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dreamstealer

Reviews

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (Windows)

At least they tried.

The Good

  • Good visual effects, graphics and sound.
  • Decent story and voice acting.
  • Hints of Sci Fi.
  • Trademark Multiplayer.
  • Physics which includes destructible environments.


The Bad
  • Poor dialogues.
  • Modern shooter cliches like for e.g. Recharging health.
  • Short single player campaign.
  • Multiplayer player limited to 32 instead of 64.


The Bottom Line
I used to love the multiplayer focused Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2 back in the days. Large scale warfare, vehicles and 64 players on one map was something new and still hasn't really been done. Bad Company however brings a single player campaign and multiplayer more focused on console hardware, which means limitations. Bad Company 2 is the first Bad Company version to be multi-platform and available for Windows. I decided to borrow this one as I knew the campaign will be a 4 hour game max and lack enough time for multiplayer.

BC2's campaign revolves around a semi sci-fi plot about a scalar weapon being produced by the Japanese during WW2. In the present day, four U.S Soldiers are assigned to recover a similar weapon being produced by the Russians. Well the Science fiction is a welcome change in the generic military shooter genre...which is not Crysis.

BC2 starts out in the WW2 where you're playing a flashback of Project Aurora. It's like playing a cutscene with shooting enabled. Then after that chapter it cuts to the present day, where you play Marlowe Preston. Game gets fun at around chapter 3. Some of the challenges bring a rather entertaining experience and mixes well with the shooter formula. Example? The mission where you need to descend a snowy hill with extreme weather conditions and blow up barrels or find a fireplace to prevent freezing to death. The generic shooter gameplay is spiced up with more similar challenges and vehicle driving. Yep it's plagued by modern shooter cliches too like recharging health, annoying zoomed in field of view and Hidden Briefcase mode (in the form of destroying some console panel) .

If you can get past the cringe worthy dialogues you will probably give a fuck about the 4 main characters or you will appreciate the fact that the developers at least tried to make you care. Well they did do a good job with the Graphics and sound, don't want to forget the destructible environments.

Worth buying only for the multiplayer. Rent or borrow if the single player is what you're after as it's nothing more than 6 hours max. This isn't a great game but a quick decent ride. Thankfully this isn't a yearly release like CODicks.

By dreamstealer on April 4th, 2012

Crysis 2 (Windows)

This can't be good now, can it?

The Good

  • Impressive visuals despite downgrade of previous engine, surely the best in the industry.
  • Top notch production values i.e. Voice, music and sound.
  • Cinematic Hollywood-like presentation.
  • Simplified controls work well surprisingly.


**The Bad**
  • Forgettable story and characters. Lack of connection with the prequel.
  • Games length is extended in cheap ways such as stretched out checkpoints, dragged missions and defend the location (whack the mole) type segments.
  • The Visor is just a way of spoon feeding modern gamers. Too many ammo crates not to mention hidden briefcase in the form of souvenirs.
  • Stripped away gameplay. The game is now very linear and resembles most shooters especially Call of Duty and Halflife.
  • Terrible and clumsy A.I.
  • Boring, uncreative weaponry and enemies.
  • Lack of destructible environments and no use for vehicles.


**The Bottom Line**
Ahh Crytek the company behind 2 great shooters, Farcry and Crysis. These games are known for always benchmarking visuals and for their open ended, tactical gameplay and also being based on tropical islands. Crysis however took things to the extreme. You had a pretty cool nanosuit concept which is just a simplified version of augmentations from Deus Ex/System Shock. Then comes the visuals almost no PC could run on the highest, it was just too ahead of it's time. But there were other nifty features like destructible structures where you could use the maximum strength power to break a house down or just blow it up. Most important is however you had various ways to engage the enemy or get about the level thanks to the open-endedness. Crysis 2 however needed to go multi-platform, which means a lot of sacrifice as current console hardware is around 6 years old. But Crysis 2 surprisingly still looks good and since graphics are not important to me and probably 50% of gamers, I could careless about if Dx11 and other stuff are not implemented in yet. But what does suck however is that the options menu is so limited this time; you can just set resolution and overall graphics. The irony is that the prequel allowed you to tweak a lot of the graphic options right out of the menu. It's an important feature as some people would for example prefer compromising on shadows for higher textures and vice versa . The game already gives a feeling of disappointment when you can't skip the company logos and are then, presented with a pointless “press enter to continue” screen. Getting into the game, it all starts off promising with the submarine scene. I'll have to admit Crytek can always pull off beautiful cinematic presentations especially in the cutscenes mostly happening from first person perspective. There are scenes which will make your jaw drop just because of the visual quality; for example, the first time a bridge collapses in front of you causing a dust cloud; the way the graphics, physics and particle effects come together is perfect. The first half hour of Crysis 2 is actually interesting. It slowly builds up but then it goes nowhere. You are presented with a generic shooter pretty much in the lines of Call of Duty. In fact if you dissect the stomach of Crysis 2 you'll find Call of Duty, Half Life, Halo and a lot of modern shooter cliches swallowed up in there. 80% of the cutscenes involve your character is falling of a height or getting flung somewhere. Some modern gaming bullshit makes its way in here too, with interactive cutscenes and hidden briefcase (in the form of NYC Souvenirs). Why the fuck would the protagonist collect this shit when the city is under attack? A good new feature however is the statistics on how you've played, like what weapon you use the most, how accurate; I found it mildly entertaining. Weapon Modification is back baby! But sadly is as useful as a pen in a gunfight thanks to the gameplay changes. One gameplay change I quite liked was that maximum strength and speed always being on. So sprint is now maximum speed and strength requires you to hold the required button down. For e.g. Holding space down results in a high jump, holding meelee down will result in a powerful blow. I do prefer the way the previous game handled the nano suit but I wont dismiss the changes as stupid or anything. The nano suit now can be modified by picking up a certain amount of alien catalyst. Upgrades for example are lesser energy depletion while in armor mode or less footstep sounds in stealth mode. Most are pointless and some makes the game far too easy like the Upgrade in battery depletion in cloak mode. With that upgrade I was able to run through the last parts of the game with ease as I was too fed up with the terrible action the game provides. Which leads me to why the game doesn't succeed. It's basically run from area to area and eliminate or try to cloak your way through. Obviously missing all the action would be boring, reminding that you're wasting your 60$ purchase so you may decide to shoot for a while. Sometimes you need to kill certain enemies to progress, mostly being the large mechs which act as mini bosses. But there are these annoying “whack the mole” parts where you need to stick in an area for a certain time limit and keep shooting the spawning enemies. It's really an easy way for developers to extend the game's length. The tactical gameplay is pretentiously there but in actuality it's non existent. So every time you enter a new area you'll get a notification that tactical assessment is recommended. Which means you need to activate your visor. The visor spoon-feeds you all information about the area; where are all the ammo crates, where you should flank from, where to throw a grenade. Speaking of which Ammo crates are all over the place, so you're never really short of fire power. Also if you were to try and be tactical it's all pointless as the A.I is clumsy and just downright terrible. There were moments I saw the Cell soldiers walk into their own grenade. Sometimes they'll just be running around or taking cover even if you're just besides them. You could play the Benny Hill theme and it would fit in perfect. Most of the time you'll be wielding a sniper or machine-gun other than that the weaponry wasn't very interesting, considering this is Sci-fi they could have done a lot more with the prototype weaponry. There are vehicles you can use but they are the most useless things in the game as you can just move them 10 feet ahead since there are barriers and invisible walls all over. The mounted machine gun on them cannot be used as you can't change seats like you could in the previous game. This sucks because the vehicles could at least have some purpose in the game. The weak story was expected as Crytek are known for bland storylines with few good ideas thrown in. But this time they go “let's change a lot of things and maybe no one would notice”. One thing though why are the aliens different? What happened to the cool freezing ones in the first game? The new aliens known as the Ceph are mostly humanoid, resembles a mix of Halo's Covenant and Half Life's Combine and not just that their names start with a “C”. The Cell agents look like the Hellghasts from Killzone. Crysis 2 takes place in NYC, starts of with protagonist Alcatraz getting rescued by Prophet who's been hunted by a Private Corporation known as Cell for the reason being that he's infected by the mysterious virus caused by some alien invasion. He puts you in a nanosuit, records a briefing into it for you to hear when you wake up and then blows his head off so he can get away from this boring plot. Other characters are so typical and plot is very predictable. No development in characters except one interesting thing that the protagonist “Alcatraz” is dying and the suit is merging with his body to keep him alive. Other than that he's silent throughout the game and no history behind him. The mission which acts as the story telling throughout is very poor. First hour or so of the game, you're busy tracking down a conspiracy theory enthusiast Gould because prophet tells you in the recording. Every time you reach the destination Gould tells you meet him at, he evacuates as the Cell agents are about to intercept his location. So you keep moving from place to place wondering if the prick is trolling you. From there it's the same thing, go from point “A” to “B” hit switch bullshit which plagues shooters in general. But with the closed up environments what else was I to expect. Crysis 2 is not a poor game because they had to release it on consoles, although the limitation of consoles plays a small part of this. It's just that developers treat console gamers like kids often making games less complicated to the point it's bland. Rainbow Six was an example of this. They feared the people playing this on console would dislike the tactical gameplay of the first, so they watered it down to look like popular games on the platform. It tries to be like other shooters rather continuing on the innovations it set; A smart kid who decides to ditch his values and opinion to be “in” with the crowd, eventually he's a tool and that's what Crysis 2 is.

By dreamstealer on February 15th, 2012

Crysis 2 (Limited Edition) (Windows)

By dreamstealer on April 28th, 2011

Prototype (Windows)

Entertaining action with wasted potential.

The Good
Alex Mercer one day wakes up to find that he's not a normal man. He's infected with this virus which allows him to tentacle rape people. It turns out Alex was an experiment at Gentek Labs. Now he must re-discover himself and stop what's causing the infection in Manhattan, NY along with a fucked up military and mutants. Activision Games and Radical Studios bring you the summer blockbuster of 2009 jam packed with intense action, predictable plot twists and your usual action cliches.

Thankfully Prototype also comes with enjoyable gameplay underlined by interesting concepts. Alex Mercers infected body allows him to consume people and take their form and memory. With this we get room for stealth which is usually used to infiltrate into military bases and other locations or to escape being chased by them. Also consuming certain marked people gives you access to their memory which forms the web of intrigue and it involves the back story to Mercer. Alex also has the ability to run on walls all the way up--yes you'll be climbing the tallest skyscrapers in New York. Then jump off and glide your way around and not to worry as Alex is resistant to fall damage.

His main arsenal is basically himself, he mutates his hand into a claw, whiplash, big hands and even a blade. He can morph into this sexy looking armor suit or morph his hand into a shield. These along with all his other abilities gets unlocked and upgraded by collecting and spending EP which the game throws around like a horny old man would in a strip club. There's shit loads of these upgrades though and it's one of the reasons why the game doesn't get stale.

The other is because the game contains some extreme, intense action and stays focused on that. It's a sandbox game like GTA but rather than hijacking cars you'd travel by jumping/gliding building to building. The only vehicles you hijack are military vehicles, the rest can be picked up and tossed around like toys. As for the missions, well they always contain a lot of action and never really get frustrating. No escort missions which plague these kind of games but the closest to an escort mission would be where you're following a tank to make sure it destroys a hive while you protect it from mutants.

