Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light : Go get it!

Tomb Raider is a beloved series in my family. Since the first polygon of the British archaeologist landed on the PS1, I was hooked. Every game kept me up for hours, days, and multiple playthroughs. My wife and I have shared stories of our adventures in the games over dinner. We wait for every installment. So Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light has been the most anticipated game in our house this year.

For anyone familiar with Lara Croft and her games, you expect certain things. But Crystal Dynamics departed from the typical 3rd person over the shoulder look, for a isometric viewpoint, fixed camera. This is also the first game that introduces a co-op play. Your partner is a Mayan warrior named Totec who can speak perfect english. Amazing for a Mayan who had never heard spoken english prior to what Lara says to him. But let me tell you the story of the game first …

“Two-thousand years ago in ancient Central America, a battle began between Totec, the Guardian of the Light, and Xototl, the keeper of darkness. Totec’s army was defeated when Xolotl used the mirror of smoke to unleash hordes of ghastly creatures. Totec survived said battle, and found a way to defeat Xolotl, imprisoning him in the mirror of smoke and watching over the mirror as an immortal stone statue. In present day, Lara Croft reads of the legend and attempts to find the mirror. After a long and dangerous hike she is successful. She stops to observe the mirror, only to find that a band of mercenaries led by the local warlord followed her into the temple and took the mirror from her. Unknowing, or unbelieving of the curse upon the mirror, the leader of the mercenaries handles the mirror and recklessly releases Xolotl. The stone statue of Totec comes to life and warns Lara that Xolotl must be stopped before the light of dawn. Depending on whether playing single player or not, Lara and Totec either join forces or go separate ways to try and stop Xolotl.”

This game is a lot of fun! Gameplay is fast paced, controls are tight, and it offers a lot of replay value. There are some downfalls but nothing too serious. The controls take a little bit of time to get used to. Once learned though, actions will become second nature.

During the Co-op play, if your partner is slower than you, it will cause problems. There is not a split screen option and it forces you to truly work with the other gamer. Which is always  good thing. Why play co-op if you are not going to “play nice”?

The graphics are fresh and stay constant. You never feel as though something doesn’t belong. In typical Tomb Raider fashion you will be asking, “Why did this ancient culture build this?” And of course as the game progresses enemies become larger and more hellish. Nothing becomes too frustrating. Some areas might make your blood boil, but that is just because the game knows how to challenge the player.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is at the perfect price point of $15 or 1500 MS Points. Two thumbs WAY up on this game!



Shank : Bloody retribution in waves of bloody repetition

This little summer bloodfest made a small blip on the radar and then disappeared. Other sites gave it decent reviews so where did this fantastically stylized side scroller go wrong? Let’s look at it, shall we.

Shank is a hell bent dude, avenging the murder of his girlfriend, well you assume a murder. Along the way you meet the Kill Bill rejects in typical boss fashion, all the way up to the final boss. You have the muscle testosterone guys, the chick with a sword, wanna be crime lords, etc., none of them stand out as a true nemesis. Each boss has a pattern. Once learned it is fairly easy to beat. Hit detection gets a little woppy but doesn’t deter from the gameplay.

The entire time I played, I thought that there were chunks of the story missing. Little flashbacks for cut scenes made me think that there was a deeper history between the characters. None of it is really developed. But you really are not playing this game for the story line anyway. You are playing because it looks cool. REALLY COOL!

The animation is fresh and up to speed with all movements, weapons, and kills. So smooth it feels like silk. The controls, on the other hand, are more like flannel. You will experience “I was aiming that way!” moments and frustration will build. Frustration in ways that will have you remembering classic Double Dragon or Bad Dudes games. You will play through the frustration, just like you did with those games. It turns into a “I have beaten this before and it will never get the best of me” attitude.

The great thing is that you can play with a frustrated friend in Shank’s co-op. Same idea of the game, just a little off story.

Keep in mind that the level design and basic gameplay screams NES/SNES. Move a little bit, fight a swarm of people, move a little bit more, more waves of baddies, now enter bigger dudes with battering rams, move a little bit, more waves of the same characters, cutscene, and boss fight. It is this repetition that killed the game for me. I got bored way too fast for such a visually awesome game. I guess that is why I wasn’t upset when I realized that 4 hours later it was over.

I chalked it up to eating an awesome $14 burger with a beer. The first initial bite is wonderful, but by the last bite you are so full of that burger you just want it to be over.

Dante’s Inferno : B to the A, my friends.

