Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Posts tagged “Game Reviews

Ronin’s Ramblings – Part One

Ronin’s Ramblings

Part One

Eh, what? “Oh hey, it’s that guy who is also Reverend’s brother who talks about games and stuff.” “What? You mean that guy who hasn’t written anything for the blog in, like, forever?” “Yeah, that guy… dude, who says ‘like’ like that anymore? And it hasn’t really been forever since his last post.”  “Did you just call me dude… seriously?  Plus, why are you defending him?” “Well, maybe I just think we shouldn’t be so critical of him is all.” “More like you got a crush on the guy.” “A little man crush never hurt nobody. Plus, you see his pic with the tux and cane?” “Nah.” “Well you should.” “Whatever man, let’s just play Call of Duty.”

That was a production of Imaginary Fratboy Theatre. So, yeah. I guess I have been absent for a while. Not because I haven’t had anything to review or report, or that I was without a computer with which to type, I’m just really lazy. Hey, I need at least one character flaw. I have been spending my time recently playing some of the 10 or so videogames that have been released within the past couple of months. I possess a pretty large pile of unfinished material, and I made a vow not to review anything until I had finished it. It’s true, read our origin story, or the slightly more popular ‘All Star Reverend and Ronin’.  But while I can’t review unfinished projects, I can make long-winded paragraph length ramblings about them, hence the title. Not counting the fact that everything about this post up until now has also been me rambling. I don’t really know why I put Part one up at the top, I don’t really plan on doing that much rambling around here. It’s not like I was born a ramblin’ man or anything… *hums Allman Brothers*

God of War 3

Available on the PS3

God of War 3

What? You didn’t finish God of War 3? Actually, I did. I just didn’t really think it warranted a review, you know why? Because its GOD OF FUCKING WAR 3! I mean really, if I’m the kind of person who can enjoy Dante’s Inferno, how could I not absolutely love God of War 3. Visuals: the kind of detail other games leave only to cutscenes. Audio: powerful music and vocals to accompany all scenes of action and drama. Substance. Deicide. When most action heroes lose their family, they decide to take down the people who did it, whether it be some asshole, a gang, or the government, but Kratos decides to kill the big man himself, Zeus. God of War is basically everything a true Clash of the Titans should be. Plus, God of War has, you know, ACTUAL Titans. God of War 3 is one of those things every PS3 owners should possess.

Final Fantasy XIII

Available on the PS3/360

Final Fantasy XIII

Ah yes. The first game on the list that I am still in the middle of completing. My save file says I’m about 26 hours in, so that means I should be done with the tutorial soon. I am a big fan of the Final Fantasy series. I remember back when I owned the original Playstation, and buying  FFVII and FFVIII for $20 each. As time went on and I grew older I branched out and played the earlier titles. My history with Final Fantasy is rather consistent, which will probably prevent me from finishing XIII any time soon. It seems with every Final Fantasy game I get, I play it for a long time but before I finish, I end up setting the game down and letting it rest.  By the time I return to the game, I find that I have forgotten some quintessential skill that is mandatory at the level in the game I last stopped. So I decide to start a new game, and end up enjoying it more the second time that I did the first. I did it with seven, eight, and ten, and I have a feeling that’s how I’m going to treat thirteen. I find myself enjoying XIII more that the average critic. I can handle linearity just fine. It looks beautiful, I love the music, there’s only one character I hate (Which is better than most things I receive from Japan).

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Available on the PS3/360

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Meh. I picked this game up on account that I had enjoyed the single player campaign from the first one. It possessed something different from the other shooters around it, with its characters and sense of humor. I heard Bad Company 2 was returning with the same cast of character and became pretty excited. While the first game wasn’t perfect gameplay wise, the sequel was getting enough resources and time, that I thought there would be plenty of room for improvement. When I started playing through Bad Company 2’s campaign it just felt like something was missing. The story while slightly more ludicrous that your other generic shooters,  didn’t capture me the same way the first did. Was it because I had already experienced the originality of the first game that the second one just didn’t affect me? Was it because the developers decided to make the second more similar to Modern Warfare to reach a wider audience? Was it because they focused on the awesome multiplayer like any true Battlefield game should? Probably the last one. But then again, you know I don’t play shooters online. That’s territory for the imaginary fratboys from earlier.