While a gamepad would work wonders Prototype still plays well with a mouse & keyboard. In fact controlling a Helicopter was a pleasure utilizing the mouse scroll to ascend and descend, good stuff. Also taking down helicopters never gets old as well as skyjacking them. You can come up with your own approach in taking on a mission. Use objects in the surrounding as weapons, intercept with a disguise, grab a rocket launcher, hijack a tank or helicopter. It never gets boring and there are checkpoints at very appropriate areas so no room for frustration. Special moves which require you to be in Critical Mass mode (which is basically when your health is full) are portrayed so fucking good especially Graveyard Devastator.

The Bad
Well being a sandbox game there are side missions which earn you more EP. They range from running from building to building passing checkpoints; to fighting on the side of the infected. But they're quite boring as you end up doing the same things in the main story missions. And if you stick to the main missions you aren't missing anything. Story-wise while I find Alex Mercers character somewhat intriguing the rest is just not played out very well. You've got the generic military commanders and agents. Also forgettable characters like Dana and Mercers girlfriend exist in this tale of predictable plot twists. The city is partially infected but they've made the city look lifeless. People just walk on the roads waiting to be blown apart or run over, they just serve as pawns in the game while all the important characters are indoors. The city as a whole lacks any memorable spots or landmarks, so unmemorable that they included the flagship feature of modern gaming know as the “hidden briefcase” in the form of blue balls which read out “landmark collected”.Storytelling is not all generic though I really loved the ending of the game from the video to the credits, I have to appreciate whoever did the credit screen, it's got very interesting art.

So yeah it's kind of cool to have thousands of upgrades and weapons but I highly doubt anyone would utilize 80% of them. Most of them serve as cramming up too much content in a can. You could say quantity over quality. Once you get The Whip and blade, the other weapons turn useless. The Whip is awesome as it can reel people from a distance and attack helicopters, to even pulling them down or grappling on to them to hijack. It's very dominating as is the Blade, it can deal good damage to organic and Machinery like tanks defeating the purpose of the Powerfists.

Lastly the game ships with an annoying crash bug which has no update or fix. Boooooo!

The Bottom Line
Prototype was a little more than I expected which was another style over substance modern gaming bullshit which to some extent it is. It does the action part well while letting you shit out the other aspects such as side missions, character development and overall story. It's underdeveloped just like how the first Assassins Creed was and hopefully they can get their shit right if they plan on a sequel. I'm pretty sure there's a sequel as in modern gaming, making a sequel is the first commandment and cliffhangers being the next.

By dreamstealer on April 16th, 2011

Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Windows)

Even an amnesiac will remember the time he played this.

The Good
Horror is one of my favorite genres, it's probably because I like dark, morbid fiction and the fact that humans tend to feed on tragedy someway or the other. There are also surely many like me who prefer psychological horrors over the brutes, monsters, virus and zombies theme, the latter half which has been played out like crazy in the last couple of years. To me a scary game is like Silent Hill and a not so scary game is Resident Evil. Not saying Resident Evil is bad or anything just personal preference.Zombies or Monsters don't really scare me but atmosphere, disfigured girls or anything that can fuck with the mind can make me change my pants.

In Amnesia: The Dark Decent you play an amnesiac man Daniel who wakes up in a 18th century Prussian castle. With his memory loss he only knows he has to kill a man named Alexander, a baron who has currently descended to a place within the castle called the “Inner Sanctum”. And also an unknown identity known as “The Shadow” is after you. Through flashbacks, notes and diaries of his own and other people scattered through the castle the story gets unveiled with some quality voice acting. I can see some of you yawning already but trust me cutscenes would just kill the immersion here and the rather vague story has it's moments, especially when it comes to the background of the protagonist.

Amnesia is a first person psychological survival horror action adventure game. That's a clusterfuck of genres but basically it's like a scary version of Myst with a good physics engine. It's beautifully rendered in 3D though and you can move freely, jump around and interact with the environment. Yeah the physics are pretty darn good. Not only talking about picking up stuff and throwing it around but the way you have to pull & push: doors, cabinets and drawers to open/close them. The physics often plays a roll in the puzzles which are the focus of adventure games.

The developers surely knew what they wanted here, a horror game filled with gloom and despair. Yes there are monsters in the game. No you do not have any weapons. Monsters can only be avoided and that's one of the reasons why this game is so scary. In order to evade a monster you have to hide in the darkness but hiding in the darkness reduces your sanity, which makes you hallucinate and even collapse for a brief moment but more importantly it eventually will give out your location to a monster who's nearby. Another thing is that you have to avoid looking at the monsters or your sanity will pummel down and you'll hand your ass over with ease. You can also just run into a room and close the door, although the tough guy will barge it open, so here's where the physics come into play again. The player will have to barricade the door with crates or any other object in the room. It would obviously be stupid if you barricaded it with a candle stand or book. Throwing stuff at them will only make them stop for a moment so that you can try and escape but will give them a good reason to grab your head and pull it all the way down to only shove it up your ass. There are some moments you'll find yourself running from an unknown thing and opening a door makes you panic as you need to gesture the mouse like you would open one in real life. Also the invisible water lurker where you throw a corpses limb to distract it while you run the fuck away. These scenes make your heart pound.

So you see the gameplay is something to behold but I must also commend the atmosphere and environment. The ambiance is not just an extra layer of noise and the darkness is not just for the sake of being spooky. It's a 18th century castle after all. But you can light up candles and torches using tinderboxes lying around the castle and you also have a lantern which you need to keep refilling with oil. So you need maintain a balance between walking around with the lantern or lighting up a torch on the wall. Keep in mind that tinderboxes are limited so you can't go around lighting up the place like it was a memorial. The player will need to decide which torch or candle is ideal.

Sound is of course an important part of horror; whether it's a movie or a game. Using ambient sounds over music is more beneficial in this genre and that's what this game does. You can feel yourself going insane when your sanity is low and it's the sound which gives that. It of course shines when you encounter a monster. You know a monster is around when you hear that tortured mourn followed by a drowned out airy drumming sound who's rhythm resembles a war march, then that screechy sound when they are about to attack you. Nothing over dramatic, so simple but so effective.

The Bad
The only thing useless in this game is the health system. You can survive 3 slashes from a monster and you can heal yourself by picking up some tonic but sanity plays a bigger role here sometimes making health unnecessary.

The Bottom Line
Amnesia is strictly for Action adventure and horror fans, but I recommend it to anyone who wants to try something a little different. It's like a modern incarnation of the point and click adventure games but contains a bit of action sequences. The game is not groundbreaking or anything but it goes by the quality over quantity rule. It's a survival horror adventure and it does just that with proper execution. Like most adventure games it lacks replayability and the only reason to replay it would be the equivalent of re-reading a book or if you want to increase your heart-rate. But for a one time experience and retailing for just 19$ it's well worth it.

By dreamstealer on April 9th, 2011

The Witcher: Enhanced Edition (Windows)

The Witcher, a game you'll either love or hate. I love it.!

The Good
I'm no hardcore RPG fan but I can find myself playing the more traditional old school, dungeons and dragons like RPGs , some JRPGs and WRPGs. Based on a group of Polish novels The Witcher to me is one of the more modern like RPGs in the veins of Mass Effect minus the suckage. I played The Witcher back in 2007 and decided to try the Enhanced Edition which is as the named suggests enhanced. The Witcher is a Dark medieval fantasy set in a fictional world of Temeria. You play a Geralt a Witcher, which is a human undergone through mutation to achieve greater agility and powers with some side effects; Infertility is one example. They also do rely on potions. A witcher's job is to protect humans from monsters that lurk the regions for a fee. The Witcher has a very dark and gritty story and setting. It deals with many mature topics such as racism, drugs, rape, sex and bringing many out of place modern day swear words to the medieval age. Geralt is interesting to me as I like the antihero character. He's also one of the few characters in the game that is voiced very well. He makes good use of his infertility by banging a lot of women in the game without protection for some baseball cards. What's awesome about this game is that it also focuses on other characters giving you some really fun and interesting side quests which are very important for RPGs.

The game opens with a lengthy but impressive FMV. In between cut scenes have some well placed camera work. And my favorite are the cut scenes narrated by Geralt with just still Hand painted pictures, they tend to come at the right moments making the story telling even better. There are moments of the game where you do make critical choices which affects how the game plays out. For example choosing to kill or save a witch after having hot occultic sex with her.

The landscapes and cities are rendered beautifully using a modified version of the Bioware Aurora engine. Got to love the water effects, foliage, day-night cycle and the details here and there. The game can be colorful and gritty at the same time. And in the Enhanced Edition it's much better moving around from area to area as the loading time has improved greatly. You'll see people walking around, chit chatting in the day and only guards and homeless people around in the night, gives the feeling of life and realism in the world.

There are some awesome concepts in here. The point and click combat has a twist of using a timed click to string attacks together. You have 3 different fighting styles; strong, fast and group. Using your judgment you'll know which is better for what enemy. Another cool fundamental is the whole steel sword for human and silver sword for monster. Not entirely groundbreaking or original stuff here but at least it works. Worth mentioning you can play with just a mouse or mouse+keyboard combination. And view with an Isometric camera which most RPGs use or Over the shoulders in similar veins to Tomb Raider or Gears of War.

Alchemy plays an important role, allowing you to brew potions, blade coating oils and bombs using a base and ingredients which can be found or purchased and gathered from plants and monsters. The Witcher has a much more stripped character development system. Where many games make you level up stats and then skill, it's unified here. Less technical than, say a Bioware RPG but much more accessible.

One thing you cannot deny is the music is freaking awesome. Whether it's the ambient like tunes, the music during battles or the creepier stuff. Everything is epic and moody. Perfection in this part.

The Bad
While some of the animations seem good, the flow of them is really stiff. Also you'll notice that the character models are rehashed even some key characters like Declan. The monsters can tend to be just re-textured models. Can you tell the difference between a Drowner and a Drowned Dead? As for the location, the swamps is rather dull and uninspired. Fighting the constantly spawning monsters can get boring. What sucks is that if you want to enter a cave or exit the area and if there's a monster on your tail you'll have to defeat it to interact with anything.

Late game you'll tend to find frustrating as there's a lot of running about; and running between different areas can be annoying as you have to go through loading screens. The clichéd endgame is a disappointment; the typical return to city, it's under flames, people are going crazy, you're fighting hundreds of enemies.

The voice acting ranges from good to average. Mostly the civilians and small role characters have suitable voice overs. As for key characters Geralt's deep booming voice is superb and fitting. Dandelion, Zoltan Vincent and Siegfried were decent enough. But damn Trish has a strong American accent, the rest were pretty average like Carmen for example.

The combat system while it works it tends to wear thin by the end of the game. It's not the combat systems fault though it's that the game throws enemies at you at random in certain areas rather than being well thought out. So switching between swords, styles and constantly clicking becomes a chore. There are some useless magic powers too. Besides the knockdown one and the Igni (fire) spell I wasn't using any other of the 3. They were just fillers and I hate it when designers put these fillers in just to add quantity to a game.

For many the start of the game doesn't really tell you how you need to get about things. For example collect 10 drowner tongues, you need to have drowner tongues entry in your journal. It doesn't mention that you need to read books, scrolls or tales from locals to get entries about a monster, ingredients and herbs in the journal. I've seen many complain about this so I thought it's worth mentioning.

Okay now a screw up I think I should mention. Sometimes when you're engaging monsters you may accidentally click on another character who you can talk to. It goes into the dialogue cutscene with the monsters waiting like dumbf**ks for you to finish. I think this is quite embarrassing for the developers.

The Enhanced edition comes with 2 new stories which you can play and I couldn't even stand one of them for 10 minutes.

