The pirate image and legend has left an unmistakable and lasting impression on the world. Much like the cowboy, pirates are often vilified and romanticized as hard drinking thrill seekers with a deadly reputation, and it was only a matter of time until someone developed the next great pirate game. Ubisoft Montreal released Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag in the last week of October, 2013. Does the new AC have what it takes to dethrone Sid Meier’s Pirates for the “Bane of the Briny” crown?
Lots of developers tried their hand at making a worthwhile Batman game over the years, and most of these efforts to place players in the Dark Knight’s boots failed. At least that was true until Rocksteady brought us Batman: Arkham Asylum back in 2009. Asylum was the “Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever,” according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Arkham Asylum got the voices right, gave us the gadgets, the Batman look, the moves, and gave us the fearsome reputation to make the bad guys shit their pants! Batman: Arkham City gave us a little more city to play around in, a few more villains, and more puzzles and fetch quests.
The Walking Dead by Telltale games took the video game industry by storm when it was released in 2012. Whether it was gamers or journalists, the game was very well received and earned many Game of the Year awards. Having changed the landscape of the video game industry, Telltale went back to work on their often delayed graphic adventure game which is based on Bill Willingham's Fables comic book series. After many delays and a name change, The Wolf Among Us has now finally been released.
As soon as one starts playing this title there are certain things that will quickly become apparent. Telltale has taken their familiar brand of graphic adventure gaming and upped the quality tenfold. No small feat for a company who took home many accolades in the past. The game starts off with alerting you to the fact the choices you make during the game will have an effect on the outcome of the story. The mechanics that are used to make these choices are greatly improved. There should be no complaints about controls this time around as they feel smooth, accurate and very intuitive. There is a bit more action in this title than in The Walking Dead series and thus it was essential that Telltale nail down a control scheme that makes it easy to bounce back and forth between action and decision making.
Maybe it is because The Wolf Among Us, in this writer’s opinion, has a better subject matter and location than The Walking Dead, but visually this game looks downright stunning. With the hand drawn characters and signature New York City aesthetics, the seedy underbelly of NYC has never looked so good. The use of color and neon coupled with the nighttime lighting really makes each scene pop off your screen. Murder isn’t so bad when dressed to kill.
The Wolf Among Us’ story doesn’t take a backseat to anyone or anything. It has what should be familiar characters to really anyone that had somewhat of a decent childhood. The roster in the first episode includes such names as the Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, The Woodsman, one third of the Three Little Pigs, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Beauty and the Beast, and more. These childhood characters once lived freely in their make-believe world. However, something has happened which has forced them to leave their world and now they are tasked with living in our world. In order to protect their identity and assimilate into an ordinary lifestyle, they must purchase a spell called Glamour, which according to one famous toad, has seen a dramatic increase in price but with decreasing results. Fabletown, which is now part of New York City, has it’s fair share of inner city problems. All of which fall under the jurisdiction of Sheriff Bigby Wolf, aka the Big Bad Wolf.
In the first episode, which is roughly two hours of gameplay, Fabletown experiences their first murders. Snow White, now a clerical assistant for the Mayor, discovers the first murder victim and quickly alerts Bigby. The victim, a Fabletown resident turned prostitute, was a recent acquaintance to Bigby as he just saved her from catching a serious beating at the hands of The Woodsman, a nemesis to the Big Bad Wolf. From here Bigby and Snow White set out to find The Woodsman, the victim’s husband and more importantly, identify the identity of the victim.
The Wolf Among Us no longer has to stand in the shadow of The Walking Dead. In the first of five episodes, Telltale has laid the groundwork for a series that once again breathes fresh air into an industry that can quickly grow stagnant and repetitive. From the well developed characters and gorgeous artwork, coupled with the mature subject matter, Telltale proves that a murder suspense can be just as intense and riveting as any Zombie hack and slash. After completing this first episode, you will be on the edge of your seat anticipating episode two, Smoke and Mirrors.
The Grand Theft Auto series has been one of the most profitable and consistently highest rated game franchises in the history of console gaming. San Andreas was the highest grossing game on the PS2, and folks on my friends list were still playing GTA IV up until the moment when they left the house to stand in line at midnight to get the new game. GTA V is already considered a blockbuster, selling 15 million units and sporting a metacritic score of 97-98, but does the game match the hype once it’s spinning in the disc tray?
Hailing from Sweden, Image & Form were a relative unknown developer prior to the release of SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt. Up until this point, they released SteamWorld: Tower Defense on Nintendo's DSiWare and an iOS game called Anthill. What they didn't know, but secretly hoped for, was that their next title, SteamWorld Dig, would be their breakout hit. And boy is this a case of dreams come true! When I spoke a few weeks ago with Brjann of Image & Form, for my interview with him on the GamersInBeta.com podcast, he told me the game was in development for eight months (October 2012 to May 2013). His team of 11 worked longer and harder on this title than any other previous title, even taking an extra month at the end to add some last minute polish. Certainly, their hard work and dedication paid off as SteamWorld Dig is a joy to play from beginning to end.
