Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

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Yes. I explicitly said I do not intend to buy this game. I did it anyway. Twice, in fact. I remember when this game came out in 2013. I had reservations and doubts and pretty much knew it would suck, but paid $60 on PS3 for it anyway. Actually I believe I even pre-ordered it and then stopped by GameStop to get it on the way back from work.

I broke a controller because of this game. The first time I’d done something that childish in  a decade, and it hasn’t happened again. That is how poorly designed the game is.

Example: Blade mode literally does not work the way it is supposed to. There are two bosses where you must use blade mode the proper way, or you die. The thing being, it never really gives any indication what the proper way is , and blade mode is a horrible way of blocking in the first place. Because you have to parry everything – there is no block. Very bad decision for a hack and slash game when literally every hack and slash ever made allows you to block and counter attack based on timing, but your game instead only applies parrying. Parrying is not the same as blocking and frankly is not the only method of defense in a sword fight.

Sundowner explicitly requires you to slash in 180 degree angles – horizontally or vertically. If you are remotely off, it doesn’t undo his shield.  The thing is, it’s not that difficult to see the clear middle of the x and y axis on a PS3 controller or Xbox controller. It just doesn’t work regardless.

It's literally telling you how to slash, and then not accepting it.

It’s literally telling you how to slash, and then not accepting it.

Other than the technical failures, the game presentation is completely inconsistent. There is no rhythm or flow to the play of this game. Normal enemies – soldiers/cyborgs – are pathetically, pointlessly easy. In comparison, Geckos are moronically hard. Yea, I’m aware of what they are, I played MGS4 – wherein Raiden easily fought them by the way – and they shouldn’t be doing as much damage as they do in one hit. Not to mention Dwarf Geckos, give me a break, if they swarm you. This is my major problem with the game. Each level is offensively easy even including the annoying and often overpowered minibosses, but then comes the other major problem with the game.

Bosses: Bosses are so, so, so stupidly out of place “difficult”. And that’s the thing, they aren’t even difficult. The last boss is the easiest boss in the entire game, if you don’t screw up. In fact, the fourth boss is actually the hardest in the game. As if that little fact wasn’t enough, you actually have to fight the third, fourth, third, fourth, and fifth bosses in the same hour of gameplay – three of them on the same level, on the same life bar, too. It actually reminds me of Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge in that the health bar was so poorly implemented – except in NG3 you literally couldn’t heal back to full health and stay that way except for checkpoints. In Revengeance, you can carry a meager amount of nanopastes and then you better hope there are spines – attached the human enemies – that you can heal with otherwise. Hint: There aren’t many in the second half of the game.

So you go from murdering everything, which Raiden should be doing, to getting his ass kicked by these A-team rejects in the same levels. It breaks the suspension of disbelief, even in a Kojima game, this juxtaposition of difficulty between actual gameplay, and cinematic boss encounters.

I’ve saved the actual story for the end because it is just so ridiculous. So, on top of what happens to Raiden between MGS2 and MGS4, he starts working for a mercenary organization to combat cyborgs and Metal Gear stuff. He’s pretty identifiable and expected compared to what he was in MGS4, until the point where the Spanish cyborg samurai basically leaves him for dead. Then he is still normal, but on the subsequent boss fight, he goes crazy. He embraces “Jack the Ripper” – remember him? His nickname when he was a WHITE African child soldier. Goes crazy and literally impales himself with his own sword to get off on the pain and apparently use it like a Sith would to make himself stronger.

Except this never happens. He doesn’t get stronger. He’s the same underpowered whining girl he was outside of cutscenes since MGS2. So the whole thing was pointless. And then at the end of the game, he just kindly goes back to Rose and their kid and can be a normal father again. Why? Because….

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Yes, this is the last boss, and yes he literally says “Nanomachines, son”.

 So, we’re just not going to talk about that? How you shoved a katana through your [admittedly cyborg] own chest and then decided to regress to the horrible past you allegedly have gotten over? Thanks Platinum and Konami, whichever group of you wrote the story, it’s even worse than any MGS including 5.

Aliens: Colonial Marines

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Yes, it’s more or less common gamer knowledge that Colonial Marines was ass, but I felt it necessary to drag it through the mud again. This game is the pinnacle of bad game making. Or maybe one of them – interestingly enough another one of them was released by the same company. It’s okay though. Remember, 3DR ruined Duke Nukem – not Gearbox.