If I were to be taking a vacation to Hell, I would want Dante as my tour guide. The man stitched a cross into his chest and kills Death! That is . . . insane.

Okay, here is the deal. I am going to mention the bad first. Get it out of the way, sweep it under and get on with our lives.

1. There are about a dozen camera snafu’s that block or hinder jumps, movements, and attacks.

2. Every once in a while you will get a “AWW Come on man, I hit that button!” moment and you really did hit that button.

3. You would think that the lower levels of hell were as freakish as the first 4-5 levels. Just sayin’.

Other than those things, I could not find anything wrong with Dante’s Inferno.  The controls were fairly smooth. Combat was clean and feverish. It keeps your attention all the way to the end. Some people have complained that they thought there would be more variety of bad guys the farther into Hell you went, I didn’t mind. The Devil can only employee so many.

It is obvious that Visceral Games wanted to freak you out with the first 4 stages of Hell. The screams of the damned and the cries of unbaptized babies that chase you will stick in your ear. All the stages are done very nicely, but Lust makes you go “What are these guys drinking?”.  The pure shock and awe of Lust will make you giggle at first. It turns into a game of counting how many penises and vaginas you can see. Not to mention the main demons of the stage. They beat you down with . . . wait for it . . . their vagina tonuges.

Another, image that made me laugh was when I fought Lucifer. He is quite fearsome and well endowed. At first I thought that he had three legs. Nope.

So, yeah, this is not for the kiddies.

Sure you can compare Dante’s Inferno to God of War, but you can compare those games to hundreds before them. One great thing is that there is plenty of downloadable content out now and in the near future, including a multi-player mode. I will pick this game up when it goes on sale. It was an enjoyable 14 hours.

Rent, then buy if you want the DLC packs that are offered. Either way, it is worth your time.

Warhawk is $14.99 on PSN

The 32 multiplayer game, Warhawk, is $14.99 for a limited time. Available only on the PS3 through their PSN Network. From personal experience Warhawk is one of the best games to land on the PS3. Warhawk was released in 2007 and has several DLC packages, that are also on sale. There is still a rabid following for the game and servers are always filled. Games can go from mild to total chaos in seconds.

One of the greatest things about the game is that it gives the player so many options for gameplay. Fly a Warhawk, destroy with a tank, snipe from a mountain top, or just run around laying mines, players can change up the gameplay on the fly.

Warhawk is the only game that I continue to play on a weekly basis. This is the best way to spend $14.99! GO GET IT NOW!

I am having Borderlands withdrawal

I sent Borderlands back to GameFly yesterday and I am now wishing I had not. The game is addictive . . . very addictive. Yes, the ending was a little lame but the ride there was great! Going through it a second time was a real challenge. The enemies up in power and number. Sometimes there are so many things to shoot on the screen, you just “Spray and Pray”.

Games need to be more like Borderlands. The addictive quality of games is slipping. Games should haunt your thoughts! There have been way too many in the past years that I have gone through and never thought about again. I can think of a handful of games that I crave to play. Legendary games like Castlevania : Symphony of the Night (PS1), Resident Evil 4 (GameCube, PS2), The Legend of Zelda (NES), Zelda Windwaker (GameCube), Final Fantasy VII (PS1), WarHawk (PS3), and Uncharted 2 (PS3). Let’s go ahead and place Borderlands in there as well. It has the drive and the possibility to really change the FPS/RPG gaming style.

Maybe I can find Borderlands on sale somewhere. The idea of going through the game with all the characters really make it appealing. I know that the review below isn’t a complete review. You just need to trust me on this. Borderlands is worth your time and money!

DLC should be a no brainer for game companies.

Downloadable content should be mandatory in the marketing of all games in the future. If you want to keep your title alive for longer than 3-4 months, it is the best way. For example, Assassin’s Creed 2 recently put out The Battle of Flori. I loved Assassin’s Creed 2 and the thought of playing new levels or memories has my mouth watering. Even if it is for a short time until the next one, I will be there for every downloadable deal.

The mere adding money to a title and keeping money flowing into the game studio just makes sense. I pay $60 for the game and then every 3-4 months drop another $5 on a map pack or player skins = Cha-ching in their wallets. Even when the title goes on sale, newer players will buy the DLC to keep up with the already established community.

Zipper, Infinity Ward, Ubisoft, and Dice, should be  set up to maximize their customers playing experience. I hope they would do so. Like I said, I would plop down the cash every few months for new material on my favorite games.  If I know that a game, that I am interested in, offers good DLC, I would be more inclined to buy the game.