The new FPS from Epic Games, People Can Fly and Electronic Arts ends up being a campy, over-the-top offering featuring a new game play style that awards points for killing enemies in unique ways. The more outlandish someone dies, the more skillshot points you get.
You play as Grayson Hunt, a former assassin turned mercenary, who is on a mission to redeem himself by going after the people who used him to kill innocents. Sound convoluted? There are enough twists, turns, betrayals, and unlikely partnerships that you will end up targeting everyone at some point in the game.
The killing, which is the true lead character, isn’t just about using different weapons to off your opponents, but using the environment around you to deal the death blow. Spiked cacti and steel beams become your friends for the “Spiked” or “Voodoo Doll” skillshot points. Kicking an opponent off a high platform earns you the “Vertigo” skillshot points.
Players can cash in the points for upgrades to weapons and a special device called the Leash. The Leash is a wrist device that shoots out an energy tendril, allowing it to pull enemies or items toward Hunt. You can also use the Thumper feature of the Leash that flings people into the air, where you can pick them off and earn the “Trap Shooting” points.
Hunt starts off the game with a standard assault rifle, but other weapons are found throughout the scenes. My favorite ended up being the Flail Gun, which fires off two bombs attached together by a chain. Wrap up an enemy, kick him into a crowd of bad guys, and then set off the bombs. It clears out a room quickly and will earn you points for the “Gang Bang” skill or the “Grenade Gag” skill.
Get the idea? The more creative a player uses his weapons and surroundings, the better his weapons become and the more destructive he can be. Instead of just mowing down enemy after enemy, I found myself taking a few extra moments to survey what was around me and how I could use it to destroy others.
The wanton mayhem isn’t the only thing that’s over the top in “Bulletstorm.” Dialog is one obscenity after another in some of the most outlandish ways. Obviously, they are all NSFW (or for any real conversation) but they are out loud funny if you keep your tongue firmly in your cheek.
There is no real character development or even an attempt at real interaction between Hunt and the non-player characters that will help you along the way. Also, don’t worry about trying to figure out where to go next. The NPCs will lead the way and then stop right before heading into a danger zone.
There are also indicators along the way, like press B to kick open a door, that lead you by the hand through the linear game play. Single player maps can be replayed after completion to see if you can improve your skillshot score in a timed setting.
Multiplayer action ramps up the action by introducing 3 team members to destroy the bad guys with you. The play is the same, but team skillshots are introduced to add a bit of spice. Cooperation is needed to move along, so play with people who will work with you rather than go off on their own.
“Bulletstorm” is an entertaining attempt at making bloody fun with the skillshot feature. I think of it as a teenage shooter game that tries to get attention by being gross, obscene and sexually charged. It is funny at first, but after a while, it becomes tired – especially the dialog.
The shooting aspect is really something new and does keep the interest levels high as players try to figure out new ways to dispatch their enemies with a bit of style. Even towards the end of the game, I was still figuring out new combinations of weapons and environment that unlocked more new skillshot points.
If you go into this game thinking it is an elite FPS, you will be very disappointed. However, “Bulletstorm” and its “kill with skill” mentality is a great change of pace in the FPS genre that rewards players for doing something different. And that is refreshing.
“Bulletstorm“ is now available on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. It is rated M for mature due to blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language, and use of alcohol. This review was done playing a retail copy on the Xbox 360.
The first-person shooter (Sony, Guerrilla Games) picks up where Killzone 2 left off, with the opposition leader dead and a city in ruins after a nuclear bomb goes off. The tone is one of run and gun as players race to get out of the war zone where they are vastly outnumbered.
The Helghast, sort of a futuristic pseudo-Nazi/Cold War Russian looking group, are on the trail of our intrepid heroes through a nuked out city, leafy jungle, polar mountains and outer space. Each setting presented its own challenges and really varied the tactics needed to survive.
Guerrilla Games producer Kyle Shubel said the team spent the two years in production listening to the fans about what they liked and didn’t like from the series. He said the gaming engine remained the same from “Killzone 2,” but they had the time to do more with it.
“The fans requested so many things,” he said. “But being given time to respond has been a strength. We really wanted to squeeze more out of the engine and we think we’ve done it.”
