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REVIEW - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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REVIEW - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers_ A Tale of Two Sons - Brothers Review 1

Brothers follows the trend of games like The Last of Us and Journey, where the emphasis is not so much on the "game" but the experience, It's an amazing achievement in story telling and it's all done without any dialogue or even a single line of text. It can easily be argued whether or not this is a game per se, but one thing is for certain you don't want to miss out on this one.

Yay for option screens

The game's mechanics are extremely easy to wrap your head around, however it's in the execution that they become dynamic and essentially become the dialogue. Each character is controlled individually using the analog sticks while the left and right trigger correspond to each characters interaction with the environment. The interactive elements change depending on which brother you are controlling. For example, you reach a point in the game where something as simplistic as coming across a stray cat gives separate outcomes; the older brother causes the cat to hiss and claw, while the younger brother is the polar opposite. It's these series of events that continue to cascade into an extremely well told story that, ironically, would have been given a disservice through dialogue.

You'll be fending off a horde of hungry wolves while also trying to keep your brother close behind

Brothers gets dark and morbid as the game progresses; unapologetically so. It goes hand in hand with the game mechanics as you'll notice if you make it to the bitter end. I completed the game in one sitting of about 3-4 hours and if you give it a chance I recommend you do the same. The puzzles aren't puzzles in the usual sense, they are more an exercise in dexterity but equally as rewarding without being too punishing. Picture yourself counting backwards from 100 in your head while verbally reciting the alphabet two letters at a time; YouTube would be so proud. There are secret areas you can find by exploring the branching paths and ultimately earn some achievements; this alone is what make Brothers a game in my opinion.

The scenery and atmosphere are stunning and help set the mood; good and sad.

If you have $15 to spare pick it up on XBLA, PSN, and Steam. It's definitely worth the price of admission and will give a whole new outlook on what is possible of video game storytelling.

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Xbox One's new controller explained...well in a PR way ofcourse

I was lucky enough to get my hands on this beaut at E3 this year and I gotta say, I fucking loved it. The sticks felt looser yet more responsive as I had just played Diablo 3 on 360 and then almost immediately went over to a play Killer Instinct; not the best comparison of course but a comparison none the less. Loved the flat feel and screwless design; it's crazy how much you can take the subtle things for granted.

This video has Xbox Live's Larry Hyrb give a tear down of the outer and inner parts of the new controller you can expect in your shipment of next gen goodness. I have to admit I've been really intrigued by the rumble in the triggers since it's announcement at E3 but none of the games I played showed any sign of it's implementation, or how exactly it could be used.

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REVIEW: MadCatz Modern Warfare 2 Licensed Gamepad for Xbox 360

This past weekend we had a short but sweet Xbox Live session at my apartment the Ask An Enemy offices with some Modern Warfare 2.  My pal Adrian, who lives on the other side of the country in Las Cruces, New Mexico brought down his box, monitor, wireless wi-fi adapter and games, but bearded ass motherfucker forgot the most crucial part of his set up.  His gamepad.  He's made of all sorts of cash now that's he's building missiles or some shit, so he decided it was easier to go buy one than head back home.  'Twas after 9pm and all the good shops were closed so we headed into the belly of the beast, Walmart.  Knowing Infinity Ward had worked with MadCatz, makers of some-shitty-some-not-so-shitty third party peripherals, on some officially licensed gamepads, I thought I'd trick him into buying one recommend he pick one up.  Worked out for the best as I was able to hold onto it and write up a review. Just in case, the band, any of you folks were considering picking one up, don't.  Spend the extra 5 bucks on the official wireless pad.

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REVIEW: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360)

How does one begin to review the biggest triple A title of the year?  Well for starters, you don't.  If you have any idea what the meaning of "time and money well spent" is, you'd have picked up a copy already.  What I'll do instead is share my thought's on what I've experienced so far.  Oh and OMG! OMG! It's fan-fuckin'-tastic.  Slight spoilers ahead if you've not completed Call of Duty 4, otherwise we're golden.  A game that sells 5 million copies in it's first day of release doesn't need much justification, it only makes sharing one's experience more widely acceptable.

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REVIEW: Saw The Video Game (Xbox 360)

Having heard nothing of Saw The Video Game since this years E3 Demo, this K-Mart ad was the first I heard of it actually having a release date. I figured dropping $60 on it would be equivalent to joining the pro-life parade so I stopped by the local GameCrazy and, lucky for me?, they had a copy available on Xbox 360.  I'm not a huge fan of the films but I figured a video game adaptation was ripe with possibilities.  Brash Entertainment originally began working on the game which later sold the rights  to Konami who left development in the hands of Zombie Studios.  What entails is some shitty gameplay mechanics, pointless fetch quests, and an infuriating combat system that fortunately is so pathetic you can use it to your advantage. Terminator Salvation ain't got shit on this.  If you were considering picking this up do yourself a favor, don't.  I rented this and I still wish I could get my 8 bucks back and punch the guy in the face who let me walk out with this in my hand.  I wish the staff of 1UP worked at GameCrazy, but I digress.

