The Last of Us Remastered - PS4 Review

Absolutely worth going back to one more time

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee - New 'n' Tasty - PS4 Review

Beautifully updated, this classic title holds up amazingly well still today

Crimsonland - PC Review

Time to shoot some things. Scratch that. Time to shoot lots of things.

Dark Souls II and Crown of the Suken King - Xbox 360 Review

An amazing game gets an outstanding first piece of DLC content

Sweet Lilly Dreams - PC Review

An echanting dream

Saturday, September 3, 2011

God of War III - Playstation 3 Review

Kratos is an angry, angry man - and he finally gets his revenge.

Sony Santa Monica tells a good story here, but perhaps not quite as good as the first two God of War games. That said, the story they do tell feels like a big budget movie at times, and delivers a ton of bloody action set against a fantastical ancient Greece. In the first God of War game for the Playstation 3, expectations were high -and rightfully so. The God of War series is one that has exhibited a ton of polish and this game is no different.



Graphics - 10:

Wow. I know this game has been out for awhile, but visually it still may be one of the most impressive titles I've played on any system ever. The sense of scale is amazing. Games like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow have you fight mammoth creatures at times, but God of War just feels better. One fight you are nearly crushed by a titan, only to blind him and carry out a prolonged battle against creatures on his body as you travel across an arm, over shoulders and so much more.

Even the way the game starts - *Spoiler here for those who haven't played #2* -

But you end God of War 2 on a titan's back, and you start 3 the same way. It looks like a forested area like you might see in any other game, but you are in fact battling enemies while riding this massive titan. The attack on Olympus is amazing - there always seems to be something going on in the background. On top of that, action is bloody, smooth and the framerate holds up despite everything that is always going on.



Sound & Music - 9:

As with the rest of the series, there are some fantastic musical scores in the background that really help to set the tone. I did notice a few of them are a bit shorter it seems than in the past and noticeably loop if you spend too much time in a scene, but the quality was so good I didn't really care. Voice acting was again very solid and the sound effects are even more varied than ever before.



Gameplay - 9:

The combat has been and continues to be amazing in this series. It has not really changed much over the years, but the formula works so I cannot fault the developers for that. Some of the puzzles still annoyed me, and there were times I thought the platforming led me to a couple of cheap deaths, but frequent checkpoints kept me from loosing my cool too often.

A very important note: Quicktime events. I hate them most of the time. They are heavily used in the Chains of Olympus and God of War 1 & 2 - so why didn't I bring that up? Well, to be honest, most people just accept them now. I've had a mini-rant about these in the past in other game reviews, and I just don't like them. They take my focus off of what is happening on the screen, and if I try to take in the action I - well, it can mess up the actual progression and get you killed. I just really do not like them. So, why am I bringing it up now?

Because Sony Santa Monica handled them brilliantly. Did I mess up several times? Sure, but they did something very different than most companies. Usually Quicktime events show up as a button press in the middle of your screen, covering up what's going on and generally just annoying me. Here, they put the triangle on top, X on the bottom, circle on the right and square on the left with a sort of faded white background. Kind of hard to explain, but a) it doesn't cover the action and b) I know which button to press based on periphery vision. I was able to enjoy what was happening on-screen without having to panic half the time. There are other Quicktime events too - like rotating the analog stick, tapping the shoulder buttons and my poor Circle button got abused in these three games (you pound on it lots) - I could have done without all of those all of the time. But, if more games followed God of War 3's lead on the button presses, I'd be a lot happier in general.



Intangibles - 7:

Off all the God of War games, I think this one might have taken me the longest to beat, but that's not saying much - I still probably won in ten or elven hours. There are varied levels of difficulty, things you can unlock like costumes and powers for subsequent playthroughs, and another set of trial/challenges to keep you busy. Still, none of the games in this series do much to keep me playing a 2nd time through, and unfortunately I suspect that this game will fall into the same category despite how excellent the adventure itself is.



Overall - 8.75:

This game can be found at Gamestop for $15 used. The replay value is lacking, but the game itself is completely worth it at the used prices you can find it at now. Not even slightly kid-friendly, this outings is even more verbally, sexually and violently explicit than any of Kratos' other adventures I've played. The game feels incredibly polished and while some of the puzzles and jumps frustrated me from time to time, it was an excellent overall experience.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

God of War Collection - PS3 Review

Awhile back, I needed a new controller and I noticed the God of War collection bundle was only $5 more so I figured "Why not?" I had thoroughly enjoyed the first God of War game years ago on my Playstation 2, but for whatever reason had never gotten around to playing any of the others. When I picked this bundle pack up, I decided to pick up the PSP game I reviewed a few days ago too. While God of War: Chains of Olympus came first from a storyline standpoint, these two titles were the first in the series in terms of when they were produced.

The games are a combination of combat, puzzle-solving and platforming on a bloody quest for Kratos to find vengeance. What does this package have that the originals didn't? Well, it got a nice HD gloss over visually and added PS3 trophies. Question is - how do the games hold up today?



