The action and story picks up after the player, Artyom, calls down a massive missile strike on an alien race known as Dark Ones as seen in the previous title, “Metro 2033.” Artyom is a member of the Rangers, and tasked with finding and killing the last remaining alien.
People only survive in the tunnels of the Metro system because the outside world has become poisonous and irradiated from an atomic blast 20 years ago. Mutated creatures dwell inside and outside the confines of the rail system, and pockets of humanity also live in different parts of the Metro.
These survivors have grouped themselves into like-minded ideals. Nazis occupy one area, Communists in another and gangsters in a third. Artyom starts out in the D6 military complex, one of the most well-supplied and safest areas in Moscow. Obviously, this “wealth” is something sought after by the others and Artyom comes in conflict with the Nazis and Reds on his mission to track down the last Dark One.
The game plays out as a first-person shooter in a linear, survival environment. There are also elements of the supernatural at play when Artyom meets up with the Dark Ones.
Obviously since most of the game happens in a tunnel, there is only one way to progress forward in the game. However even during the outside missions, you do not want to wander away from the next target (more on that in a moment) and often times, the landscape will funnel you to the area you need to go.
Supplies are very limited and the coin of the realm is military grade ammunition. That makes for an interesting choice at times because you can use the better ammo for greater damage, but you are literally shooting away your money.
Artyom can carry up to three weapons and four secondary weapons. You will also need a gas mask and filters to be able to survive the areas outside of the Metro. The filters only last a specific amount of time so management and discovery of that resource is extremely important to your success.
This is why wandering around outside is not a good idea because you will run out of breathable air if you decide to go scouting. A compass Artyom carries helps keep you pointed in the right direction.
Gunplay was tactile with each type of gun doing specific damage and reacting in different ways. Some enemies have specific weak points that must be dealt with first before administering the killing blow.
There are also explosives (two types) and throwing knives if bullets aren’t the best way of dispatching your enemies.
Because ammo is a scarcity (yes, I ran out a few times even trying to be careful), stealth then become the preferred method of getting through as much of the levels as possible. Sneaking up and dispatching enemies doesn’t waste valuable ammunition nor does it alert the numerous guards to your location.
You cannot drag a body into the shadows after stealth killing, so where you slay someone becomes just as important as the actual death dealing. The enemy AI isn’t likely to overlook a body in the middle of a room or hallway.
That said, the AI is not particularly good at spotting you in the shadows no matter how close they get to you. In one scene, I slid along a darkened wall to near a workbench where I thought I could pause for a moment while the guards chatted amongst themselves.
Their conversation broke up and one guard started walking directly toward the workbench. Raising my rifle, I was waiting until he cried the alarm before firing. Yet, he just started sharpening his knife at the bench – not noticing me less than a foot away.
I was able to creep back along the wall and get behind him for a stealth kill while remaining within arm’s reach from him at all times. The very limited AI vision into their darkened surroundings made some missions easier than I would have expected.
The second half of the game involves Artyom and the Dark One, who is just a child. Telepathically, you understand the meaning and connection between your character and the Dark Ones. The game starts to get a little mind trippy at this point, but the Dark One’s ability does come in handy later in the game
The child accompanies you and provides help in combat by spotting enemies and offering supplies he finds on the battlefield. As far as I could tell, he never took any kind of damage so it isn’t a protect/escort series of missions.
He also taps into other people’s thoughts and creates some ethical moments that will impact the ending of the game. He is mainly there for support and to help you uncover some very dangerous truths about your enemy’s plans.
There were some technical glitches along the way. Some opponents would freeze in place and couldn’t be hit or damaged. At first, I just ignored them, but then they would unfreeze as I got close to them and attack.
In a few missions in the game, Artyom travels with a companion. More than once, the companion would get stuck in a doorway or passage and not let Artyom get by. This was only fixed by reloading from the previous checkpoint.
This game is rated M for Mature and earns it. Besides the obvious blood and intense violence, there are instances of nudity and sexual content. In a brothel house scene, you can repeatedly pay (with your hard earned ammunition) for a nude dancing girl to perform for you. There is a touching sequence involving Artyom and a different woman who is partially nude.
There is also a side mission where you can rescue a refugee woman who is about to be sexually assaulted. No nudity here, but the dialog is disturbing.
“Metro: Last Light” kept me hooked with the twists and turns of the story, solid combat mechanics and a step into the supernatural. The technical glitches were distracting, but did not diminish my overall enjoyment for the title too much.
**POTENTIAL SPOILER AHEAD**
If I can give you one tip, there is a mission involving a tank. Do not listen to the dialog. It is misleading and will cause you great anguish if you try to do what is being said.