The environments play a big role as buildings and roads crumble under the weight of armored vehicles in the city or darkened areas hide players from enemy eyes as they sneak through the jungle. All are well rendered and help get players immersed in the action.
The jungle missions were probably the most fun and the most mentally challenging. Players are forced to get stealthy and when I say forced, I mean it.
The bad guys are so overwhelming that when I got spotted, there was no chance of survival despite being well armed. However, the slow, methodical movements were a nice change of pace from running from building to building for survival.
The boss battle with the towering MAWLR, a mechanical walker that could only be slowed down by shooting its exhaust ports (Death Star, anyone?), was as frantic and bombastic as the jungle was slow. Attacks will come from the ground and from the air to stop this beast and don’t let your guard down for a second.
The polar mission and the outer space mission showed off some of the vehicles you’ll get to use. I thought the ice saw cycle in the snow regions was not as much fun as it could have been. Piloting space fighters to take out battle cruisers wasn’t new, but it was exciting to play.
Jet packs helped hopscotch around the battlefield and reach places that couldn’t normally be reached. The exo-walker was bulky and hard to manage, but offered a big punch when needed.
Shubel said each environment was designed to have its own style of play and its own set of missions. He explained that emerging technology allowed them to ramp up the look of “Killzone 3” from its predecessors.
“We learned a lot and worked on leveraging new technology. It allows us to do a lot of cinematic tricks that Hollywood does in blockbuster movies.”
There are plenty of cut scenes to help round out the story and move it along. The Helghast leaders, voiced by Malcolm McDowell and Ray Winstone, are brutal and methodical in their destruction of the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance. The interaction between the two leaders builds to a resounding, if not expected, crescendo.
Single player action took about 7 hours for me, but Schubel said 8 to 10 hours was normal for completion. Split-screen co-op for two players is also available for offline play.
Online, there are three game modes that can support up to 24 players for some of the missions. Five different classes are available: Marksman, Engineer, Medic, Tactician and Infiltrator. Each can earn points during the matches to improve their abilities and weapons.
The Infiltrator and Marksman were the most interesting to play. The Infiltrator can disguise himself as a friendly trooper until right before he slits your throat. The Marksman is a sniper who can remain nearly invisible until an attack is made.
Shubel said the dev team spent a lot of time working on balancing out the power for each class so no one has an overwhelming ability to tip the scales in the fight. It does take team work from different types of players to be successful in the multiplayer modes.
The game also can be viewed in 3-D. During a demonstration in Washington, DC, I got to play using 3-D technology and a new peripheral called the Sharp Shooter.
The 3-D aspects didn’t really benefit game play, but it did make the game graphics a little bit better. The Sharp Shooter is a gun attachment to the Move controller and that ended up being a lot more fun than I expected.
Ultimately, I would prefer to play with the Sixaxis controller. However, I could easily see the game being played by a new person with the Sharp Shooter for more enjoyment than a regular controller.
“Killzone 3” isn’t going to blow the doors off other first-person shooter games. It does offer a variety of missions, scenarios, and skills that make run and gun gaming enjoyable. There were very few disappointments and the multiplayer action was just as exciting as the single player.
And, of course, there was a cliffhanger ending so be prepared for a “Killzone 4” in a couple of years.
“Killzone 3” is a PlayStation 3 exclusive title and available on February 22. It is rated M for mature audiences due to blood and gore, intense violence, and strong language. This review was done on the PS3 using the Sixaxis controller for single player and the Move controller for multiplayer.
As one of the most anticipated game of 2011, “Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds” (Capcom) doesn’t disappoint with new characters, a storyline with Galactus, and a new mode designed to make it easy to get involved in the action.
After a 10-year hiatus, the popular fighting game is back and bringing the battle zones into the third dimension. While action remains in two dimensions, the characters are generated in three and provide for a more robust visual of the fighting.
Each fight can be one on one or tag-team with three characters on each side. One of the biggest draws to the game involved who would be in and who would be left out from the Marvel and Capcom casts.
Seth Killian, special combat advisor for Capcom, said they wanted to achieve a balance between Japanese characters and Western characters.
