Tuesday, October 31, 2000

The Witcher Enhanced Edition | 9.0

I was somewhat skeptical originally because the last to forays I made into PC RPGs were quite disappointing(NWN and Titan Quest). I waited until the enhanced version came out and the reviews were so good plus I had some free time before I started my masters program that I finally decided to go for it.

The first night I wasn't sure because my ego made me choose the harder difficulty and that made some of the battles VERY hard when you don't understand how to use alchemy. However the second day when I began to get the hang of the system and the story became more interesting I played 9 hours straight into the 3rd chapter. If you have a decent system with an 8 series or newer Nvidia or 3800 up ATI the graphics are stunning. A few particular areas in the game sometimes I will simply stop and watch what is going on.

I actually enjoyed the frequent swearing as its fairly novel in a PC game and fits this fantasy world. The option to collect sex cards did not interest me hugely though sometimes the situation which arise due to choices your character makes in the game are slightly humorous if a bit juvenile.

The only way to compare the story in PC games is to think of Baldurs Gate which had a story interesting enough to follow on its own merits. This game actually inspired me to read the books which has never happened from a computer game before. The books are good, far better than average but not equal to the best fantasy out there like Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Bonehunters (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 6) or The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1).

The only downfall for me was I really enjoyed the party system of Baldurs Gate which does not fit the Witcher world. I did not really think about that lack until the second time playing from the beginning looking for the quests I missed the first time thru.

Great value for the money if you enjoy RPG or adventure gaming! I'm going to support this developer as much as possible(buying 2 copies of the game for friends, reviews etc)and if they can come out with something even close to as good as this game I'll be very impressed! 1600x1200 maximum settings (all monitor could handle)
Core 2 Quad Q9550
8 GB of DDR2 RAM
Radeon HD 5970 Black Edition
Windows 7

Monday, October 30, 2000

Halo 3 | 10

So as you've heard everyone else say, HALO 3 starts right where HALO 2 left off. Master Chief is embroiled in the conflict to end all conflicts aiming to be the savior of the universe.

First off, the story is... just a continuation/conclusion of the HALO saga. Don't really want to say anything here because this is a review, not a walk through.

When you first start out, you might be a tad bit disappointed with the graphics as I was. After the first 15 to 20 minutes, however, you really begin to appreciate the visuals. There is SO MUCH STUFF that is rendered on the screen at any given time (eons more than GoW), and all of it is really very detailed. The only stuff that disappoints is the character models... very generic and last gen.

The sound is... wow. It's a huge part of the atmosphere of this fantastic finale. While you are playing through for the first time, my bet is that you won't really notice it all that much, but take the time and listen. You have to appreciate the fact that you are not only getting a great game, but an entire orchestral musical score made specifically for it as well.

The game play is classic HALO style run and gun. Nothing really all too new or fancy except the new "deployables." These X button wonders are really a lot of fun to play around with and there are found in a good variety. During my play through on heroic (PLEASE DON'T START THE GAME ANY LOWER THAN THAT!!!), I need to use them quite often. They were pretty much essential for me.

*BUT* Who buys HALO just for the campaign? The proof is in the pudding... oh, excuse me, I mean the proof is in the multi-player! That's where the gold is. It's a (much) bigger, better, and shinier version of HALO 2's amazing frag fest, and it certainly is no slouch. Lotsss of maps, weapons, vehicles, and death! Did I mention the "Forge?" Well, I wouldn't want to write another 5 paragraphs (and you wouldn't want me to either I bet).

So stop reading my (fantastic) review, and go out, or in, really, and PLAY!

Sunday, October 29, 2000

Spellforce Universe | 8.0

As a big fan of rts games and rpgs, this was a pleasant combination of both. It did a great job of balancing the heros abilities with the rest or your units. And for the price you can't go wrong with this game. It was an easy clean install and after the initial install the game played perfectly. The only complaint I have is with the first spellforce, there is now way to do a skirmish with just the computer so after you finish the campaign there is only online multiplayer and there really isn't any of that. However, skirmish mode has been added to spellforce 2 which is fine since I only played the first one for the campaign.

The first spellforce:
- This isn't a game for everybody; it's not a "true" RTS nor a very deep CRPG. If you can't deal with that, don't buy it.
- It's a mix of both but on the light side of things. I like that because I'm bad at "real" RTS games.
- It's a very entertaining game which is nicely paced. It starts off slow but you'll get some rather difficult scenarios after that.
- In order to develop your avatar into a powerful force you need to do all side quests and stick with the skills you have chosen from the beginning (like Elemental Magic) and watch what attributes you need to be able to increase the skills to the next level. I recently replayed both this campaign and the follow-up (Breath of Winter) and it makes a big difference. I reached Level 29-30 without a problem.
- The different ways of building your avatar adds a lot of re-playability to the game.

first you must consider the main features. SF2 is a combination of two genres - RTS & RPG. This means that you can switch to a 3rd person view, collect items, solve quests and get skills for your avatar & hero party through a skill tree.

Fascinating is especially the mission design & the story concept. I really enjoyed it and its really a way different from other RTS games. On the whole the single player campaign has a playtime of more than 40 hours. But then there is also a free game mode campaign which has nearly the same playtime and can be played as well with friends over the internet. I can recommend it to any fan of RTS & RPG games. Its just the perfect blend between Dungeon Siege & Age of Empires.

Spellforce 2 is about a 8 out of 10, and is an effective mix of both RTS and RPG, however, it does neither genre particularly fine My biggest criticism is that all online screenshots look astounding. .In this game, there is a large drop off between High and Medium graphics settings. My PC kicks butt by a few years after these game engines came out.

During their journeys, your avatar and his hero companions will often find it required to call upon the military of armies to accomplish their objectives. This is where the game's RTS elements emerge. You gain workers who gather resources and build the structures compulsory to summon the military units for your army. You can also build self-protective composition such as archer towers to keep foes at bay. The RTS element of the game is far less altered from Spellforce. The first games had six races from which you could summon armies: Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Trolls, and Dark Elves. Spellforce 2 includes the Barbarians, Gargoyles, and Shadows. However, the nine races are divided into the three factions: The Realm (Humans, Elves, Dwarves), The Clans (Orcs, Trolls, Barbarians), and The Pact (Dark Elves, Gargoyles, and Shadows). Unlike Spellforce, where you had to find runes and plans to summon armies from rune monuments, in Spellforce 2 you are acknowledged a headquarters as a base of operations. You gain access to new races, and more advanced buildings by completing quests. Instead of simply finding runes, there are representatives from each faction who will "bond" you to grant you the ability to assemble armies of their faction. Instead of their levels being fixed at the level of the worker rune you used, as in Spellforce, your units also level along with the avatar, albeit much more slowly; their maximum level is 18. Of course, you can still zoom in and out from an overhead view to a earth level "chase cam", viewing your avatar and units up-close. This is a enormous perspective to be grateful for the remarkable structural design of some of the game's arrangement.

I didn't play any of the expansions, but there is four here.

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty | 10

I've watched the Starcraft 2 Amazon reviews come in with great sadness. Sadness because this game deserves so much more than 3 stars, but also sadness because most of the points the negative reviews make are completely legitimate.

Starcraft 2 is a great game. I got it the day it came out and haven't touched another game since. Like the original Starcraft, it's an almost perfectly balanced RTS with three unique races. The Terrans, Zerg, and Protoss each have many new units and tricks up their sleeves, and as with the original, the game takes mere hours to learn but a lifetime to master. Each and every last unit has its perfect situation where it can be used to turn the tide of a game. The production values are phenomenal all around. The sounds and voice acting are fantastic, the attention to detail is amazing, and if you've got a computer that can handle them, the visuals on max settings are absolutely gorgeous. And it doesn't just look and sound good; it plays good, too. A bunch of little technical issues from the original have been fixed: you can issue commands to multiple hotkeyed groups at light speed without some commands being lost, your own units will actually move out of the way when you're trying to construct a building, rally points are more efficient and separate ones can be set for worker units, etc. It's all the fun of the original, but it's now sleeker, sexier and handles better. It is faster paced than the original, and the multi-player automatic match-making system is Blizzard's best yet. As a bonus, it (like Starcraft and Warcraft III before it) ships with a map editor that lets you customize nearly any aspect of the game; skilled map-makers will be making new maps, missions and mini-games for years to come.

So when does a game like this get a 3-star rating? When its own creators unwittingly do almost everything in their power to sabotage it, that's when. Thanks to some miscalculations by Blizzard, there will be entire sections of the fan base that will find this game either unplayable or unappealing. Though the gripes have been listed many times on here, I'll summarize them once more and give my take on just how much they're really likely to annoy you:

1. You need an Internet connection to play, even in single-player mode. Obviously, if you have no or sporadic Internet, this will be a deal-breaker. You can technically play a single player version offline, but it comes with limited features and privileges.
2. You need to make a Battle.net account to be able to play at all. For some, the very idea of having to go online and sign up to use a product you just shelled out $[...] for is a slap in the face. Also, this Battle.net account will be your one and only Starcraft II account; no more starting over with a new name or record.
3. No LAN. I guess maybe Blizzard thought nobody actually LANs anymore? Clearly, the people have spoken, and Blizzard thought wrong. If your fondest Starcraft memories are of playing the game on a LAN with friends, this might be a deal-breaker for you.
4. The region lock. In Blizzard's previous games, you could freely switch between regions. Now, if you're an American and you want to play with your European friends, you need a European copy of the game. It's hard to see what good this does besides making Blizzard more money.
5. No chat rooms. The game's automatic matchmaking system is beautiful, but let's say you want to chat with other players in a chat room for a while before migrating over to a game. No longer possible. Just about the only way to make new Starcraft 2 friends and partners online is to privately message people you were randomly paired with after a game, or to privately message random players in your (or a friend's) league division (hint: if you do this, people will think you're weird). Blizzard has promised to add chat rooms in a patch, but for now, this is the issue annoying me the most.
6. Your Battle.net and RealID friends are practically invited to stalk you. I don't think I've seen a game where adding someone you're "iffy" about to your friends list could end up more detrimental. Not only are you always online while playing this game, you always show as online to everyone on your friend's list. You can choose to show as "busy," but there's no option to hide.
7. The campaign is Terran only, and a multi-player RTS plus one race's campaign might not be worth $[...]. In Blizzard's defense, there are 29 missions, strung together to form an amazing story with cut-scenes and cinematics between each. Each mission can be completed on 4 difficulty levels, all featuring optional objectives and achievements. But for all that, an RTS veteran could blitz through the entire campaign in a matter of hours (on normal mode, at least). If you're one of the players for whom the campaign is the main draw, paying $[...] for a game it only takes hours to beat would be a bad deal.
8. There's no global ladder. If you play league games online competitively, you get ranked in a league, but aside from the top league (so I'm told; I'm not in it), you have no way to tell where you stand relative to everyone else in your league. You can only tell where you stand relative to the others in your 100 person division, and the divisions themselves are not ranked. I much preferred Warcraft III's system, where you could see where you stood relative to everyone.

