp, you’re rewarded with additional mission objectives, including wild animal kills and local warlord kills.

Far Cry 3 is a lite-RPG, with experience points accrued from your various kills (and how you complete them), finds and mission completions. These XP translate into special skills that make you faster, more efficient, etc.

From the animals you kill, and from plants you collect, you can craft pouches to carry more objects, as well as special drugs that enhance your health and survival skills. Some crafting techniques require the collection of rare animals, which have to be unlocked after taking down enemy camps. So it all ties together – to be a more efficient killer, you must take down your enemies, to open new opportunities to make you more efficient.

Unlike Far Cry 2, which was set in an African locale, FC3 doesn’t overwhelm you with enemy forces every step you take. I remember in FC2 when I would get on the road, I would get mobbed by a half dozen enemy vehicles, or if I went into an enemy camp, another 3 dozen troops would magically arrive as back-up. I didn’t play that game very long, as a result. But FC3 seems to take the difficulty of the second game into account: a set amount of enemy reinforcements will arrive if your foe is able to turn on the alarm, but you also have the opportunity of turning it off first to ensure you just face the half dozen troops already in place.

FC3 also has a pretty good sneaking mechanism, which you’ll need to get up close and take out foes silently with your knife. You also get more XP for sneaky kills as opposed to all-out firefights. Sneaking is made easier by using your camera, which shows you all enemy foes on the screen, as well as what direction they are facing.

But besides all the fun kills, races and other adventuring opportunities, what really drives FC3 is Vaas – your nemesis, and the man who kidnapped you and your friends at the start. Vaas is frightening in his intense cruelty and manic mannerisms. When he talks to you, you listen intently because you never know what he’s going to say. He’s written and voiced very well, and is definitely a villain to respect.

As you spend time on the island, you grow to love the native people, and you learn who you truly are – what kind of man you want to be. FC3 shows growth in your character, slowly but surely, that seems realistic and in keeping with the experiences that you face in saving your friends. It’s a meaty story that many other open-world games are unable to capitalize on. For example, when I played Just Cause 2, it was a fun, but meaningless game and the story was perfunctory beyond measure. Far Cry 3 goes a little bit farther by presenting an intriguing story, surrounded by truly vicious villains, and a supporting cast that pushes everything forward in a realistic way.

Great game, get it, play it, experience it. 9.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 03, 2014, 09:21:55 AM
I think the latest iteration of the franchise – Hitman: Absolution (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/hitman-absolution-review/1900-6400240/) – is one of those love/hate games because it changes up some of the core items of the first four games in several key ways. For starters, maps are smaller and not as open-world as we’ve seen previously. And you generally start each section with only a few items, and have to get any other material along the way.

But what these smaller maps offer is something more innovative, especially when coupled with the alternate objectives for each map. You are provided with some key goals like killing certain targets or escaping the area, but those are overlaid with a diversity of alternate tasks – all which give you additional points that you need to accrue certain assassin skills. For example, one map might have you kill the target in various ways: sniping, gasoline explosion, killed in disguise, tossed over the edge, poisoned, etc. I, for one, found these goals terribly addictive and was driven to try and claim every single objective. This means playing each map dozens and dozens of times to get the timing right, so it is fortunate that each map is fairly small, or has checkpoints that you can come back to on multiple tries.

It is these alternate objectives that make the game a lengthy affair. I would often stop mid-level, pop out to YouTube to see how other players accomplished the task, and then get back in-game to try it myself. Not to say you can’t go Rambo and shake everything up, but it is definitely much more challenging to go that route, rather than being patient and meticulous to notice guard patterns – just like in Thief. You can draw guards off by themselves and take them down (hide the bodies!) to make it easier to maneuver.

Graphically, the smaller levels also allow immense details for everything – from seeing pores on skin and texture of clothing, to how much “clutter” is placed throughout the maps. The Glacier 2 engine is absolutely gorgeous with its colors, textures and believable settings. It also allows for huge crowds packed with hundreds of individual NPCs – probably the most I’ve ever experienced in a game.

You can take disguises to move about a little easier, but you then have to worry about similar uniforms sniffing you out as different. That’s where the “instinct” meter comes in – every time you accomplish an objective or do something stealthily, you gain instinct. You can then spend it to get around similar uniforms or to see what objects you can use in the map. It’s a bit like Batman’s Arkham vision, I suppose.

The game features an online component called Contracts that you can contribute to or that you can play what others have designed. Basically, anyone can upload a map, specify a certain target and how to kill them, and then how to escape. Maybe you have to kill the cook with a knife and then escape in cop clothes. Or maybe the King of Chinatown needs to get blown up without harming anyone else. It’s a neat addition to the game and can definitely extend your gameplay.

For myself, I ended up with a play time of 100 hours, but I’m told you can actually finish the game in about 10 hours. What kept me going was to see if I was a great assassin. And really, isn’t that the best hallmark of a Hitman game? 8.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 10, 2014, 07:30:20 AM
Similar to Urban Trial Freestyle (reviewed here (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2348.0)), Trials Evolution Gold Edition (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/trials-evolution-review/1900-6373247/) is a 3D side-scroller featuring motorbike races and contests. Trials Evolution takes the concept up a notch, however, with a wider variety of backgrounds, fanciful tracks and unique camera use.

Trials Evolution features dozens of tracks, and the only time you see them duplicated is when you enter tournaments. Tracks range from industrial to dreamlike, with different backgrounds full of activity behind the main action. Some tracks are more fun to play, with roller coasters or loops, while others take you into destroyed sewers or crumbling bridges – all are complex and challenging.

Your only requisite is to get your motorbike from start to finish, and you’ll have to manipulate your speed and how your avatar leans on the bike. By completing tracks you gain money and medals – money is used to upgrade your bikes and medals open up new maps. Tracks do have checkpoints and you can start from the nearest one if you crash, but the more checkpoints you use, the fewer medals you can obtain: bronze just requires you to reach the end, while silver has a time limit and only allows you to use 3 checkpoints. Gold requires a clean run in a certain time limit.

Some tracks I was able to get through fairly easily – they flowed well – while others require multiple multiple attempts, and you’re happy just to get the bronze medal. I felt the controls were just a trifle sticky on the keyboard, so maybe a gamepad would be more efficient.

Regardless, this is a crazy game that will have you tearing your hair out until you get through a track successfully, and then you’ll sigh with relief and start the next track. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 17, 2014, 08:49:47 AM
Two word review for The Walking Dead: GOTY Edition (http://www.ign.com/articles/2012/12/12/the-walking-dead-the-game-review): Bloody. Brilliant.

Bloody because it takes us to a mature, R-rated world full of fear, pathos and horror. Brilliant because it epitomizes what a game should be, with well-written, believable characters, a dark storyline, and amazing camera direction and voice-work that capture the little elements behind the tale. Critically, every choice you make will impact the story, sometimes in ways that you could never imagine.

Split into five distinct but related episodes, as well as a 6th “bonus” episode called “400 Days”, The Walking Dead veers into the dark heart of what makes us human, and who, if anyone, are the greater monsters in this zombie apocalypse. In the 15 or so hours spent with these characters, you will overcome amazing odds, befriend complete strangers, murder your own allies, and finally give yourself completely to a cause you never considered. Your avatar in this game is Lee, a convicted murderer, but the true story is about Clementine, a 9-year-old girl who is being raised by an extended family in the midst of this turmoil, and the life lessons that she must learn to survive in such an altered future.

This is a game of a lifetime, and one that everyone should play. It also rates my first-ever perfect score of 10 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 24, 2014, 06:34:07 AM
Indie darling Fez (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/fez-review/1900-6371714/) offers a unique mechanic for a side-scroller by providing the ability to rotate the whole world 90 degrees at a time, giving a completely new perspective of what you had just seen. Jumps that seemed impossible now become easy with the switch, and allow you to maneuver throughout each map much easier.

Your goal is to collect golden blocks, which combine eight at a time into a golden key that will then allow you to open certain locked doors. To gain each block, you’ll have to navigate a variety of scattered levels that are tied together by warp gates. The full map showing how each level connects is a complicated affair, and you’ll have to traverse through levels time after time to move forward.

Honestly, the whole game is a bit too complicated, but that’s part of the puzzle. The other half is discerning how to move around each level, which warp gates to take, and how to get to the next level. And this doesn’t even cover the “secret” levels offered by the game.

I found myself interested in the concept, but finally giving up at the challenges presented. Your mileage may vary, however. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 31, 2014, 06:45:56 AM
Another indie effort created with the Unreal UDK, NaissanceE (http://store.steampowered.com/app/265690/) is a first-person puzzler/platformer in the vein of Portal mixed with a healthy dose of Half-Quake fed on a formula of Escher’s most bizarre abstractions. You are trapped in a vast labyrinth of monumental proportions, and you’ll have to rely upon speed and intelligence to get through a variety of thought-provoking puzzles.

The game uses light as a key mechanic, with certain walls and floors becoming transparent in the absence of light. Early experiments help you determine how to manipulate light orbs and blocks to your advantage. You also learn how to manage your breathing as you run, which requires some light multi-tasking to hit your "breath" at the right time.

Once past those starting guides, you get into the game proper, with a massive level called “Going Down”, which tasks you with going down hundreds of stories, hoping you’re making the right choices. It’s one of the largest maps I’ve ever seen in a game, and you’ll be faced with puzzles of exploration, jumping, and timing, including an awesome wind mechanic that actually blows you off the ledges if you’re not careful.

I did make it to the third level called “Breath Compression”, which features lots of circular vents you have to navigate, interspersed with rotating shafts that you’ll have to cross without falling. A mid-level light puzzle makes you scratch your head before heading on to another shaft with more platforming and jumping to go.

The game designers let you have your own way and provide multiple routes, many of which turn out to be red herrings and require you to come back to a main hub. You never receive a tutorial, but generally everything makes sense. Only once did I get text on screen saying “Wrong Way”, but generally, you’re on your own. A new patch provides more autosaves in the 2nd and 3rd levels, but I still found this game devilishly challenging.

An impressive indie effort that will stump your mind and your fingers without holding your hand, I give it 8 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 07, 2014, 06:37:37 AM
Dead Space 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/dead-space-3-review/1900-6403319/) successfully completes the trilogy with a stunning, lengthy (24 hours clocked), gorgeous game full of player choices, from whether you tackle additional objectives to how you craft your weapons from parts you find.

The reason this doesn’t score higher is primarily because DS3 isn’t a horror game anymore. Very rarely did I feel anxious about entering a new area, as I knew I’d go in, find a locked door, a number of necromorphs would attack, I’d fend them off, and the door would open, ad infinitum, rinse and repeat. I would have liked for the designers to build some anxiety … let me traipse through the hallways for an extended time WITHOUT being attacked just to build the suspense – then I’ll start freaking out on my own and become my own worst enemy. So the pacing is off, and the game basically became a third-person shooter.

The story is nigh incomprehensible, even if you’ve played the previous games. Unitology is a religion based on the necromorphs, as it deals with rising from the dead and everyone becoming the same. And now they’ve managed to take over the Earth government forces, placing you on the run to find your former girlfriend, who is now with a new man – who just happens to be the guy rescuing you. Awkward!

From there, the game picks up steam, allowing you to go zero-G in a spaceship graveyard, wandering the halls of dead ships to pick up needed supplies, and of course encountering tons of necros. Even the large one that won’t die and keeps chasing you makes a couple of appearances – man I hate those!

You’ll then go onto the ice planet of Tau Volantis, the home world of the Markers, where the mystery deepens about what the Markers are, and whether they can be turned off. You’ll get some great atmospheric effects, with snow obscuring your vision and allowing necros to sneak up on you. At times, it felt like we were getting an introduction to where the alien creature from The Thing (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/the-thing-review/1900-2878689/) originates, which would be a cool merging of universes.

One of the shining additions to the game is the ability to completely craft your weapons from a variety of different parts. You also can place over/under components to get two different weapons at the same time. Enhance your weapons efficiency by adding attachments and modifications for damage, clip size, reload speed and rate of fire. You also can enhance your suit, although the suits themselves no longer have any armor attributes – they’re just different looks. And you can craft any part you need, if you have the base supplies handy.

The story pushed you along, with a few boss battles along the way, including one from INSIDE a huge beastie, one of my long-time “wants” for gameplay (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2100.msg13349#msg13349). Afterward, you can play the “Awakening” DLC to finish the story of Isaac Clarke and his partner John Carver, who also can be played co-op throughout the campaign, opening some new areas for just co-op play.

Overall, another good game in the series, but it lacks the scares and atmosphere of the first game and has now become just another third-person shooter. 8.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 14, 2014, 06:44:24 AM
Prior to playing Dead Island: Riptide (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/dead-island-riptide-review/1900-6407250/), I spent 40 hours going through the original Dead Island (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2147.msg13521#msg13521) again to better compare the two. My first thought was that I might import my character save into Riptide, but from what I read, it’s harder to level up since all the monsters auto-level with you. So although DI is very good, it did have some issues, and in comparison, Riptide feels a little fresher and more innovative, as well as slightly faster-paced.

Visually, Riptide is a more gorgeous game than DI, with colors that pop and sharper graphics overall, as well as improved and more interesting level design. The large, open outdoor maps have much more verticality to them, with caverns, hills, rock walls that you can climb (a la the tree roots seen in Far Cry 3), enormous downed trees serving as bridges, tree houses and walkways, etc. NPCs and monsters also have been upgraded with new skins and clothing variations, as well as new monster types.

Some new gameplay features include several points where you must defend a safehouse against waves of incoming zombies. You generally receive fencing that you can cover entry points, as well as mines to lay around the perimeter. You also might have a fixed mini-gun to support your team, who generally do a good job of fighting zombies that have penetrated the area, but could be a little more forward-thinking in keeping them out in the first place.

The game also has smaller “dungeons” where you must take on some super-zombie and his minions. These small levels recycle the same layouts, unfortunately, and the bosses are just super-charged regular zombies.

Riptide is also less free with handing out weapon modification plans from successful missions, so you’ll have to do a lot of searching the island to retrieve mod plans, secret folders, postcards, etc. Many of these are located in out-of-the-way spots, so you’ll have to actively get off the path to find them. I finished with 71% completion in 32 hours, so if I had gone into the last map’s dungeons, I probably could have stretched another couple of hours.

I used guns and rifles much more this time around because they were much stronger to damage creatures, and ammo was a bit more readily available. And I was able to super-charge my other melee weapons to be much stronger than the first game (but the zombies are also much stronger). You also can choose which of 5 characters you want to play – four from the original game and a new guy for Riptide, who I chose, as he was able to punch his way out of most anything, as well as pull off mad leaps from stairs to kill zombies.

I know the review linked above gives Riptide a horrible review, but my feeling, especially playing them back-to-back, was that Riptide was a step forward for the franchise, sort of like what Left 4 Dead 2 did for that series. It adds enough new features to make the game different and exciting, and just feels a tad fresher to me so I’m actually ranking it just higher than the original. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 21, 2014, 09:45:23 AM
Indie darling Gone Home (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/gone-home-review/1900-6413000/) provides a deeply personal and moving experience as you traipse about an abandoned house, when you’ve been expecting to see all your family welcome you back with open arms. Where has everyone gone? Gone Home is not a horror story, but it does build suspense if you really allow yourself to bask in the atmosphere.

I remarked in the recent Dead Space 3 review that the way to build suspense is to put people in a tense environment, where they allow their mind to generate its own scares. Gone Home does this through its interactive story, teasing out pieces of a puzzle left behind by your sister Sam. And the more we learn about Sam, and about the extremely personal issues she’s facing in her life, the more I dreaded the end of the whole affair. Especially when I learned that the house may be “haunted” by people who committed suicide.

Suspense remains high with a number of additional red herrings, including your father’s failure to succeed as a published science fiction author, and even your mother’s possible entanglement with someone from her workplace. The suspense continued to build to a climax even into the final moments of the game, when I kept expecting “something” big to happen.

The voice-acting is exceptional, and the attention to detail accurately reflects the 90’s-era period of the house. Graphics are not over the top, but get the job done in this adventure. And the music – both in the background and in the tape cassettes found around the house – really complete the game.

Many player reviews gripe, and rightfully so, that the game is not a good value for playtime, with an original cost of $20 for about 1.5 hours of playtime – some people can even finish the game in 60 seconds. So definitely get it on sale. And some people gripe that it’s not really a “game”, but more an interactive story, and that rings true as well. And finally, some have commented that the game only appeals to a certain “type” of player, to which I wholeheartedly disagree. If you have a shred of humanity and empathy for your fellow human, (and with a teen daughter, I especially see many of the same issues reflected in she and her friends’ lives), you will understand the pain and trauma shown in Sam’s life. Don’t let those negative reviews keep you away from a deeply personal, especially poignant experience. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 28, 2014, 06:37:25 AM
Despite sporting a stupid name (perhaps Mars: Insurrection or Revolution would be more appropriate), Mars: War Logs (http://www.gamespot.com/mars-war-logs/) is still a pretty decent third-person action RPG, although a bit clunky in gameplay and story.

The first issue is that you cannot remap your keys. The developers have apparently provided some alternative method of remapping keys through rewriting an INI file, but I instead used GlovePIE as it was easier. However, that program still wasn’t a perfect fit, mostly during the fighting sequences.

The gameworld is a series of interlinked maps, set on Mars. Graphical details are pretty good and make the game-world believable as a struggling colony, but you never truly get the feeling that you’re on Mars because other than the red color scheme, all the maps are essentially in covered locales – you never see outside at the bigger world. The game could just as easily be set on a dilapidated future earth, other than the red coloration. Maps are relatively small in size and can generally be crossed quickly. Along the way you’ll want to look for supplies, NPCs, merchants, and any foes that pop up.

The game plays similar to Gothic and Risen in that you have a melee weapon and can roll behind enemies or to avoid them. But the whole mechanic is very clunky: your character automatically goes into offensive mode when you are spotted by enemies, and you’re unable to run away or move very effectively. The rolls generally allow you to move out of harm’s way, but getting back within striking distance is still a chore. And the melee weapon is your default; although you gain a nailgun fairly early, the only way to use it or any other object is to bring up a radial menu and manually select any alternative actions you might carry out, including offensive spells and the nailgun, healing actions, and throwing bombs or laying traps. It’s very clunky in design, although the action does go into slow-motion during these brief moments.

After defeating foes, you have the opportunity to search them for goodies. You also can elect to steal the water left in their bodies, although this supposedly puts you on a “dark path”. I skimmed everyone I could, and if anything, being “bad” allows you to intimidate NPCs much easier, so really, there’s no moral problem with doing it. No one ever refused to talk to me because of it, and it’s more credits to use to craft or buy items.

You can craft individual items (potions, ammo, bombs and traps) or you can enhance certain weapons and armor with the supplies you pick up along the way, so that’s a nice feature. And unlike other recent games, once you collect from a supply stash, it’s done and doesn’t renew itself, so you have to be smart with what you accumulate. This was a great feature for the game.

Voice-acting is acceptable but several characters are mediocre, with no real passion evoked by the actors. The story seems a little nonsensical but at least wraps itself up in the end. And you could potentially go one of two directions – to support the existing powers that be or the budding rebellion – so that could give you a reason to replay the game.

If the fighting could be cleaned up significantly and allow better use of your talents and items without the micro-management, Mars: War Logs would be much stronger. The story and voicework are acceptable and get the job done but won’t win any awards. 7.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 05, 2014, 06:36:59 AM
Despite some middling reviews, I wanted to give Dark (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/dark-review/1900-6412133/) a shot, as the premise is unique and interesting. Essentially, Dark is a vampire-themed, third-person stealth-action RPG, made even more unique by using a cel-shading technique for its graphic design.

Graphic design isn’t next-gen (current-gen now??) by any means but works, giving you a taste of night clubs, streets, offices, museums and other locales.

As a stealth game, it’s really not bad, and I was expecting much worse. You can duck behind cover, or suck up against it if you really want, and are unseen by your enemies. This stretches realism in several places, as you can’t be seen behind a clear glass panel, but I’ll take any help I can get. You can then sneak up behind foes and either kill them quickly or drain their blood, and then drag them out of the line of sight. That’s all good.

You obtain experience with each kill (with additional XP for silent kills) that you can use to upgrade your vampiric powers both offensive and defensive. The list of powers is varied and fits in great with the speed and stealth of a vampire, so that was good. Some of the powers require full units of blood, which you get from draining foes.

You’re not really a fighter, however, and don’t have any weapons other than your hands, so if you get found, you’ll take some major damage. One foe is fairly even, but several will take you down in seconds.

Where I have a real issue with Dark is that it’s auto-save feature is sporadic. Some levels auto-save every time you cross through a doorway, while others don’t save until you’ve crossed a whole room. About a half-dozen times I would get through a huge area, take down most everyone, get near the end, and get killed, so I’d have to start all over again. After the last time, I just quit in disgust.

Dark has potential, and I actually enjoyed the slow, methodical approach to taking out enemies, but the lack of quick-save opportunities is extremely frustrating. Maybe get this one on sale for $5 or $10, and try not to tear your hair out when you fail a mission and have to start over from the top. 6.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 12, 2014, 06:46:05 AM
I don’t generally review the most recent releases, but I caught Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/assassin-s-creed-iii-liberation-hd-review/1900-6415643/) on sale and knew it was originally related to AC3 and featured that protagonist Connor in a small role, so I wanted to complete that storyline before playing AC4 in the very near future. I also knew that Liberation was an enhanced port that wouldn’t look as good compared to AC4’s upgraded visuals, so I didn’t want to take such a step back graphically.

You can tell that Liberation is not as graphically advanced as even AC3, but it is still a pretty game, and colors pop nicely. Set in the late 1700s, the game world is split into four different areas: New Orleans city, the bayou outdoors, an exotic Mayan temple, and a snowy New York mountain range. Each has decent details but textures are not quite as crisp as seen is the previous games, and that’s to be understood, since Liberation was a port from a hand-held system. So really, it does look pretty good overall, although monitor speed is constrained to 60 Hz (I normally run at 85 Hz, which makes visuals smoother).

Liberation brings the feel of the AC games, but it felt more like a compact version of the series, compressing everything you like about AC into a 10-hour game. You’ve got the city-scapes that you can climb the buildings and churches, the outdoors with the great tree-walking pioneered in AC3, the free-climbing parkour in Mayan caves, and the Ancient technology that you must find. You also have a plethora of outfits, gear and stores to buy, and a diversity of side missions to keep you occupied. But maps are at least a fourth the size of AC3, so everything just feels like a tease of what the AC games really offer.

Liberation does bring a few new features to the series. In the bayou, you can use a canoe to get around on the waterways. You’ll also go through an underground river by canoe in a very challenging segment. And you also can change your public persona based on the need: Lady for formal engagements, Assassin for stealthy encounters, and Slave to mingle with the workers. Each persona has its pluses and minuses and were used in various missions.

The story is interesting, and you encounter a variety of villains along the way. I never saw the final villain reveal until the very end, so that’s commendable. The most unique thing about the game is that you play as a black female assassin named Aveline, so I appreciate the diversity. Other characters are nicely defined and resonated well, although some were just annoying, including Gerald, your butler-cum-benefactor, who has a huge crush on your character and is extremely awkward, with lots of “erms” and “umms” and other nervous language that got old quickly.

Financially, you have a trading mini-game where you buy cargo ships, outfit them and send them off to distant locales to buy and sell their wares. However, the game never really provides a sufficient reason to gain money, other than upgrading some of your weapons and pouches. You can buy outfits for your three personas, but these are just cosmetic. Likewise, black-market traders sell pocket watches at escalating prices that are supposedly to complete a quest, but the only notification is in the statistics menu, which isn’t really a “quest” in my eyes.

My favorite part of the game, and probably my favorite part of any AC game, is the free-climbing parkour. In AC2, it was when you entered all the secret temples and had to climb around inside these huge massive structures. In Liberation, you enter a Mayan cave system and have to climb around stalactites and ledges before entering a vast underground river, swimming through obstacles to find the Ancient construction. These are the best parts of the AC games, in my eyes, and AC3 had too few of them for my tastes.

Liberation is a great “taste” of the Assassin’s Creed world, and the nod to AC3 was nice. It’s a shorter game than others and not as graphically detailed, but it holds up well. At $20 full-price, that’s a good estimate of its overall value. 7.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 19, 2014, 06:41:13 AM
For a one-off “goof” created on weekends by Far Cry 3 developers, Blood Dragon (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/far-cry-3-blood-dragon-review/1900-6407642/) is fairly satisfying. It takes the familiar FC3 world and spins it into a dark, dystopian future, with weird colors inspired by 80s sci-fi action flicks.

