You just can't

You can't see this

and after the 5:57 mark, be able to sit there and tell me there are "good and bad sides to war." 

Gotta Play - League of Legends (Annie)

Here's a bit of me playing a bit of League of Legends. It's free to play on PC and I highly recommend it.

Gotta Play TF2

Is this yet another stopgap to try and weasel myself some time? Sure it is! But that doesn't mean you should ignore it. School's kicked in so the reviews have been put on hold for awhile. I scribbled at least 5 reviews down but haven't written them out proper like what with the pictures and the scores and the explanations and the what not. So instead here's a little video I threw together to try and get more people to play Team Fortress 2, now free for to play it!

Digital Incentives

     The second God of War Origins HD collection was just released as a digital download on PSN this week, along with Bulletstorm (which I'm currently playing). Sure, Extra Credits already covered this topic far better than I could ever hope to, but that doesn't meant I should deny the internet my views on the matter, as I have a few issues with the way its being handled.

     For full retail price, you could purchase these games online and  download them straight to your hard drive and play them. My first qualm with this is that you could also buy these games at the same price from a store and have the satisfaction of putting an actual copy of the game on your shelf. Something about being able to see your collection of video games slowly building feels great when you stop and peruse your own library, and a digital download prevents this. This is the nerd collector in me that can't help but love the idea of "the shelf" as a representation of my favourite things. I can't get the same level of satisfaction looking at my Playstation3 and thinking, "Yep. Got the Scott Pilgrim game right there. Yes sir." I'd love to be able to burn a group of PSN titles, as many of them are less than a few hundred megabytes, onto a DVD or Blu-Ray and slide them into the rest of my games library. If I'm going to have to pay full price for a game, I might as well have the plastic case, insert, disc, and booklet to slide into my shelf. 

     Another reason I'm dissatisfied with these digital downloads is that there is a complete lack of incentive for purchasing them. They could be promoted as "green" due to less plastic and paper wasted with each one they sell, which is embodied by a price reduction. Or perhaps included a few character skins that are only playable when you purchase a game as a digital download. 

     I long for the day when PSN will offer a special "three for one" special, where for the price of one arcade game, usually $15, you can pick three games from a list of, lets say ten games, that have been out for over two or three years, in an effort to spur interest in sequels or certain developers. Something akin to the "Humble Indie Bundle" on Steam. 

     The God of War Origins HD Collection contains both the PSP games, which are a lot of fun and great additions to the franchise. 

One last thing. Asking $10 for Tetris seems like criminal activity.

biLL andRew and deRRick talk RDD DLC

Like the name suggests, this is me and some friends talking about new Red Dead Redemption DLC for your viewing pleasure. Sure, its a stopgap to buy me some time for my next post, but it'll have to do for now. Thanks for tuning in!

Medal Of Honor Review

Video Game Review – Medal of Honor

This game is another modern military first person shooter that is a reboot of the established series which began on Playstation many years ago. Back then it was a great WWII console shooter which relied heavily on atmosphere, because it commissioned by Steven Spielberg to coincide with Saving Private Ryan. The Gaming Historian just did a recent episode on it, and you should check it out over at RetrowareTV. As for this game, well it’s about as cookie cutter as you can get. In a market already oversaturated with modern FPS titles anyway.

Sightplay – The visuals in this game are disappointing. I could talk about the color palette blending together in a mix of grays and browns that plague the modern FPS genre. I could talk about the lack of character models (checkout Red Dead Redemption for an incredible amount of character models) making the game feel like a shooting gallery.
     The real reason this game looks ugly, is one very specific thing. It falls into the uncanny valley. Characters are made to look realistic, which throws off the vibe of everything. Perhaps I have a personal vendetta against realism in video games, especially since this is a setting so mired in the “present”. Things look too real, but not real enough to be interesting. Like I mentioned earlier there are only a handful of “enemy combatants” to face up against. So when you’re in a hyper realistic setting, surrounded by ten men trying to kill you, but 3 of them look the same, it completely ruins the realism. Unless the Taliban make it a common practice to hire triplets or twins and dress them exactly the same, which I have to wonder if they do. They don’t I bet.

Soundplay – The gunfire in this game sounds fantastic, and there isn’t much music. What little music there was seemed like generic orchestral fanfare and was entirely forgettable, but didn’t get in the way. I have a HUGE problem with the realism that was used for the dialogue however. It seemed too authentic. Allow me to explain.