The funny thing is, some of these new features people are griping about aren't inherently bad ideas. For instance, it's actually very cool to be able to chat and share your achievements with friends while playing the campaign...unless, of course, you just want to strategize and be left alone. Which brings me to what I think is the heart of Blizzard's mistake: they should have made a whole lot more settings OPTIONAL. You should have the OPTION to play single player online or offline, the OPTION to show as visible or invisible to your friends, the OPTION to play LAN, the OPTION to switch regions. But instead, Blizzard's "my way or the highway" approach will leave all of those who can't get past any of the above eight things out in the cold. So please, Blizzard, save your fans, yourselves, and your game a lot of trouble, and make more features optional in future patches.

I'll close by addressing what I think are the three groups of people holding off on buying the game: if you're dismayed by all the negative publicity, but none of the above problems are deal-breakers for you (and there's no reason why any of them have to be), go ahead and buy it. It really is a great game, and you'll have a lot of fun. If you absolutely can't get past one or more of the problems and know they would make the game cease to be a fun experience, then you have my sympathy and you get to keep your [...] bucks. And finally, to those for whom the issues really aren't deal-breakers but who are refusing to buy the game on matters of principle: you have my respect, and even my admiration. But man, you're missing out on a good one.

Update (4/19/11): Since I wrote this review, chat rooms have been patched into the game, though they aren't used nearly as much as the chat rooms in Blizzard's previous games. On other positive notes, the game is frequently patched, balance issues are addressed and taken seriously, the game has very active forums where players talk strategy in detail, and Blizzard is continuing to make new maps and scenarios and integrate them into online play. On the negative side, it's becoming more and more apparent that most of the bigger complaints against the game (like the lack of LAN, online requirement, and region lock) aren't going to be patched away. Overall, I'm still playing the game pretty regularly and having fun, but there's still plenty I'm gritting my teeth about.

Wednesday, October 25, 2000

Dead Space 2 PS3 review | 9.0

Dead Space, released in 2009, came out of the middle of nowhere. It wasn't too hyped, coming from a rather unknown group of developers, but shocked everyone with its amazingly brutal and atmospheric horror experience and became a critical success. With these high standards to meet, 2 years later, the second is released to incredible anticipation and it certainly doesn't disappoint.

Dead Space 2 is amazing. It takes everything the original put into the series, and enhances it. The controls are more precise, smooth and convenient (with the addition of a single button health and stasis refill system), the visuals are even more detailed and gritty, the sound is as creepy as ever, and the story remains intriguing and intense. You must work to unravel the truth behind the Sprawl (the game's setting), Unitology and Necromorphs, as well as battling (literally) horrific hallucinations and delusions from an alien form of dementia. If you are a fan of the first, then you will definitely enjoy this.


Dead Space 2's gameplay is very similar to the first, but with the right tweaks and enhancements. The controls are basically the same with some minor changes (select is the default menu, square is to reload, aim and triangle is for stasis). The circle button is now a one hit health refill button, instead of square (from the first). The triangle button is similar, but for stasis refill. Isaac's movements are much smoother, more precise, and easier to control. The melee attacks, for example, are far more accurate and can be used in quick succession, unlike in the first. The weapons are great and fun to use as well. One major change is in the zero-gravity areas. Instead of the wall-jumping from the first one, you have a sort of jet pack that allows you to fly around the areas and even latch onto the wall as if to walk on it (like in the first). Certain sections take advantage of this and offer fun new experiences for Dead Space. This game has pretty good replay value in that you have a new game+ option that saves the items and money you get from the previous playthrough so that you can go on to collect the weapons, suits, trophies and so on. There are also more difficulty levels and trophies to keep you occupied. This game still has it's objective style in that someone tells you where to go, what to do, and you must reach the objectives. Although more freedom would have been nice, it doesn't hurt the experience for me, because it's just how Dead Space was. Also expect to be scared. This one is every bit as horrifying as the first, if not more so. Expect sudden encounters, random and loud equipment malfunction, and disturbing scenes and hallucinations. Overall, the gameplay is like the first, but even better.


Dead Space 2 is gorgeous. The settings are very detailed and atmospheric, and it's really a key component to the game's horror element. Technically, the graphics are better than the first (which was pretty good to begin with) with more detailed environments, characters, enemies, etc. It is even more graphic than the first as far as dismemberment and violence goes because of the greater detail. The lighting is very well done in this game as well. Isaac's dementia hallucination sequences look as amazing as they are freaky (think Scarecrow in Batman: Arkham Asylum, but more disturbing). When I first played through the demo, I was impressed with the visuals, and I still am very impressed.


This is what really set the first Dead Space apart from every other game in it's genre. The sound was absolutely stunning. This is what really sets the atmosphere for the game. Technically, the game sounds wonderful. The further you are from the target, the distance sounds realistic. The muffled screams and shouts from behind walls, doors or glass are all catered to their materials. Now the sound really shines in creating the horror element of this game. Lots of minimalistic sounds that really make a difference. The necromorphs sound as disturbing as ever, along with the distant screaming, babies crying and pleas for help. Even the silence is well placed, and builds incredible tension, because you never know what could jump out at you. The environment is incredibly unpredictable. A pipe could explode right behind you, a random monitor could flash, a window could blow out, a necromorph could come bursting out of a vent, or any other countless possibilities that are very loud and will make you jump a good foot in the air. I could go on and on, but no other game pulls off a horror audiovisual presentation quite like Dead Space 2.


The Dead Space universe has a very intriguing story about it, and this game does a great job at telling it. There are plenty of twists and turns throughout to keep you gripped (like in the first) and the inclusion of Isaac battling with his own dementia is very well presented. Now I won't go into detail, but the basic premise is that Isaac has woken up 3 years after the ending events of the first Dead Space, to a horrific necromorph outbreak. The setting is on a large Earth colony, The Sprawl, that is located on the remains of one of Saturn's moons. He doesn't know what is going on, and is suffering from a deadly form of Dementia he contracted on Aegis 7 in which he has horrifying and disturbing hallucinations that seem centered around his deceased girlfriend, Nicole. You are set free and must unravel the mystery to save yourself, and figure out what is going on in The Sprawl. Now one major change from the first to the second is that Isaac was actually given a voice actor with real dialog. Although this does change the game in that you are no longer a silent protagonist, it is not necessarily a bad change. The new Isaac has a mouth on him, but you get to understand him far more and how he interacts with people and situations. The story and feel to the game is actually very similar to Alien and Aliens, you can sense the influence as you play it. Overall, the story is as intriguing as the first, and really keeps you gripped.


This game has no instances of sexual content, but it is INCREDIBLY graphic and violent. The violence is geared toward necromorphs (extremely mutated dead humans infected though an alien entity), but it is brutal. You can sever limbs, heads, smash enemies, and even break dead victims apart. There is a ton of blood, from it gushing out of enemies, victims, yourself, to being smeared all over the walls, ceilings, floors from previous attacks with horribly mutilated corpses littering the environment. Isaac himself, when killed, way suffer a unique cinematic death depending on the enemy that kills him that includes decapitation, dismemberment, being sliced in half, skewered, stabbed in the head, and being graphically vomited on by strong acidic creatures. The game is also very disturbing. Several people crying for help with be mercilessly slaughtered by the aliens in graphic ways. People suffering from severe delusions and hallucinations may kill others or themselves in a highly graphic and disturbing manner. Some necromorphs are of dead children, and even babies (very disturbing) that act as suicide bombs. The visions you have tend to be very demented and disturbing, and the entire game is very scary, even to mature audiences. The language in this game is also very coarse. Right from the beginning you will hear the f word and s word thrown out like crazy, as well as every other lesser expletive. These words are used in a sense of panic for the most part in that people are trying to escape or save lives from horrifying circumstances. This game is rated M for a reason and it is a high end M due to the violence. I can think of only very few games that come close to the graphic intensity of this game.


If you have an Xbox 360, a Playstation 3, even a computer, and think you can handle the mature gruesome, disturbing horror aspects of this game, it is a must buy. I'd recommend starting with the first (Dead Space Greatest Hits), as it is an amazing game as well, although it isn't necessary to fully enjoy this game. If you are a fan of the series, I'm sure you already have and love this game. This game is an atmospheric masterpiece that improves upon the original in every way, and keeps the series at a high, high bar.

Monday, October 23, 2000

Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess 8.5

Zelda Twilight Princess has been eagerly awaited by legions of Zelda gaming fans. This version features a more adult Link who rides a horse, swings a sword and saves the day.

The title is available for both the GameCube and the Wii, and there are definitely some advantages with the Wii. First, you can see the game in 480p, which is DVD quality. It's not quite high definition, but it's still quite nice! Second, you get widescreen, which means you get much more game to see on the screen. Finally, you get to use the motion sensing controllers on your Wii to swing your sword, go fishing, aim your slingshot, and much more.

First, the gameplay. Most gamers will be thrilled to hear that Link is less cartooney in this game. That's not to say it's a mature title - it's still a game without blood. You kill evil enemies who vanish in a puff of smoke. You go on a variety of quests, and it's very much good-against-evil. Rather, with this Link you're not a little 6 year old on a toy sailboat. Your Link is in his late teens, has his own house, owns a horse. He is harassed by three little tykes, but there's a certain young lady whose large eyes catch at Link's heart.

