Fallout 3 (Xbox 360) E3 2008 Preview

Developer/Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

The Xbox 360 version of Fallout 3 made an appearance at E3 2008 in Bethesda’s meeting room. Gamersmark, along with a select few others, was given the opportunity to play for exactly 30 minutes. While a half hour isn’t exactly a long time to be playing a game of this size, it definitely does let you get enough of a taste and a feel for what the game will offer.

Fallout 3 takes a first person shooter approach to the RPG genre. This approach is unique since we don’t see many AAA games that combine those genres. As such, it is really vital to use the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, better known as the VATS, which essentially makes the game into a 3D-Tactical RPG. The VATS is very important to use as most of the enemies you encounter will be hard to shoot in a normal FPS way. Using the VATS depletes an AP counter in the bottom right-hand corner. When you run out of AP, you’re able to shoot the enemy using your traditional FPS skills until it recharges. Couple this with a chance that the shot you make doesn’t even go straight, on account of your weaponry slowly degrading with use, and the VATS becomes a necessary element of gameplay. We definitely found it difficult to shoot when outside of the VATS.

The gameplay pauses and allows you to choose your target carefully while using the VATS. A percentage will appear for the different body part you want to shoot at and tell you what the chances of hitting it is. You might want to disable an opponent by shooting out their legs so they can’t run away or shoot them right in the head if they’re about to beat you with a baseball bat. Depending on how much AP you have, you can tell your character to shoot up to four different times – this may change if they let you get more AP or if shooting with different weapons costs more AP.

The only weapons we were able to find and use were a couple of different pistols. The shooting was pretty fun though, as every time you use the VATS system it goes into a cinematic slow-mo shooting sequence. The camera follows the bullet as it shoots through your gun and into your enemy. When you shoot normally, you won’t see any of that. We’re not sure if there is a way to turn it off, either. Visually, reloading seems a little funky – we couldn’t really see what was going on too well for the pistols we used. You also have a flashlight at your disposal at all times, since it is attached to your Vaul-Tec console.

While we weren’t able to explore the world in-depth, the game itself looked expansive while we ran around the desolate area that was once a city. There are tons of dead trees, rocks, burned out cars and radioactive water. You could technically call the game a post-apocalypitc Oblivion. The content itself, however, is all about Fallout, so it should be pleasant for series fans once they adapt to the new way to play the game. We were also able to venture into Springvale Elementary and explore the burned-out and barely recognizable remains of the school.

There weren’t any noticeable frame rate drops while playing, which is a pretty big change from Oblivion. The graphics are okay, and the sound is also enjoyable. Some textures aren’t exactly that great, but the scale of the game is quite large, excusing some of the graphical inconsistencies. Looking out over the expanse of the desolate wasteland is something lends a feeling of awe, similar to the first time we walked around the world of Oblivion.

There are a lot more features in Fallout 3 that we didn’t get to experience. Perks, repairing weaponry, finding gear, choosing whether or not to be good or evil; there are so many things that the game will offer. Fallout 3 will definitely appeal to anyone who liked Oblivion, or want to experience something in the Fallout universe.

 

 

Resistance 2 (PS3) E3 2008 Preview

Developer: Insomniac Games | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

At E3 2008, I had the opportunity to extensively play the multiplayer mode in Resistance 2. The demo was a 60-man multiplayer game, full of Sony and Insomniac Games employees. The single player demo was only available in a limited-access Sony meeting room.

The map we played on was pretty large and looked like a destroyed mountain town. There were cars strewn about, large holes and vastly different areas to see. There was a lumberyard as well as cabin houses surrounded by lots of trees and water.

The gameplay itself is largely intact from the original Resistance. There are a few things however that felt downgraded – at least from what the demo gives the impression of so far. The Chimera themselves seem to play more like the Human characters now. The Human side basically has the same benefits as the Chimera. All characters are able to use one of several special Chimera abilities called “Berserk.” Berserk powers are different depending on which side you’re on, but you are able to choose your weapon load-out and powers from the get-go. Berserk powers include things like invisibility (while not firing), increased health recovery, more ammo dropped and the like. A Chimera player starts out with one hedgehog grenade this time as well. While this evens the playing field, it feels like it sort of goes against what the first Resistance tried to accomplish.

Some weapons are a little different as well. A few of them got a face-lift, like the Auger and Bullseye. The M5A2 and Rossmore look the same, though. There are also one or two new weapons that are new, namely the Marksman, and the HE Magnum. The Wraith is also allowed for use in multiplayer, which was only available after you completed your primary run-through of Resistance: Fall of Man.

Oddly, I didn’t notice any rocket launchers. It could have just been the game mode, but it seems logical that the Wraith is replacing it. Or perhaps you just don’t start out with a rocket launcher and must find it on the map before you can use it. The Auger makes a bubble shield now instead of a door-shield, which seems weird, but it makes it easier for shooting through at different angles. The handgun is hard to aim precisely with, though adjusting the sensitivity might fix that. The new shotgun feels worthless; even if you’re at point blank range, you’ll have a hard time trying to kill someone.

Something I find very disappointing in contrast to the original Resistance is that you can only hold on to two weapons at a time, meaning you have to switch weapons lying on the floor for the one you’re currently holding. I enjoyed being able to use any weapon I found on the ground, as it was different than what most popular shooters nowadays like to do.

The game seems to emphasize strategy less than the original in this build. I’m hoping that element of the multiplayer isn’t lost when all is said and done. The map we played was just a big open map with a few interesting elements, but in the end it felt like a run-of-the-mill FPS map to me, which is also sort of disappointing considering the first game’s maps all had something unique about them.

Resistance 2 looks good for a third-generation PS3 title. The most obvious comparison I could make was against Killzone 2, which was right around the corner, though the games have vastly differing art styles. Here’s hoping that the single-player mode has some nice things in store as far as level design and character design.

