Blur Review

Blur game

Blur is a racing game which was created by the masterminds behind the Sega Dreamcast’s Metropolis Street Racer game, as well as the Project Gotham Racing series released on both the original Xbox and Xbox 360 – Bizarre Creations. They also happen to be the creators of one of my all-time favorite Xbox Live Arcade games, 2005’s Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. At its most basic, this is a racing game that’s built around vehicular combat while utilizing many different real life car makes and models. Some have likened this game to a Mario Kart on steroids racer, but in my humble opinion, it’s a thousand times more quick and chaotic than what I remember Mario Kart ever being. No offense aimed at the Mario Kart uber fanatics out there, but that’s just my humble opinion.

The first time that I played Blur was when the public beta was released on Xbox Live Marketplace, after it went live on April 6, 2010. Nothing much about the game in general has changed as far as looks and controls are concerned. Now that I’ve actually had the opportunity to play the PS3 version they look virtually identical. To be completely honest, it’s been just as much fun playing it months ago on my 360 as it’s been having played it recently on my PS3… and this is coming from a guy that vehemently swore off racing games many, many years ago.

Blur car

The first mode of the game that I immediately dove into was the career mode. You encounter and race against boss characters after completing certain demands – demands such as “evade three shock fields,” “complete two fan runs,” or “complete four fan targets,” etc. There is a wide variety of cars that can be driven in Blur, including the Ford Focus RS, Dodge Challenger SRT8, Nissan 350z NISMO S-tune, and even a classic like the Volkswagen Beetle. Once you best one of the boss characters, you unlock their vehicle and vehicle modification for your use. After getting past the first boss character Shannon I wound up unlocking her Renault R230 F1 Team R26 (try saying that five times fast) vehicle, as well as her “overbolt” mod, which grants its user with an extra bolt round every time a bolt power-up is picked up. In order to unlock the higher difficulty boss characters, primary goals need to be met (finish in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd), fan targets (the number of fans you gain) must be obtained, and fan runs (driving through marked gates on the track) need to be accomplished. Basically, when you complete more of these goals during a course, more playable content will be unlocked down the road (no pun intended).

Blur race

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Crackdown 2 Demo Impressions

Crackdown 2 demo

Even though this is technically a direct sequel to 2007’s original Crackdown, Crackdown 2 was developed by an entirely different company, Ruffian Games. Ruffian Games is made up of several of the people from the original Crackdown’s developer, Realtime Worlds, and some of the staff from Xen Studios. The team’s developers have worked on games like Crackdown, Fable II, and Project Gotham Racing in the past.

In the same mold as its predecessor, Crackdown 2 is a third person shooter based in an open world environment. From the information that I have read about this game, it’s supposed to offer an increased amount of character customization when compared to the original game. Also making a return to the sequel are the skill orbs to be collected in order to help enhance your Agent’s abilities. Another addition in the demo is a small taste of the checkpoint racing that will be scattered throughout the entire city, once the retail version of the game’s released in July. Once again, co-op play will be available in Crackdown 2, but this time around, up to four people will be able to join forces to help take down the undesirables in the city. Last, but certainly not least, another first for the series will be the addition of competitive multiplayer modes – for up to 16 people.

Crackdown 2 multiplayer impressions

I consider myself as being one of those gamers out there who puts great gameplay above how well a game looks, but simply put, Crackdown 2’s environment comes off looking a bit flat. Hopefully for the hardcore fans of this series this is only an issue with the demo, but the more that I played the demo, the more I felt disappointed with the game’s presentation. The buildings throughout the playable section of the city look very nondescript, and have little to no texturing added to them. This, in turn, makes each and every building that you come across feeling about as bland as a bowl of unflavored oatmeal. With high-end, visually remarkable games like God of War 3, Red Dead Redemption, and Uncharted 2 on the market, one would think that Crackdown 2 should offer something along the same lines, but sadly, the demo does not offer such quality.

Along with the environments not offering much detail, the variety of enemies was poor. I noticed maybe four or five different looking mutants, and the same lack of variety can be said for all of the members of “The Cell” that are trying to shoot your Agent dead. It’s also worth mentioning the fact that the sounds of your weaponry firing sound pretty weak, all things considered. If I wanted to hear a pop-cap gun fire, I would walk down to the local toy store and buy one for $2.50, and save myself an additional $57.50. These are but a few problems with the game that I encountered, which I hope for the Crackdown faithful, will be a non-issue once the full version of the game lands in July and the entire landscape of the city is opened up for complete exploration.

Crackdown 2 agility

Released on June 21st to Xbox Live Gold members, the Crackdown 2 demo offers 30 minutes of exploration in the Hope Springs section of the city. Also included with this demo is the ability to unlock more than a handful of the retail game’s achievements, and they’re “officially” unlocked once the full version is played on your Xbox 360 for the first time. Personally speaking, if I didn’t find the overall variety of enemies to be so meager and the backgrounds so bland, I probably would have tried much harder to unlock a few of these pre-release achievements. Simply put, I found this demo to be a hundred times more boring than the Crackdown 1 demo that I played almost three years ago. Again, I hope that these gripes I have with the game aren’t a problem with the full version; otherwise it could very well be one of the fastest Gamefly rental turnarounds I have yet to encounter.

