Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Game Review - Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

Trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILwLoR3OFU4

Wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Rising_2:_Off_the_Record

Let me start by saying this:  This game is FAAAAN-TASTIC!

They fixed the save system!!! (You will only understand the significance of this if you've played a DR game in the past.)

It is essentially the same saving system, but now you have auto saved checkpoints at every loading screen.  It helps a TON!  (Although I did manage to save myself into one the infamous DR save situations where there's no way to win.)

This is a strange game in a lot of ways... 1. It really is the Dead Rising 2 world, with a few additions.  2.  The new area is called Uranus Zone.  And it keeps getting wierder from there.

Basically for this game, they're saying it's kind of alternate universe or something, where Frank West ends up the main character instead of Chuck Green.  It's a strange concept to build the game around, but it works. 

If you're played DR2, then this game is about 60-70% the same survivors, psychopaths, weapon placements, combo weapons, etc.  At first look you may think that percentage should be higher, like 85% the same.  But really towards the end they changed WAY MORE than stuff at the beginning.

Design - 17/20 - I'm thinking if I should score points against the game because it's essentially the same game as DR2?  But I think no, why should I, when it comes to design this is just like any other sequel.

If you like the meat and potatoes Dead Rising gameplay, then you're going to like this game.  It's all there.  Now with taking pictures, again!!

In my playthrough I experienced some classic DR moments, fighitng some psycho boss, about to die, run into whatever the closest shop is and scavenge for some food, munch on some brownies and maybe a burger from the trash and go back into the fight!  I love that.

Like I said earlier, most of the survivors are the same... some are new, some got their timing and or quest changed a bit, some moved.

Before you go thinking, "Bla.. I played DR2, skipping this!"  The story gets really crazy towards the end, at the beginning you'll be like "yea, yea...", I even skipped a few cutscenes that I had seen in DR2.  But don't get me wrong, TONS of stuff changed, and most near the end.  WIthout giving away spoilers, you will be shocked by what happens in the story. 

P.S.  Chuck is in here!

I've always loved the camera aspect of Frank "I've covered wars you know" West and it's back and better than ever.  There's one achievement to get horror, brutality, comedy and erotica in one pic... I went after this achievement!  I had 3 hookers with me, so I got erotic points every time I clicked on them.  Then I gave them some swords, that took care of horror and brutality as long as there was some zombies to kill.  Then I got a mask and put it on a zombie, that should be funny.. took the pic:  Hookers, blood and boobs everywhere in front of a zombie wearing a mask, but I didn't get humor?!  WTF  I was pissed and my window was closing, so I quickly looked around, found a dildo and chucked it into the fray and wildly took a shot.  Boom humor!!  I guess a flying dildo is funnier than a zombie wearing a mask.  Now I know!

A new feature I love and that DR needed was a sandbox mode!  No timers, no stress, just the whole world to play in.  That alone would be ok, but they decided to take it a step further and they added these challenges all around.  And to unlock the challenges, each has a number of zombies you need to kill.  So that gives the player incentive to kill lots of zombies to unlock challenges, nice!  Challenges are things like Kill as many zombies as possible in 30 seconds, score as much PP as you can in this time, races, etc.  It's fun and playable in co-op also.

Here's a good tip also.. Whatever money you make in sandbox mode carries over to the story.  And an even better tip:  There's a point in the game where you need to make a million dollars in a certain amount of time.  I just saved, quit, went to sandbox mode and made the cash, went back into the story and boom had it.  You're welcome!

I could go on and on, but I'll just re-iterate, if you like DR, you'll like this game.  If you're never played DR but are interested, this is the game to try out. 

DR is one of my favorite game series of all time and the sole reason I originally bought my 360.  I was extremely happy playing this game.

Tech -  16/20 - No crashses, some slowdown.  Responsive.  Jumping into co-op is no hassle and fun.  Survivor AI is WAAAY better than before.  The survivor AI is so much improved they have a crazy achievement to have the first survivor damage the final boss.  That means you're escorting her around the ENTIRE game!!  So insane I might try it.