The Bottom Line
It was the storyline that kept me playing this. I was in love with the dark fantasy setting and the simple RPG gameplay. But really if you took the storyline, characters and setting aspect of this game and mixed it with the combating system of an action game like Devil May Cry or God of War you'd have one hell of an action adventure game. Some people may even get bored with the game in the first hour as it doesn't really have good first impression unless you count the intro FMV but really just give this game a chance. To be fair I did enjoy The Witcher a lot and thought it was a worthy debut for the company Cdprojekt. The game is quite accessible as an RPG which is good for people like me and RPG enthusiasts wanting a taste of Modern RPG done right.

By dreamstealer on April 3rd, 2011

Assassin's Creed II (Windows)

Talk about learning from mistakes.

The Good
Wow it really seems like Ubisoft decided to chuck out the Jade Raymond marketing gimmick and focused on getting a lot out of this potentially awesome franchise. Assassins Creed 2 is a continuation of the original where you play another ancestor memory of Desmond Miles which features a character Ezio and takes place in Italy during the Renaissance.

Ezio is a major step up from the Middle Eastern with the out of place American accent “Altair”. Altair was alright for the generic stealth role but with Ezio's emotions, voice acting and personality you wont miss him. The City's are still extremely well detailed. And the platforming elements are the best I've ever witnessed. There's a lot to do in the city and marvel at the amount of detail put into it.

Graphics in general are just about right and the animation is perfection. Even when climbing walls and obstacles there's never an invisible object. Ezio's legs and hands will always be resting on something, it makes everything so realistic. Combating is simple and satisfying almost the same as the prior game. Although you can now use the hidden blade as a weapon. And since Ezio wields two blades, you can now perform double Assassinations.

New elements include an economy system where you gain money by the usual completing quests, side-quests etc to buy weapons, armor. Also you need to renovate an entire city and doing so keeps increasing your income.

The best part about this game is the fact that the repetitiveness in missions has been removed and they also removed some of the side missions like citizen rescue. The missions are pretty varied and the side-quests are at least interesting. The Assassin Tombs are the best addition which will test your platforming skills, it's like you're playing Prince of Persia for a while. The characters have better roles here than they did in the last, some really memorable ones like Leonardo Da Vinci. And as for storytelling, the usage of cut-scenes and the removal of that annoying “Glitch” feature is a relief. Rarely there will be interactive cut-scenes but they aren't boring or annoying as the prior game's.

I was impressed by the sound and music of the game. Musical score is perfect no doubt and I loved the detail in sound. Like when you land on tile surfaces or running across them the sound is appropriate most of the times.

The Bad
For some the game may drag a little. Yes the length is a little too long and I know people who have been put off by this often giving up after the flying machine part. And if you're doing side missions side by side then it's going to be a very long play.

Another big time issue is the game requires you to be connected to the internet to play. Thank god the game saves often. But if you suffer from constant net drops then avoid this game and see if you can get the console versions.

The Bottom Line
It seems like Ubisoft listened to the fans this time. They got their shit straight and made an ass kicking game. Assassins Creed 2 seems like the grown up version of the prior prototype, the one that has learned from it's mistakes.

By dreamstealer on February 23rd, 2011

Mafia II (Windows)

The storyline saves this from getting the hit.

The Good
Well I wasn't expecting this to be the killer game the first one was. But even though this sequel was maybe disappointing, it was over my expectations, which by now you should know were very low.

Well the game delivers when it comes to the storyline. The characters are voiced superbly and very natural movie-like acting. As for the cut-scenes they're always entertaining to watch and never drags on. This is one feature that made the first so great. Vito is a level headed and likeable protagonist. Many other interesting characters to be found. This is the main reason to play this sequel.

Game play is pretty much like the original, take the Grand Theft Auto games and mix it with Max Payne and you've got mafia. Driving feels more realistic though just like the first game and you tend to drive safe here. Cars don't seem disposable as they were in GTA, you'll probably hang on to one car for a reasonable period. Cars are from the 40's and 50's, they all look delicious and can be modified (engine tuning and tire rims) at a body shop. Color, License plate can be changed to legalize your car. The Max Payne part is the gun fights. There is also reasonable good and easy controlling fist fighting. Thanks to the use of modern physic engines you get a good visual experience. Glass flying, shattering even walls chipping etc.

The theme is done right, you feel like you're in the 40's and 50's thanks to the art direction, city detail and licensing of music from that era. The details of the city are fantastic, another highlight. The game is divided into chapters, after a mission you can do whatever you want in the city and then go sleep on your bed to start the next day/chapter.

The Bad
Well you don't get to do a lot in this city other than the standard rob shops, buy items, piss off cops, shoot pedestrians, drive around or run over people. If you've been playing all the GTA games then like watching porn you'd be dead bored of this by now and want something more creative. But to be fair Mafia was never exactly a “Free Roaming” game, it just gives you an open world. Side missions would have been a good way to extend this games life. Instead they're relying on the modern trend of Downloadable Content (DLC) and Cliff hanger endings. The ending of this game is comparable to you about to get it on with your girlfriend in your room. As she's about to take her clothes off and you're harder than the nightmare mode in Doom, your family comes back from that weekend out of town. She picks up her top and you're screaming “NO, NO! Don't let the credits roll, that can't be it?!” Whatever happened to the good old days of having a full game shipped in the box?

Lot of wasted potential, like the stealth mission in the start introduces some promising features which hardly will get used latter game. Driving occupies 70% of this game, while shooting 20%. It's kind of like a less annoying Farcry 2, at least you don't have to deal with annoying re-spawning A.I. I love linear games but this game seriously needs a more non linear approach to some of it's missions. Sometimes the game tuns into Indigo Prophecy where you're simply pressing the use key to create a rather interactive cut scene. For example you have to pick up the correct color cigarette and toss it at your partner. While it does act like a break from all the shooting and driving, it's not even a mini-game, nor interesting and very slow. Therefore killing the already low replay value of this game. As for the A.I. it looks smart at first but then you realize it's just "take cover for a long time then shoot" or "I got a shotgun time to rush".

The Bottom Line
Mafia 2's flaws and average gameplay is easily overshadowed by its storyline and presentation. Thankfully the flawed gameplay never reaches unplayable territory. The replay value is quite bad unless you want to refresh yourself with the storyline. If you're not a fan of the series I would wait until the price drops for PC or just rent it if you're playing on console.

By dreamstealer on November 20th, 2010

Dead Rising 2 (Windows)

Action, Horror, Comedy equals one chaotic game.

The Good
I'm really impressed. This one surprised me, from all the previews it just looks like some cheese fest with a novelty of killing a flood of zombies. But actually playing through this game one should appreciate the fact that they've mixed action, horror and comedy in one package. And it all fits in well.

Another surprise, the rather serious storyline is also decent. You play a man called chuck who's wife zombified and eventually died in the Las Vegas outbreak. His daughter Katey although bitten by her zombified mother hasn't turned into one thanks to a daily intake of a drug called Zombrex. In order to afford Zombrex Chuck takes part in an inhuman game show known as Terror is Reality. The game show involves human contestants riding dirt bikes with blades attached and slice through the zombies released into the stadium. After this show there is an outbreak and Chuck is framed for the crime. Chuck and his daughter head to a safehouse where the rest of the survivors are and awaiting military rescue.

Which brings me to why I gave a detailed synopsis of the story. In this game you've got 72 hours to prove your innocence. This is only done by completing the main story line missions. This game is however very non linear and lets you continue the game even if you fail completing a main storyline mission. However, you will not get the true ending and the game ends in 72 game time hours no matter what. If you've been a good boy and completed the main storyline on time, the game continues for another day and you get overtime mode which is the proper ending. Also every day at 7 a.m. Katey will need a doze of zombrex, which requires you to head out of the safehouse to find some. Another interesting feature is that you can restart the game anytime while maintaining your current level and skills.

There are some interesting characters as well all very well voiced with some good expressions. Chuck is a role model dad and has an adorable daughter Katey. Then there's Stacey who comes across as a closet dyke with no sense of humor, Rebbecca the busty and slutty reporter who actually wants a big story since there's no higher ups to go down on in the outbreak. There's also Sullivan the military guy who watches over the safehouse. One observation though, during cutscene with Rebbecca there is a lot of focus on her breasts but I ain't complaining.

There's a long stretch of free time between each main mission. So what are you going to do till then in the game? It's your choice you can just run around smashing and beating the herds of zombies then check your watch by pressing “T” and see if it's time to head back to the safehouse. But the game gives you side missions. These however will appear and specific times in the game.

Most of the side missions are escorting survivors back to the safehouse. A lot of the escorts involve you just talking to survivors and bringing them back. But many require you to fulfill a condition, it could be stripping down to your underwear, judging a stand up comedy routine or just bribing them to be rescued. Side-missions is where the humor is, as the main storyline is rather serious. Other than the escorts come the best part of the game....battling Psychopaths.

Oh boy, each of the psychopath fights are interesting and challenging with some dark, gruesome storyline behind each. You know you're heading into one as they each have a cutscene unlike the escort missions. The voice acting further enhances the morbid tale the cutscene has to tell. My personal favorite was the sex starved virgin who uses the zombie outbreak to get married and laid.

Completing side-missions help you level up faster. Every time you level up you earn New skills, increase in health, speed etc. And Combo cards for crafting weapons. You can use almost anything as a weapon, yeah even a newspaper. But you can take things further and combine weapons. You see that box of nails? Looks pretty useless by itself right? Find a baseball bat head into the nearest maintenance room and combine the nails and bat to make a spiked bat. You can either figure out these combination by yourself or by acquiring combo cards. Many of them are highly creative and exaggerated but it all just works. Much like the weapon combination you can combine drinks to make power ups. The character models during cut-scenes are superb. Environments look standard but what do you expect if a game is rendering at least a thousand zombies on screen. Having this with Crysis like graphics would blow your PC, Xbox or PlayStation up.

An interesting soundtrack, there's a lounge version of Cherish the love and some more licensed tracks mainly by the artist Celldweller.

The Bad
One thing which annoys me about this game is the random grabs which happen. Lets say you got a few more minutes left to complete a particular mission and your hasting back to the safehouse to make it in time. As you run through the zombies after some time BAM! One randomly grabs you and you need to shake your mouse to get him off (none of this is sexual just to be clear). I think Dead Rising would have been even better if they had cutscenes or simply just voiced the Escort side mission characters. The conversations are displayed in text only. Picking up stuff in this game can be a problem. Your fighting a psychopath for example and you're running low on health. You run towards a large soda cup which is lying amidst some other garbage. You will end up picking the garbage instead of the soda. Yes picking up objects in the game can be a pain in these situations, it wont react with where your mouse is but where your character is standing.

Lastly the berserk zombies are just fail..

The Bottom Line
Dead Rising 2 is worth buying or renting, it's re-playable and more importantly has a very entertaining concept and flow. Main Story, Side Missions are all fun and well thought out while just running through the open Fortune City experimenting with various weapons or riding a dirt bike through the swarm of zombies provides a satisfying experience and serves as a good connection between each element of the game. But the game offers a lot of things to do and that's important which open world games.

By dreamstealer on November 8th, 2010

Mass Effect (Windows)

Save the universe, collect hidden briefcase, chase monkeys and bore yourself to death.

The Good
I'm probably the wrong person to review RPG's mainly because I'm not true to the genre. I've mostly played more of the modern releases and some D&D based one's which would include Neverwinter Nights and Rage of Mages not forgetting some JRPGs.

When I look at Mass Effect though I see a RPG made purely on being accessible. And the sales and popularity behind this game proves this, as it has attracted even people not familiar with the genre. It's hard to review this Bioware title according to Mobygame's format because where Mass Effect tends to have a good it also has a bad.