The game further develops that relationship by having Michael Biehn of both Terminator and Aliens voice your protagonist, Rex Powercolt – a cyber-commando with bionic body parts. Biehn does a hilarious job of voicing Rex, and tears a new one for everything from the opening tutorials to collecting special items to upgrading your weapons. It’s a great send-up to all things gaming, and everything that annoys us as gamers, but that we gladly put up with to enjoy our past-time.

You can complete the game in about 8-12 hours – short enough not to overstay its welcome, while long enough to give you an alternative FPS actioner. The game merely mods most wildlife from the main game, but adds a new enemy faction, scientists, and the titular Blood Dragons themselves. These forces of nature are huge, difficult to take down, and shoot laser beams from their eyes, so it’s often fun just to lure them to enemy encampments and let them do all the heavy lifting.

Each enemy base you take over gives you new side missions to undertake, which is the only way you can unlock weapon upgrades. So it is incumbent to do every task, as well as to collect all items, because that’s the only way to unlock these upgrades. Luckily, the open world map is not so huge that you can’t roam around and quickly get to everything, and you also have land and sea vehicles to assist if necessary.

Perhaps my only gripes about the game are the overall darkness of it – I don’t mind night-time scenes but I also like to have some brighter locales to offset the gloom. Some people report that the scan lines in the sky played havoc with their eyesight, but I didn’t notice it. The other issue was some bugs that would cause the game to drop out to desktop and erase all the progress I had made on key missions. It’s always a hassle to have to restart a mission all the way over.

The humor is the main attraction of the game, however. It’s everything that Duke Nukem Forever should have been, making fun of modern games while maintaining a ready wit. Hopefully we’ll see more of this offshoot brand. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 26, 2014, 09:14:51 AM
As a straight-forward FPS, Metro: Last Light (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/metro-last-light-review/1900-6408240/) is merely adequate and ordinary. But when you take your time to bask in the dystopian world that the Metro series presents, that’s when the game truly shines. To get a better feel for the sequel, I played the original Metro 2033 (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1966.msg12632#msg12632) again. The second game manages to enhance a few issues, but lags in others.

One of the main elements of the series is that you have to scavenge supplies – bullets, medpacks, air filters, etc. – from anything and everything to survive. The second game makes this slightly easier as instead of having to click on every single item, you merely need to click once in the general vicinity and you’ll pick everything up. It might be even nicer if you merely walked over items, but this does make it more interactive.

The second game also makes sneaking much more viable, and even forces it in some circumstances by requiring you to access certain tunnels and dark areas to advance. You’re certainly welcome to take a frontal advance, but will generally get taken out quickly by their superior numbers and firepower. My only issue with the sneaking is that your foes generally have their back to you and you can take them out too easily; it would be more realistic (and more challenging) if they moved around on some sort of schedule, but only a few – maybe 10% – actually do. But when you do sneak upon them, you’re rewarded with a cool kill animation.

Levels seem slightly smaller in the sequel, although the amount of detail is enhanced. Certainly no single level stands out like the original’s “The Front”, although there are several slightly smaller levels jammed together that present some challenges. In general, you want to look for alternate routes and stay in the shadows when in human-controlled areas. Out in the wild, or in sewers, I tended to have my back to a wall so that I could ensure nothing snuck up behind me.

I played on “Ranger” regular setting, which removes your HUD, makes enemies slightly more challenging, and removes some loot from the environment. I found this a rewarding gameplay because I never knew whether I had enough ammo (and in fact, ran out several times and had to make a mad dash for the exit), and I was forced to make decisions of whether I should tackle alternate areas with no hope of reward. But then you think, “Maybe I need to explore that tunnel opening and see if I can get more ammo and supplies!” It’s a great way to truly immerse you in the game.

Last Light shines in the atmosphere and in the storyline, connecting you directly to your actions from the original game. Every time you enter a “city”, you can listen in on conversations of groups and gain a better understanding of their living conditions and the bleak world they inhabit. I spent way too long just listening in and getting a feel for how hard life was, but this is what really made the game for me.

After the main story is over, you can take on a number of different extra DLC missions outside of the main storyline. Heavy Squad places you in the role of the Communists as they try to stop advancing troops. In Kistariya you are a stalker who must gather supplies and gear from the surface, and tackle a library with some contrary critters. In Sniper Team you get to snipe some targets and then infiltrate an enemy base. Spider Lair filled me with dread because you face against Metro’s version of  spiders and try to escape the tunnels. Pavel puts you in his shoes as he sneaks through a Nazi base, while Khan relives some treacherous moments from his past. Finally, Anna gives you some options to both sneak and snipe your enemies.

I hesitate to give the game an “Excellent” rating because it is shorter in length, but it certainly improves in atmosphere and level design from the original. 8.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 02, 2014, 06:42:12 AM
I have played a great number of racing games, and I can tell you that of all of them, Ocean City Racing (http://www.gamespot.com/ocean-city-racing/) is the absolute worst. I’d even say that it is pure shite. Yes, the game works, and you can drive a car around in races, but that’s about it.
-   Objects are absolutely solid, so you can’t crash through even a tree or a pole but get hung up on them.
-   No car deformation when you do crash into objects.
-   Visuals are extremely dated and seem last-last-gen.
-   City-scapes you drive through are boring and small.
-   Soundtrack is amateurish and sounds like the developer’s brother got the gig just because.

There are SO many better or even less marginal racing games out there to even give OCR a shot. 4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 09, 2014, 11:24:14 AM
I admit I’m not very good at Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games. I generally get hung up on the resource-to-training end, where you’ve got to “mine” enough resources that you can train your “troops”. In fact, the only RTS game I’ve ever actually completed/won is the original Dungeon Keeper (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/dungeon-keeper-review/1900-2540100/), now available on Good Old Games with the extra Deeper Dungeons pack as Dungeon Keeper Gold.

Graphically, the game is playable, unless you bring the view really close, when it gets extremely pixelated. But this is an older game, so don’t pick it for the graphics. Gameplay, however, is still relatively fun.

I did manage to get through about 6 levels before getting caught up in the resource-to-training kerfuffle; I would train up guys to go beat up my foes, we’d both get decimated, and start all over again. But this time I lost. I suppose I could have attempted to play the map differently and try to win, but I was getting bored after several hours. I did try the Deeper Dungeons pack, which allows you to play any of 15 new levels individually, but if anything, the play is greatly intensified: if you accidentally open a new area, you might immediately face a half-dozen level 5 foes, who can easily destroy your level 1 team.

So, although I again proved to myself that I’m not real adept at RTS games, I do salute those of you who are great at them, and having one of the classics available for modern machines is awesome. 8.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 13, 2014, 06:35:12 AM
Although I grew up collecting comics, I stopped in the late 80s, so I wasn’t exposed to the many 90s heroes that came out, including Deadpool. I’ve of course read of most of these since then, and have a general working knowledge of this character and how he’s supposed to be really funny and break the fourth wall with readers. But I’m definitely not a fan, and probably not the limited target demographic for Deadpool: The Game (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/deadpool-review/1900-6410731/).

For all intents and purposes, Deadpool is a hack-and-slash third-person shooter, with some lite-RPG options, in that you can upgrade equipment and some skills as you collect coins dropped by dead foes. You have melee attacks with your swords, and those do look impressive during gameplay; you also can shoot stuff with double pistols, shotguns or other rifles.

I understand that Deadpool as a character is supposed to be surreal, and as voiced by Nolan North, he definitely gets that point across. However, I just found his characterization crass and he comes across as a general buffoon; the word "chimichangas" doesn't tickle my funny bone. I was not amused, in other words. I think I laughed once, only when I saw unicorns and butterflies suddenly appear, which had nothing to do with Deadpool himself, but more something that the game developers thought to add.

I only played the game for about 3 hours, during which time I was underwhelmed with the generic, repetitive, and downright mediocre gameplay. It’s a boring corridor shooter with boring “adventure” components where you find boxes and flip switches. You also cannot remap your keys. Couple these issues with a crap camera, unresponsive key-mashing and some bugs that remove you from the playing area, and you’ll get exasperated quickly.

I realize that I’m not a fan, and that maybe to young teenage boys, Deadpool is completely awesome because of just how “cra-a-a-a-azy” he is. But if so, he deserves a game that rises above mediocrity and does something special. This is not that game. I was bored, I wasn’t amused, the character comes across as a jerk, and the whole thing was just swimmingly average. 6.0 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 16, 2014, 06:33:57 AM
I don’t normally review recent releases, but ever since I saw the Kickstarter and eventual Steam Greenlight request for Lifeless Planet (http://www.gamespot.com/videos/lifeless-planet-teaser-trailer/2300-6381394/), I was hooked. The concept is absolutely fantastic: your spacecraft has been sent a dozen light years away from Earth to a just-discovered planet that should be a verdant paradise. When you arrive, your craft malfunctions and crashes, leaving you stranded and separated from your two companions. Furthermore, the paradise planet is now dead with no life to be found.

All standard sci-fi fare, but then you get the kicker: the Soviet Union has already settled and laid claim to this unknown planet, with towns and infrastructure throughout the world.

Are you really on another planet? Or were you just stuck in a box in suspended animation for centuries, and this is what happened to Earth while you slept?

These questions are what drive the gameplay of Lifeless Planet, interwoven specifically with the core jumping mechanic of your astronaut. You can jump and double-jump across boulders and gaps, and occasionally, you can use jets to get farther and higher, but their use is limited. In between, you’ll get glimpses of where you truly are, and what happened – it’s a really great story that sucked me into this world.

It helps that the author of this ambitious 6+ hour game does a lot of things right. Because you do so much running in-game, the author uses light and color to effectively guide your way across the sprawling alien landscapes you’ll encounter. He uses flashes to indicate items of interest that will further your knowledge of your situation and of the planet’s biology. The alien landscape offers unique vegetation that can help or hinder your progress. And the background music is moody and evocative.

Sure, the graphics and the astronaut avatar could be a little bit sharper and better defined, but remember that this is essentially one guy creating the whole game. I don’t want to spoil the experience other than to say that I feel this is one of the true successes of the Kickstarter craze, and I definitely recommend it. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 20, 2014, 10:55:46 AM
Might and Magic X Legacy (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/might-magic-x-legacy-review/1900-6415645/) is surprisingly addictive but features some extremely punishing moments. First off, know that Legacy is a revival of the grid-based RPGs of yore, where you move one space at a time in the four cardinal directions. The 3D graphics are definitely upgraded from those older games, but there is some occasional pop-in when you move too quickly.

Technically, the game could be considered open-world, but the world itself is small by recent RPG standards. You could cross from one end to the other in less than 5 minutes, visiting various forests, grasslands, castles, many dungeons, and cities. You will need to scan every single tile to ensure you don’t miss any treasures, so this gets monotonous but is essential.

The RPG element is strong. When you get enough experience points, you get Attribute points that will raise your hit points, mana, melee, range and magic skills. You also get points to put toward a diversity of Skills based on your character type. After raising skills to a certain level, you have to see a trainer to raise them to the next level. And even some of the equipment gains experience points to raise their effectiveness over time.

Where Legacy stumbles is in the fighting itself. Yes, we’ve been weaned away from really challenging battles in the recent decade, but there are some real issues here. Legacy’s foes are generally static, so you know where they will come from, and they maintain their own hit points instead of changing based on your own; i.e. the Gothic/Risen model instead of Elder Scrolls. This means you’ll enter some areas and truly be unable to get past certain foes until your own skills increase significantly. I’m okay with this. I’m also okay with being surrounded by foes and them hammering away on multiple sides, as that’s realistic.

Where I take issue is when foes spawn from nowhere to attack; I suppose I’ll just have to credit it to “magic”. I also don’t like that you are generally unable to move away from the battle. If your foes are several tiles away, you can move back and they’ll follow you, but you might be able to maneuver into a bottleneck with only one direction for attack, as opposed to being surrounded on several sides in the open. Unfortunately, you can’t move away when a foe is in the adjacent tile, even if you have a space to move into.

You collect multiple quests as you travel, and come across many NPCs that may offer trade, additional knowledge, or possibly even themselves. You can bring along two NPCs to your party, and although they won’t fight for you, they may assist in other ways. My two were able to spot secret doors and traps, as well as give me a 10% bonus in XP from downed foes, which helped my own XP raise that much faster.

Quests are diverse and some are multi-tiered, requiring thoughtful consideration. I found this guide (http://guides.gamepressure.com/mightandmagicxlegacy/) useful, especially in sussing out riddle answers, learning where trainers are found, and deciphering tough puzzles. Interestingly, one of the foes you’ll face appeared in the game Dark Messiah of M&M as your demon host. By the end, I did manage to complete all quests, so I was pleased with that.

After the main game, you can return and start the add-on “The Falcon and The Unicorn”, which quickly deposits you in a prison where you’ll have to enact your escape. I started to get into this, but unfortunately couldn’t retrieve my previous high-level gear, so I was stuck with very inferior gear to take on someone who could one-hit kill all my team. I tried getiing past this several times to no avail, so that’s where I ended the game. A bit disappointing, to be sure.

Legacy certainly evokes remembrances of RPG games from the early 00s, but I can’t say that we really needed that. Gameplay is very tough and you’ll need to eke out every experience point you can get to complete the game. And it is very addictive and lengthy (40+ hours), so you’ll probably enjoy the experience if you can get past the initial learning curve. But the difficulty and the graphic presentation make this hard to recommend higher than 7.4 out of 10.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 23, 2014, 11:51:39 AM
Beyond Good & Evil (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/beyond-good-and-evil-review/1900-6084628/) is one of those “must-plays” that should be in your library, although I did have a few graphical glitches as a result of its age. For the most part, BGE holds up really well on today’s system, and you can get an updated version that works on modern machines at Good Old Games.

BGE is basically an action/adventure 3-D platformer, but incorporates vehicle races, photography, sneaking and beat-em-up fights. You play as Jade, an athletic young woman who lives with her uncle Pey’j in a lighthouse on the planet Hillys, overseeing children whose parents were lost in the continuing war with an alien species called the Doms. The Alpha Squadron are the planet’s protectors, but seem to be falling down on the job of protecting the many humans, animal-people (your “uncle” is a pig-man), and wildlife of the planet. As a result, an underground Resistance network has arisen, and seeks your services.

Jade is able to fight with a staff and does flips and jumps. She also is a photographer, and has to get pictures of what the Alpha Squadron and the Doms are REALLY up to. In addition, she is contracted to take photos of all the wildlife on the planet, which brings a fun “search” to the whole game. And you’ll need those photos to earn Pearls, which are used to upgrade your hovercraft, and later a spaceship.

The game has a lot of heart and makes you feel good as you play. Some areas are a bit challenging physically because you can’t fully upgrade your key bindings, and the camera sometimes switches gears on you. Others take place during fights (especially the last one) and reverse your keys as you are stunned, so you almost have to memorize the attack plan.

Rumor has a sequel being planned (http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/04/15/beyond-good-evil-2-a-good-candidate-for-development-at-ubisoft), so I’m hopeful that more people will come to learn and love Jade just like me. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 27, 2014, 09:06:04 AM
I didn’t really want to like Ravensword: Shadowlands (http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/12/21/ravensword-shadowlands-review) – it looks last-last-gen graphically and got mediocre reviews from IGN. But for an RPG ported from tablets and cellphones, it isn’t actually that bad – I’ve played plenty worse AAA titles for PC.

Shadowlands has a bare-bones plot – you are the sole survivor of a massacre between humans and dark elves, so you must be “special” somehow – and doesn’t go deep into explanation, other than to say you need to collect some gems and the Ravensword itself to stop the bad guys. But once you start playing, you’ll see elements of other RPGs under the hood: graphically, the game seems on par with Arx Fatalis, while the level design is something akin to the Gothic or Risen series, with lots of topography changes. And gameplay itself seems like a second cousin to The Elder Scrolls games, with respawning foes (sometimes only feet in front of you) and talents that increase the more you use them.

But Shadowlands is also quick to complete, and after slogging through weeks of huge RPGs like Skyrim, sometimes that’s all you need to scratch that itch. Kill critters, get XP, upgrade your abilities and “talents” like weapon damage, lockpicking and magic use. You’ve done this a million times by now so it’s easy to figure out.

NPCs are barely perfunctory and only serve to give you a few quests or to trade weapons and gear. A diversity of weapons come in increasing levels of damage caused, while armor also increases its value. Most items can be upgraded with socketed gems to enhance your core abilities.

I wouldn’t pay a bundle for this game but if you can get it for $5 or so, it’s a worthwhile diversion for longer games you’ve been holding out for. It also boots extremely fast, so you’ll never be waiting to play. 7.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 30, 2014, 10:07:39 AM
The STALKER Series: Part 1

After tackling the challenging world of Metro (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2424.0), it actually made me want to play the STALKER series, just to retain that particularly Russian vibe of a devastated world. I had originally played S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/stalker-shadow-of-chernobyl-review/1900-6167650/) upon release (courtesy of Grey Mouser), but I daresay I hated the actual gameplay, even though I managed to finish the game (with walkthrough). It was one of my first “open-world” game experiences next to the early Elder Scrolls fantasies, and I just disliked the whole experience intensely and felt the enemy AI was way too hard. I hated it so much, it threw me off wanting to play the final two games in the series.

This time around … completely different experience. Amazing what 8 years will do, and how playing a diversity of open-world games and actually improving my personal shooting skills will help. And they also have a number of patches for the game that probably improve certain aspects from my first play-through. The game itself is a straight-ahead first-person shooter without any role-playing elements.

The STALKER games are not true open-world games in the vein of Elder Scrolls, Just Cause and Fallout, but essentially operate on a “pod” system, in which each pod is open-world but connected by a transition to the next pod. It’s an effective use of hard disk requirements and today’s souped-up computers make the wait minimal. Recently, we saw a similar style of game in Kingdom of Amalur.

SoC is a lengthy affair that requires you to tackle certain key missions, but along the way you can accept FedEx quests from various individuals, most of which have a 4-day in-game timer to finalize. You’ll also gain map coordinates to hidden STALKER caches that you can choose to explore. For the most part, these caches aren’t necessary to visit, as they only have standard supplies, but every once in a while, you’ll get a good weapon or gear that you can resell for more money.

The story follows the trail of a STALKER named Strelok, who you must find for an unknown reason, as you lost your memory. This will force you to go from one area to another to pick up the pieces of Strelok’s own voyage. The locations vary from underground bunkers to twisted forests, radioactive cities to STALKER encampments. The whole atmosphere of the game is dark, disturbed and dangerous, just as you’d suppose a radiated Chernobyl might be.

Enemy AI is extremely challenging, especially some of the animal mutants like the Snork, a human who runs around on all four legs like a pack animal and leaps at you from 10 feet away. Human enemies are great shots and force you to seek cover, peek over and pick them off as they in turn search for you. Manage this against the variety of weapons and armor available, which get better gradually as you extend your play time. And the artifacts that you will find can enhance your overall protection against harm from enemies and the environment.

The game builds up to its climax, where you must enter the nuclear power plant itself and face down very challenging enemies and then the Monolith itself, an “entity” that allows you to gain your fondest desire if you can reach it.

I had a few glitches that affected gameplay. Notably, about mid-way into the game, I was supposed to assist a scientist in doing some experiments at Yantar so that he could give me a special headset to cancel mental damage. However, he never offered me the mission, so I eventually had to kill him by grenade (which took some fancy maneuvering as all your weapons are removed when you near his presence) and get a secondary headset that wasn’t as good. The last glitch occurred at the finale, where I chose to avoid the Monolith and find out who was behind everything all along. Unfortunately, I got stuck in a room and couldn’t continue because my “source” never appeared to open the doors. Good thing YouTube has all the endings available.

Shadow of Chernobyl was a much better experience this time around, and offers a deep, foreboding look at an apocalyptic situation via a satisfying shooter. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 04, 2014, 10:31:19 AM
The STALKER Series: Part 2

Released 2 years after Shadow of Chernobyl, Clear Sky (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/stalker-clear-sky-review/1900-6198116/) is actually a prelude to the STALKER series, and tentatively follows the trail blazed by Strelok to get to the nuclear power plant. Although technically the prequel, Clear Sky enhances the gameplay and graphics significantly, revisiting some of the same locales as SoC, but before they were damaged further by major psychic blasts.

When you first arrive in Clear Sky, the world is gloriously gorgeous, and you start out in swamps that are located just west of SoC’s original starting point at the Cordon. In the swamps the reeds wave rhythmically to the wind, and the colors really pop. You’ll later visit the Cordon (opening with one of the most challenging shootouts I’ve ever had), and then many (but not all) of the locations seen originally in SoC, as well as some new ones. You’ll also visit new locations only hinted at in SoC, before again heading to the nuclear power plant.

To upgrade your gear, you’ll need to locate specific flash-drives with information on weapons and armor, and then deliver those flash-drives to key technicians located at major camps. Once that’s done, the technician can upgrade your gear appropriately. Weapons can be modified to be more accurate, to cause more damage, and to carry a larger clip or to use alternate bullet sizes. Armor modifications include additional protection from elemental and human damage, additional slots to carry multiple artifacts, and ability to carry more gear.

To locate flash-drives and key equipment, you must now pay for clues to locate weapons and ammo caches, although if you search enemies, you’ll find additional clues to smaller caches. It was hard to ever have enough money, which is good, although one specific scene – which you cannot skip – causes bandits to rob all your cash, and even when you catch up with them, you’ll never get it back. So save often and try to upgrade all your gear before this scene occurs.

New to the series, you’ll need an artifact detector to locate artifacts, rather than just finding them floating around or in someone’s cache; depending on the model of detector, you’ll have to cross right on top of artifacts, and then the detector will “dig” them up for you to collect. Of course, they are normally found in extremely dangerous areas, so you’ll have to work quickly. The artifacts can then be added to your armor for additional protection from damage, and also to carry larger loads.

Clear Sky also introduces factions into the series, and allows you to join one of them, which will automatically put you at odds with other factions. I intentionally went the Switzerland route so I could get along with the Stalkers, Bandits, Duty, Freedom, Scientists and other entities, although the Bandits went against me at one point – perhaps because I didn’t complete enough/any tasks for them. The more tasks you complete for a faction, the better your reputation, and you’ll eventually be offered a chance to join them, and can get better merchant rates.

Also new, the world environment will occasionally have a cascade storm through the world, forcing you to take sufficient cover within covered buildings, tunnels, etc. Generally, you have about 8 real-world minutes to find cover, but sometimes you have to go pretty far to find it.

Clear Sky is a tighter game than SoC, and offers a doozy last level at the nuclear power plant, but much of the suspense is gone, because you know what happens in the original game – that’s part of the downfall of introducing a prologue after the original has come out [e.g. Star Wars Episodes 1-3]. Nevertheless, it’s a more attractive game, and really brings some new elements to the gameplay, such as the upgrade system, factions, and the reputation system, so I’ll rate this slightly higher than the original, but still not in the Excellent range. 8.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 07, 2014, 08:56:21 AM
The STALKER Series: Part 3

The true sequel to the original Shadow of Chernobyl, and third in the STALKER series, Call of Pripyat (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/stalker-call-of-pripyat-review/1900-6249242/) successfully concludes the saga of the Chernobyl disaster zone. In this final game, you’ll enter all-new areas never seen previously. You also take on the role of a military advisor who has been tasked with finding out what happened to 5 separate helicopters that apparently crashed inside the Zone.

CoP removes the faction component of the game – you’re a neutral party, but how you treat the various groups will reflect in later conversations and interactions. Help a faction out, and they’ll be sure to help you out with extra gear and supplies. I solved some situations for the scientists, and got a one-of-a-kind anomaly detector that was pretty awesome. And the better detectors you have, the better artifacts you’ll find.

Speaking of artifacts, they are mostly relegated to certain anomalous sites, and your map easily identifies these areas for you. Simply stroll through and pick up the artifacts as they come to the surface. Oh, and be careful of the radiation rampant in these special areas....

Weapons and armor can be upgraded, but instead of having to find flashdrives of information, you instead have to find some tools for two specific technicians. You’ll need three separate sets of tools – basic, enhanced and fine – to fully customize all your equipment.