** end tip **
“Metro: Last Light” is available now in North America and the rest of the world on May 17. It can be played on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC. It is rated M for Mature due to blood, intense violence, nudity, sexual content, strong language, and use of drugs and alcohol. This review was done using a provided copy for the Xbox 360.
2K Marin is going back to the past, specifically 1962, to weave a tale of the first alien invasion in the United States. The world is already tense from US/USSR nuclear relations and the Cold War, and a secret special agency, The Bureau, is formed to keep American interests safe from the Red Menace and retain U.S. power globally.
The player takes on the role of William Carver, an agent with The Bureau known for getting the job done no matter what it takes. With the discovery of aliens and the potential of an alien invasion, Carver and his fellow agents are challenged to adapt.
“The organization that nobody knows about to combat the Russians are now having to switch gears and combat the aliens,” producer Andrew Dutro explained. “The Bureau now turns into an XCOM organization.”
At its core, “The Bureau” is a third-person, squad-based tactical combat game. It is a real-time strategy battle as opposed to a turn-based game, putting the pressure of the clock on all your decisions and moves.
Similar to “XCOM: Enemy Unknown,” it is not a “one man does everything” operation. You go on missions with your 4-person team, work with others in the agency to research alien technology, develop new weapons and combat the alien incursion.
“You’re going to need coordinated tactics, squad-based tactics for any chance of success or you’re going to die,” creative director Morgan Gray said. “We have an interface called Battle Focus, which will give you real-time control of your squad mates.”
Expect to see familiar alien faces if you’ve played “Enemy Unknown,” but in a different context than before. There are also new additions to the enemy ranks in order to mix things up for the player.
Agents in The Bureau rank up and abilities increase the more you use them successfully. However, fail to use them properly and there are lasting consequences. Permanent death awaits those who fall in battle with no chance to revive them.
If battling aliens wasn’t enough, you also have to take on history itself. The U.S. population and the world cannot know about the aliens or how The Bureau battled the alien menace.
“(Players) are also going to be part of the greatest conspiracy known throughout the U.S. government, which will be the covering up of this organization,” Gray said. “The world in 1962 cannot know how close we came to defeat at the hands of the aliens.”
Gray said getting the tone of the early 1960s and including the dark humor known in the “XCOM” franchise was tough.
“The juxtaposition of the 60s world in which we start in which is real, not fake, true history and then effectively creating a new alternate history both as we know it for our own planet and America, and XCOM’s history,” Gray said. “Straddling that line – it’s a lot of mouths to feed creatively.”
The game will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC in North America on August 20. It will be released internationally on August 23.
Also, there is no multi-player option. Gray said they really wanted to concentrate on the story and the action, and didn’t want to tack on something they didn’t feel was good enough for “The Bureau.”
“Defiance” has become a game that even though I’ve done all I want to do in the open world, I keep coming back to do it again because it is so enjoyable. That said, there are times when the online shooter is afflicted with some of the problems that plague online games.
You are an ark hunter on Earth in the year 2046. Think scoundrel, fixer-upper, gopher and general guy-who-gets-everything-done and you are on the right track. You start out as part of a mission to basically save the world when the aircraft you’re on crashes in the San Francisco bay area.
The region has become a twisted environment of old buildings, new flora and creatures and pockets of human and alien settlements. Because this is a shooter, you are expected to and will gun your way through a variety of missions.
Besides the main story mission that has plenty of twists, turns and challenges, there are also episode missions and side missions to give your character additional opportunities to grow. Because the game is tied into the SyFy weekly series of the same name, you get to interact with the show’s two main characters in your episode mission and get more background on the show itself.
Much of the mission work is typical questing type adventuring. Defeat this bad guy, collect this relic, defend this area. But because this is an online game, there are plenty of opportunities to work with other players to make the jobs easier and more tactical.
It is more incidental co-op play than anything organized unless players join up together to form clans. But there is nothing that prevents a player from clan hopping and no player-vs-player action outside of specifically designed areas.
If you want more than missions, there are also time trial challenges and areas called hotshots and rampage. Those areas are all about killing as much as you can within time or ammunition restrictions to gain the highest score.
And if that isn’t enough, there are random scenarios scattered throughout the area – rescuing farmers, fighting off hellbugs, defeating mutant soldiers. There is quite a lot to do in the game, and that doesn’t even include the four-player co-op maps, the competitive maps and Shadow Wars.
Shadow Wars maps are massive team against team battles where each side tries to take over and control different points on the map. It is total mayhem at its best because the battle takes place on the main map and non-combatants can and do wander into the field of play.
Arkfall instances are similar but cooperative in nature against a series of massive foes. Anyone can participate and some of the best battles occur with dozens of players trying to take down a hellbug matron. The rewards are also pretty awesome as well as loot is scattered across the battlefield for anyone to gather.
