Tag Archives: PS3

Thoughts on Madden 11

To summarize the nature of this post I’m going to start off with a little football metaphor here:

Madden takes the snap, he drops back in the pocket…looks for his man. HE THROWS DEEP…TOUCHDOWN! But wait! There’s a flag on the field, and the play will come all the way back…

For all you reading this that aren’t football fans I’ll sum it up for you, the game is excellent in a lot of ways, almost a complete success…but then something happened and it just ruined everything for me.

So to set the scene, I got the game a couple days ago, eager to enjoy the full version after several weeks of playing the demo over and over again. So in it comes and after feverishly ripping off the plastic and putting the disc into my PS3, when I am prompted immediately to input my redemption code entitled my ‘online pass’ which enables online game modes such as online franchise and get this…head to head.

So I was going to review this game but as soon as I saw this I thought WTF? apparently, one of the perks of buying a shiny new copy of madden 11…is the ability to play online? Yes, and in fact this was not the first game to do so. As Joystiq reported a few months back, EA sports has instituted the online pass as a branch of the company’s ‘Project Ten Dollars’. Essentially, in a bid to reduce the amount of used game sales, EA seeks to draw in consumers to buy new copies as opposed to used by offering additional downloadable content. While on paper that sounds fine, in practice this essentially means gimping the game upon resale. Online play has already been established as a fundamental element of next generation sports games, to now deem that content as bonus material is an obvious cash grab and only serves to hurt the consumer.

First, let’s examine the logic behind this move. By not having online play in the used copy out of the box the gamer will in theory decide it is better to buy a new copy due to a perceived better value. However, that’s kind of depending on two things, one that the cost of the used copy combined with the cost of buying an online pass is the same or more than the new copy, and two that the player cares enough about this gameplay to want to shell out the extra money. Considering that, is it really such a safe bet that this online pass will really get people buying new copies? or for that matter hanging on to them?

After some thought, I don’t really think so. Here’s why, for starters the price of used games will always reflect a level of savings that’s relative to the original product. Therefore, if new copies go for 69.99, used copies will be priced accordingly to compensate for the need for the online pass meaning used games will most likely be priced at 59.99 or even 54.99. As well, a yearly franchise like Madden or Tiger Woods does not hold lasting appeal for gamers to hang on to, I mean why the hell would you hang on to Madden 11 if you plan on buying Madden 12 the following year? The point here is, if someone doesn’t play their game, they will trade it in regardless of if the value is reduced. Hell, sports games lose their value faster than any other type of game already due to their yearly nature, so I ask you WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO MAKE THAT WORSE EA!?

In the end the only person getting screwed here is the consumer, used copies will still be sold in stores, the only difference will be that they’ll sell for cheaper and customers who bought their shiny new copies will get even less for them when they eventually trade them in. Though it’s fair that EA would want to combat the rampant used game sales which give them absolutely zero profit and instead line the pockets of retailers like GameStop who are the largest distributors of used games in North America.

cheers to Marcel Hoang for the pic

I’m not sure how exactly publishers should get gamers to hang on to their games, though in fairness who is to say that they have to? Consumers don’t have bottomless pockets, and if the cost of business is having thousands of gamers enjoy your game second-hand well then suck it up you soulless bloodsuckers!

To everyone reading this my question to you is, what do you think game publishers and developers should do to reduce used game sales/cut down on piracy/liberate cash from gamers wallets?

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Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Bloggerfan

This is not a review, I cannot stress this enough…

This is instead, a recounting of my thoughts and feelings following my viewing of Edgar Wright’s newest film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Why is this not a review then? well to be perfectly frank, because I am entirely too biased to review this movie.

First off, I love Scott Pilgrim, as you may know if you read this post I wrote a while back. Secondly, I love Edgar Wright, both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were fantastic movies in my eyes. Thirdly, there is hardly an actor in the film I didn’t already like before seeing the movie, from Michael Cera right down to Jason Schwartzman…so yeah, you can see why I wouldn’t be exactly a reliable review to go on.

However I will go on to write about how and why I loved this movie, because frankly it’s my damn blog and what better things have I got to do on a Sunday morning?

So, the movie. Set in the heart of downtown Toronto Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the story of a slacker in his mid twenties who has fallen in love with quite literally the girl of his dreams, and in order to win her heart he must first defeat her 7 evil exes. you still with me?

So the movie is based on a series of comics written and illustrated by Torontonian Bryan Lee O’Malley. The comics themselves were unique and original for their blend of video game themes, hipster scene setting, and manga inspired art. The story is covered over 6 volumes and over the course of the story the characters grow and mature, leading to what I felt to be one of the most satisfying endings in a series of graphic novels.