     If you are a civilian, and have ever been around a group of military people who are talking about the service, you aren’t going to understand most of the things they are talking about because of the heavy use of acronyms and jargon that only people in the service would be able to follow. This creates a disconnect with the player, assuming he or she is a civilian (and even then) because you simply don’t understand what the fuck they are talking about. There isn’t accessibility in the dialogue, and that is not okay. I’ve no doubt in my mind that each acronym meant what it was meant to, and was used as it should be, however that still doesn’t illuminate what anyone is talking about, and forces you out of the conversation. For instance, if after one of these exchanges, the objective marker didn’t update, and you had to figure out what to do next based on the conversation, you’d be shit out of luck!

     Also, when you’re going for realism, why would the enemy speak accented English? It just doesn’t make sense. I couldn’t get over this while playing and it really kept this game grounded firmly in the uncanny valley.

Gameplay – As far as first person shooters go, the control are tight. Which is essential, so kudos there. Sadly, you don’t need any other guns except for the ones you begin each mission with. Sure there are a few segments where you need to pick up a sniper rifle or rocket launcher to propel the mission forward, but those aside, there isn’t any reason to not to use the guns you start with. They are the ultimate well rounded rifles that are nearly perfect for every single scenario the game throws at you, and the other guns are used primarily as an excuse to change the tedium of the firing the same omni-gun you start out with.

     The single player campaign is short. Like, a few hours to completion short. Multiplayer is boring, in my honest and esteemed opinion. It’s an old game you’ve already played basically. The online mode feels more like which players can sneak up on the others better to determine the winner. When the player models and maps have the exact same fucking color palette, which forces you to really squint to notice hints of movement. Then littering that area with bullets and seeing your kill streak rise, now that sounds like an exercise in tedium. Oddly enough it feels like one too. And when you are forced to play against the level 50 juggernauts with the best gear, it feels even less fun.

     To its merit, I will say that Teir 1 challenge is a great addition. It is essentially a “Hardcore Mode” where you have to tackle the single player missions without checkpoints or ammunition refills. It’s a lot of fun to be challenged, and adds to the realism in a good way.

Replay – Aside from Teir 1, there isn’t any. No unlockables. No alternate costumes. No special guns. Not even other graphic filters. Nothing.

Score – 1 out of 5. This game is meant to honor the members of our armed services, but I feel it does them a disservice of sorts. The story is lame, and getting to play as the most elite soldiers who kill hundreds of enemy soldiers without sustaining any causalities is about as unrealistic as you can get, and I feel it paints an unfair picture of the scenario our troops are actually involved in.

     There isn’t an exploration about why we are at war, only that America is awesome! There isn’t information about why we’re sending troops to die overseas, only that we’re human and the enemy isn’t. Since this is dedicated to our service men and women, THERE ISN'T A SINGLE WOMAN IN THE GAME! For a game touting its realism, this game is about as realistic as, well, a video game. This is to say, not realistic at all.

Atom Zombie Smasher Review

Video Game Review - Atom Zombie Smasher

A great little game on Steam that just got added to the Humble Indie Bundle 3, if you are willing to pay a certain amount, that is loads of fun and should not be passed up. Especially if you enjoy puzzle games or strategy games, or both!Steam often has incredible sales on games, so if you can't get this game now, I'd beg for you to keep an eye out for whenever it goes on sale again. It's a great buy.

Sightplay - This game's visuals are incredibly simplistic but retain a degree of charm as well. They set out exactly what they aim to do, and that's represent cities needing civilians in need of extraction from zombies hordes. These are represented by yellow squares for humans, and purple squares for zombies. There are a few different colors here or there to represent special types of humans or zombies, but you'll never get them confused. The menu's are simple enough to understand, and being able to rename each unit you have control over is a very welcome option. There are great comic book panel videos in between missions that show the people struggling against the apocalypse. They're confusing but purposefully so, and are eccentric enough to be humorous. Atom Zombie Smasher keeps things simple, and it's probably better off for it.
Soundplay - The excellent mix of surfer tunes mix well with the the 60s theme that the game is going for. Rainfall makes the endless zombie grunts somehow more menacing, especially when thunder crackles over head. The voice over could have been a bit more varied, as most troops under your command have only two confirmations which you'll hear over and over. They went for simple and concise, which doesn't leave any room for misunderstanding. You know which units are which, and are thankful for the clarity in the midst of a chaotic evacuation.
Gameplay - This is where Atom Zombie Smasher really shines. This game is fun, challenging, and addicting. Having to manage where to direct the flow of panicked survivors is exciting, and each city offers a new layout which requires serious plotting and strategy. The various different unit types level up as you use them, and some are on "away missions", rendering them unavailable during certain scenarios. This means you have to manage the changing offensive/defensive resources each time you tackle a stage. You'd be amazed how many people you can rescue with just a few road blocks placed in the right spots. Sometimes you're given a bevy of destructive missiles and cannons, but must balance their usage carefully as destroying buildings kills anything nearby, civilians included.