In no time at all Link is out in a world which is not all butterflies and daffodils. There are dark things afoot in Hyrle. The land is covered in twilight, and you turn into a wolf to deal with the shadows. Your senses serve you well in this realm. It's not too scary for kids - but it gives the game much more depth for older players.

The graphics are rather impressive for a Link game. Remember, the game is still a cartoon, so you're not seeing detailed tanks or the pores in the characters faces. The world you are in is stylized. There is plenty of detail in 480p - or even in regular TV resolution - to show the orange pumpkins, green vines, and fluffy white chickens which make up Hyrule. The water ripples, the dust billows and the fire flickers in the fireplace.

How about the sound? The Link games were famous (or notorious) for the silly noises characters make. None talk. I suppose this makes it easy for them to convert the game to every language in the world - they just change the text out and are all set. Also, you can change your name and your horse's name without any speaking issues. The voices might not know how to pronounce "Shadowfax".

Gameplay is just amazing in its length and depth. There are numerous worlds to traverse and dungeons to delve into. There are the standard collection of mini-games, quests, things to collect, puzzles to solve. You could easily play this for months and not be done. This isn't a game to race through to say "I solved it" and move on to something else. It's a world to immerse yourself in, to get to know every hill and dale, to track down those secret locations.

I really like how the Wii controllers integrate into the game. It's not like you are using them constantly, getting exhausted with hand movements. Instead, you do a fair portion with the regular joysticks for fine movement. The joysticks are used in a more general way, for sweeping sword attacks or relaxing fishing. You can use small movements if you want - but it's much more fun if you get into the spirit of things and swing away. Just make sure you have that wrist strap properly connected!

Downsides? The little "he he he" voices can get annoying quickly, especially if you are stuck on a puzzle and they are tormenting you. Sometimes the checkpoints send you back further than you might like.

They do a good job of giving you little nudges if you get stuck, helping you figure out your way through the puzzles.

In general, I think they struck a great balance between "tame enough for younger kids" and "in depth enough for older players". There are a lot of teen and adult Zelda fans out there, and they'll be quite pleased with what the game offers. This is definitely one of those must-have for gamers who like adventure games even the slightest!

Super Smash Bros. Brawl review

SI wasn't much of a console gamer for a long time after the N64, but one game that stood out on it was Super Smash Bros. Fast forward to 2008 and I broke down and got a Wii for the party-gaming potential. I have not been disappointed. Yesterday, this game arrived.

Oh boy. This is a heck of a lot of fun. The number of things to do is incredible. You can even practice your character's moves against your choice of inert or active opponents. Nintendo seems to have intended this game to be epic as they not only include an in-game retrospective of the entire line of Nintendo gaming products going back all the way to the NES, they include time-limited trial versions of the classic games.

Wifi works wonderfully. Online matches are frantic and fun.

One odd thing is that the wireless pointer feature of your wii controller is completely inert once you load the game. This is one area where they shouldn't have stuck to their roots- it feels silly to move a token with the analog joystick when I could theoretically just point at the character I want to use. But you get used to it.

If you have a kid, he will spend months getting all the unlocks (there are lots). If you have a kid inside you, you will rediscover some console joy.

The maps are pretty amusing/crazy. They touch on many themes/ideas from previous Nintendo works. Put it this way: There is a Pictochat map. The terrain is drawn as you play... Many maps have destructible terrain or areas you cannot jump up through, which adds a strategic element.

The characters are varied and seem very well-balanced against each other. (Aside: I love how the announcer says "KING DEDEDE" so seriously.)

If you are completely new to the game, you still have a pretty good shot at winning by button-mashing, which I consider a good feature. If you have mastered the combos and moves however, you still have the advantage.

I haven't played the adventure mode much but it is also fun.

You pretty much have to buy this game if you own a Wii. This is as much a Wii-defining game as Super Mario Galaxy or Wii Sports is.

Sunday, October 22, 2000

Dragon Age: Origins PC | 9.5

Dragon Age is a kind of game that is becoming increasingly rare: a deeply immersive single-player RPG with an interface clearly designed for the PC. It's easy to sling around the word "immersive" at any game that looks pretty, but DA isn't messing around - the world of Ferelden shows a unified sense of design and depth that blows even famously vast games like Oblivion out of the water. Coupled with consistently excellent writing and across-the-board quality character design even down to relatively unimportant NPCs, the game truly does feel like it's reacting to your choices dynamically from the very beginning, and how you play your character can have amazingly subtle effects on the way the story unfolds.

Graphically, the game's a little uneven. All the design elements are there, and it has plenty of high-quality textures and strong environmental visuals - particularly fire effects. The polygons themselves, particularly on character faces, are a little simpler than you'd expect from a 2009 game. Overall, the game looks about on level with Oblivion, although the visual distinctiveness and design ethic of areas and characters are significantly better. Animation stands out as a strong suit here, particularly during the game's frequent dialog sequences, with none of the dead-eyed staring or bizarre walk cycles that plagued other RPGs like Fallout 3.

Gameplay is pretty straightforward, and very much in keeping with previous Bioware titles like Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect. You control a party of up to four characters, each of whom develops a plethora of useful abilities to keep track of. The inclusion of a minor programming element (very much in keeping with the gambit system from Final Fantasy XII) will let you set up a few default actions on each character so you're not stuck frantically switching between them to make sure they drink their healing potions, but battles frequently require some degree of tactical planning. Setting up ambushes and planning your party strategy to play to strengths is necessary to get through some tougher areas. The interface is, shockingly, clearly tailor-made for the PC (the console versions have their own interfaces designed from the bottom up and are apparently easier games to allow for the sacrifice in easy access to skills). You have an insane number of quick-access slots, and nearly the entire keyboard is bound to one thing or another. It's the kind of interface that hasn't been in vogue since before the PS2 came out. The game is extremely linear, although the frequent and varied dialog options give it the feel of a more free-roaming game, and it's very tempting to go back and replay huge chunks of the game just to see how the complex and dynamic conversations will play out. The main downside is that there's no easy way to level-grind, which is to the game's benefit to a point (no tedious circling around killing wolves) but occasionally means you can get in over your head.

What the game sacrifices in terms of sandbox free-roaming it more than makes up with in the excellent writing and characterization. An absurd attention to detail and across-the-board excellent voice acting breathes a lot of life into the game's conversations, which make up a significant chunk of gameplay. Characters are extremely varied and the interplay between them is a major draw, a trademark of Bioware's games, but Dragon Age has some of the most likable characters I've ever seen in a video game and the excellent performances from talents like Tim Curry, Kate Mulgrew and Claudia Black really put the game a notch above. Even the game's fairly generic-on-the-surface fantasy world is livened up by a few critical details - for example, the elves in Dragon Age are a massive underclass of servants.

It's actually difficult to find things to level complaints against in this game. One petty gripe is Morrigan's visual design - her character is one of the game's strongest, and she has great personality and some very clever writing, but visually she's a pair of giant breasts with a cloth draped improbably over them. Other women in the game are treated with a bit more restraint, though, and female armor is gratifyingly sensible. Another issue is that it can be difficult to manage battles on the fly, and accurately targeting enemies with skills frequently requires tactical pausing just to line the cursor up over their relatively small active areas. It's a petty annoyance, but the game clearly wasn't meant to be played Diablo-style anyway.

A few other things to know about the game:
-The game is mostly DRM-free, and ships only with a simple disc check. EA has a reputation for fouling up its customers' computers with DRM malware, but DA seems to be free of those problems.
-If Dragon Age were a movie, it would be rated R. I don't remember ever seeing any swearing, oddly, but the game is rife with violent imagery, extremely dark themes and frank sexuality (including a handful of relatively tasteful sex scenes and occasional demonic nudity). The game handles all of it with maturity and depth, but it's clearly not meant for children, and even parents of younger teens should be cautious.

Overall, Dragon Age is one of the strongest games to come out in recent memory, and is another installment in Bioware's increasing resume of superbly-written RPGs. Players looking for a fast-paced hack-and-slash "rpg" should look elsewhere, but anyone who likes deep and elegant plot development, memorable characters and excellent role-playing will love this game.

Saturday, October 21, 2000

Chrono Cross | 10

First, I must admit that I am not an avid video gamer, though I have seen others play plenty. I have played very few RPGs and even fewer held my interest. However, when I played Chrono Trigger on an SNES emulator, I was enthralled, finishing it within a week. When I discovered its semi-sequel was coming out, I could hardly wait the ten months for it to be released in the US. I ordered it in advance in April, received it the Wednesday it came out, and played it nearly straight through to finish by Friday evening. 60 hours of gameplay and about 15 hours of sleep. To say the least--it was all worth it.

First, gameplay-- It is one of the best battle systems that I have seen. It may seem complicated to begin with, but one becomes quickly accostumed to the strategies and nuances of the idea. In a game of chess, the rules are simple but the possibilities are endless. The same goes for Chrono Cross' element system. In addition, being able to see your enemies on screen allows you to fight when and where you want. This is a big advantage if you want to avoid them (if you don't want to fight piddling monsters) or find them (to retrieve extra spells and items). Cross pulls this off even better than its predecessor, Chrono Trigger.

Leveling-- I considered this such an important aspect of the game that I gave it its own category! The reason: you can advance through the entire game avoiding nearly all monsters and still beat the game. Not only is the focus on strategy (the types of spells, colors, and balance between physical attacks) in order to defeat bosses, but you only gain stat bonuses during about five fights between each boss. Continuing to fight others can help with items and extra spells, but does no good to "level up" your characters. I thought this a terrific idea. Your characters still become extremely strong towards the end, but not because of experience. It doesn't exist. Cross is plot-driven, not level-driven.

Storyline-- Speaking of plot, Cross' is pretty good. It can get convoluted at times, and having played Trigger is helpful, though not necessary. Characters are surprisingly three-dimensional and everything fits together if you think about it for long enough. The major ending(s) though, can be dissapointing and because of the plethora of characters, very few of their pasts and conflicts can be resolved. But, all in all, you will enjoy it as mystery after mystery is solved while other take their places. Like a good book, it's difficult to find a place to put the controller down--you want to keep going.

