Category Archives: Reviews

Titianfall Review – “less is still good”

[Editor's Note: This review was written before the release of any of the games downloadable content. Please understand that during this time, the site was going through some important changes editing wasn't not a priority when releasing this article before E3 2014.]

Exactly what is Titanfall? It’s a question I found myself pondering upon completing this origin project from Respawn Entertainment. Lucky, however, it doesn’t take long to find the answer to that question.

Titanfall is a brilliant new addition to the first person shooter genre; with nothing but the guts of a successful FPS on its shoulders. It’s exactly what you’ll want from a mech-based FPS–in addition to a foundation that’s so strong it would be criminal not for other games to borrow from it in the future.

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However, it doesn’t go without its faults, Titanfall isn’t prefect by any measures. Speaking of, the developers of Respawn really misstep with the campaign mode of Titanfall. Its not that it isn’t good; its just not memorable. Its because there are simply too many things going on the battlefield to focus on the story and the events happening during the campaign. But, like the old advantageous saying goes “regress to the mean.” It somehow overcomes these fault and/or missteps.

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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition Review “Justice fit for a King”

Legendary monster slayer Geralt of Rivia, one of the few remaining witchers, seeks to clear his name after being blamed for the murder of King Foltest of Temeria. But, somehow, Geralt becomes emerged in a political world filled with corruption and greed. This is the story behind The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition, an adventure which draws players into its dark fantasy world, and forces them to make difficult and laboring choices.

Though not as breathtaking as the PC version, the Enhanced Edition doesn’t mirror the resolution of it computer counterpart, as the shadows are less impressive and there’s a large amount of visible pop-in. However, the overall experience remains unchanged, and the game is still beautiful besides the notable limitations of the consoles.

Each of these elements are a testament to the world of The Witcher, a world alive and buzzing with activity. However, all that glitters is not gold, as the game features an extremely dark and adult overtone, as even elements the mortal condition are presents, including sex and love. This all tangled in a politically dominating plot, which involves so many individual characters that confusion is only natural. However, Geralt is here to ground everything.

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Because there’s so much happening story wise, characters and certain events could get lost in translation. But, one thing is clear, Geralt is going to do whatever it takes to clear his name, and bring justice to the murderer of King Foltest. However, that’s not all, Geralt will also meet a number of interesting characters along his journey, including a foul-mouthed dwarf named Zoltan and a misguided poet named Dandelion. These characters round out an interesting supporting class, each with their own unique personality.

Personality just happens to be an interesting platform throughout The Witcher, as the second act tells a completely different tale depending on choices made beforehand. Basically, every playthrough crafts its own individual outcomes, even going as far as changing the characters you’ll interact with, the enemy types you’ll face and the conversations throughout the game. These type of choices also play into combat, as Geralt can only use one of two swords, a silver and a steel sword depending on rather he’s facing monsters or humans.

In combat, switching between weapons and magic spells, called signs, and even drinking potions, determine the challenges of the battle ahead. However, there are times when the controls are unresponsive mid-combat leading to some untimely deaths. But, that is beside the point. It’s these three elements, weapons, spells and potions, which craft a unique and rhythmic combat system.

Closing Statement:

In hindsight, the Enhanced Edition is an excellent port of an already amazing game. However, the game didn’t make it to the consoles unharmed — because of the compromises that had to be made. But, the overall experience remains unchanged; it’s still a breathtaking experience. More importantly, every decision feels rooted into the experience because everything must be taken to with a microscope. Not only that, the game features an extremely rich amount of detail. Overall the game shouldn’t be missed.

Final Score: 8.7

Alpha Protocol Review “Weapon of Choice”

With its original 2009 release date delayed seven months to the day, Obsidian Entertainment’s much-discussed “espionage RPG” has been a long time coming – it’s not entirely surprising, given the game’s apparent ambition. Obsidian has maintained a clear emphasis on choice, citing a dynamic dialogue system, flexible mission structure and multifaceted narrative that are constantly informed by the player’s decisions. Fine words indeed, but now that Alpha Protocol has finally arrived, does it actually deliver?