Pokémon: Soul Silver

Available on the DS

Pokemon: Soul Silver

Hot damn, I just realized that Microsoft Word recognizes Pokemon as being misspelled and Pokémon as being correct. I was afraid I’d have to use the wrong one because I’m too lazy to do that weird é thing myself. So, yeah. Picked up this game, still haven’t finished it. Pokémon has become that series that is big enough that it can remake its old stuff. It has also become that series that possesses just the right amount of familiarity and innovation that each new game is worth playing. I remember back when I was a kid (I seem to be doing that a lot with this post) Pokémon: Blue was pretty much the first RPG I had played. It was the first time I was introduced to item management, level grinding, stats, and all those things that are expected from any role-playing game. This is also a series that contains just the right amount of straightforward and complicated mechanics. Element charts and power levels are easy, but just take a look on the Pokémon wiki at all the intense formulas going on under the hood of this game (not that I have Bulbapedia bookmarked or anything). You may think it strange that someone can enjoy the brutality of God of War 3 and a kind of game like Pokémon, especially within four paragraphs of each other, but really, Pokémon is an enjoyable on much more levels that people give it credit for. It doesn’t take a nerd to enjoy Pokémon (though it may take one to name your starting fire Pokémon after Luffy’s brother from One Piece >_>’).

Borderlands

Available on the PC/PS3/360

Ka-blammo!

Huh? An older game? That’s right. Borderlands was released back in October of 2009. I originally picked it up for the PS3 but never finished it. Then along come Steam, offering me the PC version for half price. I mean, if I didn’t buy it, it’d be like I was losing money. For some reason Steam causes me to adopt Zoidberg logic. Because of it I have bought so many games twice that I don’t feel I can justify it. Except for the fact that I totally can. With Borderland on my PC I had a much more enjoyable experience with the shooter/RPG. Probably a bit of  that Final Fantasy replay magic that I was talking about earlier rubbed off on it. This is a truly fun game. It’s a shooter to the end, but also character development, skills, loot, quests, and all the things that make a dungeon crawler fun. Plus, it doesn’t have all that unnecessary story getting in the way. That isn’t to say that the game has no story, or that I don’t enjoy oodles of storytelling in my games, just the fact that the quantity of story present in this game fits. But the story isn’t what’s important in this game. It’s the guns. The countless amount of varied weapons makes the player want to keep pressing on. I looted a bitching revolver that only had a two round capacity, but each of those two rounds actually shot seven bullets and pretty much guaranteed a kill before having to reload. I thought I was going to end up playing the rest of the game with that one weapon alone, until all of a sudden I pick up an even awesomer gun. This feeling is was makes Borderlands such an enjoyable game, and if you have 3 friends to play the online co-op, it cements this game as one of the best shooters you can experience. And then there’s the fact that this game deserves awards for best cover art and best use of Cage the Elephant in a commercial.

Alright, I think five is a good number for a series of ramblings. Until next time, where we take a look at the five or so Wii games I have something to say about. Or maybe I could talk more about City of Heroes. Did you know that the next Issue just entered Open Beta? Gah…. Better quit while I’m ahead.

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Ronin’s Reviews: Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth

Ronin’s Review #5

“HOLD IT!”

Ace Attorney Investigations

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth

Available on the Nintendo DS

Notable Tropes:

Bunny Ears Lawyer

Continuity Porn

Deadpan Snarker

So begins Part One of a multi-part series called… “Gaming March Madness: When Everyone Decides to Release Their Games At the Same Time”. Sure it’s a long title, but then again so is the game I’m about to review. For those of you who do not know, Ace Attorney Investigations is a spin-off from the core Ace Attorney games, with protagonist prosecutor Miles Edgeworth. After getting swept up into events all concerning a particular smuggling ring, he and a couple of helping hand, leave the courtroom in order to do a little detective work.

A little history lesson is in order. The first game in the core series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, was released as Gyakuten Saiban on the Game Boy Advance back in 2001.It didn’t get an English release until it was remade for the DS in 2005. The first three Ace Attorney games centered around defense attorney Phoenix Wright, while the fourth centered around his successor of sorts, Apollo Justice. A fifth Ace Attorney game is currently in the works, though the only fact known about it is in fact that it exists. There’s no word on whether it will continue the Phoenix Wright or Apollo Justice saga, or feature some new protagonist. But after the fourth Ace Attorney game was released it was announced that Miles Edgeworth, probably the most popular side-character in the series, was getting his own game.  Edgeworth entered the series as the rival for Wright. Edgeworth starts out as the cold, perfection-driven prosecutor interested only in getting a guilty verdict, but as time goes on and the story progresses, Phoenix ends up making a dramatic influence on his behavior. By the time his own game rolls around, he keeps his regal presence and can still be rather harsh to his subordinates , but he now values the absolute truth over any sort of verdict.

The Ace Attorney games are a series of text-adventure games that emphasis critical thinking and logic while telling stories that are welcomed in both dramatic and humorous circles. The universe that the series takes place in is rather peculiar. The games generally take place somewhere around 10 years in the future, yet everyone still uses VHS tapes. The American justice system has evolved into one without a jury of your peers, instead defendants are guilty until proven innocent, and trials must conclude within three days because of laws passed to expedite trial proceedings. The American populace has suddenly become more influenced by Japanese culture, so I can only assume they have become the leading world power. Though this world may seem strange and confusing, it only stands to help the design of the game. One of the series’ most notable features has been its rather unorthodox cast of characters. The design and dialogue have been a high point of the games since the beginning and still carry through in Ace Attorney Investigations. Which is good since, well, dialogue takes up quite a lot of a game that is advanced primarily through text. It takes a certain kind of skill to make me laugh out loud when playing a game, and the Ace Attorney games deliver, especially Investigations.