During my play time, I had an unusual seven-kill spree. I was quite an avid Resistance player when I first purchased my PS3, and I’m definitely looking forward to playing Resistance 2’s multiplayer. However, Resistance 2’s single player will be the most compelling aspect when it comes to retail.

The demo didn’t let me customize controls, but one of the exhibitors said they’re still going to add more stuff to the options menu. Pressing R3 for melee was less comfortable than pressing X. You can also now shake the controller to perform a melee attack, which is a fine use for the Sixaxis motion control.

People who liked the first Resistance will probably like Resistance 2. It might appeal to more people because it aligned itself closer to the elements of today’s popular shooters. Since the single-player mode aims to continue the story-line, we can expect to at least learn a little bit more about the world that is created in the Resistance games.

 

Persona 3 (PS2) Review

Developer/Publisher: Atlus || Overall: 9.5/10

Persona 3: FES is the answer to any RPG gamer’s beckoning for a true, hardcore RPG. In recent years the non-turn-based “Action RPG” has mostly taken over the genre, moving away from the pen-and-paper games they originated from. Developed and published by Atlus, Persona 3: FES is the expanded version of last year’s Persona 3, featuring a whole new story arc and an ending to the whole storyline.

Separated into two parts (The Journey and The Answer), Persona 3: FES includes both the original game and expansion released in Japan on the same disc. Taking advantage of a re-release, Atlus added new Personas, events, and other small enhancements to the main game that you wouldn’t have seen in the original version. If you hadn’t played the original version, you won’t notice the difference at all. If you have a Persona 3 save, you’re able to import it into a new game of The Journey to play/replay it, or just skip it altogether and go right to the expansion, named The Answer.

Put simply, Persona 3 is a game about a group of high school students who have powers called “Persona.” A Persona allows its user to do lots of things like use magic, special attacks, and other stuff an RPG normally lets you do. Essentially, the game could be thought of as two separate but equally important parts: one part of the game, you are going to school, the other part you are fighting monsters.

While at school, you are able to build relationships and gain more power for your Personas with Social Links. Social Links are basically little storylines with particular people you meet. About 20 Social Links are available to explore, and you’ll have to tread carefully as going out with two girls at the same time might lead to putting one of those Social Links in trouble. Make a wrong decision in any of your Social Links, and they’ll be stuck in a rut. In addition, you have three types of statuses: Education, Charm, and Courage. You’ll have to build them up to an appropriate level to discover new Social Links. The most interesting part about this part of the game is that you literally go through every day and choose which events to partake in, just like a normal high school student in Japan may. There is about one year of time to play through, which means nearly 365 days to experience. On the average, it takes me about 10 to 15 minutes to complete each day, not including trips to the dungeon.

The real meat of the gameplay is certainly in the dungeon crawling, which happens during The Dark Hour, a time that most humans are not aware of. With a maximum of four people in your party, you will climb ever-higher in a massive tower called Tarturus, trying to solve the mystery of the tower and the existence of The Dark Hour. The goal at large is to defeat the enemies called the Shadows, who are wreaking havoc on humanity in the local area but could escalate to posing a threat in a larger scope.

You journey through Tarturus, gain more levels, complete mini-quests (called Requests), find loot, and beat the ever-living crap out of all the enemies you encounter. That is the game in a nutshell. Similar to the other Shin Megami Tensei games, you have control over “monsters,” but in this case they are called Personas and are your allies in the struggle against the Shadows. The key to victory in any battle is finding and exploiting your enemy’s weakness and defeating them as fast as you can by using the appropriate skills. There is also a Persona Fusion system, which you can use to create new Personas. Fans of the series will find that this is pretty standard for the series and not that hard to grasp. Every time there is a full moon, you’ll encounter a unique boss fight that breaks up the pace of the game a little bit.

Your main character is a more-or-less mute character that relies on the choices you make to communicate to the other characters in the story. Even further, the choices you make impact your Social Links and, at times, story as far as what other characters say. Usually you don’t have a second chance to choose what to say, so you’ll have to choose wisely.

The art in the game is pretty nice; you’ll feel as if you’re in an anime, as it’s mostly cel-shaded. Occasionally you’ll be treated to an animated cut scene, but they are few and far between. There are quite a few “events” where story takes places, as well as voice acting. The voice actors are almost certainly very enjoyable to listen to, except a couple who are just sort of lame-sounding. In particular, I don’t like the voice acting for the character of Ikutsuki, who is the chairman of the high school the main characters attend.

Music is somewhat of a concern, as it sounds Japanese Pop-like. It can get on your nerves since you’ll be hearing the same songs constantly over and over. Probably the worst part is that the songs you hear the most have lyrics, and if you actually listen to them, they are embarrassingly bad, especially the Battle Theme. There are some very cool tracks to listen to, however, so it’s not a total waste as far as the soundtrack goes.

A lot of time is to be had playing the game. The Journey itself probably would clock in at around 80 to 100 hours (or even more) if you take your time and enjoy it. With the additional episode called The Answer, boasting around 30 hours of extra playtime, the value is there, as long as you like the game to begin with. There is also a “New Game+” sort of thing, so you can replay the main storyline as many times as you like.

To explain what The Answer is without spoiling it, The Answer is a perpetual Groundhog’s Day, in which the main characters repeat March 31, 2010 over and over and try to figure out how to stop it after the events of The Journey. Since the same day is repeated, the whole “go to school” thing is pretty much eliminated from the gameplay and you almost exclusively dungeon crawl. Unfortunately, it seems like a few things you are used to from The Journey are taken out, I’m sure for the sake of the story, but in the end it feels like you’ve lost features.

Persona 3: FES is a massively enjoyable game that can be taken in small doses. A lot of time can be spent with it, and while it may be daunting to undertake a nearly 100 hour game, the hours will seemingly fly by since the fast-paced nature of the gameplay makes it seem like you’re actually in high school, developing friendships and hitting on the babes.