Also bonus points, no game pushes as many zombies onscreen as DR; sometimes there's a sea of the motherfuckers!

Art - 17/20 - The zombies look great, there's not too many variations of em.  I almost wanna say there's less variety than before, but not sure.  The new area, Uranus Zone is cool and comes with a few new zombies.  A lot of the survivors got minor art tweaks also. 

Production - 18/20 - This game is a sweet package.  Cutscenes are good, VO is good, the writing is very good, especially when you think of all the thought behind "re-imagining" the story.

They did kind of go over the top.. How can an already over the top game go over the top?  Uranus Zone, that's how.

I will say one thing, the loading screen tips are so annoying, I want to slap whoever wrote them.. that's it.

Value - 16/20 - I went to buy a game (BF3 or Gears3) and was totally surprised to see this on the shelf, I knew it was coming but figured next year sometime.  $39 is $20 better than $59, and the game is priced nicely.  It shouldn't be $59, it's some old content.  I can see how some people will skip this, but I think if you like DR as a series and you skip this you're totally blowing it.  There's a good amount of replay value in all DR games, they are designed so you cannot do everything in one playthrough.  But this doesn't have the lasting replay value of some of the giant shooting games out there.
Total Score = 84/100

Game Review - Battlefield 3

Trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wi2tae2PmmU

Wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battlefield_3

Let me start by saying this:  Good ole Battlefield gameplay, set in today's world!

If you played and liked Battlefield games before then you will like this for sure. 

I'll try not to talk about the competition between BF3 and MW3.  Isn't it funny though... they both claim to be part 3, but in reality it should be something like Battlefield 13 and Call of Duty 11.  Nice job publishers, disguising how you squeeze franchises.  I guess it helps hide the fact that their entire house of cards corporation is based off milking the crap out of 1 or 2 franchises.  Before ending this mini rant, I will say that at least the Battlefield franchise is made by one company, the next MW game always seems to be whored out.

Design - 18/20 - There's not much to say here except to give it a high ass score.  Their formula has worked for many years and if it wasn't badass there wouldn't be a BF3. 

Of course they include a deathmatch mode, but to me BF doesn't shine in deathmatch.  It's there if you like it though, so that's good. 

Also they included a Rush Mode, which seems to be the 2nd most played.  Rush Mode is an attacking/defending mode, the attackers must activate and destroy M-COM stations, 2 at a time.  When both M-COMs are blown up, a new set opens up, I think matches have 4-5 sets before the attackers win.  It's fun, but as you can imagine, if there's 1 M-COM left, it quickly is blown up or becomes a cluster fuck of grenades, tanks, RPGs.  Defenders don't win much.  (But if you are defending, C4 the M-COMs for tons o kills!)

Don't get me wrong, Conquest Mode is where it's at.  Tanks, choppers, jets, amphibious APCs, it's all there.

The level design works.  There are a few deviants from regular BF maps, like the subway map.  It takes place in the subways, so it's very tight for a BF map and essentially has a few choke points that are mega death zones of cross fire!!  You get guys with souped up machine guns inside those alleys and it gets a bit crazy.  I've heard more people get pissed on that map than any other.

This game has the tagging feature I talked about in the Gears review.  In BF3, you press the back button to highlight an enemy and for a short while that enemy will show up on everyone's radar and have a red icon above them in the world.  In the big open world environments of BF3, this really helps out the whole team.  I love this feature so much.  If you wanted to, you could find a sweet spot overlooking the map and sit there tagging enemies, and it could be very effective in helping your team mates kick ass and win.

One new gameplay element in this game is the "I shine my light in your eyes so you can't see, then I shoot you."  You can unlock a tactical flashlight to be able to do this, it's wierd but sometimes effective.  When someone does it to you, a giant portion of your screen goes completly white!!  One friend said, "Just shoot at the middle of the light."  Not sure what to think about this.