Colonial Marines largely ignores and retcons the plot developments of the movie Aliens, then relies upon fan popularity and familiarity with the settings and characters of Aliens to sell a game whose story makes absolutely no sense, and whose gameplay is simply abysmal. For example, how would the USCM know Ridley landed on Fury 161? The timeline is all fucked up. Aliens took place in 2180. Yet they place this game 17 weeks after Alien 3. There is no possible way that the shuttlecraft from the Sulaco at the beginning of Alien 3 could have drifted anywhere near a planet in the generic timeframe described – still 2180 – while the Sulaco was still orbiting LV-426. It is astronomically impossible, and bad writing. If they dispatched the Sephora to investigate Sulaco and it’s still at the original planet, then how the fuck could the Sulaco shuttle have crashed on any other planet? Fury 161 can’t be in the same solar system because no one had ever been to that system before – they explicitly say this in Alien. It even says so in the Alien wiki, that no one knows where Fury 161 is except Weyland-Yutani. Meaning it’s impossible. Which also begs the question how Michael Bishop Weyland could possibly have gotten to Fury 161 in Aliens 3 – considering they had to send him a message first. Sorry, but a shuttle craft even going at full speed is going to take years to get anywhere. Not weeks. As evidenced by the fact that Ripley was in that escape pod from the Nostromo for 67 years before she was picked up.

Significant amounts of the game take place on Hadleys Hope only a few months after it was destroyed by a thermonuclear bomb, yet the entire colony is fine – is not irradiated – and you can breath the atmosphere, despite the Atmosphere Processor being destroyed in the movie – which by the way is intact in the game, even if there are other atmosphere processors. The Sulaco is visibly destroyed while you escape from it, which again is somehow after Ripley’s pod was ejected, again. Ignoring that the Sulaco was basically fine and no where near a planet at the beginning of Alien 3 and the escape pod was ejected for reasons – no explanation why (because the alien facehugger started a fire, on the escape pod not the Sulaco), James Cameron says its a true sequel. That’s great, except the sequel to Aliens was Alien 3. You can’t retcon in a sequel.

Ignoring the story, the gameplay is simply bad. QTEs, rigid and boring combat; enemies that take multiple headshots to kill; aliens that can crawl on ceilings and walls but will walk up to you or literally stand there and do nothing. Floors you can get stuck in and die. There is almost never any indication of what you’re supposed to do other than a generic marker on your motion tracker.

It’s s shame too because they did a great job of reproducing the atmosphere, appearance, and sound effects of the movies. The graphics, though an obvious letdown compared to hype footage shown before release, are still rather gorgeous.

They did a great job of reproducing the atmosphere

They did a great job of reproducing the atmosphere

Even the technology, down to the props used in Aliens, and the sounds such as the ripping paper of the plasma rifle or the clanking of the turrets, was reproduced with excellent clarity and authenticity. It’s just a shame that I have to lump this title in with Operation Raccoon City. Great reproduction of an established environment, but terrible story and gameplay, to the point of being  broken.

Seriously – don’t buy this game. Even if it’s 5 dollars, it’s 4.99 too much.

Final Fantasy X HD Remaster

If I recall correctly, this re-master was literally the one reason I got a PS3. Everything else was secondary. Unfortunately, I had to wait 3 years for it to come out after it was announced in 2011. FF10 is my favorite game in the franchise. Yes, it is. I have played every main FF game until and including the 13 trilogy and sorry, I don’t care for 7 or 8.

As someone who still owns two copies of PS2 FFX, the regular and the international version, I have the privilege of freshly remembering and being able to compare the games side by side – not that I have because lugging TVs around is wasted energy, but I can walk between rooms. Obviously, and that’s why we paid $40, the game looks better. The majority of the textures have been either upscaled or reworked and the game runs at a native 1080p. I’ve yet to ever notice any technical issue or framerate drop 100 hours in and doubt there are any.

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Several, but not all, characters have received a makeover. Lulu, Auron, Yuna, Rikku, Kimahri, Tidus, and Wakka allegedly all have new models. In the earlier stages of the game, it’s not noticeable. Obviously Wakka looks different from the moment you meet him but Tidus, Auron, and Kimahri all look the same as ever. Lulu does too, for the most part. Yuna is the weird one. Her head shape seems to change at will when switching between pre-rendered cutscenes (not the actual CG movies) and real-time rendering. Everything looks the same, as far as the main characters, just better.

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Therein lies the problem, if you call it that. All of the main characters were spritzed up. No one else was. Seymour, Mika, Kinoc, Jyscal, Jecht, and the 7 party members. Every other person in Spira still uses their original PS2 model and original textures. In scenes where the party shares the camera with extras, the difference is jarring. It isn’t necessarily a huge problem and I don’t think people expected a complete remake, but it comes out ugly when you visit highly populated areas like Luca.

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See how both Auroch’s players skin looks kind of like crap in comparison?

