Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tribes: Ascend (Beta) Review


For an oldschool gamer such as myself, Tribes: Ascend is a delightful little slice of nostalgia that has brought back (and improved upon) countless memories of jetpacking, disc-slinging, and truly kickass gameplay. For those who have played Tribes 2, the game will be extremely familiar. For those who have never touched a Tribes game, it will provide a refreshing, riveting experience like none you've ever had.

The intensity of combat and the fast pace of the game might remind some of games like Unreal Tournament or the like, however - Tribes offers a whole new dimension of movement by giving players the ability to fly for short distances, which makes it kick so much more ass than Unreal Tournament games. You're also given the ability to "ski", which allows players to essentially ignore friction for the most part and slide across the ground on your feet. Combined with jetpacking, players can build up some serious momentum and travel at speeds previously unheard of in FPS games.

Along with movement, much of Tribes: Ascend is virtually identical to Tribes 2 (though much better). The graphics are the best of any Tribes game to date, and the physics will have your stomach turning knots when the action gets heavy. A few of the gameplay mechanics and your ability to acquire weapons have been somewhat tweaked to fit the Free to Play format (you have to level up and spend points to earn new weapons and equipment), and HiRez Studios has even added some new weapons and items, but for the most part the game feels like an old friend from the past.

To be fair, Tribes: Ascend is still in the beta stages (though the beta is now open to the public), but if the plan is to do nothing but improve the game based on player feedback from here on out, then I'm already sold on this game.

Oh, and the best part of all? The damn thing's free. Yeah - it'll cost you much less than some of the steaming piles of crap that people call games out there, and it already kicks ass. So here's what you do: go to the the Tribes: Ascend website, download it, and start kicking some ass right now. And become a better person because of it (probably).

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Singularity Review

When I first heard about the game Singularity and saw bit of gameplay footage, I wasn't immediately excited about playing it. It looked a bit too similar to Bioshock, which I was not a huge fan of, and I thought I would just sit this one out in anticipation of a better game. I stopped following its production and basically forgot about it for the next three months. As it got closer, though, one of my gaming buddies mentioned that he had been following it for quite some time, and was thinking about buying it. Since our taste in games is pretty similar, I started having second thoughts. He put a glimmer of hope in my shadow of a doubt, and I'm sure glad that he did, because Singularity turned out to be quite the enjoyable experience.

Set in one of my favorite gaming genres, Singularity is a Sci-Fi shooter that takes place on a remote island that is owned by the former Soviet Union, called "Katorga 12". Sometime after the events of World War II, towards the beginning of the Cold War, the Soviets discovered a powerful element called "E99" (or "E to the 99th power") that allowed them to develop weapons that were far superior to anything that the West was able make. The Soviets' efforts never came to fruition, however, and the facility is now abandoned - or at least thought to be.

You are a member of an elite special forces team from the US, one Captain Renko, deployed to the island to investigate some "strange occurrences" that have happened of late. While circling Katorga 12, your reconnaissance helicopter is hit by an EMP blast and knocked out of the sky, stranding you on the island away from the rest of your squad.

This, in case you didn't catch the bright green overlay, is Devlin. Nice guy, but not quite the brightest candle on the birthday cake.

Say... that thar's real purdy...

Oh dear God! My eyes! And my helicopter!

If you've played Bioshock, the similarities between the two games' artwork will be almost immediately apparent. Although Singularity's setting is very different, the graphics are rendered in much the same way as Bioschock's - shiny, vivid, and at times almost cartoony. That isn't to say that the graphics are bad, though. They may not be up to par with most recent shooters, but they certainly fit the story and add to the creepy, surrealistic atmosphere.

Singularity's sounds are also largely a big hit, with only a few exceptions. The ambient sounds and music do a more than adequate job of immersing you in the game, rising and falling appropriately with the action. The creature and combat sounds are excellent, whether it's the roar of a massive beast or the growl of your weapon as you pump bullets into it by the bucket-full. The voice acting is pretty decent for the most part. My only gripe here is that the Russian soldiers you encounter often repeat the same damn phrases over and over during combat, as if those were the only Russian phrases that the developers bothered to translate with Google's language tool. Aside from this minor complaint, though, Singularity sounds incredible.

