Friday, April 15, 2011

Dead Space 2 Review

Survival horror has a new gold standard.

January 21, 2011 IGN

Dead Space 2 is an amazing game. I'm going to write about its scary moments, cool kills, and how much I dig the main character's internal struggle, but Dead Space 2 is about more than this. When I beat it for the first time, I sat on the couch with my heart racing and dissected the journey I had just taken. Then, I started my second playthrough, and when that was done, I jumped into a new game for the third time. Dead Space 2 is just that good.
It's been three years since the events of the first game, but protagonist Isaac Clarke still can't catch a break. At the beginning of Dead Space 2, he wakes on a space station known as the Sprawl and finds the place is overwhelmed by an outbreak of reanimated corpses called Necromorphs. From the very first moment of the game, Isaac's fighting for his life.This is where you come in. As Isaac, you'll pick up your plasma cutter, don an engineering suit and take the fight to the beasts out to kill you. The overarching goal is to find and destroy the religious idol (known as the Marker) causing all of this, but the story that makes Dead Space 2 great is the internal war Isaac's fighting. Unlike Uncharted's Nathan Drake who can kill a few hundred pirates and never seem worn down by it, Isaac is totally ruined by the events of the original Dead Space. He saw things no man should have to during his time on the spaceship USG Ishimura, but it's the fact that Isaac's girlfriend died on the vessel after he encouraged her to work there that really haunts him.Isaac's losing his mind in Dead Space 2. The guilt is tearing his very sanity apart. That's heavy stuff and it makes for a really engaging story. Isaac doesn't let anyone else in on the fact that he's coming unglued, so as a player I get to see who he really is and the facade he presents to the other characters. Isaac's internal conversations and hallucinations are among my favorite parts of this game.
But I have lots of favorite parts to Dead Space 2. Right behind Isaac's struggle on my list of cool stuff is the combat. It's more satisfying than it was in the original. Isaac's fast and light on his feet. You can stomp crates in a jiff and melee attack bodies for loot, grabbing things with your telekinesis is responsive, and mixing all of this together with the different weapons in the game is a blast. Slowing down a Necromorph, blowing off its arm, and using the severed limb to impale the foe on a wall is a thing of beauty that doesn't get old.Dead Space 2 is pretty much the best haunted house attraction ever. Visceral stripped out the stuff that slowed down the original game (backtracking, getting disoriented, etc.) and ended up with a fast-paced game that's suspenseful and scary at the same time. You're funneled down these halls and corridors on your way from Point A to Point B, and ghouls pop out for you to blast. I know that "linear" is a bad word in the video game industry, but the package is so well done here that I can't knock Dead Space 2 for taking me on a very specific ride that's marked by awesome moments, environments that range from a cheery schoolhouse to pitch black rooms, and sound that's so well done I'd find myself trying to figure out if it was a monster making its move or my dog rummaging in the living room. Toss in some new disturbing enemies and surprises I won't ruin for you and you have a game that can feel like "the same old thing" at times but becomes much more than that as a whole.
I've already said that I've played the game over and over, so it's important to point out that no ride needs to be the same. Dead Space packs returning weapons such as the saw blade-spitting Ripper as well as brand new items like the Detonator and its trip mines. Each of these weapons -- along with your suit, telekinesis and stasis module -- can be upgraded for maximum ass-kicking, and then the progress can be saved and carried over to your next playthrough. These options and rewards are what kept me wanting to come back. There are tons of new suits (with new bonuses) to unlock and I always wanted to see what my next pimped-out weapon could do.My desire to jump back in really speaks to the shift in Isaac's perspective this time around. Some fans threw hissy fits when Visceral said that there'd be more action in Dead Space 2, but it works and I love it. Isaac feels like a badass here, and he should. He's fought these monsters before and he's used these weapons before. The first game was a scared engineer tossed into hell. The second game is a guy who's lost everything to these monsters and really has nothing left to lose so hell yes he'll put his life on the line and shoot out an airlock if it means killing seven Necromorphs at once. Isaac is stronger here and I feel stronger playing as him.
If you're truly devoted like myself, there's even a mode known as "Hardcore," and it's nothing less than sadistic. The enemies are at their toughest, the supplies are limited, there are no checkpoints, and if you die, you restart from your last save. Oh, and you can only save three times in the entire game. That's crazy talk, but damn, do I want to do it.As much fun as all that is, the "go here and do this" structure does hamper the overarching story. The part about Isaac wrestling his demons is awesome, but the narrative driving the search for the Marker is a bit flat in comparison. Different characters are just popping up to tell you to go there and do that. I wouldn't have a problem with this structure if it ended with Isaac learning something or maturing as a protagonist, but we never get that moment where he takes charge of his own fate. He's always being pushed somewhere by someone.
Another stumble is multiplayer. I've played all of the game's five modes/maps, and none of them did anything for me. Players are broken into two teams: the humans have an objective and the Necromorphs are out to stop them at all costs. As a human, I'd run to an objective, hold out for as long as I could, and then get killed. As a Necromorph, I'd hope my minimal amount of damage dealt killed a weaken opponent or set the kill up for a friend. The pacing and vague objectives really didn't equate to fun. This isn't want I want out of a Dead Space experience.
Luckily, as I hope I've already driven home, Dead Space 2's single-player is so good, you shouldn't question picking this game up. Plus, if you're grabbing this on the PlayStation 3, you're getting Dead Space Extraction as well. IGN's already signed off on the game being cool, so getting it in HD and supporting Trophies is a win. Plus, you can play it with PlayStation Move or your regular controller and both work well.
Dead Space 2 is more than just an action game and it's more than a survival horror game -- it's a game that tells a really personal story about a guy who has been seriously scarred by the events around him. That premise alone makes it interesting, but Visceral Games melds it with rewarding combat, shocking enemies, and huge set pieces before tossing it into a world that's truly creepy and scary. I didn't find multiplayer that interesting and would've liked to have seen Isaac stop being an errand boy, but none of that spoils what you're getting here. The shocking moments, the gruesome deaths, and the fun of playing through this experience again and again are what I took away from this one.
Dead Space 2 is an excellent game, and it's well worth your time and money.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Sims 3 Review