The game starts out just like the movies immediately dropping you into one of Jigsaw's puzzles causing you to scramble for the solution in the form a quick time event, without warning or any primer whatsoever.   The immediacy of the situtation definitely helps build tension getting the game started on a high note.  It's after you solve the puzzle and earn your first acheivement that everything starts to barrel downhill and fast.  Early previews had led me to believe the game played out as more of a Dragon's Lair interactive movie type than the generic Silent Hill clone it turns out to be.  You scour an abandoned asylum looking for clues and solving puzzles that, although repeated ad nauseam, are what the game excels at.  Unfortunately when even that element is crippled by the fact that there is little to no sense of accomplishment for solving said puzzles it renders the whole mechanic useless. Countless times I'd go out of my way to find a nail, to pick a lock, only to find a gear to open a box on the other side of the map, that Jigsaw had left me, with schematics I had already found in a room down the hall in plain view, let me catch my breath, repeat that for 8 hours or so and you've got yourself a game, or so Konami thinks.  

You are told early on that you carry the key, sewn into your stomach, that others will need to escape their demise.  It sounds exciting in theory but in execution you soon realize it only serves as a way to artificially extend gameplay beyond the puzzles and justify a $60 purchase.  While wandering around the asylum you'll encounter some nut jobs wearing some very familiar, and overused, head garb looking for the key.  These segments in the game are eerily reminiscent of what the early Silent Hill games excelled at which was causing tension and fear by not allowing you to control your character in a manner that actually made any sense.   The combat system is so unresponsive you'd think the game was based around leading a paraplegic to hope.  Weapons are massively overpowered, that is if you can happen to hit anyone with anything.  Unless your goal is to earn your first kill with each weapon achievement I'd recommend sticking with your bare hands, it'll get you out of anything, even the last boss.  At the same time I'd recommend not playing the game so you can get the I-DIDNT-HAVE-TO-PUT-UP-WITH-8-HOURS-OF-THIS-SHIT-ACHIEVEMENT-BECAUSE-I-DONT-HAVE-A-BLOG-AND-HAVE-BETTER-THINGS-TO-DO-LIKE-HAVE-KIDS or what most people call a life.   

Saw The Video Game had so much potential but it ultimately falls flat.  It suffers the same fate other licensed shovelware does when it comes to pricing.  Just like Wanted: Weapons of Fate, Bourne Conspiracy and shitty games alike before it, Saw would be a acceptable game if it would only hit retail at a lower price point.  By the time it hits the bargain bin people have forgotten and studios have shut down.  If only big publishers like Konami would start a budget line for these types of games I bet you'd see less studios closing down immediately after development and more risks being taken in terms of experimenting with gameplay.  Licensed games already have brand recognition.  I feel sorry for the poor schmuck who picks this up on face value alone. Regardless, Saw II is still my favorite of the 5 films currently out due to it's ability to really capture the essence of how humanity fails to follow simple instructions and allow their emotions to cloud their thought process.  Is it possible for a game to capture this and force you to make decisions that carry the same weight?  Absolutely.  Does Saw accomplish this?  Not in the least.  I couldn't begin to careless about the characters and stories being told and if Konami expects Saw to be the next survival horror franchise to succeed Silent Hill they need to do a massive overhaul of it's combat system or simply remove it altogether.

Screenshots courtesy of 1UP.com

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REVIEW: Halo 3 ODST's Campaign Mode (Xbox 360)

First things first. While ODST is arguably the best, most cohesive story line in the Halo series, it's price point is without a doubt the most obnoxious part of the package. When Bungie first announced ODST at Tokyo Game Show after questionably shelving it's announcement at E3, Halo 3: Recon, as it was known then, was expected to be a 3-4 hour expansion pack. At the time everyone questioned the format be it, DLC or retail disc release, but no one questioned price. There's no reason why Microsoft wouldn't stick a full retail price on it's flagship title, even if it was only an expansion. Well it's out now and it does indeed ask for 3 Jackson's. How does one find value in a, roughly, 6-8 hour campaign, endless Firefight CO-OP mode, and the entire Halo 3 Multiplayer Package on a 2nd disc? It's entirely subjective. If you're a hardcore competitive Halo 3 multiplayer fan more than likely your hard drive and wallet space reflect that and you've played the previously released 20 or so maps to death. How to see any value in the rest of the package from that point of view is difficult. However as someone who only dabbles in competitive multiplayer occasionally but loves campaign and Co-op modes tremendously this a bargain and a half. Handing off the original Halo 3 disc to my girlfriend allows us both to play Halo 3 multiplayer, if she can get away from Modern Warfare, not likely but hey it's an option right. Ok with that out of the way let's get to it.