There is a bit of RPG leveling in “Defiance” as your character gains points towards Ego powers. Ego is a sentient AI bound to your character that can bestow different basic powers like Blur, Cloak, Overcharge and Decoy. You can earn additional powers that branch off from those four that increase your combat abilities or personal statistics.
You can also level your weapons the more you use them. Quite a bit of variety available, but you can only use two at a time. You can carry more in your inventory, but switching from those two to something else in the middle of a battle could be dicey. Modding is also available for most weapons and let you add barrel, stock, or targeting mods to improve your guns even more.
All of this is why I love “Defiance.” So much to do, so much variety and the promise of additional content make this online shooter quite a lot of fun to play.
While Trion has been doing their best to plug the holes with patches, problems still exist in the world. Four-player co-op maps that are completely empty of friends or foe, and missing event triggers that leave players standing around wondering what to do next still happen far too often.
Server disconnects in the middle of instances aren’t as frequent as they were when the game launched, but can and do occur. But I will say many of the graphical glitches from the launch have been cleaned up and the environments behave better.
Is it frustrating? You bet. Normally, I would have popped this from the console (oh, yes. This is a console online shooter.) and moved on without a backward glance.
But the content and the action continually pull me back in. I’ve already finished the main story mission and am now doing it again just because it was fun. The co-op missions are a blast and the Shadow Wars are insane.
I’m hoping the new content comes sooner rather than later. For their part, Trion has said they will continue to work out the bugs, provide new storylines and improve the missions.
It is a living, breathing world and every glitch will probably not get fixed. But there is plenty of enjoyment to be had with “Defiance” and I, for one, am going back in.
“Defiance” is available now for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC. It is rated M for Mature due to blood, drug references, sexual themes, strong language, and violence. This review was done with a provide retail copy for the Xbox 360.
Striving to be more than just a fighting game, “Injustice: Gods Among Us” does a fantastic job of providing the brawling sensation that fans of the genre crave while weaving a wonderful story for those who want to do more than bruise their knuckles.
NetherRealm Studios did more than just take their “Mortal Kombat” template and slap some DC Comics icons on it. They integrated the individual powers of each hero/villain and shaped them into moves that feel organic for each character.
There are no “fatalities” so if you think Batman is going to rip the spine out of Sinestro, think again. However, combos and multi-move attacks found in most traditional fighting games will keep players interested with their new moves, especially the big power moves for massive damage.
Confession: I’m not a fighting genre player. I find trying to remember or master all the different joystick gyrations and button mashing to be boring. It seems like grinding to me and that’s not a style I like.
That said, I couldn’t stop playing the single player story because the action and the narrative were so enthralling. If you’ve been reading the “Injustice” comic book series, you know the details of the backstory. But it isn’t necessary to have read the comic to play the game. You’ll get caught up very quickly.
The joint efforts of the DC Comics and NetherRealms writers produced a dark tale set 5 years into the future in a parallel world. Alternate Superman, racked by guilt over the death of his wife and unborn son, and the destruction of Metropolis, decides mankind needs someone who will protect them at all times and at any cost.
This grand vision goes horribly awry as individual freedoms are stripped in the name of order and Superman. Metahumans either join Superman in his quest or die by his hand. He is a world dictator in the truest sense with the power to quash any dissent.
Except for one. Batman.
The alternate Batman has a plan to end Superman’s rule, but needs the heroes of “our” world to do it. Aquaman, Green Arrow, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman are pulled to this alternate world through a temporal tunnel. Batman and Joker also get caught up in the tunnel and shuttled over as well.
The game starts here, as “our” heroes do battle against the alternate heroes and villains who have joined Superman’s side. This results in Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Aquaman facing off against their dopplegangers.
The cast is deep and rich. Heroes like Flash and Shazam are working side by side against Solomon Grundy and Bane. Nightwing is here, but not the Nightwing you think, and Deathstroke works with you while still serving his own purposes. Little twists and turns lurk around every corner and that’s what makes the game and story so interesting.
The battles are still there and still fun. They have meaning in the greater context of the story and act as glue for the different chapters in the narrative.
And the dialog is a great mix of snappy wit and foreboding doom. Joker and Green Arrow have some of the best lines in the story, each portraying the proper feel for their character without seeming too over-the-top.
GA, often known for his constant string of one-liners, battles with Killer Frost when she asks him if he ever shuts up. “Every other Tuesday,” he says while firing off an arrow.
Joker maintains his maniacal, yet calculating, way of saying the absolute wrong thing at the right comedic moment. His moments with Harley Quinn and the alternate Harleen Quinn are tender and sadistic in all the right Joker ways.
It’s this blend of stellar story with the combat action that will draw more than just the fighting fan to this game. The God-power moves are unique to each character and fit within their DC lore. They will also make you wince when they are pulled off because they are so devastating.