But ignoring the gameplay for a while, the graphics are fantastic. Art direction maybe a bit cliched in the Sci-Fi theme. But the visuals work very well and thanks to the Unreal Engine I'm guessing this console to PC port didn't come with much graphical bugs or surprisingly no technical issues which tend to haunt many modern RPG games.

Mass Effect lets you customize your character from the looks to the Class which the game explains and also the starting skills. You can choose a male or female character with the last name “Shepard” and what's awesome is that they're both voiced. Jennifer Hales performance as the female Shepard is solid, not forgetting the rest of the characters too; topped off with beautiful character modeling and expressions which in all adds a strong foundation to the story telling. Speaking of which the storyline is nothing too original but at least they created a whole fictional universe and lore. The game provides a codex in which you can explore and read about the universe, technology and characters. Traveling to planets has been presented well too with the galaxy map and all. And there's nothing like the feeling of having your own ship “The Normandy”.

The combat system is similar to a shooter in the veins of Gears of War or Rainbow Six: Vegas. You got the cover system and can choose 2 team mates to assist you. Leveling up your character is pretty much the usual gain XP, gain points and spend it to unlock more skills based on which class you take. From there it's your typical RPG where you have a main plot and side quests.

The Bad
The Side-quests however make the game uninteresting. This is a RPG and side-questing is an important part of them. Mostly you travel to barren planets, drive the oversensitive vehicle, investigate which is mostly that hacking mini-game which is overused like crazy! Then go rescue/shoot a few turrets/enemies. Nothing really creative although I had to chase little monkeys for some gadget it had stolen...yes I'm serious. Seems like they were lazy and only focused on the main plot. Which I will admit to some point is good, the characters are memorable but follow a usual formula, there will be the love interest, the Bi curious, the serious mature one. Saren, the main villain is forgettable, the Asari Matriarch who assists him in the start was more memorable thanks to her Asari boobs of course. If it ain't side-quest or the main plot it's console game quests like the hidden briefcases in Rainbow Six. Find all minerals, find tags oh and surveying planets is really stupid.

There is the so called “revolutionary” dialogue system which is basically the dialogue options appearing before the character finishes talking (what is that like 2 lines of code?). Most of the time your character will say something far from what you've actually selected. If you select for e.g. the option “Okay follow my orders and you will be fine” your character will end up speaking something like “Yeah keeping it real aite” or “Bush did 9/11” it actually deviates far from the chosen words.

Who am I kidding? The port is actually terrible when it has to be. The User Interface is abysmal and maintaining your inventory is a pain really.The Dialogue system could use a mouse pointer instead of the analogue-like selection. Many times I've selected the wrong dialogue as my mouse jerked a bit before I could click.

Team mates A.I is terrible and to top things off commanding them or positioning them is just as bad an idea as having rough sex with Paris Hilton without protection. Your better off just leaving them to do their own shit. This area supposedly had improvements over it's xbox brother.

The Bottom Line
Mass Effect is basically a 12-15 hours game with the remaining 20-30 hours being fillers. Not saying it's a game to avoid but going into it with no expectation is probably the only way to be satisfied with it. Or maybe playing this after Dragon Age: Origins is a bad idea (yes I did that).

By dreamstealer on November 1st, 2010

Assassin's Creed (Director's Cut Edition) (Windows)

Almost Famous.

The Good
Assassins Creed when announced and showcased back in 2007-2008 had quite a negative buzz mainly because Ubisoft seemed to be focusing or using producer Jade Raymond a lot to promote it. They thought her girl next door looks would convince the basement dwelling gamers to come out of their home and buy it.

Honestly throw all that away as this game is the mastermind of Patrice Désilets and a team ranging more than a hundred. The game bares very little resemblance to Prince of Persia; mixing platforming, action adventure and stealth within an open ended world. The world is very well detailed and the best part is you could climb almost any structure. The storyline is rather interesting at first with a rather well thought off concept. You play a local bartender name Desmond who is abducted by a facility (can't remember the name). They require you to place yourself in a machine known as the Animus. This machine can read memories of your ancestors which are stored in your DNA. Desmond is obvious to the fact that he is a decedent of a long range of Assassins. The game is centered around this facility but most of it within the Animus where you're playing a memory of an ancestor named “Altair”. Altair is an assassin belonging to a creed, it's set in the middle east during the 3rd Crusade. The storyline involve a whole war between the Templars and the Assassins. The musical score is perfect and voice acting ranges from average to good.

The game is visually stunning in most aspects. The world is very well detailed. But it's other visual elements that make this game a strong runner. Altair's animations are godlike, from his walk cycle, jumping, landing, fighting to the gentle swaying of his robe. Camera cuts during a counter attack in a fight scene is a welcome feature.

The platforming part of this game is the strongest aspect. It's really well done no real bugs found in it. You can flawlessly scale a wall to it's highest point and Altair actually looks for and grabs the next climbable object. It just feels and looks realistic. Speaking of feel, your presence is felt in the game. As you walk towards people Altair sways and gently pushes them away giving him that Assassin attitude that was needed. If you're running you can loose control if you collide with a pedestrian. You attract peoples attention if your climbing a wall or even sprinting.

One may feel the game can be unrealistic at times. For example you're being chased by guards and you can sit between 2 people or hide in roof hut to get them of your back. In the real world a city guard would certainly snoop in the most obvious places, here they just start walking away. But honestly, this makes the game less frustrating and more enjoyable. Don't think you can escape guards by climbing a wall because they can do the same, they even jump from rooftop to rooftop.

The fighting system is also quite reasonable and to an extent enjoyable; this is debatable as some may find it too simple, I just felt that it works. No need to remember any combos or anything, simple clicking and right clicking. The enemy also attacks you one at a time, making it less frustrating when you're really outnumbered.

There are some jaw dropping moments too like the first time i climbed a view point and performed a leap of faith. It's something you have to see!

The Bad
Sadly while the gameplay is near perfection, the games actual execution is the downfall. Even the developers realized this and tried to fix it in the PC version. Assassin's Creed is like a musical album with the same song repeated 10 times.

Excluding the start and the ending part of the game, the entire thing is one basic formula. You get a briefing from the Leader of the Creed you take a horse and ride for like 10 freaking minutes till you reach the city you're supposed to be in. You go talk to the Assassin Bureau leader in the city, he tells you to investigate. You go investigate by completing 2/6 and later 3/6 small missions which are either pickpocketing, interrogating or eavesdropping on someone. The PC version has a new mission type known as Informers challenge which consists of 4 different challenges all of them really shallow and only adds little diversity. After your investigation is done you return to the Bureau Leader and he gives you the green light to assassinate your target. After that you need to ride all the way back to the Main base which takes like 10 minutes. Luckily after the first memory block (chapter) the PC version allows you to fast forward to your destination. I hear this isn't in the console versions and I can share their reason to be frustrated, I couldn't imaging doing the whole traveling thing again and again. You've also got Save citizen where you need to take out the guards harassing a citizen in return you'll be rewarded with a group of vigilante can block guards while they're pursuing you or a group of Scholars, which you can blend in with to get into restricted areas.

The ending parts of the game can really be disappointing. Especially the whole Bit's of Eden or whatever it was called. Not to mention the terrible fighting that has to be done in the end. You feel like a one man warrior instead of an Assassin by then. After you get past all of it, the game has a very strange ending..if you can call it that. The game's story-telling is another problem. You can move Altair while a cut-scene is going on, then a glitch flashes on screen which on mouse click will show it in a more cinematic form. This is indeed very distracting and annoying. Speaking of glitches the the hud is very distracting especially when an enemy spots you and your screen flashes and blinds you instead of notifying you. It happens even when you pick up those useless flags, which is like hidden briefcases in Rainbow 6 console version.

The Bottom Line
Assassin's Creed really innovates in many ways and perfects in some but overall it falls short of perfecting an entire game experience. And it's sad because this game could have been Legendary. Nevertheless worth playing at least once.

By dreamstealer on August 23rd, 2010

Doom³ (Windows)

A good reason to outsource creativity.

The Good
Doom 3 is basically a remake of the original with added spice. Id software took a classic game and tried to basically fit it in with modern shooters. What they did was add some good small time innovations. For e.g. You can walk into a usable screen or elevator and your crosshair turns into a mouse pointer where you can interact like u were using a computer. Other additions include taking the basic plot of the first game and expanding it by adding more depth to story not forgetting some key characters. A PDA which you use to check your missions and audio/video logs you pick up.

The story is quite simple. You're sent to Mars to work with the UAC, a very advance technological company which deals with weapons research to teleportation. On your first mission, things go bad and hell invades the base possessing most on-board.

The game's major selling point was it's hyped up graphics engine. Doom 3 would have been the best looking game that year (2004) but it was surprised by long time friend Half Life 2 and new comers Painkiller and Far Cry.

But when it came to lighting Doom 3 takes the crown here. Even other aspects like Character modeling and animation were done well. The animation of the monsters are well done from the creeping walk of the imps to the run cycle of the Pinky demon. The game heavily relies on it's dark lighting reflecting shadows all over the place, it creates and interesting approach to environment design.

As for the levels they're not close to being excellent but passable as good. There are some good details here and there especially when it comes to creating a dark and creepy environment. This can be seen in the Hell level and also in the levels at the latter half of the game. You tend to travel on the surface of Mars to reach the other facilities. You don't get to see much though since you need to run across before your oxygen runs out.

The Bad
This is where the review really starts.

Doom 3 as a game overall is terrible. It faces a multiple personality disorder. They've taken run and gun and mixed it with something out of a Silent Hill game. I'm facing dozens of monsters and I'm not really in a mood to open up a PDA and listen to a freaking audio log for key-codes to open a cabinet for ammo.

My point is it's very hard to mix these 2 formulas together. Doom is not Deus Ex nor is it System Shock, it's Doom. It's about blowing up monsters and making it fun doing so.

The game first and foremost follows the new Id Software rule of making everything bulky and macho looking. The weapons look like toy guns and are a snooze-fest except for the chainsaw and Plasma gun. To top things off the sound effects of the guns are weak, so weak that they have mods to replace the sounds. As for balance? Well let's say you'll never find use for the pistol after an hour of playing.

Another ridiculous idea is your light source is a flashlight. Now Doom 3 is extremely dark most of the time. In fact you don't need to play the game to even know that, it's like the symbolic figure of Doom 3.

Now the problem with the flashlight is not because you need to put down your weapon or that you can use your left hand to hold it up. It's just that it does not make any sense at all with the plot. You're in one of the most advanced facilities in the world. They manufacture teleports and advanced laser weaponry and they can't even make a gun with a attached flashlight on it? Did I mention the UAC have set up a facility on Mars where humans can reside that's to produced oxygen etc?

You can even use the Flashlight as a weapon, yeah bonk a monster on the head with it. But as a trained marine I would be embarrassed to do something like that even with half the base dead and not watching.

Getting away from that, you collect PDAs which contain peoples emails and audio logs. You need to listen to them to get a grip on whats going on as well as cabinet key-codes which normally contain health and ammo. You'll need to stay in one place to listen to these as the next room will spawn a dozen monsters and you'd be distracted.

It also lets you know you're objective which in the early half of the game was find bravo team. And when you reach them they're dead. From there it's get from point A to point B. It may say “Activate backup power supply” But if you're smart enough you'll know it translates to get from point A to B and hit a switch over there.

The main aspect, that is the action is terribly dull and boring, leave out a few moments. You're faced with a lot of monsters in a very cramped up environment. After finish them off you hear that sound “Ashawashabasha” and boom more of them spawns. There is a huge array of monsters but 80% of the game is you fighting Imps.

