Category Archives: Reviews

Star Trek Review – Beam Me The Hell Out of Here!

star_trek_review

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Digital Extremes
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Release Date: April 23, 2013
ESRB Rating: Teen

Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way. I’m not a Trekkie. I don’t dislike Star Trek. I’ve just never been a fan. I grew up in the TV show rerun era. I’ve seen most of the movies. They range from really good to laughably bad. J.J. Abrams pulled off a miracle in rebooting Star Trek while tying it into the original universe. It was fantastic. It was so successful that a sequel movie was a no-brainer. It also made sense to produce a video game based on the rebooted hit. I just wish the game was as successful as its movie inspiration.

The game opens with a rather nondescript title screen, which foreshadows things to come. But that Star Trek theme played and anticipation washed over me. You sucker. Movie licensed games suck, right? This one has to be different. It’s Star Trek. Production teams from the movies assisted with the creation of this game in order to create an authentic Star Trek experience. It’s fair to say the production values should have been much higher.

Aliens: Colonial Marines Review – I’m Having Chest Pains

Aliens: Colonial Marines

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Gearbox Software (supposedly), Demiurge Studios, Nerve Software, TimeGate Studios
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: February 12, 2013
ESRB Rating: Mature

The Aliens franchise has suffered through ups and downs in movies and video games over the years. It seems more down than ever after Aliens: Colonial Marines. Gearbox has been involved with picking up the developmental wreckage of two games in recent years. Duke Nukem Forever landed with a resounding thud, but Aliens: CM was to be the triumphant return of the Aliens franchise shepherded by Gearbox. It’s a good thing they still have Borderlands…

The whole concept seems like a no-brainer. There isn’t a better jump on point than following up on the events of Aliens (the second movie.) We can just pretend the garbage occurring after it never happened. The USCM aboard the USS Sephora receive a distress call from the USS Sulaco orbiting LV-426 seventeen weeks after the events of Aliens. The marines sent to investigate find the Sulaco infested with xenomorphs born of USMC hosts and the Weyland-Yutani Corporation at the forefront of the conspiracy. Fighting breaks out between the two sides and both the Sulaco and Sephora are destroyed with our marine heroes escaping to Hadley’s Hope on LV-426. Things sound pretty good so far, but it’s all in the execution and that kills any good faith in this project.

Crysis 3 Review – The Invisible Iron Man

Crysis 3

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: EA
Developer: Crytek
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: February 19, 2013
ESRB Rating: Mature

It must be hard for developers to go into a meeting and ask themselves, “How do we make a first-person shooter that isn’t Call of Duty or Halo and still manage to separate itself from the rest?” Such is the life in a console generation inundated with shooters. First and third-person shooters are being churned out at astounding rates and they all range from the mundane “Me Too” underachievers to the sterling “Look At Me” overachievers. Where in all of this does Crysis 3 lie? The short answer is somewhere in between.

It’s easy to talk about Crysis 3’s strength. It is a strength that Crytek has leaned on throughout the series. Using CryEngine 3, Crysis 3 is a nothing short of brilliant when it comes to looks alone. It is blessed with some of the slickest visuals seen this generation. From top to bottom, Crysis 3 has it going on. Cloaking, explosion, lighting, and water effects dazzle. Character models and animations, especially facial, are vastly improved. But, the environments, that is where Crysis 3 really excels. Crytek took the previous setting of a New York City under siege to a completely new level. This time, our Nanosuited supersoldier will run, jump, and stalk prey in a wonderfully designed dilapidated New York City overgrown with verdant flora, giving it a whole new meaning to urban jungle. Strands of waist-high grass wave in the breeze. Derelict buildings are infested with vegetation. Swamps have replaced asphalt. Crysis 3 takes from its past and brings the exotic levels back to a more open-world sandbox and each level is impressive in its own right. Few games have managed to stay as consistently good looking as Crysis has.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Review: Let This Call Go To Voicemail

blackops2_boxart

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Genre: Modern Warfare FPS… Again
Release Date: November 13, 2012
ESRB Rating: Mature

The Call of Duty franchise practically prints money for Activision shareholders. It is for this reason that an annual release in November is as certain as Thanksgiving. 2012 marked Treyarch’s turn in the development driver seat and they are looking to show that they aren’t just the Call of Duty “B-Team.” Unfortunately, Call of Duty: Black Ops II falls short of the lofty expectations set forth by the stellar World at War and the original Black Ops.