Environments are given the DC touch as well. From Wayne Manor to the WatchTower to Arkham Asylum, different elements within each can be used during combat to bash, blow up or even warp your opponent into a new arena.
My only complaint about the single player story is that it is short – about 5 to 7 hours. For someone who isn’t a fighting game fan, this may not be enough. But there are other modes to explore that can increase your enjoyment of the game.
Battle mode allows you to take a character and run them through a gauntlet of eight foes. You can customize the fights by taking on all heroes, all villains, a mix between them, no regeneration of health between battles and so on.
STAR Labs mode lets you go on missions with characters while trying to achieve specific battle goals. Players gain stars (why is it always stars?) when completing certain objectives during each battle. Hitting combos, finishing without taking damage, not using certain abilities – these all offer challenges with a small blend of a narrative throughout.
Is this for the competitive fighting crowd? Maybe, but I’ve never ventured into that area. It does have all the hallmarks of a “Mortal Kombat” fighting style with more comic book flair.
Is this for the comic book fan looking for a good video game to tie together their entertainment? I’d say yes. They stay true to the DC lore in spite of the alternate world setting (Earth 1A?) and the story flows very nicely from the comic book series.
“Injustice: Gods Among Us” isn’t a “Mortal Kombat” game dressed up in superhero costumes. It is a great blend of fighting game action while still providing comic book-style fun, story and entertainment – one which I thoroughly enjoyed.
“Injustice: Gods Among Us” is available now in North America and Australia. It will be available in Europe on April 19 and in Japan on June 9. It can be played on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U. There is also a companion iOS version that offers different game play. The game is rated T for Teens due to blood, language, suggestive themes, and violence. This review was completed using a provided copy for the PS3.
Most racing games are all about timing. Study the course and you’ll find the best spots to turn, brake, and accelerate. It’s almost like clockwork – barring a bump from a competitor.
In “Grid 2,” you can’t memorize the racecourse because it changes while the event is still going on. It is alive.
During a hands-on multi-player demonstration, developers from Codemaster showed off the sequel to their 2008 title, “Race Driver: GRID.” Eight competitors jammed in a room to take a turn at the wheel, but the final version allows up to 12 racers to connect online.
There are three different races to experience: checkpoint, endurance, and circuit. Each has its own quirks and strategies so being successful at them all will definitely test your skills.
Checkpoint racing is all about surviving as long as you can and go farther than your opponents. While the competition is head-to-head, it is all about hitting the next checkpoint to add more time. The more time you have, the farther you go.
Seems easy enough until you get tangled up with someone in a corner and are scrambling to hit the next mark. Staying out in front seems to be the best strategy, but everyone is vying for that position. Or do you run a slower, but smarter race just to stay alive longer?
Circuit racing is three laps around real world courses and different settings. This is what racing typically is about and selection of cars’ specifications is important. Choose a car that’s right for your style and you’ll have success.
Endurance is a five-minute race to see who can travel the farthest. It is different from checkpoint racing in a couple of aspects.
It is a staggered, rolling start and cars are strung out at the beginning. No bumping or blocking at the start line.
More importantly, the track changes as the race goes on. In a feature developers called “live routes,” parts of the race course will change with new turns and straightaways cropping up in new places.
Lead level designer Graham Bromley said the course would organically move around the barrier structures in the race to keep drivers on their toes.
“Previously, drivers were conditioned about what was on the course,” he said. “This will make them more reactive to the changes and really open up the races in new and exciting ways.”
Connecting with drivers online not only offers head-to-head racing, but also senior game designer Lee Roberts said rivalries and global challenges will be a part of “Grid 2.”
“We’ll have nine events weekly that reset every week so there is always something fresh for the player,” Roberts said. “Rivals will be matched up to your play style and region. You won’t get someone who is half way around the world. It will be someone who you can race against regularly.”
Bromley said they’ve added features to cut out griefing and cheating in the game. He said they really want players to enjoy coming to the global games and know they are going to have fun.
If multi-player isn’t your bag, there is a single player campaign putting you in the fire suit of Patrick Callahan, an up and coming racer who is ready to put his name at the top of the leader boards.
“You live his life, but you’ll be writing your own story as you go along,” Roberts said. Fourteen locations, 93 routes and four different tiers challenge the player as you progress.
Both Roberts and Bromley spoke about changes in the appearance and gameplay for the new title. There are also plans to let players take the game with them as they go.
“We didn’t want to lose the feel of the original GRID,” Roberts said. “But we didn’t want to bring out something that wasn’t a step forward.”
“It is also about extending the game experience and staying connected,” Bromley said. He said players could stay in touch through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter with a mobile app in the near future.
“It all about the synergy of track and car,” he said. “That’s where we’ve put out efforts with this talented studio. An emphasis on skill.”
Roberts also said players who can work the courses well would get visual treats. He specifically mentioned the race in Paris.