Meet Michael Thorton, an agent newly recruited by the eponymous covert ops organisation Alpha Protocol; he’s drugged, tested and trained before being sent on a mission to assassinate the leader of an Islamic terrorist cell. His job becomes a little trickier, however, when he finds himself at the centre of an international conspiracy involving government corruption, illegal arms trafficking and mass murder. Betrayed, disavowed and hunted by his own country, Michael goes rogue as he searches for answers.

This is only the beginning of Alpha Protocol’s dense and intricately tangled narrative, one that encompasses a truly astonishing amount of variables. Every decision the player makes has consequences, either immediate or long-term, that can significantly alter the storyline. Which mission did you choose to complete first? Did you complete the previous mission without civilian casualties, or without being seen at all? Did you execute that small-time arms dealer, or spare his life in return for information? Even seemingly trivial actions have deceptive magnitude – a small mistake can easily develop into a catastrophe, while an exemplary display of tact or skill can bring unexpected windfalls down the line.

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Most of the crucial decisions are made during conversations with other characters, through the game’s Dialogue Stance System. This functions a little like Mass Effect 2’s dialogue wheel, as you are given a choice of reactions that steer the dialogue in particular directions, but the comparison isn’t entirely fair; whereas ME 2’s interactions were all measured by a simple moral dualism, Alpha Protocol’s system is considerably more complex. You can choose to be Aggressive, Suave or Professional, but there’s no universally “good” or “bad” approach – every character you encounter has their own individual temperament, and it’s up to you to judge which stance is most appropriate to the situation. Glib one-liners might impress your flirtatious handler, but they’ll hardly score you any points with a dour, tight-lipped corporate kingpin. The fact that you’re only given a few seconds to make each selection lends urgency to the exchange whilst keeping the dialogue running smoothly.

With so many tenuous relationships in flux, the storyline is continually overwrought with plot twists, double-crosses and lurid liaisons, but such devices are hardly unusual for the genre. The amount of planning makes the execution feel entirely deliberate; the developer knows, for example, that you won’t remember half the shady characters and organisations that are hurled at you in rapid succession, and the game helpfully arranges them into Intel dossiers that become more detailed as you discover more. You can even buy additional Intel between missions that will help you understand your adversary’s history and psychology, giving you a better idea of how to approach them. There are so many subplots and hidden agendas in play that by the time you’ve completed the game, you will only have experienced about a third of the entire content – Obsidian clearly wants to encourage substantial replay value by the sheer volume of narrative to explore.

As far as choice is concerned, Alpha Protocol’s plot and dialogue tick all the boxes. Unfortunately, the gameplay is altogether less innovative – once you actually jump into the action, the cracks become all too visible. When starting a new game, you can select from a number of basic ‘classes’ with pre-determined stats, or you can distribute them yourself if you prefer; specialties include stealth, hand-to-hand combat, sabotage, gadgetry and proficiency with each of the game’s firearms. While such customisation effectively allows you to mould the gameplay to your own personal tastes, it’s much too restrictive, as Michael is rendered almost comically inept at any skill he hasn’t invested points in. Stealth agents who bulk up their accuracy with the pistol will be silently capping guards in no time, but when forced into a firefight, they’re about as effective with a shotgun as Elmer Fudd. Forcing the player to engage their strengths and avoid their weaknesses is understandable to a degree, but the stats you’ve chosen too often play a greater role than your actual skill – Michael is supposed to be an accomplished agent, after all. You can, however, customise your weapon loadout with barrels, sights, clips and accessories that improve precision and stability, in order to counteract the worst areas of ineptitude.

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The cover system is also unreliable; parts of your body are exposed to the enemy even while you’re crouched behind a barrier, so you’ll still occasionally take damage. Once you “stick” to a wall or column, it’s also a little tricky to detach yourself, which can be incredibly frustrating if you’ve been biding your time for the perfect ambush. In spite of this, however, you won’t encounter much resistance from the enemy – almost by way of compensation, the game’s AI is hopelessly dim-witted and oblivious to your actions. Even if two guards are standing only a few metres apart, you can sneak up on one and drop him with a thud and a muffled cry without the other ever noticing, as long as his back is turned. Their peripheral vision is minimal; they might as well be humming with their fingers in their ears as they patrol in fixed patterns, stopping at regular intervals as if inviting an assailant to garrotte them from behind. There’s still a certain satisfaction to slipping into a room and clearing it without being seen, but an element of unpredictability would have made success more rewarding and less contrived.