Gameplay is always the most important aspect of a video game for me. Personally, I would much rather have an incredibly fun game whose graphics are not cutting edge (like Quake) than have a great-looking game that plays like crap (like Sniper: Ghost Warrior). Fortunately, Singularity offers you the best of both worlds, as the gameplay is every bit as good as the graphics. There are a small variety of situations you will find yourself in, including heated gun fights, battles against powerful creatures, and even a little puzzle-solving.

What really makes the puzzle-solving truly unique is the implementation of Singularity's semi-original gimmick, the TMD (or "Time Manipulation Device" - don't let the fact that a Russian scientist came up with an English acronym for his own invention bother you... he's quite a lovable character). The TMD not only allows you to physically manipulate certain objects, much like the gravity gun in Half-Life 2, but it also gives you the power to either accelerate or reverse the aging process of some objects. A broken-down stairwell can be instantly repaired, or an explosive barrel can be reduced to a crumpled, rusty heap with a flick of the wrist. Enemies can also be manipulated by the TMD by either blowing them to pieces with an energy blast or accelerating their age until they turn to dust, which looks just about as badass as it sounds.

Tying all of these great aspects of the game together is a very compelling storyline. The overall concept is brilliantly executed (maybe it's my love for Tom Clancy Novels and East/West confrontations), the majority of the characters are developed quite well (if not an tiny bit cliched), and the pacing of the game is damn near perfect. I would highly recommend this title to anyone who enjoys a good Sci-Fi first-person shooter. Great graphics, wonderful sounds, exciting gameplay, and one hell of a story make Singularity a worthwhile title.

Additional Media:

Dramatic confrontation between Captain Renko and the first boss monster in the game. You know you dig the soundtrack.

Don't play with that E99 bomb - you'll go blind. And sterile.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sniper: Ghost Warrior Review

"You had me at 'sniper'"

Ever since I saw the movie Clear and Present Danger with Harrison Ford, I've pretty much been obsessed with anything having to do with snipers. There are few things in this world more kickass than a dude dressed up as a bush blowing people's heads off from 300 yards away. I love sniper movies, and I especially love first-person shooters that feature good sniping. That said, I was practically salivating in anticipation of playing the game Sniper: Ghost Warrior.

Judging from the trailers and what the game was advertised to feature, I was sure that this was going to be an excellent title. Unfortunately, my expectations were apparently much too high, because Ghost Warrior ended up being a major disappointment for me. To be fair, it does provide you with a few very satisfying sniper moments, but for the most part the game is a convoluted train wreck. I'll briefly outline for you what I feel are the game's pros and cons.

First of all, the pros: The graphics are actually pretty nice, and can almost be compared to excellent games such as Crysis or Far Cry 2. The dense jungle environments are beautifully rendered, along with the weapon models. The biggest eyesore of the game is the character models - more specifically their faces. Game developers have made great strides in the last five or six years in the area of facial animation, but Ghost Warrior abandons any effort to follow suit, resulting in dull, lifeless faces that often remind me of dead fish (especially with the main character, who should arguably be the most animated of all). By the way: I know that I just put a "con" into the "pros" paragraph, instead of saving it for the "cons" paragraph. I'm not sorry.

The sniping and stealth mechanics are actually both the greatest pros and the greatest cons of the game. When they work, they're brilliant. The following video shows a few minutes of the first mission of the game, in which I was able to successfully use stealth to evade enemies, and (for most part) successfully snipe the hell out of the ones that weren't so lucky:

After playing this first mission, I was pumped and ready for more, thinking that this would be the norm for the remainder of the game. For some reason, though, it seems that the first mission is the only one of its kind, as each subsequent mission is marred by broken and inconsistent stealth mechanics, which make the game irritating at best, and nearly unplayable at worst. In some cases, I could sprint right through a group of hostiles at full speed, barely inches away from the enemy, and no one would even give the six-foot tall galloping shrubbery a second glance. In other situations, I would crawl at a snail's pace through thick foliage, several yards away, and be spotted almost instantly. The idea that a sniper in a full ghillie suit sitting almost perfectly still in the middle of a friggin' tropical rainforest would be easier to spot than a brightly-clad South American standing in the open and shouting obscenities in Spanish really, really pisses me off. This is the kind of crap that would make Tom Berenger cry.