Thankfully, CoP also loses the pay-for-clues format of the 2nd game – you do still receive a few clues to secret caches after solving certain mysteries, but your in-game map isn’t covered with purple dots of worthless caches. Although the map does show certain key locations, and any known tasks are generally identified on the map, you still must do a lot of searching (or consult a handy Wiki such as this one (http://stalker.wikia.com/wiki/S.T.A.L.K.E.R.:_Call_of_Pripyat)) to figure out how to solve the quests you’re given.

You primarily have free-range in three large areas: the first two are rural, while the third is a city location for Pripyat itself. In between, you may enter some underground areas to connect to another location. Graphics are nicely done and showcase the beauty and collapse of the ruined Zone.

CoP is a good ending to the series, although it falls just underneath the second game in my eyes. And while overall they don’t capture the unique vision of the Metro series, the STALKER games certainly provide a great taste of the Russian point of view considering the collapse of civilization. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 11, 2014, 09:15:21 AM
Medal of Honor: Warfighter (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/medal-of-honor-warfighter-review/1900-6399013/) definitely wins the award for stupidest shooter name ever (Really? You couldn’t have gone with something like MOH: Legends or Chronicles or War Stories or anything else??), but is actually an okay game. Not great, not pathetic, but somewhere in the middle, even as it offers some unique elements.

True to all recent AAA war FPS’s, you are saddled with grandiose explosions and cutscenes that often take control away from you. However, I didn’t experience any QTEs in my play-through, and I also wasn’t constantly pestered by my A.I. partner to be doing something, a gripe I’ve had about recent Call of Duty games where you have a spotter telling you everything you have to do. Warfighter actually allows you to make your own decisions, and yes, sometimes mistakes, and that was surprisingly refreshing. You also can go prone, and can lean around cover to snipe at enemies, both which are appreciated. But you never feel really at risk, because your teammates never die, and they keep handing out ammo like a Pez dispenser – maybe if I’d run out of bullets, it would have made sense to scavenge all the foes’ weaponry. Only towards a near-final map where I was alone and without weapons did this change and cause some suspense.

Graphics at high end are taxing, but also very gorgeous with the Frostbite engine. They can really do some pretty effects although everything has a darker, grittier tone to it. I guess that’s realistic. What isn’t realistic are some of the character models: one character’s wife and little girl are downright scary looking, with hair that seems alive and faces that are fairly hideous. Uncanny valley, indeed. But I guess the level design is realistic.

Gameplay is varied – you storm beaches, you snipe from afar, you do helicopter runs, you clear back alleys, you pilot an armed robot, you train as a terrorist soldier, you chase a terrorist through packed city streets in your truck – so you’re never bored, and you get a good dose of everything for a decent amount of time. The truck chase was great fun and felt fresh, but most everything else was so “same-old” that you felt like the designers were merely checking off boxes on their list. However, the second half of the game seems much stronger, with some real standout moments including a foot chase into a fortified terrorist compound, an aerial assault on a mountain village that leads into spider-hole caverns, and a frantic cat-and-mouse car chase through the streets of Dubai complete with car crashes.

The story meanders back and forth, so I never knew if I was coming or going, or where the present had landed up. I know a terrorist did something and you found some intel and you had to stop something bad. I think.  :)  But otherwise, it’s a wholly disjointed affair that would have been better to have one lead narrator and a more cohesive timeline that went in order.

So, even though you’ve probably played something akin to this shooter before and it doesn’t really tread any new ground in visuals or story, it’s a decent play and does offer some standout moments of gameplay. 7.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 14, 2014, 07:42:35 AM
Mark of the Ninja (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/mark-of-the-ninja-review/1900-6394787/) is an atmospheric, gorgeously detailed side-scroller that places you in the shoes of a trained ninja assassin. Stealth is all-important, although you can certainly go the “kill-em-all” route if you so desire. But at the end of each level, if you get past guards without killing any or raising the alarm, you’ll get more points.

The story starts with a mission to retrieve some goods from an arms dealer who has reneged on work for the ninja clan, putting them at risk. To effectively combat the armed thugs, you agree to receive tattoos that will provide special abilities. But the tattoo ink also causes paranoia and even death to its bearer, when it has been used in the past.

The art style is distinctively Asian, with up to 20 layers in place on the 2D screen (you operate in only one), providing depth and spectacular design. You’ll traipse through temples, offices, subterranean levels and more as you move through the story. In between missions, you are treated to animated cutscenes that would be right at home with Nickelodeon’s “Samurai Jack.”

Your ninja can upgrade to various armor options after completing certain tasks. You also get a variety of weapons and items to assist your efforts, including wooden darts (to take out lights from afar), smoke bombs, caltrops, poisoned darts and more. You also gain special talents farther into the story, after you have been tattooed even more, with the best talent being a “portal” movement that can flit you across the screen instantaneously.

While traversing the various levels, you’ll come across special relics for additional points, generally hidden away. You’ll also encounter additional challenge levels that take you out of the map proper and place you in a new training room to use some of the skills you’ve just learned. The mix of story and challenge is a welcome back-and-forth.

Foes include primarily armed guards, but also guards with shields, snipers, dogs who can sniff you out of your hiding places, and even cyborg ninjas. Getting past these without killing anyone or setting off the alarm can be extremely challenging but ultimately rewarding. Generally, you can look and find a hidden vent to crawl through to make it around these enemies, or knock out a light, or use one of your special tools to get past.

The ending provides an interesting twist that I never considered, and the developers intentionally don’t give away whether what you are experiencing is real or not, leaving it up to the player to come away with the final thought. So my final thought is that this is a great game well-deserving of your attention. 8.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 21, 2014, 10:25:03 AM
Magrunner: Dark Pulse (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/magrunner-dark-pulse-review/1900-6410659/) is unapologetically the love-child of Portal, mixed with a heavy dose of the Cthulhu mythos. In this first-person puzzler, your word of the day is “magnet”, as in like-colored objects attract one another, and opposite-colored objects repel. It’s a simple concept used to good effect throughout the game.

Magrunner shamelessly copies Portal in so many ways: you start in a testing facility (although in this case you chose to be there) that has huge open spaces for testing your skills, but then the structure begins to crumble as you go into later levels, finally (and here is where it diverges from Portal) taking you to a Xen-like atmosphere where you can see the Earth and other worlds being invaded by Dark Ones, overseen by Cthulhu itself. And the game also has interminable elevator sequences between EVERY LEVEL CHANGE just like Portal. Seriously, designers, just let us go into the next room and skip the elevator.

But these elevator sequences are where you get a good amount of your exposition dump. Your mentor, a six-armed mutant (this is 2250 A.D., after all), is keeping tabs on you, so that when stuff starts going sour, he can provide positive feedback for your efforts. Other NPCs come in and out of the picture, but your mentor is always in your corner.

If anything, Magrunner doesn’t make ENOUGH use of the Cthulhu idea, however. Sure, you’re stuck in a limbo-like area at the end, but rarely do you feel threatened. However, the game does introduce several antagonists that chase you around, which is a first for these Portal-like puzzlers. And they are some scary critters, so you are barely able to keep a step ahead of them as they chase you along – definitely some nerve-wracking moments on that end.

The gameplay is certainly inspired, and I was at a loss for what to do next on several occasions (thank you YouTube!!). But once you start to think about how magnetic forces interact, it makes sense. You can link like-colored objects together to amplify their magnetism (and a handy keystroke allows you to actually see the physical manifestation of their power). You also use mirrors to bounce magnetic beams from your glove to objects. Towards the latter half, you obtain a special tool that allows you to plant a magnetic charge on just about any location; you sometimes will need to inch it up a flat surface to raise the lift you’re on, or maybe you’ll place a negative charge beneath your lift to boost you even higher. One map required me to lift 8 platforms in tandem – no easy task, let me say.

Graphically, the game is pretty without overpowering the senses. The colors pop, especially in the early sections inside the training facility. As you enter Limbo, the background is absolutely fascinating, as you see the Earth circling in rotation, while being surrounded by Dark Ones inhabiting the planet. And of course, Cthulhu is seen during lightning flashes, which is really cool. Levels might not be at quite the design standard of Portal 2, but they certainly work and imbue that sense of destruction.

Overall, I was challenged by Magrunner, and liked the use of the magnetic forces as the key game mechanic. The Cthulhu insertion could have been handled a little more efficiently, and I severely disliked the in-between elevator sequences, but overall, it’s a game I’d probably play again. 8.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 25, 2014, 08:10:07 AM
Even getting Takedown: Red Sabre (http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/10/01/takedown-red-sabre-review) on the Steam Sale at $0.99, I still feel like I overpaid. This game is brutally punishing and more frustrating than almost any game I’ve ever played. Granted, I played the single-player component, but I still feel like you’d have the same issues alongside a co-op team.

The crux of the matter is that the enemy AI is able to one-shot kill you at random. You never know where they will pop up, and they nearly always get the drop on you if you surprise one another. I can appreciate that this is akin to a real-life battle, where you never know where your foe is going to come from, but from a gamer perspective, it’s no fun.

As a single player, you’ll die within minutes of your hour-long round. The longest I lasted was 5 minutes as I searched for foes to shoot. Unfortunately, even if you manage to survive what are normally one-shot kills, you can’t heal yourself like in most games. You can snag your fallen opponents’ weapons, but basically, you’re stuck with what you started the map. I can see that playing co-op would allow your group to better navigate spaces and protect one another’s rear, so there might be some value if you’ve got some friends interested to play.

In its favor, the game boots quickly and has a diversity of about 12 maps (a couple are reused as day/night scenarios, however). Maps include office complexes, container ships, radar installations and more and are adequately detailed without breaking the graphical “bank.”

Takedown is a throwback to a punishing era of shooter. I know there are people so hard-core that they’ll appreciate it, but I’m not one of them. Play it with friends or not at all. 4.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 01, 2014, 07:27:13 AM
If you enjoy a good game of “follow the leader”, then you’ll love Call of Duty: Black Ops II (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/call-of-duty-black-ops-ii-review/1900-6400748/). However, if you’d rather play something that allows you to actually think, this is not your game. Black Ops 2 always tells you where to go – either via voice commands or an omnipresent arrow on your HUD – or what to do. Only on very rare occasions do you as the player have any free agency, and generally that is only to move around within a larger area; i.e. you have to take out a bunker, so you can go to the left or the right to flank.

In fact, as I played through Black Ops 2, I found myself – GASP!! – bored. If anything, I think I had more fun playing Medal of Honor’s silly named Warfighter (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2457.0), because at least that had some good driving levels to mix things up. BLOPS 2’s whole storyline of revenge just seems so fantastically over-involved, that it is hard to get invested in these character’s lives. (Although it’s always great to see Michael Rooker and Tony Todd get some acting jobs; surprisingly, Michael Keaton provides the voice of main character Hudson.)

My boredom was not assisted by the buggy gameplay. At least once per play session, the game would crap out and I’d have to turn it off in Task Manager. This was with lowered settings of 1280x1024 and medium graphics. Unfortunately, when the game died like this, it wouldn’t save ANY of the level, so you’d have to restart the WHOLE MISSION all over again. Sigh….

I know most fans of the Call of Duty series play these games for the multi-player, and that’s fine for them, but I’d just like to see more innovation go into the single-player side of the equation. BLOPS 2 offers bombastic action set-pieces, but none that I actually get to participate in as a player. I’m just a bystander who occasionally gets to take the reins in a narrow canyon. 7.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 04, 2014, 10:01:28 AM
Released in 1993, Shadowrun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowrun_(1993_video_game)) was probably my favorite game on the SNES console, but then Microsoft released a lame multiplayer game in 2007 also called Shadowrun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowrun_(2007_video_game)) as an exclusive to force you to own the Xbox 360, or to upgrade your Windows version to Vista.

So I met the release of Shadowrun Returns (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/shadowrun-returns-review/1900-6412261/) in 2013 with some trepidation – which version would we get? Turns out it’s closer to the first, the one that was critically acclaimed but didn’t sell well. As pitched by one of the original creators, Shadowrun Returns was mega-funded on Kickstarter at $1.8 million dollars, four times more than its $400,000 goal. Wow! This meant the game’s developer would add in some elements from the SNES game – namely that game’s protagonist Jake Armitage, who you find asleep in the morgue at the start of the game, just like in the SNES version.

So what is Shadowrun exactly? I guess technically it’s a science-fantasy, turn-based, tactical role-playing game, based on the rules of the pen-and-paper board game of the same name. Whew! So this means you live in a film noir world where humans co-exist with elves, orcs, dwarves and trolls, and one is as likely to use guns, swords, magic or hacking (known as “decking” in this universe) to accomplish your goals. You can custom-create your character, and assign points to skills and attributes at the start of the game.

SR’s main campaign – “Dead Man’s Switch” – is set in Seattle, while the follow-up DLC Dragonfall (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/shadowrun-dragonfall-review/1900-6415692/) is set in Berlin. The key differences between the two is that the main campaign is a primarily linear affair with little leeway in getting off the path decreed for you, while Dragonfall offers a more open opportunity to pick and choose your assignments. Between missions, you return to a small brothel/bar in the main campaign, or to a multi-block neighborhood with plenty of shops in the DLC.

Once you obtain a mission, you must hire a small group to back you up, and you may choose to bring along different folks based on the mission. If it’s a straight-up battle, you’ll want more tanks and healers with you, while if you need to finesse some corporation’s databanks, you’ll probably want a trained decker by your side. Along the way, you’ll meet folks that can help you out, and maybe if you do a favor for them, they’ll join your team for free, or at a big discount. My main critique with the team structure is that the computer automatically outfits your team’s weapons, equipment and skills; if I had a better gun, I couldn’t pass it along to anyone on the team other than myself.

Missions are exciting affairs that require you to place your team in safe cover positions to avoid major damage. Between missions, you get a static text screen (no cut-scenes) to read about how the mission went, or what to expect. And you can generally speak to your team-mates, or other NPCs, but just expect to do a lot of reading to understand what’s going on in the story.

And the story for both games are pretty fascinating. In “Dead Man’s Switch”, you’ve been tasked to exact revenge on behalf of an old buddy who died, leading you into a huge mystery with global consequences. “Dragonfall” posits the possible return of the most deadly dragon who ever lived. Exposition is done really well, and the lack of moving cut-scenes is actually pretty refreshing.

Graphically, the game takes on a 2-D isometric overhead view, and although you can scroll the scene close or far, any conversations you initiate automatically bring the scene to the default view. The world feels and looks believable.

Dragonfall improves upon the base game, but both are highly recommended, providing 20+ hours of gameplay in a unique sci-fantasy world. The games have a few little niggles that keep them from greatness, but if you enjoy a good turn-based RPG, this should be right up your alley. 8.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 08, 2014, 10:54:52 AM
I hesitate to call indie release The Novelist (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/the-novelist-review/1900-6415591/) a game, but maybe something like a “choose-your-own adventure” would be more appropriate.

Essentially, you are a ghost, stuck in a house in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, you’ve encountered many families who have lived in the house. This summer, it happens to be rented by Dan Kaplan, his wife Linda, and their child Tommy. Dan is an author with one decent release to his name, Linda is an aspiring artist and Tommy has some learning disabilities that caused some bullies to pick on him at school. They have come to your house to reinvigorate themselves artistically and as a family, and to support Tommy’s needs.

As a ghost, you can flit about the house by possessing various lamps and lights. You also can “walk” along the ground and read letters, notes and journals, as well as view Tommy’s crayon art – these items flash if you can view them. Finally, you can possess your three visitors and get glimpses of their thoughts. When you have read their thoughts and viewed all items pertaining to them, you can make a decision about their lives, which you’ll whisper in Dan’s ear. If you play in Stealth mode, you cannot let the Kaplans see you; if they do, you lose a chance to influence their decisions fully. But if you remain unseen and get all the clues for all three guests, you can choose one primary and one secondary decision.

These decisions change throughout each of the nine chapters, which are in turn split into three months. And the choices are sometimes overwhelmingly difficult, just like real life. For example, Dan has been invited to present his last book at a big conference and showcase his newest work; at the same time, Linda’s beloved grandmother has just passed away. Whichever way you lean your decision, it will impact the family.

I tried to help my novelist as much as possible, but sometimes family issues would spring up and you’d simply have to compromise. That often meant denying someone something they really wanted, or only being able to partially do something. By the end of this short “game”, I was invested in my family, and about what would happen to their lives. Unfortunately, my novelist put out a mediocre sophomore effort, but on the plus side, Tommy overcame his learning disabilities and got an art scholarship; also, Dan and Linda led more fulfilling lives as a couple and cemented the love of a lifetime.

So you can’t always get everything right, just like in real life. I imagine if I went back and changed some of my choices, it would all come out much differently.

If you like your games with some thought to them, I think you could appreciate The Novelist. However, I would recommend getting it on sale as the gameplay (what there is of it) is only a couple of hours long at the maximum. 7.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 11, 2014, 07:05:18 AM
Skipping over the poorly received modern interpretation The Cartel (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2151.msg13528#msg13528), the Call of Juarez series returns to its Western roots with Gunslinger (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/call-of-juarez-gunslinger-review/1900-6408535/).

The story was interesting, but mainly serves as a way for the game developer to put all the bad guys from the Old West into a game. The story is told from the perspective of an elderly Silas Greaves, who was a bounty hunter throughout the late 1800s. Unfortunately, Greaves’ memories are occasionally faulty, resulting in some 4th-wall breaking inside the game itself. As an example, Greaves recalls being pinned down by Apache Indians, only for one of his listeners to remind him he was in the wrong part of the country for Apaches; he quickly makes the change to Mexican bandits and you see the result immediately on-screen. Other times, you will play through a level, and Greaves will say, “But that’s not what really happened” and you return to the start of the level, where a new path opens before you.

Gunslinger lacks the open-ness of the second game (and series prequel) Bound in Blood (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2081.msg13232#msg13232), but the game pulls off an art style that is part cel-shaded with crisp colors and lines. The levels and background scenery are gorgeous, but often resort to corridor crawls. You’ll visit mines, Old West towns, farmsteads, railroad trestles, saw mills, outdoor trails, river boats, swamps and more in your hunt for the vilest outlaws that the West has ever seen. And interestingly, Greaves was personally acquainted with all of them, always searching for the three men who killed his brothers and tortured him as a teen. (The McCalls of the previous three games get name-dropped on a few occasions.) Within each level, you can find secret items that translate to information cards visible in the main menu.

Gunslinger brings a lite-RPG element to the game, allowing you to accrue experience points through special kills and combos, that then allow you to open up skills relating to up-close (shotgun & TNT), far-off (rifle) and speedy (dual-wielding six-shooters) actions. It’s a neat way to keep you moving forward and give you new skills and special weapons.

Usually once in a level, you’ll have to engage in a showdown. This requires you to both manage your right hand’s location near your pistol, as well as focus (using the mouse) on your opponent. Then you must immediately act when you see their hand going to their gun, as otherwise they’ll get the drop on you. It took me a number of times to make kills in the showdowns, but I think the A.I. actually makes it a little easier each time you fail, or at least that’s how it seemed to me. The final showdown is a Mexican stand-off and you have to shoot two people who are separated.

The game is extremely challenging and I died A LOT, without any way to quicksave. The hardest section was at the finale of the game, where you are in a cemetery that essentially serves as an arena, with 3-4 foes coming at you at once, from all sides, so you can’t drop behind cover and wait them out. Occasionally you’ll get a mounted gun to use against foes.

I like some of the new things Gunslinger did with experience points and the challenging showdowns, but I think I still prefer the storyline and level design of Bound in Blood. 8.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 15, 2014, 08:15:20 AM
Like its brethren before it, Trackmania 2: Stadium (http://ready-up.net/reviews/trackmania-2-stadium-and-trackmania-2-valley/) continues the challenging – almost punishing – gameplay of the Trackmania series. As arcade racing games go, it focuses more on short challenge runs that can be accomplished in around a minute or less per track. These challenges consist of tight turns, loops, speed funnels, etc., where it’s more about pulling off the right turn or drift or acceleration at the exact right time.

Stadium is set inside a large stadium and mixes asphalt and dirt tracks, so you’ll have to watch how your car reacts to either condition. In the single-player component, generally, you can get a 3rd place award easily enough, once you’ve figured out each specific track. Second place is a bit more challenging and requires you to be pretty much accurate. First place is near-impossible with your near-perfect opponent: you cannot miss any curve and cannot slow down at any point, or you’ll lose.

Trying to get that Gold (1st place) award is where the true challenge of Stadium lies. You will go over each track many, many times, just throwing money at the Curse Jar for all the stupid little mistakes you make that cost you milliseconds off your time. The worst is when you’re right at the finish line, beating your competitor, and you run right into the upright of the course…. I kept saying to myself, “Okay, this is the last one [RESTART] … okay, I mean it, this is the last-last one [RESTART] … all right, this is ABSOLUTELY the very lastest one of them all!!” And of course it wouldn’t be. :hammerhead:

It’s helpful that Stadium shows both your best run, and the 1st place contender as ghost cars on the track, so you know that if either one has passed you, then you might as well restart, which you can do immediately. And the 4 arrow controls are responsive and simple enough to steer your vehicle along.

Stadium lacks the visual oomph of Canyon (reviewed here) (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2344.msg14101#msg14101), but is a pretty enough game. What it does is deliver very challenging physical puzzles that require the ultimate in concentration and finesse to tease out a win. My least favorite tracks were the multiple lap affairs that take place every 5 levels. Although I might manage to win the first lap, I usually messed up somewhere in lap 2 or 3 and it would cost me the lead, although I did manage to take 2nd in all the available tracks.

You can participate in the broader world by downloading and playing maps by other players, but that doesn’t generally interest me. I get enough stress and gray hairs from the official maps. Stadium (and the Trackmania series as a whole) is definitely not a broader racing game, but more of a racing puzzler, so that does limit the audience for this game. 7.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 18, 2014, 09:16:52 AM
As an updated version of old-school RPGs like the Might and Magic series, Legend of Grimrock (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/the-legend-of-grimrock-review/1900-6372273/) is wickedly hard. You must prepare your battle plans for your four characters on the fly, while moving on a tile-based system. Time after time I would gnash my teeth in anger, only to get past an area and then feel relief. I kept telling myself I would quit, and then I’d successfully complete a level, until next thing I knew, I was on the final 13th level.

That’s how Grimrock makes you feel: angry at the gameplay, but then relieved when you conquer a foe, outmaneuver a trap, or finally manage to move to the next level.

Made even more challenging are all the secrets in the game – which you will need to survive. Coin-sized secret buttons dot the dungeon walls, so either you need to know in advance where they are, or you have to scour every single wall. I chose the easier route: online walkthroughs! The best was Game Pressure (http://guides.gamepressure.com/legendofgrimrock/) because it showed you a level map and specific locations for secret buttons, but Game Banshee (http://www.gamebanshee.com/legendofgrimrock/secrets/secrets_level1.php) was also useful.

The graphics are pretty good and effectively reflect a dank dungeon atmosphere. The main foils to your progress are lots of critters and skeletons located in key areas. Only in a few cases do you encounter respawning foes. Some weapons and magic types are more effective on specific foes.

The other impediment are all the traps and pits scattered within each of the 13 levels. Falls result in loss of hit points, and pits are generally policed by more critters out for your blood. The traps vary in damage types, but generally you need to be fast to circumnavigate them.

Speaking of speed, the game is intensely more difficult by operating on the grid system. You can only move one space at a time, and can only turn 90 degrees at a time, so a simple operation like “go two steps forward, turn left three steps and face the wall” requires 6 button presses. Now just imagine when you are faced with a difficult TIMED puzzle requiring you to press four separate buttons to open a secret room. On one locale alone I spent several HOURS on a 30-second puzzle. Maddening!!

The game does have a robust character leveling system, so for each character – all of whom have different traits and species options – you can build them up as you’d like, getting little bonuses with every 3 to 4 points allocated to a set skill. I had a swordsman bruiser, assassin/bowman, and two mages – each concentrating on separate magic types. In hindsight, you really should just concentrate on a few areas and specialize in those, but it’s hard to know when you first start.

Grimrock is extremely challenging so I can’t recommend it for everyone. But as a dungeon-crawler, it’s not a bad romp, as long as you have the walkthrough at your side. 8.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 22, 2014, 11:28:25 AM
Cross Tetris with Lemmings and you get Mousecraft (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/mousecraft-review/1900-6415818/). This short, 5-hour side-scroller puzzle game isn’t stupendously difficult, but it does require some analysis through most of its 80 levels.