As many people are aware, FF10 was the first fully voice acted game in the series. Rest assured, the infamous voice acting from the original game has not been altered. You can still enjoy that awful forced laughing scene with Tidus and Yuna. You can still listen to Yuna’s frequently inappropriate Shatnering when she delivers her lines. Really, the voices themselves sound exactly the same as the original and that’s all I expect. It is funny though, to note that because this is just an HD Remaster of the International version, the lip animations were animated to the Japanese dialog. So, like your favorite kung fu or Godzilla movies, you get to watch their lips continue to move long after they finish talking. Fortunately, you can switch to Japanese audio.

As far as new content, this collection really doesn’t have any. The expert sphere grid, Dark Aeons, and Penance were all featured in the International release. As this is the international version, the only additional content is the Eternal Calm video and FFX Last Mission, which really don’t contribute a lot to the story.

The main feature of this release is the soundtrack. The original soundtrack has been completely re-recorded by the original artists in what often seems to be an orchestral arrangement. Whether you enjoy the revised OST is entirely up to how stalwart and close-minded you are, but speaking from experience, I would never go back to the original after hearing this. Everything has been cleaned up and recorded at higher fidelity. Each individual instrument can be identified now and personally, Seymour Omnis’s battle theme might be the most bad ass thing since FF7, including the original FFX version.

In regards to the gameplay, this version seems significantly easier than the original FFX release. I’m using the standard sphere grid. I beat every boss on the first try and not once did I ever stop in any area to level any more than random encounters forced me to. This was not the case in the original game and believe me – though I’ve since played International and even replayed FFX original multiple times and thus know the game by heart, I still had to grind during those playthroughs. Not this time.  Even the celestial weapon minigames seem easier.

I have one qualm and it’s not a big one but it is a compound one. Maybe two qualms. First of all, in order to get the last Jecht sphere and thus unlock Auron’s last Overdrive – Tornado – you have to return to Besaid, at which point you have no choice but to fight Dark Valefor. Allegedly he is the easiest Dark Aeon but even so, you would have to level for days and days to get your characters strong enough to take him on. Thus, you must use Yojimbo, which many including me feel is cheating. Either way though, it requires a lot more work than it should to get the last Overdrive. This leads me to my second complaint. There is no trophy for defeating all the Dark Aeons, or maybe all Monster Arena creations. There is a trophy for Penance and Nemesis, both of which were in the original International release just like the Dark Aeons, so I feel there should have been a trophy. It would also have been nice to get one for Omega weapon.

For $40, including the artbook and FFX-2 HD, there is absolutely no reason not to buy the last good Final Fantasy game.

Army of Too Frustrating

Army of Two

While the premise of this game is interesting and its story is surprisingly enjoyable for what many would discount as just another bro shooter, Army of Two is a franchise that got off to a rocky start due to a plethora of technical problems that make the game almost unbearable.

Obviously, this is a co op shooter. The gameplay revolves entirely around two players – who’d have thought, considering it’s called Army of Two? While I can say nothing negative about the game if you are playing it with another real person – as the last time I did was not at all frustrating – you can no longer play Army of Two via on-line because the servers are gone. Playing with the AI or playing locally with a friend is your only option now, and the game is borderline unbearable with an AI partner. My Virtual Friend, the achievement for doing so, should be worth 1000 points on its own on Xbox Live to make up for that in some way.

I wish I had a game recorder set up to show videos of this but there have literally been times when I’ve gone in to dying mode, and the AI partner dragged me for a solid 2 minutes around the map without once even trying to heal. The AI has no ability to determine what is and is not proper cover, apparently. Once the AI actually dragged me directly in front of an enemy – one of Clyde’s bodyguards – with an RPG. Guess how that ended. Clearly, the game was never intended to be played single player, so single player literally should not be an option.

As far as other technical issues, the difficulty of the game is absurd due simply to one thing: the AI never misses, ever. It doesn’t matter where an enemy is, or if they can even see you – even if you are behind solid cover – they will always hit you if they shoot. The bullets evidently spawn at a point in the map and the only thing they can possibly do is hit you. At times I actually saw floating muzzle flashes that were not attached to enemies, and ran towards them to investigate, only for there to be no enemy. Its this type of primitive game design that often causes these titles to get overlooked.

Army of Two has a story full of conspiracy, intrigue, and references to real world issues such as privatization of the military. It hasn’t happened yet but it is certainly real – such as the Blackwater mercenary company. Private security firms exist and though they aren’t realistically represented in the game, it isn’t far from the truth. There actually comes a point in the game where you get tired of shooting people and only want to proceed so you can hear the next bit of story.

For anyone interested, or for completionists, it’s unfortunate that you must play the original game in order to get the full backstory and familiarization with the characters in it – because without a real partner, it’s a dreadful trek through the same levels over and over again as the AI gets you killed, or gets themselves killed, but it is at least worth a play through so that you can get to the sequel, which is leagues ahead.