The game’s graphics, which utilise Unreal Engine 3, are generally solid – be it sun, snow or sandstorms, each environment is well designed and features some striking weather and lighting effects. There are, however, moments when the camera breaks through walls, and some models have poorly-formed shadows that don’t give them a proper sense of weight. The facial animations don’t quite meet the emotional delivery of the dialogue, but it’s a triviality given that most of the characters are spies with well-trained poker faces. The worst offender by far is the bump mapping; the textures take so long to load that you’ll still see them being gradually applied well after the mission or cutscene has started. It’s incredibly distracting to watch a room full of unidentifiable shapes slowly come into focus while you’re trying to get your bearings. The game’s menus, however, are admirably stylish, particularly those in your PDA.

Closing Statement:

While any combination of these faults might ordinarily be regarded as a deal breaker, Alpha Protocol is far more than the sum of its parts. The gameplay and visuals would certainly have benefited from further fine-tuning, and yet the experience holds together with almost inexplicable cohesion. This is most likely due to the game’s exceedingly involved narrative, which exhibits far more polish; if only Obsidian had been as conscientious in all areas of its design, the game would have been truly engrossing. As it is, Alpha Protocol isn’t quite the paragon of self-determination that it had hoped to be – instead, it’s an intriguing hybrid whose divergent plot is the primary incentive for subsequent playthroughs. It’s a new franchise with room for refinement and growth; hew away the jagged edges and there’s definite potential for a sequel.

Final Score: 7.0

Alan Wake Review “It’s That Good”

There’s nothing more debilitating then the darkness; it’s unwielding and it emits an irregular feeling of discomfort, tension. However, when you turn a light, all the discomforts seem to dissipate. This is the primness behind Alan Wake; making the darkness dissipate. That in mind, Alan Wake, obviously, isn’t an childhood narrative of the dark; it’s the tale of a brave soul plunging into the darkness. Evidently enough, Alan Wake delivers on its promises — it delivering an “unforgettable” experience, etc.

Apparently, it’s hectic being a best-selling author, especially when you have cortical writers block. However, as soon as Alan Wake is given some “time away from it all”, he’s forced into the writing a new novel. A novel that, for some apparent reason, he doesn’t recall writing. Nevertheless, the novel spills from fictionalization, into realization. And, somewhere throughout the process, his wife, Alice, goes missing. Now, Alan Wake’s on a quest to solve the mystery behind his wife’s disappearance — and to uncover the pages of the missing manuscript.

Dark forces populating the night are a tradition form of storytelling element from throughout the horror genre. But, there are some unique storytelling elements throughout Alan Wake. The most interesting element being the manuscript pages. These pages relay foreshadowed events; giving the player an insight to the future and past events. There are also abandoned TV and radio sets. The television and radio broadcasts are particularly intriguing; and they also give the player insight to foreshadowing events.

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That said, there aren’t a lot of distractions that take the player off the beaten path, including collectibles. However, there are some vehicular segments that make the gameplay more diversified, but these segments feel out of place and monotonous. The vehicular segments just can’t compare to the on-foot combat. In terms of combat, the game takes advantage of two unique mechanics; light and weaponry mechanics. These mechanic aren’t only unique, but they add to the overall tension.

It’s because of these is an intuitive mechanics that the combat is so varied; basically, the more you progress, the more skills are needed to evaded attacking enemies and to dispose of them. This incentive mechanic truly intensify the experience, giving the game a bit more longevity, unpredictability. However, were Alan Wake truly shines is in the presentation department; there’s no doubting that Alan Wake is an impressive looking, sounding title. The in-game lighting is amazing, and the sound is top rate.