The game essentially boils down to two things. You're ability to control the movement of both zombies and civilians. This means managing your greed. Sometimes you want to get every single survivor in the map to head towards the epicenter of the map, but those on the outskirts simply wont follow orders because nearby zombies send them into an uncontrollable panic. Other times you'll want to wait until the maximum number of zombies have swarmed your dynamite before detonating it, only for them to disperse in favor of greener pastures, so to speak. I could go on about the unit types at your command, or the zombie types you're pitted up against, but trust me, this game is fun.
Replay - This is where the game falls a little short in my book. I'm told you're able to create and play mods, but I haven't really  had a chance to check any of them out. There is only one ending, whether you win or lose the campaign, which is positively baffling. It's very possible to fail one or two very essential missions that will give the zombie hoard such an advantage that winning becomes impossible. There are various difficulties and gameplay rules you can mess with, which is a welcome addition. However a few more modes would have been appreciated also. Despite the lack of endings or any unlockables, this game still retains a great amount of replay value, if only to see just how good you can get at not only saving civilians, but stomping out the zombie hordes.

Score - 3 out of 5. This game is fantastic and was really a lot of fun to play. If a sequel is developed, I would hope the gameplay modes get a little more attention, as well as the number of outcomes that come at the end of the campaign. An offensive mode where killing the most zombies before the timer runs out, without any concern over civilians sounds like it would be fun. Or a mode where you get to control the civilians instead of the safety zone, and have to herd them like lemmings into the indicated zones sounds like a nice change of pace. Also, and I can't stress this enough, a mode where you get to play as the zombies would be an incredible kick in the pants (in a good way). Atom Zombie Smasher is not one to be missed!

Duke Nukem Forever Review

Video Game Review – Duke Nukem Forever

This game has been twelve years in the making (sort of) and with each passing trailer, Duke became more irrelevant each time. And yet somehow he attracted crowds. After playing the game, I have to admit even I was curious to see how bad this game was going to be. Like passing a car crash on the freeway, you slow down to try and catch a glimpse of the abject horror like everyone else. Only this is worse because you have to pay full price, only to hurt yourself.

Sightplay – This game looks awful. Seriously, it resembles an Xbox (not 360) game. The texture pop in takes days before correcting itself, and even then some objects stay unfocused. The intro sequence to this game looks like an absolute joke. I’ve seen better flash animations on newgrounds five years ago. The character models look like undead marionettes and move so unnaturally that it’s eerie to see so often. Even the strippers, which pretty much made this franchise in the 90s, have only ONE character model. There is a strip club with a dozen of the exact same stripper walking around! Palette swapping thongs and hair color just makes the sequence all the more embarrassing. They don’t even dance, they just swivel around, and after seeing motion captured dancers in GTA4, this is outright impermissible (if you play games for that sort of thing I mean).

Every design is uninspired beyond words. The guns are entirely forgettable, yes even the “ripper”. The aliens are updated version of the monsters from the early entries in the series, but they are absolute jokes. Even the Playstation Duke Nukem games had more enemy variety, by which I mean pig cops wore cowboy hats. 

So essentially what I’m trying to say is this game is ugly. Very, very ugly. There is a gallery of all the different stages of this games development over the years, and anything from the 2008 build of this game looks better than the one we actually got.

Strafing > Enemy AI

Soundplay – The only song you should expect to hear is the “theme” of Duke. It should be applauded that they’ve made the world’s most forgettable heavy rock theme of all time. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if it was composed by someone named Gene Eric (this could also be the head developers name also). The aliens are a boring handful of grunts and growls and really do seem like monsters, not aliens. Am I to understand that this species, capable of space flight technology, can’t muster more than angry shouts? It should be noted that the “twins”, who upon being kidnapped spur Duke into action, have the most annoying voices ever recorded in history. When they wind up dead I cheered in my seat, before realizing that I was still playing Duke Nukem Forever. 