“We wanted to include the fan favs (from Japan) as well as the key characters from Marvel,” he said. “But we also wanted to include some fringe characters that haven’t been featured before to appeal to each audience.”
Thirty-six characters are playable right away with 2 more available as downloadable content. Signature characters like Spider-Man and Ryu make their return, but only comic book fans may recognize some of the other characters.
“We included the Super-Skrull because we couldn’t have the Fantastic Four and we wanted to have them represented somehow,” Killian said. “We chose Marvel characters that Japanese fans would think were cool.”
Killian said each character has unique and special fighting abilities so one character doesn’t feel or act like another. Capcom characters are defined by their moves, he said, while the Marvel characters are defined by their powers. It helped when they were trying to balance out the game and make it fun.
“With so many moves and abilities, it becomes more strategic,” he said. “Which characters can I choose to cover up some weaknesses or do I just play to my strengths? It is up to the player to figure out how to use them.”
The fighting system, while criticized in the past for the complex button mashing and joystick gyrations to achieve moves, has also been retooled.
In an effort to expand their fan base and reach out to more people, the game can be played in a simple mode, where only three buttons are needed to attack your opponent. This affords new fans that may be familiar with the characters, but not the game, the ability to get into the action right away.
“We really wanted to make the game easy to get into,” Killian explained. “Simple mode gives you three attack buttons – light, medium and heavy. There is also 1 hyper combo and 2 special attacks. That’s it. By contrast, Dante has 35 different attacks in the normal mode.”
A “Mission Mode” helps players learn the normal attack, if they want to learn them. The missions take characters through different stages where they work on a particular attack to get the sequences right.
Using attacks in combination increases the power bar, which grants hyper combos and team combos in 3-on-3 action. Killian said designers added a behind the scenes feature called hit stun scaling that prevents infinite combo loops.
“It took us three years to develop the game and a lot of that time goes into balance and technical,” he said. “We’ve designed it for the long term and really think fans are going to enjoy how it plays.”
Arcade mode is where the storyline comes in. Each universe’s top bad guy, Dr. Doom for Marvel and Albert Wesker (Resident Evil) for Capcom, decide to join forces to beat the good guys and rule their respective domains. However, as big evil plans often do, their efforts are recognized by someone even more powerful than they are, the world-eater Galactus.
Galactus decides he wants both worlds and the heroes and villains from each must unite to defeat him. Teams of 3 characters each do battle against other teams to determine who will be strong enough to take on the galactic titan.
Killian said each character has their own ending sequence after the final battle as well as alternative uniforms and saying that are unique to the character’s persona. Non-playable characters will also make appearances during the storyline to add flavor and interest in the mission.
Characters also have special powers and abilities that come out during specific times in a battle. For example, Marvel’s Phoenix will transform in Dark Phoenix after her life bar runs down. This includes more powerful attacks, but costs the Dark Phoenix in life points as time goes on.
“Marvel vs. Capcom 3” doesn’t fail to impress. The scalability of how fights can be conducted should win over new fans while allowing more advanced fighting players to jump right in.
Simple mode took me through the battles quickly and let me get familiar with some of the new abilities and characters. Jumping into the Mission Mode helped me learn moves that I utilized in normal mode and made the action even more vibrant.
They also hit the mark with interesting voice and movement additions to each character that really heightened the enjoyment of the game. Deadpool’s taunting and breaking the 4th wall to speak directly to the player were unexpected and very funny.
Sure, some are going to quibble over which characters were included and which were left out. But with 36 to choose from, it will be hard pressed for any player not to find a character from either universe they want to play.
When designing the game, Killian said developers went into it with an idea from the player’s point of view – “wouldn’t it be cool if I could …” He said it all works and you can find a team to suit your style of play.
It does all work and will provide hours of enjoyment even after Galactus is defeated. And with more DLC promised, we won’t have to wait 10 more years to use Hadouken on new opponents.
“Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds is rated T for teens. It will be available February 15 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. This review was done with the Xbox 360 version.
A new driving game attempts to tap into the thrill of driving on the open road in scenic areas with not a care on your mind. Until you decide to sign up for that dirt race across mountainous roads with switchback curves and no pavement.