Many gamers will jump right into multiplayer first. Why not start with arguably the most important feature of Call of Duty? I’m not even sure disappointment is the right descriptor to use. Underwhelming seems fitting. It is mostly the same basic multiplayer and Treyarch really didn’t do much to innovate or move this mode forward like they tried to do with the campaign in any way, which I’ll get to in a moment. For those okay with forking out dollars for status quo, you’ll likely feel right at home and can live with the incremental changes that plague every release of Call of Duty going back to the first Modern Warfare. I can’t live with status quo when it comes to this billion dollar franchise. It always feels like I’ve been there and done that.

The multiplayer game modes are mostly unchanged with a minor addition called Hardpoint, a King of the Hill-style mode. Everything else is present and accounted for. You can choose to play in a new League Play option, but I found every match I participated in to be full of lag. I can only assume that is because there are less people playing those modes and the game is going to match you up with anyone it can find in the appropriate division you are in. My biggest complaint when it comes to game modes is the lack of hardcore. The game should ship with a version of hardcore for all game modes. Yet, like previous releases, the hardcore modes are limited. These kinds of things should be included when the game ships.

What seems to bother me the most about multiplayer is a subtle change that has occurred I admit is nothing short of conspiracy theory. I’m not a big conspiracy theorist but, the multiplayer in BO2 feels as if it has been designed to restrict the intangibles that appeal to the hardcore CoD gamer, thereby making the game more accessible to the average gamer, thereby giving everyone an even playing field. What happened to honing skills to become competitive? What happened to learning to adapt and improvise based on things like connectivity, other gamers’ skills, and loadouts? The multiplayer now reeks of rewarding mediocrity and bad connections like handing out participation awards in sports. It isn’t about winning or losing anymore. It is about making sure that even the weakest of links are satisfied enough with their experience enough that they’ll keep coming back.

You can read the rest of this review at Warp Zoned.

Halo 4 Xbox 360 Review – A Shadow of its Former Self

Halo 4 box

Publisher:  Microsoft Game Studios
Developer:  343 Industries
Release Date: November 6th, 2012
Platform: Xbox 360
ESRB:  M – Mature

Many people considered Halo 4 to be the biggest release of the year.  The kickstarter for a new trilogy featuring the return of Master Chief and the introduction of the Forerunners as a new main enemy, Halo 4 begins where Halo 3 left off.  The Chief and his AI companion, Cortana, are once again thrown into action when the crippled frigate Forward Unto Dawn encounters a mysterious Forerunner shield world.  Waking up to a fight is nothing new for Spartan-117, but this battle has more than a few new twists.

The transfer of the Halo franchise to 343 Industries has been the subject of hot debate since before the new Reclaimer Trilogy was even announced.  Many longtime fans were dubious about the infant developer’s ability to carry on the legacy and retain the high quality of classic Halo titles.  Others have expressed their unyielding faith in 343 for years.  So where does this new title fall?  Is it the masterpiece of game design that we all hoped for, or the lackluster shell of what it could have been?

XCOM: Enemy Unknown PC Review – “They mostly come at night… Mostly…”

XCOM Enemy Unknown Box Art

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Firaxis Games
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: 12th October, 2012
ESRB: M – Mature

Aliens, UFO’s, big guns, secret bases, and government cover ups. Sounds like Mulder and Scully’s wet dream, but what we actually have here is Firaxis Games’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown and a serious contender for strategy game of the year.

Dragon’s Dogma Xbox 360 Review – Mayhap Capcom Knows Aught of the WRPG?

dragonsdogmabox

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Genre: Roleplaying
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: May 22, 2012
ESRB: M – Mature

The griffin swoops down on us and I launch myself at it, clinging to a talon, hanging on for dear life as it beats its wings, taking us higher and higher into the sky. I manage to compose myself enough to scramble up its leg toward its back. With one hand, I fumble for my sword, almost losing my grip with the other. I make the mistake of looking down and I see the ground far below me, baiting me to leap knowing full well the end result of that scenario.

