Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Devil May Cry 4 (2008)

Genre: Action / Adventure | Players: 1 | Developer: Capcom

DMC4 is set after DMC1 but before DMC2, apparently. I say apparently because I didn't play the previous three games in the series. Nor am I attached to the characters in any way, so this is from a DMC noob POV. I understand being influenced by fan-service can improve appreciation of a game, but that'll be absent, so if I trample all over someone's love for emo protagonists don’t come crying for an apology. Harsh but true. I’m dry.

After an agonisingly long install (I had time to take a shit, make a cup of tea and a sandwich, and it was still only at 18% when I got back) and a lengthy intro scene you finally get to game. You control Nero, who looks and dresses like Dante except that he has a demonic fap arm. Later, you do get to control Dante, but by that stage I was suicidal. I really didn't care who I was controlling because the game hated me and I hated it.

You struggle though 'missions' that require you to solve puzzles and kill the same class of nasty over and over again. You’re graded on your performance and combos (aka: your ability to button bash) from the highest (SSS) to the lowest (D); it’s very easy to get an S grade except on boss battles, where you’ll have to work a little harder. Don’t worry, though, because you’ll have much practice - you'll have to fight the same boss battles over again when you get Dante. Lazy ass devs.

The FMV was dull, I had to struggle not to skip; I failed a number of times.
The camera is occasionally your enemy but forgiveable.
Combat is boring but competent. When you strike something with your sword it feels like it connects most of the time.

This game received high praise upon release, but it came early in the PS3 lifecycle and reviewers back then were handing 5 out of 5 scores to anything that didn't look like a PS2 game upscaled. It looks beautiful, the HD sprites are rendered with love, but in truth I can think of two dozen PS2 games that look like shit I’d rather play because they had what this lacks: interesting and diverse gameplay.

1 frustrating piece of shit that came with a rather nice art book out of 5

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dawn of Sorrow (2005)

Genre: Action, Platformer, RPG | Players: 1 | Developer: Konami

I am the definition of a casual Castlevania fan. As such, Soma Cruz is a new face, to me. It seems this protagonist of Dawn of Sorrow (and Aria of Sorrow, before it) stakes his fame on having dominance over monsters' souls. The categorical breakdown is fuzzy, but in short, some grant him special attacks, some improve his stats, and some help him traverse his environment. Collecting them unfortunately adds a heaping helping of grinding to your main course of Metroidvania goodness.

To prevent this from being called Rare Drop: The Game, the designers have placed enemies in easy farming locations and built in the freedom to allow you to focus on the task when you choose to. You can keep working on cleared save files, start a New Game +, or trade souls wirelessly with a friend. You can also create and share custom challenge maps using the souls you’ve acquired. This is where the shared experience ends however, as you are on your own to guide Soma to the finish line.

In getting to that point, Aria players will experience a violent case of deja vu. Outside of a few new twists, this is essentially a remake clothed in the slight trappings of a sequel. From the mostly reused soul functions all the way down to the same money grinding exploit, this game screams rehash.

The only truly new mechanics are the use of magical seals and a weapon upgrade system. To finish off bosses you must trace a sealing pattern on the touch screen. The consequence of failing is having to hit the boss a few more times and trying again; you don’t have to start from scratch. Consequently, it’s a useless, but harmless enough addition. Keeping an eye out for the souls needed to upgrade your weapons of choice, though, will keep you well above the curve in terms of strength, and is incredibly worthwhile.

Ultimately, the characters are comfortable and serviceable enough, and the gameplay is adequately polished that I can recommend it to someone who hasn’t played a Metroidvania game in a good long while, or wants to relive Aria with a fresh coat of paint. If you have no such desires, it is an easy enough pass.

Buyer's Guide: I'd mainly look for it on the DS, but sources say it was released for mobile devices, as well.

3½ Uppercuts to Frankenstein's Monster's Junk out of 5

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)

Genre: FPS | Players: 1, 2, Multi | Developer: Infinity Ward

The close out entry in the Modern Warfare trilogy finds the player controlling several protagonists during a full on breakout of World War 3 between Russia and pretty much everyone else. Players control soldiers fighting the actual war and the covert ops specialists trying to bring the actual masterminds of the conflict to justice.

The gameplay formula is still in place with the same frantic action set-pieces. Though it seems to be trying very hard to top previous ones and is reaching a bit as they have already done nuclear weapons and civilian massacres. They have wrung it dry apparently as the campaign can be finished in a short 5 hours. The "why actually play the game yourself" snap aiming is still there doing the work for you as is the great Spec Ops co-op missions. One bright spot is the characters themselves as they have gained some actual gravitas to them throughout the trilogy and the voice actors have gotten the hang of doing them, so that is at least convincing. Keith David is switched out for William Fichtner which is still cool among a few other big names.

The multiplayer was handled entirely by separate studio Raven Software and that has at least paid off as it is still fast-paced action with some tweaks and much less prone to bugs. Killstreaks are replaced with different Pointstreaks which makes it easier for less skilled players to get rewarded as they are now awarded points for things other than kills. Also some new modes and tweaks too. Overall, feels a bit strained, but still likely has what players came for.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PC, PS3, 360 and Wii. Comes in standard and collector's "hardened" editions.