As for the movie, Wright does a fantastic job of staying true to the style of the comic, blending comic book sound effects cleverly with stylized video game references and sounds (like some classic 8-bit Zelda) as well as a soundtrack filled with the lo-fi garage and indie sounds which O’Malley was inspired by when writing the books themselves. The result is a fast paced off-beat adventure that plays out as a sort of romantic action comedy…thing. Though some elements of the comics are omitted and the chronology happens a little different from the graphic novels, the movie resounds as one of the purest adaptations of a comic into a film in my eyes if for nothing else for holding true to the feel of the comic. Wright does a fantastic job of keeping the story larger than life while keeping the characters very grounded, as in the comics, the story is about taking a relatively mundane love story and turning it into something exciting and surreal by portraying it through a sort of generational mind’s eye. Ultimately, the movie captures this feeling every bit as well as the comics did.

If I were to complain about something, it would be that the movie tries to cram a little too much into too short a timeframe. The end comes off feeling a bit rushed as they race to find a conclusion within the 112 minutes they had to pull 6 years of storytelling off. It’s still good, but it’s frenetic and doesn’t linger on any particular thought too long. I can’t say this is a film for everyone, this is the sort of movie you have to go in with a pretty open mind, if you’re coming in a skeptic, you’re probably going to stay skeptical. It’s the kind of movie that will either sweep you off your feet, or leave you completely nonplussed, wondering what the hell just happened. If you’re the kind of person who waits for the Oscar nominations to come out before deciding what they’re going to rent (and you know who you are!) then you almost certainly will not like this movie. Is is serious? no. Is it gripping? no. Will it entertain you? quite possibly.

While I’m on my tangent I’ll do a quick little mention of all things Scott Pilgrim that have been released recently.

First, Scott Pilgrim volume 6 came out last month and as I have said it was excellent, the conclusion to the series proves to be in my mind O’Malley’s finest effort. The characters have developed extremely well and the finale is one of truly epic proportions.

Next the game, Along with the movie was a downloadable release on the PSN and Xbox Live for Scott Pilgrim vs The World the game. The game is a true homage to the old school beat-em up. With an all 8-bit art style the game looks like something you would have played on a Nintendo and has all the staples of the genre. The game supports up to 4 players of local co-op and sports an level up system which provides a surprising amount of depth for such a seemingly simplistic game. Dabblers be forewarned though, the game is hard as hell, and without co-op it can be absolutely infuriating as you spend a good 20 minutes hazarding a level, only to die and start at the beginning all over again. However all in all its a great experience and a true throwback that still manages to keep it fresh. This screenshot should say it all:

I know, cool right?

and lastly the soundtrack, yeah it’s awesome…get it…and all that.

as usual I’ve droned on entirely too long…I’ll shut up now.

Update: you can get a little tidbit of Scott Pilgrim here by checking out Scott Pilgrim vs The Animation


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Returning to Rapture

Howdy folks, its been a while and for that I am deeply sorry but at last I return with more criticisms on the hard work of others that I enjoyed at my leisure. Today’s focus being chiefly on the sequel to the 2007 PC game of the year* Bioshock, Bioshock 2 (clever title, no?)

Because I just recently played Bioshock I’ll give you the cliffs notes to provide some context. You play as a fella named Jack who has just survived a plane crash in the middle of the ocean and winds up at the entrance of Rapture, an underwater city founded by a man named Andrew Ryan. As soon as you get there all hell has been thoroughly let loose as you find the city in ruins populated entirely by a bunch of crazies called splicers. You are guided through by a guy named Atlas, who communicates with you via headset through the city with the promise of getting you out. As you progress the plot get a lot more complicated but for the sake of the review that’s all you need to know. Basically its scary, its underwater, and there’s a lot of murky history going on. The core mechanics of the game are shooting and use of special powers called plasmids. The use of plasmids is contingent upon 2 things, the use of Eve (basically your token mana or magic juice) and Adam, which are upgrade points to get new plasmids or upgrade existing ones. The key to getting Adam is by collecting it off little sisters, creepy little denizens of rapture which are young girls who frankly look…off. While relatively harmless themselves they are always guarded by giant certified bad-asses called big daddies. The game is part survival horror and part action shooter, all mixed in with upgrade systems along the lines of RPG’s to make it a really cool genre bending game.

Now on to numero dos, which takes that very sleek and complete package and attempts to add to an already stellar experience.