Speaking of which most of the monsters lack the scary attributes they did as 2d sprites in the first 2 games. Imps look and sound like aliens instead of demons. The only good revamps are the Pinky demon and Hell Knights. In fact these 2 were the only monsters which made me use the backpedal key, coz they actually were intimidating. Some in fact remain quite true to their original appearances. These being Revenant, Mancubus and my Doom 2 favorite “The Archville”. Sadly i can't believe the 2d sprite had more personality than this incarnation in Doom 3. I remember the Archville had a creepy as f**k sound when he spotted you. And when he's searching for you he gave out this sinister soft laughter only to have one of the most epic attack animations ever. All this is as usual not present here, he walks slowly summons Imps instead of raising the dead and shoots a small firewall. There are some new creatures like Cherubs, Trites and Ticks. None really interesting. Boss fights were terribly boring except for Vagary which had some interesting way of attacking you. This idea was probably suggested by someone not in the development team like the Game tester as Id Software don't have creative brains anymore. Look at the last boss, the ever famous Cyberdemon. I almost fell of my chair laughing at him. What happened to that Baptomet like massive creature which had a torn, morbid stomach? This guy is just huge and has some strange hunch like walk with some backpack kinda thing on him. Seriously Id what were you guys thinking?

There's also some “plot” in the story which involves a weapon created by the ancestors of Mars known as the SoulCube. This special weapon is a terrible addition here, you kill 5 monsters and you can fire it to drain the health from a monster and give it to you. Berserk power up makes it's way back and it's honestly represented quite well.

Finally the main reason for failure is that even as a horror game Doom 3 has absolutely no scare value leaving out the first 15 minutes of the game which is actually interesting. Throughout the game you're face with mainly cheap scares. Pick up gun and a monster jumps out, pick up ammo same thing. You then tend to wonder if it's really worth picking up anything in the game. To make things worst, the sound effects are abysmal, the scary sounds end up cheesy. Good example is that laughter which is supposed to be sinister but ends up sounding like someone coughing with his mouth closed into a mic. Room turns red in color some weird screaming sounds or laughter and once everything goes back to normal some idiotic Imps spawn. Trust me you get tired of these things. Getting to the point, sound is an important aspect of Horror games. Also Doom 3 lacks those depressive and energetic action tunes which were present in Doom and Doom 2, no music here just ambient sounds. This was obviously done because of the modernization of the game.

The game tries to act cute by throwing in 1 or 2 puzzles....and I'll just leave it till there.

The Bottom Line
So what to make of Doom 3, A game I've been anticipating for years? Well it takes 2 formulas that need a lot of good planning in order to work well together and butcher both of them quite well. This can come off as either a fancy tech demo or a really bad attempt at action horror. The game doesn't keep things interesting, boring shooting mechanics, overdone spawning of enemies and trying to fit the whole adventure style game-play of reading and listening to logs which really didn't work well with the games overdose of action. It's really boring to stay still in one room until the freaking audio stops playing. Doom 3 also has some good innovative features like using screens and consoles real-time, clever use of lighting. The lighting makes you forget that they've used low resolution textures almost everywhere. Not to forget the fluid and quite authentic looking character animations.

But the problem is the game is nothing more than a run and gun trying too hard to look like a deep shooter. I wasn't play Doom the game about destroying the army of hell in the isolated Mars base, I felt i was playing Doom: The not so scary alien shooter with NPC. Id software stick to engines, let other people handle creativity.

By dreamstealer on August 16th, 2010

Plants vs. Zombies (Windows)

Gardening has never been so much fun.

The Good
Plants Vs Zombies is an obvious low budget game which normally would get categorized as a “Casual Game”. What would make that evident is that it's developed by Popcap . Yes the same guys that took a simple idea and made an addictive drug disguised as a game known as Zuma. Usually these games are type casted for those corporates who are too cool to be playing video games or housewives/girlfriend/sister, but Plants Vs Zombies will manage to find its place in everyone's heart or garden to be more precise.

The gameplay is simple; it's your tower defense game where you collect sunlight and place plants which should prevent the invading Zombies from entering your house and eating your brains.

Yes they've managed to take a simple cheesy plot and actually make it work. You have a Crazy neighbor who manages to make you smile if not laugh from time to time. But the real chuckles are in the “Almanac”. Read the description for the zombies in it and laugh your arse off.

Zombies and plants are amazing, you probably encounter a new one every level. You've got Pea shooters, Cherry Bombs, Walnuts to act as walls, Pumpkins as shields and that's just less than ¼ of the seeds you will have as an arsenal.

As for Zombies, they come in variety and all are interesting. Most of them...wait ALL OF THEM are well thought out. There's one which resembles Micheal Jackson, summons 4 backup dancer zombies. Hilarious at the same time they have a vital strategy.

The Adventure mode, which is the main one you'll be playing, consists of an adventure around your house from the front to the backyard to the roof. They forgot the basement where most gamers dwell. There are some entertaining minigames in between some levels too.

There are also Night stages where you can use Mushrooms which sleep during the day. They can be used in the morning if you have the coffee plant. There is also the pool in your backyard which adds a whole new challenge. And you need to place pots in the roof level to place a plant.

That's not the end of strategy. Each level will introduce a new zombie and will mix things up with which zombies are going to appear. You are in fact shown which zombie is going to show up when choosing which plants to pick for the round. You are limited to 7 slots at first but you can upgrade at Crazy Dave's shop.

At Crazy Dave's shop you can upgrade plants and other cool stuff which will help and ease out certain levels. Especially in the other game modes.

Speaking of game modes. Mini-Game, Survival and Puzzle are the other 3 modes. All of them have a lot of hours and fun packed inside. Mini-Games consist of some well thought of ideas to some silly but entertaining ones. For e.g. the bejeweled one. In Puzzle you can play as the zombies in the game mode known as I, Zombie. Survival is pretty much endurance.

There is of course the Zen garden where you grow plants. No real gameplay just an extra which you can earn more coins.

Visually the game is really charming. The Zombies are cute and scary. In fact the only way they could get scarier is if there was an Amy Whinehouse zombie included (the Art team wouldn't have to do much details for that too). Every thing is well animated too.

Lastly sound and music are perfect. I love the music in the front-yard stages and at each wave it builds up.

The Bad
The only gripe I would probably have with this under 100 MB game is that the I, Zombie levels could have had some more challenge.

The Bottom Line
Well Plants Vs Zombies is a low priced, low budget “casual” game which manages to be more fun, addictive, charming, visually pleasing & re-playable than most modern AAA titles. And that fact alone is quite hilarious.

By dreamstealer on March 21st, 2010

Clive Barker's Undying (Windows)

It's never too late for the Covenant's House Party!

The Good
Clive Barker's Undying is another inductee to my “Games I regret playing too late” list. It joins Grim Fandango, Thief and many more. What we have here is a Horror FPS written by Clive Barker , developed by Dreamworks and surprisingly published by EA.

Undying as a first person shooter plays like most out there at the time, especially Unreal and it's no surprise since it's powered by the Unreal 1 engine. Gameplay is linear and it works very well in this kind of a game. First few minutes into the game I was expecting it to be a detective exploration game with some sparse shooting to be done here and there but I'm not disappointed at all.

With an entire mansion to explore you would think “Open Ended” but most doors will be locked and the ones which are open are the ones you need to go through to advance in the game.

What really separates it from being generic is it's plot, characters, level design and atmosphere. Execution of these are marvelous. And heading into this game clueless can yield a lot of surprises.

The plot is the main motivation for you to come back to this game. It deals with an Irish occult investigator named Patrick heading to his friend's mansion on this strange island. Patrick owes this friend his life for saving him in the past and therefore agrees to investigate this “family curse”

The games story is told through superbly executed cut-scenes and more importantly reading Journals. If reading too much in a game scares you then not to worry as the text content is to the point, interesting, well written and reasonably short. Come on just read this awesome line!

“Father always said, 'Self-reflection is the key to enlightenment.' Allow me to reflect on this day. How could I have saved my father from a slow, painful death? I could have hit him harder.”

You may probably like the simple names given to the characters for e.g. 'Bethany', 'Aaron'. And some well thought of names for locations like “Eternal Autumn”..Well at least was awesome for me.

Level design is almost flawless as well as diverse. From the mansion to an infernal realm to pirate hideouts to catacombs to a monastery and a paradise like world. I never expected such diversity. The developers have squeezed every inch of the Unreal engine here. Top this off with some amazing artwork, texturing and modeling. Everything so well detailed, even places which don't have much importance in the game.

Paintings, fireplaces, lamps, statues everything is present in the mansion's environment. Even the other levels have appropriate attention to detail such as shacks, tribal drums, basins etc.

The monsters and characters too are realistic and detailed which makes the frightful experience better. Like Lizbeth's tits. Monsters are challenging and some have a back story to them. Your weaponry is rather unique and well balanced, some rather useless. It includes a Revolver, Speargun, Scythe, a freezing Tibetan War Cannon and you can't have a FPS without a shotgun. There's a journal entry for each weapon, DON'T FORGET TO READ!

There is even a weapon which plays a major part in the plot. I can't remember how it's spelled so I'll call it the green stone. It has it's own crazy usage and side effect if used too much. You even collect items like alternate ammos for the Revolver and Shotgun, Medikits and many other objects like Dynamite. Upgrades to make your mana pool larger or regenerate faster.

Along with your wide variety of weapons you have Spells. Some cool ones, some meh. Some are used to solve puzzles, some are for arsenal, they consume mana which regenerates fast. Through the course of the game you will discover spells like Lightning, Skullstorm, Shield, Dispel Magic, Invoke, Ectoplasm, Haste. You can upgrade them by using amplifiers. Upgrading of course means increasing duration, strength, power, speed etc. All depends on the spell.

“Scrye” an important spell, so important that it needs it's own paragraph. It's pretty much the signature of the game. This Spell allows you to view events from the past and hidden objects invisible to the naked eye. The games lighting can get dark and Scrye will also act as your only light enhancing source.

Scrye is also probably one of the scariest parts of the game. When ever you are in a place or room which has something to “see”. You hear some creepy as f**k whispering voice which says “Scryee”, “Look.....”, “Seeee....” and then you have to switch to Scrye and watch the sweat drip from you as are about to hit that right mouse button.

Not all Scrye events are scary but damn I remember when I had to Scrye at that Covenant family portrait early in the game. It was f**king awesome.

Sound is perfect. Check out those sadistic laughing skulls when you use skull storm or that powerful bang of the shotgun not to forget that creepy ass whisper when you have to Scrye. But really you will mostly marvel at the atmospheric sounds. Raindrops getting louder as you move towards a window. Howler howling in the distant, lightning, calming sound of a fireplace you name it. Perfection in detail here I tell you!

Music when it occasionally appears in game is again, perfect! The menu music is epic. And finally voice acting ranges from good to above average but never descends into cheesiness.

The Bad
Some problems plague this game however. Firstly the controls. Had a hard time switching weapons, inventory and spells within the game with the default config. Luckily the game allows you to set hotkeys, which is a real saving grace. However on first play you will keep going into the menu and setting them as you are unaware of what skill or weapon is important.

There is however some circular menu system which allows you switch weapons and spells. But that fails hard and falls flat on it's face.

I wouldn't have whined about the above but the game will require you to switch between skills and weapons during battles, especially boss-fights. It's a good thing your medikits are automatically used as your health reaches half or I'd have another reason to whine about.

Apparently this game was supposed to be also ported to the Playstation 2. It will explain the above mentioned circular system and also the fact that the game has too many loading screens. And when it has to load the game's screen goes black with just loading text in the middle. It's really a thorn in the arse when you are immersed in the game.