“If you master the draft just right around this one corner, you get a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower out your windshield,” Roberts said. “That’s my ‘wow’ moment in the game. It is so beautiful.”
“Grid 2” is set for release worldwide on May 28 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
James Bond: “Do you expect me to talk?”
Auric Goldfinger: “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.” (from Goldfinger)
It seems the creators of “Dark Souls II” may have been watching a little too much Bond movies when working on their latest title. At an event revealing new gameplay, co-director Yui Tanimura really wants players to enjoy death, because they are going to get a lot of it from the new title.
Tanimura emphasized two major concepts they wanted to incorporate with “Dark Souls II,” a loose connection of sharing with players around the world and the sense of achievement by overcoming difficulties. It is that second part that will likely drive players insane with frustration or joy, depending on how you want to play the game.
The original title created much discussion about the considerable difficulty players had during the game. Even today, there is very little ground – gamers love it or hate it.
Tanimura said all the improvements and enhancements to the battle system and the visuals were to drive the player deeper into the game. He said players will have different types of deaths they can experience and suggested games should enjoy the deaths.
“I don’t want it to be unfair,” he said through a translator, “but I want to give a solid sense of satisfaction when you advance. We want you to kill with substance.”
A new graphics engine and motion capture of player movements make “Dark Souls II” visually appealing in the short video trailer. The battle system has gone for simple controls and emphasizes strategy. You’ll also need trial and error to find enemy weaknesses, which accounts for the multiple deaths along the way.
Enemies have been improved with unique situational reactions and strategies of their own. There has also been a change in how the difficulty level will ramp up for a stage.
“We wanted to get rid of the start to finish template,” Tanimura said. “Bosses can now appear in the middle of the state and can actually be defeated early although it is much tougher.”
While he did say they do want to take care of newcomers to the franchise, he said they did listen extensively to what previous players told them about the original title. With that in mind, they made improvements geared toward giving gamers more freedom during the story.
“We don’t want to force actions for players, but make it more free roaming,” Tanimura said. “The choice for players will be risk versus reward.”
Tanimura is proud of how flexible the game is going to be so players can enjoy it the way they want. He said he’s looking forward to seeing gamers figure out how to conquer the game.
“Dark Souls II” will be available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. They were not prepared to talk about next-gen console releases or provide a release date at this time.
Since Kratos dies (but did he really?) at the end of “God of War III,” the only place to go is back to the past. We find our oft-blood-covered hero being hounded by the Furies, the mythical beings who punish wrongdoers – in this case, those who break oaths with the gods. Kratos has already reneged his pledge to Ares, the god of war, and is trying to escape from the clutches of the immortal judges.
Much of the game bounces back and forth in time as Kratos attempt to differentiate between realty and illusion. This creates some discontinuity as one of the Furies is seen with only one arm early on, then two arms later. Of course, we find out quickly enough why she has only one arm, but the time stream lurching wasn’t a very effective method of moving the game forward.
The environments are gorgeous, broad and bold. While the action is very linear based, the surroundings have a look and feel that would normally encourage exploration. Distant peaks beckon, magnificent statues impress, and the area feels wide open and colorful. Too bad Kratos is always a man on a mission.
Evolutions in combat from previous franchise titles were a pleasure. Developers at Sony Santa Monica combined magic effects with the powerful attacks from the Blades of Athena often wielded by Kratos. This created some very powerful and visually appealing combat moments. Brutal, bloody and very effective, the blades whirled with fire, ice, electricity or souls power to create a devastating field of attack.
Fights with mini-bosses, like a new Medusa or the monstrous Elephantaur, provided new lessons in mythological anatomy. Yeah, we’ve all seen the insides of a Minotaur spilling out, but to bisect a Medusa through the head, neck and chest, and see the bone structure of the creature is definitely something new.
The mini-boss fights have also evolved from the simple quick-time events of the past. Sure, timed button pushing is still important, but is also key to pick up clues on when to dodge. Otherwise, Kratos can and will take some punishment while he’s conducting an anatomy lesson.
Kratos’ movements also seem a little jerky this time, not as fluid as in previous games. There are moments when he literally glides across the battlefield instead of a solid foot plant to push off toward his quarry. His wall parkour moves in particular felt lacking in any type of weight or effort of movement. A minor quibble, but one that will cause fans of the franchise to be distracted.
As much as I love this franchise, the character of Kratos, and the highly technical development of the combat system in “God of War,” I can’t help feeling a little let down. Where are the gods?
The main opponent in “God of War: Ascension” isn’t Ares or Zeus or any other occupant of Mount Olympus. It is the Furies, not gods but also not mortal. There are often allusions to Ares and we see Zeus and Hades in flashback cut scenes, but the lack of any godly power or might makes the game feel less than “God of War.”