While the original Ace Attorney games split up the action between investigation stages and courtroom stages, Miles Edgeworth spends all of his time in the field in his game. But he still takes a bit of the courtroom with him. When information needs extraction from a witness, it is taken in a process practically identical to previous courtroom interrogations. Listen to the person’s testimony, press where more information is needed, and present evidence when a contradiction is seen. The main difference between Investigations and the core series, lies in the ability to actually control a character. In the core series the gameplay amounted to examining crime scenes as static screens. In Investigations Edgeworth moves around within the scene and physically interacts with his surroundings. When a particular area needs closer inspection, it shifts to a static screen similar to that of previous games.

You might be saying, “it seems like you’ve spent more time talking about the older games than actually reviewing this one.” Well, I guess that is true. The gameplay is good. As is the story, sound, and presentation. The problem is that the only way I can describe this game is by comparing it with the ones that preceded it, and I can’t guarantee everyone has played those. There are many parts of this game that can only be fully enjoyed if the player has experienced the Ace Attorney games.  I’d say that this is a game for Ace Attorney fans, except even Ace Attorney games are for Ace Attorney fans.  But everyone I talk to that has experienced the series  enjoys it, so there really isn’t a reason to not be an Ace Attorney fan after playing the series. While I can’t necessarily recommend this game to anyone who hasn’t played the Ace Attorney games, I can recommend anyone who hasn’t played them to give them a try. And then I can recommend this game. With five games in all, the series is certain to supply anyone with a DS with hours upon hours of enjoyment. Even those who do not own a DS can get the first three Ace Attorney games on the Wii thanks to the WiiWare downloads.

Verdict: This isn’t a game that I think everyone should play, it is in fact a series that I think everyone should play. This game improved and expanded upon its predecessor, just as that one did with its predecessor. The only way to enjoy the experience in its entirety is to seek out the original, and follow the lineage. Phoenix Wright : Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth. With than many colons and subtitles, you know a series is on the up and up.


Ronin’s MMO Report – City of Heroes

Ronin’s MMO Report

City of Heroes – An Overview

When I say the words Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, the usual names of games that pop into the mind are ones like Ultima Online, EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, or World of Warcraft depending on what time you one was to enter the MMO realm. Things started with the fantasy settings but as time went on more and more settings proliferated into the genre. Sci-Fi was a logical step, and we got Anarchy Online, EVE, Star Wars Galaxies, the recently released Star Trek Online. Where Am I going with this? I don’t really know, I just felt like namedropping some MMOs for no apparent reason (And don’t get mad if I didn’t mention YOUR favorite game, it’s not that I don’t know about it, it’s just that I can’t be bothered to go the extra mile). Well there was a reason, I was going for a sequence of thought that would eventually get me to the game I wanted to talk about. Oh yeah… City of Heroes (and Villains).

That’s it folks, the time has finally come for the discussion of the thing that branches Reverends world of comics and my world of video games, City of Heroes. (I mean I could have talked about Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2… but that was a while ago… and there was the fact that it was a disappointment… even though it did have some awesome Deadpool moments… even though in comparison to the ‘now’ awesome Deadpool was a lot easier to find back then… dot dot dot non sequitur).

For a little bit of history, City of Heroes launched back in 2004 as pretty much the first and most influential in the ‘Super-Hero’ niche market. (Niche market, not Nietzsche market. That would be a depressing game. ) In late 2005 City of Villains was released as a standalone game instead of an expansion, that interacted with the first game as heroes and villains should. Later, when the IP was bought by NCSoft they gave anyone who owned just one game access to the other in 2007 and since then it has been sold as a bundle(Which is why I can simply refer to both games as just City of Heroes from now on). And set to release later this year is the games first real expansion ‘Going Rogue’ (Grr… Palin.) which will allow heroes and villains to switch sides and allow players to visit the Praetorian Earth (the mirror universe/Earth-3 version of the world the game takes place in).

Because the game is just now getting to its first expansion, new content has been delivered through numerous increments known as ‘Issues’ in keeping with the comic book inspiration. Since its release in 2004, City of Heroes has been radically improved and expanded through 16, soon to be 17 Issues of content updates. In its inception, the level cap for heroes was level 40, there were issues with getting people to run actual missions, gameplay issues and bugs, and other problems that plagued brand new online games. The costume creator, which at the time was shown to be one of the most creative ways to customize one’s character in an MMO, has come so far since the beginning. Hell, it took an Issue before players could get capes. Now players can easily change their costume, which they can have up to 5 of, and create an even more unique experience than they could a few years ago.

