Thursday, October 4, 2007

Project Gotham Racing 4


Developer: Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Microsoft
Released on: October 2, 2007
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Review based on: Retail Copy
Official Website

The Scoop: When making the fourth iteration of game without the pressures of a console launch date you come up with this.

Hitting Start...
  • The promo video got me excited every time I saw it on and now I have seen it in high def and 5.1 surround and I've got the chills.

  • The menus are different and that's cool, but over all the 'feel' of PGR is in full effect here.

  • Bizarre has said a few times that they hope people spend a lot of time in the new Career Mode, so I start there and get to choose a beater to race with.

  • I don't win my first race, or even my second, but I mop them up in the third and start to get my racing thumbs back into shape. The first tracks look fantastic, they really do.

  • After a few series of races I get my first invitational event but I don't realize it's a bowling game where my car is the ball. I lose by one cone and discover that I can't replay the event because these invitationals are win or lose and then they are gone, until next season (when ever that is). I'm disappointed.

  • Now I have to race this old race car (which has no grip on hot clean asphalt) on the Nurburgring! Sweet, lots of sliding Kudos! Oh wait, it's snowing and I have to finish in 9 minutes?

  • I crash into the wall hard near the entrance to the F1 circuit and I restart the event when it takes me 20 seconds to get out of the snow covered grass. A little bit annoyed I decide to show the Green Hell who's boss. Eight minutes and forty seconds later I win the race and have sore thumbs, but I press on.

  • Quebec is gorgeous and the tracks have elevation changes! I love that, I really do (sorry Forza, you failed here).

  • St Petersburg in the rain is brutal.

  • Why the hell is it raining all the time... oh wait, because it looks awesome and mixes up thing really well in the races, that's why. It's gratuitous, but it's awesome.

  • It's 1:30am...

"...and I've already racked up 435 gamerscore."

Am I impressed? Yes, I'm impressed that the fourth iteration of a game can be this fun and engaging so far. I have to admit that it's hard to see this as PGR4 and not PGR3.9 or PGR2 The Super Awesome Edition, especially after the first hour of the Career Mode started off kind of slow.
How come? It's a great game and I'm glad I bought it because it is a better version of its predecessor, much like Halo 3 is a better version Halo 2 (in many of the same ways, such as better graphics, better controls, more stuff sprinkled around all over the place.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Worms: Open Warfare 2

Worms Open Warfare 2

Developer: Team 17
Publisher: THQ
Released on: September 4th, 2007
System: Nintendo DS and PSP
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Review based on: Retail Copy of the DS version.
Official Site

The Scoop: Forget that Worms 3D ever happened, go back to basics and make sure you do it right.

Hitting Start...
  • The fonts looks really bad, it's almost unreadable, and the graphics aren't all that great. I've seen better for sure, but it's Worms so it doesn't have to look like Gears of War.

  • I start the tutorial and slowly work thru the basic game mechanics, and it all seems to work the way it should and how I remember...

  • ...I actually start up a game and quickly realize that this is Worms Armageddon for the PC, but on my DS. Perfect.

  • Using the bazooka has the same foibles it used to have in Worms Armageddon where you'd want to shoot at an oblique angle and end up shooting a pixel of landscape right at your own feet.

  • I commit suicide a few times in the first game of the campaign.... yeah, there's a solo campaign in this game.

  • Even better than a campaign, there's a ton of options and menus everywhere for all sorts of good stuff, including multiplayer, woot!

  • The more I play the more I'm thinking this is the best possible adaptation of Worms Armageddon that could be done for the DS.

  • I have a battle that is two on one, versus a boss type worm with tons of hit points. I'm so not-good at this game that I can't kill him after three tries. This is not an easy game in spite of its happy-go-lucky style.

  • After 5 hours of gameplay (which to be honest has almost entirely been in the bathroom) I'm getting better at aiming and timing grenades and such. I'm also noticing that whenever I really hit the computer controlled worms really well it comes back with a vengeance.

  • Fourth try and I lose to the boss worm with both of us in single digit hit points...

"...but I'm still playing!"
Am I impressed? More to the point, I'm relieved.
How come? This isn't another debacle like Worms 3D was. It is instead the 'correct' format for the franchise and is a well executed version thereof. Even though I'm not very good at the game, I don't regret buying it for $30 and look forward to getting my worm ass handed to me online after I finish the (sometimes creative, sometimes not) campaign.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Madden NFL 08: For the non-fan!

Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA
Released on: August 14, 2007
System: If you can play games on it, you can get Madden on it!
ESRB Rating: E
Review based on: Xbox 360
Official Website: Madden NFL 08

The Scoop: The 2008 version of EA's yearly NFL football game.

Hitting Start...

  • "Please pick your favorite team." Trouble already. I'm Canadian and not really a football fan.*
  • The trophy room looks pretty cool. It's got a little stand in the middle for Superbowl rings with a Saints logo (my new favorite team!) in the middle.
  • Oh here we go. I've got to hit start to bring the menus up. All looks pretty clean and simple.
  • I start a game right away. I'll worry about season mode or franchise mode or what ever the hell it's called later on.
  • Lots of pretty loading screens outlining the features new to this years game. None of which really mean anything to me since the last football game I played to any extent was about 3 years ago on last generations hardware.
  • Finally into the action. The player models look fantastic as do the player animations. The sidelines look a little lifeless but it's a minor complaint in my opinion.
  • I let John Madden pick my plays starting off as I expect he knows more about football than I do!
  • I go though the motions getting the hang of how it all works. It's pretty standard for a beginner. Snap the ball with "A" pick a guy and throw the ball to his corresponding button. Run it and juke, jump, spin and stiff arm your way as far down the field as you can get. (I'm aware the controls can be a lot more complex than that and I'll pick it up in time)
  • It's half time and I'm getting my ass handed to me! Maybe the AI John Madden doesn't know what he's doing after all!

...Time to get some Cheetoes and settle in for the second half

Am I impressed?: Yes
How come?: I'm not a football fan but I do enjoy sports video games. I'm the kind of guy who only picks up a Madden game every two or three years and still hadn't jumped onto next-gen Madden. It seems like this year with a 2K football game looming, though still not a NFL game, EA picked up the slack and worked hard to make a better Madden. If you play every year give it a rent and try it out. You may be surprised. But if you're a guy like me and only play every couple of years you should definitely check it out. I think you'll be impressed.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Age of Empires: The Age of Kings

Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Publisher: Majesco
Released on: February 14, 2006
System Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E10+
Review based on: Rented retail copy.
Official Website

The Scoop: A turn-based port of the PC version of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. Research technologies, advance out of the Dark Ages, build stuff, and smite your enemies!

Hitting Start...
  • I'm lame, so I hit up the tutorial first off.
  • The tutorial starts with me controlling the French and their "heroine" Joan of Arc. I try to stifle my enthusiasm.
  • The first part of the tutorial is pretty basic—learn to move your units. Instructions are provided to me by my comrade, Jean de Metz. I like the art style; the portrait of Jean de Metz looks like a medieval tapestry.
  • I don't like the unit graphics. They look a little deformed. I know inbreeding was big during the time, but come on!
  • Moving units is a simple affair: touch the unit with the stylus and select where you want it to move. Terrain affects movement as well as your attack strength. Aha! Strategic elements are starting to bubble to the surface.
  • My primary goal is to move my units to the city of Chifon. Aside from primary goals, each scenario has bonus goals that when met, unlock "Empire Points", which you use to buy stuff that should have been unlocked right from the get go.
  • Enemy militia are blocking the river—attack Joan! My calvary gets a combat bonus because it is attacking from flat terrain. An animation of the two sides battling plays in the top screen. The graphics are hideous. And for some reason, it reports that I have killed all the militia, yet two of them remain standing in the top screen. Maybe I took them prisoner?
  • I finally reach Chifon. "I have never taken so long to ride to Chifon before!" Shut-up Jean.
  • I continue on with the tutorial. Now I'm learning how to use different types of units. Some units are better at fighting certain units, and they get a bonus. For example, spearmen get a bonus when attacking calvary. Siege units get a bonus when attacking cities. Combine that with terrain bonuses and you have a hearty little strategy game here. I like it!
  • Jean: "You ride well for a peasant girl." Uhhh..thanks? (What's this game rated again?)
  • Now I'm learning about using my villagers to construct unit-training buildings. This game feels a lot like the PC version of Age of Empires, but in a turn-based form. I'm liking this.
  • Time to select a technology to research. Gotta pick "The Loom"! How the hell can we all be snazzy dressers without that?!
  • Now I am tasked to bitch-slap the English. "I shall fart in your general direction!"
  • I research a couple of more techs, and I "Age Up" to the next age.
  • I can see a problem with units becoming too crowded on the map screen. When they are bunched together, it's hard to pick the one you want. It's equally hard to tell it to move to the right square. Thank God there's an "Undo Move" option.
  • I've built some archers, spearmen, men-at-arms, and I have Joan. Time to get all "Napoleon" on their ass! "My loyal Frenchman....SURRENDER! I mean...ATTACK!"
...and I want to keep beating on the bloody English!

