My beef with FPS.

I love a good war game. From Call of Duty to Killzone to Battlefield; I love running and gunning! BUT my love only goes so far.

This week I played the single player of Call of Duty : Black Ops. Needless to say it pissed me off. Many of you may be shocked to know that I do not believe that Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops should be the standard with FPS’s. I bored quickly with them. But this is not a rant about that. It is something that every FPS has in it.

Why do you have to follow someone throughout the single player modes in many of these games? In many cases these characters or NPC’s get in the way, do not help draw fire, or help with the “enemy” situation. They yell at you, slow down the gameplay, and in general get you shot.

So, please, please game companies making the next and newest FPS, knock it off. I don’t want to follow Sgt. Blah. Give me the mission and let me make my own path. In many cases, the easier, stealthier path.

Also, stop with the dramatic knife in the back scenes. We get it, you can kill with the knife. Do not make it seem as though you have taught us how to use a lightsaber. Unless of course it is a lightsaber.

Alright, that is all…for now.

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!

 

Lego my rehashed 3D adventure

Summer is ending. I am emerging from my fan filled rooms and opening up the windows, letting the autumn air in, and removing the odor of the games I have played. This time around, I am reviewing for two : Indiana Jones 2 – The Adventure Continues and 3D Dot Game Heroes.

Let’s get Indiana out of the way .

Lucasarts owns a whip that beats dead horses. Whips them hard. This Lego adventure was not needed. When Lego games first started, I thought they were cute and fun. Now . . . it is just sad. The controls and camera were both frustrating and sloppy. The majority of the time there was so much happening on the screen that you could not see where you were going. You know the story lines if you know the movies. Bottom line, don’t bother. If you want to have fun in Legoland, stick with the first two Lego Star Wars games and enjoy.

I do believe that the Lego games can stop now. I understand that they have a couple more in the works. Ugggh. Not everything has to become part of the beloved block toy line.

————– Now to another beloved block icon —————–

The year 1986 was a great time for the adventure in all gamers. Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda, a pinnacle of adventure games. You loved the gold cartridge, you hummed the songs all day, and you dreamed of killing octorocks. Life was good.

Over the past 20 years, especially since Sony and Microsoft have entered the picture, gamers have wanted Nintendo to cross platform. The idea of downloading Zelda through PSN makes drool.

Atlas games jumped into the pool and said, “Screw you Nintendo, we will make a game that pays homage and shows off some innovative gaming ideas.”  There was one problem with that.

In 1986 gamers did not need as much game interaction, explosions, and constant on the edge gameplay, as they do now. 86’ers had no problem of running back and forth looking for this and that. I couldn’t help but feel like I had already played the game and got bored quickly. There was not much that made me want to continue toward the end. There are plenty of jokes and plugs referring back to Zelda games. Nothing stands out though. The maps and enemies resemble the original NES Zelda. The environments and weapons resemble SNES Link to the Past.

Overall the game is fun but for a short time. Rent it to play for a few hours. It will at least bring back memories.

Final Fantasy XIII : Where has the past week gone?

First off, I am not going to go into the story line of the game. Just know two things : 1. Good vs. Evil and 2. Big monsters.

I knew that Final Fantasy XIII was going to be different but I didn’t realize how much.

The very first thing that I noticed was the linear, tunnel like, “exploring” that your character/party did. Almost like the Tomb Raider series, running through buildings, caves, and the what not. There is very little expansive territory to search through. Of course there is an area where you go through side quests and massive beasts are all around.

Second thing is the battle system. In past games I would make two teams, making each person with certain strengths knowing that if my team leader died that I would have to use the next in line. Nope, not this time. If your team leader dies during battle, you have to start the fight over. This is frustrating when you have been hacking away at something for 10 minutes. There were several times where I would just stare at the screen in dismay,going, “I almost had it! WHAT THE CRAP!” But overall, the battle system is easy to learn and upgrade.

The cutscenes are gorgeous. This is where you spending big money for that TV and sound system comes into play. The playing graphics, for that matter, are gorgeous as well. Often I could not tell the difference. The one thing that I did find funny is that each character had to have their “We can do this speech!” cutscene. Some of it is quite high school drama and some can get to the point where you want to turn the volume down.

The main problem, it is very petty, with the game is the map. You are able to view a map of the area and some of it is difficult to see. There are no markers saying where each spot leads to and you do not have the ability to mark it. I can’t remember if other FF games did the same. I just find it odd and annoying. Some of the caves start looking the same and running down a path for 20 minutes before realizing that you are going the wrong way is a time waster.

I also find it funny that every and I mean every Final Fantasy follows the same character stereotypes.

  1. There is always a bad ass lead character that is driven and will throw themselves in harms way no matter the cost. You will play them the most.
  2. Always a macho, testosterone, “dude”.
  3. A cute, flirty, giggle giggle girl that can do major damage.
  4. A random, easy going black guy that feels like he has nothing to live for. You always want to use him but in the end he is a so-so character.
  5. Someone with a staff who is rough, tumble, and secretive.
  6. The useless guy. Sometimes is a animal.