You are a mad scientist cat overseeing the testing of three mice; get at least one of them to the end of the level and you can move on. Along the way you’ll need to collect shards scattered throughout each level to open up later levels. To move your mice safely across a wealth of dangerous traps, and to gather the shards, you’ll need to place Tetris-shaped blocks throughout the level. The hazards consist of heights, acid, electric, explosions, robots and more, so you’ll need to place pieces wisely as you only have a limited number to use.

To support your decisions, you can reverse your block placement or pause or speed up the action. Some might consider this cheating, but I’d rather not go through a whole level if I realize I’ve made a mistake early. Although you can often place some blocks before releasing the mice, you also may need to place any remaining blocks after the mice have reached a certain part of the level. That’s where the Pause button comes in handy.

So, Mousecraft is not overly taxing mentally, and is a fairly fun diversion from other meatier games. 7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 25, 2014, 08:10:36 AM
Bioshock Infinite (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/bioshock-infinite-review/1900-6405762/) is an extremely impressive shooter with some grand concepts, but falls apart in the little details. Building on its pedigree with the original Bioshock (Bioshock 2 was developed separately), Irrational Games delivers another worthy chapter in the saga.

At its core, Infinite is an FPS with light role-playing elements, set in the fantastical sky-dwelling city of Columbia. Besides wielding a diversity of guns, your character Booker DeWitt also can unleash special powers called “Vigors” against your foes and the surroundings. You are assisted through most of the game by Elizabeth, a young woman whom you are to free from the imprisonment of Father Comstock and take to New York to pay off a debt. Elizabeth can pick locks for you and scrounge up ammo, health and vigors, but what really sets her apart is her ability to “tear” a hole into another universe and bring something over into your world.

The story is fairly intricate, especially the ending (stay through the credits!!), all tied to Elizabeth’s ability to “tear” holes into other worlds and make changes in one world that could affect another. One change sparks a huge revolution  after you provide weapons to a disaffected group, and this results in absolute destruction. The other major change is when Booker enters an alternate future where Elizabeth has not been freed, and becomes a terrible authority on her own. The ending, however, is a bit obtuse, and requires some real deep thinking, and an understanding of a “multiverse” with a myriad of possibilities. After you’ve played the game, feel free to check out this explanation (http://venturebeat.com/2013/04/19/understanding-bioshock-infinites-ending-ending-explanation/).

I know Infinite was touted as a potential Game of the Year upon its release but I have some issues with it.

Let’s start with the graphics. The colors of Columbia are absolutely striking, and the world is uniquely realized with its floating buildings and an interconnecting skyline that you’re able to jump aboard. Level design is interesting and intricate, with lots of detail. However, the character models – from Elizabeth to your enemies to the NPCs – all look plastic and cartoony, really emphasizing that this was just a game, rather than pulling me into the world. Additionally, you seem to spend half of your time checking out every corner of every room of every level for scraps of health and ammo, which starts to feel like filler after a while.

Speaking of characters, compared to the original Bioshock, Infinite lacks any real standouts like that game’s Andrew Ryan. Sure, Comstock is obnoxious with his religious invective, and Daisy is somewhat interesting as leader of the rebel Vox Populi, but other than the Lutece Twins who seem to show up wherever you are, I can’t even remember anyone else. I like that the major emphasis is on the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth, but the game still could have had more memorable characters.

Now let’s get to my major gripe – the shooting sections. I understand that Infinite is a triple-A FPS and that shooting is what will make it sell to the general public. That’s fine. Where I take issue is in the sheer monotony of the shooting sections. Some fight scenes take 20-30 minutes to complete, with ever-spawning hordes if you didn’t stop key foes (a ghost in a graveyard, Vox Populi airships spitting out big automatons). And foes are generally carbon-copy grunts, although some large automatons are interesting, as is a “Handyman” who is near-impossible to kill. Regardless, even if you “die” in battle, you are immediately resurrected right where you left off, so the game doesn’t offer any real consequences for death.

Tied to this is the general useless value of your Vigors. I generally only used two of the eight vigors the whole game – Possession to make enemy foes and turrets my allies, and Shock to harm and stun groups of enemies. Never mind the fact that using Vigors doesn’t really make sense in the whole character of Columbia; in Rapture, everyone wanted to get a leg up on their competition, so use of Plasmids made sense in that context, but in Columbia, the only person using Vigors seems to be you. It would have been nice if use of the Vigors was critical for some reason – one time I used the Shock Vigor on an electric current, which led to a secret area, but there could have been more opportunities like this with the other Vigors to make them more valuable.

Additionally, Elizabeth’s “tear” powers don’t really move the game forward. She generally brings in caches of weapons, health or Vigors, or she’ll bring in ally turrets and shelter, or maybe a hook to access a new area. Why can’t she open a “tear” and you can enjoy a nice quiet picnic? I remember the original gameplay demo had Elizabeth bring in a train to wipe out a ton of foes; she also brought in a storm that you shot with Shock to electrocute enemies – both were cut from the final game. I know you have to make some changes in the game play, but some random elements like this would have been great and pushed you to see what she could do next.

To sum up, Bioshock Infinite is a really good game, at just over 20 hours in length. The shooter elements are very strong, the graphic design is memorable, and the shifting storyline leads you deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. However, the shooting also get monotonous, most major characters are not very memorable, and both Elizabeth’s “Tear” power and Booker’s Vigors are not used as effectively as they could have been. 8.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 29, 2014, 07:00:07 AM
Bioshock Infinite’s Season Pass (http://bioshock.wikia.com/wiki/BioShock_Infinite_Season_Pass) includes three major playable pieces of downloadable content: Clash in the Clouds, and Burial at Sea – Parts 1 and 2.

Clash in the Clouds (http://bioshock.wikia.com/wiki/Clash_in_the_Clouds) is merely an escalating arena, with four separate locations times 15 rounds each. Within each round, you must dispatch a variety of foes and you get cash for each kill. You can use the cash to upgrade your Vigor set or your weapons, or you can purchase special items in the Columbia Museum (elements from the game’s creation, like models or artwork). Enhance your score and cash by fulfilling the Blue Ribbon requirements for each round; i.e. kill only with a shotgun, or use specific Vigors in combination. I don’t normally go for these types of arenas, but it was fairly simple, and netted me some additional achievements. 6.5 out of 10

Burial at Sea: Part 1 (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/bioshock-infinite-burial-at-sea-episode-1-review/1900-6415528/) takes place in the underwater city of Rapture, where Booker is a private eye. Elizabeth enters his office with a quest to find a missing girl. The first half of the DLC has a very slow build-up, as you move through the glory of Rapture prior to the events of Bioshock 1, with living happy people who haven’t yet been overwhelmed with the need to use plasmids. You and Elizabeth finally see some action and must make your way through a large department store in your search for the little girl. Interestingly, Booker is absolutely unaware of who Elizabeth is, while she has knowledge of him and can generate Tears.

Rapture is as gorgeous as you remember. Looking out the window, you see huge whales and schools of fish approach. Big Daddies are off in the background, making repairs on the city. The gameplay is very closed-in, similar to the original Bioshock. One thing I liked is that your Vigors (now called Plasmids because that was Rapture’s terminology for special powers) can be used in puzzles. For example, you need Shock Jock to open electrically closed doors and gates, or Old Man Winter to freeze water and cross to a new area. Fighting feels good and you can actually sneak up on certain foes.

I was actually surprised at the end of the DLC, and wasn’t expecting the big reveal of why Elizabeth had come to you. It of course makes sense afterward, but I hadn’t considered it during the gameplay. 7.4 out of 10

Burial at Sea: Part 2 (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/bioshock-infinite-burial-at-sea-episode-2-review/1900-6415712/) continues the story, with Elizabeth FINALLY reaching Paris. The first thing I noted is that the graphics seems to take a slight step up in this expansion – everything looks better than the rest of Infinite and the first 2 DLC packs.

Regardless, it’s time to get back into Rapture, only you’re playing as Elizabeth now. Although she has lost her ability to generate Tears, she can sneak up on people and bash them over the head, but has to beware of stepping on loud surfaces such as broken glass. She can leap up to hanging hooks, but is unable to melee leap upon foes and knock them out, although she can leap-crouch silently to the ground. Elizabeth also is able to access the vents due to her small frame, which allows her to access hidden areas.

New to Part 2, Elizabeth gets the new Plasmid “Peeping Tom,” which allows her to see through walls and also go invisible. She also gains a crossbow, with stun, noise and gas bolts that can be used to knock out or lure away her foes. Both are critical, as Part 2 offers perhaps the most challenging gameplay of ANY Bioshock game. I found myself in situations with limited ammo, no health packs, no Plasmid juices to top off, and no money to purchase anything. That required me to “hide” in vents until my enemies calmed down, and then leap down silently and clock them over the head, hoping they had some gear I could use.

The finale has a wealth of exposition and pretty neatly ties the whole Bioshock experience together. This Wiki (http://bioshock.wikia.com/wiki/Burial_at_Sea_-_Episode_2) has more specifics if you choose to take a peak, but here's a spoiler:

Spoiler
Bioshock 1 & 2’s Rapture is the equivalent of Infinite’s Columbia, and it all starts with a man and a lighthouse. Because Elizabeth and Booker inadvertently visited Rapture at the end of Infinite, they left a “portal” via Elizabeth’s Tear whereby Suchong was able to access Columbia and especially the Lutece twins. He used their work to enhance his own work on Big Daddies to help them imprint upon the Little Sisters. Elizabeth saw in one of the many doors she was able to access that the only way to stop Atlas and Andrew Ryan was to return herself to Rapture and set events in motion that would allow Jack (Bioshock’s protagonist) to effectively take on those forces. Jack was the prodigal son of Andrew Ryan, but Suchong created a brainwashing technique so that if anyone ever used the phrase “Would you kindly….” then Jack would automatically do their bidding. Elizabeth made it so that Atlas and Andrew Ryan escalated their own war for Rapture, so that Jack would be able to succeed.


Part 2 had the most impact of any Bioshock experience because the ending brought everything full circle. And playing as Elizabeth was a more challenging, yet fulfilling experience because you had to ultimately rely upon your skills, rather than how much ammo you had. 9.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 01, 2014, 10:55:24 AM
Remember Me (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/remember-me-review/1900-6409150/) tries extremely hard to be an amazing game: the sci-fi premise in a futuristic Neo-Paris is intriguing, the visual presentation is absolutely stunning, the core fighting mechanics are competent and challenging, and the memory-manipulation skills bring a unique new concept to gameplay. And yet it doesn’t all gel together in the most satisfying way.

We first meet you as Nilin, a young woman, after your mind has been partially wiped and you are in a prison filled with other people who have done things against the government. Your escape is a tense affair, and leads you through the bowels of Neo-Paris to meet up with the “Errorists” (yes, like “terrorists”, only these folks can meddle with people’s thoughts). The Errorists say you were once one of their strongest agents and were captured, so now it’s time for payback.

The streets of Neo-Paris are desperate. You see hard-up folks selling their favorite memories for money to pay the rent, while the richest people have personal robots do their shopping. This is a world ripe for revolution, with you at the center of it. And yet you only ever feel like a pawn, doing the bidding of a mysterious voice.

The visuals are absolutely top-notch, especially on ultra settings. I can’t even describe them adequately. The characters and the environment are crystal sharp, as are the backgrounds of Neo-Paris (including the Eiffel Tower), but then your character might be surrounded by monotone blocky “memories” leaking out of the back of your head. It’s a really cool effect, especially when you are in a boss fight – in a way it reminded me of when you’re walking around in the Animus in Assassin’s Creed.

And yet all these details only serve to highlight how empty the levels truly are. You’re basically on a point-to-point route, with only a few small cubby holes you can explore along the way for hidden extras. It would have been nice to have multiple routes and options to maneuver in this world. As an example, the streets of Neo-Paris become flooded; why couldn’t I find my own route through the streets to the next point rather than having the game highlight the only places I can grapple and move?

The fighting is another love-hate area of the game. I appreciated how simple the moves were, with essentially three buttons for hand, foot and escape. As you defeat foes, you earn Focus, which can in turn be used to deliver “ultra” moves useful in specific circumstances, such as being able to detect invisible foes. Once used, these powers have a cool-down period. You also receive an electronic “pulse” (basically a gun) that you can use to open locked doors, to break down enemy shields, and to snipe enemies shooting at you from the heights.

The game allows you to build combinations with your hand and foot blows. These can be further narrowed down to give you health upon striking, to lessen the cool-down period, or even to magnify the effects of the total combination. These are fairly simple combinations allowing even fumble-fingers like myself to remember them; hand-hand-hand, or foot-hand-foot-hand-foot, or hand-foot-foot-hand-foot-foot. And you can stack the various types of modes into the full combination. Unfortunately, Remember Me rarely allows you to deliver the longer combinations due to the swarms of foes that surround you. I generally would get in two hits, and then have to leap away to avoid damage (which is appreciatively indicated on-screen by a flashing exclamation point) before I could leap back to resume pounding away. Luckily, you can modify combos on the fly to meet your current needs – maybe you need more health, or maybe you need to shorten the cool-down of your powers.

Finally, this game is perhaps the first to really explore what it might be like to manipulate someone’s memories in order to get what you want from them. When these memory taps occur, you’ll enter the person’s memories, and see how they experienced a certain period of time. Then you have to rewind the memory, and as you do so, certain key items will flash on screen, which you can manipulate. For example, maybe you take the safety off a gun and your target accidentally shoots someone, or maybe you move an object and the target stumbles over it; each memory has a few things that you can manipulate, and some make absolutely no difference to the proposed outcome.

Unfortunately, Remember Me only allows you to engage in this memory-manipulation four times in the whole game, which is a real shame, because I would have liked to use this opportunity several more times.

Remember Me is a better game than I expected, but it still has some issues that detract from how good it could have been. If it allowed more openness in exploring the unique world of Neo-Paris, if the fighting combinations were able to be better utilized, and if you could have engaged in more memory manipulations, I think this game truly could have succeeded at delivering a new IP. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 08, 2014, 06:33:26 AM
Papo & Yo (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/papo-and-yo-review/1900-6407158/) is a surreal 3D adventure platformer, set in a lifelike Latin American barrio (I think it’s actually Brazil, but could be mistaken). You play as Quico, a young boy with a great imagination. In your world, your robot can fly, you can pick up houses, and chalk art on the wall will help you solve puzzles. Your sister Alejandra teases you and dances out of reach for much of the game. And you have a giant beast named Monster that will accompany you.

Mostly, Monster is a genial, lumbering beast, with a penchant for sweet coconuts. When he sleeps, you can hop on his belly and reach inaccessible places. But sometimes he just can’t help himself from tasting the forbidden poison frogs that hop around. When he does, Monster becomes a fiery creature that smacks Quico around cruelly. The only temporary cure is to find a rotten fruit that will make Monster cough up the poison frog.

Quico’s relationship with Monster is at the crux of this short story, which you can play through in about 3 hours. As an indie effort, it’s extremely impressive. The game is built on the Unreal engine, so graphically it’s gorgeous, with eye-popping colors and textures. Sound design also effectively incorporates Latin American rhythms.

Generally, you complete some puzzles and then jump around each level until you reach the exit. The puzzles consist of levers, keys and buttons, and it will require every character’s special skills to proceed. Quico can pull some levers and turn keys, while Monster is required to reach out-of-the-way areas, and to step on weight mechanisms; the robot can fly off and access distant touchplates, and also allows you to double-jump for longer distances. The puzzles are fairly simple and I never found myself stuck, but they are certainly impressive in their design. In one map, you must turn the keys on a variety of houses, which then fly together and stack up; you can then use a lever to angle the stack toward a distant portal to escape. Visually, it was really cool looking.

The game is played in Quico’s imagination, but we occasionally get glimpses of his real world. In these scenes, we understand who Monster is, and we learn that Quico is a victim of abuse. As a metaphor for real-world violence, Papo & Yo is extremely effective. As a game, it is interesting and nicely designed, but it is too short and lacks any meaty puzzles to really make you think. I salute the designer’s efforts however. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 15, 2014, 06:04:27 AM
CLARC (http://www.gog.com/game/clarc) is an engaging, challenging isometric puzzle game. You take on the role of lowly repair robot CLARC as he attempts to save his nuclear bomb rocket girlfriend (don’t ask – you’ve already got a sentient robot in the title role…) from being exploded. On the way, he encounters several other robots at his facility, before learning that the whole facility is under attack by an outside entity named M.O.T.H.E.R. So there’s nothing for it but to find F.A.T.H.E.R. and see how to solve this whole mess.

CLARC is essentially a Sokoban, move-the-blocks type of puzzler, made more challenging because the blocks you must move either direct or withstand lasers that will immediately destroy your fragile robot shell. So that means figuring out how to place the blocks to safely pass certain areas, or how to use the blocks (which sometimes have refracting lenses inside them) to direct the lasers appropriately. An additional challenge occurs in the latter half of the game as you’ll encounter laser-spouting robots that will chase you around.

The art design is a striking cel-shaded look, similar to that of the Borderlands games. The dilapidated facilities you’ll pass through provide a distinct rundown ambience, like the robots have been doing this work unattended for a really long time. And the simple cutscenes show how you connect to the broader story, and the friction between M.O.T.H.E.R. and F.A.T.H.E.R.

If you’ve played block-moving games before, you’ll catch on pretty quickly, and the difficulty curve allows you to learn as you go. Some areas are very challenging and require multiple play-throughs to get it right, so my cursewords jar was filled pretty quickly.

CLARC is not a life changer, but it’s an interesting game with 8-10 hours of play-through. It’s also available on the Android store so you can play it on the go. 8.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 22, 2014, 06:34:40 AM
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/assassin-s-creed-iv-black-flag-review/1900-6415509/) introduces you as Edward Kenway, father of Haytham Kenway who was in turn the father of Connor Kenway, the protagonist of AC3. Our story unfolds with a frantic ship-to-ship battle that ultimately destroys your vessel and leaves you stranded on a beach. When you awake, you notice a man who had been on the other ship. A quick chase through a tropical jungle serves as your training exercise for the game, while also integrating many of the game’s new features.

Black Flag is the AC series’ debut of a pirate-themed RPG, and I daresay also the best pirate game we’ve ever seen. Risen 2 attempted a pirate RPG, but it falls far short in comparison. Black Flag offers swashbuckling pirates, open sea navigation, ship-to-ship battles, hidden pirate coves and caves, treasure maps and bottles with messages, Mayan stelae leading to a fabulous treasure, and the opportunity to hunt whales and sharks, as well as other land animals. Oh, and it also mixes in the long-running feud between the Assassins and Templars, as well as a modern-day meta-story.

Our first beach allows us to refresh our movement skills, reminds us about synchronization points (i.e. eagle nests) to open up the map, and lets us hunt several animals, which are used to upgrade Edward’s skills and weapons. It also introduces treasure maps that lead to other locations, bottles with messages written by the “Sage,” and Animus points that we can collect (like feathers from past maps). We also can race after Shanties, which are notes that float along the breeze and will give your crew a new song to sing on the boat. Interestingly, your map automatically shows all the features, where in previous games you’d have to buy maps from vendors to learn where all the treasure was found; in a way, I prefer the old method.

Edward is an opportunist – he doesn’t care about the aims of either the Templars or Assassins. However, his early actions continue to draw him back into the conflict between the two orders. After learning some information about an “Observatory” that allows its master to see what enemies are doing, Edward continues to seek information on this elusive location, and the “Sage” who could lead him there. In the meantime, he bands with other pirates of the day to form their own republic.

After our first major mission, we are returned to the “real world”, where we learn that you are merely a game researcher hired by Abstergo Industries to work on a new game about pirates. Desmond Miles, the real-world protagonist of all the previous AC games, is gone, but we are working with his memories in this new time period. You also must complete some tasks in the real world and are given special instructions by one of the security team to deliver key information after hacking certain computers. You also can hack all the other computers, as well as collect sticky notes giving you a better understanding of the security expert’s goals. Hacking offers several mini-games of various challenge, but one was like Frogger, one was a mathematical computation and the last required you to manipulate a 3D sphere to intersect a certain line. I actually love the real-world parts of the AC series, but the first-person viewpoint this time made me especially dizzy because it wasn't optimized properly and had too much lurching motion on-screen.

Getting back to the “real” game …. For your various missions, you’ll need to do a lot of following certain characters without getting spotted, or sneak into locations to assassinate someone. One of the issues I had with Black Flag is that it often assigns secondary objectives that will allow you to 100% sync a mission. But more often than not, it won’t show you these objectives on-screen, so you actually have to hit the Escape button to exit the mission to see what your objectives are. In the end, it doesn’t especially matter but it’s just annoying that you have to leave the game for this.

Although Black Flag features an extensive ocean open-world connecting various Caribbean islands, unfortunately the land locations are not very large – probably the smallest we’ve seen in any of the games including Liberation. Havana is the largest of the three main cities, and the most similar to the European locales we’ve previously seen in terms of design and color. However, we get some gorgeous Mayan locations and temples to visit and climb . But the cities and land locations are merely the backdrop, with the true heart of the game in the Caribbean Sea, where you’ll pilot the Jackdaw through a realistic ocean complete with storms, rogue waves and water spouts. The graphical fidelity is truly amazing and lifelike. Along the way, you can pull up to islets, hop out and grab some booty, and jump back on board.

But the best action is taking on other ships. The Jackdaw can be upgraded with front and side cannons, mortars for long-distance, and fire barrels to ward off following ships. The action can be extremely intense, with multiple ships coming into a battle. After beating down a ship enough, you have the option of sinking it and getting about half of its supplies, or boarding it and getting all. The boarding process brings the two ships closer where you can swing across to the other side, or climb up the mast and take out folks from on high. Once you’ve killed enough crew and maybe taken on additional tasks like blowing up ammunition dumps, taking out the captain or scouts, or cutting down the flag, you can then decide to sink their ship to upgrade yours (raising your Wanted level), let the other ship go (lowering your Wanted level), or send the ship to your personal fleet (for online activities).

The full map is sectioned into about a dozen quadrants, many of which are “protected” by a fort that you’ll have to take down before you can enter certain areas. Once you conquer a fort, “Legendary Ships” appear in the far corners of the map, begging you to take them down, so ensure you’ve fully upgraded the Jackdaw before facing them. You also can find hunting grounds for sharks and whales, which opens up a whole new mini-game where you have to spear an animal multiple times to tire it out, without letting it sink your rowboat.

The other new ocean element is diving on wrecked ships, some of which lead to hidden pirate coves. You follow a diving bell deep into the sea and must collect Animus points and chests, while evading sharks by hiding in cover and navigating around sharp sea urchins and deadly moray eels. You can return to the bell for additional oxygen, or use air barrels that have been dropped for you, while swimming freely among wrecks and coral.

Movement is as good as ever and I hardly ever had Edward run up the wall and get stuck. However, the over-the-shoulder camera got in the way more than I’ve ever seen in the series, so I’m not sure what that was about.

Graphically, the game shines, especially on Ultra settings. Characters and textures are extremely detailed, the water physics are beyond amazing, and the locations are gorgeous. However, the game offered only a few “Prince of Persia” style platforming sections, and I’ve always liked that in the AC games.

The story is deep and lengthy, with plenty of substance, backstabbing and pathos. However, I never really connected with most of the characters other than your slave-turned-quartermaster Ade, and a female pirate named Mary. And the end credits sequence has a couple of interesting story elements.

Black Flag is nearly the best of the AC series of games, second to AC2 in my mind. The new pirate and ocean theme was refreshing, although the actual land destinations were disappointingly small in size. However, the naval battles and ship-to-ship boarding really made this game amazing. 9.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 26, 2014, 06:52:11 AM
As a secondary chapter to Black Flag, Freedom Cry (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/assassin-s-creed-iv-black-flag-freedom-cry-review/1900-6415608/) is perfectly serviceable, but it barely adds any new functionality to the core gameplay, other than giving us more insight into the character of Adewale, the escaped slave who served as quartermaster of the Jackdaw. Shipwrecked in Port au Prince, Haiti, Adewale quickly joins with a rebel group of Maroons intent on freeing themselves and their comrades from slavery. In this role, he meets a boudoir madame who serves as the public face for the Maroons.