Am I impressed? Oui! Tres impressed!
How come? Great turn-based strategy game; a large number of units; lots of techs to research; and it has wireless and hotseat multiplayer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Trauma Center: Under the Knife

Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Released on: October 4, 2005
System Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: Teen (T)
Review based on: Rented retail copy.
Official Website

The Scoop: Play "Doctor" and operate on helpless victims patients.

Hitting Start...
  • Hope Hospital: where the patients need to "hope" I don't botch their surgery (ha ha).
  • A bad car accident means I get to try my hand at my first "operation". Yay!
  • The bottom DS screen shows the patients arm, which is filled with glass shards. I'm supposed to remove the glass shards and suture the wounds. I'm sounding like a Doctor already!
  • My helpful nurse on the top screen tells me what do to. She's like my wife that way. Select the forceps tool and use the stylus to pull out the glass shards. Eezy-peezy.
  • You didn't say I had to pull them out in a certain direction! Whoops!
  • I dropped the glass shard back onto the patient rather than in the surgical tray. Now my nurse is yelling at me. Sheesh! Cut me some slack; it's my first day!
  • Ewwww, blood! I have to select the suction tool to suck up the excess blood. Drawing the stylus upwards vacuums up the blood. Sluuuuurp!
  • Alright, I've taken care of the shards, now to suture the wounds. Select the suture tool and draw a zigzag pattern over the wound. No problem.
  • Somehow, something as simple as drawing a "zigzag", is beyond my capabilities. No wonder my Mom told me to forget about med school.
  • Managed to close up the wound, but my nurse is really letting me have it now. Chill out *@$#%!
  • "Vitals dropping" Oh crap, this is getting intense! Need to move fast and seal up these other wounds.
  • The patients vitals are low, but I can "boost" them back up by injecting the patient with some green stuff. I need some green stuff right about now. I like how you have to use the stylus to "draw" the fluid into the syringe. This game makes great use of the touchscreen controls.
  • Now I have to remove glass shards that are within the patient's arm. Scalpel time!
  • I select the antibiotic gel and rub it on the incision area with the stylus. Then I select the scalpel and draw a straight incision. Steady....steady!
  • The view "zooms in" to the opened arm where I can see more glass shards. Now that I know what I'm doing, I make quick work of those. My nurse thinks I'm great.
  • Time to close up. I suture the incision on my first try. My nurse is ecstatic.
  • I rub gel into the stitches and then bandage the wound with the stylus. Operation complete!
  • My score is tallied and the game rates my performance. I get a "C - Rookie Doctor". Come on, at least I didn't KILL him!
...send in the next patient!

Am I impressed? I am clinically impressed.
How come? Fun game, great use of the touchscreen, and some intense moments. And there's something inherently cool about cutting open people and removing things.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Titan Quest: Immortal Throne

Developer: Iron Lore Entertainment
Publisher: THQ
Released on: 03/02/07
System PC
Review based on: Full version of Titan Quest with the Immortal Throne expansion recently released on STEAM
Official Website
The Scoop: Diablo meets Greek mythology in this new twist on a classic idea.

Hitting Start...

  • My character is standing at a dock in a classic Diablo top down view. Heh, He's wearing a toga.
  • Tutorial tips are popping up in the corner. Very helpful.
  • Click mouse on open land, walk to location clicked, rinse and repeat. Seems simple enough.
  • Hey there's a guy standing next to a shack with a yellow exclamation point over his head. I've played enough World Of Warcraft to know what that means.
  • Just as I thought. He's got a quest for me. Seems his horse is about to be attacked by monsters. Guess I better help him out. He's the only other guy around after all. Who's going to tell me where to go next if I don't.
  • I click my character though a field. There are lots of really nice graphical touches from the lighting to the long grass being pushed aside as you run though it.
  • Sure enough there's the horse. Being attacked by a couple of monsters. I click and hold the left mouse button on the monsters and my little Greek dude goes to work . This guy is a bad ass. Two on one and he doesn't even bat an eyelash.
  • The horse is saved and I make my way back to the guy at the shack. No reward but the tells me there are more people in the village down the road that need help. Shocking!
  • Once in the village I load up on quests and head back into the wilderness to click my way though Greek mythology.
This is going to be fun...