Overall Final Fantasy XIII is wonderful. Even with little flaws and occasional bad acting, it is still worthy of your attention. If you are the type that does not enjoy long epic adventures, you might want to look somewhere else. I am currently clocking in 60+ hours, still have all the side quests to complete, and have not beaten the final chapter.

This is a buy for those who know what they are getting into.

Medal of Honor : DICE Multiplayer Beta = not Battlefield : Bad Company 2

I was able to pre-order Medal of Honor through Gamestop the other day. With a pre-order I was given a key code to try the multiplayer beta. The Beta is going on from June 21st-July 18th. I am also a part of the EA Gun Club so I got to get in before June 21st. Sometimes it pays to be part of every side group with a game.

Anyway . . .

DICE is trying some different things with MOH’s multiplayer. Some of it is concerning. They did such a wonderful job with Battlefield : Bad Company 2. I almost want to shake them and tell them to stop changing the wheel!

The first thing that is different is the controls. Now, I know this is a BETA and that nothing is final, but why have different controls for something that the bulk of your players are still on another game (BFBC2) and use to that scheme? If it offered something different, I would say sure. But not in this case.

I did not see any actual team play. Mainly just people running around and shooting. Very COD if you ask me. I like the team work aspect that they did in BFBC2. I hate to keep bringing up Bad Company, but it is a great multiplayer system!

The graphics are sharp. The ragdoll animations are a little stiff. The weapons , though few offered, looked great. There is some learning curve to the use of them. The strength of a light machine gun feels almost the same as a AK. That does not make sense and needs to be fixed. Grenades need more power. I also, want to say this about all FPS – IF YOU GET HIT BY A .50, IT SHOULD BE A ONE HIT DEAL. I am so tired of shooting guys with tank guns/heavy machine guns and them running away.

Bottom line is that DICE really needs to use these next few months to implement ideas from their successful Battlefield Bad Company and make this the game that would make any Call of Duty fan weep. They have a lot of work in front of them.

Also, if you are running a PS3, it crashes and freezes a lot. DICE knows that and are working on it.

Mini Ninjas : Its like Calgone and Japanese feudal warfare wrapped up in one.

Charming, relaxing, and simply fun. Mini Ninjas is a great game from start to finish. The game offers a surprisingly long gameplay adventure, I logged in around 12+ hours.

I was not thinking that this game was going to be too difficult or frustrating. Knowing by the cover that it would appeal toward younger ages, I figured that if I wanted it to be more difficult I would have to make it that way. The replay value is fairly low and for the perfectionist player it offers several trophies/awards to obtain with multiple runs at different difficulty levels or replays of different stages.

The story is wrapped around a little ninja named Hiro. His master has sent him, along with Futo, on a journey to destroy the Evil Samurai Warlord. Along the way they rescue other ninjas that had been captured. The rescued ninjas are playable characters and have certain strengths. Hiro, for the most part, is the most used and is the only one that can use the powerful Kuji magic.

The graphics are quite stylized and the music is very relaxing. Some of the levels are fairly large and offer a lot of exploring. Parents watching their kids play will want to join in because it is very inviting. My wife and I shared gameplay duties. It was just fun!

The game has been out since September 09. I would figure that you could find it for fairly cheap or easily available to rent.

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.

Fairy Tale Fights : I just saved you $$

Once upon a time there was a man that loved video games with all his heart. He played from morning till night. Until one day  a giant Gamefly brought a game to his mailbox.

This game had potential to be funny, creative, and enjoyable. It almost seemed as though the developers, Playlogic Entertainment, went half way with their idea and said, “Screw it! Let’s go get some doughnuts. The games got blood and cartoon characters, what more does it need?” Well, for starters, better camera work. If you are playing on anything less than a 37″ screen, you might have difficulty with playing a couple levels.

Other problems : controls “sometimes” work, perspective with certain jumps or areas can be sketchy, you will die . . . a lot, very repetitive to the point of drooling.

I really wanted to enjoy this game. I really did! Being a man of simple gaming love, it should have fulfilled my thirst. Most of the time I was thinking back to some of the impossible Mega Man jumps. So then years of repressed video game frustration boiled up. I laid it down, had a drink, and shipped it back.

Don’t rent it, don’t buy it, just be happy that reading this didn’t take 5 hours from your life, unlike Fairy Tale Fights.

Bioshock 2 : You can never find a decent plumber in Rapture.

Bioshock 2 is a return to Rapture, an underwater metropolis that went, well, crazy. You take the role as a Delta, a big daddy, trying to find his daughter and take down his “wife”. Sounds like a bad case of domestic abuse, but it is fun!

The story sets 10 years after the events of Bioshock. Sophia Lamb is now in charge of Rapture. She is crazy. Plain and simple. She sends her army of Big Sisters to take you down so that you can find the remaining little sisters.

Little Sisters? Creepy little girls that help you search for ADAM (blood), so that you can change your genetic structure and evolve. Evolve? Gain mutant like powers, such as shoot fire, electricity, and bees from your left hand. The right hand is an assortment of weapons, ranging from a drill, machine gun, shotgun, etc.