It’s great to hear John St. John again, but have to admit that he is not enough to save this disaster of a game.

Gameplay – This game required nearly 5 gigs to install on my PS3, and yet each load time took nearly a minute! Are you fucking kidding me? This is a rough beta, not a finished game! The first person shooting is breathtakingly tepid and the controls are stiffer than a petrified tree. There are mini games, sure. However these actually have worse controls than the rest of the game. Try playing air hockey against the computer and you’ll realize how incredibly easy it is to score against yourself. 

You can pick up a few objects and throw them with great lethality at enemies however the game is rather inconsistent in this regard. Certain objects, like weights or trophies, can be hurled with the power of Zeus. Yet items like barrels or basketballs fall from Duke’s hands more limply than you’d expect. To put it in terms Duke Nukem would understand, he throws like a girl (insert humorous nudge here)! Angry Joe pointed out in his review, how Duke Nukem drinks a beer, as one of the games power ups for damage resistance, and gets drunk right away. He only drinks one beer! Duke Nukem is a lightweight, especially since he can only hold one beer at a time. 

This brings me to my next point, and that is the fact that you can only hold two weapons at a time. What is this, 2002? Duke Nukem is a relic of the old school PC days where an FPS character could run around with a dozen different guns and never be slowed down. Suddenly he’s only able to hold two weapons, and can dual wield none of them. There are turret sections which made me wretch, puzzles which were devoid of any intellectual challenge, and boss fights which were so unimpressive that the obligatory quick time events were a relief (because I didn’t have to play the game for a few seconds).

Replay – There is none. In fact, there isn’t even an ending to this garbage. They make Duke comment on this when the game abruptly goes black like its funny, but self referential humor this is not. Every single “joke” in this game is devoid of punch lines, and is just a series of gross-out gags. There is even literal toilet-humor, which makes me feel like this game was meant for twelve year olds who still giggle at “poop”. 

As sad as this may sound, I played this game until I received a Platinum Trophy after earning each achievement the game had to offer. I must have spent more time loading, than actually playing this game and its not even that long. Beating this game on the “Insane” difficulty setting proved impossible on a few occasions. If it weren’t for invincibility exploits in the games design, this game couldn’t be beat on its hardest settings, proving just how incredibly incompetent the developers were. And come on, it’s not like they didn’t have enough time to finish the game right?

Score – 0 out of 5. This game is pretty much a fail, all around. Avoid purchasing this game for more than $5. This is one of those rare games, that in a year or two you and a group of friend will get a few drinks and sit around to play together so you can all laugh at how bad it is. Like watching Undefeatable, which if you haven’t, must rectify as soon as humanly possible.

video nonsense to buy me time!

I swear the duke nukem review is coming. in order to buy me some time i've decided to post a video of me mouthing off about stuff using my friends webcam. hope you enjoy it, and don't resent me too much for lagging it.

Nartuo and censorhip

Whenever anime get localized into English for release in America, they inevitably get censored. Well, not the "mature" stuff, but show's like Naruto and Dragonball Z certainly get put through the censorship wringer. On some level, its understandable because these shows, from their inception in Japanese, are meant for a broad "young adult" audience. Shounen anime's are made primarily for male teenage audiences, and have a large cast of colorful characters, with a very convenient plot device to facilitate combat between them all. 

This is nothing new, and is pretty basic in comic books such as Marvel or DC when you think about it. They're rarely groundbreaking and just feed the need for adolescent violence that get such good ratings (not to mention merchandising ventures). These shows always have people getting punched through buildings, only to emerge with a torn collar. These kinds of anime, in their original form, tend to have blood, murder, foul language, and mild sexual themes. 

When Naruto became localized for the US, the blood was all but removed, being replaced by seemingly cauterized wounds. Any blood that is visible is turned black and looks like oil. Instead, characters just get dirt patches on their skin to indicate damage. Even the adult female characters have their cleavage erased, which makes women with massive breasts (all too common in anime) look outright ridiculous. 

Left: Censored.                               Right: Original.
But I digress. Recently, my friend noticed something peculiar during a recent episode of Naruto. While facing a particularly dangerous villain who, after tasting the blood of his opponent, becomes invincible to their attacks. The villain is defeated by accidentally being tricked into tasting his own blood, leaving him vulnerable to others attacks. Yet when he consumed the false blood, it wasn't red, but rather, clear. During the typical exposition about how he was tricked, the protagonist refers to switching DNA, never saying the word "blood" once. 