“Test Drive Unlimited 2” (Eden Games, Atari) breaks out of the mold for “driving as racing” games and introduces social and exploration skills as part of their MOOR – massively open online racing game. It is more about the driving experience rather than constantly racing others for win and points.
Starting off as a valet at a hotel on the island of Ibiza off the coast of Spain, I was quickly recruited to participate in a television show that features racing around the streets of a resort city. But once I got my license, car and first win, I quickly found out that there is more than racing to this game.
To raise my level in the game, I needed to do more than win championships (which unlocks other championships). I needed to explore, collect and socialize with other players to increase my skills and get to higher levels.
First things first. The vehicles.
The selection of available cars is extensive, but not overwhelming. Nearly 100 cars can be won or purchased once you earn enough money.
There is some customization of the vehicles at the body shops, but most is just cosmetic. This isn’t a game for gear heads. There are different levels of engines, brakes and the like that can be bought to improve performance with no specific tuning required.
The vehicles have a decent feel to them while driving. Not simulation, but not arcade style either. There is a consistency of physics to their reactions on the roads. Heavier vehicles take longer to accelerate and stop while smaller cars feel more nimble.
They aren’t difficult to drive, but my ’68 Mustang Fastback definitely needed new tires from the get-go with hardly any grip.
Racing championships are held in 6 stages that involve timed events, elimination races, radar events and door to door racing. Finish high enough and accumulate enough points to win and unlock the next championship.
Exploration levels and collection levels keep track of how many new roads you’ve discovered, how many scenic locations you can photograph and how many old wrecks you can find hidden in the off road areas.
Designers wanted to keep the environment lively so there is plenty to see and look at as you explore the different islands in the game. Whether you stay on the asphalt or decide to head for the hills off road, each contains enough signature places to hold your interest while you rack up the miles.
Also, you can find points of interest along the way that will invite you to join in a group race, transport someone to another location or even where you can get your hair done.
It is the social aspect where TDU2 really wants to shine. Other players populate the island at the same time as you drive around and can interact with you when you cross paths.
They can challenge you to an instant race with just the two of you, help create a group of drivers for a special challenge or even assist completing some tasks. Developers are ready to support thousands of players in the game world, but due to graphic limits, attempt to manage how many players are being shown at any one time.
This can sometimes lead to what I call ghost car syndrome – driving up on an intersection to see a car stopped at a red light only to pass right through that car instead of colliding with it or the car simply disappear from view as if it never existed.
It is a minor thing when compared to the expansive areas and number of players they want to populate the game. But it does take away from the immersion factor of the game.
“Test Drive Unlimited 2” does have some more pressing issues than ghost cars.
The voice acting is terrible. The script is so over the top outrageous that I began to wonder if they were actually poking fun at the characters.
The characters themselves aren’t very exciting. You can change how you look once you find a plastic surgeon, but lots of players end up looking a lot like each other. Or maybe my avatar just had a lot of identical brothers on the island.
Despite the points of interest and expansive layout, most of the off road environments were of the copy and paste variety. However, designers did create floating icons over the points of interest so that they could be easily spotted at 110 mph, which was very helpful.
Overall, TDU2 is not a game if you want to go racing. It is a game that is designed to go sightseeing with your friends and enjoy a picturesque sunset off the shores of Hawaii.
The social aspects and leveling requirements are interesting for a console game. There is a feeling of being able to do whatever you want, but only if you aren’t interested in leveling up.
It is a MOOR with only a portion of it dedicated to the R. But that is what they wanted it to be.
“Test Drive Unlimited 2” is rated T for teens (lyrics, mild suggestive themes, simulated gambling) and is available now on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. This review was done using a preview version of the Xbox 360 game.
586; 2,850; 789,349; 5,400.
Those are all world records numbers. But they aren’t weights, distances or speeds. They are world records for gaming.
“Guinness World Records 2011 Gamer’s Edition” highlights the numbers, players and games that people played the longest, scored the highest or collected the most. It is the fourth edition dedicated to gamers and gaming produced by the group who has been tracking world records since 1955.
This year, the book highlights the idea that all ages are gaming. Ryota Wada, a 9-year old from Tokyo, Japan, set the record for being the youngest person to reach a perfect score on the expert level of “Dance Dance Revolution.”