City of Heroes holds the title of most improved MMO in my book, simply because of the amount of dedication the developers put towards listening and satisfying the players. This game doesn’t seems to get looked over in its improvement because its gone from something good into some better. Improvement is much more noticeable when a game goes from something barely playable to a genuinely good experience (I’m looking at you Age of Conan, rather, I’m looking at you any game Funcom has ever launched ever).

But let’s take a look at the game today. The level cap has been raised to level 50. You can choose to create a Hero or Villain, which are split up into 5 basic archetypes (and two ‘epic’ specific story driven archetypes) built with a primary and secondary powerset, accompanied by additional smaller power pools of the players choice. City of Heroes shuns the traditional character triad of Tank/Damage/Heal, which allows for much more differentiated teambuilding. Villainous archetypes are even more capable of unique team building. Currently, the character building allows for almost 790 powerset combination (that’s just counting primary/secondary pairings), and once you get into character improvement through slotting powers with different assortments of enhancements, each and every player is capable of creating a Hero or Villain that is unique to them.

Another great thing about this game that deserves mentioning is the community. Never before have I met such a fantastic mass of online folk. Granted this is the internet, and you can find a dumb person quicker than you can say the word ‘competence’, but the forums of City of Heroes are one of the greater bastions of intelligent thought, at least when it comes to online gaming. The sense of community is profound. There’ll always be someone to help a player in need, a place for delightful chatter, not to mention the delightful connection to the LGBT community. And in game you shant find too much deviants outside of rare instances or heavily populated coincidences.

Heroes begin their journey in Paragon City, a fictional Rhode Island city, as a rookie hero after an alien invasion had struck, leaving the city’s superpowered population at a low point. Your character advances, taking on more powerful enemy groups and finding the world’s fate in your capable hands. Villains begin their journey in Paragon City’s prison with paper walls (that only serves as the tutorial level). They are broken out of prison by the greatest villainous organization in the City of Heroes universe, Arachnos. It just wouldn’t be a comic book game without a villain group with a bug motif. Turns out your villain is on a list of “Destined Ones”, and now you carry out various acts of villainy from the Rogue Isles, a fictional archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.

And even after all of the official content that the developers have provided, there is the grand pool of user created content. City of Heroes includes the Mission Architect, a tool that allows any player to weave their own story with custom characters, enemies, and stories. You keep saying that you can craft a better story and original characters than Rob Liefield? Put it to the test. Players are capable of creating story arcs comprised of up to five missions, and show them to the world for other players to enjoy experience. Thousands and thousands of arcs have been created, and more are made each day, supplying players with an infinite amount of content limited only by the human mind.

I have been playing this game for over 57 months (not included various month-long breaks here and there). I have seen this game grow into something absolutely wonderful, and I feel it is my duty to convince anyone with an interest in both comic books and online gaming to try this game out. For anyone who wishes to craft their own story, show their creativity, save the world, achieve ultimate power, join a great community, or just craft an experience as you go. Massively Multiplayer Online games are a strange thing. They evolve, diminishing the importance of reviews. They garner such polarizing loyalty and hate that seems cause some weird electronic ethnocentrism. Most strange, they live. I’ll be the first to admit that I love this game, and I expect to bore you all as I return to this subject more times in the future, and you will suffer. So sayeth the ronin.

Also, because I probably suck at summaries, here a link to a good overview at the Tropes Wiki: CITY OF HEROES

TL;DR Version, play this game.


Ronin’s Reviews : Heavy Rain

“How far will you go to save someone you love?”

Heavy Rain

Available on the PS3
Preferred platform: Uh…

Oh Heavy Rain… the game everyone wants to talk about. I myself eagerly wanted to do a review of this game and get the word out, but I had to finish the game first. I’m not one of those people who just plays through half a game, then makes a couple of assumptions, and litters a review with generic phrases so that they can talk about something as quickly as they can. But after a few pauses I finally was able to finish Heavy Rain. And now that I have, I almost don’t want to talk about it. Not because I don’t have enough things to say about the game, or that I disliked the experience, but for the fact that I felt such a connection to this game that it has evolved into something personal.

Heavy Rain is a game… yes a game, don’t let anyone fool you with a phrase like “interactive movie”. It is a game of choice. A game of trial. A game of consequence. Throughout the game you control one of four people in various sequences connected to the events of the ‘Origami Killer’, a serial killer behind the deaths of various children. Ethan Mars, the father out to save his son. Scott Shelby, the investigator accompanied by a woman who has lost her son. Norman Jayden, the detective put in charge of the case of the Origami Killer. Madison Paige, the woman who meets Ethan and is looking for answers. As the game progresses you control one of these persons for a scene or two, before switching to another. This allows for the advancement of events while also displaying simultaneous events from multiple perspectives.