The Story

As I mentioned before this is definitely Bungie's most cohesive storyline yet. Completely disconnecting itself from the Master Chief as well as the Aribiter's story line allows the gameplay mechanics to change and only for the better. Most importantly this completely removes the need to reference the Flood. You read that correctly, NO FLOOD. Unfortunately, the Flood was the most interesting aspect of the Halo Universe but hands down the most frustrating in terms of gameplay. Let's just leave it at that.

You start off as a Rookie who's drop pod is sent off course after taking an EMP blast from the slipspace created by the Covenant's ship. Remember in Halo 2 when the Master Chief completely wrecked shop on Regret's ship? Yeah this takes place right before that. Technically this should be called Halo 2: ODST, but we'll let Microsoft PR sort that one out. Your pod lands in the streets of New Mombasa and you awaken six hours later to a completely destroyed, darkened, moody, almost noir atmosphere. You come to your senses and discover the Superintendent AI which helps guide you through the city in search of clues. You find multiple beacons scattered about the area which ultimately lead to four distinct playable flashbacks that culminate six hours later flawlessly transitioning into one cohesive linear story. What happened to the city is also explored as a backstory through audio files, reminiscent of Bioshock's audio tapes or via the VISR in an almost graphic novel-esque style. It's a departure from the norm but the results are to be applauded.

The voice acting is delivered by Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, and Alan Tudyk of Firefly and Serenity fame as well as Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica. Delivering the usual cheeseball space marine one liners and well written dialogue lead to a few gut laughs and lend to the experience without taking itself too seriously. You won't find yourself getting too attached to the characters by the end of it. Remember just because it's cohesive doesn't mean it's great.

The Gameplay

Bungie took some risks in gameplay where subtle changes led to drastic results and it definitely paid off. Wanting to create tension the dev team decided to take away the shields and make the player rely on the old school style of acquiring health packs. Luckily this isn't as disastrous as it sounds. You still have a shield, it's just renamed "Stamina". Your underlying health bar is replenished by picking up conveniently placed "opticans" or visiting optican dispensers. If you use cover effectively and can avoid the shit storm of bullets that come with territory you'll rarely find yourself needing to replenish. Where Master Chief is Chuck Norris, you are his fingernail, every bit as efficient just not Chuck Norris proper. Another method of creating tension were the slight tweaks they made to the AI. The Covenant and more specifically, the Hunters, will now follow you into buildings and will not give up until you become room decor. This is even more pronounced in Firefight Mode but that's another review altogether.

As the Rookie your mechanics are more exploring the open world with an occasional firefight lending to the calmer, moodier noir aspect. Marty Mcdonnel, Bungie's audio director, does a fan-fucking-tastic job of differentiating ODST's score from Halo 3's. The mood of the Rookie segments feel almost David Banner-ish. You know in the The Incredible Hulk TV series' end credits where he's hitching himself a ride and the music is creepy yet melodic, yeah that's exactly what I picture every time I hear it. The flashbacks play more like the usual Halo repertoire with the trail from point A to point B connecting with plenty of dead in between.

Removing Master Chief from the picture also removes the ability to dual wield weapons and carry equipment such as bubble shields. There are benefits to playing as a UNSC soldier though and the most prominent, in my opinion, are the two new weapons. The silenced SMG and silenced Handgun. Not only do they sound amazing, they are incredibly powerful and no longer become the "ah shit" weapons but the "Mothafucka Hell Yeah" weapons. Headshots are a breeze to accomplish with the handgun. The new VISR mode is also a plus however, alot like Batman Arkham Asylum and my complusive tendencies to not leave any inch of space undiscovered, I found myself almost always leaving the VISR on and not really basking in the mood of New Mombasa's streets. Another gripe I have is that the open world part of the game screams to be played in stealth yet Halo's conventions have always been to have every single enemy know your exact location the second you breathe down the back of any Covenant patrolling the streets, even if they are a block away they all go crazy for Cocoa Puffs.

The Conclusion

Bungie took some risks and experimented with open world elements that ultimately worked out for the best. One can argue that the price is a bit steep, and judging by my friends list I don't see myself enjoying Firefight mode anytime soon at least not in co-op, but when I do I'll be sure to write it up here. As it stands, the roughly 8 hour experience I got from the campaign along with all the map packs I've been meaning to catch up on in competitive multiplayer mode are more than enough to justify the purchase. Personally this is how I wish the original Halo 3 played out. The pacing is on par with the best of them and no more tree-like creatures talking gibberish. Some mysteries are best kept out of direct sight. I can't wait to see what Bungie does with Halo: Reach. Hopefully they learn from ODST and continue along the same design choices. Speaking of Reach, as Bungie promised at this years E3 the beta for Reach's Multiplayer, or reminder at least is also included with ODST which will make the rounds in 2010. Nice little stocking stuffer. Firefight Mode, here I come.