The story is easily the biggest hurdle to overcome in this one, for any who have played the first this is apparent, since the first wraps up very well with little to absolutely no need for a sequel at all. However here we are and surely they had to figure out some way to drag you back to rapture. so here it is; you roam through rapture this time around as a big daddy (yeah, one of those almighty bad-asses as previously mentioned). However you being a prototype big daddy you are both blessed and cursed with some distinct differences. first, you can’t go waylaying enemies left and right, you are about as strong as the previous game’s character Jack and feature the same health system. conversely, you also have the previous game’s ability of all the same weapons (plus some crazy new ones like the big daddy drill arm) and plasmid systems. The objective of you, the prototype big daddy, is to find the little sister you are separated with in the opening sequence of the game. This time around the focus is very squarely on the relationship between the big daddies and little sisters, with the antagonist being the mother of your respective little sister Dr. Sofia Lamb. Taking place a few short years after the events of the first Bioshock the city of rapture is in ruins with Dr. Lamb looking to rebuild it in her own utopian ideal. As you progress through the game you unravel the history of Sofia Lamb and her opposition of Andrew Ryan back in the glory years of Rapture through audio diaries scattered throughout the game (same as the first one). What is a bit tricky here is that they introduce a pretty large-scale event that occurred in the history of Rapture which isn’t so much as alluded to in the first game, which makes it at times difficult to suspend disbelief. However this quibble aside the story is well told and the characters are engaging, with the return of Dr. Tenenbaum from the first game, and your primary ally being a southern gent named Augustus Sinclair, who rivals the first game’s Atlas in quality.

With the story being good it’s hard to say this game really lives up to the first on that alone, Bioshock was renowned for its incredible storytelling so being good doesn’t quite measure up. However gameplay is one element in which Bioshock 2 really does it’s predecessor proud. with the first game being a bit clunky the shooting mechanic this time around is much more responsive, as well, the dual wielding capabilities of plasmid/weapon combinations makes possible what the first game promised but could not quite deliver. This time around plasmids and firearms can be used seamlessly, which in turn creates a much richer and diversified combat system. Players can be entertained for hours just by tooling around with various weapon and plasmid combinations to discover new ways to dispatch enemies. As well, with the games use of a research video camera, the player is rewarded for creative weapons use by awarding more research points for using different weapons and plasmids, which in turn unlocks new damage modifiers and status affecting tonics. Other innovations have been made throughout to make the experience more streamlined as well, with a new hack tool which replaces the former puzzle based hacking mini-game, this time around hacking is done using a timing based bar and needle in which you stop the needle in the green area (think old school field goal kicking controls). The new hacking is a huge improvement, being that while the puzzles in bioshock were fun for the first 10 or 20, by the end of the game you’re solving virtually the same puzzles 100+ times. also, the new hack tool features a hack dart which can be fired, allowing for remote hacks of security devices which prove both strategic and less frustrating. and lastly one of the biggest changes in the game’s gameplay is in the harvesting of Adam. While in the first it was relatively straightforward (you kill big daddy then choose to either harvest or rescue the little sister) this time the choice is a lot more complex. Being a big daddy you now have the ability to either harvest or adopt a little sister after her big daddy has been dispatched. Adopting the little sister means significantly more adam but at significantly higher risk. To harvest Adam you must take your little sister to a specified corpse and defend her as a barrage of splicers attacks. After these salvo’s are over and the little sister has harvested all the Adam she can you take her to the nearest vent where you can decide to either harvest or rescue her. Like in the first, harvesting means more Adam right away, where rescuing means some rewards down the road. I am not sure which is more beneficial overall but I get the sense that harvesting is the easy route. Apart from the splicer raids, the other reason not to hang on to the little sister is the arrival of a Big Sister which are even more intense and frightening than the big daddys of the first. if you choose to go the route of harvesting you will randomly have to encounter the big sisters which can prove difficult even with your health and inventory in good order. This gameplay element is easily the most interesting and rewarding of the whole game, with the excitement of challenge of fighting big sisters the game keeps you on your toes. Conversely the relationship you form with the little sisters as you protect them while they suck the life force out of corpses is bizarrely endearing.

The games presentation is once again amongst its many long suits with its sharp graphics serving really as the underpinnings for the spectacular art design which makes this game so visually pleasing. With the distinctive art deco meets steampunk design the world of Rapture is easily one of the most interesting settings of a video game to date. The unique case of characters is equally as well acted as the first game, with honourable mention going to the character of Augustus Sinclair who does an excellent job of making you question his motivations throughout the game. The game’s sound is equally impressive, with its standout being the creepy dialogue you can often overhear between the splicers before they’ve detected you. The ambient noise is one of the elements that really gives the game it’s character.

All in all the game is a unquestionably enjoyable experience, and I would say if you enjoyed the first one the second is one you should definitely tackle. I should place an asterisk on this review given that I really didn’t play the multiplayer at all so I can’t rightly say whether or not its worthwhile or not. However, the quality of the single player alone is enough to justify playing this game, and certainly owning it if you’re a hardcore fan.