I’m going to pull a reverse and talk about the negatives about this game before I start with the verbal fellatio. For one thing, the movement can be a bit cumbersome. You may find yourself stuck for a moment when trying to maneuver around objects, but nothing too noticeable. There are also times when the camera angles supplied to you aren’t the best they could be at displaying all of the environment, but nothing to seriously hamper your ability to perform. And then there’s… well, nothing comes to mind. During my play experience I may have noticed one or two things in which I let out a sigh or other expression of dissatisfaction, but the amount of good in this game completely overwhelms any bad thought I have about it. Honestly, anything I could say at this point would just be nitpicking.

On to the good. Where shall we start? Hmm. You remember that thing I said earlier about choices and consequences? Yeah, I mean that. This game was advertised as one where anyone can die, and they meant it. It stretches the idea of “how far will you go?” Now having choice is nothing new in the videogame industry, but never before have I felt such a deep connection to my choices. This is no mere Jedi/Sith morality system, where the choices are black and white and you know at the beginning of the game what kind of choices you are going to make throughout the game. Heavy Rain does possess its share of black and white decisions, but also just as many gray ones. And then there’s the occasional choice between two dark gray decisions that leave you with your fingers dangling over the controller’s buttons. In games like Bioshock 2 and Fallout 3, I would occasionally be presented with the choice to let someone live or die, and the choice would always be obvious to me depending on my predisposition. White knight means letting everyone live. Dark bastard means kill all who stand in your way. But in Heavy Rain, I hesitated when I found myself behind the trigger of a gun, with the barrel pointed at someone’s head. And previously the game had been trying its hardest to make me dislike this person. Then I have one of those “you’re not so different, you and I” moments. I cared that I held the power to terminate this person’s life. This fictional person. A bit of electronic code. It was almost too must for me to handle.

Even when you’re not making life or death decisions, there are little choices to make and minute interactions with people and places that make this game all the more meaningful. As Ethan Mars you may take a shower and get dressed, draw building plans for your job, and play with your kids in the backyard on the day of your son’s birthday. Games throughout history have been trying to get me to believe I was something since I first played Jaws on the NES. Whether it be a heroic plumber, a space marine, or many a prophesied hero. But never had I felt so deeply in tune with such a simple yet emotional experience that is the Father. Sorry Bioshock 2. I felt panic when a father would feel panic. I felt depression when a father would feel depressed. I felt relief when a father would feel relief. And this is just for one of the four people involved in the Origami Killer tale. Each person possesses a unique experience and each evoke deep feelings within the player.

You may have noticed that throughout this review, I hadn’t used the word character, and instead used people or person. That is the kind of emotional connection I felt with everyone in Heavy Rain. I have always possessed a sort of heightened empathy towards people, even fictional ones. I want to keep my squad mates alive, not because that is what the game considers ‘winning’, but because it is the right thing to do. Because of this little fact, the emotionality nearly broke me. I know this isn’t something that would concern many gamers, but I’m merely trying to convey the success this game has in trying to tell a convincing story.

Al this emotional stuff is all well and good, but can it deliver in the actual aspects of traditional gameplay and storytelling? I say, hell yes. Aside from the few problems i mentioned earlier about movement and perspective, the gameplay is genuinely great. Even though just about every action you perform is in the form of a quick-time-event (i.e. press ‘this’ button now) you always feel in complete control. And the storytelling is superb. The interaction between the stunning looking characters and environments serve only to enhance it. Never did i find dialogue to feel forced, static, or in any way unenjoyable. The plot shuffles on at a good pace as you make your way through the story as each of the four persons. The mystery of the Origami Killer isn’t unshrouded by plot twists so much as stunning revelations. All in all, it is a wonderful story told wonderfully.

Verdict: This is a game that I think everyone should play. I’m not saying that everyone will necessarily enjoy this game as much as I did, or even at all, but it is definitely something to be experienced by anyone who owns a Playstation 3. Even non-gamers like Reverend should at some point experience this game. Be warned though that this is not your typical game, I understand that. It is not an action-packed experience (even though I absolutely loved any point involving conflict in the game) and it takes a certain type of mindset (there I go using that ‘mindset’ word again) to achieve a full experience of the game. If your only enjoyment in games comes from getting to go and shoot the bad guys, Heavy Rain probably isn’t for you. If that’s the case, you’ll probably be more comfortable with Modern Warfare and a coloring book. (Ah there’s the kind of snark one expects from this blog (Even though I did enjoy Modern Warfare 1 and 2 (Even if the second one did enjoy killing me so much in the campaign (I mean actual permanent cutscene death, not the die-reload-die-reload thing (Which is maybe why I like Heavy Rain for the fact that if I die it is actually my fault (Wow there’s a lot of parenthesis in here))))))


Ronin’s Gaming Reviews: Army of Two – The 40th Day

“Respek knuckles…”


Army of Two: The 40th Day

Available on the PS3 and Xbox 360
Preferred platform: Whichever your “bros” are on.