 

Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening Special Edition (PS2) Review

Developer/Publisher: Capcom || Overall: 9.0/10

The Devil May Cry series has been one of the more talked about games recently with the release of Devil May Cry 4, all with the exclusivity to Sony platform being thrown up into the air – but back in the day where none of that mattered, there was a game called Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition for the PS2. The Special Edition is the refining of the original game, Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening, and includes a bunch more goodies that the first version didn’t have, as well as a shuffling around of the difficulty modes. Usually action games peak out around ten or fifteen hours, but it’s easy to spend at least twice that with Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition.

Put simply, Devil May Cry 3 is an action game with horror and gothic elements. It’s not exactly scary, but the game goes back to its roots after Devil May Cry 2’s “offensive” locale. Not only that, but there is an actual story that you can comprehend, unlike any of the other games in the series up to this point. Though the story is actually worth its weight in words this time around, the main appeal comes from the gameplay itself, and it speaks volumes. Unlike most games, Normal mode isn’t for the faint of heart, and even that is considered “easy” by the original version of Devil May Cry 3’s standards.

The Devil May Cry series doesn’t have a combo system utilizing different buttons like in God of War. There is one button to use your melee weapon (typically a sword), one button for your guns, and one button for a special move. Used appropriately, you can string together all the different types of attacks to lay some serious hurt on the demons and rack up some impressive combos. Unlike Devil May Cry 2, you’ll have to hit the square button over and over if you want to shoot Dante’s guns (in Devil May Cry 2, you could just hold it down and it’d fire). As far as Dante’s pistols go, the faster you hit the square button, the faster he’ll shoot them. As you get different weapons, they all have their own firing rates, so clicking the button as fast as you are able to does not help you all the time. Melee weapons follow a bit different logic, however. A melee weapon has two or three different combos that rely on the timing of your button pushes. This can change a little from weapon to weapon, but it’s basically the same execution. In total, there are five guns and five melee weapons for Dante to acquire through the game.

The circle button comes into play when you want to use one of Dante’s Styles. The basic styles are Trickster, Swordmaster, Gunslinger, and Royalguard. Trickster allows you to make use of dashing and running up walls, which I found to be practically useless. Trickster is a hold-over from the circle-button command from Devil May Cry 2, but Devil May Cry 2’s execution in that regard was leagues better. Swordmaster is a bit more useful, and allows you to do some cool stuff with your sword (like throw it) once it levels up. Gunslinger is the one I used the most, and allows you to do quite a few things, like shoot your guns faster, charge them, and target two targets at the same time. Not to mention spin in the air like a tornado while shooting your gun! Gunslinger is by far the coolest of all the styles. Royalguard is kinda boring and only blocks. If you block enough, you charge up some power and can release it onto an enemy to kill them. It’s sort of ineffective at times, because you’ll still get damaged, and it’s not really smart to take damage since it’s very hard to find something that heals you. Other styles are acquired as the game goes on, but for about 80 percent of the game you’ll be stuck with those four. The more advanced styles you gain later on don’t allow you to level up at all.

The graphics are pretty nice for a PS2 game, but do sort of show their age as we get further into the current generation of consoles. The voice acting is not terrible at all, so that is something to be thankful for. The sound effects are good, but the music is where the game lacks. Every time you’re near an enemy, a cheesy battle score with horrible lyrics starts playing. I hated the song by the end of the game and tried to just ignore it, unfortunately to no avail. It would have been nice if they didn’t have such a horrible song, but what can you do? The story is good, and really the first competent piece of writing the series has shown after the first two games.

Overall, the game is very hard, even at the Normal difficulty. The easy difficulty allows for less experienced action gamers (or people who just suck at games) to get into the game to actually beat it and *gasp* enjoy it. Even hardcore gamers will probably at least take a pass through all modes of play the game has to offer, as it’ll add towards fully completing the game in every facet. Once you finish the game, a new gameplay mode called Bloody Palace will be accessible, not to mention being able to play as Dante’s brother Vergil in a new game. There’s plenty of stuff to unlock, so you’ll be playing the full game quite a few times, although it’ll be easier after the first time since you’ll know how to figure out all the puzzles.

Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition is a good game to play if you’re into action games. Since it has been out for a while now, you’ll be able to find it at a very cheap price. The Devil May Cry box set includes all three of the PS2 games in the series, and it’s a good value. Regardless of your feelings toward the second game, you’ll get a loaded action game in Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition.

 

Devil May Cry 2 (PS2) Review

Developer/Publisher: Capcom || Overall: 8.0/10

Devil May Cry 2 has somehow achieved the reputation of being the worst game in the Devil May Cry series, and there is no one out there who would recommend playing the game after the third and fourth games came out. Most people just say skip it. I’m here to tell you otherwise — Devil May Cry 2 is not that bad of a game. Sure, it might have a few flaws, but Devil May Cry 2 is a superior game to the first Devil May Cry in practically every way except the location.

The original Devil May Cry started out as a Resident Evil game, as most people know. It’s probably safe to assume that Devil May Cry 2 started out as some other game that was transformed into a Devil May Cry game with Dante slapped into it. That may or may not be the case, but it’s probably better for it, since I didn’t really enjoy the first Devil May Cry game as much as some people. The only thing the first Devil May Cry still has going for it is level design. In the first game Dante talked — not so much in the second one. But it’s a blessing when compared to the end of the first game where Dante becomes a prissy pony (read: not a badass).

Devil May Cry 2 didn’t have that great of a story, or anything that even resembles a story to tell you the truth, but I found that the gameplay was tremendously improved from the first game. Dante’s guns are Automatic, similar to the first game’s Easy Automatic. Unlike the first, it doesn’t feel like a machine gun and the animation is a lot smoother. Dante can now run up walls, and also dodge while pressing the Circle button. Out of the first three games, dodging has been executed optimally in Devil May Cry 2.