Graphics - 7:

The HD improvements do indeed help, but the fact is the textures and movements are all the same as they were years ago. That's not a bad thing - I remember when the first God of War game came out. The sense of scale, the use of background animations and the visceral, vicious combat. The second game looks better than the first, but both show hints of their original age throughout.



Sound & Music - 9:

The voice acting is good, the sound effects are good, and the music is great. There's a lot of music that's reused from one game to another, or modified - but all in all this is one of the stronger aspects of the entire series. This aged far better than the graphics in my opinion. In one part, where you are in a desert in the first game, you have to rely on sound to find one of the three sirens in the sandstorm. A great use of sound where it is actually used as a part of the gameplay and not simply an effect.



Gameplay - 8:

So many games have tried to immitate the combat found in God of War. Castlevania: Lord of Shadows, Dante's Inferno and Heavenly Sword immediately come to mind. There is a real weight and flow to the way Kratos and his chained blades move on the screen and tear through enemies. The combat of God of War is still more satisfying tome than the above mentioned games, despite its age.

Some of the puzzles did not fare quite so well. The first game in particular was a bit frustrating in places and you get the feeling that over time, the studio has refined their mechanics. Sometimes the puzzles are just incredibly easy and require no effort at all, and others you're left scratching your head looking for some obscure hole in the wall you can only find from one specific angle or a lever hidden behind something that is perfectly blended with the rest of the environment. Also, I found myself frustrated with several of the platforming parts - a frustration I don't recall from playing the first game years ago.



Intangibles - 8:

No online, which is fine. There's costumes, trials, different difficulty modes - so the developers try to give you reasons to replay the game. The trophies were a nice touch as well. The way you level equipment and skills keeps you feeling like Kratos is continually evolving, which helps to keep you invested as well. There's also some developer videos and behind the scenes stuff for people who are interested in how this series was put together.



Overall - 8:

I got the disc for $5 - I can't complain. I've seen it used for about 12-18 dollars at several places as well. The core gameplay mechanics have always been solid, and they aged well. Some of the puzzles and platforming could have been better, and the game itself is very linear with a single ending to each one so replay value is a bit limited as well. If you're interested in these types of games though, then they are definitely worth the investment - just keep them away from your kids. Watch out for violence, language, nudity, sexual situations (there's a sex mini-game where you don't actually see sex, but let's face it - there's not a ton left to the imagination so my kids don't get to be anywhere near these titles).


Sunday, August 28, 2011

God of War: Chains of Olympus - PSP Review

I've been on a bloody good tear with video games of late, but perhaps none of them are bloodier than the exploits of Kratos in the God of War series. There's currently 2 PSP games in the series out there, and this is the earlier of the two, Chains of Olympus.

For those unfamiliar with this Sony exclusive series, these games are a mesh of combat, puzzle-solving and platforming in a 3D environment set in a fantasy version of ancient Greece. Chains of Olympus is actually a prequel to the original God of War game that came out on the PS2 some years ago.

Now, most of my PSP favorites are some form of action or strategy game. I just don't often feel comfortable playing action style games on the smaller screen, whether it's due to the controls, the smaller screen, weaker audio - whatever the combination of reasons are, I usually wind up disappointed. So, question is - how well does Kratos' prequel translate to the small screen?



Graphics - 10:

For the PSP, this game's visuals are absolutely amazing. Right on par for me with Crisis Core which I thought had some of the best cinema screens of any PSP game to date. God of War however, keeps the impressive presentation going right through the gameplay itself. There are moments of epic backdrops where you really just have to take in everything that's happening around you, and it's all brought in a tear and stutter free framerate that keeps the action moving along perfectly.



Sound & Graphics - 10:

The voice acting is generally good, the sound effects are varied and compliment what is happening on screen. The music in these games is amazing, and the PSP version does not disappoint on that front. A great sound track that really brings out the best in the action and atmosphere.



Gameplay - 9:

It's a tried and true formula that has been imitated a lot over the last several years, but this series still does the combat better than most. The RPG elements really keep you invested as well. As you topple more powerful enemies, you unlock new abilities and spells that can be leveled up through the red orbs you gather. On top of that, there are platforming and puzzle elements to help break up the action. Now, I will admit the platforming stuff sometimes got on my nerves, and this series for all of the things it does right, does sometimes struggle in that regard in my opinion. However, the PSP game did not often leave me feeling like I died cheaply and the controls actually work very well despite the fact there are fewer interface buttons than the ps3 controller.



Intangibles - 7:

It's a great game, but it is a bit on the short side - I think I beat it in about eight hours. The puzzles are good, and only once or two really had me annoyed. The storyline was interesting and there's plenty of things to unlock along the way. There are some bonus content as well, such as The Challenge of Hades which is a series of trials. You can unlock new costumes for other playthroughs and even some cool art and behind the scenes stuff as well.



Overall - 9:

The game is a bit light on replay value and there are no online modes of any kind. That said, if you enjoy these types of combat-oriented action games, then you will probably find a good deal to like here. It is a game that can be found pretty inexpensively as well - I've seen it at use game shops for around $8 and that is pretty hard to beat. Of note, this series is in no way appropriate for kids - I don't even let them go into my bedroom when I'm playing it, between the gore, language and nudity.