BioShock

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BioShock is what I like to think of as a great graphical translation of what Ayn Rand would have seen in her nightmares, were she to have any imagination whatsoever or have lived in the time of video games. Despite the fact that I hate her fiction, other than Anthem, the themes by which she shaped her personality all play a strongly woven role in the narrative of Rapture, a somewhat minarchist scientific utopia under the ocean where citizens are allowed to live free in pursuit of higher goals like science and self-realization.

On top of being heavily influenced by one of last centuries most prominent, and outspoken, personalities, it’s also a spiritual successor -perhaps even a re-imagining – to one of the very pillars of modern video games: System Shock, made by Ken Levine and many of the same people at what was formerly Looking Glass Studios in the 90’s, but stuck in legal purgatory – never to return – thanks to the publisher, Electronic Arts, and some legal firm that believes blackmail is a legitimate way to profit off of the IP. ConsideringSystem Shock 2 is probably the single most legendary game in all of PC gaming history – perhaps tying Mario for the honor overall – the very fact that BioShock has even a passing relation to it makes it worth checking out. Fortunately, BioShock is not just popular by association but on its own merits, and like its parents Deus ExHalf-Life, and System Shock, it is certainly not a “Doom clone.” as newly implemented Steam tags will try to tell you.

Rapture, the labyrinthine underwater utopia, is an endearing setting with a personality of its own and once you play the game, it will be permanently etched in your memory. Every last detail of the art deco city is simply beautiful, whether architecturally or just graphically. The graphics show their age, somewhat, as this was before the advent of DirectX 10 and the great strides it made in liquids and other non-standard materials when it comes to light – you can tell when you encounter entirely frozen areas like Fontaine’s store that the ice kind of looks silly – but the game is simply beautiful regardless. Rapture creaks and groans, leaks spring out of pipes, and the city looks convincingly like it is actually under hundreds of feet of crushing ocean water – the mess of pipes and steam contrasting menacingly with what otherwise seems to be a city stuck in the 50s. Every last detail was taken care of, down to the insane messages scrawled in blood on the walls and floors, the traps devised by people who have gone insane, and even the characters themselves – most of which tell a story through their ramblings or questlines if you are willing to listen.

Many of System Shock’s nuances found their way in to BioShock, such as customizing your plasmid powers (which in SS2 were your psionic powers), upgrading your weapons, hacking computer and other electronic systems, the good old wrench, and even the fact that you can return at will to previous areas and still encounter enemies there. The game plays very much the same, right down to the distant and duplicitous “ally” who ostensibly guides you to safety with your best interests at heart, all the while simply manipulating you for their own means. Although, admittedly Andrew Ryan’s reveal as the villain was much more “WTF!?” than SHODANs, because his Irish sincerity made you feel he was genuine and trustworthy. It wasn’t just me, right?

Some hardcore System Shock fans take issue with the lack of depth in the character customization system in BioShock, considering that in SS2 you controlled every last facet of your character’s development down to the individual stat’s numbers. However, the truth is that in it’s predecessor, that deep complexity rarely amounted to anything more than superficial and numerical bonuses to your abilities. Just like plasmids in BioShock and Vigors in Infinite, many of your psionic powers and other abilities only served as much purpose as you forced them to. In Shock 2 they often controlled what weapons you could use, but you really didn’t need heavy artillery in the game until it was nearly over, meaning several of the weapons skills – for example – were just there for variety.

Overall, BioShock created a franchise vastly more successful – in terms of sales and mainstream appeal – than it’s predecessor, which is what Irrational intended. The game is a masterpiece, providing ample thrills, chills, character expose’s, an interesting variety of combat and moral choices – not to mention a lack of choices, an eternal setting that has now featured in two full games and an expansion for a third. Let’s not forget a duo of two of the creepiest, most unsettling characters in all of gaming – the Big Daddy and Little Sister. It may never be as deep and robust as System Shock 2, but that may be a fate the franchise has to suffer to stay alive.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge

Fans of the original Ninja Gaiden will be pleased with this game, despite some more Western game mechanics, and people who hated rockets in Ninja Gaiden 2…..you should probably look elsewhere for a new hack and slash.

Interestingly enough the story of Ninja Gaiden 3 does actually recognize the existence of the first two, whereas Ninja Gaiden 2 seemed to disregard your blood soaked trek through the Vigoor Empire and back again. Having said that, you have to unfortunately learn every single move again , otherwise you can’t do them. Who would want to start off the game being super powerful and badass. That wouldn’t be fun at all.

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Oh wait, yes it would.