Along with broken stealth mechanics, the sniping mechanics are often pretty finicky at times. One of the coolest features of the game is that you have to compensate for wind speed and distance in your aiming, so the center of the crosshairs isn't always where your bullet will land. In the easier modes (I chose to play through on the "Medium" setting first), you see a red dot that represents the actual point that your bullet will strike. Placing this red dot on a target's head will most likely result in a pretty wicked-sick cutscene, in which you get to watch your bullet travel through the air in slow motion and nail the bad guy in the brain basket. Sometimes, however, no matter how well you line up the shot, the bullet just doesn't hit the target, or else it does something lame like this:

Probably the worst mistake the developers of Ghost Warrior make is to periodically attempt to create scenes similar to those found in the far superior Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games. I'm sure that their intent was to provide a change of pace from sneaking through foliage and sniping by dumping you into an intense combat situation, but it's so horribly done that I could barely force myself to play through it. The only endearing qualities of the game are the rare moments in which you can pull off beautiful headshots and remain undetected, watching your foes spiral around and run aimlessly in panic and confusion. They should have stuck to that type of gameplay, even if it was only marginally better.

I'll admit that I haven't played the multiplayer mode of Sniper: Ghost Warrior yet, but I really don't imagine that it would redeem the game enough to make it worth buying at full price. My advice is: if you're a sniper fanatic like myself, wait until this game inevitably drops in price to buy it. There are plenty of games out there (many are years older than this one) that feature sniping and handle it much, much better than Ghost Warrior. If you have any appreciation for contemporary computer games whatsoever, you will be sorely disappointed in this half-assed attempt at a sniper game. If I were to give this game a grade, the best it could possibly achieve is a C, and that's being quite generous.

Additional Media:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fallout 3: The Pitt

(note: for now, this article is a work in progress, as it will take quite a bit of time to edit the videos, upload them to YouTube, and write the commentary. Hopefully I'll have it completed relatively soon)

If you've read my review of Fallout 3, then you know damn well that I'm a huge, huge fan of the game. However, I was very disappointed to discover that you are not allowed to continue exploring the incredible world of the Capital Wasteland after you've completed the main storyline. Luckily I saved my game at a point just before the game ends, and so I was able to postpone the ending of the game and play one of Fallout 3's two expansion packs, The Pitt.

After installing the expansion, I soon received a radio broadcast asking for assistance. After traveling to the area specified in the broadcast, I slowly crept up to the sound of gunfire (my character mainly relies on stealth, so I wanted to surprise whoever it was that I was going to own with my sniper rifle). Apparently I got there too late, though, and the guy I was supposed to save got pretty pissed that he had to take care of all the bad guys himself (crybaby):

After listening to him bitch and moan for a little while, I decided to help him out. The first task was to acquire a slave outfit to use as a disguise. I could either try to persuade a few slavers to give me an outfit, or take one by force. Being the faithful disciple of Abraham Lincoln that I am, I decided to kick everyone's ass and let the slaves go free:

Next, I met the dude with the eye patch at the train station so that we could travel to The Pitt. Once there, he flipped out and started shooting some slavers, which was pretty awesome. After the dust settled, he basically gave me the "You're on your own, we're counting on you, don't screw this up, blah blah blah" speech and cut me loose:

I eventually found my way to The Pitt itself. The plan was to dress up like a slave so that the slavers would let me in. I disliked the subtlety of this plan, so I made my own: kick everyone's ass again. It worked well at first, but then I got jumped by a bunch of candy-asses with batons. Crap:


After being bludgeoned into unconsciousness, I woke up to find that the nerds had taken all of my stuff. Damnit. Then some lady helped me up and told me to meet her at her house so we could discuss how I was going to kick everyone's ass again. When I got to her place, she started explaining things to me, when some tool walked in and tried to intimidate me. Being a level 20 character, there really isn't much that intimidates me in this game, so I decided to stab him with a knife I found (he shot me a couple of times, but it really only tickled). Then I jacked his fancy, spikey armor. Owned!