*Game of the year as according to IGN http://bestof.ign.com/2007/pc/22.html

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It’s Raining It’s Pouring

So one of Sony’s most anticipated exclusive releases came out last week and I have had the pleasure of borrowing it off someone else to play it. I am speaking of course about Heavy Rain, The highly enigmatic noir styled murder mystery game by Quantic Dream. Over the weekend I got the chance to really sit down and sink my teeth into this game. So gather round children, while I tell you a tale!

Lame North American Cover

Now writing about this game is going to be tricky for me, chiefly for two reasons. First, it’s not a game in the most conventional sense, more of what the game designers themselves label it as interactive drama. This is to say, its a choose your own adventure story in video game form. Secondly, the game’s appeal is mostly in the unraveling of the mystery and as such divulging too much about the story would potentially ruin it for you. Given that I am prone to prattling on in my reviews going into at times excessive detail this will challenge me, and I will do my best to walk the fine line between description and spoiler.

So to give you a brief overview of the premise, the game is set around a string of murders being committed by the origami killer who’s m.o. seems to be drowning children. The game is narrated through the perspective of four different characters which you will interchange between throughout the various chapters. As the game progresses, more and more details are unraveled by the games multiple protagonist until leading up to the games climactic final scene. Through the game you play as: Ethan Mars, the family man and architect, Norman Jaden, a FBI investigator, Scott Shelby, a private eye hired by the victims of the origami killer to investigate the murders, and Madison Paige, a photographer.

Gameplay in Heavy Rain is a sticky issue for me to address, because it’s very minimal. The game is based mostly on quick time event interactions while scenes play out, with your correct cues or misses effecting the particulars of the scenes choreography. While some of the decisions you make will have a profound impact on how the game plays out, most of it is really just token interaction, as you will do menial tasks like dry off after a shower or push your kid on the swing set. The little touches add a bit of attachment to the character but it is minimal at best. There are also several times where you will find yourself walking around, this is by far the game at its worst. The control is clunky and often you will find yourself getting turned around or walking in the wrong direction because of how poorly the mechanic works. It’s a minor flaw, however it is a glaring one which will seem to constantly make itself apparent. There are scenes where you get to search for evidence and later examine it with Jaden using CSI gadgetry that seems to fall somewhere between Batman and Minority Report, this is probably some of the most engaging gameplay and I found it to be a fun challenge to try to divine out as many clues as I could, using my holo-files.

ARI the forensic program Jaden uses in Heavy Rain

The Future of Internet Porn?

Without going into too much any detail, the story is an entertaining one. The mystery is maintained throughout the game, with several red herrings and plot twists to keep the player guessing. Speaking for myself, when I discovered who it was I was quite surprised because I had already suspected and then dismissed the person as not being the killer. The plot moves at a deliberate pace constantly taking strides to draw you in and become emotionally attached to the games many characters. The tactic is effective, as suspenseful moments had me itching to hit the cues and make sure my characters got through unscathed. When someone dies in this game, you feel it.  Such feeling is rare in a generation of games fraught with shoot em ups and hack and slashers, where someone dying is nothing more than another multiplier on your combo. The point is to feel cinematic, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to call this Oscar worthy, it certainly achieves its ambition.

The visuals are inconsistent, but they range from being breathtaking to acceptable. Being a game where the player mostly takes the backseat while the story unfolds you would expect nothing less. Its obvious playing the game the focus was on the characters and more specifically on facial animations. The tactic is extremely effective, as the vivid visuals allow for unparalleled levels of emotional range through facial expression. Environments look gritty and real, typically having a dingy feel. Throughout the game it is raining, which is represented very effectively, with a sort of hazy look to outdoor environments. The game does suffer from it’s limitations however, with moments where more nuance physical interaction ends up looking like a scene played out by your kid sister with her Barbie dolls…

Take me Ethan, take me now!

The sound is phenominal, and it certainly helps to create the heightened tension in the atmosphere that makes the game so gripping. Music is well used with a recurring brass driven theme that seems to come in and out at strategic moments, creating a gritty noir cinema style. Voice acting is also excellent, with one caveat which I will get into in a moment. The actors almost all do an excellent job of hitting their marks and using effective emotional range to make the characters believable. However one problem I found was that given that the game was developed in France, the use of European voice actors in a story voiced with north american english makes them sound at times very bizarre. I have to admit there were moments where emotions were supposed to run high but I ended up finding myself giggling at the odd accent characters were speaking in.

wat else can I du? I need to save 'im!