As far as the actual game goes, there are plenty of missions — a little more than 20. Not only that, but you can play as a second character right off the bat, named Lucia, who basically goes through all the same levels in a different way. Nonetheless, there is a lot of content to be mindful of even if there aren’t any extras. Lucia is a bit boring, however, so you might as well just stick with the Dante disc and forget there is a Lucia disc unless you want to see a French ninja girl jump around.

Basically what people hate about the game is that Dante doesn’t talk very much, the story makes absolutely no sense and you’re running around urban environments for the majority of the game. There is truth to all of that, but that line of thinking glosses over the actual gameplay. As far as that goes, lots of people think it was a piece of cake. It could be considered that, especially compared to the other games, but I had a difficult time enough as it was, so it depends on what kind of gamer you are when it comes to difficulty preference.

The graphics and sound are quite improved from the first game, but the first had better art and design than the second. There weren’t any bad frame rate dips at all, and of what little voice acting there was of Dante, it was fine. The annoying voice actors are probably just about everyone else in the game, but you get over it since they barely ever talk anyway.

Devil May Cry 2 might not be the best game ever, but it certainly is NOT one to skip over if you want to see the evolution of the series. As much as fans and even Capcom itself might want to ignore its existence and say to just “skip it,” it would be quite the mistake. If you like to see how the game series evolved, Devil May Cry 2 should at least be given a try.

 

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 (PS3) Review

Developer: Yuke’s Media Creations / Publisher: THQ Inc. || Overall: 5.0/10

The SmackDown Vs. Raw series has been around for a while. With its long-since forgotten relatives WCW/nWo World Tour and WCW/nWo Revenge on the N64, THQ’s wrestling formula hasn’t changed all that much from those days. It may have a new coat of paint and an updated roster, but SmackDown Vs. Raw 2008 can’t hold a candle to the original wrestling games that fans played to death when they were released.

SmackDown Vs. Raw is basically a 3D fighting game in its core foundation. While it’s not exactly “traditional” in that there is a life bar, the concept is still the same – beat the crap out of your opponent and make him wish he was never born. Wrestling games are a lot slower than normal fighters, because they try to mimic “real life” wrestling, whatever that may be. In SmackDown Vs. Raw 2008, you take control of wrestlers with practically no personality (that is, if they had any in the first place) and typically win by submission or three-count pin-fall.

In the game, you have some basic moves. You can punch, kick, smack, slap, run, weak grab, or strong grab your opponent to lay the hurt down on them. If you’ve played any wrestling game by THQ, most of it has remained unchanged over the years. The only thing worth commenting on if you haven’t played one of these games for a long time is that once you grab your opponent, you can execute a move by flicking the right analog stick in a certain direction to perform a specific move in your current character’s repertoire. While it isn’t as straightforward as pressing a button, it seems a bit more intuitive since you are mimicking a move as your character does it, in a way. If you get a hang of the fighting system, you might be able to have a good time with the game, as there is a lot of stuff to do if you really put your mind to it. If the system doesn’t really appeal to you, it’ll be hard finding your money’s worth if you’re a newcomer to wrestling games. You’ll also be furiously hitting on all buttons way more than you’d probably like to, so get ready to give your fingers a workout.

SmackDown Vs. Raw 2008 is the first game in the series to appear on the PS3. The 2007 version was canceled, to WWE’s major dismay, and you can see that there are still many kinks that didn’t get finished or optimized to a satisfactory standard. At the top of the list are the loading screens. Holy crap, there are a ton of loading screens in this game. Every time you start a match, there’s a loading screen. Before you even get to PLAY the match you just waited through the loading screen for, you have to go through three forced loading screens, even if you don’t want to watch the opening entrances of the wrestlers. It is so annoying to sit through what seems like five minutes of loading just to play a match – and worst of all, you can’t even turn the wrestler’s entrances off so you can avoid all that extra loading. Or if there IS a way to turn it off, they didn’t make it easy to find since I couldn’t find it in the Options menu at all.

As far as game modes go, there is a very barebones “career”-type mode called WWE 24/7, which is new to the series. In WWE 24/7, you can take a WWE Superstar or a created wrestler of your choice through a bunch of shoddy barely-thought-through storylines (and you thought the actual storylines you see on TV were bad?) with canned animations, e-mails that have voice-overs, e-mails that don’t have voice-overs, and spending money to unlock opening entrances (goody, more load times!). Online is also horribly laggy, and I always seem to be at a disadvantage against other players online because they somehow mastered the non-responsive controls in online mode and take advantage of the lag people get to absolutely dominate you. That’s probably beside the point, though, which is that it’s completely not worth playing against a human since there’s barely a difference in the satisfaction you may get from pinning an AI player. I guess it’s also worth mentioning that practically every wrestler you’d want to wrestle with is included in the game, as well as the ECW roster, making its debut this year.

Graphics are “meh” at best. Horribly annoying canned animations give absolutely no personality to any of the wrestlers you see, even though there are unique entrances for all the WWE Superstars. A limitation in WWE 24/7 mode seems to be that there can only be four characters on screen at the same time, and often there is no continuity between the story and what you see in the animations between characters. They are just replaced randomly with other wrestlers, so you’ll see the same scenes over and over. It might also be a boon that some of the models in the game look like the real wrestlers, but some of them look very off, like Edge. The sound is okay at best as the music can get kind of repetitive. The voice-overs are done by the actual wrestlers and personalities from WWE, so credit should be given for actually getting the real people to come in and donate their talents towards the project, although you might get sick of just about everyone’s voice by the time you’re through with WWE 24/7 mode.

In the end SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 is probably not worth your time. If you really commit to putting time into the game, you’ll be able to find a lot of content to busy yourself with. However horribly executed it may be, there is still a lot of playing time to be had. If you’re a long time fan of the series and you’ve stuck with it this far, you’re probably getting what you expect from a yearly “sports” title, but don’t hold your breath if you expect to find something redeeming in this year’s edition of SmackDown Vs. Raw. Maybe the 2009 edition of the game will have a fleshed out WWE 24/7 mode that will actually be worth playing, as it did show promise of becoming an interesting play mode.