Notable tropes:
Ho Yay
Cool Mask
More Dakka

You may have noticed that under the preferred platform list I used the word “bro.” This is typically a word that I’d never use but it is heavily warranted for this game. This game possesses one of the bromanciest bromances to ever mance a bro. Sure, Mario and Luigi help each other out whenever Bowser nabs the princess, but we know who takes the spotlight. The same can be said of Sonic and Tails, Ryu and Ken, and most other videogame pairings throughout history. The stars of Army of Two, Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem, know how to keep it real even when the bullets start flying. They know a good mercenary duo takes the time to bond with fist bumps, chest bumps, rounds of rock/paper/scissors, and hugging it out.

Army of Two: The 40th Day is a shooter, which means you could probably tell means it doesn’t possess the best narrative storytelling before you even play it. True, the plotline isn’t exactly prevalent, and Hell if you decline to pick up and listen to some radio messages there’s a chance you don’t know what the heck is going on up until the end of the game. But, in retrospect I’m perfectly fine with that. All you need to know is that shit’s going down in China town and you’re stuck in the middle of it with your partner. You don’t really NEED to know why China is crumbling, you just happen to find out because the people doing the crumbling also want you dead.

Strewn throughout the game are moments of narrative choice In the forms of good/bad moral choices. Kill/Don’t kill this person for extra money/no reward. Steal/don’t steal these weapons for new gun/no gun. These have little impact other than immediate rewards and a reflection on your team’s morality title. Interesting thing about these is the ambiguity. After making a choice you’ll be shown an animated cutscene displaying the future events caused by your actions, often showing events that aren’t as “good” or “bad” as you had originally expected. While most see the morality system as something good or bad for the game, I’m pretty neutral. (Ha, see what I did there?) They could stay or go either way. Also interesting is that these choices are decided by whichever teammate presses a button first. In a solo campaign you have sole control, but in co-op, one of the two players will hold the power.

At least with the absence of an invigorating story, I get to talk more about the gameplay in my review. Woo! Here’s the basics. You start the game, you shoot the bad guys, you earn money, you purchase upgrades, and return to step 2. Upgrading your weapons in this game isn’t just increasing clip sizes and adding scopes and silencers, you become the Dr. Frankenstein of munitions. There are a large assortment of weapons, and once you purchase a new one, you can swap parts with any other similar gun. Stock of an M4, barrel of an AK, body of… some other gun. It all culminates in a series of stats reflecting the guns power. You want an automatic shotgun with a bayonet, a bullet shield, and a gold paintjob? You got it.

With the focus on co-op gameplay, there is the need for somewhat tactical gameplay. Sure you might be able to bust into a room with guns blazing and hope to survive, and this might work for earlier levels. But thanks to the aggro system, you can focus attention while your partner slips behind enemy lines. You can have one character tank while another snipes. There are moments where you and your partner can mock surrender to and surprise enemies. There’s plenty of fun to be had while you and your friend decide how to properly conquer a heavily guarded room.

The game is roughly the same length of modern shooters, but there is plenty of reason to go back and play through again. You can replay segments with your same armament, so if you think you need some better weapons, just go back and play through an early mission for a little extra money. The game is perfect for those who want a game to play with their buddies with a little bit of friendly bickering thrown in. And trust me, there is no such thing as a co-op game without bickering between players. This is just a fun shooter. Emphasis on fun and shooter. Sure it’s missing a few things in the story department, but makes up for it in bullet bliss.

Verdict: If you are not a fan of shooters I can reasonably see passing this game over. But if you want a game that doesn’t care if it isn’t reinventing storytelling and just lets you shoot things with your buddy, go ahead and get it. At the time of this posting, the game should have dropped from its $60 price tag to $40, so if that is low enough for you to buy a good bit of fun, then do it. Otherwise, if you find yourself with a friend and a weekend to waste, go out and rent this game and have some drunken shenanigans.


Ronin’s Gaming Reviews: Bioshock II

“Daddy won’t you please come home…”

Bioshock 2
Bioshock 2

Available on the PS3 and Xbox 360
Preferred platform: Whatever’s your fancy.

Notable tropes:
Videogame Caring Potential
Videogame Cruelty Potential
For SCIENCE!

Whenever I ask someone why they play videogames, a very common answer is because “it’s an escape from reality.” I for one agree with this answer. Although a strangeness occurs whenever you are placed into a reality and your character is looking to escape. We leave our world and become engrossed in a new realm, whether it be a wasteland, dystopia, or other abominable setting that any sane person would want to leave immediately, and yet we want to stay as long as we can. Rapture is one of these places. The hidden, underwater world of Andrew Ryan welcomes all to its arm with the promise of unlocking true potential without the hands of the government or church holding us back. That is, before SCIENCE! went rampant and genetic modification forced its residents to risk their sanity for progress and survival. Forced Social Darwinism is a bitch.