I just cant fathom why they would skirt around the perils of fighting like this. If you beat someone up, they will bleed, and if they bleed enough, they will die. This is what makes fighting so dangerous. Instead, they've found another way to remove the threat of physical violence, in a cartoon that is 100% reliant on violence! 

That's supposed to be what makes Naruto such a great protagonist. He's quick throw the first punch as a hot headed buffoon. However, after numerous confrontations he learns that fighting won't solve anything in the grand scheme of things. In fact, his greatest skill is his ability to befriend his deadliest enemies, and turn them to the side of good/justice. But with the threat of danger consistently removed from the censored version, it makes his trials and tribulations far less impaction. 
Ok, rant over.

DeathSpank Review

 Video Game Review - DeathSpank

Sightplay - this game is simply visualized and it works to its credit very well. pretty much everything that isn't a character or monster is 2D. the monster design's are a  well done and simple kind of 'monster 101' for fantasy games. they don't take any risks and keep things familiar. i was a bit annoyed by certain lands having only one or two monster types, changing only in size. for example the young yeti, adult yeti, and elder yeti are the same character model, just in small, medium, and large sizes. this doesn't happen often, but when it does its notable. the whole game is delightfully colorful and the world changes through the typical video game settings. the forest (green), the demon/lava world (red), the arctic (blue), the fields (yellow), and the undead land (purple). Sure, they're typical, but since the game doesn't take itself too seriously, they're played for laughs and are constantly taking jabs at their well known settings.   
all the different weapons and armor are well crafted and look varied. nothing worse than new equipment that looks exactly the same. *cough* Dragon Age 2! *cough*

Soundplay - the dialogue is hilarious in this game, as the main character reminds me of Ron Burgundy, as the protagonist is convinced he's a genius, despite being openly moronic. the other characters are pretty ridiculous and deliver their lines with the same sincerity. the music is rather forgettable, but doesn't get in the way. it's good, just not great.

Gameplay - This game is essentially a diablo-clone. You roam a decently sized world, dispensing justice [literally] to any monsters you come across. the map screen could use some work, as you  can't switch between map segments at all, which can lead to some frustrating moments. the action is simple and well done. unfortunately most of the weapons pale in comparison to a certain few, especially when considering the special abilities some offer over others. you can use whatever weapons you like sure, but you'd be making things harder for yourself.

It's a load of fun, it just doesn't offer much in terms of experimentation. when you level up, you can choose one of three upgrades, and i think it's a wonderful way of simplifying the adventure genre gameplay. all three upgrades will eb nice boosts, so to choose just one actually requires thought and you will actually feel the affects they have on your character. i hate when games give you stat points to allocate each level, and after placing them in certain stats, you still feel like nothing has changed. luckily, such is not the case here.

Replay - Unfortunately, there isn't much reason to play this game after you beat it. there's the usual sequel bait, and since this review is 'really' late, the sequel has already been out for some time now, with the third sequel in development.

Score - 3/5. This is a great game, made only better by its sense of humor. i'm looking forward to reviewing the next entry in the franchise, and any future installments. Deathspank is a great new protagonist, in a gaming industry so over saturated with invincible space marines and gravelly voiced anti-heroes.

Big ups

I'm currently working on my Duken Nukem Forever review, big thanks to my friend Victor for letting me borrow that and the latest Medal of Honor, the review for that will come after I get a chance to play it. Also to my friend Mike for letting me hold on to his copy of White Knight Chronicles while he's out of town. Will try and play that eventually for a review. Big ups also go to Derrick for letting me borrow Dragon Age 2 (and origins). Shout out also goes to Andrew for letting me borrow Vanquish. If it weren't for these guys, I wouldn't have nearly as many topical reviews to write. Once I get through with these reviews, I'll be onto reviewing games from my actual library. Games like Sengoku Basara, and Dead Rising 2. 

There are some PC game reviews coming up to. They are easier to play and don't take nearly the time a fully produced $60 game would. And yet, despite being just a few megabytes in size and are armed only with charm, are monumentally better games than Duke Nukem. Deathspank, Who's That Flying, Atome Zombie Smasher, and Anomaly Warzone: Earth are all going to be reviewed soon. Not exactly current, but I gotta make due with what I happen to have at the moment. 

I'll get to these reviews, if I manage to tear myself away from Leauge of Legends. Big ups again to everyone for lending me their games.

