Over 1,500,000 Zombies Denied Brains…

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Capcom recently announced that Dead Rising 2 Case 0 recently was downloaded over 300,000 times. That is a lot of dead zombies. The quality involved in this 800+ megabyte package is amazing. Many will complain of texture popping and low-res textures, others will point out the quality and or lack there of voice acting. All in all though, dollar for dollar this is one of the most complete XBL games available. Not only does it offer a full variety of weapons it also offers a full range of endings.

Many have complained about the fact that this just seems to be a paid demo. First off, the game is only 5 bucks. Secondly, it is complete and robust. It offers multiple endings, 7 fully customizable weapons, a full small city block to explore, and 12 survivors to find and attempt to save (although some do not want saving). The one thing that will distinguish this from the final game is if this content is not in the retail package. Today’s demos tend to be timed demos, much like the recent Crackdown 2 release. During these timed demos one can normally not accomplish many tasks. Demos also do not include achievements, this copy does include a full set, from easy to challenging. Now remember, there is a trial version of Case 0 for those who do not want to spend the cash.

Full review after the break. Continue reading

Bioshock 2: Same as it ever was

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I’m a big fan of  Bioshock.  I loved almost every minute of the first game with the notable exception of what I thought was a relatively lackluster final boss fight. The underwater utopia of Rapture was one of the most wonderfully realized environments I’d ever encountered in a video game and I thoroughly enjoyed the Ayn Rand-ian storyline.  The only other complaint I can lodge with the original Bioshock was it’s duration.  At a little over ten hours, I would have liked to have spent a couple more hours in Rapture.

Well, that’s what Bioshock 2 delivers. Another ten hours in Rapture. Everything I loved was still there; the gorgeous water effects, the foreboding atmosphere, the several varieties of Splicers with which to do battle, etc.  Even the soundtrack, chock full of old-timey goodness was back.

And herein lies the problem.  Almost nothing is new.

I was so excited to be playing the part of a Big Daddy, clamped into a diving suit, possessed of  the strength of ten men and protecting the Little Sisters.  Alas, it turns out that a Big Daddy is just about as tough as Jack was in the first game. That’s right! The lumbering leviathans that turned up every so often as boss battles in Bioshock take regular human damage.  This flaw makes the experience of Bioshock 2 an almost insurmountable disappointment.  Add to this the inclusion of a really cool drill-bit attachment to the right arm that runs out of fuel after about three uses and there really seems to be no advantage to playing as the character whatsoever.  Basically, the limitations of the characters abilities makes being a Big Daddy virtually useless.   Oh. You can walk underwater but you won’t see any combat there.  It just gives the player the opportunity to walk a little slower than usual.

This is about as tough as you'll feel as a Big Daddy.

Another new twist is the gaining of ADAM, the element that allows you to upgrade your plasmid powers.  There’s now the ability to have adopted Little Sisters harvest ADAM for you from random corpses along the way. Unfortunately, as the little gal is extracting the serum, it causes a steady and annoying wave of Splicers to rush the area to stop her.  You now have the ability to set traps that will hold off the first few of these enemies, but it basically comes down to a swarming firefight.  These events aren’t difficult to get through, but they are tedious and after the first few times,  it just becomes easier to murder the Little Sisters and take the ADAM from them.   Sure, you won’t get as much ADAM and you’ll get the “bad” ending, but choosing to stave off the Splicer throngs time and time again provides a pretty accurate definition of monotony.

Apart from one new flavor of Splicer, the only other new foe is the Big Sister, and she’s a colossal pain in the ass.  She shows up every now and again, leaping from wall to wall, throwing fireballs and diving in for the occasional melee smack.  She’s not particularly tough to beat, but her sudden, unavoidable appearances elicit a frustrated sigh more than the dread of, say,  the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3.

Now this sonuvabitch knew how to make an entrance!!

...this chick? Not so much.

Add to it the complete lack of an epic final battle and the whole experience just doesn’t work as a sequel to a great game.  If anything, the whole thing feels like a lengthy expansion pack. The storyline is passable, but not as good as the narrative from the first game.  There’s a twist at the end that was somewhat satisfying, but to go back and replay it for the different endings just seems like too much labor for too little result.

It pains me to put these words down. I was very much looking forward to a return to Rapture, but there is quite simply not enough new to make it worth the time it takes to get through Bioshock 2.

