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

Friday, August 31, 2012

Star Wars: Republic Commando (2005)

Genre: Tactical FPS | Players: 1, Multi | Developer: Lucasarts

Players take control of Boss, the leader of Delta Squad's clone commandos, as they fight through campaigns of the Clone Wars against various Separatist enemies from droids to Geonosioans and beyond using various Republic and enemy weapons, but most importantly using the squadmates.

The main draw is the squad-based gameplay that allows players to direct the 3 other commandos, Scorch, Fixer and Sev, to perform various actions like take attack positions, set charges and hack computers. It is actually essential to learn it as many battles would probably be impossible otherwise because of difficulty and that ammo is limited and drains very fast if players try to do everything themselves. It works very well most of the time. Several times the commandos got stuck on the geometry and it took some creative uses of the pull back and attack commands to cure them of their retardation, but it was still a minor problem and sometimes funny.

The weapons are decently varied and players are encouraged to use them all as different ones will be more effective than others against certain enemies. Too bad no one will tell you what does what. Grenades in particular can be effective, but there are multiple kinds and no instruction on how to use them effectively. This trial and error will cause players to waste ammo and force them to use the weaksauce pistol with recharging ammo almost as a punishment when they run out. If players manage to figure things out though, combining enemy weaknesses with effective squad commands will give the satisfying feeling of being an elite squad. Protip: regular droids by themselves should just be punched in the face for an instant kill. Saves the ammo which is liberally scattered around, but Boss can only carry so much. Healing bacta stations are also pretty much everywhere which doesn't make battles any easier since shields and health disappear quickly under fire without taking cover and trying to use one in a firefight is a dumb idea.

The game still looks pretty good for it's age and minus the occasional stupid AI, Boss's lumbering movement speed and pretty short campaign ( I finished it in just 7 hours), it is a good example of solid squad-based game-play. There is multi-player, but there was no one playing to test it. Oh well.

Buyer's Guide:
Available for the original Xbox and on PC and Steam.

Wookie life debts for everybody out of 5

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shadow The Hedgehog (2005)

Genre: Platformer / Piece of Shit | Players: 1  |  Developer: Sega USA

I'm not going to bother with a synopsis of the painfully banal game ‘story’. I just want to get this over with as quickly as possible. In brief:

01. The FMV can’t be skipped, and it's all bad.
02. The frame rate is atrocious (although I had to play at 50hz because the 60hz option wasn't working through HDMI for some reason, so there remains some minor doubt there).
03. There’s no sense of the speed that's traditionally associated with Sonic games, because the level design is structured to stop you every ten seconds, rendering it almost unplayable.
04. There are vehicles. They control like bananas.
05. The voices made me want to turn the music up to drown them out. The music made me want to turn the voices up to drown it out. I was in a Catch 22, so I hit mute, but I could still see it. FML.
06. I got as far as the level with the bombs before I gave up the will to live.

It really throws into perspective the other games I've thought were bad over the years - they were Princely treasures compared to Shadow. I'm not attempting hyperbole for comedic effect. I'm completely candid when I say that everywhere you look there's something offensively vile. If you bought Shadow then you have my empathy. If you like Shadow then you're making your mother sad.

I'm trying to think of something positive to say. I guess it’d make a good coaster to set a glass of beer on while I take a giant shit in the game box before posting it back to Sega. I’d consider it a fair trade.

0 charm out of 5

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Green Day Rock Band (2010)

Genre: Rhythm / Music Players: 1-4 | Developer: Harmonix / Demiurge Studios

Look, you don’t need me to explain to you how a rhythm game works. So, right off the bat, this game works perfectly fine on that front. The Rock Band formula is down pat, as it should be after a trillion iterations in multiple franchises. I also have to imagine that outside of Green Day fans (from casuals to diehards) the only people’ll who be eyeing this are rhythm game nuts who have to have them all. In short, you don’t need me to sell you on the game itself, you need me to tell you how it fares from a Green Day fanboy’s perspective...if you actually need anything at all......

The unlockables are nothing special, to get that out of the way, too. If you expected them to be, or if you’re thinking of getting the game for them, shame on you.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I initially boycotted the game because it featured little in the way of songs from Insomniac, Nimrod, and Warning:, and no songs whatsoever from Kerplunk!, and 39/Smooth. They also stated early on that they weren’t going to be releasing any further content beyond the song pack that completed 21st Century Breakdown’s tracklist. Their reasoning wasn’t the greatest, but it is true that they specifically scripted 3 concerts worth of animation and it would be a bit odd to see it playing over incongruous songs.