My rating system explained & new Trophy Card!

For those of you curious about my rating system for video games, I shall explain. For each category one point is either awarded or withheld. Those being: 
Sightplay, the aesthetics of a game (not graphics) and the design of things like characters and environments.
Soundplay, the quality and believability of the music, sound effects, and voice acting.
Gameplay, the way the game controls, the user interface, and in general how fun the game is to play.
Replay, the replay value the game has to make you want to play more than once after completion.
And the last point is basically up to me wether or not I liked the game enough to give it that extra point (or not). Consider it a Luck rating that each game has. 

For instance, I'm drawn to bright and quirky colorful cel-shaded graphics, not a gritty ultra-realism of a modern setting. I would give that bonus point to a game like Katamry Damacy or Wind Waker for their charm and likeability. Games like Infamous or Call of Duty would be denied the bonus point, because I just don't find these styles of game to as poignant in a few years. Ok this example sounds like I'm talking about the Sightplay score, but hopefully you catch my meaning. 

Some might say this saps my journalistic credibility because I'm implementing bias into my reviews, but this is a bias filled world, and I can only inform you of the games that I want to play. What better service can I provide? If you're familiar with every over-hyped, over-priced, over-played, and over-rated video game titles that get scores way too high, while wonderful third party or indie game developers that get no attention at all, and are sick of it, you've come to the right place. My reviews will be honest, concise, spoiler free, and 100% American! Yeah I'm not sure what that last one has to do with anything either, so with that I want to thank anyone whose read my reviews, and anyone willing to come back for more.

Checkout my new trophy card, from lusogamer.

They're nice enough to have a self-updating trophy card, but its a shame the global/national ranking is absent. my current global ranking has slipped and am now roughly 3,000 globally. This means I'm not as good at time wasting as I used to be.

Vanquish Review

Video Game Review: Vanquish

                This is a hi-octane science fiction third person shooter game that is so fast paced and over the top and fun that it’s a real shame this game didn’t garner the attention it deserved. You play Sam Gideon, a gravelly voiced protagonist who wears a futuristic suit of armor, like so many lead characters in this day and age, but this game actually makes you feel like you have all the technological backing such a thing should bestow. Let’s get right into the review.

                SIGHTPLAY – This game looks pretty good. It’s not quite as colorful as it could be, but that’s not to say that it looks bland. There are just a lot of blues, reds, metallic’s, and a sampling of the rest now and again. The protagonist looks really cool, and the suit of armor actually looks like you could maneuver around in it. Instead of just being another regenerating health bar feature that most other video game protagonists have, this suit features an incredible amount of mobility. This is a very welcome change of pace in terms of character design. Seeing a character wear armor that seems impossible to even lift, let alone save the world while wearing is tedious. If you play this game, you’ll witness the sidekick don the kind of armor I’m talking about. He equips these silly looking boots that are wider than him (and he’s a big guy). He uses them to fly around, which makes him look even more ridiculous, despite the enormous mini-gun he hauls around. 
                The enemy design leaves something to be desired. There are less than five enemy types. If you count these enemies when they use a different kinds of weapon or armor or color palette, than the enemy count is just under twenty. Sparse, to say the least, and they’re recycled far too often. The same could be said of the good guys as well. Aside from the hero and the sidekick, the rest of the supporting cast (villains included) is entirely forgettable.  
                These gripes tend to be forgotten when you are actually in the midst of the game and everything is happening around you all at once. Although doesn’t have the graphical superiority of most AAA titles, but that doesn’t prevent this game from looking spectacular. Maybe I just have a weakness for a single missile pod, shooting hundreds of rockets, complete with smoke trails.

                SOUNDPLAY – The sound design in this game fare decently as well, which seems to be a recurring theme for my review so far. Hopefully it doesn’t come off that way. Most music in this game falls under the purview of electronica, and given the futuristic setting, it is fitting. If, for example, this game had a symphonic arrangement, or heavy metal playing during the course of a level, it would seem out of place. What does seem out of place is the voice actors, because they deliver some lines of dialogue that should be considered staples of the action genre. And yet lines like “let’s get the fuck out of here” as you make a dramatic exit just sound goofy. As if they spent more time practicing how to do a deep gravelly voice, than expressing the relief of survival. The protagonist and his sidekick suffer from some serious “Bale Batman” voice-work, and instead of thinking of these characters as hard-boiled they just come off as overcooked (and silly). The weapons sound really cool and the assault rifle gunfire reminds me of an old 8bit bullet sound, just being fired at hundreds of rounds a minute. 