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REVIEW: Batman Arkham Asylum (PS3, Xbox 360, and as of this post PC)

Yeah, don't wanna waste anymore of your time buy it. NOW!! The video below is there simply to pass the time as you go and check your wallet, credit card balance, etc. GO! Oh wait! If you like added realism and physics and have the video card to process such kickass-ness, get the PC version which is available as of today. Ok now go!

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REVIEW: Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360)


I should mention that my rating of this game should include trading in your copy of Gears of War 1 towards Gears of War 2, even if all you get is a dollar, you'll get more from that dollar than anything you'd get from going back to Gears 1.


Epic Games accomplished many a milestone with Gears of War on Xbox 360.  The marketing and hype were both massive and brilliant, anyone remember the "Mad World" ad campaign during the finals days of countdown towards Emergence Day, Epic's own moniker for the release date.  Now, two years to the date Epic drops Gears of War 2 on the masses.  How does it hold up?  Read on and find out.     

The Story

Gears of War brought with it plenty of hype and we were marketed promised a story penned by some highly regarded writers in the business and AAA voice overs that delivered the epic tale of Sera, a planet whose inhabitants are on the brink of total annihilation from the Locust Horde and the camaraderie of Delta Squad, the unit tasked with bringing down the Locust infestation once and for all.  What we ended up with was the equivalent of it's standout line in dialogue "Eat shit and die!".   Gears of War 2 should not only satisfy brainless jocks who ignore story for steroids, but it's busting at the seams with visceral enjoyment, hence the "Bigger, Better and More Badass!" slogan Epic or more specifically Cliff Blezenski, Lead Designer of the Gears series, will undoubtedly never live down. 

This time around Delta Squad is tasked with taking the fight directly to the Locust, after discovering the Light Mass Bomb they detonated at the end of the original Gears of War didn't really do the job as was intended.  The Locust discover ways to sink entire cities and when Jacinto, the last remaining haven for humans is next on the list, you discover that $60 gets you admission to the roller coaster that is, kickass human salvation.

Epic does a better job of fully immersing you in the world and it's characters, more so if you've played the original, however most of those attempts still fall flat.  The situation in which Dom is looking for his wife Maria could not have been more poorly executed.  The fact that immediately after Dom finds her is not justified in anyway nor does anyone in Delta Squad even acknowledge what just happened, breaks the immersion and any emotional effect they had worked so hard to build up.  Scattered through out the different areas are items, ranging from cog tags to documents detailing a bit of the back story.  Cliff promised the beloved Carmine would return in the sequel though many wondered how as he basically took a bullet between the eyes.  It's not surprising how they pull it off but the curse comes back with him and veterans of the game will appreciate the effort.  You also can't help but feel sorry for the guy. 

As with most forms of entertainment, Gears 1 had it's fair share of political allusion, more so if you went in looking for it but Gears 2 doesn't hold back and brings it in buckets, though never heavy handed.  References to weapons of mass destruction and taking the fight to them before they can deal any damage to us.  Sounds familiar doesn't it.

For a game heavily based on gameplay the story is acceptable but nowhere near the quality Microsoft or Epic undoubtedly wish it was.



Gameplay

Let me start off by saying anyone who loves the worm level.  Fuck you!  There's nothing exciting about that chapter aside from reaching the end and finding out it's finally over.

Where Gears 1 shined, Gears 2 steals the show, and then some.  The cover mechanic or stop and pop gameplay as Cliff refers to it, is still slightly buggy, you'll still find yourself sticking to cover unintentionally, but it's not as bad as it was originally.  Epic seems to have to taken a page from Valve's playbook with the achievement tracker, so that you can get an idea of just how much closer you are to that Seriously 2.0 achievement.  I'm a bit of a completionist, so this added feature is key in my book.  Immediately upon inserting the disc and starting up the game you'll unlock some multiplayer skins based on any achievements you gained in Gears 1, such as defeating General Raam on Insane.  Both my pal T-Dawg and I knocked that sucker out Bad Boys style 2 years ago.

The Hammerburst Rifle has been rebuilt and only for the better.  It now fires off single shots instead of bursts and gives a slight zoom which comes in handy.  Some new weapons have been added to the arsenal such as the Mulcher and the Mortar ala Halo 3's weapon rip system, sans the rip,  you can now carry a third, quite powerful, yet cumbersome weapon.  The Mortar has a tricky learning curve to it, that, once mastered, and combined with active reload, can deal some massive damage.  In the pistols category we get the addition of the Gorgon Pistol.  It's ability to take out drones in two shots is countered only by it's 2 second delay between bursts which can quickly lead to a "Load last checkpoint" screen if you're aim is a little on the sloppy side.