The Sims meets The Truman Show

June 1, 2009 IGN

For most of the past decade, The Sims franchise has maintained a permanent presence on the Top 10 sales charts of PC games. Often, it occupied multiple slots on those charts. That's because for every hardcore gamer who scoffs at The Sims, there are many more non-traditional gamers who love the series. Yes, many of those people are female. That makes it easy for some to simply describe The Sims as the equivalent of a virtual dollhouse, but that oversimplifies things. The Sims, like almost any game, is about living a different life than your own. Some people escape reality by diving into MMOs. Others jump straight into shooters. It turns out that whole bunches of people turn to The Sims. And in this regard,The Sims 3 won't disappoint. With the third chapter in the series, EA has introduced some overdue growth and made some bold changes, yet much of this brave new world's potential remains relatively untapped. 

I've been a fan of The Sims since the very beginning; Will Wright's idea of letting you control virtual people in their everyday lives taps that desire that we all have to be ruler of the world and tell everyone else where to stuff it. The Sims is the closest that many of us will ever get to Ed Harris' character in The Truman Show; that's the movie where he plays the director who gets to "cue the sun" and manipulate events around the unsuspecting Truman Burbank, played by Jim Carrey. The thing is, Truman doesn't realize that the quaint, coastal town that he lives in is in fact a carefully staged set and that his every move is caught on camera and beamed to the outside world. The Truman Show is an apt description for The Sims 3, because it too takes place in a quaint, coastal town that your sims can go out and explore. Yet wherever they go, you'll be carefully watching. As you've probably heard, the big change in The Sims 3 is the fact that it no longer revolves around a single household lot at a time. Your sims can go anywhere in town at any time without pause. This is a very welcome change, because the gameplay doesn't feel claustrophobic anymore; you're no longer spending 95-percent of your time looking at the same house and then having to sit through lengthy loading screens for those moments when you send your sims out into the world. This freedom is pretty liberating; I spent quite a bit of time at first just switching between my characters just to watch the camera pull back on the town and then zoom in on the location of the next character. It doesn't take too long before you get used to the change, and it's hard to imagine how we played The Sims before. Now it seems totally natural to send one sim to the park, while another goes shopping downtown, while another stays at home; you can switch between all three effortlessly and almost instantly. Lives feel more naturally lived this way. You don't even need to worry much if you neglect your sims because they default with a high level of free will; leave them alone and they'll take care of themselves and keep themselves amused. It can be fun just to let go of the mouse, sit back, and watch what they do on their own. 