Music-- Outstanding. Better than many movie soundtracks I've heard, both in quality of composition and sound. I highly reccomend buying the soundtrack to listen to during the day, unless you want to leave your Playstation running while doing the dishes. Of course, it would be worth it to do that, too. It's that good.

Graphics-- The people that made the FMV sequences were the same who did those FFVIII. The graphics ares similar to those of FFVIII, in battle sequences, exploration, and the movies--but even better. The colors and attention to detail make the entire game simply . . . beautiful. Let the game run and stare at it if you have to, it can be the only way to appreciate the artwork. Plus, the spells have their own elegantly simple quality. No spell is too long or extravagent, letting battles to continue smoothly. And the detail! When a character pulls something from her pocket, the movements are very human and real. They leave footprints on the beach and the environment casts shadows as you walk through a dark cave or brightened room. Every detail draws you further into the Chrono Cross world.

Do not rent this game--you should definitely buy it. The developers of Chrono Cross claim it can be beaten in 35 hours. They're lying. It took me 67 hours total, including the few times I had to go back to an old save point. And that does not include the amount of time I will spend in the future finding the multiple endings and other storyline branches. (They are a total of 6 different paths you can take, each very different and effecting the outcome of the game) Buy this amazing title for your Playstation and give Square a hand. Or even bow. They deserve all the respect you can give for this fine game.

Friday, October 20, 2000

Chrono Trigger | 10

If there is any RPG game that everybody must play at least once in their life, it has to be Chrono Trigger. Ever since its original release in 1995, the game has stood the test of time and has been highly regarded as a classic. Thirteen years after its original release, the game gets the handheld treatment and even throws in some new features as well.

The story is brilliant, as it utilizes the theory of time travel to the past and the not-so-bright future. The characters are classic and memorable, and the soundtrack is one of the best that I ever heard (thank you Yasunori Mitsuda).

However, if you're a veteran of the series, you may notice that the script was changed and the names of the techs and items are not the same as before. "Tonic" is now "Potion", "Flame Toss" is now "Flamethrower", and that alone could take a while to get used to. This doesn't bring the overall experience from this handheld version down in any way.

The game itself has plenty of replay value to make up for its seemingly short length. After the game is beat, with the New Game+ feature, you can play the whole story again, but keeping the same stats the characters had when they defeated Lavos.

Did you enjoy the animated cutscenes from the PS1 release? You can adjust them either on or off as you please. With the Touch Screen controls, you can make a new use out of the battle screens (even though I personally enjoy the classic view). But the thing that really makes this worth playing again are the inclusion of some new side quests to add on to its already splendid storyline.

I can't recommend this enough. Its price is cheap for a worthwhile DS game, its play value is addicting, and if you missed out on the SNES or PS1 versions, here you go.

Grand Theft Auto V PS4 review 10.0

To start, I am a Rockstar games fan, especially the Grand Theft Auto franchise. I own GTA V for PS3 and I’ve played my moneys worth and more. In the past 6 months, GTA online has started to go downhill, less people, less DLC, the fading promise of heists online. Even I, as an avid GTA player, has gotten bored with it. When the Next gen announcements came, I wasn't to excited, I figured a few more shiny objects to please the masses. Then I looked deeper. I purchased the game for PS4, and i purchased a PS4 to play this game. There are so many improvements and changes, it is worth $60 more.

The Aesthetics, Rockstar is known for detail. The previous gen was very detailed, but the new gen blows it out of the water! The way the grass moves and The rain falls. The graphics are not quite as great as the trailers, but impressive to say the least. The way vehicles respond to impacts is more realistic. The draw distance Is amazing, You can pick A car's headlight in the distance, zoom in with your rifle and see it the car. There are more people, more traffic, a variety of weather, all making for a more immersive experience.

New modes and Items, I couldn't possibly cover everything, so I will just cover my favorites. The first person mode Is awesome! Fully functional gauges in a cockpit view is something i've always liked in games, GTA V does it great. Flying is my absolute favorite activity in GTA, I am an aircraft mechanic and though the gauges aren't perfect, I really enjoy this new mode. If you've already beaten the single player, I suggest playing it again in first person mode, it's well worth the time. Now I did own the previous gen, so I recieved a few extra things for upgrading, the rail gun and the modified Duke. All insignificant extras, but it was nice to have some extras thrown in for the players that upgrade.

The online: I was concerned that upgrading and transferring from my ps3 to ps4 would have issues. The transfer was smooth and easy. All vehicles, weapons and items transferred just fine for me. The limit is still two properties, there was a rumor a player could own 3. Unfortunately not. The collectors edition items such as the carbon RS, Hot Knife, and Bullpup shotgun are now unlocked for everyone. That's somthing I've been waiting a long time for. Unfortunately, I was hoping for animals in gta online, but that isn't a feature, maybe in future updates. Rockstar has also promised heists to be the first update, but that promise comes with allot of warented skepticism.

My verdict: If you couldn't already tell, I liked it. Its not just the common re-release, It improves and adds to the already great experience. Its well worth another $60 if you've owned it before, and if you haven't played it yet, You're missing out!

Dragon Quest V DS review | 8.5

Remember when RPG's were fun? You'd get a hero or a band of heroes, and you'd run about the world killing everything that got in your way? Remember when you didn't have some angsty-emo-teen as a main character that wielded a sword the size of a box truck? Well, Square-Enix smartened up for a change and remade several classic RPG's from the NES and SNES days. Final Fantasy IV, Dragon Quest IV and this title in question: Dragon Quest V. Unfortunately I never learned Japanese or got my hands on a translated ROM version of the original installment, so I can't compare how it is now to how it was. But I can tell you that this version is outstanding!

Story, music, characters, things to do... This game seems to deliver on all fronts! The fact that you can recruit monsters to fight on your party adds a bit of randomness, which is nice. You can change up your party many times and get a slightly different feel for combat each time. One thing I noticed is a distinct sense of humor here: It feels rather Japanese, which is nice. To me, that means they probably kept the translation as close to the original as possible. I could be wrong, but that's just an impression I got.

In an RPG, I look for two things mainly: memorable story and strong gameplay. Dragon Quest V supplies both in spades.

Titan Quest Gold Edition | 8.0

Just Right
Time Spent:
10 to 20 Hours
The Bottom Line:
"Highly addictive"

Works great with a Geforce 8800 GTX, but it'll run on a Geforce 7800 GTX. I particularly liked that you can see the exact armor and weapons on your opponents and, after you killed them. Fighting a hard opponent is rewarding because everything drops for looting.

Titan Quest (and its expansion) has no deep background - except lots of excellent Mythology (correctly told for once).

There is no "official 20-sided dice" getting thrown somewhere in the background - but do you really care? Hack, slash, zap, burn and destroy. Loot, sell, buy and equip. Repeat as needed.

Stable when Iron Lore went bankrupt unlike Hellgate: London for example. It's flagship's fault. I admit that unlike Hellgate London, it wasn't a stupid game purchase. It beat Disciples II in gameplay and it looked better. This game is on par with Dungeon Siege II.

Graphics 8
Gameplay 8.5
Sound 7
Overall 8

Thursday, October 19, 2000

Suikoden II review (ps1) 9.0

I'm not kidding as far as the title to my review. The "big name" reviewers have been so off when it comes to the Suikoden series - including the editorial reviewers right here on Amazon. Just read the "customer reviews". We all love it! Why aren't the "real" reviewers responding?
Suikoden is just like Final Fantasy (My second favorite series) except better. It's easier to play, has more lovable characters, has a simpler battle system, a more exciting plot, and a lot more options about how to spend your time. In this game, you will sincerely grow attached to the characters - and when one dies, you will weep. (OK, only if you're as sentimental as I am.) There are lots of games within the game - like tossing dice or going fishing or entering cooking contests. You don't have to do that stuff, but if you think it's fun, it's there for the taking.
You can hurry through the game, just trying as hard as you can to win it, or you can choose to slow down and play around with the characters inside your castle. What you do will affect the ending.
The makers of Suikoden II took all of the annoying glitches out of fantasy roll playing games. If you run into a random encounter that's just way too easy for you at your level, you can put your characters on automatic, and just have them take care of it so that you don't have to have a boring battle. When you go in shops, all the items say right on them whether they're as good as what you already have. They've just made it easier so that you can spend more time having fun!
The Suikoden series is my favorite. I would buy a Playstation just so I could play this game. I think maybe some of the reviewers who call it "nothing special" should ask themselves why all of us regular people who play it think it's incredibly special!

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII 9.0

The story felt somewhat messy overall, but I can't entirely blame LR as XIII-2 made things complex as hell. Still, feels were had more than 5x. The epilogue! Somewhat conflicted about it, but it wasn't bad.

The soundtrack was 10/10. Need I say more? The XIII series has always had glorious OST.

The battle system is engaging, and fun and paradigm shifts are so instantaneous that they make me want to spam the L1&R1 buttons just to see if I can break the game. Also...Artemis Pierce is so awesome. Best move ever. The worthless bit to it is that you can walk during fights, but Light walks so slowly that you don't actually use it. Exterminating monsters was fun too. Running after cactuars in the desert? Not so much. Crazies run 2fast4Light.

Every outfit/weapon/shield has different stats and moves that add to your strategies. Of course, the likelihood is that you'll only go through about 10-15 of them. Will find super awesome outfit and stick to that for the most part. It irritated me how you couldn't choose the color for every component of your outfit. Some of them only had 1 part of the outfit you could change colors for, which got me sad, specially since I wanted to clad Light all black and not green, yellow, red. I didn't find a way to change weapon & shield colors. Either I missed something, didn't look well enough or its just not possible. Either way, the variety of weapons/shields were cool, though I pretty much only stuck to a select few.

There are around give or take 165 sidequests, this including character sidequests and the prayer canvas that is basically "Get x amount of x item by killing x monster". The story was relatively short unfortunately.

The four continents were relatively big and you always had new things to discover, which was good.

The Epilogue & final cutscenes were absolutely gorgeous. Simply stunning.