This DLC is about 4-6 hours in length, and has you doing all the same things that Black Flag did: you can sail your ship into the Caribbean and battle other ships, you can sail to small islets and pick up supplies and loot, you can upgrade your character and ship, you can explore undersea wrecks, and you can kill plenty of folks. One area where Freedom Cry actually exceeds Black Flag was in the many, many missions that you have to tail someone to eavesdrop and pickpocket information.

Freedom Cry does offer some new elements, mostly focused on the slave trade that took place throughout the Caribbean. Notably, Adewale carries a machete instead of a sword; he also gains a blunderbuss rather than pistols. He can enter plantations and take out the overseers to free the slave population. He also can free individual slaves being sold at market. Finally, he can take out slaver ships to free large numbers of people. Every slave freed helps Adewale gain new upgrades.

Hardly any focus is paid whatsoever to the Templar/Assassin feud, other than a few snippets here and there. Also, this DLC doesn’t offer any “Prince of Persia” style parkour as Adewale travels around. Port au Prince is decent sized, but the small corner of the Caribbean that you are located within is relatively small compared to the main game’s size.

Freedom Cry is certainly a worthy addition to Black Flag, but I’d recommend getting it on the cheap end, even though it does offer a decent play time for a DLC package. 7.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on September 29, 2014, 06:46:47 AM
Dark Matter (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/dark-matter-review/1900-6415502/) strives to combine elements of Deadspace, Metroid and System Shock into a 2.5D side-scroller, but its indie development fails to fully satisfy.

You awake as a lady who was frozen for 70 years on a deep-space vessel taken over by alien lifeforms. The master computer has awoken you and wants you to get the ship back on course, so it helps you gain a gun and then the action takes place across a number of different decks. Movement is relatively simple, as you aim the gun with the mouse, and use the keyboard to move left & right, to climb up and down ladders, and to jump to ledges.

You will quickly tire of all the ladders you must traverse to get around objects. Eventually you gain passes to open up locked doors, but you’ll have to do a lot of searching; along the way you might find automaps for the level, and upgrades for your weapons.

Critters are a diversity of sizes and combat methods, but your general rule of thumb is to wail on them while backing up, reload, wail some more, reload, wail some more until one of you is dead. There’s very little strategy involved, and for some reason, the game will not allow you to jump over foes even if you have the space. Additionally, you sometimes get stuck in areas that just continue to spawn critters and you can’t get around them.

Luckily, when you die, you’ll appear at the last save station you used, and they are placed all around to minimize backtracking. Next to many of these save stations are upgrade stations, which allow you to craft ammo, medkits, and special upgrades for your weapons, including fire and corrosive bullets.

A map of the whole ship helps you know your path to the next objective, but in the meantime, you’ll have to go past a lot of locked doors, ladders, same-y hallways, and spawn pits. I’d only recommend this game on deep sale and with a plethora of acceptance. 6.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 06, 2014, 06:39:36 AM
Contrast (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/contrast-review/1900-6415539/) offers a unique take on the 3D platforming adventure – your avatar Dawn is able to slip in and out of the shadows along the wall. So she can jump from a balcony to another in the “real” world, or she can become a shadow and use shadow lines on the wall to move around. It’s a really neat feature and is used in clever ways.

Dawn is the only friend of young Didi, who sees everyone else as shadows on the wall: her hard-working mother who sings at the local cabaret, her deadbeat father who is trying to make good on his promises, the thugs who the father owes, and the Amazing Vincenzo, illusionist extraordinaire. Didi’s exchanges with these characters shows her in the real world while her shadow interacts with the other characters’ shadows.

The game is set in the early 1900s – maybe in Paris – with cafes all around, and the gorgeous music of the era heard from the night club where Didi’s mother sings. In Act I, you will help Didi get to her mother’s nightclub so you can both hear her sing; along the way, Didi’s father shows up so you must tail him and learn what he’s doing back in town. This starting section shows you how to work your shadow-walking abilities, and slowly ramps up the difficulty. You also can find glowing “luminaries” that will be used to run certain projectors.

Act II finds you at the circus that Didi’s father is arranging, only all the rides are broken and you must both fix them. This is a really clever area, with several new abilities introduced: the ability to leap past vertical shadows that previously stopped you, and the ability to bring boxes and balls into the shadow realm. One ride is the carousel, and you must jump along the shadows as the shapes circle the buildings. You also serve as a shadow puppet in a story of a princess who must rescue her suitor prince. Finally, you must repair the pirate ship ride, which is a really cool invention and one I’d love to ride in real life.

Act III is the grand finale of the Amazing Vincenzo’s performance, only he can’t be found. You seek him out in his secret laboratory, where you must manipulate the shapes of shadows to use them to move boxes and balls up the wall. Finally, just when the show is about to start, the electricity goes down, so you must climb a huge, monstrous lighthouse and shine it down on the stage.

Contrast offers some clichéd characters, but the mother and father have heart in their interactions and conversations with young Didi. And you do get a glimpse of what exactly caused Dawn’s shadow-walking abilities through some of the collectible items you can find. I won’t say there is a happy ending, but it is a human ending.

The game is disappointingly short at 4-5 hours, and I’d love to see more in this universe and with these characters. Maybe if Didi joins the Amazing Vincenzo as an apprentice, perhaps? And Dawn’s movements are oftentimes wonky and you get knocked off the wall. But the sheer uniqueness of this title demands your attention, at the least. 7.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 13, 2014, 12:55:30 PM
It would be unfair to classify The Stanley Parable (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/the-stanley-parable-review/1900-6415481/) as anything other than an interactive story – there’s no real “game” per se. But the game is more reflective of player choice, or oftentimes lack of choice, that we see iterated in everything we play.

You play as Stanley, a faceless employee in a faceless company doing a monotonous task every day. When you realize that you haven’t received any orders for the day, you begin to explore your surroundings, following the only open path; i.e. the linear A-to-B pathing present in so many video games today. This tedious slog continues until you make your way to a room with two doors. Here, the narrator implores you to follow the left door – the “correct” door. If you choose to follow the narrator’s will, you soon end up in a huge structure called the Mind Control Facility.

But … if you choose to disobey the narrator’s will, you soon venture down seemingly abandoned paths, where the narrator must develop new ideas to fill in the missing gaps. It’s an interesting exercise, to be certain, but gameplay boils down to going through one door or another, or pushing a button. And that seems to be what the author is saying, that many modern games are merely one choice or another, or pushing one button to proceed. Sure, a game might offer jumping around or shooting something, but in the end, it’s all one choice or another, even whether to play a game in the first place! Pretty heady stuff, actually.

The level design is superb, and each of the multiple endings are interesting in their own right, but probably where The Stanley Parable really succeeds is in the narrator’s lines and attitude. When you disobey him, he gets frustrated, especially when things go from bad to worse in the “game” design.

I played this when it was simply a Half-Life 2 mod, and many of the same elements are present, but the author has upgraded everything significantly, and expanded on the options available. I would suggest it merely as an interesting “time-waster” with some humorous lines from the narrator. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 20, 2014, 06:48:53 AM
Wow – it’s interesting to see a game get vomit-bombed on MetaCritic (http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/day-one-garrys-incident) like Day One: Garry's Incident (http://store.steampowered.com/app/242800/). Tons of people giving it a ZERO rating, but I think mostly because of their dissatisfaction with the developer’s policies, moreso than the game itself. And don’t get me wrong – the game is merely “okay”, but it is not nearly as bad as the unplayable Ride to Hell: Retribution (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2341.msg14090#msg14090). It appears that many people bought this game, which appeared as a Steam Greenlight game (and should be considered warning enough), at about $20 and then began to gripe to the developer about all the bugs, missing promises, etc. that plagued the game.

The developer pegs the game as an “open-world” survival crafting game, I guess to appeal to all the idiots who like Minecraft, Day Z, Rust, etc. So players’ expectations were naturally high on the game’s promises. When it didn’t fulfill, and had some buggy features, they began to spam the developer’s forums, and were subsequently banned. So basically all the ZERO ratings are in response to the developer over-promising and under-delivering, and then seeking to curtail all the negativity by banning anyone who didn’t agree with them. [Sounds like an HL2 mod developer I know….]

Here’s the way I look at reviewing games: absolutely no game deserves a ZERO, unless you install it and it doesn’t work, and then you get a replacement and the same thing happens. All games should start with a complete score and then subtract points based on problems or issues. So that’s what I’ve done. I am NOT a sucker, and I don’t buy Greenlight games until all the reviews are out, the patches are made, and the price comes down (I got it on sale for $2). Anyone who buys a Beta game, which is essentially what Greenlight has become, should NOT expect perfection – most of these are developed by smaller indie studios who don’t have the manpower, skill, cashflow and overall resources to craft a AAA game experience, nor can they do immense playtesting to catch every single item – that’s what all you Greenlight alpha/beta suckers are doing – paying to be guinea pig testers.

So let’s talk about the actual game. First, the title is stupid – if anything, it should be reversed as Garry’s Incident: Day One, so that the next part can be Garry’s Incident: Day Two, etc. But that’s not a game-breaker. The game says it will allow you to change key mapping, but even though it would accept some new keymaps, it wouldn’t allow all of my desired choices. Then, the game didn’t actually accept my new keymaps within the gameplay, so I had to go ahead and use the default WASD keys anyway, which I detest. But I can get over that. You can’t change most of the graphical features, but overall, I thought the textures looked crisp, and I didn’t experience any graphical anomalies.

Getting into the game, the cutscenes do an adequate job of explaining the protagonist Gary (an alcoholic bush pilot in the Yellowstone, Wyoming, area, who has an estranged wife and daughter), and how he mysteriously appears in a primitive tribal temple. The Unreal engine is used to decent effect as the temple is nicely designed, and the subsequent tropical forests and wildlife look pretty good. Graphically, I think it’s okay. It is surprising that you cannot jump a lip of a rock that’s only 3 inches high, however, while in the middle level you can climb tree roots.

In the temple you immediately get a QTE prompt, but you don’t know whether to hit the key once, or mash the buttons, or hold it down – this pattern of QTE abuse is repeated several times throughout the game, and you’re generally never really sure which one to do. You receive a glowing blue wristband that can shoot bolts at walls, and then you’re on the way out. A native woman steals your alcohol flask and forces you to chase her to retrieve it.

So here’s where the game promises begin to fail. You learn that you can craft items – like gathering wood, vines and a match to create a firestarter kit; or a parrot feather, bones and floss to craft a fishing lure; or a bamboo pole, vine and fishing lure to make a fishing pole; or an animal stomach, vine and bones to fashion a leather drinking flask – but NONE of these choices ever matter!! You don’t need to start fires to cook food, you don’t need to fish, you aren’t ever able to drink from your flask, so why even offer these pathetic “crafting” options? The ONLY useful crafting exercise is to build bandages from cloth, but then you’re subjected to a lengthy QTE exercise each time you want to apply a bandage: mash the W button to apply the cloth, hit the D button to open the alcohol flask, hit the A button to drip some alcohol on the wound (which is always located on only your hand), and hold the S button to bind it all together. EVERY SINGLE TIME. This is not fun, and it serves no purpose; if I’ve already crafted the bandage, just stick it on and don’t make me go through all these motions individually.

From here you’ll encounter jaguars, monkeys and native fighters. You do quickly get a double-flintlock, and later a pistol, but you also have a wooden blade for close encounters. Interestingly, you need a clear line of sight or the guns will not work; trying to shoot through a banana leaf, the bullet will not go through. The game is supposed to allow you to sneak up on natives and stab them from behind, but I could never get it to work, so you generally have to attack them head-on with the knife and spam the attack button before they kill you. After you get the pistol, it makes easy work of them, although I did run low on bullets on occasion, which was alright.

Another failed promise is that the game is not “open-world”. You get three large maps – the first is a sprawling tropical jungle that meanders all over the place so you never know where to go, the second is an interior temple complete with tons of deadly traps that require precision and patience to pass, and the third is another smaller tropical jungle where you must get past deathtraps circling a temple. The temples require a “puzzle” to open them: the first asks you to rotate 11 out of 12 mirrors a single time, the second requires you to play back some notes, and the third needs to rotate four spheres to match – all are relatively simple. However, the physical deathtraps in the second and third maps really are challenging and require you to save after each instance.

The finale comes after conquering the third temple, and you are whisked away, with text dropping down to ask what you recommend for the next episode. I would say that the developers need to listen to the main issues already raised by players, and address those first.

I can’t really recommend Day One unless you get it for $5 or less. It’s not a great game, but the graphics are decent and some elements are fairly challenging. The game only lasts maybe 4 hours, so it’s definitely not worth much more, especially with all the unfulfilled promises already made. 6.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 27, 2014, 10:10:42 AM
Qbeh 1 - The Atlas Cube (http://store.steampowered.com/app/252550/) is a Portal-like first-person block-stacking game, set in 30 floating fortresses that are themselves formed of blocks. Soothing New Age music plays in the background while you ponder how to navigate the fortresses, and how to stack blocks or retrieve them for future uses. You may need to jump on top of blocks to reach a certain area.

Blocks can only be stacked in designated yellow areas, which may be located on the floor, ceiling or side walls. You can set blocks or retrieve them from about 6 squares away. You initially start with the Basic Block, and you can generally add any blocks to it in any direction or side. Next you use the Power Block, which is used to power open locked doors, turn on fans or move larger blocks around the area. The Unlock Block opens the final gates at the end of each level. The Anti-Grav Block lowers gravity in a certain radius so that you can jump higher and farther. And the Floating Block allows you to ride it a certain distance before it dissipates.

The game is always challenging, but generally if you think through the problem or keep exploring any missing areas, you will see what needs to be done. Some of the more challenging sections consist of “hidden” orange pyramids that serve as the secret to certain levels. These may require a lot of backtracking to complete.

Level design is simplistic – buildings made of blocks – but also complex when you realize how the path before you wraps around itself and you climb higher into buildings. Many times you will need to stack many blocks to get into the next area, which oftentimes means you’ll lose some of those blocks behind. As long as I could retrieve as many blocks as possible from one section, I never found myself short in the next section.

The gameplay is simple enough, really, but where Qbeh 1 falters is in the lack of a unified story. After Portal, we’re spoiled to not have some sort of story behind these first-person puzzlers. Regardless, this is definitely worth playing if you’re the Portal type. 7.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on October 31, 2014, 08:11:15 AM
Happy Halloween 2014!!!

The complete story of Outlast (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/outlast-review/1900-6413987/) is best experienced with the Whistleblower (http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/05/08/outlast-whistleblower-review) add-on, as well as rounding the full game out to 8-10 hours playtime. Outlast puts you in the shoes of a reporter on the scent of a huge industrial cover-up, while in Whistleblower you play as the computer specialist who first leaked the inside story to the reporter. It also should be noted that both games are extremely gory with very disturbing images and feature graphic male nudity.

Due to the dark atmosphere and overwhelming dread that the game inspires, I actually had to take breaks away from Outlast. You are trapped in a medical facility/asylum/prison complex, with no weapons other than your brains. Your only tool, such as it is, is a video camera, which also features an infra-red mode to help you navigate the dark. However, using the infrared feature runs down your batteries, so you must actively seek out new batteries in every dark corner, forcing you to swallow that lump in your throat and move forward.

You can duck low to the floor to sneak under desks and beds to avoid exposure, as well as enter lockers and cabinets. Ducking also allows you to move quietly, but slowly, to hopefully not make any noise. You can lean around corners to see if the coast is clear. You also can jump across gaps, over window sills, and onto gaps in the open ceilings. Finally, you can squeeze through tight spaces into new areas, which is helpful at keeping others at bay.

You occasionally come across former patients and inmates in the facility, who may treat you with either indifference, or who may pursue you. These sporadic encounters are nothing however next to the consistent foes who will dog your efforts. In the main game, the first of these foes is the Brute, who tosses you out a window upon your first encounter. He will chase you multiple times during the game, interspersed only by a lengthy meeting with the Doctor, who likes to experiment on his subjects. Finally, toward the end of Outlast, you will face the Entity, a non-corporeal being who was somehow raised during the vast and weird experiments at the complex.

However, I don’t think any of these three scared me as much as the two main antagonists of Whistleblower. The Butcher wields a bonesaw to cut up his dinner, while the Tailor wants to make you his “bride”. The Tailor, especially, was frightening because what he does to his victims … let’s just say it’s enough to un-man anyone.

At the start of Outlast, when you hide in lockers or under beds, these persistent foes would go to the locker or bed next to you and open it or look underneath, and then move away. But toward the middle of the game, they would come right at your hiding spot, so you began to understand that no place was truly safe. Sometimes flight was your best option, closing doors behind you, moving cabinets and furniture to block doors behind you, leaping over tables and then finding another hiding spot to wait it out. It was eerily reminiscent of the chase section at the start of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2206.msg13730#msg13730).

My biggest gripe with the game was the music loudness, and the menu doesn’t offer an option to lower it. When you start to enter a dangerous area, the music will raise, the violins will shriek, and you can’t hear your own breathing or the tip-tap of your foe’s footsteps. I understand that in a movie, music plays a huge part in setting the scary tone, but in a game, I would prefer to control that option, as I don’t have an orchestra shrieking in my mind. I don’t mind your breathing getting louder and more ragged, because that’s what terror will do to you.

The levels ran the gamut of offices, labs, prisons, storerooms and outdoor areas, but level design was smart, so that you might see where you need to go next, but just have to figure out how to get there. You might need a key to unlock a gate, or even a set of handcuffs. Unfortunately, on several occasions Outlast delivers the trite original Half-Life mode of puzzle design: turn on these three things – all in different areas – to open/turn on a main thing. Whistleblower eschews that for more navigational puzzles, which felt much stronger.

Definitely, one of the scariest experiences I’ve played in a long, long time, with some simple jump-scares, but mostly the terrifying dread of being alone with no way to protect yourself against madmen. So if you like to be scared, fire this one up. 9.0 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 03, 2014, 08:00:05 AM
As a $0.99 Steam Sale item, I actually lucked out with Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/marlow-briggs-and-the-mask-of-death-review/1900-6414923/). This is a pretty good non-stop action game worth much more than I paid. I’ve never played God of War, but I’m told this game is a similar style.

We jump straight into the action, with fireman Marlow visiting his archaeologist girlfriend and immediately getting killed by an older man and his hench-woman for deigning to leave a dig site. Well, death is nothing to the Native spirit that revives Marlow, with the trade-off that he must wreak havoc upon the people who have despoiled the Native’s temple and lands. And Marlow is pissed, buddy, so watch out!

The camera angles vary broadly from scene to scene, conveying a constant state of motion. And sometimes it will rotate as you enter new parts of the screen. I REALLY hated this, as I like to determine where I’m looking, but it does work. It would be easier to play with a gamepad, because mouse and buttons were sometimes challenging when you’re trying to move or jump and the game’s view is slanted at an angle. I jumped into many an abyss this way.

Gameplay is standard hack-and-slash with a variety of combo moves for light, strong and jump attacks. Your main weapon is a double-bladed scythe, which breaks down into other weapons as you move through the game, including two individual knives, a blade on a chain, and a weighted club. Additionally, you can use one of four magical attacks: firestorm, stabbing rocks, icestorm and hurricane, if you have the mana available. Along the way, you earn experience points that can be applied toward your battle tactics or magical skills.

The game featured several interesting battle features. You could throw magical darts at flying critters, but more interestingly, you could also convert human foes by grabbing them and forcing your will upon them to fight on your side. Once you harmed mid-level bosses like scorpions or golems, you could jump on their back and have them whittle down the remaining foes without harming you further, sort of like in Arkham Asylum when you jump on the backs of the goons and have them mow down everyone else.

Graphics are top-notch, with sharp textures and huge worlds rendered all around you. Occasionally, you get to just sight-see and enjoy the world around you. Cut-scenes are an odd mix of action cut-scenes with people moving around, or “jump” cut-scenes, both done in-engine. In the “jumps”, Marlow might pick up a weapon, then the scene jumps ahead to him using the weapon to cut down the first enemy, and jumping to him taking on the next enemy. It’s interesting and I don’t know that I’ve seen “jumps” done like that before in a game, but it also makes you want to be the player doing those interesting action scenes.

Movement consists of jumps and double-jumps, climbing ledges, moving boxes around to access new areas, jumping between grapple hooks, balancing around ledges, sliding down inclines or along ropes, climbing up vine walls, and gliding from one long jump. Occasionally you enter mini-games. One has you collect orbs during “races” in mine carts, while sliding down hills, and on rapidly disappearing tracks. Another mini-game has you flying a plane or helicopter and shooting at foes Galaga-style.

Interestingly, the game engages in meta-conversations between Marlow and the Native spirit, often calling out the “gaming” part of the game, like how a stationary gun is conveniently placed in just the right position, or that certain barrels would explode. The Native spirit also gives you special names based on your skills, such as “Dancing Death Princess”, or he regales you with tales of his bloody past, like when he made his first sacrifice; Marlow’s response is often something like “Don’t you have any happy tales about puppies or butterflies?” Finally, one conversation where Marlow and the Spirit argue about who is the sidekick in the relationship is pretty humorous.

I regret that the twitch gaming required for the finale was beyond my skills – you basically have to twirl around like a dervish, get a hit or two in, twirl away, and just keep whittling away at the bad guy … THREE SEPARATE TIMES!!! After dozens of tries to get to the second tier, I decided to see if YouTube had it, and that was good enough for me. And I learned that your Native guide has some other ideas in store once you finish off the bad guy.

One of the game’s strongest points is that you are constantly in motion, and you’re constantly doing something different. Breathing spaces came just often enough to avoid gamer fatigue, and the interplay and banter between Marlow and the Native spirit are often lough-out-loud hilarious. If you can manage the odd-angled jumps with your mouse and keyboard (or better yet, have a gamepad), you’ll probably enjoy this one. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 10, 2014, 06:45:43 AM
It’s a credit to the indie team at White Paper Games, who designed Ether One (http://www.ether-game.com/), that despite some game bugs that occasionally affected full completion, I played through the game three times to finally reach its perfect ending and see what would happen to my character Thomas. And achieving full completion delivers an emotional payoff that is both bittersweet and resonates with our core humanity. I actually had an ache in my chest – that’s how strong the message came through, and how deeply I felt about Thomas and what we had experienced together.

Ether One’s first moments make you believe it’s yet another Portal clone as you enter a testing facility, with a man’s voice in your head telling you it’s a mistake. Ostensibly, you have entered the facility to undertake an experimental procedure to take you into the mind of a patient suffering from dementia, who we think is named Jean. But then you gain some freedom to explore the facility and learn some basic game mechanics. Although you can only pick up one item at a time, you can hide it out of sight, or bring it back up if you want to use it on something. If you see another object, you can swap what you have for the new one. Once you pick up most objects, you can’t replace them back in their original spot, but have to use specific black “holding” tables.

However, the Portal comparison disappears once you sit down in a chair and a liquid washes over you, taking you into the consciousness of your dementia patient. When you exit the chair, you enter “The Case”, a sort of holding area for items that you collect, most of which are just junk but  some of which are critical. Since you never know what you’ll need from one location to the next, you start to find yourself squirrelling away all sorts of weird materials. A QUICK NOTE IF YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED YET: if you are required to collect a group of objects to solve a puzzle, as you collect them, stash them in The Case first, rather than placing them in the game environment. I had a bug in the Mine section where I had individually placed 5 of 6 sound reels, went off to complete another section and came back to find four of them missing, which caused me to be unable to complete that section, and thus costing me the final-final ending.

From The Case, you are able to instantly move back-and-forth into a unique and intricately crafted world, centered around the English mining town of Pinwheel. Graphically, this world is gorgeous, with colorful cel-shading used in the level design that somehow bears a slightly rusty sheen, as you might expect for a community built around a mine.

It is at this point where you realize that Ether One is more like a first-person Myst-style adventure mixed with Inception-style cinematics. You are here to determine what happened in the patient’s past, and whether you can solve the situation and remove the dementia from their mind. The first area tasks you with finding a hidden code to unlock the mine entrance. Once inside, you’ll have to fix some broken machines while gathering information for a movie projector. This whole section is really an interactive tutorial, but is done so well that you never feel like you’re being taught the finer game mechanics.

Once we solve the questions relating to the broken projector, we come face-to-face with a physical manifestation of the patient’s dementia and we attempt to destroy it. Unfortunately, it shatters, and we must find the fragments if we hope to help the patient.

At this point, the wheels come off and the player is allowed to proceed through the game as they wish. If you want, you can simply barrel through each of the four remaining sections, find the 8 ribbons in each section that serve as memory samples, and grab the four fragments that remain of the patient’s dementia. You’ll get an ending that may come as a surprise to you as a player, but it will lack some heart and emotion.