It’s the 3 concert career that ultimately provides this game with a rock solid structure. It feels so much more complete and worthwhile than Beatles Rock Band, right out of the box. Yes, it is built around Dookie and American Idiot (their two most successful albums) and the then-current 21st Century Breakdown. No, these are not my favorite albums of theirs, but this is a major market release and they can’t really be blamed for this. As offered, as shaped and defined by the realities of business, marketing, and game making, this is a magnificent purchase if you are a Green Day fan.

This is the kind of release that cannot be judged apart from my love for the band in question, and because I do not have any professional obligations breathing down my neck to try otherwise, I don’t feel any regret in judging it as a fanboy. This is as close as I’ll ever come to being Mike Dirnt. Thank you, Harmonix. Thank you, sincerely.

Buyer's Guide: Available on PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii. I can’t imagine it costing very much, now. If you can find the Plus version, grab it. There is no reason not to complete the final album.

5 Nations Without Bureaucratic Ties out of 5

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Burnout Paradise (2008)

Genre: Racing | Players: 1 - 8 | Developer: Criterion Games

Burnout Paradise is an arcade racer. It's an open world environment that lets you progress at your own pace. The devs claim there are over 250 miles of game area to explore. I believe it. It’s possible to spend hours exploring the initially daunting environment completing secondary tasks before you even begin to race.

Once you’re done exploring, it’s time to delve deeper. To trigger an event, pull up at a traffic light and spin your wheels. Once discovered, an event remains on your map so is easily found again. If it’s not possible to complete a certain task in your current vehicle, you can return later.

The Burnout series is defined by two things: Speed and Dangerous Driving. Being reckless fills a boost meter that helps you gain the lead in races. Continue being reckless during boosting and you’ll get a boost combo. The sense of speed is exhilarating. When the adrenalin kicks in, corners become things to fear. Nailing a boost-combo of double figures is a godlike sensation. If, or more precisely when, you wreck your shit you’ll lose your boost meter. You can repair your vehicle, even during races, by driving through repair-shops scattered over the map.

It’s not all about racing. There are chase and stunt tasks. Also 'Takedowns' that require you to pursue and crash a rival car; win and it gets added to your garage for use. They’re usually faster than you, so skilful driving and short-cuts will be necessary. However, like previous Burnout games, once you nail that perfect vehicle you’ll have no need of the rest ever again.

The 'Showtime' feature has you bouncing your vehicle down busy roads causing crippling carnage. Combo hit as many cars as possible to earn multipliers on your damage meter. I spent more hours than was healthy pin-balling my car down roads and off bridges. I may need some readjustment before being returned to society.

Entering multi-player is effortless, with no frustrating lobbies to navigate. If you've a good connection it's as smooth as the one player.

A great feature lets you use any music you've ripped to your HDD while in-game.

Buyer's Guide:
Available for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. Make sure and get the online patches before you begin, even if you've no intention of playing online. They fix some niggles and add new challenges and content: a day/night feature and motorbikes. It’s DLC that makes a real difference to the game, and 90% of it is free. If you get The Ultimate Box it has the extras included.

4½ skid marks out of 5

Monday, August 13, 2012

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011)

Genre: FPS, RPG, Stealth | Players: 1 | Developer: Eidos Montreal

Eidos takes the reins for the Deus Ex franchise with some help from Square-Enix who have begun to make a push towards publishing since they have recently forgotten how to make games and are now buying up other developers to make games for them. In the case of Eidos, it has paid off with an entry in the series that more than lives up to the franchise's pedigree.

Adam Jensen is the new head of security of Sarif Industries who produce biomechanical augmentation technology. Just before an important congressional hearing, a group of soldiers storm the laboratory complex killing scientists and destroying equipment and research during which they brutally put Adam down. Adam is then augmented to save his life from his massive injuries. 6 months afterwards, Adam is healed and called back to look into who is behind the attacks as there are a number of suspects including rival companies and purists who object to augmentations among others.

Like the rest of the series, players are given a great amount of freedom in how they approach mission objectives. Cover-based gunplay and stealth can be used and enhanced with a wide array of choices in augmentations to suit either play-style. Augmentations can be gained with points by completing objectives or buying upgrades at clinics which is where the RPG part of the game comes in as well as extensive weapon modification. There is also a great emphasis on character interaction. Players will often have multiple conversation choices and characters will react differently based on what players choose versus the character's personality. Depending on the person, players can flatter their vanity, appeal to their reason or just plain coerce them into giving up information. Also whether the player uses lethal force or not can affect gameplay.