The Lancer, ofcourse, is back and maybe it's just me, but I've noticed a slight rhythm to the recoil that can be used to you're advantage in campaign mode but for obvious reasons not in multiplayer.  Your first shot will always stun the Locust, however if you keep the right trigger pressed down every subsequent shot will shift your aim up ever so slightly causing less damage and wasting precious ammo, so it's best to stun them with the first shot, then immediately let go of the right trigger, slightly adjust your aim and blast away again.  Epic also drastically changed the angle of aiming from the hip so that blindfiring no longer lands in the center of the screen, intentionally slowing the action down to minimize Rambo-ing and keeping to the elemental stop and pop gameplay.

The massive on-rail segments that help mix up the action and crush any merits Gears 1 received, in terms of battles and boss encounters, prove downright cheap and unbelievably frustrating on the higher difficulties.  Where on casual you absorb damage to no end, on insane you can't so much as wave hello to the Locusts without the bright red crimson logo appearing instantly.  The on-foot encounters tend to be much more enjoyable from my experience until they throw in the equivalent of the lambent wretches from the prequel, the tickers.  These little bastards self detonate, take you out from what seems like an unfair distance, and cause some infuriating controller hurling moments.  Again, they feel CHEAP, with a double caps lock C for COCKSUCKERS.  The animations simply do not allow enough of a margin for error.  If you dedicate yourself to a grenade launch, execution or reload you better make sure your timing is dead on or your blood will boil with fury after successive attempts with no progress.  At first I was floored with Epic's ability to accommodate two difficulty settings at once.  In other words I could play on Insane while my not so kickass friend could play on casual.  Come to find out that's where the "down but not out" element comes into play.  If you play on insane you can't take nearly as much damage as your Life Goes On costar, but if you go down you can crawl away and hope your buddy makes it to you in time.  All together now.  CHEAP.

Do yourself a favor and go through your initial playthrough on Normal as I did.  I didn't so much as raise my voice, save for a "FUCK YEAH" here and there followed by a fist in the air all hair metal like.

I'll save my thoughts on multiplayer for a later write up but will simply mention that Epic's supreme reign in the bot world has finally been brought into the Gears realm.  Yes, all multiplayer modes now support bots, except for Horde Mode, and they can't be commended enough for it.  The AI in the Unreal series was so unbelievably well implemented that gamers were dumbfounded when Gears 1 failed to deliver the component.  However, Gears of War 2 all the more justifies its existence for it and lends credit to the fact that this is more than Gears 1.5 but more so the definitive Gears of War package.  Try going back to Gears of War 1 after playing this.  I'm sure it'll be less than weaksauce and just absolutely pale in comparison.  All five original the good ones maps from Gears 1 are included out of the box.  Check out this video of them side by side. 



Sound and Graphics

The main reason Gears of War 2 didn't hit home with me when it was first announced back at GDC was that I honestly believed Epic could not have possibly done anything new with the franchise.  I'd call that ignorance.  Epic has tightened up the visuals, textures are cleaner and pop in is near impossible to notice.  The infamous meat cube demonstration actually makes sense now.  Although cover is not fully destructible, with slugs chipping away and passing right above your head, maneuvering about the environment to avoid the load screen gives it more of that platformy feel Cliff has always alluded to. 

The weapons have such a visceral effect theres no doubt Epic has nailed down, in  simplest terms, how to point and shoot your weapon and make that connection just click.  If you don't own a surround sound system, get one, if you do, crank it.  Fuck the neighbors.  You will not regret it.  Halo 3's assault rifle can't hold a candle to the Lancer's loud ass, Locust shredding badassery.

Epic borrows some good ideas from Kojima Production's Metal Gear Solid series by now allowing us to pause cutscenes as well as use the enemy as a shield.  Before when you would down an enemy you could only curbstomp them.  Now there are three separate options assigned to A for using enemy as shied, X for the good ol' curbstomp,  and depending on what weapon you have equipped, B for an extended execution.

If there were ever any hints that Cliff was a huge fan of the Resident Evil 4/Survival Horror genre, they couldn't be more obvious than they are in this installment.  From the battle on the gunboat to the visually haunting military base chapter.  Visuals and audio by no means take a back seat here.  They are front and center, just waiting to change that dial at a moments notice.   
 
The Conclusion

Epic has gone above and beyond my expectations.  Aside from the story, which is absolute FAIL, Gears of Wars 2 makes no excuses for gimping the original of the fully robust feature set included in this sequel.  In fact I feel it even makes up for the abortion of a level they included in the Games For Windows re-release.  I can't imagine for a second ever going back to Gears 1 except to mock and belittle it.  Massive battles, and an on-rails final segment that will leave you feeling almost God-like, is plenty to fill my cup 'til it's time to enlist with Delta Squad once again.

