Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Forza Horizon Demo Review

Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Racing

Since I'm saving up for a major upgrade on ye Old PC, I didn't get anything new lately. Also my to finish list is crowded with many lenghty RPG's I just lack the time to play properly at this very moment., so I went for a relaxing drive in Forza 4. While failing miserably trying to drift glamorous like a swan I remembered that Forza Horizon is coming out soon. After a quick search on the availability of the game at local stores and it's prices, I went on and downloaded the DEMO to see a bit of the game.

If you followed the game, you should probably know that it's taking a different route than the Forza Motorsport series. Instead of racing on normal real-life tracks, you have a open-world Test Drive Unlimited kinda experience revolving around a music festival.

As a DEMO, is actually pretty good since it gives you a insight in the new stuff introduced into the game, like off-road racing some world events and a special event. You can participate in 4 races, 2 being at behind the wheel of a Dodge Viper mainly point A to B, a off-road race with a Mitsubishi Lancer and a special event called Mustang vs. Mustang which is a race between a Mustang Boss and a Mustang airplane.

It's also nice that they opened a bit of map for exploring, where you can crash some discount gates and whoosh through some speed radars. I wont go much on other aspects of the game (graphics, sound, gameplay since those are reserved for the full-game review) but I will say that yes, they are good and the driving simulation with assists off is well-made enough (like the previous forzas actually) that  it kept me a in front of my TV a while just racing and swirling through traffic listening to the radio stations.

As a closing note, I can't wait to get my hands on the game. It might be the new Test Drive Unlimited for me (the first one kept me playing for years). It might not have the same exotic feeling like Honolulu or Ibiza ... but Colorado can also throw some cool scenery at you. And I think the car selection will be awesome and extensive, especially after a zillion DLC's (it already has a car-pack on the xbox live store).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Deathspank Review

Platform: MAC
Genre: hack'n'slash

What do you expect when you see a name like Ron Gilbert attached to a game ? Tons of laughs and Monkey Island-like puzzles. But what if the game is a hack'n'slash and not an adventure game ? Well ... humor can be added anywhere and puzzles can have their place in such a game...

And so we got Deathspank. The protagonist, which bares the same name, is not just a hero... he is The Hero and needs to find The Artifact. Throw in some missing orphans and an antagonist and that kinda sums up the story of the game. 
While the story might seem a bit thin, it's packed with humor and hilarious references (you will also find out what retired World of Warcraft orcs do to pass time or other heroes struggling to finish their last quest). The dialog, item-naming, descriptions and quest log are filled with text that will make you chuckle at least once every two minutes. Quests are categorized in "Things I have to do" (main quests) and "Unimportant things I have to do" (secondaries). However there isn't much variety to them; you mainly have to kill X monsters of Y sort, collect items or clear out another cave for the same guy. Although they might get repetitive, they add some play time to this funny, short game. I spent around 10 hours with the game (mainly because I didn't stock up on potions and kept dying in a dungeon) and did everything I could and reached level 20 which is the maximum.

The game takes place in a fantasy setting, where your worst enemies are unicorns and on your way you get to kill weird crossbreeds like KangaMoo's (mama cow met papa kangaroo or vice versa). The landscape and the characters are 3D but the trees, houses, grass look like 2D cardboard cutouts. This I really enjoyed. It was a refreshing new gimmick that I hadn't seen before. 

