Medal of Honor: Modern Warfare

I have many fond memories with the Medal of Honor series. Frontline and Underground are my favorite World War II games of all time. The first game was the brainchild of Steven Spielberg. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Medal of Honor has always been a cinematic experience with a fantastic music score, but if that is what you are expecting from the new title, you will be sorely disappointed.

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Halo: Reach – Let the Teabagging Begin!

Last Monday just before midnight, I found myself in a Gamestop full of awkward nerds who must have been trying to kill all the employees with the toxic fumes that their un-showered bodies produced in a desperate attempt to get their copy of Halo: Reach early. Upon asking the manager about this, he told me the midnight release of Starcraft 2 had prepared them for this underhanded tactic and built up an immunity to it.

Fast-forward a half hour and I perform my first teabag. My victim was a little kid who became quite furious after I told him he gave me Bieber fever. Kids these days.

The first thing you may notice is that the control scheme has changed a bit. Melee attacks are now more conveniently executed using the right bumper and action command/reload has moved to the X button. The only change that feels awkward to me is the B button, which changes your grenade type.

Physics have changed as well in Reach. Beatdowns (now called pummels) are less powerful, cutting down on the notoriously annoying “double beatdowns” from Halo 3, and you can now die or get hurt from falling too high like in previous games. You also can’t jump like Neo anymore, so you don’t think you can confuse people so easily by jumping over their heads.

Neo...jumping really really high.

One of the biggest changes to the game is the addition of a class system. Some gametypes will offer different weapon loadouts or abilities, such as a jetpack or the ability to create a hologram of yourself to trick enemies. Otherwise, you get to sprint, which can certainly be helpful in gametypes like SWAT when you need cover to survive. I find one ability in particular to be a little cheap as it lets a player become temporarily invincible and avoid taking damage from…oh let’s say a barrage of grenades.

The multiplayer maps in Reach are a mixture of old favorites and levels from the campaign. I feel that there are too few maps, most of which are ripped straight from the story, while a few others look like they were made by the developers in Forge. I would have liked to see much more variety here and am hoping they release a map pack soon. While most of the maps feel well designed, it’s only a matter of time before they get old. All the classic gametypes make a return with a couple of additions that are rarely ever played, like Headhunter.

The veto system has been drastically improved, now allowing players to choose 3 map/gametype options or the high school reminiscent option, “None of the Above,” which generates a new list for players to vote on while insulting each other’s choices over their headsets. Matchmaking in general has been beefed up as well, giving you more search customizations that help you be paired up with the sorts of people you actually want to play with. While this system has nothing on eHarmony’s 29 dimensions of compatibility, it still works pretty well. Unfortunately, you will still run into matchmaking searches that start over constantly as well as in-game connections issues. Nobody likes a laggy teabag, but we don’t have much of a choice, do we?

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Limbo: ???

When it comes to side scrolling games, I tend to think of bright colors and extra lives. Limbo boasts neither of these. The game is almost too dark, featuring a world engulfed in shadow and almost completely devoid of color. As for the extra lives, you have an infinite supply. The game would be too brutally unforgiving otherwise. As you venture through the world, you will die quite a bit. There is no getting around it. Death happens.

If you expect to find any story in Limbo, you will be let down. As far as I can tell, there isn’t one. The only hints you have are the title of the game and a girl who briefly appears. We are left without a who, where, when or why and must imagine the reasons behind the what. This might be some artsy “looking glass” type of story, but that doesn’t quite cut it with me. At least Mario had a princess to save. F for story.

I love violence (just ask my ex-girlfriend) (kidding). Limbo gets an A+ for violence. The mysterious shadow boy that you play as will find himself getting impaled on spikes or ripped apart by bear traps, fairly often. Mind you, this is not gore. There is no blood. The visual effect of making everything a shadow allows for a certain brilliance in brutality. It just looks cool. The environments share this brilliance. They have a beautifully dark artistic feel that makes up for the failure for a story. I didn’t know where I was, but I enjoyed playing through it.

Limbo Xbox

All the levels are different and have certain themes. One makes you use water to change the world around you and another involves climbing up and around mechanical objects. Just when one level starts to get old, the next one begins with perfect timing. There aren’t really many enemies in the game, though. One level involves natives setting traps for you, but they don’t show up. The only real constant enemies are these little glowing worms that attach onto your head and control you, but there is always a specific way of getting them off. Every puzzle has a specific way for you to get passed it, too. These two facts leave very little replay value. I tried a second run-through, but just got bored.

In retrospect, I probably could have spent the $20 used to buy Limbo on something more useful like food. However, it was a fun game and definitely worth the couple of hours it gave me of playtime. B+ for entertaining me.

Limbo Xbox 360

The Good: Cool visual style, fun puzzles and gameplay, interesting world.

The Bad: No story and not very long. The game makes absolutely no sense.

The Verdict: If you have an extra 20 bucks lying around and some time to kill, buy and download.

