Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
|Available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Windows PC|
It's when Legends picks up steam that its impressive potential is reached. Varied situations keep you wondering what's going to come your way next. You may play red light, green light with a security system in an underwater fortress, or catch a ride on an updraft as you wind your way through spikes and parachuting meanies. Boss fights demand an inventive spark as you dodge their plentiful attacks while trying to puzzle out how to retaliate in kind. Your hovering pal Murfy may join you in some levels, spreading guacamole or poking creatures in the eye at your command. Plunging to the briny deep to torpedo past booby traps is particularly impressive. So often swimming segments derail the breezy derring-do of a platformer, but Legends makes the oceanic sections a high point. Fast and smooth, swimming's unshackled movement makes overcoming deep-sea dangers a satisfying detour.
Monday, September 02, 2013
|Also available on PS3|
In the third iteration of the Lost Planet series, some things are gained, and some are, appropriately enough, lost. Lost Planet 2 was a frustrating and beautiful concoction, loaded with grand ideas that all too often sacrificed basic playability. In this mediocre prequel to the original Lost Planet, the frustrations are minimal, but so are the ideas; its predecessor's variety and visual panache are steamrolled in favor of perfectly decent, perfectly standard shooting encounters. Lost Planet 3 is a difficult game to hate and an equally difficult game to adore. It might feature monstrous aliens, but it never thinks big.One aspect of this third-person shooter that will keep you thinking, however, is its story, a surprise given the series' lack of a personal touch and grand plot ambitions. The early hours move slowly, introducing you to hero Jim Peyton, who has journeyed across the blackness of space to the planet E.D.N. III to assist the Neo-Venus Construction company in its mining efforts. Jim is an excellent everyman, frequently exchanging personal video messages with his devoted wife, who is raising their newborn son while Jim works toward a brighter financial future. The couple labor to maintain a tone of normalcy, but never fully contain their misgivings and personal longing. The dialogue is natural and delivered gracefully; Jim's love is not characterized by overwhelming passion, but by quiet adoration and sincere concern.
Friday, August 16, 2013
|Also available for PS3 & PC|
After Saints Row: The Third, it was hard to imagine how this series of increasingly zany open-world crime games could possibly get any zanier. Rather than attempting to tackle that challenge head-on, Saints Row IV sidesteps it by being an almost completely different type of open-world game. Sure, the core of Saints Row is still there; there are still plenty of absurd weapons, costumes, and activities. But the way you interact with the world has changed. No longer are you an ordinary earthbound mortal. Saints Row IV turns you into a superhero capable of running up the sides of buildings and flinging people with your mind. This isn't a refined game or a challenging one, but it is a sometimes hilarious playground of a game that gives you plenty of fun abilities to use and plenty of opportunities to use them.How does the game explain your new capacity for doing things like leaping tall buildings in a single bound and zapping enemies with freeze blasts? It's simple. You saved the world from a terrorist threat and became the president of the United States. Then Earth was invaded by aliens, and the evil alien overlord had you placed in a Matrix-style computer simulation of a city where, much like Neo, you can acquire all manner of abilities that break the rules of the simulation.
The simulation in which you spend most of the game is a virtual re-creation of the city of Steelport, and the city's layout hasn't changed much since Saints Row: The Third, but the evil alien overlord, Zinyak, has remodeled a bit, and he likes to keep it gloomy. Because there's no day-night cycle during the course of the campaign and the whole city is shrouded in darkness, Steelport is a drab, monotonous setting. But it's much more attractive on the PC, where objects are sharp and defined well into the distance, than it is on consoles, where objects even a short distance away look muddy by comparison.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Thursday, September 27, 2012
|Also available on PS3|
NHL 13 might be the only game in town this year for hockey fans. The threat of an imminent lockout leaves the latest addition to the long-lived EA Sports franchise as the lone outlet for puckheads through what could be a long and lonely fall and winter of listening to talk about salary caps and revenue sharing instead of the more agreeable slap of stick against puck. Thankfully, neither Gary Bettman nor Donald Fehr is in the game, despite what EA Sports' famous tagline claims. But things are in a holding pattern here just as in the real NHL's labor negotiations. This is a bit of a stay-the-course release, although there are some impressive additions under the hood, such as a superb new skating physics engine and smarter artificial intelligence. Some issues with the AI and the lack of noteworthy new features are disappointing, however, making this something less than a revolutionary improvement over NHL 12.
With all that said, it can't be denied that NHL 13 is a great hockey game when taken strictly on its own merits. Realism is the cornerstone of just about everything that happens on the ice. Players skate, shoot, slash, and brawl just like they do in the real NHL. Playing positionally sound hockey is a necessity, as is some sort of understanding of the actual game and the ins and outs of the NHL. If you need to Google what a diamond is or have no idea that cycling here does not involve wearing really tight shorts, you might want to do some reading before picking up a gamepad. This looks like an arcade hockey game, but it plays a lot like a simulation when the puck is dropped.
Features and frills are so numerous that you expect the game disc to bulge out of the box. There are modes of play for every taste. You can play single games, tournaments, and full careers, with most options being available online and off. As in NHL 12, you can take over franchises, set yourself up as a GM, create a player to lead from the junior leagues to the big leagues, take over a legend and try to lead him (or her--two female stars have been included this year for the first time alongside male greats like Gretzky and, um, Roenick) to greatness again in today's NHL, and much more.
Hockey Ultimate Team is back for a second season of card-collecting, micropaymenty goodness, and a new GM Connected mode of play supports up to 750 people playing in online leagues in nearly every role imaginable, from front-office boss to first-string goalie. The new NHL Moments Live borrows a trick from Madden and puts you in historic situations. There you have to either live up to what legendary stars like Gretzky and Gilmour accomplished in classic contests or finish off games by mimicking the highlight reels.
Another tweak is with the ratings system, which has been revised to rate players on a universal scale by position. This removes the confusing system from last year, which scored players based on how good they were in their individual roles. This inflated the overall ratings of marginal players who were good performers in their jobs, most notably tough guys. This year, goons have been dialed back to sensible numbers. Still, the ratings are odd in spots and still skew high for the most part. Whoever handled the ratings played some favorites. There is no other way to explain the declining Alex Ovechkin clocking a 93 as the second-best player in the game.
Some players also get dinged unfairly. It's hard to believe that Phil Kessel wound up with a lousy 86 after his 82-point season, especially when the likes of Mike Richards scored 87 with just 44 points in arguably his worst regular season in the NHL (nice ending, though). Stars are a little too dominant in general and have been given ratings more by history or reputation than current performance. Ryan Getzlaf and more than a few others haven't been this good or this motivated in the real NHL in a few years. Still, most players in the game perform in a true-to-life fashion.
Depressingly, none of the new features in NHL 13 amount to much. Changes to the standard modes of play include such dull additions as the ability to demand a trade in Be a Pro and some supposedly revised AI in the trade logic in Be a GM. Those AI revisions were insufficient, though; you can still rook the opposition into absurd trades by loading up on quantity to get quality. Revamped player ratings clear up some confusion but are not stop-the-presses material. The two new female "legends"--Hayley Wickenheiser and Angela Ruggiero--add an interesting twist to Be a Legend, although they add little glitz to the already disappointing lineup of hockey stars.
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