This is the soul of the franchise – the battle of mortal Kratos against the godly forces of Olympus. I get this is supposed to be a precursor to all the “future” battles against the gods, but that’s what makes the game great, pitting your skills and talents against a foe that can’t be defeated. While the Furies do offer challenges, the feel of the game just never seemed to get the full flavor of a “God of War” game.
I also have to point out the difficulty ramp gets a little out of hand in the latter stages of the game.
During the Trial of Archimedes chapter, I was faced with multiple mini-boss enemies in a confined space. Playing on normal mode, attempt after attempt was met with failure. While my Blades of Athena were not fully upgraded (missing two upgrades in basic blades), they were extremely powerful and had dispatched enemies like this before.
Yet, I could not get past these groups. What was I doing wrong?
I reached out to Sony reps in desperation. Was I missing some trick? Were my tactics off? How could eight years of “God of War” experience not be enough to progress?
Sony Santa Monica responded and talked me off my controller-throwing ledge. I was told the Trial of Archimedes was supposed to be the ultimate challenge in combat and would require a near fully powered Kratos and Blade of Athena to complete.
While I can understand developers wanting to challenge players close to the end, requiring a new player to know he has to search out most of the chests for red orbs to upgrade the Blades is a little on the sadistic side. In short, the challenge was unbalanced.
Sony was kind enough to get me through the area to let me finish the game, but the bitter taste left behind would not go away. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to have this issue.
The God of War development team recently issued a patch to increase the amount of health orbs and magic orbs that were available during the fight. From a release on the godofwar.com site, the team wrote, “the degree of challenge offered here was short of our goal of being perfectly balanced.”
It is good that they responded to community feedback in this fashion rather than just telling players to tough it out. I understand and applaud what they were trying to do in the game. The execution was literally killing us though.
Overall, I had mixed feelings about “God of War: Ascension.” The gameplay and combat were absolutely stunning and well done. The environments are majestic; the battlefields are detailed. Nevertheless, I still have a problem with a game that seems to lack … something. It was nice to portray Kratos as a family man in the latter stages of the game, but the mood shift from bloodthirsty seeker of truth to doting dad was abrupt.
I remain conflicted about “Ascension” and its place in the “God of War” lore. It doesn’t really answer any lingering questions I had about Kratos’ history or really push him into new territory as a character. However, the combat and action makes the game worth playing.
Just beware the Trial of Archimedes.
“God of War: Ascension” is available as a PlayStation 3 exclusive. It is rated M for Mature due to Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, and Sexual Content. This review was done playing a provided retail copy for the PS3.”
The Sly Cooper franchise celebrates its long awaited return with a fun romp through time in their latest title, “Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.”
Sly and his Cooper Gang are Robin Hood thieves. They only steal from other thieves. But in this version, someone is stealing Sly’s past and they must go back in time to restore things to normal.
Players will visit five different eras in history – feudal Japan, the American Old West, Canada during the Ice Age, medieval England and ancient Arabia. Each era contains a member from Sly’s family tree for whom history has changed his path. They also represent different aspects of Sly’s personality – stealthy, adventurous, athletic, noble, and yes, sometimes lazy.
The villain for this adventure is going back in time to steal the Cooper staff from each time period. Players must complete “jobs” or missions in each era to try and stop the ancestral thefts.
While each relative of Sly has unique powers, Sly also gains new abilities through period costumes he finds. Bentley the Turtle and Murray the Hippo from the Cooper Gang accompany Sly through each era, lending technical support (Bentley) or muscle (Murray) to each mission.
Oddly enough, it feels like Bentley is the star much of the time. He coordinates all the missions, handles the hacking and generally directs most of the dialog throughout the jobs. Sly is relegated to a sidekick role and I didn’t get a good connection with him. Even with the final boss battle, my feelings about Sly were less than they should have been for the title character.
The missions in the era are fun. There is great variety in the gameplay and it doesn’t feel repetitive at all. The Cooper staves in each time period help keep things fresh and it was great to try different things to get the job done. The game also makes good use of the motion sensors in the DualShock controller, which often is overlooked in many games.
Each Cooper relative was fun to play with their own powers. The back stories on each were also unique and helped connect me with what was going on in their eras. Pro tip: turn on the subtitles when you get to the Ice Age area. You’ll have a better idea what Bob is saying if you do.
You will also get an education along the way. Did you know that a raccoon invented sushi? It is (apparently) true! The voice acting and dialog is also fantastic with each character doing a good job of interacting with others. The jokes and puns are hilarious.
However, I could have definitely done without the quick time events tied to musical missions, ala “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band.” They were way too long and really slowed down the pace of the action.