Review: Assassin’s Creed 2

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assassins_creed_2_cover 

In a strange and coincidental turn of events, I can name two moments of deep disappointment over the past few years after picking up a game that I had really been looking forward to.  One was the original Assassin’s Creed and the other was the next-gen debut of Prince of Persia. I ditched AC after only a few days ofter realizing that it was way more repetitive than I liked, and I sold PoP back about an hour after  I finished it because it came across to me like a childrens version of a once-great franchise.

See, I like climbing stuff. I like climbing really, really tall stuff. I enjoy the feeling that I’m going to fall from a dizzying height if I make the wrong move while climbing really, really tall stuff. That’s why Ico finds its way into my play rotation at least two times a year.

I was crushed by how little enjoyment I got out of AC.

Now, here comes Assassin’s Creed 2 with a different historical tableau to explore and a new protaganist to control. I had little interest originally, but after reading some advance impressions, and seeing some of the early gameplay, it looked like the folks over at Ubisoft had really listened to some of the gripes about AC and were setting out to address, fix and improve them.

Holy shit!

Not only did they turn out a much better game, but I got my PoP fix to boot!! Seriously, I seldom play a game for more than a few hours at a time before I’m either too drunk to continue or I’m distracted by some murder show on the Discovery Channel.  Nine straight hours in one night later, the only thing that pried my controller from my hands was my inability to keep my eyes open from need of sleep.

Graphics – Everything here is gorgeous. World characters repeat, but not so frequently that it becomes distracting. The city maps make me want to travel back in time and start stabbing people because it looks like so much fun!!!

Story – Fantastic. Engrossing and rich like a fine plate of  mezzaluna ravioli slathered in bolognese sauce. There will never be a time where you’re not interested in Ezio’s next mission. And the added bonus? I’m playing a videogame and I’ve picked up a little Italian along the way, you “bastardos”! See? It’s just like “bastard” but there’s an “o” at the end.

Gameplay – Nice to see that the people behind AC2 have fixed the problems of the original. The rooftop antics of this game would be enough to make it worth buying. As far as free-running is concerned, this game not only tops Mirrors Edge, but actually fixes the problem in THAT game as well!! There is the occasional, “oops, I jumped the wrong way” moment, but 9 times out of ten that’s my  fault. The fighting, on the other hand could use some work. A little bit rockier than I normally like.

Although in a few instances, this scenario......

Although in a few instances, this scenario......

 

...nearly led to THIS scenario!

...nearly led to THIS scenario!

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sound – The hand to hand combat sounds like a guy hitting a wall with a nylon full of meat. Other than that, I love it. The music, the NPC dialogue and the swordplay sound great. Have fun standing in front of a herald and hearing what he has to say.

Replay Value –  Not quite done yet, but I look forward to going back and finishing up the side-missions and trying to actually cap out the achievement points.

Summary – Well worth a buy. Buy two in case the first one gets scratched by that raccoon that lives under the sink. Seriously, I haven’t been this re-interested in a product since Tomb Raider got their shit together.

Much love,

Max

Review: Demon’s Souls

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Yup, you can fight this guy and he looks that scary!

Yup, you can fight this guy and he looks that scary!

I’ve been spending time with Demon’s Souls since right around it’s American launch, back in early October, and I must say it continues to punish and amaze me.  This game has the feel of say Castlevania, resident Evil, and Shadow of the Colossus rolled into one.  The story is simple enough, the world is shrouded in darkness, brought on by the old one.  The world is besieged by demons and those looking for mortal souls.  You are the lone hero out to fight to return the light to the world.  You do this by slicing, bashing, piercing, and shooting your way through 5 would stages, each with a various number of sub sections.  You start out in classic RPG fair, choose your class, set you look, then be thrust into the tutorial level.  There are 10 classes total, from a heavily armored warrior, to the subtle and fast thief; there are also the extremes of a unarmored barbarian to the lightly cloth armored magician or priest.  The nice part about this game is the class only determines your starting attributes, gear, and soul level.  Over time, you can add points to any of the 8 stats and develop yourself to wear, use, or cast anything in the game.  It is all up to you and your play-style.