I right myself and rear back with my sword and stab as hard as I can. The griffin bucks and roars from the pain. Far below, my Pawn finishes casting a spell that engulfs the griffin in flames, charring its feathers and flesh, filling my nostrils with a putrid smell of overgrown roasted fowl. We plummet towards the earth like a stone. Just as the griffin crashes into the ground, I leap for safety. I’m exhausted, my stamina completely drained, but the battle isn’t finished yet. I lock eyes with this monstrosity one last time as I raise my blade to deliver the killing blow.

Such is the tale of Seria the Arisen and her Pawn, Nalavara.

FIFA 13 Xbox 360 Review- Fever Pitch or Bore Draw?

_-FIFA-13-Xbox-360-_

Publisher:  Electronic Arts
Developer:  EA Canada
Release Date:  September 25, 2012 (North America) September 28, 2012 (Europe)
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, PS2, PlayStation Vita,  Nintendo 3DS (reviewed on Xbox 360)
ESRB:  E

FIFA 12 was billed as a major step forward for the series, with mixed results. The online modes were a joy to play but it was somewhat tempered by the unwieldy Impact Engine and stuttering servers. EA have promised to refine everything that was wrong with FIFA 12. What comes out of it as a game that doesn’t revolutionise the series but takes a few steps backwards in some departments to take a few bigger strides elsewhere.

Torchlight II PC Review – Diablo’s Little Brother?

Torchlight II

Publisher: Runic Games
Developer: Runic Games
Platforms: PC , Mac (Release date TBC)
Release Date: September 20th, 2012
ESRB: T – Teen

After nearly three years of waiting, Runic Games have finally released the sequel to their dungeon crawling, hack and slash adventure Torchlight. Having received much criticism from fans and journalists alike due to the lack of multiplayer in the original game, Runic have been under a lot of pressure with Torchlight 2 to create the co-op experience the fans were waiting for. Unfortunately, this release has come in the shadow of Torchlight’s long lost (but not forgotten) big brother… Diablo!

You can’t review Torchlight 2 without mentioning the word Diablo. It can’t be done. There is a perfectly understandable reason for this which I will endeavour to explain: Diablo was co-developed by Eric and Max Schaefer whilst working for Blizzard Software. The Schaefer’s then left Blizzard for whatever reason and joined forces with Travis Baldree (designer of Fate) and made Runic Games. It was then that they decided to make their own dungeon crawler game and thus Torchlight was born. It is no secret that the two games share a long standing rivalry but having played both, which one is better?

Kirby’s Dream Collection Wii Review – A Token From a Lost Era

Kirbys-Dream-Collection

Publisher:  Nintendo
Developer:  HAL Laboratories
Release Date:  September 16, 2012
Platform:  Wii
ESRB:  E 10+

Several months ago, Nintendo announced plans for a collection of classic Kirby games to be released in honor of the 20th anniversary of the franchise, which made its first appearance on the Gameboy in August of 1992.  Since then, our little pink hero has been on plenty of adventures on almost every Nintendo system released to date.  Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Kirby’s Return to Dream Land have seen recent success on the Wii, and hopefully we will one day get a Kirby 3DS title to round off the series.

Kirby has aged relatively well, despite never reaching the staggering success of other famous Nintendo franchises.  And there’s nothing like an anniversary collection to remind nostalgia junkies how fun the classics can be.  Kirby’s Dream Collection contains Kirby’s Dream Land (Gameboy), Kirby’s Adventure (NES), Kirby’s Dream Land 2 (Gameboy), Kirby’s Dream Land 3 (SNES), Kirby 64:  The Crystal Shards (N64), and Kirby Super Star, which includes a variety of mini-games.  Also on the game disc are specially made challenge stages and an interactive series timeline.   The Special Edition collection also includes a compilation soundtrack CD and a small “celebration book” dedicated to Kirby’s evolution and impact throughout the years.