The depth of story and themes of trans-human ethics give a rich experience along with solid gameplay. There are only so many character models, but Eidos tried their best to cover it up with mixed results as players may notice a lot of the same faces running around. The levels are surprisingly big given the detail put into them and while shorter than the original, the length is surprisingly long for a modern game. At least 20 hours depending on player skill and sidequests chosen. There were some technical hiccups like NPC's sinking slightly into the pavement and such, but nothing game breaking. The boss battles were somewhat incongruous with the rest of the game, but that is to be expected when they are done by a totally different studio. Pretty, but not shallow with some replay value.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PC, Mac, PS3 and 360. There is also downloadable content called The Missing Link.

4 The I.T. guy is an abrasive douchebag, like a lot of real counterparts out of 5

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lollipop Chainsaw (2012)

Genre: Action | Players: 1 | Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture

A cheerleader and a disembodied head ridding the world of zombies whilst surrounded by pop-culture references a plenty. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty of things, but not enough to ruin the experience entirely. As someone not familiar with much of Suda 51’s previous work, I’d have to say the overall vibe of the game is defined by sexual humor which is more often clever and self-aware than it is crude or juvenile. On the whole, I do like Juliet Starling, as she manages to balance a practiced obliviousness and absurdist sense of humor with her own strange wisdom and obscene physical prowess. Nick (the head) effortlessly plays straight man and doles out gameplay advice. He even gets in on the action in both required and optional ways.

Despite this, Juliet’s moveset is severely lacking until you can manage to purchase a few of her more flashy and powerful chainsaw strikes. These will be very familiar to anyone who has played X-Men Origins: Wolverine. For those who haven’t, just imagine a lot of spinning and death. Until I had the more critical techniques, combat felt too deliberate and slow, with much focus placed on stunning zombies before being able to destroy them.

This slowed pace was exacerbated by two key problems: the checkpoint system, and the mini-games. While the game as a whole feels a bit short, the levels themselves feel paradoxically long. Checkpoints exist in each level, but if you exit at any time, you are forced to start over again. This is especially painful given that mini-games are scattered through each level, which--early on--bring the game to a grinding halt. They would be wonderful, if only they were selectable in an extras menu and not peppered into the story itself.

To combat the overall length of the story, one can play levels in a ranked mode (wherein Juliet must beat her dad’s scores) as well as work to unlock a bevy of extras such as costumes and songs. These songs can even be arranged into a custom playlist.

If you can set aside the time to play each level in a single shot, and you’re a fan of Suda 51, I can recommend getting this game on the cheap. There’s enough interesting gameplay ideas and strange humor to warrant a spin if you’re aware of its pitfalls.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PS3 and Xbox 360. Snoop around for a deal online, now, or wait a few months and grab it on the cheap, locally.

3 Auto-tuned Prophets of Funk out of 5

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Assassin's Creed: Revelations (2011)

Genre: Action / Adventure | Players: 1 / Multi | Developer: Ubisoft

Fourth game in the series.  The yearly updates are really beginning to impact on the quality; it feels hurried, and is glitchier than ever.  There’s nothing game-breaking but it’s frustrating restarting missions because some fool got himself entrenched in a wall.  My favourite was the beggar with the three-legged stool embedded in his chest.  He followed me like some kind of lovesick puppy.  I tried to kill him with the hidden blade but his stoic, mocking reluctance to even flinch while I repeatedly knifed him finally won out and I gave up.

It appears to finish both the stories of Alta├»r and Ezio (who still runs like he's smuggling a potato up his hole).  Ezio’s ending is the first decent ending the series has ever had.  Of course they tack on a second one with Desmond that proves once again they’ve been winging it from day one with that piece of shit storyline.

Acquiring money is less of a hassle than before.  I'd every shop and faction building renovated, and discovered over 90% of the treasure (the remainder was in an inaccessible zone) after just the second chapter.  I was never, ever out of cash for essentials.  It was a pleasant change from previous games.

There are some new additions, the best of which are the zip-lines.  There's bomb crafting but you’ll rarely need to make use of it.  There's an unbelievably bad RTS section; it’s poorly designed.  The less said about the horse and carriage missions the better.  Instead of flags or feathers you have fragments to collect that open Desmond Missions in a hub-world.  A first-person perspective jumping and disappearing platform section has to be the worst idea conceived by anyone ever.

Ironically, the city of Constantinople is my favourite of any of the games so far; it’s beautifully realised and has less cul-de-sacs and pointless corners than previous cities.  It was a real joy to navigate.

Buyer's Guide:
Available for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC in too many editions.  The Standard / Animus / Collector's / Special / Signature / Ultimate / Ottoman Edition all add some extra crap.  The PS3 version comes with the first game free but they haven’t tweaked it or fixed the frame rate.

2½ warm potatoes out of 5