I also have to add that you will have enough time to travel around every single part of the continents with timestop. The 13 days don't hold you back if you know what you're doing. You can finish the story in 2 in-game days and have 11 extra days for sidequests. So hating on the game for that isn't a valid reason.

Overall, it was a very fun game, but the story falls a bit short unfortunately. Going to miss Lightning.

Final Fantasy VII | 10

I'm old enough to remember when RPGs weren't called RPGs. In those days the essence of the game was to move the players about a game board, fighting battles, collecting treasure, and finding clues. Origin's Ultima series was the grandparent of these games - immensely entertaining, but essentially two-dimensional. Among its heirs were the first games in the Final Fantasy line.

This was also a time when computer capabilities and capacity seemed to double every few months. Final Fantasy VII is the result of an inevitable synergy between technology and imagination. Players found themselves in a three-dimensional world where they could wander at will. They were playing with characters that were not only more animated and lifelike, but also had something that resembled personalities. In a very real sense, FFVII changed the gaming landscape, and RPGs reached a new level of credibility.

What is inside is the story of Cloud Strife; an ex-soldier turned mercenary who is drawn into the struggle between Avalanche, a revolutionary group, and Shinra, a rapacious company that is rapidly draining the resources of the planet. Starting out in the city Midgar the battle moves back and forth across the planet, as Cloud gathers team members, accessories and power. Everyone has a history, often mysterious, and an important role to play.

Eventually it becomes clear that the real enemy is a laboratory experiment gone horribly wrong. Shinra's effort to produce supermen has created Sephiroth, who has become one of the legendary villains of the gaming world. Physically beautiful, his mind has been ruined by his knowledge of what he is, and his goal has become the destruction of the world.

The plot is remarkably rich. Within the main story arc are many smaller stories that build the players understanding of the nature of each of the characters. There seem to be an unending number of weapons, powers, and monsters. More than enough material for many replays. The graphics are a bit primitive for our time, but were startling when this game first came out. As your imagination adapts to the imagery, the game becomes truly engaging on many levels. Final Fantasy VII is still one of the best of its genre, Whether you are a student of gaming or an aficionado, it belongs on your shelf.

Guild Wars Trilogy | 10

This is an amazing game. I enjoy being able to play the majority of the game on my own, but there are times when you need to ask other "real people" to join your party. At first I was a little shy to do so, though I soon realized there are quite a few players that can teach you new tricks in getting around or ways of doing battle. Now I am hooked on the whole thing and look forward to playing whenever I can. I'm still on the first game (Prophecies) and know that I will enjoy playing Factions and Nightfall just as much. The graphics continue to amaze me and the storyline is awesome. I highly recommend this game to people who enjoy Sim type RPGs...you won't be disappointed. And you might make a few new friends along the way!

Played on a great PC:
Core 2 Quad 9550
Radeon HD 5970 BE
6 GB of DDR2
Windows 7
Catalyst 2010 March

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey | 9.0

Overall, I'd give this game a thumbs up, but I have hard time calling it a true sequel to the original masterpiece, and have some mixed feelings about this game. First, it's a new game, with a new lead character, and a whole new style of play. If you liked the original you will probably enjoy this "sequel" as well, but things have changed. The main character is now Zoe Castillo, with an older, jaded April Ryan playing second fiddle. The original April Ryan is absent from this game, and , I have mixed feelings about Zoe taking over the lead role in this series

April Ryan , of the original game, was charming, witty, light hearted and fun. Zoe , a nice girl, is simply more serious and lacks a lot of the levity provided by the original April Ryan. I will, however, say that Zoe's( as well as most actors in this game) voice acting is excellent and she's capable of handling some deeper, more mature subjects convincingly. However, I very much miss the whackiness, wit and youthful optism of April. April was arguably one of the best adventure game characters , to date. She was a milestone that set the standard for a number of other games. Her character has changed dramatically in the latest installment, and the game suffers from that. Zoe, while enjoyable, just doesn't stand out as much.

Kian, the third player has virtually no real involvement in the game, other than a handful of conversations, and simple combat sequences there's nothing about him that couldn't have been made into a cinema. Perhaps he may have a role in a following sequel, but not in this game. The story, like the lead character has also made a distinct change.

The story line is faster moving, more intense, and more sci-fi oriented than the original. It's a good , engrossing, story line, but it lacks the wild creativity and fantasy of the original. It has a distinctly diffferent feel or "flavor". The overall magic, awe, wonder,whacky humor and originality of the first installlment are just missing. Again, not a bad storyline, but not what made the original game a classic. The gratutious profanity and innuedoes have been toned down quite a bit, but it's still an adult, or "mature audience game"

This game is *NOT* for young children. There are a curse words, sexual situations and innuendos, some mature subject matter, and violence, as well as references to drugs and alcohol. Nothing over-the-top, but it's not some G rated title.

The controls in this game largely detract from the overall experience. Playing Dreamfall is more like playing a 1st person shooter, than a point and click adventure game. Navigating cramped areas can be a nuisance. It took me several hours of play before the controls became second nature, so to speak. I enjoyed the simple beauty of point-click the original offered, much more. Secondly, maybe it's my imagination, but this game doesn't seem to have quite the level of diversity in scenary the original did. The frequent load sequences also tended to detract fromt the overall experience.

Thinking and problem solving have definitely taken a back seat to eye-candy cinemas, simplistic combat, and puzzles generally tend to be "dumbed down" to accommodate individuals who don't enjoy games with any thinking involved. I wouldn't go so far as to call this game an interactive movie. It has puzzles. They are there. They're just much simpler, and scarcer than puzzles typical of earlier adventure games. Frequently another character in the game will tell you where to go and what to do next, making the game a bit too easy. This gamealso has numerous fight, flight and flee sequences. Arcade sequences are hardly new to adventure gaming, but in Dreamfall they're frequent and water down the game's status as an adventure, puzzle based game. The saving grace is that the story progresses quickly, and will keep most people interested in just what the heck is gonna happen next. Secondly, very few people will spend hours pixel hunting for a simple clue, or silly oversight. Personally, I'd rather see the adventure game market watered down, and and still alive, rather than die off completely. If that means putting up with silly combat scenes or excessive cinemas, that's fine with me.

This game has no real ending, just a place where the game stops, and the remaining chapters were written simply to whet your appetite for a sequel. I was upset when I saw the ending of this game. It was sad, disturbing and abrupt. It just left so many unanswered questions, with many sad possibilities waiting in future installments. The ending was much like "cliff hanger" season finale to a television series. It was meant to to tease the player, not provide resolution. That fact shouldn't be a problem if there's a sequel, but due to lack of interest in adventure games, there may not be another installment of this game.

GoldenEye 007 Wii review | 8.5

Goleneye for the Wii has some high expectations to live up to. The original N64 game was a classic, revolutionizing the FPS genre on consoles. Could this Wii game of the same name be just as important?

I think your enjoyment depends on just how into modern FPS you are. Personally, I absolutely loved Goldeneye Wii. But that's because I love the Call of Duty games...

Finishing the single-player campaign and logging in dozens of hours into the multi-player game is an ENORMOUS amount of time for me to invest in a game, in fact the last time I can think of spending that much time gaming was when Modern Warfare 2 came out. Which makes sense, since the game is so similar to that series.

Goldeneye isn't at all a remake of the Rare game. Everyone throws out "re-imagining", but that doesn't really explain it. The game is completely new, relying only on elements of the movie script to move along the gameplay. Eurocom uses a few familiar locations to invoke memories of playing through the N64 title, and then promplty throw you off with completely new level designs. The game is definitely its own beast.

The single player game is very fun. There's four difficulty levels, and it follows the mission structure Rare made famous. On the lower two difficulty settings only one or two missions are required per level, and they are usually simplistic (like "follow the bad guy" or "get out alive"). The higher two difficulty settings, including classic mode, involve more missions, and while you can finish levels without completing everything, you'll be unable to move on with that specific difficulty. I've been playing it on 007 difficulty (the equivalent of Secret Agent in the original) and have had to redo missions when missing something.

Goldeneye apes a lot from the Call of Duty series. The single player is very cinematic, the gameplay is almost exactly the same (from the constant location icon, to the look down the sight of your gun, to the icon indicating you're crouching), and the multiplayer might as well be called Call of Duty: James Bond. But is that such a bad thing?

Yes, the game is much more cinematic than the original, but it's VERY well-done. The voice acting is superb, the animation is excellent, and the pre-scripted events in the game just make it feel so much more alive than the original. And while you may or may not like the pop-up targeting, replenishing health, and down the sights view, you don't have to play that way. Eurocom had the great sense to make Goldeneye extremely flexible, and that's very much appreciated. Classic mode might be for you, and there's a wealth of more traditional control options available.

That said, I'm a big fan of the COD games, and I enjoyed playing Bond in that style. What separates Goldeneye from, say, Modern Warfare 2 is its reliance on stealth gameplay. I always thought the original's focus on stealth gameplay was a bit artificial, I never felt overwhelmed when setting off alarms or having enemies call for backup. In this game, it's practically required at the higher difficulty settings. This game does great job of allowing for different play styles. There's usually more than a couple paths to get around enemies (including a large number of vents) and you'll really have to take advantage of silencers on your pistol and sniper guns. The game also allows for melee stealth kills, which work great. Sneak up behind an enemy (by crouch-walking), and then snap your nunchuck forward and Bond will pull off a cinematic, and silent, kill. It works VERY well and gives the game its own feel.

The enemy AI is certainly better than the original, which is to say it isn't brain-dead, but not the best in the world. That's partially because there's a focus on stealth; because the game encourages you to sneak up and silently take out enemies, sometimes a fellow adversary a couple feet away might not even take notice. Again, it's not that big of a deal. It always feels like the AI smartens up once a large firefight ensues. Backups are called in and they become aggressive about taking you out. They'll flank you, throw well placed grenades to smoke you out, use cover, etc...

While not as deliberate as in something like Gears of War, Goldeneye has a pretty well implemented cover system. There's barriers around everywhere, and it's always smart to crouch behind them and pop up for a couple of shots. The best part, of course, is that most cover options are destructible, forcing you to constantly search for a better cover option. It's nothing super new, but it's really obvious that more attention was given to this game than most other third-party Wii games.