Nevertheless, though Alan Wake is a technological masterpiece, it lacks a climax and memorable moments. The beginning of the title sets the intension for the rest of the experience, but there are few instances were this intension is capitalized on. Thus sending sending the player into the predictable whirlpool; there aren’t too many unpredictable moments throughout. However, this isn’t to say that there aren’t different takes on the core action. It’s just that these situations don’t necessary count as “unexpected” moments.

Closing Statement:

It’s not the genre defining experience that we all were hoping for, but it’s pretty damn good. Remedy has truly developed a universe that’s truly unique, beside it sampling some from the elements within its genre — in the terms of atmosphere. Despite its flaws, Alan Wake is still a gripping, nerve-wracking experience. Though some may disagree, Alan Wake is a tough game to put down once you’ve started. That said, if you’ve haven’t already picked this up; rush out and purchase it.

Final Score: 8.4

Iron Man 2: The Video Game Review “Lead Balloon”

For all their respective triumphs, the film and video game industries have always shared a rather laboured and unhappy marriage. Each Hollywood blockbuster inevitably spawns a ghastly interactive twin, rushed to meet its release with the same opportunism as any other form of merchandising and watered down to appeal to wider cinema-going audiences. More considered adaptations, such as Rare’s iconic treatment of GoldenEye 007, have demonstrated that there are exceptions to the rule – unfortunately, Iron Man 2: The Video Game just isn’t one of them.

The game’s storyline (or lack thereof) picks up where the events of the film left off. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the movie – fans and newcomers alike will be absolutely baffled by the disjointed and poorly explained narrative. Tony Stark’s technology has once again been maliciously appropriated, this time by a nasty American industrialist who wants to meld himself with a 100-foot robot and use a weather machine to cause global storms. His actual motive for doing this is just one of many insoluble questions to consider as you travel across the globe, blowing up tanks, helicopters, Russian terrorists and a crazy Scotsman. There are no cutscenes to speak of; the glib, often cheesy dialogue between levels is delivered by cardboard cut-outs of the film’s actors that drift in and out of the foreground to indicate who is speaking. Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson reprise their roles, while other characters are impersonated with varying accuracy – Tony Stark’s voice actor is admirable, while Natasha Romanoff appears to have been voiced by a computer phonics program, so listless and robotic is her delivery.

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The Wii version of the game was developed by High Voltage Software, a company that prides itself as one of the greatest technical innovators on the console. It’s sad, then, that Iron Man 2’s graphics and level design are so explicitly underdeveloped, even by the Wii’s comparatively modest technical standards. While the game’s levels are distributed across such diverse and colourful locales as California, Russia, Budapest and Malaysia, they are all universally bland, grainy and uninspired; the textures and character models are rendered with such coarse simplicity that it often feels as if you’re playing an early Gamecube title. The environments feature few destructible elements, and these are fairly contrived – destroying the occasional deliberately-placed wall doesn’t make you feel powerful when, not two minutes later, you find that you’re incapable of breaking down a hotel room door. Given the game’s minimalism, it’s astonishing that the framerate still manages to falter at times, particularly during the on-rail flying missions.

Iron Man and War Machine are both playable, and they’ve apparently been designed to provide different play styles (agility and brute force respectively). You’re also able to upgrade and customise their weapons as you earn tech points, giving them new effects and applications. While these choices are clever in theory, they are really only cosmetic in execution; most enemies hurl themselves mindlessly against you, and they’re easily dispatched regardless of which weapon you use. Neither is there any great difference between the two heroes – they’re both equally awkward to control and have comparable firepower. The Wiimote’s IR sensor makes aiming relatively easy, though it can be a little sluggish at times.

Closing Statement:

There are, unfortunately, very few redeeming qualities in Iron Man 2: The Video Game. The suit customisation options and collectible “tech trophies” hidden throughout each level provide a marginal degree of replayability, but once you’ve played through the game once (which should take only a few hours), the tedious and unrefined gameplay offers little incentive for you to return. Even the most hardcore Iron Man fans should think carefully before purchasing this – they may not find their hero well served.

