Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March Round up

Review Round Up for March:
  • Mass Effect 2: The core gameplay doesn't suck quite as much as in the first one, but that still isn't the reason why you come to play this game. The story is fun and full of good Trek style space drama. And you get to sex up Tali (in the worlds most disappointingly tame sex scene ever). Unskippable, long intro cut scenes, along with not particularly inspired gameplay (uninspired, but not at all painful like in the first Mass Effect - worth noting) keep me from replaying the game now or ever. Buyer's remorse? I borrowed this one from a friend, so no. Even so, I'd say it was fun enough to be worth $40.
  • Blade of Darkness: I have to come back to this classic 3d hack and slash platformer every couple of years. This game is everything Price of Persia 3 was supposed to be, and on top of it it has a very innovative and brutal combat system that rewards strategic dodging and precise timing. On top of on top of that it has graphics that were drop dead gorgeous at the time the game was released and a realtime shadow system that holds up pretty well even today. This game, from Euro developer Rebel Act Studios (now defunct), should be in every PC gamer's library (but isn't in many).
  • Die by the Sword: I picked this one up on a whim from Good Old Games last week. You can't help but love the wacky, wonky, and novel as hell control scheme that basically lets your mouse directly function as your sword arm in-game. Who would of thought that a studio that has for the last several years (and CoD sequels) been so creatively dead, Treyarch, could have come up with such a novel and fun approach to hacking and slashing. The downside to wacky, wonky combat is that it makes the single player extremely tough and random. Now, I'm sure there are some Die by the Sword masters out there who can fight two Ogres at a time and dissect them like insects with their precise mouse movements... But that isn't me, or likely most other players who can't do anything more strategic than flailing their sword arm around like a spastic tard and hope to get a random decap on our Ogre boss foes. Also, the game at times has some really awful level design that is so bad that it makes you wonder if it is some kind of sick joke. But in the end, getting your leg cut off and then hopping-and-flailing your way to a victory decap is still one of the most satisfying hack and slash experiences that can be found. Buyer's remorse? For 6 bucks? None at all.
  • Lead and Gold (beta): This offering from newly formed small timey Euro developer FatShark which, if word on the street is correct, is comprised of a lot of ex-Grin employees, has just hit Steam this past weekend. The game will premier at $15, but you can preorder now for 10% off and an entrance into the beta. Basically, this is a 5 on 5 team class-based shooter set in the wild west. Now, for the scary part: It is an Xbox Live Arcade port. Now for the even scarier part: It is really damn good. Yes, I said it. This is an Xbox Live Arcade port that doesn't allow (at the moment) for dedicated servers, doesn't let you change any graphical options, and doesn't even have chat implemented yet because it is such a bare bones port... And yet the game is just so damn good at what it does that I can't help but love it. It is the next best team shooting game to Team Fortress 2, and it is only $15. It gets the shooting almost completely right, with just a few small balance issues that are acceptable for a beta. It nails the presentation with great graphics combined with a unique look. It gets the team part of team shooter right by adding the class "synergy" feature (basically, it is an aura unique to each class that buffs nearby teammates, thus promoting sticking together in groups). Plus, how many other wild west themed games are there? Buyer's remorse? Not on your life.

Tiny Previews:

  • Just Cause 2 demo: B-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-boring. There was a time when "sandbox" meant something special, but now it seems that sandbox games are almost a majority, and Just Cause 2 does nothing to stand out from the crop. Basically, this is Mercenaries with a grappling hook. Now, I admit that I did get a big smile on my face the first time I grappled a civilian to a moving car and watched as she got dragged down the street and swung into the side of a house. But everything about the core gameplay - the shooting, the missions, the weapons, the bad guys - everything is just so bland that I can't imagine anyone enjoying this thing. The demo is limited by clock, and I found myself bored and completely done with the game long before the short timer ran out.
  • Splinter Cell Conviction demo: This blew me away. First off, just so everyone knows, I hate stealth games. I just hate stealth. I even hate games that aren't stealth games but make me do it for just one level for a diversion from the main gameplay. That is how much I hate stealth. I hate having to crawl instead of run, and having to plan out my movements precisely, and having to reload just because I was spotted and that screws everything up. And the Splinter Cell series was like the king of hardcore stealth. Sure, there is Metal Gear, but that has always been Stealth Lite in comparison. If crap goes down in a Splinter Cell game, you are almost always toast. If ! goes down in a Metal Gear game, you just hide in your box and wait for the bad guys to forget about you. So yeah, I've never liked Splinter Cell. But Conviction seems to have been made for me. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of stealth. You are still totally rewarded for careful planning, and thoughtful movements. But the rewards are for gamers like me. See, for every carefully planned Splinter Cell Conviction stealth execution, you are rewarded with a Sam Fisher Super Move(R). The Same Fisher Super Move allows you to pick any three targets in a room and just destroy them with your pistol, in a method so cinematic and satisfying that I will never get tired of seeing it. Finally I have a real incentive to be a stealthy shadow of death: If I am, I am allowed to briefly be an action movie hero and get a "get out of any sticky situation free" card. Truly, this is a stealth game made for me. I, for one, can't wait.

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