On the other end of the age spectrum, John Bates, an 85-year old from Onalaska, Wisconsin, scored 2,850 perfect games in Wii Sports Bowling. Bates got his Wii in 2008 and kept logs of his bowling efforts.
“I didn’t get my first perfect game until 2009 and I did that left-handed (Bates is normally right-handed).”
He does have a special technique he uses, which others have tried to emulate with little success.
“I use both hands on the remote, move the cursor to the outside of the lane, then aim for the 1,3 pocket,” Bates explained. “I watch my breathing and throw the ball for a perfect strike.”
While his method was very successful for 34,200 strikes in 2,850 perfect games, he also bowled just over 1,000 non-perfect games. Bates said he figured he averaged about 6 strikes per game during those 1,000 plus games.
Sometimes, records fall from sheer determination to prove someone else wrong. Not wanting to be outdone by her male counterparts, Annie Leung from San Francisco, California, decided to rock out harder on “Guitar Hero 3” than anyone else.
While she wasn’t able to break the overall record (985,206 by Danny Johnson in 2009), she was able to set a new record for highest score by a female gamer when she amassed 789,349 points while jamming to “Through the Fire and Flames” on the expert setting.
“I chose ‘Through the Fire and Flames’ because it is one of the most difficult and lengthy songs of the ‘Guitar Hero’ games,” Leung said. “Not only would it be difficult for others to beat but it would also showcase my skills.”
Leung honed her skills for three years, playing in tournaments and practicing for hours. She said when she decided to attempt the record, she hadn’t played that song in more than 2 years.
“I remember spending 7 to 9 hours the first week getting back into the game and also having very sore wrists and fingers,” she said. “After that, I practiced less, about 3-4 hours couple times a week. It took me about two months to set my current record.”
“This record is like the icing on my cake of accomplishments. It solidifies my skills and status as the best female Guitar Hero player in the world.”
Not all records take skill with a controller to achieve gaming immortality. It just takes the will to have it all.
Mitsugu Kikai, a 25-year old from Tokyo, Japan, was born the same year that the first “Super Mario Bros.” game was introduced to the world. Whether it was fate or karma, Kikai began collecting Super Mario memorabilia when he was a boy and has amassed 5,400 individual items from the Mario world.
“The first thing my parents bought me was a Mario bowl for rice, but as I was very little then, I don’t remember about it,” Kikai said. “I never tried to become a number one collector, but as I loved Mario since I was little, the collection gradually grew. I believe you can find more Mario items than anywhere else in the world.”
“I live in two bed room apartment in Tokyo and I dedicate one room entirely for the collection and use the other room for living. I also have many items left in my parents’ house.”
“Guinness World Records 2011 Gamer’s Edition” also includes more than just numbers and stories. They have the top 10 games of 2010, the top 50 characters of all time and lists of old game titles with scores ready to be undone by someone with a Sega Genesis or Intellivision console waiting to be played.
And the records keep on falling.
In January, 2011, a brand new game established a whopping seven records recognized by the Guinness World Records representatives, including the record for most user-generated video game levels played in a marathon (586 levels).
Three dedicated players and a cast of many sitting in the fourth chair spent 51 hours (also a record) playing the new release, “LittleBigPlanet 2”. During their marathon session, the team also established records for longest marathon playing a platform video game (51 hours), most video game genres played in one video game in 24 hours (38 genres), and most user-generated video game levels played in 24 hours (272 levels).
David Dino was one of the hardcore 3 that stuck it out for nearly the entire 51 hours.
“We (Dino, Sean Crowley and Lauren Guiliano) were able to earn 10 minute breaks for each hour played,” Dino said. “But I think we only used cumulatively about an hour, 20 minutes for time we played.”
He said the mental aspects of setting the record were toughest. After a while, the physical abilities started to fade as well.
“Our reflexes got slower. It got harder to play easier levels,” he said. “We started looking for fun, party stuff to play.”
After all the playing was done, Guinness also recognized the game itself for two records; most gaming genres in one game and most player-created levels in one game.
But will those recently achieved records stand the test of time? Indeed, will they even make it into the Guinness World Record Gamer’s Edition book for next year?
That all depends on how dedicated a gamer you are. Good luck.