Being 2old2play’s resident pinball expert (I own three pinball tables) and WiiU owner, I was tapped to review Zen Pinball’s Star Wars Pinball tables for WiiU when 2o2p scored a review copy. Are the tables worth it for either hardcore Star Wars or Pinball fans? Read on for my take.
Thanks to Deep Silver, the fine folks at Volition managed to survive the implosion of THQ, which is a good thing for all of us, because it allowed them to complete what may be the most purely fun game of the new decade. Saints Row IV continues the crazy antics of everyone’s favorite street gang since Doughboy shot Ferris in a Fatburger parking lot, and takes the “Puckish Rogues” into territory never dreamed of by even the most smoked out gang banger. The result is a game that will make you smile like a kid on Christmas morning, while sometimes making you cry like that same kid when he realizes that every present is a pair of socks.
In the spirit of full disclosure, here are my in-game stats. I completed the single player story in just under 28 hours with a completion rate of 92% on normal difficulty. I finished at the max level of 50. I haven’t touched the co-op play, as I focused on completing the story first.
What do Roddy Piper, a nude Jane Austen, a sexually hungry probe droid and Keith David dancing the Robot have in common? In a sane world the answer is “nothing”, but in the bat-shit crazy world of Saints Row IV, they’re just everyday scenery. The first Saints Row was developed with the goal of being a serious rival to the GTA games, but the series quickly evolved into a far less serious and more fun loving answer to Rockstar’s sandbox juggernaut. By the end of Saints Row: The Third most players probably felt that they did everything that could be done in an open world game. We wondered how Volition could top what came before. The answer is that they threw everything from the first three games in a blender, removed reality altogether and let every idea from the development whiteboard become a feature.
The story exists not so much to drive the gameplay, but more to give Volition an excuse to let you do whatever you want. Your Saint’s Row: The Third character is now president of the U.S., Keith David (yes, THAT Keith David) is your VP and the rest of the Saints comprise your cabinet. When a Shakespeare quoting alien overlord invades, takes everyone you know (as well as a large percentage of Earth’s population) hostage and jacks you all into a Matrix-like simulation, it’s up to you and your homies to break free and get revenge.
The gunplay in the game is as tight as ever, but is evolved by the addition of an array of superpowers that would make you a match for the Avengers. Sprint through the streets and up the side of buildings at super speed, dragging pedestrians and vehicles in your wake, or jump high into the air and glide across half the city to get in place above a group enemies before dropping on them with the force of a small nuke. Small army of enemies giving you trouble? Freeze them solid with a blast of your freeze ray and then smash them with your tentacle bat (a hentai tinged replacement for the last game’s “Penetrator” dildo bat) or shrink them to the size of action figures and express your inner Godzilla. After upgrading your powers a few levels, the game’s battles become almost laughably easy, but the same powers are so much fun to use that you never get bored using them to decimate the enemy forces.
This game is the finest example of fan service ever pressed into a DVD. No developer has ever given their fans as much to get excited about through the course of a game as Volition has here. Almost every character from the first three games makes a return (though I did miss The Third’s auto-tuned pimp Zimos) to rehash and close out old plot threads, most of them voiced by the original actors (Terry Crews does a good job replacing Michael Clarke Duncan in the role of Benjamin King). You even get to complete one mission with both versions of Shaundi (part 2’s stoner party girl is the current version) as your backup. The script is written with skill and the banter between your homies does a good job of replacing the radio programs from the previous games, which is a good thing since your superpowers make vehicles almost worthless.
This game is so much fun that GTAV will have to be something special to measure up, and it’s a good thing it is, because Saints Row IV has some bugs that are hard to ignore. Graphical glitches are common (both intended and otherwise). For example, after getting the ability to dual wield sub machine guns, one of my guns never displayed. My character held a complete SMG in her right hand but just a grip and clip in her left. There are also some clipping issues, especially in cinematics. Though you won’t use them much after getting your powers, the cars still have an impressive selection of radio stations and music to listen to while driving, but unless I turned the radio off before exiting the car, the music kept playing as I walked around. I also got to hear one of Keith David’s collectible audio clips every time I loaded the game. It plays as the game world loads….every single time.
None of these bugs were game breaking, but there’s one that is. Sometimes (not every time, but enough to be more than annoying), when I tried to enter the missions menu, the game would freeze, requiring me to return to the dashboard and reload it to continue playing (Yay! I get to hear Keith David again!).
