Battlefield 3 Beta Review: Paranoia Will Destroy Ya

There is a flash of flight as fire reflects off a sniper scope. I see it out of the corner of my eye and jump to the ground—but, too late. The bullet zips right through my head and Battlefield 3 cheerily sends me to the all-too-familiar YOU ARE DEAD screen. Fortunately, respawn times are so short that I can hop right back into the foray in the metro, but there’s a second of hesitation before I click that deploy button.

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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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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

Red Dead Redemption: El Gato en la Salvadera

As the resident Debbie Downer at Morality Points, I feel obliged to tell you that I am not completely in love with Red Dead Redemption. I wouldn’t say I hate it, but there are issues that totally put me off of the game at times. Let’s start from the top.

You are the man with no name, despite the fact that you do actually have a name and it is John Marston. Johnny boy is a bounty hunter and, as you find out pretty early on, a former outlaw. It is also hinted early on that you are working for the government unwillingly because they are holding your family. I say “hinted” loosely because even a comatose retarded blind kid could pick up on the subtle (sarcasm) hints. I don’t understand why they didn’t just come out and say it. It would have saved me the trouble of not being surprised when they revealed it near the end of the game. The story struck me as being really flat the entire time. I knew everything at the beginning and then nothing happened with it until the end. You hunt a couple of outlaws for the majority of the game, with hardly any story developments and then there is kind of a story at the end.

Speaking of hunting the outlaws, the simple enough sounding task was way too complicated. You are required to do a ton of errands for someone who just points you to another person who wants you to do a ton of errands just to tell you that the outlaw is still in Mexico. Although I enjoyed most of the errands, I felt like everyone was just wasting my time (and so does John, as he feels the need to constantly say it out loud).

That being said, the majority of the missions were well designed. You get to take part in some truly western activities like protecting a train on horseback or slaughtering Native Americans. High five! Unfortunately, the missions at the beginning of the game are pretty annoying. You learn to shoot and herd cattle. The latter pissed me off because the damn cows wouldn’t stay with the herd. I was glad to be done with it…until they made you do it some more at the end of the game. Screw farming, I want to kill people. I’ll buy Red Dead Rancher for the Wii when my tastes change. The other main issue I had with missions is how they make you show up to many of them at a certain time. What a pain in the ass. My time is precious.

Look at this D-bag. He's just waiting to escape.

I had a good anti-hero morality going for most of the game. I helped people, but I always made sure to include plenty of bloodshed. The random encounters with people in need kept popping up, but never felt unnatural. Sometimes I’d choose to ignore them if I was in a bad mood, but I’d usually help so I could kill more people and loot their corpses. They never have a lot of cash on them, but there is something about robbing a dead man that just brings tears of joy to my eyeballs. If you commit a crime, witnesses will report it and you will have a bounty on your head. You can pay it off or stand still until they arrest you. If you become honored enough, witnesses will not report your crimes until you commit a murder. It’s a pretty ironic perk, since it encouraged me to steal and kidnap more often.

Gameplay works fine. It is easy to change weapons (although I wish time froze when you pulled up the weapon menu like in Mass Effect) and there is a nice adjustable target assist to help you out. Sometimes I would have trouble aiming at what I was trying to shoot because the reticule would automatically jump to a different enemy or bird, in some cases. Overall it worked though. The controls feel natural, but there is one thing about the horse controls that I didn’t like. You have to keep spamming the A button to ride quickly. The problem is that if you are trying to go somewhere far away, which you always are, it would be nice if you could just hold a button down instead of having to constantly tap it.

And then there is Red Eye. If you click the analog stick, time slows down and you can mark and shoot like in Splinter Cell: Conviction. Red Eye works great if they are close, but if they are farther away, your guns aren’t as accurate so you miss a lot. Plus, even with time slowed down, Keanu Reeves can dodge your bullets.

Just Hanging Out.

As a western world, RDR’s Texico is pretty damn spot on. The visuals are vivid and beautiful aside from all the texture popping I saw every time I turned around. The towns feel real enough and the NPCs definitely keep up the illusion. Corrupt sherriffs hunt outlaws for revenge and whores litter the local saloons. I was a little mad that I couldn’t buy a whore. John Marston needed to get laid. He was really ugly. As a narcissist, I didn’t like playing such an ugly man. I am obviously extremely good-looking in real life. Moving on…this world is a sandbox, emphasis on the sand. I wish there were more towns and holdouts because most of this world is just desert.

GLITCHES!! Once a method of cheating other players in multiplayer, now glitches are a means for creating vast amounts of frustration. Lord knows I hate them. I am masterful at finding them and they always find me. The worst one was when I had to eliminate an enormous army of snipers and foot soldiers, but a sole sniper survived by glitching into a wall. He could shoot me, but I could not shoot him. I had to reload my last saved game and massacre everyone all over again. The same glitch appears in free roam multiplayer all the time. Other glitches include crashes, lockouts, freezes, collision issues, model loading, and hit detection.

Red Dead Redemption’s multiplayer is a big step up from GTA IV’s. There aren’t as many spawning issues and you can have plenty of fun just free roaming with a buddy. The level up system is average, at best, BUT you get to start out with a really cool donkey. That mule is such a stubborn ass. He runs away from you when you try to get on him. It was a little too frustrating for me. All around, the multiplayer is fun. You will not be disappointed with it. My problem is, however, that I know it will be boring in a month. I cannot see it being interesting after you’ve done everything you can do. It will end up as one of those games I pull out every few months to play a couple of times and then put back into hibernation on the shelf.