 

Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds (PS3) Review

Developer: Clap Hanz / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment || Overall: 9.0/10

Sony Computer Entertainment’s Hot Shots Golf series has entered into the next generation in Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds. Out of Bounds is an arcade-style golfing game developed by Clap Hanz in Japan. While not everyone will get the appeal of the inherently Japanese-styled characters, beneath what you see is a very meaty, fun, golfing game that provides entertainment for a very long time. An all-new online mode is introduced in Out of Bounds and adds a distinctive layer to the series.

The first thing anyone sees when they put their copy of Out of Bounds into their PS3 is an installation screen. Even though the game takes about a 4 giga-BITE (get it? okay, sorry) out of your hard drive space, it’ll be well worth it since the game runs like a dream from hole to hole. The only time you’ll see a load screen in this game is right before you start a new game, and only for a few seconds. Whatever your philosophy on mandatory installs may be, it is very nice to play a game where there is minimal time spent with loading, leaving more to actually playing.

Traditionally, the Hot Shots Golf series’ shot system had worked by the “3 click” system. First, you start the power meter, click the X button when it got to the power setting you wanted, and then when the dial came back to the beginning, you hit the X button again, in an attempt to get the dial right on target to where it had began. It’s a pretty standard system found in most golf games prior to this one.

A new Advanced Shot system is described as a more “analog” way to play the game, judging the power of a stroke by how far the club is raised, and how straight the ball flies by a closing circle. In Out of Bounds, instead of forcing you to go with the new Advanced Shot system, they give you the option of using both, but do make it very encouraging to play with the Advanced Shot system since it is more advantageous than the Traditional Shot system in almost all ways except for judging exactly how far you want the ball to go. Spinning the ball in different ways allows you to take extra control over what the ball does, as well.

Essentially, the shot systems are the game. There are six courses that will challenge your mastery of the particular shot systems, with weather, special rules, or even competition against another golfer being tossed in the Challenge Mode of the game. Golfers each have their individual talents, and there 15 to choose from. Challenge Mode allows you to acquire new gear, golfers, and other items. Also, as you progress through Challenge Mode, new courses eventually open up. In Stroke Mode, you can select any of the various ways to play each course and modify the individual course however you like before you play. A multiplayer mode allows for local play, but the main multiplayer mode that will suck up your time is the online multiplayer mode. Online multiplayer is quite interesting in how it’s presented. Unlike most online games where you simply join a game and play, there is a whole lobby and chat system – you even get your own cute little avatar to jump around and interact with people in a multitude of visual chat rooms. All of that is quite novel, but the main point is to play games online, after all.

The online multiplayer is unique and not exactly 100% golf-oriented, but obviously the point of the whole lobby system is to join games and play. Normal games that are created by other people in the lobby that you are currently in can be joined and created on the fly. Tournaments require a little bit more planning. You have a set time that the tournament starts at, and you book your spot in the tournament well in advance before it starts. You might be able to find a tournament starting right when you’re looking to play or plan ahead and find a game that is four hours ahead.

Additionally, Tournaments are separated in different rankings, GF, G0, G1, and G2. GF doesn’t count for much (everyone can play), while G0, G1, and G2 allow you to rank up, starting from G2, and getting to G0. The more you play (and win), the higher ranking you’ll be able to get. You’ll have to keep winning to keep your online ranking, and if you don’t get enough points to sustain your rank, you could actually get demoted, so it keeps you on your toes, constantly competing against other players online. Tournaments feature up to 50 players. The downside of that is that there can be a lot of time wasted, as you wait for everyone to finish the hole.

Graphics are very nice, and smooth — practically no jaggies anywhere and the lighting effects are quite beautiful. The sound effects are satisfying, and so is the soundtrack. What really annoys from a presentation-standpoint is the voice-overs. The voice actors are just astoundingly bad. I’m only thankful that we don’t have to hear them speak actual dialogue to propel a story forward, not that there would be one since it’s a golfing game, but it’s a curious choice in the localization process. If the American voices annoy you enough, however, you can switch on the Japanese voices.

Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds is a great entry into the popular golf series. Its easy to get in to, and the concept is simple – get the ball in the hole with as few strokes as possible. There’s a lot of time to be spent with this title, and fans won’t be disappointed with either the offline or the online modes. Not only is the game satisfying and full of content, there is also the prospect of getting extra characters and courses through the PlayStation Store.

 

.hack//G.U. Vol. 2: Reminisce (PS2) Review

Developer: CyberConnect2 Corp / Publisher: Namco Bandai Games || Overall – 8.5/10

Continuing its engrossing story from the first volume, .hack//G.U. 2: Reminisce is the second in the .hack//G.U. trilogy. Acting more as a bridge between the beginning and the end of the saga, it makes sense that by the time you complete the game you’ll be left wanting more. If you made it so far as to finish the first game, you’ll want to dive in head-first after the almost-too-long wait for the sequel.

Reminisce is a great continuance of the adventure laid out in the first .hack//G.U. There are some story elements that will answer questions, while new ones will be raised in their stead. What you once thought to be Haseo’s ultimate goal turns out to be something completely different. Without spoiling too much of the story, all I can say is that even though you may have defeated Tri-Edge in the first game, think again if you believe he’s actually gone for good.

The gameplay is virtually the same as the first volume. However, there are slight improvements that alleviate some of the annoyances in the first game. First, there is the Skill Trigger, which allows you to change from Haseo’s currently equipped weapon to another weapon, depending on the skill you have equipped. The only thing bad about it is that you may not be able to use as many of the skills for a particular weapon as you may like. You can only ultimately equip 4 skills, leaving you to basically equip one skill for each weapon and an extra one that you like. With Volume 2, A new Awakening is available called Divine Awakening which allows you to time hits correctly using the power of your teammates and throw a concentrated burst of energy down on your enemies for a massive amount of damage. It’s quite different from any of the Awakenings that were present in the first game, and it is a welcome change to the gameplay.