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This Holiday's Releases in a Nutshell



I had a friend of mine message me this morning asking what would be a good game to pick up besides the obvious Gears of War 2.  I love questions like this, yet at the the same time over text it's almost impossible to answer something like this, so I gave a simple response to each of his choices and I thought I would post them here.  These are based on what I've heard since I personally haven't played any of these games yet, I'm usually all over this shit but I was raped by my TV and have yet to recover fully, hence the shortage in reviews.  So here we go.  (Xbox 360 only, although these are multiplatform releases he doesn't own a PS3, otherwise Resistance 2, LittleBigPlanet would be obvious.)


Mirror's Edge is short but undeniably slick in it's presentation.  Gameplay is lots of trial and error.  Refreshing.

Left 4 Dead is truly only as good as the people you play it with.  

Fallout 3 is another 40 hour Oblivion with guns, it's no FPS but it's definitely worth the trek.

Call of Duty: World at War will kick some ass only after you finish the single player campaign.  Nazi Zombies FTW!! oh yeah online co-op.

Dead Space is Resident Evil + BioShock but done well.  

Far Cry 2 is Crackdown without the super powers, realistic visuals and questionable/frustrating wear of gun mechanics.  super robust map editor for multiplayer.

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe.  Mortal Kombat with Batman.

I'll dig into them all later and post some reviews as I get to them.  Zombie Strippers = absolute FAIL!  Trust me on this one.



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REVIEW: Braid on Xbox Live Arcade (Xbox 360)

Also posted over at Bitmob.com headed by none other that Dan "Shoe" Hsu and other EGM greats. Check them out.

Braid

I wouldn't shoot a Vietnamese guy without reason nor would I stab a scientologist for being insane.  I like knowing who my enemies are and why they are my enemies.  There has to be some justification for why I need to lay these guys down and not just being told "this is your enemy, attack" as is the formula for just about any FPS thats not good *coughArea51cough*.  Braid is a completely different story though, and for once I don't mind bouncing off the heads of little cowardly lion looking heads.  What the fuck are these things?  I don't know and I don't care.  The only real enemy in this game is yourself.  You'll find out why in a bit.  I think I may have analyzed it a bit more than I really needed to, but so is life.  Read on.

The Story

Many gaming sites, including 1UP, have called this game pretentious.  There's some merit in that slight dig but Braid does have an interesting story none the less.  You will no doubt get what's going on within the first minute of gameplay however, it's how the story unfolds that makes it all worth your while.  Can video games be viewed as art?  To me an artist is someone who creates a work, whether it be in the form of music, interactive media, film or even art itself, that is then made available for others to consume and share their reactions and experiences of the piece.  Braid is an interesting work of art.  Artists tend to use their talents as an outlet to vent or to tell a story, from anything like using lies to tell the truth to a simple poem about a trip to Six Flags with a significant other.  Braid pushes the boundaries of what to expect from a story in a video game by making the story so self referential that the game could do without it and still stand alone on the merits of the gameplay itself and vice versa.  I feel as tho Jonathan Blow, the developer,  has crafted Braid as a means to express regret and find closure to a relationship gone sour.  The connection between the story and gameplay, to me, is more symbolic than it is to actually give meaning to why you are where you are and doing what you are doing.  Books are laid out before you prior to entering any of the levels, describing and setting an overall mood for the world you are about to explore.  Upon reaching the end of each world you come to a castle in which you are told "Sorry but the princess is in another castle".  Sound familiar, well it should because it's an obvious nod to the king of all platformers, Super Mario Brothers, yet all the same referring to the absence of the story's "princess".  As I mentioned before the story and gameplay can each hold their own so it's nice to know that the story can be totally ignored by simply walking past the books, incase you prefer your EMO in your Postal Service records rather than your video games.



The Gameplay

Try to remember everything you learned from Super Mario Brothers, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and the mistakes you make in everyday life, now put them all in blender and watch 'em spin 'round to a beautiful oblivion.  What do you get? A rendezvous and now I'm through with you.  Seriously tho, much of the symbolism I get from Braid comes entirely from the gameplay.  Every level with in a world consists of finding the proper way to retrieve a piece or pieces of the bigger puzzle.  Much like life, it throws you a problem and assumes you're willing and capable of solving it with no tutorial whatsoever and nothing but your wits and ability to learn from your mistakes.  In a sense, think of the story as a friend conveying his problems and the gameplay as him saying "if only I could turn back time."  To focus strictly on the gameplay for a sec, you soon realize that the manipulation of time is the core of the game.  Pressing X will allow you to rewind time up to the point to which you originally entered the room.  Pressing the left trigger/left bumper or right trigger/right bumper allows you to change the rewind and forward speed respectively.  As with almost any platformer, unless you're CAPCOM, jump is mapped to A.  You may notice you start off in World 2 and if you can overcome the times when you feel like you are staring at the wall, the ending will explain and more than make up for it.  You'll find yourself at times thinking that it's impossible to reach that last puzzle piece but believe me you will kick yourself in the ass for not having figured it out sooner.  If you get to a point where you think "oh I just need to come back later after I unlock the double jump ability, or another time power" then invest your hard earned cash in making your own time machine to get back the time you spent playing this.  It will make you feel stupid, but make you love it all the same.