On the other hand, you can patiently poke and prod through the shops and homes of Pinwheel, enter the factory, and solve the mystery of the mine, learning why you were truly brought to this mysterious place. Notes abound, giving you a glimpse of these people’s lives, and the tragedy that struck the local mine during a May Day celebration. You’ll learn about two lovers who buried their happiest memories away in a time capsule. You’ll hear about the study that you are participating in, and how important it is to both the patient and the researcher, who herself had a sister diagnosed with dementia. And you’ll engage in a plethora of environmental, psychological and physical puzzles – all of which are unique and interesting in their own right.

To gain the final “happier” ending, you’ll need to solve the mysteries of 24 movie projectors, all which give you additional insight into the patient. Some of the mysteries are fairly simple and just require you to keep looking around you for notes, while others are a bit more challenging and (at least for me) required a couple (or 12) YouTube visits. Solving these puzzles leaves you with a feeling of great satisfaction. A secondary collectible was 8 ogres, which when gathered together would provide you with a full story about the patient’s brothers.

And at the end … man, my heart dropped to the floor. To learn what happened to the patient, and their relation to you, was almost overwhelming. As I went on this journey, I gained a greater understanding of what dementia patients go through, and how their families struggle to find a meaningful life for themselves and their loved ones. On a personal note, my wife’s grandmother had Alzheimer’s and later died from it. Being around her was hard because she always thought my wife was her daughter-in-law, and she kept asking about her son, who had died 40 years ago. She was so paranoid that she left money hidden under her mattress to “keep it safe,” and then when she forgot where she had left it, she accused everyone of stealing the money. But then she had her good days, like our patient in the game, and she would laugh and smile and play with my young daughter on her lap.

Ether One provided me with an extremely powerful, gut-wrenching experience that just happened to be married successfully to amazing level design and gameplay mechanics. Although you can certainly zip through it, you’ll miss 90% of the game if you don’t try to solve every puzzle and mystery. I hope beyond hope that this small indie team will give us an Ether Two. 8.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 17, 2014, 06:38:52 AM
Reaching 300 Reviews

I've now officially done 300 mini-reviews, with no slowing down! Here’s a recap of previous reviewed games:
- 1st recap (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg11796#msg11796) at #103 for 80 games
- 2nd recap (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg13453#msg13453) at #182 for 150 games
- 3rd recap (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg13853#msg13853) at #235 for 200 games
- 4th recap (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1346.msg14187#msg14187) at #287 for 250 games

Bottom-dwellers (<6.0):
- Ocean City Racing – 4.0
- Takedown: Red Sabre – 4.2
- Deadpool: The Game – 6.0

Honorable Mentions (8.4-8.9):
- Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – 8.4
- Magrunner: Dark Pulse – 8.4
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl – 8.4
- Dead Island: Riptide – 8.5
- Gone Home – 8.5
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat – 8.5
- Trials Evolution Gold Edition – 8.5
- Beyond Good & Evil – 8.6
- Mark of the Ninja – 8.7
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky – 8.7
- Ether One – 8.8
- Hitman: Absolution – 8.8
- Bioshock Infinite – 8.9
- Metro: Last Light – 8.9

Top rated (9+):
- Lifeless Planet – 9.0
- Outlast & Whistleblower DLC – 9.0
- Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – 9.3
- Far Cry 3 – 9.3
- The Walking Dead: GOTY Edition – 10

As always, I hope you've enjoyed reading about these games, and thanks for spending some time in this corner of the Foxhole!!  :onethumb:
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 24, 2014, 12:14:12 PM
Recent Games That Left a Strong Impression
After reviewing 300 games in this section over the past 8 years (and now with 25,000 views to this thread), I decided to pull together the ones that have left the strongest impression, and the list came to just under 50. Very few were new when I reviewed them, the vast majority were about a year old, and another handful were older games that I replayed simply because they were so damn good. It’s a good mix of RPGs, first-person shooters, and open-world games. Not all of these are critical darlings, but their gameplay still lingers in my mind for some reason. And that’s the mark of a pretty good game – that you still think about it months and even years after you played it.

Alan Wake – fighting against creatures of the dark … with light – just brilliant
Amnesia: The Dark Descent – one of the most tense games I’ve ever played, plus the invisible creature in the water….
Anachronox – maybe the funniest game I’ve ever played, with a deep story, interesting special effects, tons of main and side missions, and crazy characters that you learn to love
Assassin’s Creed 2 – Ezio Auditore takes on the Assassin’s mantle as he takes the player through a gorgeous version of Renaissance Italy
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – the best pirate RPG ever, with lots of ship-to-ship action in the Caribbean
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 – somehow the game developers got this one perfect with the right amount of humor, action and story-telling
Batman: Arkham Asylum – the first great superhero game, only eclipsed by …
Batman: Arkham City – the follow-up, which broadened its scope to a whole city full of villains
Beyond Good & Evil – another rich story that delivers lots of action and heart, and tons of cool photo opps
Bionic Commando – despite a brooding anti-hero protagonist, this game still makes you feel like a hero, swinging around a devastated world

Call of Duty: Black Ops – the first COD game to truly surprise me with its ending – and some of the settings are pretty cool too
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood – the best Old West FPS game ever, allowing you to play as one of two brothers through most scenes
Dead Space 2 – just the right amount of horror and action while taking us further into the mythos of the series’ creepy future world
Deus Ex: Human Revolution – almost as good as the original, with lots of diversity in how you play
Dishonored – for a Thief rip-off, Dishonored gets it right with an involving storyline and lots of backstabbing
Ether One –one part Portal to two parts Myst and Inception, with a heart-wrenching payoff
Fallout: New Vegas – more fun than Fallout 3 and set in the American Southwest
Far Cry 3 – a great, engaging open-world game with a unique storyline and lots to do
FEAR 2: Project Origin – better than the original with an apocalyptic devastation of a city
Gothic 2 (with Night of the Raven add-on) – one of my favorite third-person RPGs, with lots of individual placement of items to seek out and tons of gameplay
Grand Theft Auto IV – Nico’s story is what sucks you into the diverse gameplay, and the misguided hope that maybe he can find some happiness in his life

Hitman: Absolution – even though most levels are shorter than previous games, you have so many ways to get through them, and you’ll want to conquer them all
Inversion – the game mechanic of flipping gravity is cool, but the story and late-game reveal of your real location are eye-opening and head-scratching
Just Cause 2 – I never thought destruction could be so fun, but this game makes it hard to pass up something destructible – especially with the whip on your arm
Lifeless Planet – a lot of walking, but the mental suggestion that you are on an alien planet previously settled by the Soviets is ripe with paranoia
Mafia 2 – great missions, great characters, great races with older car models
Manhunt – both scary and gory, with the voice in your head requiring more and more bloody sacrifices while you hope everyone will just ignore you as you sneak past
Mass Effect 2 – better paced than the original, and lacking the poopy ending of the third game, this one is just right
Max Payne 3 – despite taking Max from his NYC digs, MP3 really builds him up as a character as he takes down everyone in his way
Metro 2033 – so many great elements: horror, sneaking past foes, searching for scraps to save your life, listening to all the conversations, and all saturated with the bleak Russian heart
Mirrors Edge – first-person parkour – nuff said

Outlast and Whistleblower – both together form the perfect scary game, where you hesitate to move another foot until your own heartbeat dies down
Portal 2 – smart storyline, challenging puzzles, and several humorous but efficient villains engage your attention
Prince of Persia (2008) – another challenging 3D platformer, but gorgeous cel-shading sets this apart, as does the final ending
Project Eden – an older action/adventure title where you control a group of 4 different characters who must go deeper and deeper into the bowels of the old city
Prototype – another game where despite being the true villain, you feel like a superhero flitting around Manhattan, with awesome destructive powers
Risen – almost as good as Gothic 2, with a large world, three factions from which to join, and lots of quests
The Saboteur – an open-world game set during World War 2 where you free Paris from German rule while racing old cars
Saints Row 2 – another open-world game that takes every action to the extreme, but invests a lot of heart in the story
Shadowrun Returns – a nice return to a great franchise, where you must ensure your party can save the world … again
Sleeping Dogs – based in Hong Kong, this open-world game sets you against the Triads and the cops in a chop-socky fighting scenario
Spec Ops The Line – a good war shooter that gives a deeper meaning to why we as gamers play war shooters

Tomb Raider – this reboot helps us to understand how Lara Croft becomes the Tomb Raider, but unfortunately lacks many actual tombs
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines – one of the best first-person RPGs around, which happens to dive into the vampiric underworld of Los Angeles with great level design, great characters, and lots of killing
The Walking Dead: GOTY Edition – my first perfect score for a game that invests us fully and completely into the story and characters
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – tighter fighting controls, better graphics and larger levels highlight this evolving story of Gerard
X-Men Origins Wolverine – the first game I played where I actually felt like the Wolverine, even though the story jumps around and the viewpoint goes screwy sometimes


Let us know which of these you've enjoyed and thanks for reading!
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on November 30, 2014, 10:06:00 PM
Where Amnesia: The Dark Descent (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=1862.msg12377#msg12377) delivered a tense, dread-filled experience that still manages to stick in my mind, its newer cousin A Machine for Pigs (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/amnesia-a-machine-for-pigs-review/1900-6414003/) seems like little more than a walkabout through Victorian England industrial facilities.

Part of the disconnect between the two is that Machine was created by The Chinese Room, who also made the walkie-talkie “game” Dear Esther. And, as pretty as Dear Esther was, it definitely was light on the interactive portion, or what we like to think of as “playing a game”. I don’t need to shoot stuff, but merely pressing my walk button and occasionally clicking on objects is not especially fun, even though the background story might be amazing.

Machine is the same way, although it does have a little more interactivity to it. You occasionally have to carry an object and place it elsewhere to get some of the machines to work, or maybe turn a dial. Level design varies widely in both look and feel – you’ll go from a Victorian mansion through some back streets into the bowels of a factory area. Occasionally, the location expands into a larger area, like an elevator that leads to the Machine itself, but mostly your path is linear with little deviation.

Machine also lacks the scary ambience of Dark Descent, even though you traipse through mostly darkened corridors and spaces. The difference is that Dark Descent offered unkillable foes who could very rarely be outran. The screen would sway and your heartbeat would pound mercilessly, emphasizing how scared you were in-game. Your best method of survival was to hide out of sight, and then move when the coast was clear. In stark contrast, only once did Machine offer this feeling of dread, and the remainder of the time, I merely ran to the ending if I was spotted. It didn’t help matters that the antagonists in this game are seen all the time, and very quickly lose their luster as an enemy.

Where Machine shines is in two areas: the story, and the sound design. The Chinese Room do make some good “talkie” games, and the depraved message behind Machine underlies humanity’s dependence on industrialization, while also shedding light on a darker tale of mass murder. Both the voicework and the background noises are very well done, and the various letters, telephone messages and notes lying around lend support to the overarching story.

Although Machine was certainly interesting, it felt like several steps backward from the original Dark Descent’s gameplay. I understand that a different designer will bring a separate viewpoint, but in Machine’s case, the storyline got in the way of making a game that would really resonate to players and offer an outstanding horror experience. Reading about and listening to horrific things are not the same as actually being allowed to “feel” them in a game. Machine is sufficient for a single play-through but nothing I’ll be interested to replay in the future. 7.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 08, 2014, 06:34:25 AM
I never really felt like I could get invested in Consortium (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/consortium-review/1900-6415633/) – it’s just too weird of a concept and the pieces don’t really gel effectively. Supposedly, you in the real-world have paid to enter an alternate universe reached only by satellites owned by IDGI (who also created the actual game). This other world also refers to everyone as a certain type of chess piece, with a King and Queen running the whole show, and Bishops, Knights and Rooks carrying out their orders. And of course Pawns do the majority of work.

In this alternate universe, you take the place of an avatar as you start the game. You arrive on an airplane and know absolutely nothing. Several characters interact with you, but they think you’re the person they’ve been dealing with previously, and that you already have a knowledge base of current events. You can ask questions of the other characters, which leads them to either have a positive or negative impression of you; if you go too far in the negative column, you’ll have a hard time convincing them to talk to you, let alone do what you ask.

As soon as you arrive, things start to happen, including various quirks appearing on the aircraft. One of the Pawns is mysteriously murdered and you have to solve the murder. A Bulgarian terrorist attempts to take over the craft and you must stop him. A computer virus traps the pilot and you must rescue him. And you are referred to as a “Seeker” or some such nonsense. Fortunately, the game is short at 5-6 hours.

Graphically, the characters come off like anime-style cartoons; the models are just weird. The aircraft has several levels, and you can get around through different ducts and ladders, but level design seems extremely simple. The voicework however is good, with diverse accents and good sound design.

I wanted to quit immediately after starting the game (which takes forever to load, by the way), but kept telling myself to stick it out just in case it got better. It never really got significantly better, but it also didn’t get worse, until a final villain reveals themself and you must attempt (several dozen times unsuccessfully, in my case) to take them out. Because I couldn’t stop the villain, I could never finish the game, but I YouTubed the final 10 minutes and it didn’t change my mind.

Consortium attempts to be a deep RPG, but the gameplay falls flat. The graphics and character models lack any sense of realism and take you out of the experience. Although interacting with the various characters can be interesting and oftentimes humorous, the game as a whole is mediocre. 6.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 15, 2014, 06:35:28 AM
Since I’ve never played any of the X-Com games (I absolutely stink at real-time strategy games), I didn’t come to The Bureau: X-Com Declassified (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/the-bureau-xcom-declassified-review/1900-6412737/) with any kind of preconceived notion of what to expect. As a result, I probably enjoyed it more than fans of the series.

Essentially, it’s just like Mass Effect, but set in 1940s Earth: it’s a third-person cover-based shooter with your player and two squadmates, both of whom you can direct to take various actions. Levels are fairly small and you can find lots of goodies to use later back at base. And the base itself allows you to talk to various people, solve mysteries and puzzles, and outfit your team for later missions. So, a lot like ME.

You can upgrade both your character and your agents, which you can switch out according to need and desire. While you tackle main missions, you can send out several agents on smaller missions, where they’ll come back with more experience and additional gear for future use – sort of like Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. Weapons run the gamut of regular military pistols and rifles, augmented by alien technology including lasers. You also can select various backpacks with many different functions – in a way, there were TOO many choices.

The main campaign runs about 20 hours of play-time, while the DLC pack adds another 2-3 hours, but is more an arena-style pack than an actual mission.

Not really much more to say about this one. Graphics are good, but I had to back down slightly from DX11 to DX10 because I had a couple of spots with stuttering during various missions.

The Bureau is a solid game with good graphics, interesting story and is fairly easy to pick up and play. Non-fans of the X-Com series probably will enjoy it more than those with a preconceived notion of what an X-Com game is supposed to be. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 22, 2014, 07:33:44 AM
I’m a sucker for a good racing game with a backing story – something like Need for Speed Underground (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2088.msg13284#msg13284), as an example. And CrashTime 2 (http://www.gamefaqs.com/pc/955259-crash-time-ii/reviews/review-142729) seemed like it might have all those characteristics, including a large city to drive around, some larger overarching story, lots of different contests to keep you occupied, etc. I don’t like open-world racing games without any structure.

Unfortunately, this game, despite only being $2 on Steam, was a waste of my time, and mostly because of the asinine tricks that the computer would pull. To start the game, you need to complete some tutorials. The racing from point A to B was easy enough, but then, because you’re playing a cop in a German city, you need to know how to bring down another car. I spent – I kid you not – two hours on the TUTORIAL trying to chip away at the health of my opponent; it was like the car had 1,000 hit points, and I could only knock it down 50hp at a time. Finally, I got to move onto another tutorial to drive a small RC car and blow up stuff.

So, my first mission, I had to follow a semi truck, but not too close, when two bad guys appear, blow up the other 2 cop cars with me, and try to take down the semi. Here’s the mission as recorded on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebi8_9K0h6g. After sliding up to the semi and letting my partner take over driving it, I have to stop and subdue the remaining bad guy. I spent three hours trying to do so, replaying the mission – FROM THE START – over and over and over and over again. I got so sick of the same stupid conversation being repeated ad nauseum. And why, you might ask? Well, it seems the computer AI likes to play a little trick on you: when I would crash into the enemy vehicle, and could actually stop it along a wall, you might think that I could then get out and read them their rights. The computer had other ideas, and would actually TELEPORT THE ENEMY CAR about 50 yards away, where they would blaze off and leave me in the dust, ultimately causing me to fail the entire mission because I wasn’t in range of their car.

The solution: uninstall. 5.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on December 29, 2014, 08:00:24 AM
Another cheap Steam buy that was *mostly* worth it was Afterfall Insanity: Extended Edition (http://www.destructoid.com/review-afterfall-insanity-extended-edition-251109.phtml). Ostensibly, Afterfall Insanity is a Deep Space clone, but without the horror atmosphere. It’s an over-the-shoulder shooter/melee game.

Earth has been decimated by nuclear wars and the only survivors live in deep bunkers. You are a psychiatrist who works with stressed-out citizens, occasionally dealing with the extreme cases who go stir-crazy. Unfortunately, something new has invaded your halls, so you need to check it out. And it seems that a new type of “crazy” has just been introduced somehow. So as the local expert, it’s up to you to try and figure it out. What follows takes you through the bowels of the bunker.

You’ll be tasked with finding people, escorting them to new areas, turning on broken machinery, etc. Occasionally, you get glimpses of your girlfriend, and learn of a fugitive that the governor has declared the top enemy. But otherwise, you’re fighting lots and lots and lots of mutated humans, who offer some fair challenges. Mostly you have melee weapons, but from time-to-time you’ll find various guns for use.

Afterfall Insanity just barely escapes the scrap pile by having an effective 2/3rds opener to the game, where you traipse through the various levels of the bunker and learn the “big reveal”, before leaving for another “missing” bunker some distance away. The final third, which was added as the “Extended Edition” starts out on the surface but devolves into a farce. The worst offender is a stupid boss battle that offers BS mechanics where you can’t escape from the boss and he just keeps trouncing you over and over and over until you die. I gave it a number of attempts to no avail, and finally quit in disgust.

So for a couple bucks, the first part of Afterfall Insanity is certainly worth it, but I felt that the time spent from the surface onward was a huge disappointment. Maybe just stop yourself when you reach the surface. 6.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 05, 2015, 07:13:05 AM
I remember loving the frenetic thrill of the first Driver, but despising Driv3r (Driver 3), so only after seeing Yahtzee’s take several years back did I decide to give Driver: San Francisco (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/driver-san-francisco-review/1900-6331100/) a shot. I’m glad I did, because as a fan of great racing games, this is now at the top of my list.

In the opening moments of the game, we are reacquainted with protagonist John Tanner, but are immediately injured in a car crash caused by his enemy Jericho. Or are we? The game initially plays with the fact that John has acquired a special power that enables him to “Shift” his consciousness from his body into another driver’s body, and then he can take over driving their car, while his body remains in his last car, operating essentially on auto-pilot. This of course freaks out Tanner’s partner, but after a couple of examples of Tanner’s new-found ability, his partner begins to accept it.

Shifting allows Tanner to rise above the streets and move around at a quicker pace than on street level – and later he learns to shift even higher above San Francisco for even more mobility – whereupon he can see all the various opportunities available to him. And here’s where Driver SF really shines, with a diversity of gameplay options including Stunts, Races, and Story Missions, some of which tie to together for a more cohesive overall story arc. Stunts require you to do certain actions (jump cars, speed up, zip under trucks, etc.), and a certain number may be required to open up additional Races and Story Missions. Races generally required you to finish 1st or 2nd. Story Missions followed the main arc, but also some sub-stories, such as a pair of college kids turned racers, off-duty cops taking out illegal med operations, and some criminals trying to escape the law.

Shifting brings a whole new element to races, because instead of trying to outmaneuver your opponents, you can instead Shift into an oncoming vehicle and crash into them, allowing you to pass them with ease while they’re sidelined.

Pure races, where you cannot Shift, or where Shifting does not aid you, were tough, but in a weird turnabout, the computer would often rubberband your opponents if they were too far ahead and you were racing to catch up. For example, in some races that were about the halfway mark, I’d crash and be trying to get back on track; my opponents might be 350 meters ahead, but if I raced really hard, I’d narrow the mark to 80 meters within seconds. Weird, but I’ll take it. Some races I’d spend multiple times on, just hoping I could catch a break and finish 1st or 2nd. The worst was a lengthy 10-minute race all around the San Francisco Bay interstate, traveling at 140+ mph and zipping around traffic to beat a single opponent.

The graphics were amazingly detailed, especially the in-game cut-scenes, and San Francisco felt like a living, breathing entity with a diversity of car models. Occasionally, you would run across Garages, which you could buy and gain additional missions, and Movie Tokens. Gather 10 Movie Tokens, and a movie-like race would open up, reminiscent of 70s movies and TV shows. I felt like I was living in Starsky and Hutch’s world!

For the main story arc, you continue to track down Jericho, trying to understand his underlying scheme. None of it makes sense until the final act. Toward the end, you face an opponent with similar Shifting powers, which makes everything even more challenging.

I would have to say the Driver: San Francisco is probably my favorite “racing” game at this point, because of the unique new concept of Shifting, as well as a diversity of gameplay options. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 12, 2015, 06:50:36 AM
I’ve never really been a Trekkie and I wouldn’t say I’m enamored of the new Star Trek reboot, but I found it and sequel Into Darkness acceptable summer popcorn fodder. So my expectations for Star Trek: The Video Game (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/star-trek-the-video-game-review/1900-6407778/) were miniscule, especially with the extremely low reviews that this co-op based third-person shooter has generated.

But color me surprised! This is another game I’ll say is definitely not great, but it has some decent gameplay elements. You just have to get past some tedious parts to tease them out.

First, the bad: Horrible character animations that make your character look like a gazelle when you jump around. Glitchy partner AI when you play single-player (I played as Spock because I cannot stand Chris Pine’s whiny Kirk) – stupid idjit would get stuck in corners and I’d have to go rescue him so that I could open a door. Sporadic enemy AI that may or may not notice your phantom partner. Boring, same-y inside levels in Enterprise, space stations and Gorn spaceship. Monotonous, repetitive "buddy" situations: open doors, help the other up a wall, hit a button at the same time, etc. Some poorly executed Quick-Time Events.

And the good, or at least the “decent”: New Star Trek enemy in the Gorn (the lizard creature that William Shatner’s Kirk fought out in the desert in the original TV series). Interesting storyline tying the destruction of Vulcan from the first movie into the creation of a New Vulcan in the game. Pretty good likenesses and voiceovers provided by main cast. Some interesting  levels including flying/gliding sequences and the Gorn homeworld’s cavern system. Decent “stealth” system to take out enemies. Good upgrade options that you could manipulate on the fly.

I could honestly care less about what “Trek” is or isn’t supposed to reflect, although I hear it’s more sci-fi and supposed to be thought-provoking in context rather than use guns a-flying. And it does attempt this on occasion, allowing you to hack into computers to take down video feeds and redirect turrets. You also are tasked with stunning humans rather than killing them, and actually get additional experience points if you do so within a level. And there are lots of ducts and tunnels you can use to sneak past foes. But eventually, you'll have to whip out that phaser to take out your enemies.

This game was a pretty decent third-person shooter and had some neat sequences, but get it on the cheap. 6.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 19, 2015, 10:41:22 AM
I don’t think I’ve played any Pendulo adventure games, but Yesterday (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/yesterday-review/1900-6368998/) got some okay reviews, so I thought I’d give it a shot. And, while on the short side, it was definitely interesting.

The story starts with Henry White, a dweebish college kid who is trying to help homeless people, who for some reason have been targeted by a serial torturer and murderer. Unfortunately, upon entering a deserted subway station, you are captured by Choke, a maniac with spiritual delusions. Choke asks you to prove your worth in a game of wits (a chess match), lest he kill you. He also sports a unique Y-shaped scar on his hand.

What follows from that experience directs Henry White’s entire life. When next we see him, he is comforting John Yesterday, who has amnesia caused from a case he was working for Henry. At this point, we take on John’s point of view in the game. The ensuing mystery weaves back and forth over decades, and only near the end do we learn how this is all possible and connected. It’s a nice story and one I haven’t really seen before.