All in all the game is not without its flaws. If you’re a hardcore gamer looking for a game that will take playthrough after playthrough to master, this game is not for you. However the unique experience offered is something I really feel anyone can enjoy, and for the hardcore gamer I would even still suggest renting the game and running through it at least once. Heavy Rain continues Quantic Dream’s attempts to fuse video games and cinema to create an interactive cinema experience. The story makes the game in this case, and while it does have a couple of plot holes and at times borders on the incredulous, it is overall a very entertaining story. I really enjoyed playing this game, and I think this sort of game will become more and more prevalent over time, engaging a different audience from the modern warfare players, that allows for something you can casually enjoy and get sucked into a story.

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Hell Hath No Fury…

So back to talking about things I like talking about, derivative video games! The latest game I have chosen to waste my valuable time on was Dante’s Inferno. For those of you unfamiliar this is based on the epic poem written by Dante Alighieri of the same name. If at this point you’re wondering to yourself ‘why in the fuck would anyone make a video game about 14th century guided tour through the underworld!?’ don’t worry, you’re not alone. This was the story that nobody ever fucking asked to be made a video game. I mean even Ghostbusters, a game made based on a franchise seemingly dead for nearly 20 years made a bit of sense as a video game, but Dante!?

who ya gonna call?

So anyhow all ranting aside the question remains, how does the game measure up? well that’s ultimately the biggest problem, not only is this a bastardized literary classic, but the game is a bastardization in itself! This game is, with only a few minor details, God of War. everything from controls to presentation right down to art design. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering God of War is undoubtedly one of the very best in frenetic action adventure games, it brings me back to the question of ‘why should this game exist?’.  To sum it up quickly I’ll break the gameplay down into its core segments. You run around getting locked into battles with hordes of piddling minions while you flail your long reaching weapon around in circles until they all explode and little orbs fly out of them (God of War). Occasionally you find sinners who you can either chose to punish or absolve, punishing leads to gory death while absolving means a timing based mini-game where you hit buttons as they are prompted (Parappa the Rappa or any controller based rhythm game ever made). Once you collect points you can use either holy or unholy points to level up skills on either side of your skill tree (infamous). Also, along the way you come across relics which you can equip into slots which will give you bonuses and will get leveled up to increase their usefulness the longer you have them equipped (Call of Duty Modern Warfare). If you look very carefully there, you might just see a pattern…

Now normally, I don’t have a problem with derivative games. The way I see it when a great game is made it makes sense to take what made it great and apply it to other games. The problem I have with God of War Dante’s Inferno is mainly that it doesn’t even try to differentiate itself from the material it borrows from. enemy designs, cut scenes, quick time events, attack animations, IT’S ALL IDENTICAL! Also, the gameplay on normal was at times downright difficult, not to be confused with challenging. To distinguish my point, solving a sudoku puzzle in the Sunday morning paper is challenging, putting your fist through a concrete wall is difficult. There are some points which I should address though which I did like about the game. First, it looks pretty, visuals are polished with some very cool effects and cut scenes are among the most impressive I have ever seen in a video game. Second, for all of my harping and whining the gameplay is very playable, and though I died on several occasions without having any fucking clue why or how to fix my error I still managed to enjoy the bloody carnage. Lastly, Trophies are handed out in that game like candy, so if you’re the sort that likes trophies/achievements/digital phallus’ to prove your worth then this game will treat you very well.

I almost feel bad disliking this game as much as I do looking back on it. However with a story that shames its source material, gameplay that fails to innovate on a game that came out for the Playstation 2, and because at times the game could be an exercise in frustration aggravation this just fell hopelessly short for me. It’s not a terrible game, in fact it’s probably better than a good deal of crap out there, but if you have a Playstation 3 you may as well just wait for God of War 3, or even simply buy the God of War collection (if you have a Xbox 360 you should probably only be playing mass effect 2 anyway). However if you need to play some medieval christian allegory or if you just want to see a buttload of tits, then maybe you should give the game a shot.

Beatrice, Dante's extremely liberal sweetheart

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A Brütally Honest Review

Well it’s that time again. the time where I finally get off my lazy ass and decide to throw my adoring masses another tidbit of literary haute cuisine. This week (which would be appropriate, if I actually made posts on a weekly basis) I decided to tackle the latest opus of one Tim Schafer, Brütal Legend. If you are unaware of who Tim Schafer is, well then you really shouldn’t be reading a blog like mine…but then again you might be my mummy supporting my endeavors in the web based writing arena and as such I should probably shed some light (assuming you’re too lazy to use wikipedia…).