Written by Not Judas

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Alan Wake DLC Numero Uno

I downloaded the first DLC of Alan Wake with no idea of what to expect. I had foolishly assumed that Alan would find himself in some new town or location, sporting a name just as ironic as Bright Falls. I was mistaken. To be honest, the setting is somewhat curious. While some of the terrain is new, much of it consists of revamped versions of chapters from the main storyline. I understand that developers need time to create new maps, but do they truly believe that gamers aren’t disappointed when they play through “new” content that isn’t actually new? To avoid this problem in the future, maybe they could try not releasing a DLC within a month of the game’s launch. Moving on.

Aside from that little tick, I didn’t really have any problems. The DLC adds a new chapter called The Signal, which sends Alan on his merry way through what appears to be Bright Falls again. I have to admit that I’m not exactly sure if it really was the happy town from the main storyline or whether it was a world created by Alan’s mind. The story was a little dry. This time around, Zane has Alan trying to find the source of a mysterious signal. Along the way, he encounters lots of TVs that narrate the events that you are about to face.

We have seen already that Alan isn’t exactly the sanest character in a video game, but in this chapter it becomes unbelievably apparent. The world is affected by the his mind and it definitely reflects the madness within. The chapter plays like a bad acid trip and you can really see the writer’s sanity crumbling. This alone made the DLC my favorite chapter in the game.

Alan seems to have a lot of control over the world in this The Signal. Like at the end of the previous chapter, he can now use his words to create objects into the world. Often times, you will find words in the environment like “boom!” This clever onomatopoeia creates an explosion that you will surely need to take out the mobs of enemies converging upon you. There is also a fun little section where you are surrounded by “booms” and “enemies” and are being attacked by birds. You have to be careful or you could bring these to life and quickly find yourself overwhelmed.

The Signal gave me another fun hour or so and really got me excited to see where the next chapter takes our brooding writer. Though this chapter didn’t really explain much, I’m hoping the next DLC will reveal some key set piece that will put things in perspective.

The Good: More great Alan Wake gameplay.

The Bad: Still stuck in Bright Falls.  Not a lot of story.

The Verdict: A must download for anyone who enjoyed the main game.

Written by Not Judas

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Alan Wake

As a writer, I found that I have a certain familiarity with the mindset and journey of Alan Wake. Whether it is the dark tortured soul struggling with the ominous white void of the blank page or the ability to look good in a tweed jacket, I felt a strong connection with this character. Alan Wake is a famous novelist who hasn’t written in two years. He goes on a getaway with his wife, who is trying to help him relax and start writing again. Everything seems quite pleasant until Mrs. Wake is kidnapped and Alan wakes up with no memory of the past week. From here, the story unfolds like a Steven King novel, pitting you against a mysterious darkness whose source you must investigate and eventually defeat.

The story plays out quite beautifully and is almost seamlessly blended with gameplay. The best feature of the game is that it really feels like you are playing a horror thriller novel. You move through the chapters and are constantly listening to Wake narrate his journey like an audio book. Another narration tool is the manuscript pages you find throughout the world. You learn pretty early on that some of them describe events that haven’t happened yet. When those events do happen, its like you just found the hole for a puzzle piece you’ve been trying to place for hours. It’s quite brilliant. The writing is spot on, with one notable exception (a mock late night talk show that is painful to watch).

Without spoiling anything, I should say the ending was extremely confusing. I played through it a second time and I still am unsure about what a lot of it meant. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the DLC coming at the end of this month.

As you hunt down your wife’s kidnappers, you are attacked by the darkness and the enemies possessed by it. At first, you just take down a few axe wielding lunatics, but later you are dodging flying objects and trying to avoid slightly larger chainsaw wielding lunatics. The unique combat system has a heavy reliance on light, adding to the motif of light vs. dark. Enemies are invulnerable to attack until you have used light to destroy the darkness surrounding them. Sometimes there will be environmental objects like spotlights that help with this, but the majority of the time you are using your trusty flashlight, followed by a few rounds from your pistol. If you get overwhelmed, you can pop out a flare to force enemies back or toss a flashbang grenade to annihilate a group of enemies quickly. The game has all the right enemies to keep up the feeling of horror and you are given all the right tools to survive without getting too comfortable.

Bright Falls gives the game a great small town feel, but also takes away from the experience at times. Though there are some interesting environments scattered throughout, the vast majority of the game involves running through the woods. I can only take so many trees before I want to burn down the forest and punch Smokey the Bear in the face. Why couldn’t they throw in some creepy docks or a slaughterhouse?

Only you can bury the corpses of your enemies!

The environments are quite pretty though. You will look off at gorgeous landscapes and then be harassed by moving shadows later, but no matter what you are looking at, it will look cool…unless you are looking at the character’s faces. The facial modeling and animation is just plain bad. People are ugly and can’t seem to show emotions [insert joke about Keanu Reeves]. Lip-synching in Alan Wake is equally horrible. Eighty percent of the time, it doesn’t match up with the audio.

Having no emotions keeps you from aging.