The controls are simple, although I must admit took me a while to get used to.  The right triggers control the item in your right hand and the left triggers handle the left.  So for instance, I want to block and move, I hold L1 and move with the left thumb stick, if I want to attack light, I hit R1, attack heavy, R2, if I want to parry and riposte, L2, then a quick R1.  The digital left and right help you quickly choose from one of 2 designated times per slot.  Say ranged and melee, or spear.  You can also wield all weapons two-handed, which increases their effective attack power, however lowers your defenses due to the lack of the shield.  This can be done at anytime by hitting triangle.  I know I have gone rather deep into the control system on this game, that is because it is crucial to your success.  Knowing it, learning it and being able to effectively use it determines your success in the world of Boletaria.  For instance, left thumb stick (direction) and O determine side-roll, jump back, or sprint.   Square is your consumable button, all of which can be cycled through using down on the digital pad.  All these abilities are tied to one of three bars – Health (your overall health, duh), Magic (your mana pool to cast spells from), and Stamina (your ability to block, attack, run, evade, etc).  Many a death comes from an empty stamina pool.  So quick usage and learning of these systems makes your survivability skyrocket.

The gameplay is simple enough, fight enemies, collect their souls, level up, fight a boss, lather, rinse, repeat.  Ah how I wish it were that simple.  On a fundamental level it is, however it is so much more complex.  Some of which I have not even fully understood.  You have two forms, physical form and soul form.  You start out in physical form, when you die, you enter your soul form.  When in physical form you gain more souls per kill, have a full  health bar, and can summon Phantoms to help.  When in soul form you get less souls per kill, have half your health bar (can be augmented with the Cling Ring!), are stealthier, and can become the Phantom helping a person in physical form.  When you die in a level when in physical form you affect the world tendency, to become darker, when you kill a boss, you turn the world tendency lighter.  When you are at a full range of this spectrum you have additional bosses you can fight.  You can get back to your physical form three ways, help a player with a task using the blue stones, kill a boss, or use the rare soul restore stones you find throughout the world.  I hope you stayed with me because now is when it gets fun, the online component.  As you play through the game, you will see some white, ghostly silhouettes running around, these are other players playing through their world.  It is great for planning strategy or looking for someone to help in your game.  The other compelling component of the online portion is that of the blood stains.  When you find a blood stain on the ground, you can touch it to see that players last few moments in their world before they died.  You will see a red, ghostly silhouette run around and then die.  This is designed to help you form ways of defeating enemies, avoid areas, or see where someone may have jumped to their death trying something.  This can be key to learning that next area.  You can also leave canned messages to people trying to help them along or prepare themselves.  These messages can then be rated and help yourself level up.  However, as always, beware of false messages.  Messages not rated frequently, will be deleted.  So this can help keep some of the false ones to a minimum.   There are two other online components, Phantoms, both blue and black.  If you are a blue phantom, you are summoned to a physical form, persons game.  While there you are helping them accomplish their task, if successful, you will return to your physical form.  When in physical form you can be a black phantom, this allows you to attack other players in physical form; this can yield plenty of souls.  The online component of the game is very neat and leads to plenty of helpful hints, both directly and indirectly.  This online portion is one of the things that makes this so unique.

Shadow of the Colossus anyone?

Shadow of the Colossus anyone?

Now on to what makes this game brutal.  It is hard, and I do not mean the Rio level in MW2 hard, I mean original Castlvania hard.  The biggest destinction I can make though is Castlvania was cheap, if you die in this, you more then likely were not prepared.  You collect souls, which are the currency of the game.  You use souls to level up, you use them to purchase goods, you use them to repair.  So they are precious and must be protected.  You can run around killing things and farming levels for thousands of souls, then go to fight a boss and die.  When you die, you restart your section from the beginning in soul form (or still in soul form if you were in soul form).  Where you died, you left a ghostly blue blood stain.  You have to fight your way back through the enemies to claim your remains.  If you do and are successful, you will get your souls back and keep the ones earned in the process, however if you die again on your way back, those souls are lost forever.  The other day I was cocky, went for it, and lost 7,000 souls in one stupid move.  At the beginning, it will not seem like much, however when an upgrade is costing you around 20K souls for one point, you start to become very cautious of where and what you are doing.  Death will come, it is inevitable, so be sure to plan your routes and upgrades carefully.  I know this is a short paragraph, it is the key to the game, the punishment system for death.  You can very easily, be wiped out with out even knowing it.

I have played through a few worlds, including killing a white tendency boss and have loved every minute of it.  Do not get me wrong, I had more then a few almost controller breaking moments, normally brought on by my own ego or lack of patience.  This is a game that is worthy of its difficult nature, gamers will wear their ability to play this like a badge of honor.  It is a game where every level gained feels like an accomplishment and boss fights feel like you are on top of the world.  That truly is epic gaming when you can accomplish it.  If you consider yourself hardcore, you have to pick it up and try it.  If you are unsure, or worried, borrow it or rent it first, you more then likely will not be disappointed by the originality and scale of this game.