The adventure gameplay is fairly straightforward. Occasionally you get some “red herrings” in your inventory, but for the most part, you use everything you acquire. The game also lends a helping hand, indicating hot spots you can interact with on the screen, and also provides a helpful hint system that actually works. The puzzles are clever, but make sense in the real world.

The artwork was a colorful mix of old-school LucasArts games and new-school adventures like Broken Sword, and was clean enough to indicate what the hot spots were, so you didn’t have to engage in pixel-hunting. Locales included the subway, a  hotel room, a curio store, a mountaintop retreat, and a decrepit abbey.

I could have spent more time in Yesterday’s world, but the story wrapped up sufficiently for my tastes, and it’s a game you can play in a couple of nights. 7.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on January 24, 2015, 10:13:05 AM
I have to admit that I’m about to get fed up with zombie games, but State of Decay (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/state-of-decay-review/1900-6410413/) held my attention long enough with its premise as a survival simulator. And with its inexpensive price tag, you can certainly get your money’s worth with this one.

You start the game as one of two buddies, who just got back from a camping trip in the wilderness, only to be attacked by zombies upon your arrival on land. You are quickly tasked with reaching a ranger station, where some survivors are holed up. This first part of the game gives you a feel for the sneaking, searching, melee and shooting mechanics needed to survive. You also learn about vistas, where you can spy out all the nearby locations, vehicles and unique zombie gatherings. And finally, you begin to gather various supplies that will be critical to make it to the end of the game.

After this in-game tutorial, it’s time to venture forth into the larger landscape, which is where vehicles come in extremely handy, both for traversing great distances quickly, and also for holding your supply bundles. The vehicles feel great when you drive, and have just the right response depending on each one: sports cars have a growl and a sensation of speed, as well as grip the road tightly when you corner, while trucks have a more meaty rumble and slew about if you hit corners too fast. The damage models are nicely done as well, so unless you have a mechanic on your team, you’ll quickly destroy a vehicle if you hit too many zombies or other obstacles.

The first thing you do is to start building up a home-base within a church. The survivors there will have various feelings of trust toward you, based on your actions, and as a result may or may not choose to accompany you on your outings. But as you rescue other survivors, gather more supplies, and establish other outposts, your trust level goes up and people will consider you a friend. At this point, you can switch from your main character to another character, but until that point, you may get tired, sick or injured, so you have to move quickly to establish trust within the home base.

Gameplay is basically a third-person shooter, even for the vehicles, but has some light role-playing elements. You can build up your individual team members (as you’re able to take each one out) in various categories like melee, shooting, leadership, cardio, wits (searching for materials), etc. As you reach certain levels, you can choose from specific skills to support your efforts, such as the ability to slow time when you shoot, or to run longer without needing to catch your breath, or the ability to knock two opponents down at once. I built up several characters with maxed stats, just in case one would get hurt.

In the larger world, you have a number of main tasks required to move the storyline forward – like meet the mayor of the town next door, or deal with the criminals out in the valley, or meet up with the military. You’ll also have a wealth of radiant smaller quests, and some are critical to ensure you don’t lose any survivors. Maybe you need to hunt down specific zombies, or need to find a missing survivor, or you need to teach your skills to others, or even take a disgruntled survivor to task for not pulling their weight. In one case, I didn’t address these issues quick enough, and next thing I knew, one of the survivors shot a fellow survivor who was sick. So then I had to take HIM out and shoot him for the overall "good" of the community.

It’s these types of perma-death situations that make State of Decay so interesting to play. Once I had built my base up sufficiently, the military asked for my assistance to come check out the town to the north, which is initially blocked off from exploration. Once there, we figured out that we could possibly escape if we blasted a hole in some huge concrete walls.

Graphically, the game is not quite crisp enough for lifelike views, but overall it wasn’t a real distraction. And although I often found zombies glitching through walls, it wasn’t a deal breaker. So, pretty decent graphics, but quality that you would expect to see for Xbox 360, for which it was developed.

I opted not to play the Breakdown DLC, which takes place in the same valley as the original game, but just piles on the waves of zombies to see how long you can last. However, the Lifeline DLC was of interest, because it places you in the role of the military, located in the city beyond the wall of the first game. Unfortunately, where the original game allows you to build up your home-base, Lifeline tears it down, as the military loses control of the situation. So you originally get lots of supply drops, but over time, you lose troops that cannot be replaced, and your base is attacked by waves upon waves of zombies that you may not be able to overcome. I eventually had one person left, who was sick and hurt, and I couldn’t move faster than an amble so I couldn’t venture outside the compound. Very challenging, indeed.

Overall, I really liked State of Decay, and it was just different enough from all the other zombie survival games out there with its reliance upon building up a home base and developing a diverse team. The Lifeline DLC provided a different side to the story but was ultimately too challenging to continue. Regardless, this is a good one for you to pick up. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 02, 2015, 11:02:29 AM
Wow – yet another game where I stand on the other side of the professional reviewers! Despite a stupid name, Deadfall Adventures (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/deadfall-adventures-review/1900-6415563/) was actually quite enjoyable. It had a very Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider vibe, while adapted as a first-person shooter. And although the storyline was simplistic, it really adhered to the pulp fiction aesthetic of the 30s and 40s.

You play as James Quatermain, grandson of the famous Allan Quatermain (himself hero of numerous pulp novels), relying on old grand-dad’s fame to keep yourself plied in liquor and dames. However, the CIA needs your help to decipher grand-dad’s notebook and find the lost “Heart of Atlantis”. The game is dated to the 1940s, so you’ll need to accompany agent Jennifer to some Egyptian pyramids and help her obtain the Heart. Along the way, you learn that all the mystical stuff that grand-dad wrote about were true, including walking mummies.

The game’s settings are effectively created within the Unreal Engine and cover a diversity of locales: the aforementioned pyramids, outside ice/snow levels, an interior mine, and Mayan temples, villages and underground locations. In fact, I daresay the Mine Cart level is probably the best one I’ve ever seen or played, and is worth the price of admission for that alone! The Unreal Engine provides some gorgeous level design, but has some unfortunate pop-in as you start a level – that’s the fault of the engine, not the developer.

However, the character animations, especially the in-game cutscenes, are a bit wonky – there are some weird joint angles that just look extremely odd in some circumstances. The faces and outfits are nicely done, though.

Enemies consist of soldiers (both Nazis and Russians), and a whole host of undead skeletons, warriors with shields and even Spanish conquistadores in plate armor. The undead can be damaged with your flashlight, which also gives off a “super” light to intensify the damage. It’s a cool effect, and you can use other stationary light beams to also damage undead, as well as traps.

Ah, the traps … well, there’s a WHOLE bunch of them, all over the place, from spikes to pits to flames to crushing walls. You can generally trip them in your favor, but occasionally you’ll need to traverse them to get treasures or to get through areas. Gathering treasures also ties into a lite RPG system, where the more treasures you accumulate, the more skills you can unlock. To assist you, you’ve got a compass that points to nearby treasures, and on each level, you can find a treasure map to “generally” show you treasure locations. It’s not perfect, and I missed some in my first playthrough because I didn’t know how to get to them.

You eventually end up in Xibulba, the Mayan home of the underworld, where your nemesis takes control of unimaginable power. Stop him and escape with the girl. Isn’t that how all good stories should end?  :ok:

I liked Deadfall Adventures, and it’s low price-point is justified. I had fun in the surroundings, the enhanced flashlight was a unique weapon aide, and finding the treasures was a cool challenge. And don’t forget that mine-cart ride! All in all, I found it a pretty enjoyable game. 7.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on February 09, 2015, 11:24:32 AM
One of my fondest early gaming memories on the Nintendo was of the 2D side-scrolling platformer Flashback, so I suppose it was only inevitable that a reboot of the same name (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/flashback-review/1900-6413453/) would come along. Unfortunately, it has a lot of missteps that affect the overall playability.

The graphics, now in the Unreal engine, are gorgeous, and the game is 3D shot as a 2.5D side-scroller. Levels are fairly diverse, featuring an office complex, city streets, hidden vaults, Death Tower, and ending on another world. Cut-scenes are acceptable but not overly detailed.

Likewise, the controls are not especially smooth. Besides the fact that you can’t fully change your key-mapping, sometimes I would try to move and couldn’t, or would try to shoot a foe and nothing happened. Climbing up and down are not real clean, and your on-screen avatar Conrad just looks wonky when he jumps. At the end, you go up against shape-changing androids and I could never kill them before they would recharge their health – whether this was intentional or a glitch, I have no idea.

I finally just got tired of dealing with all the idiosyncrasies of the game and basically rage-quit. Flashback 2013 is not the worst game I’ve ever played, and does have some promising elements, but overall, I find it hard to give it a recommendation other than “Meh.” 6.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 09, 2015, 02:54:25 PM
Risen 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/risen-3-titan-lords-review/1900-6415840/) follows on from the events of Risen 2 (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2231.msg13819#msg13819), although you take on a new Nameless Hero in this installment. You are the brother of Patty, from the first two games, and son of the pirate Steelbeard.

Like other Risen (and Piranha Bytes) games, Risen 3 is an open-world RPG played with an over-the-shoulder view. It also is probably the most polished of this series. Fighting has received an upgrade with the opportunity to roll away from or block blows, which stops the constant pestering of getting on the receiving end of a bird or warthog who just can’t keep from knocking you back. Character animations are much smoother and more fluid in action and melee. Graphically, it’s the series’ most beautiful game yet, with glorious colors and unique landscapes. Wave actions and lava flows are realistically rendered. And the voicework is exceptional, with flashes of dark humor.

Yet, other issues hold Risen 3 back from true greatness. The story is a composite of pirate clichés. Enemy AI is almost as exploitable as ever – you just need to get on a hill and you can rain down blows on your foes. End-game combat becomes a breeze once you have leveled up sufficiently. The story began to drag toward the middle.

But despite these issues, I still really enjoyed Risen 3 – probably more than Risen 2 (which ironically I rated slightly higher). I love that you can get off the path and find a hidden trail, with some bonus at the end like a bag of gold or a rare plant or even a weapon. I also love that once you clear an area, it generally stays clear, unless you start a new chapter in the story. And I love that my character, who starts out with nothing, earns his way to the top and can kick around foes with near impunity. That’s a great feeling to get from a game, rather than say the Elder Scrolls games, where you always have someone more powerful than you.

The action kicks off immediately with you and Patty landing on the beach of the Crab Coast, which effectively serves as the game’s tutorial level. Risen 3 feels like the largest of the series, although it still took around 45 hours to complete. And with seven fairly sizeable islands, it definitely feels larger than Risen 2, even though you do revisit some of those same locations, which have been changed slightly. It never feels like you’re playing a DLC to Risen 2, but a whole new game completely.

Like the original Risen, Risen 3 allows you to join one of three factions – all of which cater to some form of magic: voodoo magic, crystal magic or rune magic. And like Risen 2, you can dual-wield swords/magic/rifles and pistols. Quite honestly, the only magic I ever used was a “Change Into Parrot” scroll – everything else I would use a musket or shotgun against non-magical foes, and a high-level sword against magical golems; in the other hand I normally had a high-level crossbow. The shotgun had the same one-shot kill effect as a fireball spell, so why sink experience points down that rabbithole?

Risen 3 uses “Glory” points to measure your experience, which you can raise on the fly in one of seven areas. You can augment your skills further by talking to key trainers, provided you have the gold handy. Find special hidden objects around the world, and you’ll get permanent bonuses.

You also receive bonuses from potions and equipment, which you can learn how to create once you’ve met the right trainers. I sunk some points into making potions, so that when I collected the right ingredients, I could create permanent potions to enhance my skill points. I also was able to craft rings and amulets, and to upgrade various weapons. I just had to keep everything I came across; thank goodness Risen grants you a Bag of Holding!

Risen 3 introduced new on-sea fights against large sea monsters, where you are effectively contained within an oceanic “arena” and must avoid or confront these animals. I died quite a few times, and unfortunately you can’t upgrade your ship, so the success is solely based on your skills during this segment.

The game also introduced a knife-throwing game, which was cool, and a three-tiered “rotating puzzle”, which I absolutely hated. And it included a new “focus” vision that could allow you to see special objects and foes, but the result was too muddy to use for extended periods of time, so it was a wasted effort to my mind. And finally, you could swim in deep water out to other islands on your map!

Risen 3 is a Piranha Bytes game. If you liked the previous Risen games, or the Gothic series (1-3), then you’ll appreciate this latest effort. It’s not perfect, but it hits enough of the right strokes to still be a satisfying RPG. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on March 23, 2015, 07:01:41 AM
Lost Planet 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/lost-planet-3-review/1900-6413736/) is the prequel to the two Lost Planet games and takes place on E.D.N. 3, home to an immense energy force that is found in the local mutated wildlife (called Akrid). I had played the first game before and it was okay – you basically have a robot rig that you fight off the Akrid, and then a really, REALLY large Akrid appears and you have to take it out, often on foot.

So as I played through the first few hours of LP3, I was getting immensely bored: slowly pace in your rig from one location to another, jump out and plant a drill, and take on hordes of both small and giant Akrid. Repeat and rinse, ad nauseum.

And then all of sudden, something changed – completely out of the blue, I entered a mystery and was presented with two sets of realities about EDN 3 – which one was true? At the same time, my rig could be modified to be more effective against Akrid, but it still didn’t have any raw firepower, so it required you to block attacks manually. And the atmosphere inside decayed labs that I found felt more akin to Dead Space, with an underlying sense of dread.

I think what sealed the deal was the little video snippets that would sometimes play in-between level transitions. The mo-cap is done pretty well, and the voicework is really good. But your character Jim is quite the hoot. In one video, a caption at the bottom says the video is for judging the person’s sanity level: in it, Jim is either snoozing away while his rig is drilling, or maybe he’s bouncing a ball off the side of the cab, or maybe he’s just babbling about the weirdest topics. These were all extraneous and would never be necessary, but they showed who Jim was, and why he made his choices – like leaving his wife and baby son back on Earth so that he could get hazard pay in this dangerous location.

So when a full-scale revolution begins to brew, it makes sense that Jim is leading the charge. Unfortunately, the last part of the game is very heavy with human foes, and begins to drag slightly.

I normally really slam games that don’t allow me to fully rework my key-maps, and LP3 doesn’t fully succeed, but it was acceptable. However, some QTEs required me to move my hands across the keyboard, which got challenging. Worst was several boss battles in the rig, which required several movements in a row to pull off the appropriate move against your foe.

Graphically, the game is really pretty, and characters are mostly lifelike. And all the characters began to feel real by the end of the story, which has a few surprises along the way.

So yeah, against my initial thoughts, I liked Lost Planet 3. 7.2 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 06, 2015, 06:26:31 AM
Crysis 3 (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/crysis-3-review/1900-6404063/) is without a doubt the most stunning game I’ve ever experienced on my PC. Finally, I’ve got the graphics card and the CPU to do a Crysis game justice, and it is incredible to witness. I’ve been able to play some games on Ultra settings, but none of them have come so close to photo-realism as this version of the CryEngine. Specifically, landscapes are lush and full of grass and leaves, and the entry scene set in the rain shows every drop as it hits the ground. It’s just incredibly awesome.

Unfortunately, the rest of the game’s features can’t quite match the level of the graphic details, although they do a fair job. In this final chapter in the series, you again play as Prophet, the military man whose exo-suit merged with the alien Ceph invaders in Crysis 2. Only now more than a decade has passed, and you’re the sole remaining exo-suit soldier in the world, all your companions but one (Psycho) dead from a new industrial company called CELL.

It seems that CELL has tapped into Ceph technology and is running a power grid based over the whole of New York City by tapping into what they think is a Ceph artifact of great power. However, you and some rebels based inside NYC think otherwise, and that CELL has bitten off more than they can handle.

The storyline is sufficiently interesting and lots of data dumps give you access to the full story of the Ceph civilization and how they attempt to colonize and terraform the Earth. A near-end reveal isn’t quite as surprising as it could have been, but was necessary to move the plot along.

Prophet can collect upgrades for the exo-suit, and you can play with a couple of different options based on your gameplay style. I prefer the silent, stealthy path, because when you start killing foes, they call in reinforcements to replace their losses. The new bow is a good addition to ensure you don't break out of invisibility cloak. But other players may want a strongman who can kick foes across the map or throw objects at them for insta-kills. So I suppose there is some slight replayability in this respect.

However, maps are mostly one-way affairs from start to exit. On a few occasions you’ll enter a large zone, some which may require a vehicle to get around quickly, but for the most part, you’ll be running through tight corridors. Near the finale, you enter a huge map with multiple objectives – this reminded me somewhat of the Black Forest map of Half-Life 2’s Episode 2.

Foes generally are human, probably for a good three-quarters of game time, with aliens during the remainder. The AI for both is acceptable, with them sometimes hiding, sometimes charging. But since you have a supersuit that can either make you invisible or absorb a bulk of their firepower, they mostly aren’t a challenge. It’s more a challenge to sneak around foes without alerting them.

Crysis 3 effectively pulls this trilogy to a close, with closure for Prophet (and in a short cutscene following the credits, for Psycho too), although I’m not sure where they could head after destroying all the Ceph on Earth (spoiler). And that’s okay. Sometimes you don’t need to milk a franchise to death.

I’d have to say the series’ strongest feature is its incredible graphic detail, which has been that way since the first game. The storyline is interesting and world-spanning and the firefights are sufficiently challenging. Add in an exo-suit with cool features, and you’ve got yourself a good game. 8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 13, 2015, 07:12:59 AM
After three "3"s (Risen 3, Lost Planet 3 and Crysis 3) in a row, I was ready for something new and innovative. Unfortunately, within 10 minutes of playing Dirt Showdown (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/dirt-showdown-review/1900-6378269/), I was bored. Where other games in the Dirt series have been fun, challenging racers, Showdown instead relies on simple, gimmicky crash-em-ups for the breadth of its entertainment.

Races consist of Figure 8s where you can either crash into or speed pass opponents, small circuit laps with jumps and pyrotechnics, stupid Gymkhana with stupid drifiting and stupid 360s, smash the colored blocks in order, “Tag You’re It” in an arena of other cars trying to smash into you, and my favorite: knock the other cars off a platform. Did I mention that Gymkhana was stupid, and it has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the fact that I can’t drift for the life of me. Really, the whole thing was just a CG’d version of the Hot Wheels cars I grew up with as a kid.

I can’t deny that the whole package is visually very appealing, and the interface is nicely designed. You can choose from a variety of cars and upgrade them, or you can use your winnings to purchase new cars. But the single-player campaign has no real reason to push forward. And honestly, once you’ve done one of the races, the rest of them feel extremely similar.

So I trudged through the first race series, and then uninstalled after about 2 hours play-time. The few bright stars to me weren’t worth the effort of sorting through the remaining slop. 6.4 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 20, 2015, 10:05:11 AM
It is apparent that The Ball (http://www.ign.com/articles/2010/10/25/the-ball-review) was once an Unreal Tournament mod that went pro after winning one of Epic’s “Make Something Unreal” contests – the graphics are nice enough but the whole thing is just a smidge on the amateur side. And at this point, the game looks last-gen.

The story starts with you as an anthropologist who got trapped inside a cave. While your team sends out for repairs, you have nothing to do but explore. And after coming across a weird-looking gun, you realize it is tied to a huge metallic “Ball”. Your gun acts as a hammer to push the ball, and also has a magnetic presence to attract the ball to you. And then you venture into the underground world below you.

Levels are set amidst large open-spaces that give a nice representation of being stuck underground. Large stalactites come down from the ceiling. Lava flows in certain locations. And the landscapes are often filled with Mayan/Aztecan appearing temples and villages, with intricate interiors filled with traps and puzzles.

The Ball is used to navigate these puzzles, often requiring you to also touch a glowing blue panel or button at the same time. And the puzzles flow nicely from simple to more complex, sometimes pulling several options together. For example, you might learn that you can roll the Ball through oil to connect to a torch; then you can also set up a trail to open a wooden doorway or even to take out foes. And yes, you do start to face groups of mummies the further down you go. Although they aren’t extremely challenging on their own, you have no weapon to take them on, other than rolling the Ball over them, or pulling it to you to protect you.

You’ll also face a collection of main and mini-bosses, including Zombie King Kiong, a giant worm, and several mini-bosses that look like rejects from Gears of War. These can’t be killed with the Ball, so you’ll have to find a different way to take them down.

Along the way, you read the story of what exactly happened in this underground kingdom, and about the Keepers who served mankind. Hidden treasures also complement the story with little tidbits from the lives of regular citizens. And a late-game reveal was unexpected but fun.

Graphically, The Ball is still acceptable, but where it shines is in the puzzles that require the Ball to solve them. It’s relatively short at about 8-10 hours, so you won’t have to sacrifice much of your time. And you’ll find it on sale often through Steam or other sources. 7.1 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on April 27, 2015, 06:59:10 AM
Unfortunately, my score for Splinter Cell: Blacklist (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/tom-clancys-splinter-cell-blacklist-review/1900-6412934/) automatically dropped by several points simply because of a huge game-breaking glitch caused by Uplay, Ubisoft’s proprietary cross-platform game service. I bought Blacklist more than a year after release through Steam, which regrettably then has to go through Uplay for the game to start. And right away, I started to encounter the “23-Minute (http://steamcommunity.com/app/235600/discussions/0/648813728580122238/#p1) Bug (http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/2eey9f/while_theres_some_attention_on_splinter_cell/)”, where the game crashes to desktop almost exactly every 23 minutes. This situation has been experienced by numerous players but even now has yet to be addressed by Ubisoft. Apparently, this bug arose after the v1.03 update and happens because the Uplay DRM is trying to contact the authentication server and is subsequently unable to do so – it seems to mostly affect people who purchased the game through Steam, which also serves as a form of DRM.

Some people found some solutions (http://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/787508-Fix-for-client-crash-issue?s=c692cd04a058f9788de955ef3c75f8e7), but the only working guarantee is to only update to v1.02, or to get a cracked EXE, which is a huge slap in the face to the people who paid money for it. For the record I found that the Reloaded version (http://d03.gamecopyworld.eu/?y=2e42b1e5&x=ftAlO8ObXu7o8FDeiiLgHATqzYoJw43v4wHd94oq1f%2B3yUu2yPoLciaAR3iq1snmW%2F0LybsaHGVTbGsApliXoBBRUaxkce2t5RXqGFXxaimlJOTBj0uyM5EsDDdMxWe3) of the crack worked best. In all, I lost more than a week of time just trying to research what solution – if any – would work for me.

Once the game was finally reliable, it was actually pretty good. Graphics are stunning, with high detail on the DX11 version of the game, so much that you can see every pore on the skin.

Gameplay is geared toward three optional play styles: Ghost (where you minimize disturbance), Panther (where you lie in wait to ambush), and Assault (full on Rambo). Of these, I always tend to prefer the Ghost route, unless circumstances dictate otherwise. You also get more points by Ghosting levels, especially if you don’t attack anyone. I liked having options and Blacklist delivers on that front.

The storyline is a trifle confusing, especially when you learn what the antagonist’s endgame is. Essentially, a rogue organization is targeting U.S. interests with terrorist actions and warnings, starting with the devastation of a U.S. base in Guam, where our hero Sam Fisher just happens to be. But Guam is just the start of a whole series of efforts aimed at getting the U.S. to bring its troops home from every foreign port. To combat this threat, you’ll need the assistance of former enemies and the grudging support of the CIA and armed forces.

Sam will have to visit a diversity of locales both foreign and American, including Afghan villages, European cities and more, but no setting really stood out. In addition, you have some optional 4th Echelon missions arranged by your teammates; it’s not necessary to complete them, but they their successful completion will add to your bank account, from which you purchase all your gear and upgrades to the plane you’re using as a home base. Anna’s missions require full stealth to complete, while Charlie’s missions are set in various foreign embassies with waves of escalating troops coming after you and few places to hide. Unfortunately, Briggs’ missions are co-op only, so I didn’t have anyone to try those.

Sam can shoot out lights to hide successfully in the dark, as well as hide behind large items, pulling in the unwary into either a chokehold or a slit throat. Beams that cross the ceiling offer alternative routes across a room, or allow him to leap upon foes. You can also mark up to three foes and headshot them with your pistol.