Bugs aside, the only other complaint I have with the game is that some of its activities become repetitive. You must complete these challenges to gain most of your power upgrades, and they just get old fairly quickly. Also, to whichever Volition team member came up with Speed Rifts, you are a horrible person, and there is a special level of Hell for people like you.
I can’t recommend this game enough. If you enjoyed any of the other games in the series, it’s a no brainer, but even if you never played the other installments, this game should be in your library. No other game has ever made me set down my controller and stand up to pump my fist in the air. This game made me do that…..twice. There’s more “Oh Hell no!” moments in this game than in every other game in my collection combined, and I’m honestly rushing through this review so that I can get back to playing some more. Buy this game!
Suda 51 has brought gamers some very interesting games, often bolstered by unique gameplay. Killer7 sported striking visuals and simplistic controls while No More Heroes cel shaded presentation made good use of the Wii’s graphical shortcomings and bizarre controller. Developer Grasshopper Manufacture designed Killer is Dead to play on the big consoles: XBox 360 and Playstation 3. Will the spiritual successor to No More Heroes make a killing, or should it have stayed in Nintendo’s playground?
First Day at the New Job
We meet our protagonist, Mondo, on an auspicious day: he was just accepted for an executioner’s position at The Bryan Execution Firm. The firm specializes in killing assassins, monsters, and moon men. Mondo, and his over-enthusiastic assistant, Mika, begin their killing careers by dispatching a monster in a surreal Lewis Carroll nightmare house. This level serves as a tutorial for players, who’ll soon learn that their controller’s X-Button is about to become their best friend for the game's duration.
Wandering Eye Syndrome
Playing Killer is Dead could cause a condition in players known as Wandering Eye Syndrome. A combination of cel-shade fatigue and attempting to make sense of an indecipherable plot most often causes this condition. Wandering Eye Syndrome’s main symptom is eyeing one’s game library for something more interesting to play while blowing through Killer is Dead on autopilot. I often found myself not even paying attention to the screen, just repeatedly mashing the X-Button while watching an episode of Metalocalypse on the laptop or reading a cookbook for dinner ideas.
A good example of Wandering Eye Syndrome happened to me on the game’s Alice level. Mondo and I just mashed the X-Button many times, finally making our way upstairs to Alice, only to find that Keith David just gave me the awesome Dubsteb Gun, so I was on my way back to Steelport to give those alien bastards a taste of Dubstep. Oops, I somehow replaced the Killer is Dead disc with Saints Row IV right in the middle of a boss fight. That’s weird!
On another level, I travelled to The Moon to defeat some guy named David. I wasn’t going to get paid for this assassination, but I was going to receive a kiss from a Moon Chick as payment. I skillfully guided the over-sexed Mondo through the Moon Fortress, pressing the X-Button many times in the process, dispatching hordes of baddies. I finally reached the throne room, where Moon Man David was waiting in full regal regalia (see what I did there?). I was able to defeat David by repeatedly mashing the X-Button and cornering to the inside, in an attempt to slow him down on the turns, knowing that my Oldsmobile would have the advantage on Road Atlanta’s back straight. What the hell? I did it again. Nevermind, that was Forza 4. Apparently, my Wandering Eye Syndrome affects my ability to effectively communicate the shallowness of Killer is Dead’s fighting mechanics and my disdain for the staggering heaps of nonsense randomly used as building blocks for a sham of a plot.
A Surreal Experience
Everything from the weapons, the enthusiastic sidekick stereotypes pulled straight from Initial D, and the woefully skewed interpretation of the American assassination industry in Killer is Dead screams “look at me...I’m a Japanese action game!” The enemies are identical, faceless goons, NPC’s are either cliches of cliches or motivationally muddled, and the fighting mechanics are stupidly nonexistent for a fighting game. Players guide Mondo from room to room, repetitively dispatch a bunch of guys with the X-Button, and move on to the next room. I give it points for attempting graphical originality, but I hate looking at it, I hate everyone in it, and I hate the fact that I’m going to be reminded of this game every single time I look back through my game history.
Killer is Dead scored very highly with Japanese reviewers, even landing some perfect scores. It didn’t do nearly as well at 2Old2Play, where I can only recommend renting this title, but only if you must. It’s surreal, but not very fun...kind of like watching Monty Python with the volume off.
Ladies and Gentlemen...Sam Fisher is Back. Splinter Cell: Blacklist (August 20, 2103) picks up some time after the events in Conviction. Sam Fisher is back at work, in the employ of the good ol’ USA, and currently on assignment at Andersen AFB in Guam.
A group of tech-savvy terrorists, known only as The Engineers, launches a series of attacks, known as The Blacklist, on American interests, and Andersen AFB is first on the list. Fisher’s helicopter goes down during the attack and his BFF, Vic, receives grievous injuries from a suicide grenadier.