Liked:

Leveling Up – Everyone can use everything, despite starting class, eventually.

Epic Boss battles

Great Level Design

Combat system – I felt like I was in control of a warrior.

Difficulty

Look – This game is gorgeous, has great atmosphere

Audio – The subtlety of the audio can give plenty of clues as to what is coming ahead.

Online – All those features make this a one of a kind game

Disliked:

Difficulty – Yup this works and does not.

Controls – Can be confusing sometimes, leading to misuse of consumables

Menu System – There is no pause, so find a safe spot or return to the nexus.

Loot – The system for using and understanding gear stats and bonuses can be very confusing at times.

This review was based on a retail copy of the game, purchased by the reviewer.  It has yet to be completed by the reviewer.  This is a PS3 only title.

The fights are really this epic!

The fights are really this epic!

Review: CoD: Modern Warfare 2 – Campaign

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mw2logo_med-1254240860-1254328545Modern Warfare 2 is a tour-de-force of action.  It feels like they took a good Micheal Bay movie and grinded out a game.  There are huge set pieces of action that are so riveting that your palms will actually sweat.   The game plays like the first one, with some graphical improvements to the HUD.  The game is constantly warping you to the persona of various soldiers involved in various conflicts.  The story is a little incoherent, however the point is driven across really well.  War is hell, no one is a real hero, and everyone is at risk at any moment.  Unlike Halo where Master Chief is set up to be the good guy and champions a single handed battle against evil, the lines of good and evil, right and wrong are constantly being blurred here.  MW2 challenges you to look at this game as a comment on war.  It has the potential to strike plenty of meaningful conversations with those that have played it.  It is able to do this while delivering some amazing action and tension.

The missions vary from stealth to out right action.  It covers this range really well.  It has some issues with direction, it tries to be minimal in the way it leads the player along.  It wants you to learn and explore.  This works well, however it can be terribly punishing to the players.  Sometimes you take a route that leads to to a group of enemies that ends in instant death.  Other times you take the perfect path and run into one or two baddies.

Ambushed in Rio

Ambushed in Rio

An example of this is depicted in the picture above.  This is one of the great levels, you are forced to jockey back and forth between building.  You also have to  manage targets with the tactical advantage of higher ground, all the while dealing with a barrage of ground targets.  This mission alone took me plenty of tries to get through it.  Plenty of gibbing, till I filly manged the crowds making it easier to get through.  The use of check pointing through out the entire campaign makes the ease of this burden of a little easier.

The story plays out much like Red Dawn.  Eventually the US gets invading and saving the White House becomes a major mission.  The American soil fights also introduces one of the coolest weapons in your arsenal, the predator drone.  This is a great little added weapon.

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Storming The Rock...err...The Gulag

The picture above is the start to my favorite mission in the game.  You are raiding the Russian Gulag to bust someone out.  It plays out a bit like the movie The Rock.  There is even a locker room set piece with elevated advantage.  I loved it.

Gonna hit the showers

Gonna hit the showers

Overall the campaign took me 6 hours and 35 minutes and netted 235 achievement points.  Short, however acceptable.   I still have two more pieces of content to sink my teeth into before I am acutally finished.  I fear the online play, not because of getting pwnd by some 12 year old, because of the known addictive nature of this experience.  If it is even remotely upgraded from MW1, I know I will be bit by that bug and never leave the TV.  Spec Ops mode looks interesting, waiting for a buddy to finish it up so we can play that together.  All in all the campaign alone is worth the cost of the game.  It is riveting game play, tight controls, decent story, and phenomenal action set pieces make this game absolutely worth it.

Liked:

Epic Action Set Pieces

Tight Control

HUD updated to always give you your goal.

Amazing Cinematic look and feel

Disliked:

Length – I would have liked an 8 – 10 hour campaign

Infinitely Spawning Enemies – Rio is brutal on the ground and suffers severely from this.

Inconsistent sense of urgency – some levels pull this off amazingly, other leave you wondering why they are barking in your ear.

In the Dark – Sometimes you feel like you are in the dark trying to accomplish a task, or getting to a specific door on a vehicle.

I will follow up with a Spec Ops/Online review shortly.

This review was based on a retail copy of the XBOX 360 version of the game, purchased by the reviewer.  Campaign has been completed by the reviewer on normal difficulty.  It is available on XBOX 360, PS3, and PC.