Crackdown 2 multiplayer

The Good: Thirty minutes of exploration is available, and running people over with vehicles is still loads of fun.

The Bad: A weak variety of on-screen enemies, an overly bland environment, and lame sounding weaponry.

The Verdict: Worth a download if you’re into unlocking achievements before the full version releases in a few weeks.

Written by N3GAT1VE_CR33P

Red Dead Redemption Part 1: How the West Kicked Your Ass

Red Dead Redemption

I am a big fan of the Western, and it has always been a big mystery to me as to why no one had made a good Wild West video game. Red Dead Revolver and Gun were fun, but it wasn’t a masterpiece or anything I wanted to stick with for a long time—definitely not something I would recommend to the average gamer. Rockstar must have listened to my dreams (it probably helped that I told them I was from the Make a Wish foundation and wanted a western game before I died). Red Dead Redemption is awesome and enormous, packed with enough content that even a saloon prostitute would shudder at the enormous size of content. This game is so big, in fact, that I have to divide up my review into two parts.

So let’s talk multiplayer.

Rockstar has been hit or miss for multiplayer experiences in my book. Their games always have intriguing multiplayer ideas but bad executions. For instance, Grand Theft Auto 4’s lobby system was interesting, but since everyone always gunned each other down, no one moved past the starting re-spawn area. The only way to explore the entire metropolis was to join a free roam match, which made the lobby system feel a little pointless in my mind.

Red Dead Redemption alleviates this problem by making Free Roam the lobby system. The entire map is your lobby, but the area is far more than just a lobby. Scattered throughout the world are gang hideouts and hunting grounds. Gang hideouts are areas where players take on gang members in shootouts. Some of these are straightforward—kill everyone and then kill their reinforcements—while some offer more of an objective. One gang hideout, and a personal favorite, involves moving a mine cart out of a mine to a secure location. Players push the cart down a track while trading fire with gang members. It’s a fun experience, and even more fun with a few friends.

Drive by

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Battlefield Bad Company 2: If Playing this is Bad, I don’t Wanna Be Good

I want you to forget right now about thinking of Bad Company 2 as “the other shooter.” It is not the “alternative” or the “black sheep” or “the competition.” Bad Company 2 is the game by which all other online shooters should base themselves off of.

Wow, I’m glad I got that off my chest. Those are tall words, but it is my job as a reviewer and not some fanboy to explain why. Because when I say this is the most fun I’ve had online since I found out about pornography, I’m not exaggerating.

The box for Bad Company 2 says it all: “Defining Online Warfare.” Any good online shooter boils down to two things: the maps and the weaponry, and thankfully, Bad Company 2 delivers on both.  Each gun has its own place in the game, thanks in large part to the game’s smart class system. For every class, there is a certain gun selection. On top of that, the class also has attached to it an item that caters to that play style. For example, if you like assault rifles, you should select the Assault class, which focuses on shooting and leading the charge, but also comes with a portable ammo crate that resupplies not only you but your friends.

"A little C4, nothing to it"

These tactical items, as I like to call them, cleverly trick players into working as a team even when they don’t mean to. For example, if a medic drops a health pack down on the ground, it remains there long enough to heal him and anyone else on the team that happens to walk by. More importantly—and thankfully—the game provides incentives to players to work as a team: I’ve actually earned more experience points from healing my friend’s tank than from trying to kill enemies. The ability to spawn on squad mates solidifies the necessity for teamwork. Why spawn at a base when you can spawn on your friend right outside the enemy’s?

Compared to any other shooter, Bad Company 2 has the best leveling up system. It is more akin to the Elder Scrolls series than to other games in the genre. Every time you perform an action, you gain experience points, but those points only go towards the class. This way the game does not have some arbitrary progression but a more logical one: want to be a better sniper? You don’t have to work to level 52 to unlock a new gun. Just keep playing as a sniper and you’ll get one.

The maps are like a work of art. To be more precise, they are Jackson Pollock paintings, with the perfect amount of order and chaos. Particularly in the fantastic Rush mode, the action is constant and well-paced. The fighting gets more frantic the closer one side gets to victory, and the tension is palpable. In Rush mode, one team defends two points at a time while another side attacks. The attackers have a limited number of lives, and if the defenders fail to defend the first pair of bases, the map expands, presenting the attackers with two more, until they have reached the defenders’ final bases. These Rush maps are big enough to provide the attackers and defenders with breathing room while still keeping the action focused on one area. The other mode, Conquest, should be familiar to veterans of the Battlefield series, and the action is pretty much like you remembered it.

Pollock painting? Or Alpha-Stage map concept art?

One of my favorite parts about multiplayer was how it walked the fine line between absurdity and realism. Does it make sense to load up an ATV with explosives and detonate it in a crowd of people? No. Does it make sense that you can spawn magically on anyone in your squad? No. Does it make sense to wait for a tank to run over a line of C4 you have hidden on the road? No. But it’s awesome, and in the world of Bad Company 2, it makes perfect sense.

Simply put, after playing this game, I have found my online shooter. If this is bad company, I don’t know what’s good anymore.

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