Final Score: 4.5

Monster Hunter Tri Review “Jaws, Paws, Horns and Claws”

On being sent Monster Hunter Tri, I was slightly chagrined to discover just how little I knew about the franchise – it is, after all, nothing short of a national sensation in Japan, where Tri has already been declared the country’s highest-selling third-party Wii game to date. Given the title (and the enormous aquatic dragon on the cover), it seemed a fairly safe assumption that I’d be hunting monsters at some point, but the specifics eluded me. Once I’d actually immersed myself in Tri, however, I soon discovered just how much I’d been missing.

The game begins in Moga, a sunny little fishing village whose tranquility is shattered by sudden earthquakes and coastal storms. The culprit is Lagiacrus, the aforementioned aquatic dragon; he seems to have found a new home in the region, terrorising local waters and roiling up the sea. To whom do good dragon-fearing folk turn in such a crisis? Why, you of course, a freelance hunter who (despite being an apparently reputable slayer of beasties) arrives in only his underwear, carrying a cheap sword and very little else. You’ll need legendary arms and armour to defeat your foe – to forge these, you’ll need the necessary parts, and to obtain the necessary parts, you’ll have to hack them off the necessary monsters.

My initial assumption was correct – in Monster Hunter Tri, you hunt monsters. You hunt an awful lot of them, in fact, from the humblest insectoids to the mightiest stone-plated, razor-taloned, fire-breathing behemoths. It’s a simple premise that’s remarkably addictive; kill monsters, strip their carcasses for parts, bring the parts to a Smithy, forge them into stronger weapons and armor, kill stronger monsters, get stronger parts, and so on. While this might seem like just another form of grinding, it never feels laborious, due in no small part to the enormous array of armaments that can be crafted. Whether you prefer your quarry slashed, cleaved, bludgeoned, skewered or shot from afar, there’s a suitable weapon for you to brandish and an armour set to make you look hardcore while brandishing it.

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You’re also saved from aimlessness by a basic quest system, which is included essentially to provide context and give a sense of purpose to each of your wilderness excursions. You’ll be contracted by “The Guild” on behalf of various townspeople to complete increasingly difficult tasks – these involve anything from fishing and gathering to killing a particular monster, or even capturing it alive. They all invariably fall into the same basic categories, but each offers a bag of goodies for your trouble while moving the narrative forward.

In spite of all these features, the offline single-player is a somewhat limited affair; once you’ve completed all the quests, there’s very little else you can do on your lonesome. Tri is, however, a game clearly designed with multiplayer in mind, as it features one of the most robust and carefully considered online components I’ve ever encountered in a Wii title. Once you select a server, you’re dropped straight into Loc Lac City, a bustling trade hub where you can meet other hunters and embark on various quests for up to four players. In lieu of narrative, there are numerous new quests on offer, new locations to explore and new epic monster encounters, all geared towards teamwork. These will provide you with rare, otherwise unobtainable components from which to forge some of the sexiest gear in the game. Don’t worry if you’ve spent a lot of time learning the ropes offline – you’re able to use the same character for both offline and online play, so your efforts aren’t wasted.

Communication with other players is understandably vital, and Capcom has gone the extra mile to include support for Wii Speak. Unfortunately, my bundle of the game did not include Wii Speak (though some apparently do); instead, I was forced to write out messages letter by letter with the D-pad, a truly barbaric act that no civilised person should ever be forced to perform. There are a series of “gestures” available to your character, but these aren’t especially helpful, and I certainly wouldn’t advise you to attempt them while you’re in any sort of real danger. You can, at the very least, ‘ping’ your location on the map if you need assistance.

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In terms of presentation, the game maintains a colourful, reasonably detailed aesthetic reminiscent of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. NPC models are kept relatively simple, while greater attention is given to your character, whose appearance you can customise upon creation. It’s nothing spectacular; you’re given a level of control comparable to World of Warcraft, selecting from preset faces, clothes, hairstyles and colours to create someone reasonably unique. Weapons and armour are again more detailed – it’s these that you’ll be showing off to other players, after all.