Ninja Gaiden 3 makes some modern updates to the formula, when it comes to learning and levelling your magic, health, costume, and available skills and weapons. Whereas in the first two games, and their PS3 ports, you had to basically pick up a scroll from a dead ninja or upgrade your weapon to learn anything new, you now get to use all those karma points you’re banking up to pay for new abilities. I guess they decided that these meaningless number from before should serve a purpose other than bragging, and I find the change to be for the better.

Golden scarabs also make a come back from the first game, and they are your key to unlocking new weapons and upgrades. Crystal skulls too make a comeback, and have replaced the previous iteration of tests of valor.

All in all, the game seems to be a lot more reminiscent of the first game and it’s ludicrous action than the second game ever was. You’ll spend a lot of time killing helicopters en masse, blowing up vehicles, fighting actual humans and ninjas and hanging out in real world-like locations, as opposed to the latter chapters of both 1 and 2 where you were in the underworld or an otherwise hellishly morphed location.

The graphics have received an update, and thankfully the story itself actually takes advantage of the new engines abilities to make the game seem halfway serious.

Really the gameplay hasn’t changed much at all. Blood fury has been introduced and will probably always be used more than ultimates, but if you’re me than you pretty much always use obliteration techniques and swap out some blood fury combos when possible. I don’t remember the differences between this game and the original NG3 – but I do remember this game took out some of the terrible mechanics like auto-blocking and the horrible kill cams and such that were in the original 3, in exchange for a more familiar and less easy experience.

There are some incredibly stupid sections of the game, and unfortunately they’re attributed directly to the story – rather than for the hell of it – such as fighting a giant dinosaur. Yes, yes, you had to fight a giant skeletal dragon thing in the first game. Yes you had to fight multiple drakes in Ninja Gaiden 2, and a water dragon, and ghost pirahnas. But this, honestly. It’s not even the concept, it’s the fact that the mechanics force you not to attack it until they want you to.

So dumb.

Ayane, Momiji, and Kasumi were included in the new game as well, because they felt Ninja Gaiden 3 lacked in tits compared to it’s previous entries. Fortunately though, with some fan service aside, the kunoichis are actually quite enjoyable to play as, especially Ayane.

All in all, I can honestly say Razor’s Edge is the Ninja Gaiden 3 we deserved, and certainly hope the franchise finds new life with this new generation of consoles. If you like NG1 and 2, or Sigma and Sigma 2, please – avoid Ninja Gaiden 3, and get Razor’s Edge

Having established that, the game has some extremely infuriating and arbitrary issues, on purpose, to make it more difficult than it needs to be. One of the most glaring problems is that clearly, someone at Team Ninja played too many fighting games before they worked on this. Elements of Street Fighter and MvC and even Naruto can be seen in this game when one enemy, multiple enemies, or even a boss begins to corner rape you and will literally chain you into an endless string of attacks that both cannot be countered in mid-combo, and instantly kill you.

Interestingly enough, you’ll get instantly killed because some idiot also thought you shouldn’t be allowed to utilize your full health bar for the vast majority of the game. Ninja Gaiden has always done this neat thing where, as soon as you exit combat, all of the health you lost gets regenerated up until a certain percentage of your health bar. So, this asshat decided “Hey, once you get hit down to a certain percentage, those upgrades to your health that you spent hundreds of thousands of Karma on, they go away permanently until you next save.

This truly wouldn’t be a big deal, except NG3 and Razor’s Edge both completely eliminated healing items, and items of any sort, from the game altogether. No longer can you pause to look at technique scrolls, switch ninpo or weapons, or use items. Combined with the in-game move list they added, it’s pretty clear they wanted this to be more of a pure arcadey action game. As if you had to insert more quarters into your console every time you died and they would profit off of it. Fucking idiots. Nowhere in the game is this more glaring of a problem than the last boss of chapter 4.

As you are often forced to do, you must fight a two phase battle with this boss. The boss’s move set doesn’t change at all from one phase to another, but your health only restores to a certain point. If you get hit, you’re done. You lost. One fury attack from the boss and you’re completely screwed. Even if you are lucky enough to have a full ninpo bar, the health it will restore is virtually useless as soon as you get hit once, because there’s no way you’re charging that entire meter up again with only one enemy who you can only hit sparingly and doesn’t die.

If you enjoy self-flagellation and maybe breaking controllers, this is definitely the Ninja Gaiden you are looking for. If you are unfortunate enough to be a completionist and OCD about having to finish a franchise or trilogy, I feel your pain. And I’m sorry.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Assassin’s Creed IV seemed like a joke when it was first leaked on Reddit, and hopefully I wasn’t the only person who scoffed when a couple of weeks later, the game was officially revealed. An entire three months or so after AC3 came out. I scoffed, though I knew I would be buying it. Fortunately, ACIV happens to be one of the best games in the franchise – certainly the best since AC2.