                GAMEPLAY – There is a story about a U.S. president, and Russians, and San Francisco getting destroyed, umm, and science, and, the future? Ok the story sucks and is entirely forgettable. But they give you a really kickass suit of hi-tech armor and thousands of robot bad guys, put a gun in your hands and say “go save the world!” and that’s exactly what you do. I’m not about to hold a lack of compelling story against this game for one second, because this isn’t that kind of game. This is a fast paced third person shooter with very tight controls.
                The frantic pace of all the action is a sight to behold, and when you’re zipping about the battlefield tearing enemies apart one by one, it feels awesome. When all the gears of chaos are in motion this truly feels like a video game. Amidst all the explosions, bullets, lasers, and bits of robots, you still feel like you are in complete control of the game. You can dash through the legs of larger enemies, dodge enemy fire, take cover behind walls, leap over said walls, melee attack, and are able to engage AR mode (i.e. slow motion) at any time. This gives you the opportunity to speed around the battlefield, till you are able to size up a situation, get in position, and methodically go from enemy to enemy wiping them out in rapid succession. Or, you know, just tear shit up.
                Unfortunately there is a lack of weapon variety in this game. Apart from the standard shooting gallery of weapons like sniper rifle, shotgun, machine gun, rocket launcher, and grenades, there isn’t really anything else to get excited about. There is a homing multi-rocket weapon which looks cool, but does pitiful damage. There is a disc launcher which shoots buzz saws at enemies, but completely lacks the awesomeness that this weapon had in Dead Space. There is another weapon that shoots a large ball of energy that can go through objects and damages anything it touches. Save for this weapon being cool to use, the rest of the arsenal is an absolute snooze-fest. This game could have really benefited from taking the Ratchet and Clank approach to weapon design. Only two types of grenades in the future? Shameful.
                Vanquish is one of this really fast action games like Ninja Gaiden or Bayonetta, not in the sense that you have to perform combos. More so in the sense that at any given moment you’ll be pressing at least two or three buttons if you want to dominate your enemies. This means that if you hone down you’re gamer reflexes to their maximum, and enter that nerd Zen mode, you can play the game on its hardest difficulty and beat each level unscathed.
                Now that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy, and this is one of the more challenging games I’ve played this year, but just because you can’t pull off “God Hard” mode without losing a single life, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. This game has a challenge, and I LOVE it for that. It doesn’t hold your hand too much. After beating the game you unlock Challenge Mode, and this is perhaps the most fun I’ve had with the game, and I’ve only beaten 1 of 6 stages. These stages throw several waves of enemies at you in an arena with set weapons located all around. Think Mercenaries mode from Resident Evil, however the objective isn’t to receive a high score, simply to survive. At times these challenges feel downright impossible. But once you spend the time to learn how to best tackle each wave, and actually complete one of them, the sense of accomplish is nearly overwhelming. This game is a lot of fun.

               REPLAY – All of that said, as an experienced action gamer, on my first play through I was able to beat this game on Hard mode in roughly five hours. Five hours! This is unacceptable for a game this fun to play. Sure the challenge mode requires a ton of practice if you want to beat them, but once you have there is no reason to do it again. The same could be said of the main story. You unlock “God Hard” mode, which is indicative of most SEGA titles, and don’t get me wrong I’m glad they do it, but there is no incentive to actually do so. There aren’t any unlockable features. Not even concept art (which pretty much no one cares for). No movie gallery. No alternate costumes. Nothing.
                It is in this regards that I weep for what this game could have been. A single player story that doesn’t last as long as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I’m talking about the original cinematic cuts of the movie. If you want to talk the complete extended directors edition of those movies, they easily double the length of this game. Only kidding. But just barely.  

                SCORE – 4 out of 5. This game was a real treat for me, as these kinds of over-the-top action games are right up my alley, and was a real blast to play. Unfortunately it’s really short, and since its fun and you won’t put it down, the ride is over too soon. Without the incentive to keep playing, this game is the perfect rental title, which is disappointing to admit, but it’s the truth.