I did not find this game as creepy as the first. Sure there were a couple of moments that made me shiver but overall it seemed more like a haunted house at the fair. I got tired of repeated lines from the Splicers. Splicers? Humans that have mutated and now living in rapture with nothing to do but repeat the same 6-8 lines of dialogue.

Speaking of Splicers : Hey 2K! Why did you make them more powerful than some of the main enemies. I could take down another Big Daddy or Sister no problem, but a splicer could hit me 2-3 times with a wrench or shoot me with a pistol and I died. That was annoying.

Ok, back to the atmosphere of Rapture. Dark, wet, and bodies all over the place. Great look all the way around. Nice detail on everything.

The controls were okay. I had to tweak a couple of things. Everything was responsive though. There was never a “I HIT THE X BUTTON!” deal.  I did wish there was a “sprint” action for Delta. He lumbered around and it slowed down areas that really should have taken less time.

I will not go into any spoilers for those that have not played it yet. There are moments where you have decide good or bad. It does make the outcome of the game change. There are multiple endings just like the first Bioshock.

I felt that the last section of the game stretched on and on and on and on. Some areas seemed to be time wasters and make the game just a little bit longer. There was some back tracking that was annoying.

Overall the story, characters, and gameplay were great! I enjoyed the game even with the minor things I have mentioned. I can not see a reason for a Bioshock 3 though. There is a multiplayer aspect to the game. I touched on it briefly. It did not spark my interest. I am glad that the single player game was satisfying and worth the time spent! You hear that Infinity Ward and Dice? Give the single player campaign some time! Not everyone is about multiplayer all the time!

Go rent this monster or wait till the price drops. It is a good 16-24 hours worth of underwater goodness.

Battlefield : Bad Company 2

Ahhh, March 2, I will remember it well. Snow coming down, covering the road, myself, I was sick with a stomach virus, but I was determined that Battlefield : Bad Company 2 would be in my sweaty palms. Worth every penny and slide on the highway.

Of course comparisons to Modern Warfare 2 will be thrown against the wall. Some will stick and some will fall flat. Both games have their flaws. But this isn’t about MW2. It is about a bold move for DICE. The gamble of forced squad tactical playing.

The single player campaign is tight, linear, and fun. Bad Company is back for round two. Quite simple : Russians are in search of a new weapon. You have to stop them before they invade the US and take down the head honcho. The story has been played out in hundreds of games, so no points for originality. Still, the globe trotting adventure brings in a types of great environments. This really sets you up knowing that there will be some awesome multi-player maps.

With most games, the AI is confusing! They either see you right away or never see you, even if you are standing in front of them. The most problematic area is that no matter if your entire squad is firing, all enemies will focus their attention on you. The other three guys in the squad just stand there shooting and getting shot, blown up, and beaten down. They never get a scratch on them. You? Well, you will die a lot. Dudes with shotguns have accuracy of sniper rifles. Sure your squad will take care of some of the baddies, but it mostly lies in your hands. That is fine, but if it is a “squad” based game, DICE could have made it more interactive. I would have loved to been able to tell certain squad mates to stay put or go to point A.

The action is frantic at points and you will have to rest sometimes from the white knuckle firefights you will encounter. By the final level you would think that the enemies would be tougher. The final dealio is more of a hold down the trigger and eat through the bullets than a use your head play tactic. On top of that, you end the game with a “That should have been bigger.” Still a great ride though.

The real star is the multi-player. Twelve on twelve teams, broken down into 3 squads per side. You team up with your friends or are randomly placed into a squad. You are able to stay with the same team mates until one decides to leave. I have played on the same squad with two players for 5 hours straight. We got to know our playing styles and really started to turn into a machine of hot death!

You chose from 4 classes : Assault, Engineer, Medic, and Recon. Each class holds an important function for victory. If your squad is a bunch of recon (snipers), you are going to suck. Yeah, everyone likes to hide and kill people. That might be fine in Modern Warfare, but not in this game! This is a team effort and lone wolfs are lame. Another key to success is to “spot” for your team mates. This function calls out the position of the opposing side and makes it easier to take them down or change battle plans. Be prepared to change roles often during a match. You may start out as a medic but end as an engineer, and that is ok.

One of the best features is the use of vehicles. From ATV’s, tanks, to helicopters, there is a wide variety to get the upper hand on the other side. It is nice though that just because your enemy might have a tank, it doesn’t mean that you are not able to take it down. Once again, understand what each class does in battle and use that to your advantage.

Bottom line, I loved the game! It will stay in the PS3 for a longtime. If you are not a multi-player fan, I would rent it. You will get a good 2 days worth of playing. For those that love to kill online, get it! You will become addicted.

DICE has answered Activision with a solid runner for the crown. And since Infinity Ward is now off the Modern Warfare project, it would behoove DICE to pick up that team to work on upcoming Battlefield releases. The two companies could really turn out an amazing game!