But then again, anyone who played the first Bioshock knows this. When Bioshock 2 was announced, needless to say the palms of many fans began to sweat. Will it live up to the first? Is it being handled differently? Will it trade storytelling prowess for a multiplayer mode? Everyone who played the original can remember their first contact with Rapture’s disfigured splicers, the hulking Big Daddies, the seemingly innocent Little Sisters, and other enigmatic characters. Ask anyone that has completed Bioshock the meaning of “Would you kindly…” and instantly they are able to answer you, as if the phrase had been permanently etched into the walls of their mind. People were left wondering if a return to Rapture would be able to recapture the rapture of Rapture. ( >_> ). My experience with Bioshock 2 left me just as entertained as the first game, although for different reasons.

In the first game you played as the silent protagonist Jack, seeking answers for why he had arrived in a mysterious setting. In the second game you play as Subject Delta, the original Big Daddy on a search for his lost daughter. Some saw this as an odd change in the format of characters. Previously, a human thrown into an unfamiliar world and now a seasoned, lumbering powerhouse? The fact is that Delta is just as relatable a character for the gamer, and a natural progressing exists between the two character. Originally I thought of the two characters as representing a slave and a master, but upon further reflection I’ve come up with another conclusion. In Bioshock, you play the part of the child. In Bioshock 2, you play the part of the father.

(Bioshock 1 plot spoilers follow (even though you should now this already) and end at the next paragraph).
In the first game, you found yourself (unknowingly) being lead around, force to comply with your master. You were just recently brought into this world, and forced to rely on a more powerful figure in order to survive. In order to grow more powerful, you need only be selfish and reap your rewards, or be selfless and wait for mother to reward you. In the second game, you found yourself in a familiar world. You know the evils that plague this world, you set your own goals, and you must sacrifice. In order to progress you must adopt the Little Sisters, look after them, and protect them.

Generally speaking, Bioshock 2 is much of the same that was the in the original, but mostly, every gameplay aspect has improved by some degree. Depending on who you are this can be a good or bad thing. If you were expecting something completely different in the sequel, you may be disappointed. Andrew Ryan, the believer in the greater individual, is replaced with Sofia Lamb, the believer in the greater society. Weapons are new, but each one ultimately possess the same function as its similar counterpart from the original. The original plasmids return, but they have been overhauled with new functions and ranks. The best news is that you can dual wield weapons and plasmids so you no longer have to switch between the two. Combat is rebalanced so that there isn’t as much dissonance between overpowered and underpowered plasmids like the first one.

The thing I think I liked the most was the handling of the return to Rapture. I’ll be the first to admit that the first Bioshock was certainly a frightful experienced. I’m not ashamed to say that I was damn hesitant on leaving the bathysphere you use to first arrive in the original game. It is only natural however, that some of that fear is gone in the second game if you are a returning player. You’ve experienced the dark and wet corridors, you’ve battled splicers and Big Daddies, you seen the antics warranted in any horror game. It was a challenge posed to the developers to make sure that anyone returning to Rapture wouldn’t find themselves totally desensitized to the mysterious locale. The immediate answer is to simply throw in as many horror clichés as you can. Things popping around corners, shadowy figures speeding across your view, and other cheap frights. But the way it was handled in Bioshock 2 was completely relevant and involved in the world that nothing seemed out of place.

The problem with reviewing a sequel is that you must account for people who haven’t yet played the first game. Bioshock 2 is a game that is perfectly fine played alone, from a gameplay and story standpoint. But when it comes to personal satisfaction I couldn’t recommend both games hard enough. Bioshock can be picked up for $20.00 or lower, so if you had to choose between the two, I would recommend playing the original Bioshock first, then pick up the second whenever you have the time and/or money. These two games are much a part of the same experience and should be played in their entirety.

Verdict: This is one of those games that I feel is genuinely good. Not one of those games that I feel you need to have a certain mindset, or genre appreciation to enjoy. While there may not be any mindset needed to enjoy Bioshock 2, there are some mindsets that may prevent enjoyment. And that isn’t completely not a total non-contradiction. This is definitely a product that can be hampered by over-hype and high expectations. The breakdown is this: If you like the first game, you will probably like the second. If you really, really like the first one, there’s a chance you won’t like the second one. If you didn’t like the first one, there’s a chance you’ll like the second one. If you really, really didn’t like the first one, you probably won’t like the second one.

Hell and I didn’t even talk about the multiplayer. Oh yeah, I forgot that existed. Oh, not because it isn’t very good or anything, but because I was completely overwhelmed by the single player mode just like the first one. Did you hear that online community? Adding multiplayer doesn’t not automatically make a game worse because “now they’ll just be diverting time and resources.” *rabble rabble*


Ronin’s Gaming Reviews : Dante’s Inferno

Let’s kick this of with something that Reverend will surely hate…

Dante's Inferno
Dante’s Inferno.