I've played this game for less than 20 hours but I've already laughed and screamed my ass off at the amazing, dynamic, emergent gameplay that these huge sandboxes has created.  The creative possibilities in this virtual war are some of the best in gaming!

Tech - 12/20 - I love this game, but this is where I will bash it a bit.  EA's servers suck balls.  Sometimes smooth as silk, but sometimes I get booted over and over and my connection is great.  Me and a friend tried to play co-op the other day, but he kept getting this "Cannot connect to EA servers." message and I didn't.  But I do get that message a lot, and it seems to be completely random and stupid.  Click multiplayer, the screen goes dark for a few seconds.. then "Cannot connect to EA servers.", but just do it 5-6 times and boom you get in.  LAME.

Trying to set up a squad to play with your friends is wierd, clunky and sometimes unresponsive.  Not only that, if you do start a squad in the main menu with friends and start a game, it will sometimes put you on different teams?!?! 

Also they have this thing called the Battlefeed or something, it's a giant eye sore on the main menu of the game that reads "Battlefeed: Not activated.  Go to this website and sign up then it will work."  WTF, I bought this game for a lot of cash and you've got this BS ad on the main menu.  Why are you trying to make web traffic out of me, I bought this game to shoot people?  If you really wanted to do this Battlefeed thing, just make it work in game.  I even went to the site to check it out, and it was down most of the time and not working when it wasn't down.  Whatever they tried to do here was EPIC FAIL, I'm thinking it was a lame response the MW3 Elite or something.

This is a game where you do battle, level up, unlock new equipment and battle again.  I'm on the main menu and I want to customize my character, click on "my soldier"... "Cannot connect to EA servers."  FUCK YOUR EA servers!

The only bonus points they get here is that they actually have a server browser.  Maybe it's the old school PC gamer I used to be, but that's cool.  And it's funny, the first week they had a message on the title screen, "Matchmaking isn't working so use the browser server."  haha.  Such a fun game, too bad all this stuff got wrapped up in it, kind of ruining the experience.

Art - 17/20 - Everything here is realistic, modern combat weapons and vehicles.  They look pretty realistic, yippee!  They do ALOT of stuff with lighting in this game, so much so that it can be confusing.  But some really cool stuff, like if someone with a red dot laser scope is pointing at your face, you get a red dot on your screen.  The lense flares, dirt particles, and suppression blurring (If I'm shooting and bullets are hitting all around you, your screen goes blurry... kind of cool.) all add up to a pretty interesting visual feast.  It's hard to see sometimes.  One time the sun was shining in my eyes, I was being suppressed and there was so many different colors on screen it looked like I had a laser pointer on my head, so I jumped for new cover, but it turns out it wasn't a laser, it was just tons of visual FX.  Is that good?  It felt kind of realistic when it happened.  HHhhmm....

The UI is dynamic and elements are put on screen where they actually are.  It has a lot of good info, like what status the control points are in, how far away they are, etc.  But sometimes there's too much UI in your aiming area, you have 3 control points, ammo drops, your squad mates, all have UI elements moving around.; more than a few times I couldn't see who I was aiming at through all the UI.

Production - 16/20 - That whole "Battlefeed" fiasco should've been handled better, in this case I think not trying would've been better than some crappy "me too".

But production scores big points for the audio in this game.  I have never heard audio so realistic; when bullets are pelting everything around you, bricks are crumbling, rpgs flying overhead, it all sounds so realistic it can be scary.  Not only the guns, but the tanks crunching through the environment and jets ripping through the air are amazing.

Value - 20/20 - If you like this game you can play it for 100s, possibly 1000s of hours.  I would play 90% of that time in conquest mode though. :)

Total Score - 83/100

Game Review - Gears of War 3

Trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7Te5fcnrUA

Wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gears_of_War_3

Let me start by saying this:  This is an Epic package of gaming!!