There are also A LOT of load screens and they soak up time. The frequency seemed excessive and really diminished the immersion into the gameplay. Get a mission – load screen. Walk outside to another location – load screen. You get the idea. I’m not sure why the mission, the area of the mission and all its parameters couldn’t get loaded all at once.
While the environments were colorful, they weren’t overly expansive. You are in a confined space for each time period so the idea of loading it all at once or on the fly shouldn’t have been that difficult. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I don’t think so.
For completionists (which I am not), there are collectables in each era as well. Collect enough clue bottles and you can open chests for a special reward. Cooper masks can also be found as well and treasures. These collecting mission are a nice diversion if you like that sort of thing, but definitely not necessary or part of the storyline.
Cross-saving, saving your progress on one console and downloading it on another was very awesome and the best argument yet for the handheld Playstation Vita. The difference in controls was very slight and highly manageable. It made playing more fun knowing I could take it with me and complete missions while away from my PS3.
If Sony really wants to kick the Vita into more households, they would have more games with cross-saving.
Overall, “Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time” has a variety of gameplay actions, playful environments and a wide-range of characters to enjoy. Cross-save is a blessing and will keep you involved even on the go.
I didn’t feel very connected with Sly in this one. Maybe it was too many characters, but he just seemed to be in the background quite a bit. The QTE missions are overly long and disappointing, and the final boss battle wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped. But if you want hours of fun, comedy and some drama, Sly and the Cooper Gang are a great choice.
“Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time” is a PlayStation 3 exclusive title and is rated E 10+ for Everyone older than 10 years old. It does have warnings for alcohol reference, cartoon violence, suggestive themes, and use of tobacco. This review was done with a provided copy for the PS3.
“Dead Space 3” introduces new monsters, a crafting system for weapons and supplies and a co-op feature, but loses some of what made the franchise great – intense horror.
Isaac Clarke returns as the reluctant hero in a quest that starts out personal but quickly falls into chasing the Markers, those alien monoliths that are able to turn humans into necromorphs. Isaac is still tortured by the memories from the first two installments of the franchise and is called upon to use his knowledge to prevent the destruction of humanity.
If you never played the first two, never fear. A movie at the beginning helps tells the backstory and bring players up to speed. However, it would be better if you take the time to grab the others and give them a shot before diving into this one.
It is the year 2314. Earth is in turmoil and an alien presence is making its mark on the people. A religion worshiping the Markers as key to the next evolutionary step of humans takes over and tries to set the planet on a path of rebirth.
Issac is called in to find his ex-girlfriend and ends up dealing with the movement in brand new environments. Beginning missions happen in space and involve moving from ship to ship during the story. Having Issac move through space gives players the feeling of openness, choice and lonliness. When the action moves planetside, that feeling is intensified by the backwater ice planet where most of the action occurs.
Tau Volantis is literally a frozen wasteland trapped in time. Blowing snowdrifts, rocky cliffs and twisty paths hide enemies well and do give a sense of tension when you can’t see what’s coming. The locator, a piece of tech that keeps you on the story path, was helpful when branching caverns had me going in circles.
New enemies lurk on and in the ice ball. Some of the familiar necromorphs return, but new hideous creations are ready to pounce and rip Isaac apart. Much like their previous incarnations, you are never really quite sure if they’re dead until you stomp them into goo.
Do stomp them like you are dancing. While many aliens will drop loot after being shot, some are still hiding ammo or components within their shells and you can only find it by beating a dead corpse. Yes, there is a lot of loot to be found, but you’ll use it along the way to stay alive and also craft new weapons and supplies.
The crafting element is new, but doesn’t really feel enjoyable. The idea is to collect components as you go, build weapons from the ground up, then augment them with new, deadly components. Don’t want to design your own? Blueprints will help you get basic and advanced weaponry without mixing and matching components.
Once I obtained a gun I was happy with, crafting really became an afterthought. Although I did upgrade damage, rate of fire, clip size and reload ability, I never did any more tweaking to them. Components were used to max out my armor’s capabilities, and create health and ammo packs. For most of the game, I only visited the workbench to dump off items I didn’t want to carry anymore. Just didn’t feel the need or desire to build a weapon for building’s sake.
The action is intense and satisfying. Waves of enemies try to overrun your position and it always seems like there was one or two monsters lurking behind you. Dead necromorphs explode into a shower of limbs and ichor. Like the previous games, shooting off the limbs works much faster than blasting away at their bodies.
Big boss monsters are also on tap and one particular battle was gross and funny. I don’t know if it was meant to be that way, but I was laughing through parts of that mission.
Optional missions offer new challenges and new loot packs. They are nice diversions to the main story, yet feel like they are a part of the overall success. Text and audio logs found along the way also do a nice job of filling in the blanks in the story and help players understand what is happens and why.