Being a hack'n'slash you would expect a lot of items generated and difficult choices like "should I lose 20% healing per kill for 5 % extra gold and + 21 agility ?" well... you don't have to worry about those. Items in your inventory have a coloured background if they are better than your current selection and if you really want to, you can choose to auto-equip the best items. I also didn't notice any legendary/special items. Armour suits just come as you progress through the story, some as quest rewards, some from chests and you will have the full set of each one. And the weapons ... well I couldn't be bothered, I usually just put on the one with the biggest damage. The combat is as you would expect, you click ... Deathspank strikes. You can switch anytime between two selections of two weapons. So you could say you can carry four pain inducing devices at once. You will have to alternate between them to get the best results in a fight, some weapons having some bonuses (elemental damage), or just using the bow from a distance to weaken enemies. While you kill enemies Deathspank's justice meter will fill up. When it's full you can use a weapon's special attack (if that weapon has one). Also, a bit later in the game you come across various runes that tell you how to combine weapons to do more damage. I wish I could tell you more about the runes but I never used them. One thing I didn't like was the fact that when switching between the two weapon sets their 3d model doesn't change until you attack at least once. I saw the game on the xbox later on, and noticed that you don't have to switch between to weapon sets, each one the four weapons was linked to a lettered button. And since the game game out originally on the XBLA it's understandable.
The problem with the game is not that it's not complex, but given the fact that the death penalty is putting you a few feet back, and taking some of your gold (which you need only in one quest at the beginning or to buy potions), I just didn't care about dying. So, in the later half of the game, I was running around, killing what I could and dying and coming back and so on. I could've bought invisibility potions but again, didn't need them. Also potions heal you instantly but you can also eat pizza or fries while running. These will slowly regenerate your life until you are hit. Still ... in most cases I just ran around the monsters while eating all the junkfood.

Although it has its flaws and almost no replay value, Deathspank delivers more than enough humor for its price.

the good: humor
the bad: no replay value

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

DLC Quest Review

Platform: MAC
Genre: indie

After dozens of grey-shooters, crawling through corridor after corridor, spending hundreds of hours going through thick woods looking for that mysterious cave in RPG's, driving lighting fast avoiding traffic and winning races, finding all hidden packages in sandbox games or just killing Diablo for the dozenth time ... you might need a game to unwrinkle your forehead (actually ... you might need to close you PC/console and go outside ... without any handheld).

A long time I played this game on Kongregate called "Upgrade everything". It was a cool game where you could upgrade everything including the menu/graphics/sounds and so on. I found it very catchy and though of a doing a clone at some point. Well the guys from Going Loud Studios beat me to it .. and came up with a XBLIG game called DLC Quest. 

You are the good guy and have to save the princess from the Bad Guy (that's his name). The game is a 2d-platformer where you have to get coins. But your progress is coming to a stop pretty soon since you have to get the DLC required to go further. And then the other ... and the other. Of course this a witty satire at today gaming industry and you pay the DLC's with the coins you collect. THe DLC wary from horse armor (wink-wink Bethesda) to the ability to go left, sound and so on. I can't say more without spoiling much of the game. The sad part is that the game is way too short. I went through it while my girlfriend took a shower. But it's a lot of fun in a small package. The dialogs and sign-posts are great. It also bursts with references from Final Fantasy to Mass Effect. 

Being the game that it is I cannot say much more about it, only that it was the best 1 euro something I spent in a while and it will make your day. Oh yeah, it has 10 awardments (achievements). Go catch'em all.

the bad: it's short ... it might need a DLC :p
the good: the game as a whole

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Review

Platform: PC

Genre: RPG
This might be the first time I review a big title short time from release date. I didn't know much of the Mass Effect franchise till a friend showed me the first game while I was having a "I don't know what to play" crisis. I liked it... but for one reason or another I didn't finish it. A while later My Shepard defeated Saren. Then Mass Effect 2 popped his head out. Also a very good game vastly improved by all the DLC's it received. Since then My Shepard silently occupied his kb in My Documents folder waiting. For those new to the franchise, Bioware gave players the option to import theyr character from one game to another, applying their custom face and all the decisions they made in previous games. Theese influence the story of the later game in one way or another.