The environments are deceptively beautiful. As you explore them, you’re really only moving through a series of small ‘enclosures’ – you’re kept from wandering by conveniently placed boulders, inclines or ravines. Beyond these, however, you’re offered a spectacular view of the horizon, as the landmass stretches towards a vast sea and skyline. A slightly contrived illusion perhaps, but it works; the levels appear genuinely expansive, and you don’t feel nearly so confined. The lighting and environment effects are much the same, economical but pretty, and you’ll see them in play across all manner of settings: volcanoes, icy tundra, desert plains, marshland and forest. The monsters themselves are similarly diverse, although earlier creatures such as the Aptonoth and Jaggi bear a striking resemblance to dinosaurs (on my first hunting trip, I felt as if I’d been let loose on an indiscriminate killing spree through Jurassic Park).

There are, in spite of its merits, a couple of annoying faults in the game. The first is the lack of a lock-on system – regardless of the reason, it’s an appalling oversight. I very quickly lost count of the times I lashed out at a monster only to go hurtling past its shoulder, slashing stupidly at thin air as if I were concussed. Such clumsy combat is rendered all the worse by the game’s camera system, which seems determined to face away from your enemy at all times. You’ll spend most of your time manoeuvring it manually while fighting, or hammering the C button to keep it locked behind your back. The camera is also solely responsible for directing your character underwater, which makes marine combat an absolute nightmare. It’s a real shame that these issues weren’t addressed; they’re a blemish on an otherwise enjoyable experience.

Closing Statement:

There are two fundamental demands we make of a Role-Playing Game – epic boss battles and epic loot. Monster Hunter Tri doesn’t disappoint in either regard, and yet it never gets mired in the tedious number crunching that so often afflicts the genre. It’s not a perfect game by any means; there are only so many monsters to kill and items to craft, particularly if you only play offline. The game’s online replay value ultimately depends on Capcom, who have already started posting temporary “Event Quests” with the promise of further downloadable content in the future. In any case, it’s an extremely solid title that you can and will get lost in for some time to come. If, like me, you’re new to the franchise, don’t overlook this one.

Final Score: 8.6

 Monster Hunter Tri Review Jaws, Paws, Horns and Claws

Mass Effect 2 Review “In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…”

It’s hard to say that something has “out done” the original without some kind of proof, something without a doubt proofing that the successor is better than the original. Throughout the review process, I considered searching for this. Then I stopped and realized that I needed no evidence; this sequel is proof on its own. That’s why I pride myself by saying that BioWare have outdone themselves with Mass Effect 2. By them doing so, they’ve fulfilled the promises of the original while continuing to push the boundaries of what we can expect from a modern-day role-playing game.

Intended to capture a darker and more serious tone, Mass Effect 2 begins with an attack on the SSV Normandy, leaving it destroyed and Shepard, series protagonist, missing in action. However, thanks to some “unexplainable” events, Shepard returns. This time under the influence of a controversial pro-human organization called Cerberus. You see, human colonies have been disappearing across the galaxy and The Illusive Man, the watchful eyes of Cerberus, needs you to find and eliminated the forces behind these disappearances. However, Shepard can’t do this alone; he’ll need a squad.

In total there are eleven squad members, each with their own past experiences and specialization. However their most important attribute are their motivations; their motivations add a level of engagement to the Mass Effect 2 experience. For example, Thane, a Drell assassin, has chosen to fight alongside you in his final hours. Just by this example alone, you can understand him; him wanting to pass on in a positive light and the absolution of his sins. Its human characteristics like these that build a bond between the player and the character, an aspect present throughout the Mass Effect 2 experience.

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Another engaging aspect of Mass Effect 2 is the improved combat and control systems. Though the controls are relatively the same, BioWare added more options to the control interface with better squad commands and a smoother cover system, addressing complaints of the original. These improvements have drastically changed the control and combat systems, making for a more streamlined, action-packed experienced. However, these systems need work; they are choppy and poorly mixed into combat. Add in some collision issues, and you add for a bad combination; in other words, prepare for a bit of bedlam.