Gears 3 is one of those games that is built upon the backs of other great games in a series (The entire package reminds me of Halo: Reach.), and each iteration the game gets better.

First of all, Gears of War style arenas, cover-based pop up and shoot, paintball-ish feel, roadie runnin from cover to cover... It's all here, they didn't break anything.

Design - 17/20 - This is the 3rd (and supposed final) game in the series.  Like I said before, the meat and potatoes gameplay here is almost untouched from the Gears 1.  If you haven't played a GoW game since then, you will still be instantly familiar with most of the controls and concepts.

The single player campaign is great, and playable from beginning to end with 1-4 players.  I had a lot of fun going through the campaign, enemies and fights are well balanced, I'd go online and play a few levels with my friends, then back to single player, it was all pretty smooth.  I've gone back and played about 1/2 the game on Hardcore.  Woooo, that is tough.. One beserker took 4 of us what seemed like a 1/2 hour to kill.

One thing that I felt was missing from Gears 3 compared to the originals was the cool co-op stuff.  One of the most memorable parts in Gears 1 was holding the light on your co-op buddy so the locusts couldn't get him, this game has zero of that.  You need 2 people to open a door, that's about it.

Another Gears staple that was a little absent here was the split path levels.  They exist here, but they are really short and not as interesting.  Also buggy, possibly the reason they chose to not do it so much, the 4 player thing got bugged out a few times on us causing a progression break multiple times.

Multiplayer - This is where many people will spend the most time, and it's amazing.  Tons of unlockables, tons of modes, you could spend a disgusting amount of time playing Gears 3 multiplayer.  The multiplayer level design is kind of interesting; very small levels, which keeps the action going, but each level kind of has an area that if you control, you have a huge advantage.  I'm not sure I like that, but that does focus the action, and I was never bored looking for enemies while playing multiplayer.  The levels are laid out great and the distances and combat arenas are cool. 

Horde Mode - Boom!  I love Horde Mode.  It's so sweet here, and it's crazy epic with up to 50 waves.  I think I got into the 20s, but wow, there's a lot of gaming in Horde Mode.

Beast Mode - Yep, they even included an entire new mode called Beast Mode.  I'd like to say that it was inspired by Left 4 Dead's VS mode where you play the zombies, because in this mode you play the Locusts/Lambents.  It's really fun, you start out with Marcus and other CoG heroes sitting there surrounded by turrets and fortifications and you have to kill them.  Very essentially, it's the opposite of Horde Mode.  I think you can play all of the enemies in the game, which is crazy!  This one only has 12 levels and it goes by pretty quick, but it's still great.  They really seemed to be so close to a L4D Versus mode.

A few other things I'd like to say about the game design:
  • This is the first game (That I have played) where you can spot your enemies in mulitplayer.  Point at an enemy, click the stick and all your team mates can see them for a few seconds.  This is extremely helpful to your team, and is a cool new feature (BF3 has it too, not sure where it started though).  Also you get xp for it!
  • You know all these newer games with epic multiplayer, you can level up.  Gears is a bit different in this way, any mode you play you get xp towards your level (Campaign, Horde, Beast, Multiplayer).  So if you play through the campaign before trying multiplayer, you will already be leveled up a bit and have a few unlocks so you don't look like the n00b you are!  :)
  • Couch co-op!  Even online split screen campaign and multiplayer!  AWESOME!!  Although weirdly, you cannot play split screen online Horde or Beast?! 

Technology - 18/20 - Gears 3 runs smooooth!  A few tiny slowdowns when 4 player epic battles are going down.  Finding games is slick and quick.  Gathering your friends for games, also easy.  I didn't get booted too many times, if this score was for online only, it'd probably be 20/20.

But... the game did crash a few times in campaign. 

During one of the split level parts, one of us died and it spawned them on the other part of the level, with no way to get back and it broke progression for all of us.  This happened a few times. 