BrutalLeg_all_boxart

Available on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360

Tim Schafer (abridged)  – A legendary game director/writer/programmer who has been in the industry for nearly two decades. He began his career working for LucasArts (the game development company of, you guessed it, George Lucas) and was involved in The Secret of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, as well as Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. He later went on to head up production on Full Throttle and what many consider to be his greatest achievement Grim Fandango. All of these were adventure games all featuring clever storywriting and comedic dialogue. In 2000 Schafer left LucasArts to found Doublefine. Five years later he would release Psychonauts, the game everybody loved and seemingly nobody played. Four years later, here we are in the glorious present, and he has dropped the project he himself has admitted is closest to his heart, what many have tagged his “Love Letter to Heavy Metal” Brütal Legend. Throughout this career Schafer has amassed a loyal and adoring fanbase that seemingly worship the ground he walks on. Likely one of the most renowned of game directors, Schafer has established a pedigree which almost certifies his games to be fresh, funny, and universally loved.

tim_shafer_angel

Tim "the second coming" Schafer

So now that you’re filled in, perhaps you can key in on the number one issue surrounding this game, even before it’s release…the dreaded hype-monster. With the industry creating an atmosphere of greater and greater expectation on each year’s blockbusters its hard enough as it is for games to live up to the overwhelming expectations. So how does the eagerly anticipated masterpiece of everyone’s beloved game guru?

Put simply, not that well.

Brütal Legend is an action adventure game focused around the character Eddie Riggs (voiced by Jack Black), a roadie who is transported to a fantasy realm of Metal after a stage accident leaves him crushed and some blood activates his demonic beltbuckle. I know, awesome right? Once in the fantasy world, things move quickly for Eddie, discovering his guitar now fries demons when he plays a tasty lick, he can swing a battle axe like it’s a foam bat, and can assemble a badass hot rod of doom in no time at all. Before long Eddie has fallen in with a rag tag group of humans who want to overthrow their demonic overlords but lack the organization and preparation required, and so with a host of roadie skills a heavy metal rebellion is born.

The story of this one is completely solid, no ocmplaints there. The pacing is brisk and the plot twists are clever, with many moments inspired by the lyrics and music videos of the heavy metal the game tributes. The game features some serious heavy hitters of the musical genre, including Lemmy of Motörhead, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Lita Ford of The Runaways, and the incomparable Ozzy Osbourne. As well, the game features some quality voice work of notable actors Tim Curry, Brian Posehn, and Jack Black’s ever-present sidekick Kyle Gass. As one would expect in a Schaferian gaming experience, the dialogue and story are highlighted by comedic dialogue and gags which suit Jack Black’s well…Jack Blackisms extremely well. It’s a fun experience which will keep you headed to the next mission objective just to catch the next funny quip.

Visually the game is certainly pleasing. Looking like something out of Heavy Metal the game features an aesthetic that pays homage to all things spiky, gas-powered, and demonic. The characters themselves have a cartoonish design that suits the universe very well, while the environments themselves look very vivid and have a sort of surrealism to them which serves to capture the album artwork style that they were obviously going for.  fire and lightening effects are somewhat lackluster though, lacking a certain flair that you would expect considering the visual punch the rest of the game. lighting effects arn’t exactly standout and all the technical eye candy is pretty basic really. Though all in all it’s a good looking game, it’s not a standout eye-popper either.

brutal_legend11

Hah! I knew I looked Kickass

Gameplay is really where I have to get down to brass tacks, and boy do I have a lot to say about that. This game is really a mixed bag of gameplay elements, you’ve got part hack & slash action game, part vehicular combat, part rhythm game, and part real-time strategy. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering why the hell you would include an RTS gameplay element into this style of game. Sadly, there is no clear answer for this. The RTS seems horribly tacked on, given that it’s too simple to be a true fleshed out RTS experience, and the AI is too stupid to make it a manageable. What you end up with is a system where you’re hauling ass all over the battlefield killing as many people as you can with your car or using solo’s to kill off the enemy units yourself, while haphazardly building units to throw into the fray to essentially draw fire off of your weakling ass as you get slaughtered over and over again if you go in without cannon fodder. The game also features a metric butt-ton of side-quests, though these fall into mostly 4 categories: ambush, fixed gun, car race, and mortar targeting. As you might expect, doing 10 missions manning the same fixed gun position gets a bit tedious. Apart from the side-missions there is a veritable smörgåsbord of collectibles to go after, such as hidden jumps and discovering statues. The game has a ton of concept art unlockables but lacks unlockable video which I have to admit is sorely missed considering the impressive cast and crew, it would have been greatly appreciated. I can’t say the gameplay wasn’t fun, because I would be lying. However, it was easily the most disappointing element of the game, and it wasn’t that much fun, and what kept me coming back was easily the game’s humour and soundtrack. Which brings me to my next topic…