So, I was looking forward to My Shepards new adventure to save the galaxy. As soon as my paycheck landed, Origin was already downloading Mass Effect 3. After the game finished
installing I loaded up on energy drinks and snacks and double-clicked the icon. For those who don't know the games where action-RPG's with a heavy emphassis on dialog and interaction with NPC's, especially with those that accompany Shepard in his adventures. So I was surprised to see that I am presented with a setting so the game is more RPG or ... not. Also you can choose not to have any involvement in the dialog, the answers beeing chosen for you. At first I looked with anger at theese options, but then I realised they were a good thing for new players who new players who don't have their own My Shepard with it's baggage of choices or for players who don't play many RPG's. This might be a good move on Bioware's behalf since they mentioned at some point they might expand the Mass Effect universe beyond Shepard's story. (two iOS games appeared on the store). But, this might also be coming from EA, but I won't start a debate on the subject right now. The sad part came after I imported My Shepard and I hot a prety neat "error" message for the appearance. I tried to reload the game but it was still there. So, my only option was to take the default Shepard or try to recreate my work of art if years ago. I went for the second. Anyway, ti clarify, after scooping out on the Internet I found out that this only happens to those who imported in Mass Effect 2 their character from the first game. Those who made a new one in 2 won't be dealing with this problem. But Bioware said they are working on this problem.

The galaxy is, as we left it, on the verge of being attacked by the Reapers. Shepard is grounded back on good old Earth and Udina is the humans representitive on the Council (even if you selected Anderson in the first game). The game starts with Earth being invaded and Shepard leaves to rally up the other races to defend and take back Earth. The game is presented with the same modifies Unreal 3 engine. Although the game looks amazing and some of the effects are awesome, it starts showing it's age, especially the textures some looking a bit low-res.

Shepard retakes command of the Normandy wearing Alliance colors again. He will have friendly faces (unrelated: dunno if it's just me but Joker seems to caught on some weight). Im his quest he will meet most of the major characters from the previous games, also those from the Mass Effect 2 DLC's if you had them. He will presented with the option to help sone of them in a way or another. Also between missions you can come to te Citadel to listen for rumors of Artifacts from ithers planets or stuff to do (more on the matter in a bit). While on the Citadel you can meet some of your crewmembers and said major characters and talk to them, get deeper knowledge of what are they up to.

About the before mentioned artifacts. They represent the exploring part of te game. While in the previous ones whe had the Mako or te planet-drilling now Shepard searches for long forgotten Artifacs. But this is not as exciting as it sounds. While walking around the Citadel you can eavesdrop on peoples conversations and pick up locations or sightings of them ol'Artifacts or other stuff they might need like better equipment for the Hospital. You can travel like before from the Galaxy Map. But now each sistem has it "alertness" meter. When the meter is full Reapers will cone to take a bite out of the Normandy (not literary but that's what it looks like). When you enter a system you can can the area around The Normady. If there is anything near it will be revealed. It can be a Artifact, war assets or fuel used for travel. With each scan the alertness meter fills up a bit. If it's not full you can leave the sistem and it will reset. If it's filled it will reset after you complete after a quest. Besides the main questline, you also have side quests. Some of them though are just battling Cerberus forces on the multiplayer maps (of course you have a objective like uploading some data or something). I mentioned that you can also gain war assets. There are used to determine the ending of the game. Sort of.
War assets determine the readiness of the galaxy against the Reapers. Those found on planets are usually hround units or fleets. Helping characters can also contribute to the readiness level. They say that to achiev the best ending you need to have around 5000 readiness. Also some of the decisions you made in the previous games and playing multiplayer can affect the readiness level. Low readiness level can get Shepard killed before the actual ending of the game. Hope this is not considered as a spoiler. It is possible to fail at getting at 5000 without taking certain decisions in all games. Some said that it cannot be reached without multiplayer. I did play a few rounds but I am aware of some stuff I missed on the first playthrough so I'm not sure what to say about that statement. But if it's true my only question is: what if I want to play the games in a few years or my children would like to play this piece of gaming history ... What then ? What if there will be no-one playing ?