This is what brings me to the technical aspect of Mass Effect 2. Taking note of the criticisms from the original, BioWare has improved on Mass Effect in almost every way. However, the most notable complaint of the original were its technical and presentational issues. That in mind, I’m happy to report that there are no major technical issues to speak of; this is a much smoother experience when compared to the original. But, thanks to the games excellent presentational style, it’s able to seamlessly makes up for any technical mishaps that may happen — there maybe some unseen glitches present.

However, the technical and presentational aspects aren’t the only things that have improved. BioWare also streamlined the games inventory and skill management systems. Though these systems may seem a bit dumbed down from the original, they divert the attention away from content management and onto visceral combat –- visceral combat being very important in this installment. In other words, you’ll don’t have to worry about the armor your teammates equipped with anymore, and seeing that content selection is slim, it shouldn’t take you more than a few moments to get your squad prepped for action.

Closing Statement:

Though there maybe some questionable missteps, planet scanning being a prefect example of one, Mass Effect 2 is the share-product of a developer lessening to the criticisms of the fans and innovating on them. As I said at the beginning of the review, I pride myself by saying that BioWare have outdone themselves with this sequel and, if you have been paying attention, you’ll know that is a game that was only achievable thanks impart to the collective criticisms of its fans. In other words, I can’t wait to see what the final installment in the series is to bring to the table.

Final Score: 9.4

Dragon Age: Origins Review “Age of The Dragon”

BioWare’s known for impressive and engaging RPGs. However, the genre been seemingly non-existent this console generation; there are only a few out in the market right now. One of the many unnoticed problems of this console generation, BioWare has set out to fill this void with its “dark heroic fantasy” Dragon Age: Origins, the spiritual successor to the highly praised Baldurs Gate franchise on the PC. That said, unsurprisingly, Dragon Age surpasses all expectations; pushing the breaking point and scale of any previous RPG. In fact, Dragon Age could even be considered as the greatest RPG ever conceived.

In Dragon Age, you play as a newly mended Grey Warden, warriors tasked with fighting off the advancing Darkspawn in the time of “The Blight”, a catastrophic event in which Darkspawn try and take over the world causing years of darkness and chaos. However, the Grey Wardens have seen better days; their influence, as well as their numbers, are weak. Then, in this time of great weakness within the Wardens, push comes to shovel. Now, your character finds themselves building up an army in time for the impending Blight; done by pulling in debts from the other races and other factions within Ferelden, the setting for this adventure.

But, that’s only apart of the story. Dragon Age’s story also branches of into multiple segments; thanks in part to NPC dialogue tree, made famous in BioWare’s Mass Effect series, and the character creation system. However, with the dialog system, it’s not as obvious as to how your discussions effect your progression towards good, or evil. You see, since you cannot physically see the see the outcomes of your discussions, you’ll have to read and layout your options before picking your answers. This adds interesting aspect but, the moments when there’s only one outcome, are where the dialogue system trends to drags on.

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That said, you’ll have three races (human, elf, dwarf) and three classes (warrior, mage and rouge) to pick from when customizing your character. Pick carefully because this decides how the world views and treats your character. Along with, which one of the six origin stories you’ll be to explore as that character. This is the biggest problem with the origin story aspect. After playing though a portion of the game, your characters origin story starts feeling like an afterthought, ie. The people of Ferelden don’t favor elves but, after awhile, it’s like people don’t care about who, or what, you are. This isn’t a major problem; it’s just that it adds an unrealistic feeling to the Dragon Age experience.

Even though there are some substantial differences between the PC and console versions, BioWare has created a combat system that mirrors that of the PC. This system works in one of two ways; fighting in real-time, and micromanaging. However, micromanaging isn’t the preferred battle preference on consoles; the console versions are geared more towards action, which is opposite to the PCs more tactical approach. Meaning that, there’s really no need for micromanagement on consoles – you can play though all the game without micromanaging. However, when you’re facing 15+ enemies, micromanaging is the prefect way for you to insure a clean victory. Be that as it may, the most notable difference between the versions are there presentations.