There's also a much greater sense of a living, breathing world. You see other sims going about their daily lives; sims still age and die, and after a while new sims show up, giving a sense that people are coming and going. The sims themselves are now powered by much more sophisticated psychological systems than found in earlier games; they might be party animals or childish, flirty or brave, neurotic or clumsy, and more. You might see maids who are secretly kleptomaniacs (never a good combination) or health nuts constantly working out. I like watching the neighborhood at night and seeing the cat burglars skulk around the houses and night owls going about their thing. 
It's easy to visit other sims' homes and see what they're up to.
Life on the home front is also much improved. Your sims no longer have to constantly run to the bathroom like in the old games; now you can send them about once per day, and there are ways to reduce that even more. That gives you more time to play with, and at its heart The Sims is very much a time management game where you juggle daily and lifelong goals. There's the short-term need to keep them fed, social, and happy, but then there are long-term needs that require them to improve their skills in order to gain a promotion, work out to get into shape, read a cookbook learn a new recipe, tend to an elaborate garden, or maintain friendships before they fray. There's never enough time in the day, so you must learn to set and prioritize goals. 

This all translates into a more elegant gameplay experience, one that doesn't feel as constrained or confined as before. Yet if there's one complaint, it's that The Sims 3 doesn't really explore what all this freedom can offer. In many ways, you're still doing the same tasks as before. For example, when your sims race off for work you now have the luxury of being able to follow them all the way to their workplace before they disappear for hours at a time. Imagine if EA could make everyday work as interesting as everyday life in The Sims? You could experience challenges trying to earn a paycheck. Or perhaps the designers could embed adventures and mysteries within the world for you to uncover? Maybe there could be some MMO-style quests that NPCs could grant? The potential is here to create a much grander and richer experience, and it'll be interesting to see what route EA takes with the expansions going forward. There's more to The Sims than just managing people, though. It's also a fun way to experiment with architecture, as it's a lightweight alternative to those consumer-level CAD programs that let people use to try to design and outfit a dream home. Designing a house in The Sims 3 requires a lot of trial-and-error, but it can be thoroughly rewarding in its own way as you bring a vision to virtual life. There's an incredible amount of options, too, when it comes to selecting wallpaper, paint, surfaces, and furniture. And when it comes to furnishings, clothes, and objects, you're no longer constrained with the color patterns that Maxis has created; you can create your own custom patterns in game and then share those with other people online. 

The online integration in The Sims 3 is greater than in previous games in the series, but nowhere near as deep or as seamless as that in Spore. (For the record, while Maxis created Spore and the first two games in The Sims franchise, The Sims are now handled by a team at EA's Redwood Shores complex.) While Spore had a built-in browser that let you peruse all the user-generated content, The Sims 3 requires you to visit the official Web site to access The Exchange, which lets you download user-made content such as sims and furniture patterns, as well as The Store, which introduces the idea of microtransactions to pay for EA-designed objects, sims, lots, and more. Considering the wild popularity of the expansion packs, it seems like a given that an online store will be successful, but we'll see. The Web site also lets you create your own Sims 3 blog, as well as edit movies that you record in the game. All of this is likely to be gravy for fans that really love The Sims and want to share everything they do, but they're completely optional and unnecessary to enjoying the core game. Go anywhere without hitting a loading screen.
One impressive aspect of The Sims 3 has been its performance. Anyone who played the first two games in the series remembers just how badly the frame rate could struggle if you put more than half-a-dozen sims in the same room. Even though The Sims 3 models an entire town and everything in it, the performance has been completely smooth on a high-end PC with no noticeable hiccups at all, even with all the graphical sliders at maximum. 