And yeah I still don't understand what the hell is up with those colorful pretty icons on the hud?! It's like selling candy floss and strawberry ice cream at a butcher shop.

You'll find weaponry like the Phoenix (which works like a less powerful version of the Unreal Tournament Redeemer) useless. With the Speargun it appears at the last part of the game. Even stuff like Dynamite and Molotov Cocktails don't work well. Good weaponry is crucial to a FPS, Unreal Tournament did this very well.

(if you want to avoid a slight spoiler skip this paragraph) The last part of the game Eternal Autumn really seems like well....Unreal. Yes the game Unreal. Except for the Handmaidens you have less monstrous characters and more alien like tribal enemies. In fact they look like the enemies from the first Unreal game. I really found this part more disconnecting in the entire game's experience.

In fact the above was the biggest disappointment in the game. For me at least.

Lastly I loved the games ending but again the sequel was canned due to poor sales so we have a rather confusing ending. But I still love the last line of Patrick as well as that last particular scene. It really makes you scream “WE WANT A FKING SEQUEL NOW!”.

The Bottom Line**
Undying has received good critical response In the media as well as earned a cult following. Cult following in the gaming world of course translates to “Good game which nobody brought”. As far as the underground hype it gets, it's well deserved. But I wouldn't call this the best horror game ever.

In the Action horror category there is a lot of contenders with this game but in the horror FPS genre I've still not played any as satisfying as this till date ( March 2010). Doom 3? not even close. F.E.A.R? Came halfway to that level. And I'm playing this game almost a decade after it's release.

As for hopes of a new studio handling a sequel I'd rather see this game keep it's dignity than have a shitty offspring which is the usual case with these modern trends.

Undying will appeal to fans of both Horror and shooters. People often whine about the fact that it doesn't have multiplayer but then again it's a single player game. And it's re-playability is like that of a book. You loved reading it, you'll be reading it again sometime in future.

By dreamstealer on March 4th, 2010

Theme Park (DOS)

Granddad still got it.

The Good
Theme Park is a game that really entertained me for hours when I was a kid. In fact I wish that games these days did the same. Even the games that are in the same genre or similar never really caught on the way this game did. Hell! Not even the sequel had the same success with me.

Theme Park has a right combination of pleasing visual, sound, music and gameplay. The gameplay is quite simple to follow. Your ultimate goal is to stay above the red financially, above competition and satisfy your visitors. The first factor “finance” can be handled by buying stocks, setting appropriate prices for entry ticket and shops/stalls. To stay above competition you need to make sure your park is clean, well decorated, technology is upgraded, researching new stuff. Obviously satisfying customer and being financially stable also contributes to the competition factor. Every year a screen appears showcasing where you stand amongst your competition.

In Order to satisfy customers you need to provide necessary facilities like toilets, food & drink and good pricing. Shops and Stalls allow you to set various options allowing the game to have more of a challenge. I should mention that you can choose which country you want to set a park in, each country will affect your game on the basis of population, currency etc.

In order to get more rides and shops you need to research them. The research screen allows you to set what category you would like to research and how fast. Accordingly you are billed.

Cleanliness, Maintenance, Security and Entertainment can be handled by hiring staff. You've got Janitors, Security Guards, Mechanics and Various types of entertainers from Shark man to a Squid man. What's cool is that you can set a route for the Janitor to clean. Using this with lot of thought can ensure your park is clean at the same time can reduce the amount of Janitors require.

During the game a mini-game appears. A rather fun one which involves negotiating with a union. You need to bring the unions hand all the way towards your side before time runs out (cutely shown as a plate of pancakes stack depleting) if you want to reduce the amount of pay for your staff. Otherwise they all get a increase depending on where your hand has reached.

The visuals are perfect. Even though they are 2d sprites, it's all well animated and your visitors emotions are managed to be conveyed very well. Same can be said for the music, which changes according to which ride your screen is focused on.

The Bad
Well the sound can get annoying at times. You can be driven into insanity with that repeating “EW EW EW” played when your park is messy. Minor bugs like freezing, visitors getting stuck plague the game. Honestly other than that I can't find anything wrong except for maybe the fact that the game can be a little hard for kids who don't understand much about finance. And some screens may take a while to understand, for example stocks, research and warehouse ordering.



The Bottom Line
I don't know whether it's the nostalgia that still allowed me to enjoy this game even in 2009. Or the fact that this game still has more soul than any of it's sequels and successors. While most of the modern park games decided to jizz over the “Roller Coaster” factor, Theme Park (1994) concentrates on managing a park and does it the best. I don't care how much I can customize my roller coaster in the new games but none of them gave me the challenge and excitement this game did.

Note: The game doesn't run in Windows XP and I managed to get it back off an Abandonware website which packed it with Dosbox.

By dreamstealer on December 24th, 2009

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 (PSP)

The good, the bad and the empty.

The Good
Since I gave away my PS2, the PSP is my only medium now to access the WWE games. Being extremely disappointed with the prior release 2008 and it's awful WWE 24/7 mode, I decided to pick up RVS 2009 to quench my thirst for wrestling with an updated roster and hopefully a proper story and general manager mode.

The gameplay and controls are pretty much of the prior release which isn't a bad thing at all. The movement is controlled on the D-pad while the analog takes on taunting and adding strength to a submission. Not to mention the analog still plays an important role in Ultimate grapple. For those unaware as to what Ultimate grapple is, basically you start of with a base move and can perform variations of the move. Here's an example: I pull the opponent as if I'm going for a DDT and as I hold the opponent i can either perform a DDT or a neck-breaker. You can do variations of a Samoan drop or even a power bomb. It was a good feature introduced in RVS 2007 and stayed on.

A new addition is Abilities. In the previous game we had fighting styles in which each fighting style had a unique set of abilities. But having 2 wrestlers with the same fighting style means that both will have the same set of abilities. Now each wrestler has 6 different abilities for example Shawn Micheal has Kip Up which makes him spring up from the ground if hes knocked down and will have full momentum and that's just like what happens on the actual TV show. Other abilities include Object Grapple, Push Referee, Dirty Pin, Fan Favorite etc. What makes this different to the 2008's fighting style is that each superstar will have a unique combination of these abilities and not a fixed set. This is easily one of the best gameplay improvements.

Finishing moves are performed by filling your momentum meter to full. When it's full you can either perform your finishing move or store a signature moves. Signature moves are moves wrestlers are famous for using and are not really used in a match as a finisher or regular moves often associated with a wrestler. If you watch WWE on television then John Cena's 5-Knuckle-Shuffle and Batista's Spear are perfect examples. Momentum is filled by performing actions relevant to your personality i.e. Good Guy(Face/Clean) or Bad (Heel/Dirty). A Heel will usually use illegal objects or perform illegal moves like biting the forehead etc. while a clean superstar will try to win over the crowd. I really love this about the WWE games as this is what WWE story lines revolve around and lets you play both sides of the coin.

Speaking of storylines, season has been scraped and instead they have brought in “Road to WrestleMania”. This is probably the best story mode I've seen in the RVS Series. Yes it is limited to only 7 superstars but that's what makes it so focused. Imagine playing all 60+ wrestlers in a single story mode, the wrestlers individual personality and uniqueness wouldn't be exploited, same old chase for the world title 60 times with few rivalries on the way. And what if the developers made a storyline for all 60 superstars in the game? Well 90% of those would surely end up being uninspired, boring and rushed. Development would surely take around 1.5 to 2 years too.

RTWM features some of the top “face” (wrestling term for good guys) superstars such as Undertaker, John Cena, Chris Jericho (he was a face during the development of this game), CM Punk, Triple H and a Co-op of Batista and Mysterio. All of them take place during the Road to Wrestlemania which is 4 weeks before the Royal Rumble Pay-per-view. Some of the storylines can be a bit cheesy for example Undertakers but the execution is so good it works, thanks to original voice overs by the superstars themselves and spectacular presentation. There's none of that bullshit of building stats and popularity like there was in 24/7 last year, just 100% focus on story and that's why this mode is a success.

Season and GM mode are scraped and Yukes decided to replace it with Career mode. Basically you chase after all the title belts and while doing so you gain abilities and can increase the stats of your character. The mode is simple, you have a fixed number of stars to earn which is usually 15. Perform in a match and based on how well the match went you will earn stars on a scale of 5.

No matter who you choose for the career mode you will start with 30 overall stats and your abilities will reset to nothing. So its dead obvious that this mode is actually intended for your Created Superstar as this is the ONLY way to level up the stats for your created superstar. Stats are decided based on how you perform in a match, you run a lot during the match your speed will increase, you reverse a lot your technical will increase, you get the point.

Also you can earn abilities as you progress depending on your actions, once earned cannot be removed and can hold a maximum of 6. For e.g. to earn the Rope Dive ability you have to win the Cruiserweight title.

Also Included is a Roster editor which allows you to change many aspects of the roster such as Brand, Clean/Dirty and even strip and hand titles to whom you want to be Champion. Create-A-Wrestler/Moveset/Entrance are pretty much the same as last year and still good too. Create-a-Belt, the very underdeveloped part of the game has finally been removed and Create-a-Finisher which is like a dream come true for many wrestling fans has finally made it. For a debut it's works pretty decent.

Many of the match types still remain. Some which were missing are brought back and 2 new additions, the Inferno match and Gauntlet match. The tag team match has some massive improvements. Now the illegal opponent can actually pull down the ropes, distract referee, force a tag and build a hot tag. If you watch wrestling especially WWE shows you'll know what a hot tag is. Basically when the legal man is down normally getting overpowered by the bad guy, the Illegal team mate starts clapping and banging the turnbuckle followed by the audience getting into his rhythm. The legal team mate struggles and finally makes a jump and gets the tag. The fresh team mate then heads in and clears the ring. These are nice additions and makes the Tag matches incredibly fun.

The Bad
While this game might look like it's heading to the hall of fame for being the best in the series it's cut short by many factors. First off after finishing Road To WM I felt I had pretty much finished the game & that Career mode and Tournament Mode are just bonus content.

Even though it seemed to be in it's prototype stage, General Manager mode was one of the best additions to this series. It let many wrestling fans live their dreams of being a match booker. It let our imaginations go wild with creating dream rivalries, cleverly planning out each event so we could win over the fans. Keep pushing a unpopular superstar into stardom. There was so much to do. Although 2008's 24-7 mode took things a little too far it was still fun to play as a General Manager.

The developers decided to remove GM mode and replace it with Career mode. Career mode is fun for a while but it's pretty unrealistic and repetitive which can be a turn off.

No one in the WWE chases after every title. A Heavyweight superstar cannot compete the Cruiserweight title. I ACTUALLY found Mark Henry a 400+ pounder in the cruiserweight tier. As a Diva you chase after every title and battle male superstars, but can only participate in 2-3 types of matches and I really wish they got rid of this no divas in extreme matches.

Now if you're a person who creates many superstars you're gonna have a hard time leveling him/her up. Career mode is the only way to do so and the ways to earn abilities are only disclosed after you've unlocked them. Ridiculous if you ask me. You will normally end up accidentally earning abilities you don't want by mistake. Or filling that slot you were saving for Rope Dive with Object Maneuver because you accidentally used too many objects in the last match. Oh and as I mentioned before once earned you can't get rid of them.