Apparently no one noticed that Jackson was dead (or else they didn't care - he was a bit of a dillweed), nor that I was wearing his his armor and carrying his gun, as not a single person gave me a second look when I strolled across town to start my new job as "ingot collector". Before starting, however, I had to swing by and grab an "Auto Axe" from a guy named Marco (as you'll see later, I'm glad I did). Then it was off to play errand-boy:

Shortly after stepping outside, I witnessed a touching moment between two estranged brothers who were apparently reunited at that very moment. In a heart-warming gesture of pure love, John-john reached out to his brother Billy, in an attempt to make amends and rekindle their fraternal bond. Billy (who had unfortunately been irradiated to the point of being transformed into a bloodthirsty "trog") responded by trying to bite his brother's face off. At this point I felt that a little peer mediation was necessary, so I pulled out an assault rifle that I picked up on the way out and gunned Billy's ass down. John-john thanked me by peeing himself and running away. n00b:

By the way: Here's what a steel ingot looks like, in case you're wondering (took me a while to figure out what the damn things were, but once I did, they were pretty easy to find):

This doesn't have anything to do with the story, but I managed to stealth kill a trog with that auto axe thing, and I thought it was pretty awesome:

After killing some trogs, finding some steel, and giving that steel to the asshat in the mill, I returned to the nice lady who helped me up after the mean men beat me with sticks. She explained that Ashur, the head deuchebag of The Pitt, was about to give a speech and extend an invitation for a champion to fight for his or her freedom. The nice lady then graciously volunteered me to be the lucky schmuck to fight a cave full of psychos, in order to get closer to His Deuchiness and thus set the slaves' plan for revolution in motion. Eh, whatever:

To make a long story slightly less long: I signed up to fight in the arena. I fought all three rounds and easily owned the pants off all of my opponents (although I only recorded the final battle). The last guy, Gruber, was somewhat less impressive than everyone made him out to be - let's just say I blew his head off with a Chinese rifle. 'Cause I did. Watch:

More to come...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Left 4 Dead - Surviving Survival Mode (or not so much)

With Left 4 Dead's latest update, featuring a new gameplay mode accompanied by a brand-new campaign, there's a lot of zombie-killing for me to catch up on. Although Valve has done a great job at adapting certain parts of the four original campaigns to work well with Survival Mode, the newest map "Lighthouse" is currently the most interesting, offering a completely original experience for this game.

The first round I played with a few random strangers, and although our teamwork was about as harmonious as a troop of retarded monkeys with staple guns, it was still an incredibly entertaining experience. The new map is a blast to play:

Our teamwork didn't get much better, but that didn't detract from the fun (at least as far as I was concerned). This time around, the mentally-challenged primates and I opted for more familiar territory (the Crane scene from the Dead Air campaign), hoping to improve our game a bit. We still got rocked (notice I was the last one to die, though - w00t!):

After enduring a humiliating defeat at the hands of digital zombies, I decided to call in some of my whores from One World On-Line and do things the right way (thanks to <0w0|>DarkKnight, <0w0|>PuNcH, <0w0|>Sneaky-Biscuit© and eventually <0w0|>Killemall for helping me to delay my inevitable ass-kicking). This round went much better than the last two, but we still failed to do better than Bronze. Still, it was much more fun to have some actual teamwork going on - plus, these guys are hilarious:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows Review




Replay Value:


A wise man by the name of Ben Parker once said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. I’m pretty sure he meant to add “and 1337ness” there at the end, but it must have slipped his mind. One tends to forget little details like that when one is fictionally slain by a fictional character. If he were still fictionally alive, though, Uncle Ben would no doubt be fictionally proud of his fictional nephew in his latest video game, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows..

Web of Shadows is not only the best Spider-Man game to date, but it is also an incredibly kickass game on its own merits. Building upon many of the stronger points of previous Spider-Man titles, the similarities and superiorities of Web of Shadows to its predecessors are almost immediately apparent. Not only has every aspect of gameplay been improved, but the game is driven by a completely original storyline that offers many pleasant surprises to Marvel Comics fans. This is like a breath of fresh air after playing through three titles that are confined to the setting and plot of the Spider-Man movies.