3 Victory Cigars out of 5

Deus Ex: Invisible War (2003)

Genre: FPS, Action, Stealth | Players: 1 | Developer: Ion Storm

20 years after the events of Deus Ex, the world has been reshaped following a period of global depression and war called the Collapse. Players control the either male or female Alex D. after a terrorist attack using nano-explosives destroys Chicago. Alex discovers the academy he attends is actually a front for bio-augmentation experiments when a group of religious extremists raid the campus. After escaping, players are then free to choose which faction they want to follow.

The open ended gameplay is mostly intact from the first game and several other elements have been streamlined. Skill points have been removed and the skills they affected are now static abilities or are now gained through augmentation. There are now only 5 augmentation slots though with 3 options for each rather than the original 2. 2 regular ability choices and 1 extra that can be gained with special black market bio-mod canisters. Choosing one makes the other 2 unavailable as long as players have the ability, but they can be overwritten if players gain more canisters. Ammunition is also now universal for all firearms with different guns using different amounts. Or players can augment their melee ability and anything they can pick up such as crates, chairs and coffee cups can become lethal weapons.

Players can still achieve objectives multiple ways such as through direct confrontation, stealth or just rubbing elbows with the right people. Though choice feels somewhat less important when it is really hard to make any one faction hate Alex enough to break contact. Directly disobeying an order rarely has serious consequences with usually at most a bit of dialogue saying they are disappointed, but then offering Alex a chance to redeem himself. In fact it almost doesn't matter which path players choose as it can all be undone with one choice near the end.

The game is significantly shorter than the original, there were a few graphical hiccups and combat is a bit clunky with some stiff movement and the enemy A.I. is really easy to overcome. The actual areas are also really small. Still worth the time though.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PC and Xbox. Can be bought off Steam for $9.99.

4 Players can totally murder the children unlike that wimp Molyneux's game out of 5

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Deus Ex (2000)

Genre: FPS, RPG, Action, Stealth | Players: 1, Multi | Developer: Ion Storm

The always dystopian future is one where a plague called the Gray Death ravages the population. The vaccine is in short supply and is rationed for those deemed valuable to society and leaving everyone else to suffer. This causes resentment and an explosive growth of terror groups. To combat them all the United Nations expands it's influence, forming the United Nations Anti Terror Coalition (UNATCO). Players control new agent JC Denton (I see what you did there Ion Storm) as he navigates his missions.

The whole game is full of choices in interaction, character customization and accomplishing objectives. Talking to NPC's gives several dialogue options before Bioware made it cool and each can have a lasting effect on gameplay i.e. being a dick to someone will make them less inclined to help you or flat out killing them will change the story somewhat if they were meant to be in the plot later. Players can customize JC with earned skill points to enhance abilities like weapons proficiency and with nano-augmentations to different parts of the body. There are 18 total with 9 body slots so players must choose wisely as choosing one will make another unavailable. There are multiple ways to complete mission objectives as well. They can be done stealthily with lock-picking and hacking or with guns blazing and explosions. Or be nice and just bribe someone to help you. There is multiplayer though it is a bit tacked on as it wasn't originally intended to be there.

The dark, gritty plot is full of interesting conspiracies, secret agendas and political struggles and changes somewhat based on player choices though a basic story thread is followed. Just how you get there changes based on how players interact with the different factions.

Interesting narrative, complex gameplay and very high replayability for all the choices, dialogue and sub-plots that are sure to be missed on just one playthrough make this very deserving of it's numerous Game of the Year awards.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PC and as a PS2 port under the title Deus Ex: The Conspiracy. Also recently added to the Playstation Network. Available on Steam for $9.99.

4½ I wear my sunglasses at night out of 5

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)

Genre: First Person Shooter | Players: 1, 2, Multi | Developer: Infinity Ward

Continuing some time after Modern Warfare 1, the Ultranationalist rebels have seized control of Russia despite the best efforts of the USMC and SAS operatives. Now terrorist plots are in motion to take advantage of the growing anti-West sentiment and players take control of several protagonists, old and new, to try to keep tensions from boiling over.

Gameplay is just as frantic with new weapons and perks and new "snap-to" aiming that will jump to an enemy if it is in the general vicinity of the crosshair when players aim down the sight. It works, to it's credit, almost too well and makes the single player almost insultingly easy even on harder difficulty settings. It is somewhat less of a problem in multi-player with human players that can move and act dynamically. Multi-player is also ramped up with a bevy of new additions, some cool, some stupid like the instant "I Win" button that is the tactical nuke killstreak reward. It can also be insanely glitch prone at times. Single-player is still filled with thrilling set-pieces, but is criminally short. What is there is very polished and even has some big name actors doing voices (Bonus points are always awarded for the awesome Kieth David) and a soundtrack by Lorne Balfe with collaboration from Hans Zimmer. That shit couldn't have been cheap.

Very polished and sticking to formula, with some new tweaks. Some are cool i.e. the Spec Ops co-op missions. Others not so much i.e. the hand-holding auto-aiming. Thrilling at times, ridiculous at others.
The controversial No Russian mission is kind of fucked up, but that was the point, I imagine.
Not bad. Not as good as the first.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on the PS3, 360 and PC. All 3 versions are more or less identical.

Ghost has a sweet balaclava out of 5
The extra ½ is for Kieth David