Despite what some people seem to think, RDR is not a near perfect game, sent from the heavens to herd lost souls and keep everyone on the path. It has a lot of faults and lacks luster in certain categories that other games shine in. I think it does a lot of things mediocre and a couple of things well. My favorite part was when I discovered that the NPCs enjoy killing prostitutes as much as I do.

The Good: Expansive world with a good western feel. Easy on the eyes. Natural feeling random events and missions. Well-done third person shooter mechanics.

The Bad: Not enough relevant story. Lots of glitches. Too much travel time. Corny dialogue. Too much mediocrity. I couldn’t buy a hooker.

The Verdict: Everyone should rent. Some should buy. Play first.

Written by Not Judas

Read Cool-C’s review here

Neutrally Chaotic does the two-step here (part 1) and here (part 2)

Skate 3: It’s a Grind

As I think back, I have very fond memories of shredding the “Brennan Banks” near my house as a long-haired rebellious teenager. My friend Andrew and I would hit those banks everyday, popping a few nollie heelflips and pissing off the old lady across the street. The first Skate brought me back to these memories in a few vivid and creative ways. Skate 3, however, falls short in almost every one of those ways.

One of the best points that the first Skate had going for it was that it wasn’t a Tony Hawk game. While Tony Hawk pumped your excitement by making you grind power lines, Skate fed you adrenaline by having you grind down a stair rail. This more realistic approach was well executed and really gave the player a feeling similar to what you experience in real life.

Fast forward 2 sequels into the future. Skate 3 still isn’t a Tony Hawk game, but the luster is almost completely lacking now. By this point, there is very little you can learn if you aren’t new to the series. You know most of the controls and you know most of the tricks. The game still has you grinding down stair rails and jumping gaps, but the only way to justify a third installment seems to have been to make it all more ridiculous. In Skate 3 you will find yourself jumping over absurd gaps or racing down the side of a cliff. You know, things that every skater does in real life. This takes away from the game in big way, as it diminishes the sense of realism and makes me feel like I am playing a video game again.

This paragraph will be a short one because there is basically no story. The “story” is that you are a legend skateboarder who misses a big ridiculous trick and decides to make his own skateboard team after his sponsors pull out. That is it. Your goal is to sell boards by accomplishing goals. There is no plot to speak of past the opening cinematic (BTW, the live action opening film was completely awesome. It had nothing to do with the game, but was cool regardless). I had no sense of interest or connection to my character or the world. I felt like Keanu Reeves when he acts.

Happy.

Ok, I lied. That paragraph wasn’t that short. Moving on. The character customizations were okay. Not a lot of choices as far as hairstyles, but the face can be changed pretty extensively. The clothing didn’t impress me. Granted, skater styles has changed since I was rambunctious kid wearing an Element hoodie and ripped up jeans, but it seems like all you have to choose from is ugly plaid shirts and T-shirts that don’t quite fit the way I like them. Nothing really fit my character right. I couldn’t understand why everything was so big. There wasn’t much to choose from anyway though so shame on you, Skate 3.

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Prototype: A Case against Loners (NSFW)

Note: For those who haven’t heard, if you pre-order the upcoming game Singularity, you will receive Prototype for free. It’s a pretty sweet deal, and it also makes this review extremely relevant.

Prototype is a sandbox game, and if you want to classify it further, I guess you could call it a super hero game, but make no mistake about it: Alex Mercer, the game’s protagonist, is about as nice as a box of Cracker Jacks laced with cyanide. He doesn’t give a damn about you, your cat, or your bubby. He will (literally) grab you by your face, run up the side of a building, and consume you. Not in a pleasant way, mind you, but like Venom ala Spider-Man way. In other words, it don’t tickle.

They could be cousins!

The premise is simple yet interesting: an outbreak of some virus has started mutating Manhattan into infected. These are the quick and the dead, not your grandma’s shambling zombies. Well, some of them are, and that’s one of the things that makes this game cool: there are hundreds of people on screen at once. As the game progresses and the infection spreads, more and more areas are succumbed to the virus, and some citizens become special infected (not unlike Left 4 Dead I guess?) while others mull about waiting to be decapitated by Alex. Of course, the military is there, too, to help clean things up, and you can eventually hijack helicopters, APCs, and tanks. You will often stumble across the military fighting off hordes of infected. To say this game creates an atmosphere of chaos is perhaps the biggest understatement since this one: Keanu Reeves is the most important actor of the twentieth century.

Like every good super hero game (or a guess in this case, super ambiguously-moral-hero game), your character needs cool super powers, and Prototype does not disappoint on that front. There are five offensive forms, two defensive for Alex, and the ability to disguise yourself as the last person you’ve consumed. Each option morphs Alex in a different way. For example, my favorite is this long whip, which looks like barbed wire flying off of Alex’s arm as he whips the tendril around. Each power is upgradable with the currency you receive from beating missions, absorbing characters, or simply from blowing sh*t up, although some powers are more upgradable than others. The best part, however, is that the powers really encourage players to play as they’d like. For example, you can sneak into bases by disguising yourself as a base’s general. From there, you can sneak around, absorbing people like a cannibal at an eating disorder clinic.  Some people, however, might like the ability to transform into an armored brick house and, at the cost of speed, charge through enemies. Emphasis on through.

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