I've tried using three separate control schemes: Wiimote + Nunchuck, Classic Controller Pro, and the GC controller. And while the CCPro was instantly familiar and well-done, the Wiimote + nunchuck ultimately won out. There's a number of preset sensitivity preferences, of which I used "Experienced 3" - the highest sensitivity. On top of those presets, you can customize the sensitivity further. I upped the sensitivity of movement while looking down the sight of the gun, as well as the turning axis (which helps making a 180 turn while in multiplayer matches).

Pointer controls take a little getting used to, especially getting your pointer hand to sit still, but once you've figured out that sweet spot (like I did above), the controls can't be topped on a console. Whether looking down the sights of my gun or mowing down enemies on the fly, the shooting feels silky smooth. As long as the frame-rate is running just as well, which it is 90% of the time.

Unfortunately, there is that 10% in which the game stutters. This usually happens when there's not only a ton of enemies on screen but also when some fancy particle effects are being used. In one way you'll appreciate the effort to make this game look good, in another you'll just wish the game had been created with optimized gameplay in mind. Again, drops in frame-rate are fairly rare, and if you were a fan of the original...

The multiplayer may be the best FPS experience on the Wii. Like Call of Duty, the game features an XP system that rewards players for kills, wins, and a whole bunch of conditions met. First time playing the complex? Here's +25XP for ya. Assisted in a kill by finishing it with a grenade? Here's an extra +20XP. It always feels like the game is constantly rewarding you in the beginning, probably because of how unbalanced you'll be against more experienced players.

Obviously the more XP you earn, the more you'll level up. Leveling up leads to unlocking better weapons, stat boosts, and "gadgets" - Goldeneye's version of perks. These include gun modifiers like silencers (that will keep you off enemy radars), different sights, etc... The highest levels yield the best extras, like fan-favorite proximity mines. You can even customize you character with multiple "loadouts". Nothing I've said will be new to you if you've played a COD game since Modern Warfare.

None of these features would matter if the levels weren't well-designed and the matches ran smoothly, and so far so good. While I can't yet say if the maps are as memorable as the original's (that will warrant dozens more hours in gameplay) my suspicions tell me they aren't. They're a bit generic, and the levels that aren't meant to resemble the original's slightly resemble the original Modern Warfare's least popular maps. Not a big surprise there. With a max of eight players online at once, the maps typically run a bit small, which may be fine for fans of the original, but will disappoint anyone who became a FPS fan following the original Halo.

Luckily though they are small, the maps are fairly well designed with numerous access points, decent camping spots, and recognizable features that help in familiarizing yourself with the maps. Again, you might be disappointed if you're expecting maps from the original. Nothing is as good as the Temple,Facility, Complex, or Archives, though some replacements (Facility and Archives) are still pretty well done.

The multiplayer modes are also worth mentioning. While Conflict and Team Conflict are your standard deathmatch modes, there's also Golden Gun mode, Heroes mode, Goldeneye mode, etc... all fun and unique modes that really do separate Goldeneye from Halo and COD. You'll also be able to unlock a few hardcore modes that lower health and lose the radar. There's a lot of game here.

Of the dozens of hours I've put into the game so far, the majority have been dedicated to the multiplayer. Matches typically run smooth, which is somewhat rare for Wii games not made by Nintendo. I use a WiFi connection rather than the USB ethernet dongle, which is what I've always been told is a contributor to choppy online play, yet Goldeneye runs smooth almost all the time. I've only had a couple of matches run choppy, both of which took place in the nightclub level (which may be a factor, as the lighting is a bit hectic), but the game was still playable, there weren't any delay in input and on-screen action, simply a slower pace. I've also yet to have a dropped match, though when the host does leave the game after a match you might as well back out. The game will attempt to reassign a host, but it takes a bit, and usually fails since everyone else drops out.

Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Dragon Quest IV DS review | 8.5

The DS remake has proven to be fantastic overall, adding graphics and more user-friendly attributes that the NES version sorely lacked. From my standpoint, I dislike the fact that they changed character names and the names of towns / dungeons, but if you've never played it before this won't be an issue. The storyline is incredible for its time and the party system is great. Square-Enix brought many of the items and attributes they have recently showcased in the newer DQ games, which were pleasant surprises. Also, I really like that a Pioneer Town similar to that in DQVII was added, and a bonus dungeon after the game. Both of these just enhance the gameplay. Overall, this is a great game and definitely recommended for any RPG lovers out there. If you're are a fan of the DQ series, this is a must-buy. If you've only ever played Final Fantasy, give DQ a shot!

Sid Meier's Civilization V | 9.0

I have played Civilization from Version 1 actually its the first game I owned for my first PC. I am was an avid Panzergeneral + Empire + Strategic Command + Alpha Centauri player. If you know these games I believe you will like Civilization 5 too.

Civilization 5 brings back the actual thinking. The problem of the previous Civilizations was that you could abuse easily the game system, put together a stack of units and go rampage build all wonders and feel great about yourself. It was fun but never hard.

What has changed? You will notice that it takes now considerably longer to build buildings and the maintenance costs are much higher. You will face the problem that you cant anymore build every building in every city as easily. This gets a yeah from me because the cities develop much more naturally than before and you have to choose what to build.

Happiness works all over empire. Its not just a local problem if your population is unhappy its now global problem you cant ignore anymore they are now **** about Ivory and Whale meat etc. and a s good ruler you have to think how to get this stuff.

Best for an old Panzergeneral player. When you fight you have to plan and bring enough units. As others are already complaining its not just as simple bringing the biggest and badest stack of units but you hav to deploy them and even then you will loose some taking a city. For me its the best part of the game actually. Wars are not any longer putting together a badass stack and march over to next enemies city its fight over positions between your kingdoms, computing working crews / settlers , holding hills ambush infantry on plains with your cavalry. Ships are actually useful now too. Surprise ;) Even in your first game the computer adviser tells you that you need now usually up to four units to storm a city . So sadly no rush conquest anymore.

Graphics of the game are clean and fine . Interface works for me. I like the new policy system focusing your civilization in a certain direction.

Some small issues and hopefully they will be addressed in a patch soon.

- diplomacy its kind of to simple. War , peace trade, give some gifts (Neutral states). what I like you cant tech trade (give me wheel I give you pottery) anymore but make research contracts.

- I think there are some game balance issues yet: 1st. The concept of "great people" can be easily abused to get to quickly advances. For example : A science great man can be sacrificed to get a new technology, techs differ greatly in research time. You can easily create a slingshot scenario. Get great people, get techs that others cant reach soon, get wonder which gets you great people rinse repeat.

2nd. Wonders are to cheap. A water wheel costs more than to build a wonder, adds to the problem mentioned above.

3rd. I think its to easy to get a cultural victory you can move to quickly through your social policies.

4th. Some people mentioned that is possible that a unit get multiple free tech upgrades through ancient ruins leading to scenarios that riflemen roam the ancient world. Didnt happen to me up to now but has to be patched if its really possible.

5th Multiplayer well needs some serious work. Stability , the option to turn on animations, Hotseat option

6th. The AI needs some work too: building/using ships, sometimes its a warmonger then a surrender monkey, needs to take more seriously important resources as Iron etc., needs to work on its tactical skills

Some minor quibbles:

-One thing regarding user interface I cant find an option to observe units which move under "auto explore" running around in far away lands. Its kind of hard to find your units again.
- I would like to have some more automatic options. for example for archers and towns to automatically shoot an enemy unit coming into range.
- I would like to have my wonder movies back!!!!
- I would like to see ALL my building on the map or in the city screen

Still overall its for me the best CIV yet. Just get the free DEMO and the free manual, print the keyboard shortcuts (make the game much faster) and have FUN. There are quite alot of things I would love to have been taken care off. Nevertheless its game basics make it for me the best initial CIV release yet and I am looking forward to play friends in an LAN party soon. All and all, wait 2 months before owning this one, when they reintegrate features from Civ 4 such as Religion and fix all the crash bugs. Like old Diablo 2, this game is virtually unplayable without patch and that is just to bring up the gameplay screen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2000

Eternal Sonata PS3 | 8.5

I bought this game with a little trepidation. I'm always afraid that I'm going to spend $60 on a game, get it home and have it suck. I was especially nervous about this game because I was looking for a co-op game to play with my fiance. I didn't want to have to worry about wandering around looking for fights to get into so the other person could play, I wanted it to be fun for both of us.

With that being said, let me tell you why I give this game 5 stars:

I am absolutely in love with Eternal Sonata. It's everything I could have ever wanted in an RPG. Some people may say it's a little short or that the game is very linear, but in my opinion these are pluses. I played FFVII and I never finished it. I really really wanted to finish it and be one of *those* people, but I got stuck and couldn't figure out where to go next. I'm not one for looking up walk-throughs online to find out where I should go next, I really just want to play the game not figure out what I need to do next. If I wanted a puzzle, I would play a puzzle game.

The battle scenes in this game are great and there are plenty to keep both you and a friend interested. The graphics are just amazing and I was really surprised to see that the game actually looked like the trailers. I love the animations on the special attacks, my fiance said to me "This game probably makes us look pretty impressive because of all of these flashy moves." The best part of battles is that you are actually cooperating. It's not just you and your friend controlling different characters. When your party levels you can start earning echos for each hit you make that isn't blocked. These echos can be stored up and any player can use them to make their special actions more powerful. It's great for building up the last hit on a boss or saving a character whose near death.

I'm also really impressed with the story for this game. It's historical and philosophical and fantastic all at the same time. You get to learn about Chopin's life and meditate about the reality of dreams. Not to mention having a game based on a musician makes for excellent score. Each chapter is based on a different composition of Chopin's. I love playing just so I can listen to the music...it's not repetitive or boring.

I would definitely recommend this game to people who enjoy rpg's and want to play with a friend or significant other. I think it's a great game for all ages and it doesn't have a gigantic learning curve, but it's got just enough mystery to make it fun to figure out.

Syberia PC | 8.5

Syberia is more of a cinematic game than an interactive game. Adventure gamers will love this one, it truly brings the genre into perspective in a time where it is dying. It is a beautiful setting, a beautiful story and a present atmosphere throughout. This kind of storytelling and experience is found nowhere else but in the adventure game. Rarely do any action filled FPSs or overhead strategy titles achieve this. Syberia passes, with flying colors.