But, don’t get me wrong, Dragon Age is a gorgeous game. It’s just that, on consoles, the graphics can’t hold a candle to that of the PCs; the colors look washed out and foggy. Also, in the time it told me to play through Dragon Age, I noticed that the game was plagued with many annoying little glitches that, while not breaking the game, put a damper on the overall experience, ie. there’s a glitch in which a character’s lips move while no words came out. However, it isn’t all bad with presentation. Character animations, while stiff at some points, are smooth and well done, and the art style is very eye catching.

Closing Statement:

Dragon Age is one of those titles that can easily take hours out of your life, which, surprisingly, isn’t a bad thing because you won’t want them back. That, along with the fact that BioWare has chosen to introduce downloadable content, proves that Dragon Age is something that you do not want to miss. But, even though I did have a lot of fun playing Dragon Age, there’s just to many glitches that took away from the overall experience. However, if you can get past them, this is the game for you. In addition, never has a game been fully worth the $60; Dragon Age’s quality surpasses that.

Final Score: 9.1

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 Review “It’s Your World Now”

Playing any wrestling game for a standard amount time feels like a chore; feeling like an eternity, when its only been a couple of hours. But, shockingly enough, I never felt that way when playing through WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010. I actually really, really enjoyed it. You see, year after year, THQ updates the series in a small fashion; adding new modes, or couple a of extra moves. However, never has the series felt this new.

This year’s SvR feels like a total overhaul, meaning that THQ and Yuke’s made improvements on everything. The most noted addition, the game’s Story Designer mode. In Story Designer mode, the player is given the creative freedom to create, or recreate any wresting television event/show they want. However, there isn’t any dialog for this mode. Instead, you’ll use text and animations to tell your story. The good news is, your story can be as long, or as short as you want it to be.

However, there’s one major limitation. Being only a limited amount animations, your story has to fit within the given animations, which is something that gets in that way of “true” story customization. Luckily, with the given animations, you can still create a large amount of creative stories. But, if you can’t seem to create the “prefect” story, the convenient “Road to Wrestlemania” mode returns from last year.

SmackDown vs RAW 2010 WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 Review Its Your World Now

This year’s Road to Wrestlemania follows six well known WWE Superstars in their quest to became “imprinted into the WWE Hall of Fame”. These Road to Wrestlemania stories play out well, for the most part. However, these stories aren’t complex, they mainly hold back until the big show down at Wrestlemania. This is the main problem with the Road to Wrestlemania mode because, at some points, the events feel boring and slow; giving them an unbalanced feeling. But, overall this years Road to Wrestlemania is very good.

They’ve also the revamped Ceate-A-Superstar mode. In SvR 2010, the game finally receives 3D clothing, meaning that everything actually fits; there’s no more hovering clothing. Along with that, there’s also the all new point system, adding more options in key areas via a point bar. However, because of the point bar. It feels like the developers took a huge step backwards because the taxing on the points feels unfair; Yuke’s put a large amount of points on the most used accessories. But, where it really matters is character customization and, BOY!, is it good.

They’ve also added a Paint Tool; in association with the revamped Ceate-A-Superstar mode. With the Paint Tool, players can create, or recreate any logo or design they want. However, there’s a huge downside. You’ll need to be very skilled using the controller if you what to draw a logo free hand because it’s difficult to write anything; making a name like Adventure Dave look like “Advtue Daue”, or something like that. Personally, I don’t know why Yuke’s didn’t incorporate some kind of drawing aid. However, overall, Yuke’s has done a great job with the Paint Tool, and we can’t wait to see what they do next year.

Closing Statement:

Although I haven’t touch on gameplay, it’s obvious for me to state that not much has changed from the previous wresting titles; there’s a new grappling position, an expanded move gallery, and a one button counter system. However, I believe that presentation is SvR 2010 strongest quality; everything has been reinforced from past Smackdown vs. Raw titles. Don’t get me wrong, WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 has its many downsides, like poor hit detection, and in-game HUD glitches. But, it goes without saying that this years Smackdown vs Raw is very impressive; even going as far as to say that this is the best in the series.

Final Score: 8.9

 WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 Review Its Your World Now