Black Flag sheds most of the lore of the franchise, mostly abandoning Templars and Assassins in exchange for the conflict between Pirates and the British authorities in the region, to make a game that’s pretty much all about sailing around and doing what you want. The story plays a back seat to the gameplay, so much so that it seems to abruptly cut off with no resolution after an admittedly disappointing end. That is just the timeline section of the story, too.

The modern day story, while providing a wealth of backstory and expanding the AC universe beyond the first five games, is entirely predictable and downright implausible once you actually see what’s happening (which will be within 2 minutes on the first mission, unless you go around hacking computers first.) It also stops making much sense by the end of the last modern day sequence. Did I mention that you play a John Doe in first person view the whole time, who is hired to use the animus in mining Desmond’s memory “for next-gen movies?” Obviously that’s not entirely true, but it feels incredibly cheap and ridiculous.

Yes, you walk around with a tablet in first person and it's ridiculous.

Yes, you walk around with a tablet in first person and it’s ridiculous.

Even worse – the expanded back-story that you read in the game, from Abstergo, quite literally outlines all the brainstorming Ubisoft has done in regards to potential future AC games, with several different time periods mentioned and classified under Desmonds matriarchal and patriarchal lines of lineage. It’s both awesome, and sickening at the same time, because you can see how they have plans to potentially extend this franchise for years to come.

In terms of gameplay, Black Flag combines almost everything from the previous games into the most comprehensive and stream-lined package yet. Combat is very smooth and has been dumbed down about as much as possible, though it remains fun. Free running and climbing has changed very little, other than the tree platforming having been improved. Unfortunately, though, you can longer call upon assassin’s to do your bidding, as you have no assassin’s. You consequently have no assassin minigame. And, ultimately, the game still has the same clumsy oversights or glitches that have plagued every title.

You can still suffer from accidentally running up a tree or building when trying to chase someone, or you may end up getting nearly killed when an enemy swings at you because counters are only recognized if you are within a certain distance and moving minimally. Compared to previous titles, these things almost never happen.

Having played AC3 extensively, there is an inarguable positive to this game in comparison: Ubisoft did away with the troll-tastic “optional objectives” from AC3. They also did away with horrid chase missions, almost entirely. Every optional objective is reasonable and attainable. Every mission is “easy” enough that it doesn’t become a complete pain in the ass, though some will be frustrating.

Black Flag’s biggest appeal is that it features a ridiculous amount of content. The main story isn’t terribly long, but the sheer number of areas to explore, side missions, items to collect, animals to hunt, weapons and other items will keep you playing for a long time even before any DLC comes out. The cohesive grandeur of the older games may no longer be present, but it has more than been made up for with gameplay.

Most of these cities and islands have their own individual maps as wel

Most of these cities and islands have their own individual maps as wel

And last but not least: sea shanties. So many sea shanties, so many of which are excellent songs – though their real world versions are less politically correct and much more entertaining.

Resident Evil Revelations Review

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Revelations received a lot of praise when it came out on 3DS and I had only heard good things about it from friends, but I absolutely refused to buy a 3DS just to play one game. I knew that, if the game was good like people said, Capcom would eventually make a port to a console. They did and it’s undoubtedly the better choice than spending 170 on a handheld I’d never use. Revelations blends the atmosphere and the gameplay of the true Resident Evil games with the action of Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6, making for an interesting fusion that could potentially hold the answers to revitalizing the franchise.

The majority of the game takes place on the cruise ship, filled entirely with tight corridors and otherwise cramped spaces that give you little room to maneuver. Combined with that, the architecture and environment design is similar to the older, Spencer type craziness. At one point in the game you start a chapter and are transported, thematically, back to Resident Evil 1.

Kind of Titanic-looking, modern cruise ships don't even do this.

Kind of Titanic-looking, modern cruise ships don’t even do this.

Afterwards, you start to notice that the ship looks far closer to a Spencer mansion than a cruise ship. Here’s an interjection: I’ve been on an expensive cruise of the Mediterranean before. No cruise ship I’ve ever been on would look this homely. They’re ships, they don’t have master bedrooms everywhere. Authenticity aside, the ship looks great, just like I’d expect an abandoned bloody cruise ship to look. Many people say that the graphics look terrible but you also have to realize it’s a 3DS port which was scaled up for HD – for the source material, it looks pretty damned good. People like to say it looks worse than 5 or 6, and at that I laugh because 5 looked like crap,and 6 looked even worse than 5.

Revelations brings horror back to the franchise, or at least tries. You have mini-bosses that can easily insta-kill you, and as the game progresses, so does the difficulty of the enemies. Although, sometimes, the game just throws more enemies at you instead of making you learn new ones.