As mentioned the story and setting is exceptional. There are times where you might have to stretch credibility but for the most part it is very involving and delightful to watch. The game is a 3rd person adventure rather than a 1st person adventure. Therefore you feel more as if you are controlling the character rather than being the character, which most 1st person adventures fulfill. This is also in part due to Kate Walker's personality which is played up a lot through the game, through things like phone calls. I found these phone calls and melodrama a bit unnecessary, but it hardly pulls you away from the game too much.

The puzzles are easy for an average adventure gamer. A newbie to the genre or just a casual fan picking up the game because it looks good won't find it as hard as certain other games in this group. There are moments which are tedious, and it isn't helped by the fact that walking from place to place again and again isn't that fun in Syberia's locations because for the most part they are static with some atmospheric movement, and it feels like a burden. However, when first moving around the locations you will feel very amazed at the setting. There are also a lot of amusing moments between characters and Kate Walker.

In conclusion, I would reccomend Syberia to pretty much anyone. It's not too hard, and not too easy, the story is very well done, as is the setting and atmosphere. It brings the adventure genre another gem to add to it's collection. Highly reccomended with 4 stars.

Monday, October 16, 2000

Crysis 2 PS3 review | 8.0

Crysis 2 is a game that I am sure many people were anticipating, and also skeptical about. While the first game had some hard core graphics it clearly was more of a visual benchmark than game at times. Going forward Crytek has made some changes to the formula, most for the better, and produced a high quality game that will not disappoint both fans of the original Crysis and FPS gamers in general.

GAMEPLAY - Single player
Right off the bat Crysis 2 doesn't hold much back. The campaign starts quickly and holds its pace fairly well throughout the near 12 hour SP campaign. If you played the MP Demo for Crysis 2 you will feel right at home with what changes have been made to the suit controls, as well as what to expect visually from the game and the AI itself. This game comes across as a solid shooter. During the campaign you will have many tools at your disposal to dispatch your foes including a variety of weapons, suit powers, environment items etc. The suit powers are very stream-line on the console version, having been mapped to your controller. Running automatically enables speed, while thumb buttons controlled the Armor and Stealth. You have the ability to customize your weapons load-out via unlocking mods you find throughout the campaign as well as upgrading your suit via contact with Alien DNA.

What impressed me the most about Crysis 2 was not actually the graphics, but the thought put into the gameplay. While enemy AI can be pretty stupid at times (I played on SOLDIER difficulty) the game gives you plenty of methods in which to tackle areas. You could stealth past everyone; stealth assassinate everyone; RAMBO your way though; use strength to toss enemies about or perhaps pick up an object and smash em with it. While the campaign has a typical "Linear" aspect to it, the variety at your disposal makes tackling the areas feel fresh each time and just a blast to change up your gameplay style.

Multi-Player: I have not tackled MP that much but from what I've played, expect your typical formula for MP in Crysis 2. If you played the MP demo then you would have an idea what to expect really. What I did like was the "custom class" concept where as using your unlocks you can create a unique build for Multi-Player. A nice little concept that keeps the MP feeling fresh I think.

Okay.. this is Crysis we're talking about so don't expect a riveting storyline like RPGs might bring to the table. The storyline isn't bad though as you could tell there was an effort put in to make a normal storyline here; It kind of is just enough to keep you occupied during cut-scenes and give you a good reason to go forward essentially. ** SOUND in this game is just awesome! I thought Killzone 3 had some wild sound effects, Crysis 2 pretty much takes the cake! The weapon sound effects are very quality, including the nice echo effects when firing rounds off in an open quiet area. The voice acting is 'average' I'd say. Not bad but not award winning acting either. The sound track this game has is mind blowing!! The tracks are very epic and will have your blood pumping from start to finish with how good the music sets the tone.

The graphics are stunning especially for a console game. Are they the best...hard to tell but then again I really have not seen a game best this game graphically. On the PC however this game is just insane. Running it at 1920x1080 w/ full setting will just blow your mind. Once you see it on the PC it becomes quite obvious that the console versions had stuff held back. Even with the graphics toned down they still do look great, but there are some small hickups. I found a few times the frame-rate chugged a little bit in high volume areas especially with fires or explosions. There is also some texture flickering going on in certain spots that are hard to ignore, also accompanied by texture pop-ins. For the graphical level this game pumps out I am not surprised though, especially once you see how large some areas can be. The alien design this time around I enjoyed. They had a lot more detail put into them and a better variety as well.

For the campaign, on soldier difficulty, it took me about 10-11 hours to complete. I was not rushing though the game and I mixed it up between stealth and Rambo style. I could see this campaign being about 11-13 hrs for people who LOVE stealth killing, or as short as 8 hours if you simply run past certain areas without bothering to fight. This puts the Length of the game at a decent length. There is plenty going on in the campaign and I could find myself playing through the campaign a few times more as the gameplay really lends itself to creativity/variety (a bit like Bulletstorm just without the Skill-Shot system). Throw in some decent MP that has some longevity to it and you got yourself a game that could easily last you well until the next big shooter hits the market.

OVERALL (93% 9.3/A-)
I gotta say this game is just the complete package. Having played Bulletstorm, Killzone 3 and Crysis 2 there is a clear line between all three games. Crysis 2 for me, falls in the category of a fantastic, long SP campaign with a solid MP setup. The gameplay has great variety to it and, in my opinion, worth revisiting a few times. The multi-player is quality, clearly not just *tacked on*, and it brings a lot of fun to the table making for even more variety in the game itself. I give Crysis 2 a 93%... It is a game well worth playing and adding to your FPS collection

**NOTE: Killzone 3 and Crysis 2 are both fantastic games. I scored KZ3 a 91%. While I feel Killzone 3 has a better overall MP element (for the PS3), Crysis 2 feels like a more complete package due to a better SP-Campaign(in my opinion). Graphically I feel Crysis 2 is better but also contains more graphical glitching

**NOTE: The PS3 version ran almost flawless for me (except for rare FPS drops and the graphical hick-ups). I wouldn't worry to much about performance when it comes to 360 vs PS3. Get the game on whichever system you feel more comfortable with.

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin | 9.0

t's a safe bet that when Konami creates a Castlevania for a handheld that it's going to be pretty good. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin is no exception, and while it doesn't do much we haven't seen before in the series, it still manages to pack one heck of a punch. Following up the wonderful Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Ruin puts you in the shoes of Jonathan and Charlotte; a whip and magic wielding duo that you play as together throughout the game. This new dynamic adds some spice to the tried but true side scrolling gameplay, which is rich with a horde of weapons, items, and power-ups to find. And, since this is a Castlevania game, it's only natural that the boss battles are nothing short of fantastic and the best parts of the game. The graphics look sharp with superb animation and effects that really show off what the DS is capable of with 2-D graphics. The music and sound is superb as well, and the game offers some decent touch screen capabilities that are more substancial than the ones found in Dawn of Sorrow. If there's any cons to Portrait of Ruin, it's that the level designs don't have that personality that we've seen in previous Castlevania games like Dawn of Sorrow and the GBA titles, but that's not a huge gripe. All in all, Portrait of Ruin is another superb portable Castlevania game, and yet another must own title for the DS.

Sunday, October 15, 2000

Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner 9.0

While Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs the Soulless Army isn't actually an SMT game, it is a member of the franchise. It is actually part of a family of spin-off games in the MegaTen series that is just using the SMT name to establish connections between the different series in the franchise finally appearing in America. While not too many people are familiar with the games past, this one takes the series in a new direction.

Devil Summoner is the first game in the MegaTen franchise that has moved past the traditional or tactical RPG style combat and gone straight into the action/RPG genre. In this game you play as a young man who has just attained the title of Kuzunoha Raidou the 14th, the successor to a long line of Devil Summoners tasked with the protection of the capital city. With his ability to see and control demons, Raidou must solve a mystery that becomes increasingly more and more twisted as the game progresses.

The story begins with the player earning the Raidou name (essentially this is the tutorial) and being assigned to work at a detective agency in the capital. One day you get a mysterious phonecall from a girl pleading for help and wants to meet with you late at night. Reluctantly Raidou and his partner at the detective agency head out to meet her. They find out the girl who contacted them has an odd request; she asks them to kill her. Before anyone can respond, she is kidnapped by mysterious men in red and so sets forth a tale of demons, evil, and curses.

Essentially the game progresses much the way you would expect a MegaTen game to, you travel to different locations via world maps and explore the different locations on larger area maps. While wandering around the areas searching for clues and information, there will be several random encounters (the franchise is known for high encounter rates) that will allow you the opportunities to capture new demons for aid. More on that later though. While exploring the areas you are able to have a demon deployed to follow you around (keep in mind the normal people can't see it though). Every demon type has special skills that can be used in the areas such as flying to reach far items, scouting to find hidden items and enemy info, and even mind reading to get some extra information from people. These skills are essential to getting the information you need, so it is wise to keep a demon of every type as often as possible.

Now for the battles. This is where fans of the series will either love the game or hate it. Gone are the pressed turn systems used in Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga. Instead they are replaced with real time action battles. You directly control Raidou and can use combinations of sword strikes and gun shots to defeat your enemies. Raidou can't use magic, so the only way he can deal elemental damage is using special bullets. Luckily for him though, he is able to have a demon deployed with him in battle (but only one!). It will typically act on its own, but you are capable of assigning it specific orders or general strategies. By using your monsters in battle, they will grow in loyalty to you. When their loyalty is maxed out, they will often give you bonuses and can then be used in fusions to create new demons. Essentailly the system can get a little bit repetitive and while it will takes a while to get used to, once you do it becomes a matter of knowing what enemies are weak to which attacks. Once you figure that out though, it's just a matter of keeping your levels high enough and capturing and fusing demons to keep gaining strength.