I unlocked the WCW Brand, well it was a major competition brought out by the WWE just like ECW. I was so excited I went into the roster editor and assigned my Created wrestlers and various superstars to that brand. 5 minutes later I realized, what can I do with it? Besides compete for the WCW title in exhibition mode with WCW assigned wrestlers having a WCW background image. Yes that's all it does. The Tournament mode is boring when you got something similar like Career mode. And playing exhibition can also get stale since it's just for killing time. GM mode played an important part by adding and more importantly letting you add more into your Single Player experience.

Getting to the technical and other aspects of the game. The graphics are good on PSP standards, but they really need to work on the audience. There is a stupid breaking glass effect on your finishers impact which doesn't have an option to turn off.

Sound can be very unrealistic. Punches and kicks sound like rubber hitting wood. Music can get annoying since it's not oriented for the purpose of background like the old Smackdown games. So it gets annoying when you've heard that idiot from Disturbed attempting to scat for the 100th time in a single playing session because the soundtrack is limited. Commentary is missing during matches in the PSP version but so are the announcer tables. I guess it's technical limitations?

Speaking of which your Created wrestler can have a maximum of 16 layers only. You'll end up compromising on knee pads just so your bad boy can have some badass makeup. Even ear rings and tattoos count as layers, so there's a limitation in the PSP version.

Yes the A.I has seen some improvements but still not good enough. Surely now they wont keep picking and dropping weapons but to appear as difficult all they do is reverse most of your moves but I would prefer if they would be so aggressive that they won't give you any breathing room.

As mentioned before, Divas cannot compete in extreme matches. What I also find weird is that there is no realism in strength. So divas and weaker strengthen superstars like Rey Mysterio and Paul London can be seen manhandling the Big Show or Great Khali. Previous versions had a limitation on this which brought superb realism, I find it funny it's not present here. I'm unaware if the major console versions have this.

The Bottom Line
This edition definably peaks in the superb story mode “Road To Wrestlemania” and the new tag team gameplay. But with all the focus there they forgot about replay-ability or some purpose for your fine tuned created superstar or that team management/roster editor. Hmmm maybe implement those so they can complement the general manager mode. But the GM mode is taken out so there is no point discussing that. Honestly this game is like having a room full of ammunition but nothing to shoot at and that can lead to extreme frustration. Conclusion: Disappointing.

By dreamstealer on April 19th, 2009

God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP)

It is the God Of War, but a rather impotent one.

The Good
I often am biased towards PC games for a reason being they've been a major part of my life growing up. But I prefer having my mouse and keyboard absent while I engage in a “hack n slash” adventure. God of War was a title that at first glance would look depth-less, bland and trying to hard to be bold and gory but after thoroughly playing through it will you really get a chance to appreciate the beauty behind. The game is not at all original or revolutionary but simply strong diverse and challenging in every part making it an epic experience.

On hearing that the series was headed on to a portable platform I, surely like every fan was extremely excited but I'm pretty sure I was not alone by having the “too many compromises expected” thought lingering at the back of my head.

But holys**t I was surprised as hell as the game plays more or less like it's Playstation 2 father. I felt right at home playing a God Of War game after 2 years as the controls and combos are pretty much identical to the earlier games. Speaking of combos they still are rather accessible, fluid and easy to execute which is a good thing as you will be bashing buttons like poetry in motion instead of constantly thinking “what buttons I need to press to get that move?”.

Now with the PSP having just one analog I was really wondering if they were going to cut out the unique and essential dodging feature but they have managed to find a solution. By holding both the shoulder buttons and moving the analog it acts exactly like you were using the right analog in the earlier games. It takes a while to get used to but after that it's a thumbs up.

The game overall follows its PS2 counterparts including the interesting platforming and puzzle solving action. The Blades of Chaos is present in all it's glory and in the middle you obtain another weapon “Zeus's Gauntlet” which provides ultimate face bashing fun and is used even to break down selected walls. Magic includes Effret, Charon's Wrath, Light of Dawn and a passive item for evading and reflecting projectiles “Sun Shield”. Enemies come in all sizes and most allow you to initiate an optional minigame to kill them.

You still collect red orbs and can use it upgrade your weapons and magic. Gorgon Eyes and Phoenix Feathers to increase overall health and magic capacity. Not to forget the usual green and blue orbs for health and magic restoration. As this is a portable game the save points are pretty frequent. But one of the best features that remained is that the game rarely needs to load any new areas. I didn't really think the PSP had the juice to hold this feature. I only encountered the Loading Area text once for less than 5-10 seconds.

The visuals are probably the best so far on the PSP and it looks almost identical to the Playstation 2 versions. The production is top notch, musical score is still excellent with the very memorable main theme lingering around in many variations. The sound is extremely fitting although it could use some more intimidation when it comes to the enemies. As for the storytelling it's done rather well with in-game cutscenes and rendered FMV. I should mention that the tradition arty style of the series's FMVs are still present although sparse. What makes them even better is the returning roles of the talented voice actors especially the narrator. The Narrator is simply powerful and was always the cherry on top of it's epicness.

The Bad
Now it looks like almost everything is there but after finishing the game, I wasn't really satisfied nor was I ready to play again on the unlocked god mode difficulty. All I did was go “THAT'S IT?!?”. The games length plays a factor here, you can finish it in 5-7 hours. And in that span you cannot expect enough epicness to be contained within the game.

Nevertheless the games length is not only the negative but the fact that there is less of everything making this game too “lite” and not where technical limitations are concerned as the game already proves that it can look and feel almost like it's PS2 installments.

So where does the main problem lye? It's that this lacks the epicness of the first. I can't really blame this game but the first game really raised my expectation for this series. In Chains of Olympus there are hardly any puzzles and even when there are they're pretty easy and often obvious to solve. The locations despite being well designed and true to the series often lacks diversity. The start shows that the game can replicate some exciting landscapes. But in the end the only thing memorable is the first and last Elysium stage and some areas in Hade's underworld.

After fighting the Basilisk i was expecting some better boss fights, there are just 3 more and excluding the last boss the other 2 aren't that tough. Even challenges such as getting and climbing through those rotating spikes in the underworld or finding the sirens in a sandstorm desert are absent. Not even anything equivalent to those. So your platforming skills are hardly tested here unlike the first where the underworld really pushing your jumping and reaction skills to the limit.

So basically the blueprint is run around, go into area, fight monsters, open crates, encounter boss for brief second, push stuff around, push some more stuff to solve puzzles, actual boss fight, climb walls and ceilings, swim for a while and rinse repeat. Oh yeah that silly sex mini-game made it in here somehow. Because after hot coffee people still have the urge to jack off to pixilated tits. Well at least they are sharper than hot coffee. Good going Jaffe!

And while both the weapons and shield are win, excluding the batsh*t crazy Efreet you'll find the other magics useless. Especially the ranged attack “Light of Dawn” as this game doesn't give you much distanced enemies. Charon's Wrath screams filler item.

It's made obvious that the PSP is a platform where developers often prefer keeping their major console titles as either stripped down ports or spin offs of the original where the story normally is either from a side character or a bridge between two installments. Chains of Olympus's storyline is a bridge between GOW and GOW2 making it nothing special and only further killing the epic factor behind the series. Not even the talented voice actors could save it.

The Hades Challenges are too boring to even compensate for the games short length and it's not really repayable unless you don't really have anything for your psp. There are also options to replay the game in 3 different outfits. Not to mention you unlock the hardest difficulty God Mode so you can replay the game in that difficultly and unlock some more behind the scenes video. It's obvious the game isn't replayable so the devs got desperate and decided to throw some candy to motivate you to do so.

The Bottom Line
Chains of Olympus marks a successful transition from major console to handheld but this success is only limited to it's technological aspects. And this alone has made magazines and sites consider it as the best PSP game till date. While it is really impressive as compared to many transited titles it still doesn't reach the level of the original due to obvious rushing to deadlines and laziness from the developers because this time “technical limitations” is no excuse. Nevertheless this game does prove a point that even big titles have great potential on the PSP and this game pushed the PSP to it's limits but forgot to do the same to the series. Conclusion: Needs more EPIC!

By dreamstealer on April 14th, 2009

Thief: Deadly Shadows (Windows)

Equilibrium.

The Good
I remember my cousin handing me his copy of Thief back in 1999 and he said “You've never played anything like this before”. From promos it looked like it belonged in the same genre as say Quake or Doom. After installing and playing I didn't find myself running around blasting monsters but avoiding that and keeping myself confined to the shadows. The problem was playing such a game at a young age brought a lot of tension and alas I found myself too scared to continue this game. So it's safe to say that I've never actually experienced a Thief game except for the start of the first one. I'm aware of this game's influence and pioneering of the stealth genre and I've even played Looking Glass Studio's magnum opus “System Shock 2”. That's why in 2009 I've decided to swallow in some courage and face my fear, play a Thief game.

I decided to start from the latest and possible final release and that being Deadly Shadows. It's a shame that Looking Glass closed it's doors before production of this game due to bankruptcy. Ion Storm picked up some of the development team and decided to make the third installment together. Being a fan of Deus Ex, a game directly influenced by Looking Glass Studio's System Shock 2, the idea of these 2 working together would seem like a good idea. Besides Warren Spector worked in both these companies and on both the above mentioned titles. So failure would most likely be equal to John Romero making you his bitch.

Thief 3 Deadly Shadows is my first real experience of this series. The game is powered by the Unreal Engine 2 this time instead of the usual Dark Engine and with havok physics added under the hood. Surprisingly I liked this game's visuals more than any other Unreal 2 powered game. It utilizes Dynamic Shadows and this has been integrated into the gameplay as I found that I could hide behind an opened door's shadow or push the a box from it's stack and be discovered as the box shadow only covers half my body. The physics are pretty good for it's time, ragdoll physics are obviously present and essential for this game.

The game follows it's traditional style of gameplay but this time they've added in the city which you're free to roam as long as you confine yourself in the shadows as a city guard or enemy is just about to brush his shoulders against you. Not to mention an optional third person perspective to complement the game's trademark first person view. You have an indicator notifying you of how hidden you are, just like the original. The levels follows a procedure of “Days/Mission/Rinse Repeat”. You'll start off at day 1 then you will head towards your mission. After the mission is complete starts day 2 and so on. These days basically take place in the city at night and have no time limit whatsoever allowing you to roam it freely to purchase equipment, loot people and places, sell loot and complete side-missions.

Storyline may also develop during these city levels. Speaking of equipments you have an impressive arsenal of them. Water arrows, oil flasks, moss arrows, flash bombs, climbing gloves to scale walls, the essential blackjack and many more. Some of them have more than one purpose for e.g. The water arrows can take out small fires and put out torches at the same time remove any blood spills and even expand the moss patches created by the moss arrows. It's obvious that the thief series has some awesome thought process going on in the designing stage.

And to further backup the above statement the A.I seems to have a lot of realism put into it. They notice torches put out, noise created by footsteps or bumping into objects, missing comrades and missing loot. The sound is simply perfect and of the highest quality. It's the major driving force behind the atmosphere of the game which is simply brilliant. The world seems to be alive, with people stopping for conversations, greeting each other and eavesdropping on conversations can even lead to a side mission or clue. There are notes laid out here and there not to mention books and journals. These can help you discover hidden loot around the city or discover side missions. Side missions can reward you with maps to a future mission's location or even the benefit of an ally.

Yes there are two factions in the city, the Hammerites and the Pagans. Somewhere in the middle of the game both sides give you a side mission & performing either one will anger one faction as well as please the other. Being an ally to these factions will benefit you in certain parts of the game adding a non linear element to the game.

The main missions which are around 9 are pretty diverse in location and length. Takes place in locations like a church, zombie infested ship, insane asylum/orphanage hybrid, mansion etc. All of them follow a rather standard blueprint. Break into location, steal a certain percentage of loot depending on difficulty level selected, find main object and leave. But this is not always the case, some missions like the insanely awesome mission “Robbing the Cradle” have some mind blowing concepts behind them.