Once I finally got the game to work right, it was a pretty fun play-through. Maps, although not enormous, offer a diversity of pathways to accomplish your personal play style. You can purchase a variety of gear and weapons to experiment, and further upgrade them. However, the story’s end goal didn’t make much sense and it seemed like overkill for what the main enemy really desired. Regardless, I ultimately enjoyed Blacklist and might play it again in the future. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on May 04, 2015, 05:09:03 PM
By chance, I found Only If (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/only-if-review/1900-6415830/) listed as a free game through Steam, so I thought I would give it a shot since the graphics looked decent. And unlike some reviewers, I found it to be challenging, sure, but also a decent game in its own right, especially considering it was made by a small team and released for free. But it is not without its foibles.

Only If starts with you entering a house party and has you awaking the next day to a blaring, rude voice coming out of a radio speaker. The voice berates you for your previous night’s actions and then proceeds to threaten your life. Then the “puzzles” begin, and continue for the next few hours, starting with a supposed choice that many reviewers are knocking. Basically, you have to choose either a black pawn or a white pawn, and it shows your true character. I initially chose the black pawn, went through that whole path and then you are presented with the choice of selecting the white pawn later, so really, your choice doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. Was that done on purpose, perhaps to show the futility of life? Who knows.

Regardless of which path you go, you’re faced with a diversity of obstacles. The Black Pawn path has more chase sequences, including a black cloud that seeks to engulf you and a weird house with two foes that require you to hide. I definitely felt bouts of terror, even though I might make a mistake and die. Luckily, save points are numerous so you hardly ever lose any time.

The White Pawn path features some surreal sequences, including an aggravating platforming puzzle, but it’s still interesting. Only twice did I have to seek outside assistance – a word puzzle that you have to type in a word in a very specific time, but it was hard for me to hear what my foe from the radio was saying. The second time was when I learned you have to approach trash cans in the park.

Created in the Unity engine, the game goes from stunning and realistic locales like a park and a swamp, but then you’ll traipse through dark corridors that feel like they’re from Half-Life 1. It’s a bit of a toss-up graphically.

The voice acting is nicely done, even though the words they use are highly damaging at times. And the ending was weird, before spinning off to another ending branch.

Only If has some strong points, but it also challenges mind and fingers to complete various tasks. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but for free, what more can you expect? 6.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 01, 2015, 06:43:52 AM
Finally available to PC users, the Premium Edition of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/enslaved-odyssey-to-the-west-review/1900-6280298/) offers enhanced visuals and performance upgrades. Unfortunately, it also remains a console port in too many aspects, namely in the key binding. You can attempt to bind keys to your liking, but after each cutscene, the game annoyingly rebinds the keys randomly. Even 18 months after release, no fix has been delivered by the developer, and the community hasn’t been able to create a fix.

So I had to play this game with the default WASD profile, which I severely dislike, but I was able to make work. In exchange, I chose the EASY difficulty setting, so I wouldn’t be quite so constrained to fumble with unknown buttons in the heat of the moment.

That I can get past this issue and still find the game pretty amazing speaks volumes about the final quality of the work.

Enslaved starts on a large slave ship where our protagonist (who names himself Monkey) sees a girl escape her shackles and sabotage the ship’s workings. This also manages to free you, so you find yourself dashing through the ship to find an escape pod before the ship crashes. This also serves as a tutorial to teach you how to move about and attack any robot foes with your staff. Then you must make your way outside, over and around the length of the ship, until finally locating the last pod – which just happens to be occupied by the girl.

This is where Enslaved’s journey really begins, because after you both land, the girl – whose name is Trip – places a slave headband on you, ordering you to help her return to her home, which had been attacked by slaveships. She is determined to find her father and her Sanctuary. Monkey is of course angered by this turn of events, but has no free agency to do anything about it – if the girl dies, he dies too.

Monkey, who actually looks like one in profile, can climb objects, swing, and use enhanced strength to lift items. Trip is a hacker who quickly gains an aerial drone that can be used to scout the way forward. Oftentimes, Monkey may need to carry Trip, or heave her up to a higher locale, where maybe she can assist further down the line. Occasionally, you enter an area where Monkey can deploy what amounts to a hoverboard, which he can zip across water or toxic sludge. Monkey also can use his staff to shoot explosive or stun pellets at foes, which include a variety of robots, that start simply but then add shields and electrical attacks. You also face cannons that can sometimes be turned against other robots, as well as larger “boss” robots that require different methods to stop them.

Enslaved presents vast destroyed vistas in the background, initially starting with the New York City skyline, and then out further west to the mountains. The fine detail is pretty awesome, and the best gameplay takes place in large structures where Monkey has to traverse specific paths to reach a destination. For example, on a crumbling bridge where he must move quickly or lose his grip, or on a large mechanical juggernaut. It is here that I’m most glad I went the Easy route for gameplay because it’s hard to play some of these scenes with a keyboard (a gamepad is most recommended).

The story spends a lot of time in New York’s industrial wasteland before finally moving to Trip’s home of Sanctuary. And although you pretty much know what to expect, it’s still heart-breaking to experience. It is here that Trip and Monkey’s relationship changes from captor-captive to more of a friendship. The game never sinks to the “heroine in distress” trope, nor even gives the two any romantic motives, but you can feel the budding relationship all the same.

Enslaved manages to make us care about two people who initially start as selfish survivalists, but then grow into a team that cares for one another. The scenery is spectacular from both the landscape level down to the particular pathing you must follow. Foes are challenging but not impossible to tackle. And I dare anyone not to choke back a tear when Trip and Monkey have a heart-to-heart conversation inside the mechanical juggernaut in the next-to-last level.

As a bonus, you get a "prequel" full mission with Piggsy, the junk-man that Monkey and Trip meet in the latter part of their journey. Titled "Piggsy's Perfect 10", the junk dealer sets out to create a companion; this requires you to gain three specific parts in various parts of his junk kingdom, and all guarded by challenging robot foes. Piggsy can barely jump up, so he generally must use a grappling hook to move from place to place. And because he doesn't have a staff for hand-to-hand combat, it requires much more foresight on which of four special tools he can use to either destroy, distract, or even to force robots to "befriend" him. It's a clever addition, and quite lengthy at 4-5 hours total. We got to what I assumed would be the natural ending of the story, and then it kept on, so kudos for exceeding my expectations.

I don’t know if it’s possible from the final cutscene, but I would love to see more Trip and Monkey, and more of this world of Enslaved. 8.5 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on June 22, 2015, 12:57:38 PM
Surprisingly, I had never played Amerzone (http://www.adventuregamers.com/articles/view/17436), though I’ve played other games created by Benoit Sokal, notably the two Syberia adventures. Amerzone plays a bit like Myst or the later Zork adventures, in that you click to enter an area, and then you are allowed to look all around in first-person view within that space. Maybe you’ll find an object to pick up or to use, or maybe it’s just empty window dressing on your way to the next area.

Amerzone casts you as an investigative reporter following a disgraced biologist at the end of his career. The biologist shares a tale from his youth, when he and two others entered a jungle realm in search of an elusive “white bird” that the natives all worshiped. Although the biologist found love in a native village, his desire to gain fame by bringing an egg of the white bird back to civilization eventually undid him. When he returned, he was disgraced by his peers and went into seclusion, which is where we take up the story.

The biologist wants the egg returned and needs your assistance to do so, since he’s at the end of his life. He tasks you with meeting a priest who was part of the earlier expedition, and warns you away from the third member, who eventually rose up to become dictator of the Amerzone.

Thus our adventure begins. Amerzone is still playable graphically and doesn’t suffer overly much from its age. Its puzzles are relatively few and simple, although there are one or two pixel hunts, which were typical for the time. Sometimes, it’s hard to see certain objects simply due to the grainy video. Although I was able to figure out most puzzles, I did have to break out a walk-through about 5-6 times.

Generally, you have to find a diskette to help you navigate a plane developed by the biologist. When the plane stops, you might have to adapt it to another form of travel, like a helicopter or a sailboat. If you run out of fuel, you have to find a can of gas to keep going. Then you have to search out another diskette with the next navigational clues.

You’ll make your way from the coastal lighthouse of the biologist to a nearly deserted coastal island to a monastery, where one of the early team has settled. After a quick incarceration, you get back in the plane and must navigate creepy swamps to find the native village from which the egg first came. Inside the village, you must then figure out how to get the egg “sanctified” by the local shaman before finally depositing it back at the volcano where the biologist first found it.

The story is nicely paced, with little snippets of information scattered throughout your journeys. It’s ultimately a tale of hubris and loss – loss of the white bird for the nearly decimated native people, loss of the biologist’s one true love, and loss of something fantastic in the face of today’s modern civilization.

Amerzone is relatively quick to play – maybe 3-4 hours not counting walk-through consultations – and holds up reasonably well in the graphics department. The sound is nicely done, as is the voicework. A few pixel hunts make the game tedious, but the puzzles are relatively straightforward. 7.3 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 06, 2015, 10:16:26 AM
Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/commandos-behind-enemy-lines-review/1900-2538454/) is one of the very first games I ever purchased for PC. I remember playing the demo off the monthly PC Gamer disk, thinking it was challenging but cool, and actually buying the game, followed soon after by the sequel Beyond the Call of Duty.

Commandos is considered a Real-Time Strategy game, and maybe that’s the correct notation, but it’s vastly different than most other RTS’s I’ve played, and at which I suck. Most are “gather resources, build armies, and rush your foes” kind of RTS’s, and I truly hate those (again, because I suck at them – I’m man enough to admit my faults!). But Commandos instead forces you to use different archetype soldiers to carry out your World War 2 missions, each of which generally has one or two key skills. There’s the Driver, the Sapper, the SEAL, the Sniper, the Spy and the Marine. Probably the most used, especially depending on the mission, are the Marine and SEAL, and then maybe the Spy if you have him. The Marine can sneak up on enemy soldiers, distract them with his radio, kill them, and then move the bodies. The SEAL can dive into the water and approach enemies on the shoreline and quickly stab or spear them, but he can’t move them. And the Spy can distract enemies so that either the Marine or the SEAL can silently dispatch them.

Each enemy has a cone of vision that you must ensure you don’t get caught in, lest they blow the alarm and you fail your mission, or make it ten times harder because you have new enemies to deal with. So save, save, save often. Gameplay is a little meticulous, but I kind of like that: it’s almost like a chessboard, and you have to figure out your next move.

Missions build in both complexity and intensity over the span of the game, and take you to different locales from the WW2 era, including snowy terrain, the desert of North Africa, and the destroyed cities of Europe. Graphics are still viable, even after all these years, and I didn’t have any issues with backwards compatibility. Nice job Eidos!

Although I can certainly appreciate its challenges, the game went on a little long for my current tastes. I got to level 18 and had already put in 34 hours. So I’m not really sure if I’ll finish the game at this point, but I can certainly grade it from the value I received. 8.6 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 13, 2015, 10:02:12 AM
If you’ve ever played a Saints Row game, you know to expect extreme wackiness versus the gravitas served up in the Grand Theft Auto series. And Saints Row IV (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/saints-row-iv-review/1900-6412941/) is no exception to the rule. In fact, it’s probably the craziest yet most diverse entry for the series.

After the events of SR3, there’s nowhere for your character to go but straight to the top, as President of the United States of America. Unfortunately, the alien Zinyak decides to invade Earth and capture most everyone. You wake up in a 1950s version of Steelport, but things seem to be all wrong. With the help of some outside people – including Keith David, the actor turned Vice President – you gain freedom from the Matrix-like simulation where the aliens have trapped all Earthlings.

And here’s why SR4 is so insane – because most people’s personal simulations result in really weird, abstract levels. Several times you enter a Tron-like world with neon colors, or you might enter a past occurrence reaching back to SR1, or you might have to take on a 100-foot tall can of Saint’s Soda, or rescue a buddy trapped in an 8-bit side-scroller beat-em-up. The whole concept is ultra-bizarre.

Then add the fact that you gain super-powers in your own simulated world of Steelport. Yes, super powers. Like super-jump and gliding and super-stomp and telekinesis and fireball flinging and super-speed. And it’s all AWESOME! Sure, you can car-jack somebody, but when it’s faster and “cooler” to run at super-speed down the street, with a tornado whipping up all the cars and people in your wake, and then run sideways up a skyscraper, who wouldn’t want that?

Most of the extra side activities and collectibles relate to your new powers, so you’ll want to find lots of glowing globes and upgrade all your powers so you can be more successful.

Storywise, you have to gradually get your team back together, fend off the alien threat, and take back Steelport by killing Zinyak. It works, at any rate.

SR4 is full of lots of action but it does get a little threadbare by the end, and I’m not sure if they should stretch this out any further, unless maybe they’re planning to go to space next. Either way, the game is certainly worth playing, and offers plenty of DLC and extras to keep you interested. 7.8 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 21, 2015, 01:01:45 PM
As reboots go, the updated 2013 version of Shadow Warrior (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/shadow-warrior-review/1900-6415184/) is a solid game, with various homages to the 1997 original, but enough new ideas to breathe life back into the series. And especially in comparison to other retro games that used the Build engine but have been recently remade – like Duke Nukem Forever and Rise of the Triad – it’s downright awesome.

The original Shadow Warrior was a racist rant on Asian stereotypes, with extreme violence thrown into the mix; this version actually tones down the stereotypes, but plays them for a specific effect. And still manages to offer tons of violence.

Storywise, you work for Zilla Industries as a gun-for-hire. You start the game by trying to get a specific sword for Mr. Zilla, and from there, everything goes to Hell, literally, as demons begin to pop up all over the place. You even get a demon accomplice of your own by the name of Hodji. Your task is straightforward: find three pieces of the sword, combine them, and return them to Mr. Zilla. But for what purpose? As the story goes on, you learn why the sword was created, why it was split into three pieces, who Hodji is, and learn his role in this whole enterprise. The story is actually very strong, accompanied by some gorgeously rendered animated cutscenes.

Graphically, the game is incredibly detailed, created in the proprietary Roadhog engine. You traverse a diversity of locales, including forests, city streets, palaces, cemeteries, icy cliffs and even Otherworldly levels. I disliked some of the early levels that relied too heavily upon bamboo forests as backdrop, and felt some of the level transitions were not smooth in their design. I also felt that some of the “secrets” that featured pixellated artwork from the original 1997 game were out of place and actually pulled me from the game mentally. But overall, the game was beautiful.

Although the story and graphics were enticing, the enemies actually made me uncomfortable to play the game in long stretches. I’ve realized that I don’t like a lot of people “in my face” in the real world, and that seems to carry over into my gaming. When I have a choice of my ideal character, I generally pick a sniper who can deal damage from far away. No such luck in this version of Shadow Warrior, which is as close to a retro run-and-gun as you can get. You are constantly being swarmed by enemies, and although you can certainly try to shoot them from afar, in most instances, you’re going to be surrounded by foes and have to get up-close with a shotgun, flamethrower and especially your sword. However, the game designers did at least build breathing space into the gameplay; I actually would enter large arena-like areas, certain that I would be getting mobbed, and passed through without anyone showing their head. I appreciated that restraint to give me a chance to breathe, take stock of my inventory, and then move on.

Foes are a diverse mix of grunts, larger mini-bosses, and several maxi-bosses in the Underworld levels, who swarm, fly, blow up, bash, harpoon and otherwise harass you in various sized “arenas”. Unfortunately, the maxi-bosses all seemed to utilize the same type of fight, which became monotonous over time. You certainly have to utilize all your weapons, skills and powers to escape death. Luckily, you can upgrade all of these features by finding money, Ki crystals and Karma pools; you also gain Karma points through the violence and diversity of your enemy kills.

Polish game developer Flying Wild Hog Studios has another hit on their hands after the really good Hard Reset: Extended Edition (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2202.msg13723#msg13723). Let’s hope these guys can continue to pump out great games for us to play. 7.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on July 27, 2015, 10:15:17 AM
I wanted to like Cloudbuilt (http://www.gamespot.com/videos/cloudbuilt-now-playing/2300-6417762/), but it’s created more for twitch gamers than for myself. The art style is ultra-cool, with colorful pen-and-ink drawings of a 3D world of floating islands. The gameplay itself is a third-person mix of Mirror’s Edge and a free-running game, with lots of jumping and parkour options. But for my fumble-fingers, it’s just too much. So since I couldn’t even get through this one, I’m not going to give it a grade, but if you’re into this kind of gameplay it might be of interest to you.
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 03, 2015, 09:09:51 AM
Once again, I’m glad I’ve waited so long to play a game, as many of the kinks and bugs have been mostly worked out. In this case, I’m talking about the sort-of “reboot” of Thief (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/thief-review/1900-6415675/), which came out in 2014. Most reviews of this game, including our own Doc Brown (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2466.0) and Starfox (http://forums.starfoxweb.com/index.php?topic=2401.0), were extremely critical of the many glitches and bugs present, as well as the change to some core Thief mechanics, and even some changes to our protagonist Garrett.

And for the most part, many of these bugs have been repaired – notably the sound issues where NPCs would talk over each other or you couldn’t hear a mission briefing because of background noise. However, several issues still remain with Garrett himself, and the gameplay allowed by the developers, which cuts out many of Garrett’s proficiencies.

Starting way back in 1999, the Thief series has always been a niche type of game that never found real financial success, despite being loved by its fans and critics alike. It brought thoughtful, patient gameplay to an audience starving for a difference in first-person shooters. But with that long-time appreciation comes certain core values for a Thief game, which are noticeably absent here.

I’m actually okay with many of the changes, because they were probably necessary to make the game more financially viable with a population of gamers that may not know what Thief is all about. For example, our new Garrett can only leap up on certain types of boxes and ledges, where he used to be able to leap all about. Rope arrows can only be used on specific targets, rather than being shot into any piece of wood. Knockout animations are more lengthy, but probably also more realistic.

And some have argued over the characterization of this new Garrett, but I can actually see why he’s changed. In the first two games, Garrett was self-absorbed and unwilling to care about anyone, but was still brought into world-shattering events. However, in the third game Deadly Shadows, Garrett became the sole Keeper, entrusted with secrets to support mankind. So in a way, this new Garrett may have actually grown a soul, and that’s why he’s willing to put his own life on the line for his friends like Basso.

But, and this is a big one, the character of Erin that we are introduced to at the start of the game, and whom the vast majority of Garrett’s actions revolve around, is completely unsuitable for this game’s story. Erin is beyond brash and arrogant – she’s stupid and reckless. Young Garrett at least had the intelligence not to kill anyone and made every effort to get out of places unnoticed, so that the Watch wouldn’t put his poster on a wall. But Erin seems determined to bulldoze her way through every obstacle, fates be damned.

All it would have taken was a little extra exposition to make Erin someone worth caring about. Maybe she was Garrett or Basso’s illegitimate daughter, even if she didn’t know it herself. Maybe she was in an orphanage or Garrett rescued her off the street and taught her some thieving skills, but just couldn’t care for her appropriately, and now she has become this reckless teenager rebelling against his parental authority. Anything would have been stronger than what we were given, which is just that they once used to work together. The Garrett we knew would have told her to screw off and then left. So this version of Erin doesn’t really work for me as a plot device and damsel in distress.

Missions are linear, and do feature some points of no return, whereby you need to have gathered all the loot in that area before moving on, but I actually appreciated the linearity after traipsing about in the City. Within the missions, you may have several ways to enter an area, and within the area might find passages that will keep you out of sight, all of which I liked.

The various quadrants of the City are a pleasure to move about, trying to find every single stitch of loot, opening locked windows, shooting rope arrows into the rafters, robbing people blind. In fact, the City sections are probably the best part of the entire game, enhanced by Basso’s thieving opportunities. Couple that with stealth attacks from up high, and it’s pretty satisfying.

One issue I had was that the earliest Thief games offered a thieving “experience”. You were in a first-person perspective the entire time. Unfortunately, this new Thief pulls you out of the experience and reminds you that it’s a game, mostly noticeable in the third-person platforming that comes out on various occasions as Garrett goofily climbs pipes and walls. But then the game offers some great perspective when you are feeling around the edge of a painting for a hidden button, or slicing a picture out of a frame, or cutting the cable on a trap or even coming up to an edge and leaning around a corner. So it does a lot of things right.

I played on Master Thief rating for the entire game, and here was another disconnect. In previous games, a Master Thief was not allowed to kill anyone, but here you actually have that as an optional objective in certain levels. Granted, you can tweak all the options in the menu so that you can actually fail a mission by getting caught or blackjacking/killing someone, so that decision is up to the player, which was a nice feature. And you also have the option to ghost the game (sneak in and out without harming anyone or letting them know you were there), if that’s how you would like to challenge your skills, but then you lose out on points at the end of the level, so the game is indeed punishing you for not playing the game with more action.

Finally, this Thief game misses out on creating a creepy atmosphere that have permeated the previous games.  The Haunts from the first two games are still some of the most chilling foes I’ve ever faced, because the noises they emanated absolutely chilled the spine. And the haunted prison from the third game Deadly Shadows featured some absolutely creepy prisoners who had a little jump movement that made them unpredictable. But this Thief has one jump-scare when you look in a peephole, and that’s it on the creepy factor. So much more could have been done in the insane asylum, so this game really missed out.

To encapsulate my feelings, I actually did like this version of the game, even with all the different changes to the character of Garrett. The missions were fine, the City was awesome, and the graphics were incredible. However, Erin was an unworthy character to build the storyline upon, and this game missed out on the “creepy” factor that has been so prevalent in previous games. But not a bad restart to the series, if we can make some changes for any future games. 7.9 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 10, 2015, 11:36:49 AM
The latest game in the Broken Sword adventure series – The Serpent’s Curse – came out in two episodes in December 2013 (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/broken-sword-5-the-serpent-s-curse-review/1900-6415597/) and  April 2014 (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/broken-sword-5-the-serpent-s-curse-part-ii-review/1900-6415739/). Together, they mark a return to form for the iconic series, which has bounced back and forth from animated to 3D art; this newest game feels like a mix of the two, with gorgeous still art backgrounds but 3D character models walking about.

Like other Broken Sword games, this one also begins with a common theft that leads to a larger mystery with more metaphysical and religious connections. Part 1 starts with a murder and theft of a heretical painting, where George Stobbart and Nico Collard must work together to ask the right questions of the right people at the right time. They’ll also collect various objects that may assist them at some future point. One item is collected very early in the game and isn’t used until very near the end, which was finally gratifying.

The first part also offers more flexibility in how you approach the overarching mystery, allowing you to use a larger map to go to different locales. And there’s a lot more questioning of people in the first part. The second part is linear and relies more on actual puzzle solving.

Puzzles ran the route of finding object A to use on object B, but also included more mental ones, like deciphering ancient text. Some puzzles I could handle, but more of the later ones were a challenge, so I appreciated the built-in hint option, which gives you a couple of leading hints before flat-out giving you the answer.

The voice-acting was excellent, and the humor was very strong. You also got to see several former characters from earlier games.

Total game time was around 8 hours, so overall, it felt a little short, but did provide a unique and interesting story that framed the place of man in the universe. If you’ve played other adventure games, especially from the Broken Sword series, you’ll probably like this too. 7.7 out of 10
Title: Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
Post by: bobdog on August 17, 2015, 11:51:34 AM
Betrayer (http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/betrayer-review/1900-6415717/) was one of the first games on Steam’s Early Access platform, getting suckers to serve as human guinea pigs while the developers used their feedback to improve the game. I, of course, am no sucker, so I waited until everything was finished and the game was out of beta-testing before purchase. And overall, Betrayer is an interesting game with a unique look, but also suffers from too much “same-ness”.

The game was created by Blackpowder Games, which includes former employees from Monolith who worked on F.E.A.R. and No One Lives Forever – both great games. You can actually feel the kinship with the creepy aspects of F.E.A.R., but Betrayer doesn’t quite come up to the same standard.

Betrayer’s graphic style is perhaps its most noticeable feature: the base color scheme is a monochromatic black-and-white, with splashes of red to indicate objects of interest, including your foes. You can modify the contrast and provide more color if you’d like, but the stark colors do accentuate the disturbing story.

The game is played as a first-person shooter, and is set in colonial America during the early 1600s. Your ship has been scuttled and you wake up on the shoreline, with nowhere to go but into the forest. Along the way, you encounter a young woman, called the “Maiden in Red”. However, she seems to be the only living person in this new world, and it’s up to you to figure out why this land has been taken over by an overpowering evil. Other than the Maiden, you’ll face against a host of foes including possessed Spaniards who growl like wolves and bears, Native Americans made of flames, skeletons, and ghostly haunts.

As you piece together clues from notes and objects that you find, as well as talk to spirits trapped in the Otherworld, the story slow