The style of capturing is brand new as well. Gone is the negotiation system used in Nocturne and the original SMT games. Instead it is replaced by a system that forces you to exploit enemy weaknesses. When you hit an enemy with an element it is weak too, it will become stunned and give you the chance to capture it by repeatedly pressing circle until a meter empties out. You must empty the meter before the creature revives or you will not capture it. The easiest way to do this is to wear down its health ahead of time before attempting a capture. One note though, you will automatically fail to capture if the enemy is a higher level than Raidou, the moon is full, or it is a boss battle.

The graphics and music in the game are a little different from what was seen in previous SMT releases here in North America. It still uses the same form of cel shading, but they are a little bit more defined and detailed. Nothing too major, but it is enough to really change the visuals overall appearance from the other games. Also, this game is not as dark and gritty as Nocturne or DDS. In fact it has several amusing scenes and is much brighter and more vibrant overall. This is greatly illustrated by the music which is often much more lighthearted and is comprised of a lot of horns and brass instruments. Not nearly as dark and brooding as the other two games. But since this game takes place in 1920's Japan and not a post-apocalyptic world this time, it fits in quite well.

Overall, Devil Summoner is a new spin on an old franchise. While it does display that full action battles aren't as well suited for the style of the game, Atlus was able to do it well enough that it still remains fun and keeps the game enjoyable. For a lot of people who found the turn based systems of Nocturne and DDS overbearing and cumbersome, this could be a nice way to ease into the world of the MegaTen franchise. While it is not nearly as epic as the previous games, it holds its own and the story alone is enough to keep a fan of the franchise sated long enough to finish the game off regardless of whether or not they like the change of style. Definately not the best game in the franchise, but a nice refreshing change that is fun none the less.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 review | 8.0

I've been waiting for FFXIII-2 for a while and I have to say this game is an improvement to all of the weak aspects of Final Fantasy XIII. I have played this game nonstop since it came out and I was able to rush through the main storyline in 20 hours. Keep in mind that I have beaten this game (got through the final cutscene)but not with 100% completion.

The first DEFINITE improvement is that you are no longer bound by a linear storyline / corridors to travel through. This is a much welomed improvement for sure, the option for the player to proceed at their own pace by selecting to skip around history is very nice.

The second improvement is that the upgrading system seems to be easier to use, you are able to level your character as you please and you are able to level whatever role you want.

Now to the bad parts (not a lot and these are just opinions)

The first is that your third party member is limited to the monsters you encounter and capture. And you feel a bit empty inside after spending time leveling a monster only to have it replaced by a lower level, but stronger creature that you just captured.

For the people that were wondering about the Amazon DLC Omega, it does NOT make you overpowered or allow you to breeze through the game. I have beaten the game with at least 3 roles of each character maxed to level 99 and still omega kicks my ass (he doesn't join you until you beat him).

********************* POSSIBLE SPOILER INCOMING???!? ******************************

The MAIN problem I have with FFXIII is that this is the only Final Fantasy game that I've played that literally said "to be continued" after you beat the final boss. It leaves me feeling so unsatisfied that the game ended like that. Well to be fair I don't know if there is an alternate ending for finishing the game with 100%. But after looking around on youtube, the secret ending doesn't really add much to the ending in FFXIII-2. I'm not going to go into details of how it ended but it feels cut short.

**************************************** END SPOLIER SECTION **************************

Overall this is a very good game, it is a must buy if you enjoyed FFXIII and it feels like a much more polished game and what FFXIII should have been. Still a very good game, I might update this review when I finish more of the game.

UPDATE: Ok, well now I finished the game 158/160 fragments and have done basically everything the game has to offer and now my total playtime is 50 hours. So bascially if you are going to spend your time with only the story mode and ignore all of the side quest content, this game can probably be rented and beaten in a week. However if you are a completionist and like to do all of the stuff that the game has to offer, just keep in mind that this game does not offer nearly as much play time as other final fantasy titles.

Metroid: Other M | 8.5

The Metroid series is one of Nintendo's finest, and the new entry, Metroid: Other M, is finally here. After the excellent first person Metroid Prime series by Retro was concluded, it was announced that Metroid was returning to both third person view and Japanese development. Many fans were made uneasy when it was announced that Team Ninja would be heavily involved in the project, but the fact that it was being headed by Yoshio Sakamoto, who has been heavily involved with Metroid from the beginning, gave hope that the game would live up to its classic name. Sakamoto promised that this game would flesh out Samus's character as the most story heavy Metroid yet, but has this decision ultimately backfired?

The story is the most controversial aspect of this game. Rather than opt for the minimalist approach of the other titles in the series, Metroid: Other M inserts a full blown Final Fantasy XIII style cinematic experience. The story begins with a recap of the events that took place in Super Metroid's final moments and leads into Samus receiving a distress signal from a space station called "the bottle ship." She arrives to find out that the Galactic Federation has already sent a squad of soldiers, led by her old commanding officer Adam Malkovich. She ultimately joins up with them and politely agrees to follow Adam's orders.

The most jarring aspect of the story is the way it fleshes out the character of Samus. While Samus has had spoken lines before in Metroid: Fusion, but they were never overly intrusive and didn't reveal a whole lot about her. However, in Other M, she not only talks, she talks a lot. For a series that has largely lived on letting the player form their own ideas about the character of Samus, this is a bit disconcerting. The personality she reveals as she narrates the storyline is bound to infuriate many fans who have long seen Samus as a stoic and strong individual who is in control of her emotions.

Throughout the game, Samus has many flashbacks to her time in the Galactic Federation with Adam which portray her as an insecure little girl who has trouble handling the fact that she's a woman in a man's world. From giving a thumbs down as a salute, to her monologues about how father figure Adam is the only one who understands her, this becomes cheesy and embarrassing to watch. Back on the bottle ship Samus continues to act submissive to Adam as she instantly agrees to disable all of her abilities at his request with zero hesitation. Later on in the game, there's a scene where Samus is so frozen in fear that she is unable to do anything. Samus comes across as insecure, uncertain, and even submissive at times.

Watching the story play out, it is incredibly difficult to believe that this could be the same bounty hunter who has courageously saved the galaxy on numerous occasions. In an attempt to make Samus more human and relatable, Other M goes overboard. It's one thing to have emotions. It's another thing to be crippled by them to the point of endangering lives. For a game series that has never had a lot of story and never really needed one, I have to question why the game creators felt the need to insert this melodramatic poorly plotted mess. The story is a major part of the game, and since you can't skip cut scenes, it is impossible to ignore.

Once you complete the game, a cinema mode unlocks where you can re-watch all of the cut-scenes strung together like a movie. Whether you'd want to is another story.

The gameplay in M:oM is also a controversial element. Other M opts to use only the Wii pointer and nothing else for control. You hold it sideways like a NES controller leaving only the d-pad and two buttons for input. If you want to fire a missile, you have to rotate the Wii remote so it is pointing at the screen, which changes the perspective to first person. This shift is rather awkward, and you can't move while you are in this view aside from an awkward dodge maneuver accomplished by quickly shifting the pointer off the side of the screen. The controls aren't broken, but they are not particularly good, either. They work, but only just.

The game itself plays more like an action game than a Metroid game. Almost all of the exploration you would expect from the series is gone, and for the vast majority of the game you are restricted to a linear path where doors will often lock behind you to prevent revisiting previous areas. There are some hidden missile expansions and energy tanks along the way, but the game pretty much tells you their exact position once you clear a room of enemies. The game only opens up to allow free exploration at the very end. This exploration makes it very clear why they decided to restrict the main story line so much, because when you have a few options of where to go, every other area is "now loading" for ten seconds, especially when you use the speed booster.

The combat in this game is very easy. Due to the limitations of using a digital control pad in 3d space, Other M includes a dodge move that occurs automatically when you are pressing a direction on the d-pad. This means you will almost never get hit by anything as long as you are moving around. Samus's gun also auto-aims, so most of the time you can just shoot blindly down a corridor and not worry about whether or not you hit anything. The only challenge comes from shifting to first person to fire a missile, which is only required for boss fights the majority of the time. This is more annoying and awkward than difficult, since it merely involves waiting until you have a large enough window of time to get a missile off without getting hit.

Throughout the game, Adam restricts the use of Samus's abilities until he deems them necessary, which means no more finding your abilities along the way, and also leads to illogical moments such as Adam not deciding it was appropriate to authorize the Varia suit to protect Samus from heat damage until she is already most of the way through the lava sector taking heavy heat damage along the way. This approach also means that there are no substantial new powerups for Samus to acquire. All of the significant abilities Samus has in this game are repeats from Super Metroid.

Also worth noting are frustrating sequences that involve freezing you in the first person perspective until you find some tiny hard to find object. Often you will pass the Wii cursor directly over the object you are supposed to examine without the game registering it, leading to a lot of time wasted passing over everything over and over in an attempt to find what you are meant to scan. These moments completely kill the pacing of the game.

*Replay Value*
After you complete the game, every door unlocks, and you are finally completely free to finish your collecting spree of leftover expansions. At this point, there is also an extra boss and epilogue sequence to find. However, this can all be done in less than twelve hours the first time through, and once you do, the only reason to replay the game is the hard mode that unlocks upon 100% completion. There is also a cinema mode and art gallery that unlocks. If you don't care about getting everything, a regular main story play-through only lasts around eight hours.

The graphics look pretty good for a Wii game, but the actual art design is lacking. The game is filled with generic looking hallways and rooms that don't really stand out visually, and the themes never go beyond the typical generic fire, ice, and jungle areas. The only thing that stands out about them is the holographic effect that appears sometimes to remind you that these are only simulations on a space station. One high point of the visuals is that the animations are some of the most fluid I've seen on the Wii.

One of the most disappointing aspects of Metroid: Other M is that the game has almost no music during actual game play. The background noise consists mostly ambient sounds and, very rarely, one or two recycled tunes from past Metroid games. Expansions are also missing the familiar tune that used to play when you picked them up in other Metroid games. This is a very disappointing aspect of the game. The voice acting is alright, but it's not spectacular. Samus sounds monotone throughout the game and you'll be hearing her a lot. The sound effects for weapons and enemies are adequate.

In more ways than one, this game is a massive disappointment. The game is playable, but in a series as outstanding as Metroid, it sticks out like a sore thumb, and even taken on its own terms it fails to impress.