The storyline is about as plausible and consistent as you can expect from a Resident Evil game, but, thankfully there is no mention of Umbrella whatsoever – only in references and mostly just through the fact that the virus is a T virus variation – which brings up the only true issue with the game. There are no zombies. Sure, there are bio-weapons, but no shambling undead. Just sludgey mud-men, barnacle monsters if you will. And maybe some tentacle monsters.

If this is how the games are going to develop, there may honestly be hope for the leaked Resident Evil 7. Only if this team works on it and cut’s the action bullshit.

My favorite part might be raid mode, exclusive to the re-release. Basically, Raid Mode is Diablo 3, but fun. You get to play chapters of the game in co-op, kill enemies and get loots, with each character or costume having their own unique bonuses that make it entertaining, and you level up – rinse, repeat. Eventually you get completely ridiculous guns and it’s just fun.

Don't forget boobs.

Don’t forget boobs.

Revelations is easily the best Resident Evil game since Code Veronica, considering that RE4 isn’t a Resident Evil game, but if you insist, it’s the best thing since RE4.

The Last of Us Review

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It’s finally here! Annnnd it’s gone.

The Last of Us has been so over-hyped leading to it’s release it seems like the media doomed it to mediocrity. Fortunately, Naughty Dog has already done that on their own. On the bright side, ND seems to have gotten over their slump (in which Uncharted 3 was a frustrating disappointment that highlighted both the best and worst features of the franchise; awesome setpieces/graphics/story and a disportionately high amount of arbitrary, annoying combat) and delivered an enjoyable game, though it is definitely not GOTY material.

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The graphics in the game are absolutely beautiful. Truth be told, to anyone who has played the Uncharted franchise, it looks a lot like more of the same, but they seem to have tweaked them about the best they can on the PS3. Throughout the game you will be treated to glorious landscapes of urban decay, and of nature taking over again. That isn’t to say the interior environments (of which there are quite a lot) are less beautiful, in fact they make it even better when you finally get to go outside again. Let’s just say…sometimes having a really nice LED TV with deep blacks is really not your friend, especially in games like Dead Space or The Last of Us where putting the brightness on the right setting makes it either scary or difficult to an extent that wasn’t intended.

There are some flaws, however, and they seem to have carried over from Uncharted. One thing I noticed is the graphical tearing that was present in Uncharted, wherein moving the camera at any speed produces some intense frame lag and pixel changes that are quite hard for any but the best back-lit micro-dimming LCD sets to keep up with, if indeed they do. The good news is that those moments are temporary and go away within a second or two of a new area. Another thing that carries over from Uncharted, and still bothers me, is the shader channels used on characters hair. Anyone who does 3D work will be familiar with this: the specular highlights, just like they did in Uncharted, are over-emphasized. For example, in the way Tess’s hair looks like she stepped out of a premium shampoo commercial, or, in how clean and beautiful Callous’s mane is. It’s not a bad thing and most of the time it’s unnoticeable but I hope one day Naughty Dog works around that in their engine and implements some layered shaders so they can include dust or dirt or whatever else.

As far as story goes, it is superb for a zombie/apocalypse flick. Make no mistake, it is a flick –  It plays out like a movie and sometimes you kind of want to watch the cutscenes rather than play. It may be less of a movie than MGS4 but it’s certainly more movie than game. The facial animation capture is absolutely spot on and breathes convincing life into each character when they talk. The voice acting too is excellent and fits perfectly with the animation and the situations. Naughty Dog has taken what they were good at in Uncharted and pushed themselves even further into excellence. As most hipsters can and will point out, the story isn’t that special or new, or original, though. It pulls from a lot of resources and uses cliches because they are realistic and they work for the story, such as the entire beginning sequence. Zombie movies are never exactly the most emotional or heart-wrenching tales, but this game nay made me cry a few times (and not because it contained Uncharted-esque gunplay). At the very least I cared about the characters, even the bad guys, even those who didn’t last long.

Gameplay was never a dull experience, nor was it a frustrating experience more than a few times. Frustration which all came from approaching situations from poor angles, unlike the frustration of Uncharted which was “This guys shotgun does 500 dmg and he fires 20 shells in a row before reloading! AND I have to fight other guys at the same time!” or “I shot that guy in the head 5 times WHY IS HE STILL ALIVE?”