“Robbing the Cradle” is the main reason you should play this game especially if you're not a fan of the Thief games. I may have been afraid of the first Thief game because of the tension it creates but this is just way beyond that. At the age of 21 in broad daylight in an apartment filtered with traffic noise, I almost wanted to wet my pants in the most bone chilling atmospheric level I've ever witnessed. I'd be bold enough to say that this even kicks Silent Hill's arse. So what's so great about this level? Well everything, at this point Garret the protagonist is clueless and has no lead on the lady who tried to attack him in the Hall of Statues so he seeks out an Inspector who's tracking down the hag. He is advised to visit the Shalebridge Cradle, an Orphanage which then turned into an Insane Asylum then for a short while ran as both!!!! Before being abandoned due to a fire breaking out. I won't ruin the rest but in the words of the protagonist Garrett “If there's a way to cram more misery into one building's history, I can't think of it.”

The storyline is often conveyed with cut-scenes, pre and post mission narrations by Garrett and two types of FMV. One using the in game engine and one having a kickass art direction to it. The Storyline itself is interesting although at first it may seem a bit confusing but that's probably the fact that I've not played the first 2 games. The protagonist Garrett is just awesome, they've managed to portray him well without overdoing things and just like most of the characters in the game he is voiced perfectly. There are other characters who are presented in a rather subtle manner but still manage to be memorable.

The game is rather lengthy, gameplay time can be from 25-30 hours or even more and the slow pace of a stealth game is not the major factor here. 9 city levels and 8 missions won't take a weekend and maybe not even a week.

The Bad
When I have to look at the negative aspects of the game, it lies in the more experimental parts. The movements try to recreate a very realistic feel. In first person perspective you'll notice some very natural head bobbing not to forget the fact that you can see your entire body from first person and this game does it the best, even better than F.E.A.R's attempt. If you look right you'll see your weapon, basically your head is the only thing moving when you turn your mouse. Very realistic but very annoying, takes a lot of time to get used to and very distracting. And for those you get nauseous at the sight of head-bobbing then it's your unlucky day as the game doesn't have an option out of the box to turn it off. The third person works better but really makes the game a whole lot easier allowing you to look around corners by just swinging the camera.

To make things worst the game has very clunky movement and clumsy collision detection. I often found myself stuck in the games environment between boxes and even a weird bug where i jumped against a wall and the animation got stuck but i could still move.

I mentioned the realistic A.I before and still think it's impressive but when you got such a good thing going on why leave a loophole in it? I often found that I could bonk a guard with a blackjack “BONK” he lets out a “UHHHH” and then his sword falls “CLANG TANG THISH” and the guard which is just few feet away will act like nothing just happened. Meanwhile I brush against a box which goes “TICK” and the guard which is around 8 feet away will go “I think I heard something”.

The game would be a lot better if the city didn't need me to maintain stealth and instead leave that factor to the actual missions. To make things worst the city resets itself after a mission so you may have to bonk that same guards head around 20 times. At the start it was all good sneaking by the city guard to head to the next area but after a few missions I found it frustrating but still enjoyed it in the actual missions.

Each section of the city is split into various areas like South quarter, Docks etc. All of these are joint by loading zones and the load times are pretty long. So the city missions which require you to travel a lot can get a bit annoying.

The hud and G.U.I is just bad and unattractive. You can call this a console port from the main menu itself. The text in the pre-mission dialog screen is unnecessarily large. Not to forget that you'll be scrolling a lot to see your goals and notes as that screen has no real sorting options whatsoever. The completed tasks will stay at the top while your current tasks will be at the bottom. I found myself scrolling just to read 5-8 lines of text thanks to the super huge font. If someone was so visually impaired why would they play a game that's practically taking place in the darkness?

Lastly the character models aren't too impressive except for maybe Garrett and the puppets in Shalebridge. Most of them follow a rather similar skeletal structure. It's hard to tell the difference between a Hammerite and a City Guard from a distance or a Pagan from a Thug.

The Bottom Line
I cannot say whether Deadly Shadows is a disappointment as compared to the previous two as this is my first experience of a thief game but I can say it's definably true to the stealth genre the series help pioneer and it's probably my favorite stealth game so far and this is coming from someone who's played Splinter Cell and Metal Gear. Those games went strong in certain area, Splinter Cell had good gameplay but a uninteresting story while Metal Gear had a good story but really limited gameplay as 90% of that game is dialogs and cut scenes. Despite the mentioned flaws Thief 3: Deadly Shadows is balanced well in gameplay as well as story which has an interesting plot and a rather epic ending. And with missions such as “Robbing the Cradle” you can recommend it to your horror loving friends looking for a scare trip and I'm sure they'll thank you for it.

By dreamstealer on April 12th, 2009

Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell (Windows)

Just like Purgatory, it's in the middle of things.

The Good
I never enjoy expansions that much these days, maybe because most are produced just to rake in more cash of it's parent game cough cough Half life episodes cough. But there certainly are some expansions that still pack some punch if you're still thirsty for more and some that almost reach the excellence of it's original, Painkiller: Battle Out Of Hell is surely in the middle of that.

It's simply the fun simple gameplay from the original PK expanded for 10 levels. You got the tarot cards from the original PK and ten more are added to the game. Not to forget 2 new weapons and a whole lot of new bad guys to destroy.

The first thing you will notice is that the cutscenes have improved greatly in terms of visual quality. While the original had pretty good output in the cutscenes for it's time, Battle out of hell's improvement in this department is clearly visible. Graphics and sound are still the same which is a good thing. Performance does take a hit in certain levels like the start of the Orphanage, but trust me it's nothing to worry about.

The monsters are still designed with quality, still do their job well too. This time you've got smaller bosses as compared to the record breaking size the original had. Not to mention demonic children, which I should admit, enjoyed blowing off with my shotgun. There are preachers which are invincible until you fulfill the prerequisites to destroy them. These goals are not specified in the game. Tarot card conditions from the original are still present and I'll get to them later.

The level design is still phenomenal, it's not as good as what was present in the parent game but still quality work. The Orphanage is a great opener, it's dark and pretty scary not to mention the creepy kids and spirits that linger around. The Colosseum surprises us with traps reminding me a bit of Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia, it's one of the levels to look out for. While playing Painkiller I did say to myself, there's a lot of variety and all that's missing is the Carnival/Circus type theme and Bam! We've got Looney Park. The level fits the whole crazy circus theme perfect and tops it off with a little surprise towards the end. Underworld and Stone Pit are similar to each other in theme, underworld has cart rides here and there. The details are just sexy in those levels. Leningrad is a WW2 themed level and is one of the toughest in the game, another one to look out for. The rest are above average to mediocre.

The Bad
One of the gripes I have about this expansion is that the Tarot Card conditions can be a pain in the arse! You'll be pulling your hair out trying to get the one at Underworld, Looney Park or Dead City. And the new tarot cards aren't very interesting either.

Painkiller did have it's small share of above average levels like the “Train Station” and “Cemetery”. BOOH has even worst, “Dead City” is just frustrating and boring. And the worst has to be “Lab”. It's thrown into the box just for the heck of being a filler. Half the level takes place in this room with a portal in the middle. It's not very attractive and the busty nurses don't make up for it either. The boss levels are “Pentagon” which is locked on the regular difficulties and the final takes place in “Shadowland”. The Panzer Spider boss is no where near the Impressiveness of the Necrogiant or Guardian. And the final box Alestor which was a boss in the original is even weaker despite the fact that he is a King or something here. He can be taken down in minutes. I had more fun with the mini bosses, which isn't really a compliment. And how does the final level “Shadowland” look compared to “Hell” from the original? Well it's so bland that it doesn't even deserve to breath the same air as the “Hell” level. Major disappointment in this area.

The new weapons are fair but the Bolt gun despite being fun really eliminates the need of a Stakegun. SMG/Flamethrower is an okay addition but the chaingun and shotgun can do the same thing. On a lighter note the Boltgun's alt fire is decent and sometimes did come in handy.

The Bottom Line
So yes, it's pretty obvious by now that the expansion doesn't take the game ahead and in no way was it supposed to. But the disappointment lies in the fact that the game goes limp in areas where the original was strong. The weaker aspects of the original depreciated even further. That doesn't mean this is an expansion to avoid, it still maintains a lot of the good PK qualities. If you enjoyed the original, just pick this up without any further thought because you'll have a blast in many of the quality levels just as long as you can forget about the tarot card conditions. If you have a thirst for more Painkiller or FPS games in general you'll find some fun even in the more boring levels such as the lab.

By dreamstealer on March 6th, 2009

Finder Love: Aki Hoshino - Nankoku Trouble Rendezvous (PSP)

Horrible attempt at bringing Japanese Idols to video games.

The Good
Okay, so my friend obtained this game since both of us liked Aki Hoshino and I must admit I've watched her gravure videos which I can say are at least worth buying or even downloading as compared to this garbage. The version we had was in Japanese and I have no knowledge of this language except for the few prominent words that appear in their English subtitled animes. So basically I have no idea what's going on in the dialogs and that makes it a bit unfair to review this game. But I think I can make a fair judgment elsewhere. I should also mention that quite a few of the text are in English so it's possible for anyone to navigate through the game. Getting through the menu will require a little trial and error.

If your lost on who Aki hoshino is, just look her up. There's tons of info on her. She's very attractive, possesses a fun,cute and innocent personality topped of with giant breasts. Those combinations have made her pretty popular.

Enough of that, now onto this game. I think text based adventure game fans may find some appeal here, but since I cannot judge the dialogs, I don't know how entertaining any of it will be. Apparently 80% revolves around dialogs and in between an option pops up which allows you to make a decision. After a while it will lead into what occupies 15% of the game, mini-games. Some are pretty okay for a while for example the shutter game which needs you to press the L key as hearts pass through the square and the R key when the shutter icon clashes in the middles. After this game you can see the successful photos clicked. This is the most common mini-game in this adventure and gets boring after 4-5 times. In the background of this game you'll see the model Aki doing some poses or actions. Remember this game is rated 12 and above so don't expect anything from the gravure except for few bikini scenes.

I should mention the full motion videos are well used around the game and are mixed quite nice with the mini-games. Everything is through first person perspective and Aki is the only character seen. The music is well fitted in too.

The Bad
The other mini-games are just half-assed attempts although the memory maze like game could work elsewhere but not in this Sim dating game. The charades game seems interesting but the text is in Japanese so bummer. Compatibility mini-game is alright too but the score screen will take a while to finish, you'll have to play it to see what I mean and I don't think you're gonna after reading this review. Last one which appeared once was pressing either the X, Triangle, Circle or square key through the circle. After you're done with this awful excuse for an adventure game it tallies your overall score from all the mini-games. And your reward? A headache!!

The Bottom Line
Trust me I don't hate this game because it's not in a language I can understand. It's just that the interactive elements are so boring that this game is better off with just the dialogues and shutter game with the occasional FMV. If you're interested in the sex appeal there isn't much here. Aki has better dvds for you to purchase or waste your bandwidth on.

By dreamstealer on March 6th, 2009

God of War (PlayStation 2)

By dreamstealer on February 27th, 2009

Half-Life 2 (Windows)

By dreamstealer on February 27th, 2009

Need for Speed: Underground (Windows)

By dreamstealer on February 27th, 2009

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (Windows)

By dreamstealer on February 27th, 2009

Unreal Tournament 2003 (Windows)

By dreamstealer on February 27th, 2009

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