Anyway ...The multiplayer is strong. There are classes each containig different characters with their own race, sex and set of abilities. They each level up individually when used and you unlock new weapons but unlike the singleplayer you can only carry two (I didn't play too much so there is a slight probability that at some point you might be able to carry more). The maps are relatively small and you have to survive 10 waves. Each wave throws enemies at you and sometimes you have to complete certain objectives. If you die you respawn. At the last wave you have to board the shuttle and escape. If failing here, you won't respawn. Between matches you can buy packs of weapons and abilitiea with game coins which are earned in game or bought with real cash.
Now, a while after the game has been released there have been numerous complaints about it's ending. I will only say that I find it very good and unexpected. Without spoiling I can't say any more just that you should watch ine of those youtube videos that try to explain it. They might not be official Bioware sayings but they did tweet about them hinting they might be true. Also they announced a free DLC coming this summer that wi expand on the ending, and that will answer all questions.

While the writing of the game and it's presentation is top notch, the gameplay can get repetitive. Every time you stay behind a chest-high-something and pop up your head to pew-pew at the other guys when they pop their head up or start walking around towards the next thing they can take a nap behind. You can customise the armor that Shepard is wearing by buying different parts from the Citadel or dinding them in missions. The same applies to weapons ... you will come across numerous upgrades and new weapons while you progress. Also between missions Shepard can pursue the heart of one of it's crewmates and help them "relief stress" later on. There are many options, and Bioware also included one of the same sex. Like we got used to ... When in missions they will interact with each and on the Normandy they don't always just stay in the same room all the time. You might walk on them laying on the floor piss-drunk or something.

With the game I also got the From Ashes DLC. I really don't like it when games have payed DLC's on release ... since it's something tht was already done and could be included with the game. There are rumors (didn't look too much into the matter) that From Ashes is already into the game anyway, you just unlock it. Anyway the DLC gives you a short mission that will leave you with a new crew member. And sincerely he is one of the best new characters. Not just because of his origin but also from the conversations between him and My Shepard and his personality.

Theese being said I really enjoyed the game and the series and I'm very curious what will become of the franchise.
the bad: more exploration would be nice
the good: the ending, writing

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Need for Speed The Run Review

Platform: PC
Genre: racing

Again, november came with my birthday and a new NFS title. As always the NFS was a gamble not sure if it's gone go into the good pile or into the let's_just_pretend_it_didn't_happen one. Well ... we s
hall see.

You are Jack, a professional racer who took a wrong rurn and finds himself tied to the steering wheel in car to be crushed. A bit later you free yourself and so the game starts.

On the first note, after playing The Run on hardcore after finishing it
on normal ... I noticed that in the intro movie ... "Sam" says that it is a 3000 m

ile race and then i noticed it . It was the perfect driving game I always wanted ... it's the actual Gumball3000 game ... although it's presented as race not a rally. If you don't know what Gumball is here is a shirt sentence from a Gumball participant:
"Gumball in 1 wrapsentecnce: if you haven't done it in tour lifetime you only do it once and take it to your grave and say "that's the best damn thing i've done in my life" "

So, moving on with the game ...
The story (which is pretty short to be honest ...) takes you all over America from the Golden Gate to the Empire State. From behind the wheel (well, not literary s
ince it doesn't have a cockpit view) you will see around you frozen snowy mountain passes, huge plains consumed by storms or lifeless deserts. Also you will pass through big cities like Chicago or New Vegas. The game is divided into stages, each with it's own kind of environment. The cities are sorta major checkpoints which await the player with some quick-time events ... Yes a Need for Speed game with on_foot quick time events. Although it sounds weird and some might say that it destroys the series ... but they offer a nice distraction from a time to time. And the producers didn't exaggerate with these so they won't annoy you a bit (I have to say that in one playthrough you have ti perform around 4 or 5). They also give some action to the story taking the player from the steering wheel. And so the game gives it's story a bit more importance and makes the player get a bit more involved.