Available on the PS3 and Xbox 360
Preferred platform: PS3 (For the special edition that costs the same amount as the 360’s standard edition)

Notable tropes:

Squick
Rule of Cool
Large Ham

And then there was that time that Dante from the crusades killed the Grim Reaper with his own scythe before returning home to find his wife dead, her soul stolen by Lucifer to make his bride, and he had to descend through the nice circles of Hell and fight some crazy shit with holy magic and wicked scythe attacks…

Okay, so maybe the Dante in this game isn’t the poet Dante Alighieri that we’re familiar with, and maybe the game does take a few (read: more than a few) liberties when it comes to the story, and maybe a bit of the gameplay is derivative of God of War (read: more than a bit), but the fact remains that I had a load of fun with this game. I made Death beg for his life, I severed the heads of Cerberus, I strode atop Phlegyas, and fucked up the City of Dis. I traversed the nine circles of Hell and flipped Satan the bird. Okay, so that last one wasn’t in game, but that’s how immersed I was in Hell for the ten or so hours I spent with the game.

Although the experience was by no means a lengthy one (I’m looking at you 100+ hours logged at Fallout 3), it was an enjoyable time similar to what I’ve come to expect from modern action games. It becomes one of those experiences that you become locked within the brutality. Your senses become dulled to anything that doesn’t involve the damned souls of Hell. The problem is that this feeling becomes necessary if you wish to thoroughly enjoy the game. Dante’s Inferno falls into the pitfall that besets many games: The fact that what you get in the beginning is also what you get in the middle and end. If you tire of the combat that the game has to offer in a hurry, you’re in for a bit of disappointment.

Though the player is able to spend souls he gathers to upgrade his weapons, armor, and skills, (what the hell hero?) your playing experience won’t dramatically shift. This upgrading is done through to multi-tiered, two branch system of the Holy and Unholy. Throughout the game you find famous historical sinners strewn about hell, waiting for you to absolve or condemn them. Absolve and you are granted points that unlock more powerful Holy skills with which to spend your hard earned souls. These are mostly related to upgrading your cross (your partner weapon along with the scythe that shoots out holy pew pews of light). Condemn and you are granted points that unlock more powerful Unholy skills. These are mostly related to upgrading your scythe. The slight problem with this is that any sane person would choose to either condemn all the souls, or absolves all the souls in order to max out their tech tree. This means that one of your two weapons will be much more useful than the other and the un-upgraded one will be unused except for the occasional situational moments. The solution to this problem is that once you finish the game, you are able to start a new game with your skills carried over. This way you can have one nice guy play through, and one total dick play through and end up maximizing your skills.

A good deal of enjoyment from this game comes from its scenery. As you begin your decent you see the world of the living begin to crumble and give way to the opening bowels of Hell. Countless condemned souls woven into the architecture as punishment. While the enemies encountered aren’t particularly numerous, you meet unique designs as you conquer each circle. The battered souls of Limbo. The temptresses of Lust featuring clawed appendages sprouting from the womb. The disgust spewing Gluttons. Also, demons and stuff. This game set out to shock its audience and it succeeded. No matter how hardened a gamer has become over the years there will be something that will cause you to grimace in this game, and this is coming from someone who once introduced someone’s face to a drill press as the Punisher.

This is a game for someone who is looking for brutal uncomplicated combat. It is for the person who complains that that other game doesn’t have enough blood and gore. It is for the person who feels that a game cannot shock them. I know some of you might be saying, “But Ronin, Isn’t this game just a clone of God of War?” I say, sure, why not, it doesn’t make the game’s experience play out any differently. If it’s fun, it’s fun. “But won’t this style of copying just encourage developer to not think on their own and just copy successful game models?” Maybe, but if a game is different enough that I can still play it, I’m okay with it. And when the developers of the game that was “copied” see the product in front of them, the ball is in their court to kick it up a notch. I have no doubt in my mind that God of War 3 may end up being a wholly better game, but that’s good for them. Competition can breed better games. That’s right, I’m all Republican up in this bitch with my games.

Verdict: If anything I have said above slightly interests you, I would recommend playing this game. Now that doesn’t mean I necessarily mean purchasing it. Now that doesn’t mean go pirate this game, I hate those fuckers. I mean that this one definitely warrants a rental or preview. With a demo available it shouldn’t be too hard for someone to make their own impression. Honestly, I’d recommend trying the demo before anything else. A lot about a game like this can be seen in a demo. If you find yourself tiring of the combat before you finish the demo, that may be a sign that this is not a game for you.

Damn, I thought I said this shit was going to be concise. Rev does a movie review in 400 words or less while I ramble about tech trees and demonic vagina claws. And barely any sarcasm, I am ashamed of myself.