The graphics in past Spider-Man games haven’t always been the best for their time, and unfortunately Web of Shadows is no exception. The graphics are, however, the best in any Spider-Man game yet, and are adequate for its purposes. The buildings and (some) characters have reflective surfaces and only occasionally look slightly pixelated. The in-game animations are very well-done, but the character movement in some of the cutscenes is still a little awkward and clumsy. Spider-Man is especially well-done, as are most of the boss villains and allies.

The sounds you will find in Web of Shadows are typical for any Spider-Man game, movie or cartoon, from the classic “thwip” of Spider-Man’s webshooters to the ambient sounds of Manhattan Island. The voice acting is also surprisingly good, as the game features more characters from the Marvel Universe than any other Spidey title. Most of the voice actors nail their characters, even using the appropriate accents and dialects usually associated with a particular character. Oddly, I felt Spider-Man’s voice was the most out-of-place of all – his raspy, ditsy surfer-type voice leans more toward ninja turtle than web-slinger (although it’s still a hell of a lot better than listening to Toby McGuire). Thankfully, though, the dialogue is still great, and Spider-Man delivers some pretty hilarious smartass remarks throughout the game.

The gameplay is, hands-down, the best part of Web of Shadows, and that’s really what matters most. Although similar to previous games (i.e. a free-roaming city in which random crimes occur, and the player is given the option to intervene or not), nearly every aspect of the gameplay has been improved. Web-swinging is smoother, easier, cooler, and much more fun; combat is a blast, offering a ton of moves that can be executed in various combinations; collecting hidden objects - which used to be a useless distraction and overall pain in the ass – is now not only enjoyable, but improves Spidey’s speed and stamina throughout the game.

The storyline in a nutshell is that Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis, Venom, is succumbing more and more to the will of his alien symbiotic costume, causing him to forgo his oath to protect the innocent and thus driving him to cause widespread chaos in New York City. Venom creates more and more symbiotes, spreading his malice throughout the city and infecting its citizens, causing them to transform into somewhat less-powerful clones of himself. Initially you will have only a few infected civilians to contend with, but pretty soon the city will become overrun with venomites, creating a scene much like one would find in a zombie apocalypse movie. Spider-Man and his allies must then find a way to stop Venom and rid the city of its symbiote infestation.

Adding to the depth of the usual Spider-Man gameplay, Web of Shadows allows the player to choose the “black suit path” or the “red suit path”, based on decisions made throughout the game. As Spidey himself is infected by the symbiotic spawn, choosing the black suit path will turn Spidey into a darker, angrier, and ultimately more evil character, whereas the red suit path will have the opposite affect. Regardless of the actual path that the player chooses, however, you are still allowed to switch between Spidey’s red and black suits at will throughout the majority of the game. Each suit has its own arsenal of unlockable maneuvers, giving the player access to a huge array of special moves and combos between the two suits.

Another great addition to the gameplay is Spidey’s ability to summon an ally to aid him in battle (note: to those of you who landed on this site after searching "how to summon ally", you have to hold the button down until Spider-Man's head flashes a blue color before your ally will appear). If you have chosen the red suit path more often than the black suit path, you may summon either Luke Cage, Wolverine, or Moon Knight – all of whom are pretty handy in a pinch. If you choose the black suit path, you can summon Electro, Vulture, Rhino or Black Cat. Regardless of who you summon, allies will prove to be incredibly useful when dealing with hordes of symbiotes. When you’re finished with your ally, you may dismiss them at will and either summon a different ally (after your special meter recharges) or go solo until you feel you need their help again.

Spider-Man calls on Luke Cage and Wolverine to lend a hand.

Web of Shadows is an excellent game, especially if you’re a Spider-Man fan. The graphics and sounds, while not perfect, are fairly appropriate and do not detract from the experience of playing the game one iota. The gameplay is intense and incredibly addictive, and the amount of combat moves coupled with the ability to choose a path of good or evil makes the game highly replayable. However - if you own a PS3 or Xbox360, I would recommend purchasing or renting those versions as opposed to the PC version, as the PC version has some performance issues even on higher-end systems. Either way, though, there is little chance that you won't enjoy playing this game.