Although the story is something new, it's important how it's delive
red, right ? Again, as any Need for Speed game, it's looks are above jaw-dropping/puking-rainbows. The vehicles are very nicely done and the level of detail surpasses anything from it's category. Also, like in Hot Pursuit(the 2010 one), all of the traffic is fully licensed and got the same attention as the vehicles you are driving/have access to. On the same note, the environment looks awesome ... from the icy roads to the weather effects or city landscapes filled with highways, skyscrapers or subway stations. Although all of these come with a high-price. The game doesn't have any directx9 support. It only runs on 10 or 11 s
o ... you might a need a computer with a bit of power to fully enjoy everything the game has to offer. It also sounds good ... the voice-acting is ok ... not perfect ... but ok, the cars sound awesome and the music is very well chosen and it differs from stage to stage.

Although the game delivers on the story, graphics ... sound ... it is not all perfect or not even ok. If you (like most of the population) buy the simple version instead of a limited edition, the game will constantly taunt you. In the beginning when you get to choose your first vehicle, you will be presented with two more option nicely labeled "Available if you bought the Limited edition" (or something like that). As for the other cars, after completing the game you haven't even unlocked half of the cars ... Most of them come from the multiplayer.

Here, we bump into Autolog again (not like it's a bad thing). By beating your autolog times, or your friends times you get to unlock cars. Also you get a sort of multiplayer challenges that will grant you cars. From the singleplayer and multiplayer you get XP which will increase your driver level ... and will unlock different stuff like better nitrous, badges, icons, profile background and some cars. When you start a multiplayer game, you can choose between different series of races and at the beginning there is a wheel that will determine what the winner of the series will get (of course there are some cars that can be unlocked only from here). The problem with the multiplayer is that it's very laggy ... the oponents just teleport or fly or whatever around you ... and at the start of a race it gets very very messy because of this.

These being said, the franchise made a step forward with it's storytelling and I wish to see more like this one ... but it still needs some polish ...

the bad: short story, multiplayer
the good: presentation, car list, the last race (if you get a certain part on your first try ... you will feel awesome)

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Indies in Review Part 1

At the time I'm writing this these are all the indie games I own and have played. I have finished some and barely played others so I will just write my impressions here not reviews. A few of them will get actual reviews later on if I'n not lazy and who knows maybe I'll help some people decide if they want them or not.
I'm breaking this up into 3 pieces since there are 24 games I want to talk about.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth
This is a reverse tower defense. You control a commander and guide a team of upgradable units through zones full of enemy towers during a campaign that spans across 3 cities and has leaderbords for those of you that want to show off. It has good graphics, pretty bad voice acting but good music and it's fun especially if you're tired of the standard tower defense formula.
A lot can be said about this game but to be short it's absolutely brilliant. It's a skill based 2D Action-RPG with a lot of style, beatiful scenery and a unique premise. The world is falling apart and your character, known only as the Kid, is the only one that can get to the Bastion a supposed safe haven from the chaos where he may find answers to what is happening. That's all I'll say about the story since i don't want to spoil it for anyone. What also sets it apart from most games is the narrator who describes everything you do and makes it seem awesome even if you're just swinging your hammer around destroying crates. It has a nice selection of weapons and skills but it's the atmosphere that gets you hooked.

Beat Hazard
This is a throwback to those oldschool games where you control a space ship and wait for meteors and enemies to attack you from all sides. The twist on this is that it does all that with some very shiny effects, a good variety of enemies and bosses,online coop and leaderboards and it's all to the beat of YOUR music. If you like mixing games and music this is a good one.

Binding of Isaac
I personally love it but wouldn't recommend this to anyone who is easily offended since it has a very twisted sense of humor. Gameplay wise it's a twin stick shooter with dozens of randomly spawned items and enemies that create a different experience every single time you start it, and you restart a lot since it's very easy to die here and it doesn't save anything. It's hard but rewarding and I give it a thumbs up if you can get past the blood, guts and insanity.

This is like playing Pong with an opponent that has 1 billion ballz that went insane. It doesn't really have much on the graphics side but it does reward you with some extra effects if you do chains. All in all I found it very boring and it's also very easy to lose which means you don't unlock the next stages..the next 3 anyway since it only has 4. Not very good, I say pass on this one even if it's on sale like it was for me.