Actually, that last one does occur a few times in the game, and consequently those are the few moments where Uncharted bleeds through and lessens the experience. Human enemies are often completely overpowered even with upgraded weapons or head-shots, and that translates to multiplayer as well. In a survivor match, myself and an enemy were the last men standing. I fired at this guy inside a convenience store in Checkpoint with my rifle, missing with my last bullet, and he charged me. So I pulled out my revolver and hit him 4 times in the chest at point blank range, before punching him. Then I died. Every time you face human enemies there is a potential for a sour experience, but fortunately none of them last long enough to make it so until the last 20 minutes of the game. It’s a good thing too because the endless enemies of Uncharted would have ruined this game beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The Last of Us has a very natural game flow, and it never feels like Naughty Dog is trolling you, even if you get attacked by 12 Clickers at once. All of the environmental puzzles and the minimal platforming are very easy and common sense to figure out, meaning you get to focus on enjoying the game and not facing an unduly difficult challenge that adds nothing. Imagine that – you have to find a pallet but it’s stuck in a pallet jack because one of the boards got bent, so then you have to play a minigame to fix it. How horrible of a game would that be?

Also, let’s hear it for those death animations? They’re on par with Dead Space 1 and 2, though not as varied.

BioShock Infinite

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I am not typically a fan of linear, scripted video games, whether they are first person shooters or not. Having said that I undeniably own a very large amount of them and love those specific games, including all three BioShock games, but only after I know they are worth money. Being an owner of the first two BioShocks, I knew that the game would probably be good, but wasn’t interested in the massive build-up for this title.

BioShock Infinite is a wonderful title that excels in story, graphics, voice acting (but honestly aren’t you sick of Troy Baker), gameplay, and pretty much every category.

Columbia is a beautifully designed floating city, far cheerier and with a different mood than Rapture, and rife with the games underlying themes in mostly subtle ways, though they become far more prevalent towards the end of the game. It’s a world stuck in the early 1900s and clinging to the late 1800s – culturally speaking – while essentially maintaining a level of technology not far behind the 1980s. Even my roommate, who hates Steampunk with an inexplicable and unqualified passion, was so taken by the brief glimpses he caught of my gameplay that he had to play it, and finished it before I did.

When you first arrive, you are immediately engrossed in the environment and how thoroughly faith and religion are intertwined in the city. You have a fair and you have cool side-shows like the barbershop quartet on the airship. Unfortunately, the illusion of the city only gets the player so far because this is once again a linear FPS game, and you cannot interact with the people the vast majority of the time. It is not open world – no BioShock ever has been, and you cannot do what you want. You might explore, but that’s the limit. Open world is not what BioShock is about, and that doesn’t subtract from its quality.

The game-play is superb as well. It’s pretty hard to screw up a first person shooter, to be honest, regardless of the fact that repeatedly killing droves of people can get boring. If anything I feel as though the game threw too many options at me and I ended up not experiencing all the Vigors, and all the guns, and all the equipment builds. The vigors especially, there are too many. Each has quite a specific power but feels as if you need to stick to a small set – both because of the lack of salts and because of their specific purposes. Even though killing so many people does start to mount up, it never really seems to get old.

As far as sound is concerned, I was quite impressed. The game is louder than hell if you have a nice speaker system, but it isn’t just loud. The sounds all feel natural and are occasionally disheartening, such as the Soundbird, which really adds to the atmosphere. Two main things made me love the sound though. First, all of the battle music sounds wonderfully like Apocalyptica. You can’t ask for more. Second, all of the other music. Whether it’s a tear that simply plays “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, a tear that briefly plays some Led Zepplin (I think), or the well made cover songs – for example, the old timey cover of Soft Cell’s Tainted Love on the phonograph was pretty much excellent. I do believe I heard some Dropkick Murphys somewhere in there too. The voice acting was superb as well, whether it was the British sliders, Elizabeth, Comstock, or Slate, everyone did a great job and they never sounded bad. Troy Baker does the voice of Booker and I feel he did a lot towards making the main character feel likable. The role gave him a lot more exposure and range than the contrite dialog in RE6 and it feels like he made the character his.

Everyone raved about how the story will blow your mind at the end. Well, it didn’t, although it did upset me but not for any reasons of being offended or any of that. Admittedly the story was not that original, it just mishmashed a lot of themes that have been floating around for decades into one well made script, but it did so in a way that made it enjoyable and not entirely predictable. At the end though, you will want to play the game again just for the story alone.

Close enough

Close enough

Elizabeth has been voted by a lot of reviewers and gamers as the best female character in any game ever and I’m pretty much going to agree. She was strong, intelligent, capable, emotionally human, and humble, and I’d say classically attractive. People have bitched that the game enforces gender stereotypes, or that it’s racist, or violent – all of that is false and if you are the type who would give it a seconds notice, the game is not for you. I read on a site that the game is chauvanist because there aren’t female enemies. Actually yea, there are quite a few female enemies including the rebels and police. Elizabeth herself is more powerful or capable than you ever turn out to be in the course of the game, and so is Fitzroy.

By the way, that crap in the commercial, never happened – but I assume the noose was supposed to be a depiction how you are “saving” her.

BioShock Infinite: 9.5 out of 10