As you progress through the game, new and stronger weapons will be available. This game allows you to go up to Level 100, as opposed to the first which only let you go up to Level 50. There is also a whole new arena to take part in, so you’ll be on the warpath for a little bit of the game. This time around, it’s not as huge a part of the story as the first was. The game packs a lot of drama and shows the first effects of what uncontrolled AIDA will do to The World, which is amplified to near anarchy near the end of the game.

Practically all the production values have been carried over from the first game. As I said in the review of the first game, they are very impressive in the way that the game almost literally looks like a 3D anime. Not only is the game presented as such, but the game’s structure itself is actually laid out as if you’re playing through episodes of an anime, a little chunk at a time. Many of the CG movies are noticeably better than the in-game graphics (especially because of the lighting they use), but it keeps the same style going. The CG movies are fantastic — they portray The World in such a distinctive way not possible through in-game graphics, and just like a little 10 year old boy, I’m actually excited when I get to watch one of the movies.

Obviously, those that had tried out the first game and disliked it will most likely not enjoy the second volume of .hack//G.U. Though, for someone that really enjoys the game, it is a worthy sequel to an already pretty solid game. As the story is the main reason to play the game, the gameplay still needs a little bit of a reworking before there can be a killer game in the .hack series. While the gameplay feels ultimately mediocre, the additions to it in .hack//G.U. 2 does make it a bit more interesting. In the end, .hack//G.U. 2 can really be summarized as more of Volume 1 with minimal changes to the way it plays. .hack//G.U. 2 is simply a progression of the story, with a lot more AIDA battles.

Fans of the first game who are engrossed in the story and enjoy the gameplay well enough to keep going with it will find an immensely enjoyable game. Now that Volume 3 has finally been released (this time only a few months after the last volume’s release), Volume 2 is a vital part of the .hack//G.U. trilogy that should not be missed. Though the game doesn’t have many noticeable improvements over the first, it is still a worthy purchase or, at the very least, a playthrough.

 

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The (PS3) Review

Developer/Publisher: Bethesda Softworks || Overall: 9.8/10

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion finally saw its release on the PlayStation 3 this past month. After a delay, a short period of time followed where nobody knew when the game was going to be released for Sony’s current-gen console (gotta start sometime, right?), but the wait was wholeheartedly worth it. Everything I could have wanted from the game and more is delivered with flying colors.

Up until getting my hands on Oblivion, I hadn’t spent much time with any western-style RPGs (I usually stick with the Japanese-influenced side of the genre), resulting in personal unawareness of The Elder Scrolls franchise. But, after hearing all the positive impressions about the massive amounts of features the game has to offer, I was excited to get a chance to play the franchise on a console I owned. While it is a port of the originally released PC/X360 version, Bethesda spent a good amount of time in development on it. As a result, the game runs very smoothly, and even has enhancements over the originally released versions to include more content as well as improving load times and other outstanding issues.

It should be noted that the same improvements are now available for the PC/X360 although you’ll have to buy the extra content as well as an expansion pack to get the upgrades. While the PS3 version does not have the downloadable content available for it yet, Bethesda plans on releasing them as time goes on.

For those who haven’t already played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on another platform, the game is a first person RPG, in which you can almost literally do anything you want. There is a main quest involving an alternative realm called Oblivion, but you don’t have to follow it at all. You can steal, dungeon crawl, travel the world, do one of the many quests you might acquire, become an assassin, become an arena gladiator – the world of Oblivion is packed with so many things to do its almost mind-boggling. You could spend 50+ hours in the game and not even take one step in the main quest. Most of my initial time was spent dungeon crawling and acquiring items to sell. It is really up to you what you decide to do in the vast game world.

For the sake of mentioning it, the game’s main quest begins as soon as you start the game. The Emporer, Uriel Septim VII is assassinated by a mysterious group as you help the Emperor escape. Its not good news when you “fail” (aka you will fail no matter what) but before that happens, you will be given a very important artifact called the Amulet of Kings. The Amulet of Kings is vital in stopping the demons (called Daedra) from Oblivion opening an Oblivion Gate and entering the world of Tamriel. This certainly doesn’t sound like it would be a fun thing to have happen.

Once you push the main quest forward a few events, Oblivion Gates will begin to appear randomly around the world. It is up to you to close the Oblivion Gates, since no one else is going to do it. Oblivion Gates will send you to a Plane of Oblivion, in which you can find a massive amount of powerful items you might find worthy to keep or sell. Once you complete an Oblivion dungeon, there is a stone that you’ll ultimately get that can be used to enchant your armor/weapons (which gives your existing items stat boosts). Needless to say, it’s a valuable prize.

While most of the game will take place in first person, there is a third person camera that is available by clicking the R3 button. It’s nice to have a different view every once in a while, just to see what’s around you as you are running around. Combat is best done in first person, however, as the third person view mode will still control as if you’re in first person. Weaponry ranges from swords, axes, bows, hammers, daggers, and a wide variety of magic. When you first create your character, you’ll have a chance to figure out what kinds of things you feel comfortable using, so you don’t have to worry so much about choosing the kind of weapon you’ll prefer.

Practically anything you do is reflected in gaining “experience” — you’ll gain it for just running around. There are a lot of breakdowns for the kinds of things to excel in, such as Athletics, Acrobatics, Destruction Magic, Blade, Sneak, and Mercantile, among others. Using skills enough will increase the level of that skill. Basically, you’ll be better at the skill, and if you reach certain thresholds, you’ll be able to do new things. When you first start out, you will choose seven major skills, with the rest becoming minor skills. Increasing your major skills, in any combination, by ten levels will result in a main level increase, in which you can choose three attributes that you want to boost. Depending on what you choose, your character can become more to your liking, if you want to focus on strength, magic, speed – it’s up to you. However, as your levels increase, so do your enemies’, so you’ll always be given a run for your money as far as combat goes, and it’ll never really get “easier” unless you have some really good armor/weaponry at a level you shouldn’t have them.