Don't let anyone tell you differently, this is a platformer end of story.  Timing is essential, you bounce off of your enemie's heads to kill them and also to help you reach higher ground.  Fiery and bottomless pits, wannabe goombas and fireball canons are here in spades.   The game even does boss battles, and they are anything but conventional.  As with every single Live Arcade title there is a demo available.  Try it out and see what you think.  Don't let the first couple of puzzle pieces trick you tho, later in the game your patience will be tested.  The further I got the more I wanted to play.  To avoid spoiler territory yet still reference the gameplay you'll encounter later in the game, I'll only say the following: I'm sure that from the moment in which you open that palm sized case, look her square in the eye, and flashes of all the memories those sweet innocent hazel eyes have shared with you, to simply waiting for that scrambled thought to become a coherent audible one, is represented and implemented flawlessly.  Like I said, EMOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!  But for you macho ass YOU-WOMAN-ME-FUCK bastards, skip the story.

Graphics and Sound

The art style is simply fantastic.  After you acquire all the puzzle pieces you can go back and put all the puzzles together to form some rather interesting works of art.  I won't let Blow of the hook for his choice in character design tho.   Tim,  the protagonist, looks like the love child of Carrot Top and an english muffin with grape jelly.  I constantly ran him into fireballs and fiery pits simply out of spite.  If Braid was a horrible game I'd be ripping on poor old Tim for years to come.  Lucky for you Tim,  Braid is FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC!  I'll have some tea and crumpets with you anyday.  You buttfaced fuck. 
 
 

Imagine yourself kicking it with Delores O'Riordan of The Cranberries, while she's yodeling away in one of those outdoor showers set in the middle of a huge hilly dark green grassy field, overcast, yet sunny in the far off distance, like those Ricolla cough drop commercials.  Now just take out the cough drop dudes and that's the soundtrack for you.  Relaxing, right?  Then you remember you're playing as Tim and you just wanna set all english muffin making factories ablaze.  FUCK THIS GUY.  Why couldn't I be the cute little dinosaur.

The Conclusion

Play it.  It's Sick.

Braid is available on XBLA for 1200 Microsoft Points, was developed by Number None Inc. and published by Microsoft.  All screenshots courtesy of 1up.com.  Until I setup my screenshot device I'm hoping they don't mind.  Rumor has it the PS3 Firmware Update will allow for CNTRL+PRNTSCREEN screen capture.  Yet that only half solves the porblem. Oh well.

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REVIEW for XBOX 360: Mighty Morphin Ninja Gaiden Get!

   


I don't know if it's the japanese way of thinking or game development but Ninja Gaiden for the NES was a bitch.  Birds must be a ninjas worst enemy.  Ninja Gaiden in the arcade was a fucking joke.  Who would have thought it took a ninja 20 seconds to do a back flip only to end up facing the wrong direction and get sucker punched in the gut while stuck in animation that ultimately leads to the insanely awesome game over screen.   The countdown starts and if you were anything like me when I was young, you were probably playing this game in someones living room the size of a hot pocket in Juarez wondering how anyone in that particular neighborhood could afford to have arcade cabinets in their beat up old rundown hut which had windows for doors and doors for protection from the flooding.  Shit sorry, so the countdown starts, I'm out of pesos, and Ryu gets chainsawed in half.  Nice.  After tons of delays Ninja Gaiden was finally released on Microsoft's OG Xbox on March 2nd of 2004  and holy fuck was this version amazing.  The graphics and gameplay can still hold it's own and that says plenty.  The camera however sometimes added to the difficulty, which at times felt undeniably cheap, and by far was the biggest problem I had with the game.  4 years, 2 reissues (NG Black for Xbox and NG Sigma for PS3), 3 broken controllers, and my girlfriend still in the wings, Tecmo's Team Ninja have finally released Ninja Gaiden 2 for the Xbox 360.  And so the story goes....yeah the camera is still shit.