Visually, some might argue that the graphics aren't as great a leap as they were from The Sims to The Sims 2 and that the sims themselves aren't that much more detailed than their predecessors. Yet the sims in The Sims 3 look more natural than those in The Sims 2; the sharp edges in the faces have given way to rounder, softer curves, and there's a greater variety of body sizes to play with. The lighthearted art style is also a nice way to avoid any uncanny valley issues. That's the theory that when you try and create a more lifelike robot or human facsimile, it creates a greater sense of revulsion because it just doesn't feel right. The rest of The Sims 3 looks great; it's sort of amazing to take your sims to the beach and watch the setting sun over the horizon. And the buildings in town are packed with detail; you can almost read the books in the window of the bookstore. You can get some pretty amazing views never seen in a Sims game before.
Meanwhile, the audio keeps the charming simlish that the sims like to gibber-gabber with, but let's face it, The Sims isn't a series really known for its audio prowess. With that said, it's hard not to be swayed by the revamped theme music; there's an energy and excitement there that's fitting for the new scope of the game. There's also a large variety of pleasing background music in different genres, including real-world classical music from the great composers. You can select whichever music you like, and it all blends nicely into the background and helps to while the hours away.
The Sims 3 may not sway non-Sims fans from changing their minds about the series, but there’s more than enough here to please the many legions of fans already out there. This is simply a better playing Sims experience, and once you experience the freedom to hit the town without hitting a load screen you’ll be hard-pressed to go back to any of the earlier games. Blowing up the size of the game was certainly a risk, but it was a sensible and overdue one, and kudos to EA for recognizing that the decade-old formula needed some growth. And while there’s still plenty of room for more innovation, we’ll settle for The Sims 3 for now. It delivers a solid foundation for what should be many more years of Sims sales dominance.

Crysis 2 Review

Possibly the most visually impressive game you'll play this year.

By Jose Otero   03/22/2011

Originally a PC-only game, Crysis set high expectations for future games in the series by providing a flexible empowering experience. Though it seemed unlikely an equally impressive follow-up could be created on console, developer Crytek has delivered a sequel that captures many ideas of the original game, and implements a few new ones as well. But most importantly, Crysis 2 is just as visually impressive as its predecessor, even on PS3 and 360.
As hyped as the original game was, playing it is not a prerequisite for enjoying Crysis 2. Most of the controls have been changed completely, and this new chapter in the Crysis trilogy introduces a new protagonist (while short recaps fill in any story gaps you might've missed). None of those revisions, however, disrupt the creative gameplay moments or lush environment design that made so many people fall in love with Crysis.The biggest change from Crysis to Crysis 2 are the controls; more specifically the tailoring of every action in the game to craft a simpler, console-friendly setup. The previous game implemented a control wheel to let you quickly switch between the parameters of Stealth, Power, Speed, and Armor in your Nanosuit -- a powerful piece of combat armor designed to help you develop your own play style and creatively dispatch enemies. Although this worked great on PC, it was scrapped and retooled for the sequel.
Everything you do is now mapped to the controller, and switching between suit abilities is no longer required because the armor abilities are automated. Clicking the Left stick makes you sprint, but also automatically engages maximum speed, something you previously had to activate separately. Clicking Right stick deploys a quick melee strike, but clicking and holding it will charge up your attack for more powerful punches or car kicks. Stealth and armor functions are now bound to the bumper buttons 360 (or triggers on PS3) and there are two new options: Nanovision, which helps you spot trouble in low-light conditions, and the Tactical Visor. The Visor works like a pair of binoculars, but it also allows you to zoom in and out to highlight and locate enemy units, armor resupply locations, and other tools you'll use within the game. Anything you see in the Tactical mode can be marked, making it easier to find, and the game clues you in with an auditory cue when you need to scan the area before proceeding.
The new simplified controls of Crysis 2 are an elegant solution to the slightly complex setup of the first game, and surprisingly nothing is lost in the transition. Instead, the streamlined features of the Nanosuit make more sense, and every suit ability is conveniently tied to offensive/defensive options making Crysis 2 much easier to pick up and play. You might argue that the previous PC controls cultivated more creativity in battle, but the combat sandbox in the sequel still offers plenty of impressive moments.