The graphics in the game are quite lovely. The most impressive part of the game is the world itself. It is amazingly detailed, and looks beautiful at certain times of the day. The dungeon-type areas are also impressive in their own right, as the careful detail shown throughout the main world is also apparent inside the dangerous areas beneath it. Several types of dungeons settings are in the game, like forts, caves, mines, castles, ruins, and others. The only thing that I can point out as bad is that there will be times where people will be quite literally radiating light, and I have to squint while talking to them. It’s about as funny as it is annoying. Speaking of the character design, most of the time they are fairly ugly – this isn’t a game full of beautiful people. When creating your character for the first time, it might be hard trying to find a character that actually doesn’t look like a freak of nature. Frame rate drops are a rare occurrence, but it can happen at times.

Sound is also another important part of the game. Every character in the game is voiced – every single one of them. You have the option to turn subtitles on or off, in case you don’t understand what they’re saying or if you want to speed read ahead of what they’re talking about so you can get on with the quest you’re on. The voice acting isn’t bad, but the only qualm is that there seems to be about seven or eight people that voice all the characters in the game. When there are thousands of characters in the game to talk to, it can become unappealing to hear the same few voices repeated. Patrick Stewart is featured as the voice of the Emperor, but he dies.

The soundtrack is also impressive. It’s all orchestrated, so it makes you feel like you’re in a fantasy movie battling all the different demon monsters and walking skeletons you’ll encounter. The only time there is no music, is when it’s used carefully to create a feeling of isolation, or something to that effect. Upbeat “battle music” will start playing if there is an enemy nearby, as well. There aren’t too many “theme songs” to really pick out from this game, but the title screen song is the most memorable of all.

An important part of the game to mention is the sheer amount of content you’ll experience if you intend to explore every nook and cranny there is to be offered. You can easily spend upwards of 200 hours in this game and still have more to do. The game is worth it at practically any price you can get it for, and it being the same price as so many of the other short games on the market today is really a testament to the amount of value you can get out of the same cash you could have spent elsewhere.

If you’re aching for a game to put some time into, Oblivion will certainly deliver if you enjoy western-themed RPGs. With seemingly an unlimited amount of things to do for a huge amount of time, it is certainly a must-buy. If you waited on buying the PC/X360 versions and have a PS3, it might be worth it to you to give Oblivion a shot on your Cell-powered machine.

 

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, The (SNES) Review

Developer/Publisher: Nintendo

Overview:

Ah yes. The absolutely amazing Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. This epic adventure was definitely one of the highlights of the Super Nintendo 16 bit era. Even today, this is still a good game, even when compared to the games coming out today.

Graphics:

The graphics are pretty damn good for Super Nintendo. Everything is easy to see, and has its own, unique style. The game itself is very colorful, and gives you a feeling like the world you’re in is alive.

Sound:

The music is great, the sound effects aren’t annoying. What else could you really want from a game?

Gameplay:

The gameplay is really fun. The battles are fun because you have to use what you have available to you whenever you’re fighting against something. When you use the menu screen though, it takes a little getting used to, because you don’t have to confirm your choice, all you do is move the cursor over to the item. The first time you open the menu screen, it may overwhelm you at first, but after you get used to it, it gets better. After a while, this game gets HARD, and you really have to be good at using a sword, and whatever other weapons you use.

Crappiest Part:

I would say the crappiest part in this game is not really being able to use the shield when you want to. You don’t have the same control over the shield as in the the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. The reason they probably did it like that was so you could have a secondary weapon and still have the shield up at the same time. So I guess you just have to not really rely on the sheild at all.

Overall Score:

This game is really good, and is surprisingly long for such an old one. There’s a lot to do, and a lot of secret rooms to look for during the game, which adds to the replay value.

10/10

 

War Against U.S. Terror, The (PC) Review

Developer: Paul Cartwright

  The War Against U.S. Terror (PC) (2.0 MiB, 711 hits)

Game by Paul Cartwright, made with Game Maker.

Overview:

The War Against U.S. Terror is probably the only Game Maker game made to make a political statement. But don’t hate it because it tries to be anti-American. Hate it because its so fucking hard. There’s millions of planes and units that the U.S. has against your own terrorist fighter plane, and believe me you’re going to die in real life before you ever beat all the levels in this game. The main point in the game is to help terrorists fight off the U.S. in all the major wars/battles/confrontations of the last 50 years or so, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. A few that are probably soon to come are tossed in as well, like Iran, North Korea, and Indonesia.

Graphics:

The graphics are good. The planes look pretty good, and its kind of funny how obvious it makes the planes to be owned by the USA, because there’s a huge “USA” printed across most of the planes. The only bad things I would say in this game, graphics-wise, would be the unrealistic red balls being shot out of the planes (but that makes it so you can see them), and the badly drawn infantry barreling out of the little forts that have a big “USA” on top of it. (It may as well be a big target, if you ask me…)

Sound:

The sound is very good. There’s a lot of explosions and gun firing. It might be a bad thing to play loud while there’s other members of your family in the house, because they’ll feel like they’re in a badly sampled war zone.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is the same as you would see in any other plane-killing-millions-of-units games, like 1942.

Crappiest part:

The crappiest part is how the menus and the commands are not very user-friendly. Instead of pressing “enter” on the menu screen to go to the option you selected, its the space bar. And when you press escape, you have to press “y” (for yes) to abort a mission, when there are no choices represented (like a thing saying Y/N?). These really are not hard things to fix, and is probably just a preference of the creator to do these weird things that are out of the norm, and needlessly complicated.