Dragon Age II Review

Video Game Review: Dragon Age II

     This sequel to Dragon Age: Origins is a pretty typical RPG that’s been streamlined to make it more of an accessible entry in the “series”. I use quotes because this doesn’t feel like a sequel, as much as it does an expansion pack. A watered down expansion pack. So much so that it feels drowned and bloated, washing ashore to be discovered by some horrified early morning joggers.
SIGHTPLAY – This game is ugly. I love the fantasy genre, and even with that going for it this game falls flat to deliver any of the charm that Dragon Age: Origins worked so hard to deliver.  Everyone’s hair seems to be made of petrified wood and their faces are equally made of stone. During conversations there are more animations to make dialogue seem a bit less lifeless, but after you’ve seen the pensive back and forth, you’ve pretty much seen it all.
                The game is rife with visual inconsistency, for example during combat enemies burst into geysers of blood and it just doesn’t make sense most of the time. How does getting hit by an ice bolt vaporize you? There isn’t anything wrong with wanting to create a gritty fantasy world, as slaying dragons shouldn’t be a bloodless business, but covering the characters from head to toe in blood is not a convincing way of making a game more realistic. Having serious choices that impact the lives of your party members would be a better way to do this.
           Since you can’t change the equipment of your party members, the armor you get to see is incredibly limited. And even then, when you finally discover a piece of armor that’s worth equipping, you’ll be disappointed to find that 75% of the time it looks exactly the same! Too often I found myself using worse equipment just to have something different to look at. 


SOUNDPLAY – One of the only redeeming qualities of this game is the competent voice acting. It holds up just as good as it did in Origins, and it really adds to the atmosphere. The banter between certain characters is usually clever and enjoyable. Spells sound appropriately mystical, and swords banging against shield sound decent enough as well. There are a few skill/techniques that sound like they’re meant for a different class, but it’s a rare occurrence, and is probably just the sound of too many things happening at once.

GAMEPLAY – This is where the game really fails to deliver. In an effort to streamline the game mechanics from the first game, Dragon Age II removes so many choices from the player that the gameplay becomes boring far too quickly. Attacking requires you to continuously press the “attack” button like it’s going out of style (which it very much is in this game).
                If you play as a spell caster or rouge, you’ll find that only being able to have six spells hotkeyed isn’t enough, when considering the bevy of techniques at your disposal. Having your selected skills used up forces you to stop the game, open your skill wheel, and choose one from there, because the six you chose are cooling down still.If you play as a warrior, you'll find yourself waiting for your four or five skills to recharge, as you don't get many more of them.
                Another incredibly tedious method this game employs to artificially draw out combat, is to spawn more enemies from all sides. And they quite literally drop in from the sky/ceiling (yes, even in the middle of a city courtyard). I’m not complaining because suddenly my mages and archers are in danger, more so it’s are you telling me this fight isn’t over yet? It would stand to reason that if those last three minions saw me wipe out twenty of their brethren including their strongest champion, wouldn’t they just run away? The enemy variety is incredibly sparse, and the feared Darkspawn are practically forgotten about in this game. Given the circumstances behind the first game, that’s mildly understandable, but surely there are dens of evil still lying about that require “cleansing” (or “saving”). Get used to bandits and skeletons folks.
                The locations are a real slap in the face to anyone who shelled out their hard earned money for this game. The same handful of settings is reused far too often, and the lazy technique of doors being blocked off, just so they can unlock it during the next act for you to explore does not constitute a new place. Invisible walls is one thing, but when my party of heroes, that can slay a fucking dragon mind you, are unable to enter a cave because its blocked off by an abandoned wagon. This is the epitome of lazy design.
                The story is pretty damn bad too. There are three acts, each shorter than the last, and none of them have an interconnected story arc. Each act’s major dramatic question has a conclusion by the end of it, meaning little in terms of character challenge to overcome. The quests are an array of forgettable fetch missions, and having “Mages vs Templars” as the main source for conflict is not a compelling villain. Is it social commentary? Yes. Is it on-the-nose and trite? Yes. There’s more I could go on about, like the lack of a crafting element, the rivalry/friendship system which is ill-executed, and the ending which is pathetic, but by now I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me make the same point over again.

REPLAY – Ironically, this game actually has less replay value if you import a save file from Dragon Age: Origins. If you import a save and beat the game, you unlock an achievement that would have been obtained had you beat the game twice. This means that if you are a trophy/achievement hunter (like me), and have a previous save from the first game, then it’s possible to earn everyone in a single play through, roughly 40 hours.

SCORE – 1 out of 5. This game is an obvious cash-in on the success of the first game. The best moments I had with Dragon Age II, was when it made me remember how much fun Dragon Age: Origins was.