Blocks That Matter
Awesome little puzzle game. You play a cube shaped robot with a drill and you have to collect blocks made of different materials and with different properties to use them to find solutions to each level. I greatly enjoy it and it poses quite a challenge at times so I recommend this to anyone who enjoys puzzle games.

Breath of Death VII & Cthulhu Saves the World
I want to talk about these two games together because they were made by the same developer and they are very similar. They are both very very old-shool JRPGs in the vein of things like Final Fantasy 6 and Phantasy Star IV(which I highly recommend btw) but with a brilliant sense of humor that mocks some of the cliches that can be found gameplay and storywise in these types of games. Very entertaining and will get you laughing out loud so get them if you have ever enjoyed a JRPG.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Medal of Honor Review

Platform: PC
Genre: FPS

So a long time ago there was this game series called Medal of Honor, a shooter concentrating on WW2 events. But a part of the team working on the games left because they wanted to introduce some new
mechanics that EA didn't agree on. They made their own game called Call of Duty. At first it was a WW2 shooter just like Medal of Honor. But with the fourth installment called Modern Warfare they really hit it big (the previous ones were good also). So Medal of Honor was forgotten. They tried a resurrection with airborne but that didn't go as well as expected. Now EA (actually somewhere a year ago) tried to come back with Medal of Honor, a reboot to the series that seemed to be a copy/paste of Modern Warfare.

The story sets up a conflict between US and Afghani forces and unlike Call of Duty it is not as "big". Instead of going on a world domination spree, or the US getting it's butt kicked by another country it focuses on a smaller combat area ... some mountains somewhere and it follows the stories of 4 soldiers present in the war. The stories are pretty tied to each other, and you will get to like some of the protagonists and/or their friends. You don't have to be a genius to see that the whole game revolves around a true event and it's kinda tribute to the real soldiers fighting on the field.

The shooting monotony (found in any war-FPS) is split up by some ATV-driving sequences and a rail-shooter like level when you are in a Apache helicopter taking down ground targets. Like mentioned before I thought the game to be a Call of Duty rip-off but I can say I was pleasantly surprised by it. The story had it's cinematic moments, and developed step-by-step to a pleasing ending. They actually made a good story, without too many rambo-one-man-team moments and made me feel sorrow for some of the guys when holding a position in a house crumbling around us and ammo draining by the second.

While the game looks ok and the gameplay is nothing out of the ordinary, the one thing that really shines is the sound, and here I'm talking about everything included: voice-acting, soundtrack and pew-pew sounds. Also I just need to mention the Linkin Park ending song from the credits which really hit the spot.

One complaint I would have about the singleplayer campaign is that it's waaaay to short and the quality of the cinematics that are not rendered with the games engine is dubious to say the least.

Also I cannot mention a bug due to it's size. Somewhere at the begining of the game I went into a yard and almost everything wasn't there. I could see only door-frames and floating objects. When nearing a door I could clearly see enemies spawn behind it (actually inside a house I guess) and could kill them through what should've been walls.

Moving on to the multiplayer.

This is a different story, and when I say different I mean completely. The game was divided between two teams for the single and multiplayer components. So the multiplayer was made by DICE (known for their Battlefield games, which are awesome played online, although I suck at them). But here they kept their formula and even put the Frostbite engine in (the singleplayer being made in a heavily modified Unreal Engine 3) ... still it's not as good as expected. They only put in 3 classes (assault, something and sniper ... probably named differently) and 15 levels for each. For as much as I played is a total dissaster ... since there is no balance and higher level player can kill you before you even twitch (it might be my poor skill ... but still) ... I will come back with more info about maps and game modes when I'll play more ... 'till now I haven't seen anything new or innovative.

the bad: short campaign, bugs, unbalanced multiplayer
the good: story, presentation, Dusty (what ? I really liked the guy)

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