At Least this guys doesn't talk, he just grunts

The Story

You don't play Ninja Gaiden for the story.  Seriously, if you did, you may have never out grown playing Mighty Morphin Power Rangers outside of the Abraham Chavez Theater on a school field trip while waiting to go inside and watch some god awful plays that I didn't learn shit from.  See that, junior high didn't teach me shit.  Oh wait yeah, how old was I.  Anyway, the story is so horrid, it makes Manos Hands of Fate look like Iron Man.  Although if they were to release a mission mode later on as DLC where the missions were to take on Torgo and all his scantily clad ladies, I'd be down.  The story of the orginal Xbox game wasn't any better, but at least the only things that spoke were human.  It's like when Freddy Krueger suddenly became a stand up comic dishing out nonsensical one liners in the later Elm Street Movies.  You don't scare me any more bro, it's over.  So yeah if you like Power Rangers you'll love the story, if you don't, a simple press of the start button will skip the cutscenes and give you a chance to spit out your own kickass one liners.  "Do you like camping, cuz this bo staff upside yo face is gonna be intense"



The Gameplay

This is where the game shines...my balls.  Seeing as it's the sequel to a really good game it's hard to imagine what they could've done better.  Although it's blatantly obvious what they needed to FIX.  The SHIT-ASS-OH-I-GOT-A-FIREY-EXPLOSIVE-ARROW-IN-MY-ASS-CUZ-I-CANT-FUCKING-SEE-THESE-OFFSCREEN-CORKY-ASS-MOTHERFUCKERS camera.  I don't mind the coming around the corner getting ambushed thing thats actually kinda cool.  Fuck, I bet ninjas deal with that shit all the time.  It's only when you're bar room brawiling and the camera suddenly decides to focus on Doogie Howser M Dick over in the corner laughing his ass off doin jumpkicks, while you're taking on a dissappearing Grimus and his three fucking fry guy pals.  What the fuck is Grimus anyway?  The jelly?  A quick pull on the right trigger centers the camera behind you, but baby sitting cameras should be left to cute high school girls with nice full B cups wearing nothing but a swimsuit.  Ninjas are meant to be taking care of shit that happens when the weak fail.  Usings weapons like the Lunar Staff to smash the teeth on Wolfo Mcgruffs mug, to providing seats to each and everyone of these maggots on your dragon sword.  The combos, if you can master them should make you feel like a complete badass.  There's nothing like gettin your ass handed to you for button mashing, learning from your mistakes and memorizing a good combo or two and pulling them off over and over again.  If you pull off some real sick moves and you remembered to activate saved films from your last save spot you can go back and watch that ass kicking you just dealt.  Saved films is almost like it's done in Halo 3 except you can't share them with friends to compare who's less of a pussy and that sucks.  But it's still there and I thought it at least diserves a mention.

They introduced the new element of finishing moves.  If you're able to hack off an opponents limb, and believe me it will happen alot, you can press Y while you're over them and you'll start a quick maybe 2 - 3 second animation of kickass brutality.  You can now switch weapons not quite on-the-fly but by simply pressing down on the d-pad the action will pause while you access your inventory of weapons, health items and Ninpo.  The main difference I noticed between pressing start to pause or down to pause was at least with the latter the screen displays your current situtation as opposed to blocking the view entirely, which in my opinion is priceless.  The Ninpo this time around affects your enemies depending on how close they are to you as opposed to just affecting everything on the screen equally.  Your health bar regenerates after every encounter has been cleared, although not fully and save spots are around almost every corner.   In a way you can say that this game is more forgiving than the last but having a fat chick lick you in the face with her misty chicos breath, while suddenly grabbing your lower ear lobe bringin you down to the ground, then sitting on your face and rippin one nice and loud saying "I had subway" would amount to the same in my book. 





The Conclusion

It's always hard to decide whether or not to recommend a game.  In one hand you have someone who doesn't or may not like the same games you do.  In the other, you have the controller and the game on pause.  However this is my site and the point of my reviews are to let you know whether I liked the game, if I bought it or not, why I bought it or not, and simply to give me something to do.  My grading scale will be based on BUY, RENT, and I'll think of a third later when a game sucks that bad.  Since I know what this game means to me I'll focus on that one for now which for me is an absolute BUY.  I wanna say it's niche but only because even on easy it's balls to the walls hard.  You really have to be into throwing controllers accross the room, ninjas, or have a sick fetish for disgustingly oversized boobs.  If the Pink Ranger made a guest appearence, consider me a hermit.  I gotta be honest with you though,  I haven't finished the last two chapters yet but that's only cuz Microsoft botched my save file with the recent update they released for the game.  Maybe I can try clearing the cache on my 360,  just like they cashed my wallet with this game, oh ZING! bitches.  In the first one you could unlock the original NES Trilogy, so you can get you r ass handed to you 3 more times.  However thats actually what justifies my BUY decision.  Since I own the game I can keep goin back to it at my leisure.  Since I still have my controller intact,  I suppose that's a good sign.  Between bouts of Soul Calibur 4 and writing shitty music, Ninja Gaiden 2 is a nice distraction.

Ninja Gaiden 2 is available on the Xbox 360 for $59.99.  Published by Microsoft Game Studios and developed by Team Ninja.  All screenshots courtesy of 1up.com.  Until I setup my screenshot device I'm hopin they don't mind.

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