Sound, Okay this one is subjective. The soundtrack is balls out awesome…if you’re a metal fan. If you’re not into heavy metal, well you probably didn’t plan on playing the game, but regardless you probably should avoid it. The soundtrack is a cross section of all things metal, ranging from the seminal classics like Sabbath and Judas Priest to the modern prodigies such as Children of Bodom and Dragonforce, all the way to tongue in cheek acts such as Tenacious D and Dethklok (which adds a delicious sense of irony to the mix) and has a soundtrack of over 100 songs…which is truly staggering. As alluded to the voice acting is top notch, featuring a host of pros who deliver the lines with pitch perfect comedic timing. effects wise the game is right on par as well, with Eddie’s hot rod (The Druid Plough aka The Deuce) sounding large and beefy, as well as the electric guitar sounding suitably hard and heavy while playing the in-game rhythm sequences. The sound is excellent all around, and is the icing on a tasty cake that is the games very pleasing presentation.

It’s odd reviewing this game, in the sense that I’m torn between being disappointed in the let down from a game so hyped that I half expected the main character to reach out of the screen and shake my hands for putting the disc into my console. The game didn’t live up to expectations, and gameplay wise I would go so far as to say it was a forgettable experience. However the game had an excellent presentation and compelled me to keep coming back and playing, so it ultimately achieved it’s goal in being a very playable game, though I feel almost cheated on the pretenses in which it did so. There are two issues I want to close out on, the sandbox element and in regards to Tim Schafer being tied to this game. The sandbox thing is simple, this game is an action adventure game, without a doubt. As such you expect to have a map that you can navigate and side-missions and things to discover on said map (a la Zelda or Okami) but the thing that burns me about this game is exactly why sandbox games are annoying in the first place…travel times. Like almost all current sandbox titles you have to drive your ass from point a to point b at all times, why couldn’t they just include a quick movement system? I don’t care if it’s a giant chrome dragon that spouts Def Leopard Verses when it opens it’s beak that takes you from one strategic point on the map to another, ANYTHING WILL DO. Just please don’t make me drive my god damned car through your entire map just so I can instruct some headbangers how to properly perform a keg-stand…And finally my thoughts on the Tim Schafer factor. Truthfully, I probably would have liked this game a lot more if it weren’t “A Tim Schafer Game” because then I could have been slightly more forgiving about the gameplay being the biggest flaw. The bottom line is when the game is made by a guy who has made a laundry list of quality titles that played well, you expect the first thing they would get right is make the gameplay fun. A game being propped up by humour and production values is just something I can’t abide from an industry legend, and while I enjoyed my experiences playing Brütal Legend, I can honestly say I feel like it ought to have been a better title than it was.

7/10

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Uncharted Territory

So my long wait came to an end this week, as Sony’s bonafide blockbuster Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was released on tuesday. Being that I’m an idiot, and I ordered online through amazon.ca however, I received my copy on thursday (which admittedly isn’t much to grumble about since it was free shipping and they were quite prompt about it.) and have now just finished the single player campaign. And boy do I have a review for you.

Uncharted-2-Among-Thieves-Box-Art

It’s important for me to preface here that the expectations I had for this game’s release were immense. I mean to put it in perspective, I had been anticipating the sequel since seeing the initial teaser two years ago. After playing the original I had come to expect a lot since it was easily my favourite action/adventure title of the current generation. Now, as if that weren’t enough, Uncharted 2 stole best in show at E3 for several notable game journalists, and a week before it was release it had a 98% rating on metacritic with heavyweights like eurogamer, gamespy, IGN, and G4TV giving it 90 or higher…yeah, I expected a lot.

So the question is did it deliver on the hype? was all that anticipation worth it in the end? is Uncharted 2 the game to get as a PS3 owner?

The short answer on all of these questions is…well, yes. However it wouldn’t be very fair of me to leave it at that, so let me tell you why this game kicks unparalleled levels of ass.

Let’s begin with the story. The essentials of this one are that your character Nathan Drake is convinced into getting involved in retrieving some artifacts for an unknown buyer. What appears to be fairly inconsequential relic recovered from the ship of Marco Polo turns out to be the key to unlocking the secret of Shangri-La. Discovering this our intrepid hero sets out on a quest to find Shangri-La and recover the mythical Cintamani stone (pronounced chin-tah-mah-nee) which sends him to various parts of the globe including Turkey, Borneo, Tibet, and Nepal. Returning from Nate’s previous adventure Sully, and Elena join Nate at various points, as well as the additional help of Harry Flynn, a fellow fortune seeker and his partner Chloe, as well as the tibetan villager Tenzin who also assists Nate. It’s a plot straight out of a summer blockbuster film, conjuring up obvious comparisons to Indiana Jones and providing all the banter and snappy comebacks to fit the bill. While not necissarily deep or cerebral, the story keeps you interested and does an excellent job of developing it’s characters.