As with every game I ever play, I need a working online component in order to justify spending fifty bucks on a video game. If it doesn’t have online multiplayer then there is almost no way the two days of enjoyment the game gives me is worth the money. Alan Wake has no online multiplayer, BUT is going on the list of single player games I feel are worth the money, regardless. It’s a very short list that includes games such as Uncharted 2 and Fallout 3, but it does exist. Hopefully Alan Wake 2 will feature multiplayer modes like King of the Well-Lit Hill or Flashlights vs. Darkies (not racist).

I give Alan Wake the nod of approval.

The Good: A strong horror thriller feel. Alan Wake is a writer. Interesting light vs dark dynamic. Fun combat system. Mostly well written story.

The Bad: Poor facial models. Lip synching issues. A couple of poorly acted voiceover lines. Not much Environmental diversity.

The Verdict: Buy. It’s rare for me to recommend the buy on a single player only game, but guess what. I just did it.

Written by NotJudas

A Poorly Written Rant from Not Judas

Casual Old People

I keep noticing the phrase “casual v. hardcore gamers.” I am slightly bothered by such an ignorant statement. Why is this a versus? People seem to think we are drifting from a world of hardcore games to a world of casual games. That is completely untrue. The world of games is transforming into one of choice. The biggest problem with people identifying with video games has always been range. The main goal right now is to change that. Developers are trying to make something for everyone. Just because they are devoting resources to a project that doesn’t appeal to you, as an individual, doesn’t mean that those resources were wasted. Quit being a narcissistic little wanker and share the wealth. If Kinect creates a new way for a forty-year-old accountant to connect with his twelve-year-old son who hates math and loves boys, then let it happen. Call of Duty games are still going to be released and no one is denying you your right to be a bigot in Halo.

That being said, why do all the motion games have to look like a big steaming pile of retardo. They all have you performing such wild tasks as jumping over things and hitting balls. It’s almost like developers took a bunch of arcade games from the 80s and turned them into 3D motion games. There is so much untapped potential here! I want the new F.E.A.R. game to use Kinect. Now THAT would be a frightening experience!

AND ANOTHER THING, while I am fake-mad! What is up with Nintendo making side scrollers again? Did they just give up on the free world games? I’m surprised that the new Zelda game with the ugly graphics and seemingly no innovation isn’t a side scroller. It’s okay though. At least they have the unnecessary Goldeneye remake that looks just slightly prettier than the original and stars Daniel Craig, who wasn’t even in the movie. Why not just put Keanu Reeve’s face in the game?

KeanuEye

Sorry for the short rant this week (not really, because I hate you). I have been extraordinarily busy, BUT…next week I return to reviewing (btw, I was totally kidding earlier about hating you) (psych).

P.S. If you are a stand-up in the Dallas area and interested in working on a secretive project that may or may not involve the demons in your head, then shoot me an email at onemanbukkake@gmail.com

Mass Effect 2: The Illusive RPG

I am finally catching up on the games that I missed while my Xbox was MIA and this week’s agenda was full of some robo-killing space adventures. The first Mass Effect aroused me in ways that no woman ever could. It was one of my favorite games of all time. So I pop in Mass Effect 2 and discover that this game is quite different from its predecessor. The differences are all very hit or miss and left me unable to judge this book by its cover. So let’s dive in.

The game begins by teaming you up with Cerberus, the villainous corporation from the first game that you butted heads against on several side missions. Your testicles lay in the hands of “The Illusive Man” aka the big cheese at Cerberus.  While there are initially some trust issues, they never really seem to be a problem. You would think working for your former enemy would cause more awkward situations. Alas, Shepherd goes off on an adventure to save the universe with them anyway.

No. He has creeper eyes.

The main story is wonderfully simple. You are to investigate the mysterious disappearances of human colonies around the galaxy. There are interesting plot developments, but the majority of missions revolve around your crew. If you choose, you will get to know your shipmates very well. They each have interesting background and story missions to play through. This is where the heart of the Mass Effect universe lies. There is a brilliant feel of reality in the people and your interactions with them. Unfortunately, a lot of RPG elements were removed from the game.

While character and story missions are both fun, they have a very strong “mission” feeling to them. The first game’s progression felt natural and free. You went where you needed to and figured out what to do to achieve your goal. This time around, you go where you have to and fight through enemies until your objective is met. There is no sense of exploration. Oh, and that reminds me of something. You cannot explore worlds anymore. Instead, you get to scan and probe them for minerals from the comfort of the Normandy. Exciting, no? No.

Minerals are used to update your ship or your squad’s armor and weaponry. Gone are the days of have an inventory and free market economy. I never bought anything from a single vendor and I only changed my weapon load-out once or twice. I am truly unsure of why there is no longer different armor. I can only assume the point was to make this more of an action game and less of an RPG. In fact, I sometime thought ME2 was beginning to feel like a rail shooter. A large bulk of the missions involve going from point A to B, while killing everything in sight. That is rail shooterish behavior! Someone threw the RPG elements out the window.

Without the Mako, worlds seem much smaller. You only traverse a small part of them on foot. But that isn’t the only downsize. If you were wanting to visit the Citadel and explore some familiar territory, your hopes will be crushed. There is only a small new section that you are allowed to visit. The old familiar areas are off limits.

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