The President personally orders Fisher to stop the remaining attacks on The Blacklist, which The Engineers have graciously posted on YouTube with a countdown timer for each attack. Sam is soon grudgingly reunited with his old handler, Anna Grimsdottir, along with a growing cast of helpful helpers, like the ex-CIA operative, Isaac Briggs, and Sam’s technophile pet nerd, whose name I have already forgotten. Tough shit, nerd boy...get yourself a more memorable name next time!
Since Fisher is no longer doing his one man avenging the system thing, he actually has the advantage of a base of operations in this game: a flying technological marvel known as Paladin One. It’s basically an upgradeable plane with a lot of computers and communication equipment.
It’s Kind of Like Mass Effect
Several aspects of Blacklist reminded me of Mass Effect. First and foremost, Sam Fisher does not sound like himself. Michael Ironside, for whatever reason, does not, for the first time ever, voice Sam Fisher in a Splinter Cell game. Sam sounds more like Commander Shepard than Sam Fisher. This was confusing for the first few levels, as I wasn’t entirely sure if Sam was talking or listening to someone on his communicator. The second “borrowed” piece of Mass Effect is the whole group dynamic aboard the Paladin. Sam has to walk around the plane and talk to his teammates to gain upgrades, information, and extra missions. While a little chit chat on the side is a nice touch, it really has no value in a single-player game with such a linear storyline. Remember the corny part of Mass Effect where the game would ask if the player was ready for the mission? Yeah, Blacklist stole that too...which is goofy because every mission has to be completed, in order, to advance the game, and unnecessary because you can go back to any mission that you have already played, at which point you will be asked if you are ready...again.
It’s Kind of Like Hitman
Ubisoft has provided little daily bonuses if players are willing to complete challenges, like perform 5 headshots with a loud (unsilenced) weapon, etc. Players are rewarded monetarily for completing missions and side-missions, like recovering data from an Engineer laptop or stealing a dead drop. This money is used to upgrade the Paladin, as well as gear, weapons, and gadgets. Black market weapons are also available for purchase. This is all well and good, but is a bit of a departure from previous games, where you already had the best gear and didn’t have to buy it all over again. Another striking Hitman similarity is the presentation of the SP leaderboards, which are like the leaderboards in Hitman: Absolution. Sam also now stashes bodies in convenient containers. Sound familiar?
It’s Still Splinter Cell
Despite Sam’s nod of affection to other popular games, Blacklist is all about sneaking around and taking out bad guys one at a time. The mission objectives are often projected onto objects, like they were in Conviction. Most Splinter Cell vets will recognize Sam’s bag of tricks: sticky shocker, sticky cam, noisemakers, and assortment of silenced weapons. The newest addition is the tri-rotor. Think of it as an armed remote control helicopter. Sam’s goggles have night vision, sonar vision, and footprint tracking (which I never used). Players are awarded extra cash for discovering new pathways, so exploration is encouraged.
The game grades players using three different play styles: ghost, panther, and assault.
Ghost typically rewards players better than the other two, but is more difficult to score. Ghost grades players on remaining undetected and utilization of non-lethal gadgets. Panther rewards for stealth kills and hiding bodies. Assault style rewards those who forget that they are playing a stealth game.
Spies vs Mercs is a 4 vs 4 affair, featuring sneaky guys in 3rd person vs armed and armored mercs in 1st person. As experience is gained, different modes are opened up, with different objectives for each team. Co-op plays like a horde or zombie mode, with Briggs and Fisher standing their ground against waves of baddies that increase in difficulty each wave. Nothing new to see here.
It’s a Splinter Cell game, alright, but some stuff is missing. First, there’s the voice. I like commander Shepard, but he’s no Sam Fisher. Michael Ironside is Sam Fisher. The second issue is that the improvisational combat options and interrogation techniques from the last game are simply not there. Another thing that is conspicuously absent is Fisher’s rationale behind his ohh-rah attitude.
Why is he so gung-ho about finishing “the job” for the same people who have completely fucked him over during the last two games? The immersion from the previous games just isn’t there, and as well written and well acted as the story is, and it’s actually very good, it just doesn’t measure up to the previous couple of games, falling way short of the bar set by Conviction.
While it felt good to slip back into the goggles and stealth suit, Blacklist falls short of what I expect from a Splinter Cell experience. It’s definitely a must-have for fans of the series, but everyone else should wait for the price to drop.
Before I get into the review of Halo: Spartan Assault I feel like I need to apologize to the 2old2play-ers out there. You see, I finished the game back at the end of July. However, I finished it the night before I went on vacation. I ran out of time to do the review and when Mrs.Soup, the Souplets and I returned it was a whirlwind trying to catch up. So I apologize for making you wait. That being said I just found out that the Windows Phone 8 version was not available on all carriers in the US until August 17th. So for some of you I guess I wasn’t that late after all!