Zero day one problems with technology, score extra points for that one in today's world.  (Yes, there was a day 1 patch, but that's cool.)

Art - 18/20 - I think the Gears enemies don't get enough credit, they are nasty looking beasts... in a good way!  I wasn't too big of a fan of the new enemies, the Lambent plant people.  Lots o brown.  But overall, very cool stuff!

Production - 18/20 - Gears is slick, I've said it before.  And this is easily the best packaged Gears yet.  The VO and cutscenes are good, but in this iteration, the dialog kind of went Hollywood... Lots of one liners, etc.  They try to get all emotional with the big series ending "event", but I felt it was a bit forced and I didn't really care.

The sound FX are great.  The support for the game is amazing, every weekend there's a new event.  (The first weekend was big head mode and another one I liked was Ticker Madness or something.)  Cool shit!

Value - 20/20 - There's no question that if you enjoy playing this game, there is 100s of hours worth of gaming here.  Possibly 1000s.  This game is made for replayability.  There's already some DLC maps (this is a very late review, but this game came out before I started this blog!)

Nice job Dude Huge and everyone at Epic, this game rocks!

Total score - 91/100

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How I rate games.

Just to explain the way I approach rating a game:  I wanted to do something a little different, but familiar.  So I stuck with 0-100, that works.

I wanted to come from a slightly different angle so I chose 5 categories, each worth 20 points.  When you make a game you hire artists, programmers, designers and producers; there are 4 categories right there.  And I added "value" as a category, because in today's quickly changing world we have a wide spectrum of games that are free, and at the same time have insane premium content that could put the cost of a single game over 100 dollars.

Here are some details of what I'm thinking when writing these reviews:
  • Design, Art, Programming (Tech) - When I put a number down for these categories I'm not rating the people in the department, I'm rating what is in the game.  What they managed to squeeze into the released product,that is all.  A 0 tech score could mean the game crashes all the time or is unplayable from a programming fault.
  • Production - In this category I'm not trying to rate the producers on the game, more of the entire package.  Many times producers make the call on what gets cut, what features get focused on, all kinds of major decisions.  Also in production I will cover stuff like: Sound FX, VO, writing, stuff like that.  Again, the entire package... kinda.
  • Value - Exactly what it says.  A 10 in this category would be an extremly sweet free game with no hidden costs, or a $60 retail game that is well worth the money.  A 0 in this category would be a $60 game that should've been free, or even a free game that totally sucks could get a 0 here.
In the end, this turns out to be a tough ratings system.  In this system to rate higher than a score of 90, all departments must average that number.  That can be tough to accomplish, but a 90 review should be tough to get.  The first two games I used this for I REALLY REALLY liked and they ended up getting scores in the mid 80s.  I'm not sure I would've ended at those numbers if I just thought about one final review number.

Also, I'm going to tend to review more obscure games; games I really enjoy or games I think deserve a rating for whatever reason.  I will treat FB games and small indie games with the same attitude as a $100 million "AAA" projects.  I really want to write a review of Gears 3, but don't think anyone wants to read my review of MW3, so I won't waste my time.  That being said, I have no agenda but to review games and possibly lead people to games they normally wouldn't play.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Game Review - Orcs Must Die!

Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RUQTh0DHAY

Wiki:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orcs_Must_Die!

Let me start by saying this:  This game is HARDCORE and I love it!!

Orcs Must Die! is not for everyone;  it may have funny orcs and a slightly cartoony look, but this game will please hardcore tower defense players mostly.  I'd go so far as to bet that if some casual gamer accidentally bought this game because of the cute-sy art style they wouldn't make it passed the 2nd level.  (I've played ~42 hours and I've beaten the game and about 75% of the way through Nightmare Mode and I'm seriously stuck.)