Overall Score:

This game is cool, and is definitely one of the better games I’ve seen made with Game Maker. Its very smooth, everything is blended well, and is made with a sense of humor (for example, the level descriptions). The tagline for this game is: Terrorists of the World, Unite!

9/10.

  The War Against U.S. Terror (PC) (2.0 MiB, 711 hits)

Game by Paul Cartwright, made with Game Maker.

 

Urisoft Monopoly (PC) Review

Developer: Urisoft

  Urisoft Monopoly (PC) (708.3 KiB, 648 hits)

Game by Urisoft, made with Game Maker.

Overview:

This is a recreation of the ever-popular Monopoly game. Instead of fake places like Monopoly has, this Monopoly has real countries (yay). So I can buy India for like 750 dollars. Ain’t that swell?

Graphics:

There’s no effort in making any thing. The only thing that is original is the board.

Sound:

There’s no sound. This is kind of bad, because it gets really boring after a while, with no music to shake your ass to while buying the countries of the world.

Gameplay:

Long and boring. You can’t trade property, buy houses, or nearly 3/4 the things you are able to do in Monopoly. And when you go to Free Parking, you lose 3 turns. Its free parking, why the hell would I have to stay there for three turns?! FREE PARKING IS GOOD, AND YOU PARK THERE CAUSE ITS FREE GODDAMITTT!

Crappiest Part:

The boringness of the game.

Overall Score:

When you get down to it, this game is just boring. There’s no way to trade your properties to other people or computers, like it is in the Monopoly games, so that makes it kind of limited to only two things you can do: roll your dice to move and pay money.

5/10

  Urisoft Monopoly (PC) (708.3 KiB, 648 hits)

Game by Urisoft, made with Game Maker.

 

Sexiest Hand II, The (PC) Review

Developer: Jazzuo Games

  The Sexiest Hand II (PC) (4.8 MiB, 702 hits)

Game by Jazzuo Games, made with Game Maker.

Overview:

If you’re wondering what happened to The Sexiest Hand 1, then let this be known to all that have been subjugated by the censor Gods: This is actually built on top of it, and it has it included basically. This is an imporved Sexiest Hand, with more levels and junk.

Graphics:

The drawings are original, except for the soccer ball. And I can’t really tell what that U shaped thing is. A pot?

Sound:

The sound is excellent. It boasts an original soundtrack made by the game creator himself. If you haven’t heard the title screen song, you should download it just to listen to it.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is pretty annoying. I can’t seem to get the hang of the mouse thing, and its almost a 1/1200235000433461“133 chance that you’ll get it in the u pot. But the more you play, you kind of want to play more because you want to get the damn ball into the damn pot thing.

Crappiest Part:

The crappy part is probably how it is kind of not fun. The file size is also really big because of the music.

Overall Score:

The game isn’t a very fun game, but I love the soundtrack, and I have to give a lot of points for it. Without the mustic it probably would have gotten a 3, but it gets a

7/10

  The Sexiest Hand II (PC) (4.8 MiB, 702 hits)

Game by Jazzuo Games, made with Game Maker.

And if you want to checkout the first Sexiest Hand:

  The Sexiest Hand (2.6 MiB, 711 hits)

Game by Jazzuo, made with Game Maker.

 

Table Top Soccer (PC) Review

Developer: Global Software

  Table Top Soccer (PC) (1.1 MiB, 682 hits)

Game by Global Software, made with Game Maker.

Overview:

This game takes ordinary table top soccer and makes it ordinary table top soccer…on your computer!

Graphics:

Nothing special here, but nothing special is really needed to pull off this game.

Sound:

The sound effects makes it feel like your at a real table top soccer field…which isn’t really….possible… It does get annoying after a while when the crowd keeps cheering after a score (especially when its for the other team 6 times in a row)

Gameplay:

This game is actually fairly fun, and is very good for a table top soccer game. Its not good to use only one hand for this game, as you may have delayed reactions sometimes, telling which finger to either press a, z or the space bar (which are close together), so its best to use a and z with you left hand and use the space with your right hand.

Crappiest Part:

What my score usually is at the end of the game (2 minutes long):

(I’m red)

Overall Score:

This delightful game is put very well together, and runs smoothly. Table Top Soccer on your computer will help us on our way to not having to play anything in real life ever again! I give it a:

8/10

  Table Top Soccer (PC) (1.1 MiB, 682 hits)

Game by Global Software, made with Game Maker.

 

Super Carrot (PC) Review

Developer: Urisoft

  Super Carrot (PC) (2.8 MiB, 669 hits)

Game by Urisoft, made with Game Maker.

Overview:

You are Super Carrot. Super Carrot is a really cool character and this game, coming from Urisoft, is really good compared to the other games this guy has made. Super Carrot starts out in Iraq, and he’s out to make ketchup out of all the tomatos, jump over boiling oil, and run over retractable spikes.

Graphics:

The graphics aren’t very special, but at least they’re mostly original.

Sound:

The music is pretty good, but the sound effects are really good…except for repetitive gun shot noise. Super Carrot sounds like a surfer, and he says all these cool things like “no respect!” or “see ya later alligator, wah!” and “die you mutha!” and “ya’ll die in hell!” and “I feel good!” and “I’m dead!”

Gameplay:

Simple enough. Space jumps and Ctrl shoots the magnum. You have to kill tomatos to get through the level and jump over boiling oil as well. Its sorta funny that Iraq just leaves their oil out like, y’know…and they put boards into the oil so you can jump across it, and its really hard to do that…yeah…

Crappiest Part:

The crappiest part would be how I can’t get past the retractable spikes in the 2nd level.

Overall Score:

This game is swell! This is probably Urisoft’s best game…ever… 8/10.

  Super Carrot (PC) (2.8 MiB, 669 hits)

Game by Urisoft, made with Game Maker.