Am I impressed? Yes.
How come? Even though it's not, this is the follow up to Diablo I've been waiting for. I know it's cheap to compare a game to an older one and not on it's own merits but it's hard not to with Titan Quest. It doesn't really do anything new but the things it does, it does perfectly. It's the type of game that you just want to keep going and going to see whats next even though it never really strays from the formula put in place from the first level to the last.
There's tons of loot to pick up along the way and you'll constantly be swapping out your gear for something bigger and better. (once you realize you have to hold down the "x" key to see all the loot the baddies dropped)
Titan Quest hooked me early and didn't let go. Hours and hours in now I'm still clicking my way just to get to the next boss battle or town. Only to leave and do it all over again. If you enjoyed the Diablo games or are just looking for a nice RPG on your PC definitely check it out.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars


Developer: Splash Damage
Publisher: Activision
Released on: October 2, 2007
System: Windows XP
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Review based on: Beta 2, that's right a beta, not a demo but a non-representative-of-the-final-game beta. YMMV.
Official Website

The Scoop: It's a beta. Not a demo, or the final game, so grab your bag of salt and dump it all over these First Impressions.

Hitting Start...

  • ...oh wait, that didn't work. I'm trying to play offline before go online, but these menus for offline play don't actually do anything. Oh well.

  • I go online and the server browser populates VERY quickly giving me tons of servers to join. Not all of them are populated, but there's more than a few with a good amount of people.

  • I join a server and start running around like an idiot and BLAM. I'm dead... where did that come from? I have to hit space to enter the respawn queue? Oh sweet, I parachute into my base and get to see the battlefield a bit.

  • Too bad my video card sucks.

  • Every last person on this server seems to be way better than me, at everything, and there's lots of everything to be better at. Let me try being a rocket whore...


  • Let me try being a sniper....


  • Damn, the same guy just gibbed me twice with a railgun and I have no clue where he is.


  • That's three! *fuming*

  • Ok, let's try being regular old rifle infantry and just hide in the base. This time I manage to kill someone thru a window who was in an obviously damaged... flying... thing. Not being a Quake junkie I only know it's some sort of Strog-flying-thing that looks a little bit like Skeram from Warcraft.


  • That same guy just gibbed me thru the window. Let's try getting to a vehicle and just go go go until we die....

  • SPLAT into a rock, then a guard rail and then SPLAT, I'm dead from a railgun, again. This time I notice where it came from, so I get a sniper load out next time and try to go hunting. The guy is so far away that he's a single pixel now and getting my reticule on him is impossible.

  • Ok, let's try this, let's get rockets again and kill some vehicles since I can get a lock on them. I'm able to down a couple land vehicles and get a double kill on two guys that have been destroying me earlier. That feels pretty good.

  • I can see people around me trying to fulfill mission objectives while I flail around trying to understand ANYTHING about this game, but two years of Warcraft will atrophy the FPS skills into oblivion.

  • I manage a few more kills with the rifle while watching people fly around with little jetpacks, or in the Skeram-mobile or some sort of ATV dealie that looks like fun to drive...


  • I just got run over by one of those ATVs...

"...and I'm remembering, I'm a noob and it's just a beta!"

Am I impressed? If being a bit freaked out equals being impressed, then yes.
How come? There's enough here for the game at least be interesting and worth perusing when the demo comes out (or if an easily obtained beta ever goes public). The fact that the game does more than try to funnel people into one spot so they can kill each other (*cough*Battlefield*cough*) is pretty cool. You actually have to play your role and execute your tasks while playing a fast paced FPS. That is definitely worth noting and is worth playing this beta of a nearly incomprehensible game.

The learning curve is steep, but it was fun enough the first time around to go try again. However, if this thing where I keep dying and having no clue how I went from just fine to splatted in a blink, then I'm going to move on to something else. This is just a beta though. A beta.