I don't want to sound like I'm bashing the game because it's really cool and fun (I will bash parts though).  The hero of the game is the last "War Mage" alive, who is basically Ash from Army of Darkness and must defend these magic rifts.  Orcs love to run through the rifts and I forget how it works, but if too many run though you lose.

This game nails comedy in so many ways.  The Orcs are hilarious!!! 
Some examples:  "I'm allergic to flames!",  "You go first!",  "Ohh no he di'n't!", "One more day till retirement."
I still laugh at some, although it has that classic video game problem, if you give a character a voice that can be triggered many times it becomes repetitive.  But the Orcs are funny enough that the repetition is fine.

There are around 4-5 very short cutscenes.  They are both awesomely drawn and well written, I actually lol'd in almost every one.  Your character also talks for a bit at the beginning of each level and that stuff is pure genius also.  If I had a comedy category OMD would get 20/20.

Design - 18/20 - When you boil it down, this is a tower defense game that is HEAVY on the action.  Maybe the most action oriented TD game I've ever played.  Starting a level is very much like Plants VS Zombies, where you have X amount of available traps and only Y amount of slots.  And to be honest, you can pick the wrong ones and screw yourself from the get go, but that's mostly on the later levels.  Almost all the traps are awesome and effective.  The Orcs come at you in relentless waves and they get a TON of Orcs on screen, it's sweet! 

Most TD games you build turrets, in this game you build traps: Arrows that shoot out of walls, spikes that come out of the ground, etc.

Later in the game you can build what they call guardians.  Paladins and archers that you can place and these act more like traditional turrets.  (They both are super effective and I used em alot.)
The killer moments in this game are when you set up a really nice trap combo and 100s of Orcs are charging just being slaughtered, thrown into pits and torn to pieces, Orc body parts flying in all directions.  AWESOME.

There are a good amount of Orc variants, some Ogres (Big & Strong), Kobolds (Small & Fast) and Dragons (Flying), a good overall enemy selection.

The level design is great, I applaud the level designers on this game, distances feel good, waves are intense, just solid overall levels.  Some levels you play and lose bad, WTF?  Go back and try a new strategy and it works perfect.  Each level you get a new trap, and a general rule is the next level will have an environment that will feature that new trap, hint hint!

Tech - 15/20 - Ok, I love this game.  I love how many Orcs can be onscreen.  I love that it doesn't slow down too much.  It didn't crash on me once.  But the LOADING TIMES ARE INSANELY TOO LONG!!!!!  This is a TD game where you will be restarting many times.  The times were so long I decided to time it, they were between 45 seconds and 1 minute.  I know it doesn't sound like that long, but put this game on your 360, play a hard level and restart till you beat it, if you still think the loading times aren't long you have the patience of a GnR song.  The levels are relatively small and all indoors, I really don't know what would cause the loading times to be so long.

Leaderboards are cool and load very quickly.  I only had 2 people on my friends list that had the game and they didn't play much, so the leaderboards were a cool place for me to see how I did.

I'm not scoring points against OMD for this, but 2 player!!!!  Personally, I think at the current difficulty, adding a 2nd player would turn this very hard game into a normal game.  (Just speculation!)

Art - 19/20 - The art style is radical!  The Orcs have that almost funny cartoon look, but at the same time they're menacing.  The cut scenes are short but fantastic, the main character looks great and the Ogres and Kobolds are perfect.  Even the loading screens are informative as well as hilarious.  The UI pops, looks cool and informs.  Art nailed it!
Production - 17/20 - This little hardcore TD game comes in a great package.  Everything is there in slick menus.  The music is as epic as you get.  Writing and VO top notch.

Value - 18/20 - I got at least 40 hours for 15$, that's a win.  You won't get 40 hours outta this game though, unless you LOVE Orcs, the Evil Dead series, tower defense games and a bit of a challenge (And can sit through those f%$#ing loading screens!)  But if love or even like all those things, you will like this game.  I hope for and would enjoy paying for some DLC!

Total Score = 87/100