And having so many tactical options at your disposal is one of the things that separates Crysis 2 from the many other shooters on the market. Unlike most titles in the genre that funnel you down a rabbit hole of close-quarters, scripted combat experiences, Crysis 2 frames everything in an action movie-style lens while still encouraging you to play the game your own way. Stealthy types can sneak around and create diversions, stalking enemies and luring them into different situations, while more impatient types can run around and tackle obstacles head on. In Crysis 2 enemies are dumped into an urban playground, and pretty much any way you want to engage them is a viable choice.
This illusion doesn't hold up well indoors or in some of the more linear parts of the game, but when Crysis 2 opens up there's this process of discovery that's truly impressive. I played through levels multiple times and still found new pathways and tactical options I hadn't noticed before.Visually, Cyrsis 2 still manages to show improvement as well. The setting shifts to the urban jungle of an abandoned New York City. A viral outbreak and alien invasion have turned the island of Manhattan into a crippled warzone, with trees that sway in the breeze and far off buildings that crumble during earthquakes. Switching locations does have its downside, though -- the environments aren't quite as destructible as the locations in the original game.
Still, it's hard not be impressed by the visual detail, and most of the settings are based off of actual locations in downtown Manhattan. You'll cruise along familiar areas like the FDR Drive, or stomp around the financial district and other tourist hot-spots battling your pursuers. Taking place on an island jungle made the original Crysis the console equivalent of the movie Predator. The sequel's change of setting follows Predator's example, but Crysis 2 never follows the downward spiral ofPredator 2, even if the impressive A.I. occasionally goes brain dead.The A.I in Crysis 2 is at its best when you're facing human soldiers. While it's not much of a spoiler to reveal that you'll eventually fight aliens as well, and that they're closer to your equal in combat abilities, they just aren't as fun to fight. The C.E.L.L. Soldiers bark commands back and forth and relay your position during combat, reacting to your actions, calling in reinforcements, and seeking cover. Occasionally you'll find one or two soldiers sitting in the corner awkwardly unsure of what to do, or just walking forward aimlessly into a wall, but not too often. The aliens (called Ceph) are much more challenging, but they don't sell the A.I. of Crysis 2 as well. They're just as reactive and also call in assistance, but they're just not as fun to vex with your Nanosuit abilities. More powerful, yes, but most of the time they just blindly charge forward and soak up bullet damage like a sponge.
Multiplayer in Crysis 2 receives a huge upgrade with player progression along the lines of Call of Duty. You can unlock and customize different weapon loadouts and suit modules (a la Call of Duty's perks), and a you unlock more modules, weapons, and attachments as you level up your character in multiplayer. Each round earns you experience across six game modes (mostly variants of Team Deathmatch, Capture and Hold, and CTF), and while you can't visually customize your Crysis 2 Nanosuit, you can set it up to play very differently from your competitors. If you're a fan of Call of Duty multiplayer, you won't be disappointed here.Crysis 2 is a beautifully realized game that delivers impressive environments, simplified controls, and a plethora of tactical combat options. The game empowers you to make gameplay choices that complement your play style both in single- and mulitplayer. Unfortunately the visually strong presentation and gameplay can't hide the mediocre setup for Crysis 3; for most of the game you play a silent protagonist who goes from mission to mission, following instructions as ordered. Then, when you reach the end of the campaign your character suddenly starts talking and you learn that this entire conflict is just a small part of something much bigger. Acid-trip style memories, reflections, and final recaps try to tie the plot together, but it still leaves you feeling a bit unfulfilled with just a flat, to-be-continued cliffhanger. But the ride there is still thrilling, even if the payoff is mediocre. Yet despite any story hiccups, I can't stress how incredible it all looks.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Help suport company development!

You can easily help us develop our crud faster just by taking a look at our sponsors .... hint, there the adds on the site bro. You don't even have to donate money . Plus its virus free 100% xD.