Presentation was clearly a cornerstone of this project’s development when you play. from the very opening sequence you are introduced via a sort of cinematic immersion which serves as your tutorial. As you progress, the story is uncovered mostly through cutscenes however ther is a wealth of backstory to be gained from listening to in game dialogue and via drake’s notebook, which has been beefed up substantially from the first game and allows you to flip through it’s pages, which is both revealing and entertaining as it provides you with a better idea of just who Nathan Drake is. Aside from the story itself, the game delivers on a grand scale to deliver cinematic action and suspense in game. Train sequences featuring a fully articulated train moving through an environment are breathtaking, and camera angles often shift dynamically to provide dramatization to key sequences. The environments as a result have a feeling of realism and life to them as the very ground you are on is moving in sequences where the floor falls from under you or the very building your in collapses. the game also limits the use of quick-time sequences (press X now as you’re watching a video of something exciting happening) and actually puts the reticle in your control as you frantically have to react in real time to over the top action sequences. Polish isn’t quite the right word here, they did something truly special in this game. While very linear, the game feels incredibly engaging, as if you were thrown into the very thick of this larger than life adventure.

Graphically the game is breathtaking. Easily the very best visuals I have seen in a game to date. The environments are articulate and feature stunning picturesque backdrops. character models are interactive and detailed, getting wet accurately when going into the water (as in the first) and piling on snow as they trudge through frigid mountains. The snow I actually have to stay on for a moment, it’s amazing, watching as characters left realistic tracks I was mesmerized as the snow powdered around the characters legs and left it’s traces on your pants. it’s downright magical, and I am actually curious to know what other games have used snow techniques even close to this (references to this will not be acknowledged) because to my mind snow hasn’t really been a big thing on this generations titles. Really, I could go on for a while about this, but I think I’ll just sum up the graphics with this:

It's ok if you got an eye boner, I know I did.

It's ok if you got an eye boner, I know I did.

I guess most important to discuss is gameplay, which is probably the only real point of contention people will have with this game. Often in the past, Uncharted has been compared to other over the shoulder shooters with cover mechanics (cough, Gears of War) and how little it had innovated in it’s gameplay mechanics. Well the sequel is no different from a strictly gameplay perspective and as such has been open (albeit not nearly as strongly) to the game criticisms. The game does indeed borrow it’s core gameplay mechanics from other successful titles, having a platforming mechanic much like Prince of Persia, a cover and shooting mechanic similar to Gears of War, and a multiplayer format very obviously inspired by Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. However, I can’t stress enough that you cannot find all of these elements in any other game on the market. So really does that not give it originality in itself? Anyhow, to tackle the issue of gameplay more concretely, the game feels very good, offering a stealth element which was absent from the first game, the game features all of the gameplay of the first. You traverse difficult terrain (usually climbing), you solve big elaborate environmental puzzles, you run for cover and shoot baddies when they come at you by the dozens, and you run for dear life as things go terribly awry. The formula works very well, and though occassionally the game will feature sluggish controls when you don’t execute properly, it all handles very smoothly. The multiplayer is also very good, and if you have a PS3 you can find that out on your very own. There is a variety of gameplay modes both competively(deathmatch, capture the flag, territories, etc)  and co-operatively (both an objective and a horde-like mode) and the now standard leveling system along with unlockables and perks slots.

Sound is superb throughout, featuring orchestral scores which were actually recorded with skywalker sound (Lucasart, muthafuckas) and voice acting from some true talents the quality is clearly there. As previously stated the game fatures frequent in game dialogue sequences which sound great and are well acted. from the technical side, all the effects are also top notch, gunfire sounds punchy while explosions can shake your floorboards if your sub-woofer is up too loud. I’m not sure how much else I can really say other than it sounds really really good and I was never thinking to myself that the sound isn’t really up to par.

In conclusion I hate to say this will continue what has become an unfortunately lengthy positive streak for me in reviews, just to lay any fears to rest, I do in fact hate a great many things and I promise to spend more time in the future letting all of you know how much I hate these things. However I felt it poignant to post this review today as I have just finished the game and this is the soonest I could put out an open and honest review for your reading pleasure.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: 10/10

Thank you for reading and I also just wanted to note that if you did want me to review…well pretty much anything, feel free to send me an email at: theblunderblogs@gmail.com

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