Isaac gets some help this time in the form of a co-op player, John Carver. Carver is a drop-in/drop-out character that a second player can control, but is also around during the solo adventure. He has his own story, background and motivations, but those can only be truly explored by playing as Carver.
There are also co-op only areas that are locked off if you are doing the solo mission. These areas offer specific missions that must be done by two and get a little into the minds of each character. Players can support and revive each other without making it seem like everyone is only out for himself or herself.
One important thought – play with someone who plays like you. The experience will be much better if you find a second player has a similar style to your own. Otherwise, one player will be creeping along, examining everything while the other charges into another room. It isn’t as much fun, so pick your co-op buddy carefully.
“Dead Space 3” was selected on many lists as a “most anticipated horror game for 2013.” And while the franchise has been considered one of the finest horror games, this title doesn’t quite reach that pinnacle.
There are a couple of factors to consider. Players may be used to seeing necromorphs, so those horrific visions that filled our nightmares after a gaming session may actually be what we expect to see now. Our minds have been conditioned to twisted bodies and unearthly sounds so we don’t get the fright factor we used to.
Also, the franchise story is wrapping up, and I appreciated the development team doing a great job of tying up all the loose ends, the quest for those answers got in the way of just having horror for horror sake. Sure, there are some “jump out of the dark” moments that startle, but nothing scary like what I experienced in “Dead Space” and “Dead Space 2.”
Overall, “Dead Space 3” was a very good finale for the story of Isaac and the alien Markers. There are excellent moments that hook you emotionally and the combat is fun. While the horror factor is unintentionally dialed down due to familiarity, there is still a lot to love about this final (?) chapter.
“Dead Space 3” is available now in North America, February 7 in Australia and February 8 in Europe. It can be played on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC. It is rated M for Mature due to blood and gore, intense violence, strong language. This review was done with a provided PS3 version of the Limited Edition “Dead Space 3.”
“Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt” offers “Borderlands 2” players another jolt in the wacky, sarcastic and frankly twisted world of Pandora.
The third DLC for the science fiction shooter focuses on its namesake, Sir Hammerlock. You remember him. Cyborg big game hunter who was trying to write a book in the original title? He always reminded me of Van Pelt from “Jumanji” with the big hat and even bigger moustache.
The action takes place on a separate continent called Aegrus, a mix of mountain, swamp land, and a few caves. Upon arrival, you get the immediate idea that this is the land that Pandora forgot. Giant globes hover in the sky; creatures on spindly legs tower over the terrain – these unique creatures are powerful and will test your skills.
In fact, if you haven’t hit level 40 or higher, you may want to hold off venturing here. Oh, and if you haven’t completed the main mission in “Borderlands 2,” don’t go here yet. There are spoilers all over the place.
Hammerlock has invited you here for a chance to hunt these new creatures and possibly bag a trophy or two. Unbeknownst to either of you, a Handsome Jack fanboy, Professor Nakayama, is also here and cooking up a scheme that could shake Pandora to its core.
In great “Borderlands” fashion, Nakayama has some of the best lines in the franchise. Wanting desperately to be treated as an archenemy, he goes through many clichéd lines and actions before realizing he’s only helping you out, which leads to his wonderful freak out moments. He provides some well-placed and well-written humor in this episode.
Nakayama has enlisted the aid of savages from the land to challenge you. These are not your normal bandits or psychos. They usually have a witch doctor in their group who will buff all other savages on the field of combat, increasing their difficulty level, their attack strength and changing their form. This all occurs while instantaneously healing everyone (except you).
So while you are whittling down the bad guys, the witch doctor will bring them back to full health AND also give them more power. Needless to say, kill the witch doctor first. It also appears that the empowerment process occurs more frequently if there is more than one witch doctor in the area.
The battles with the savages are some of the toughest you’ll ever face on Pandora. They actually act like they understand tactics with flanking maneuvers and rush moves. And the witch doctors don’t go down easy, which means NOBODY goes down easy.
Of course, there are some unique weapons available as well and a new vehicle – an air boat – which I felt was difficult to use and barely necessary. You could walk to any location where you could use the air boat.
The quests are what you’d expect from a big game hunt – kill rare creatures, find lairs of creatures, etc. The main mission of battling Nakayama takes you all over the continent and some of those missions are difficult to find. The continent is a rather large place, but much of it isn’t utilized other than window dressing.
Overall, “Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt” is worth playing if you (a) have completed the main mission from “Borderlands 2”, (b) think the enemies in other missions have gotten too easy, and (c) like laughing at well-written dialog.
Prepare to die as you learn new tactics to take on the myriad of new enemies and creatures. And have lots of money for resurrections and ammo. But it is very enjoyable and is a nice addition to Pandora and a good place to get new loot.
“Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt” is available now for purchase as a DLC for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Players who have the Season Pass can get it automatically without making another purchase. It does require “Borderlands 2” to play.