Risen Xbox 360 Review – 2

Leveling up earns you “learning points” which you can spend, along with gold, at trainers to increase your combat abilities and learn professions. It’s a strange system to those used to the standard RPG way of advancement or who want instant gratification for gaining a level, but it does work well enough once you get used to the way Pirahna Bytes does things.

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But that’s the hard part: the 360 port of Risen doesn’t do much at all to charm you. Its ugly visuals show that the development team Pirahna Bytes hired to bring the game to the 360 have little experience with it, and the core game’s eventual depth and splendor come far too late – and the hardcore gamers that got used to the rather inaccessible Gothic games are playing the superior PC version anyway. There’s also an overall lack of polish here that will constantly make you question whether that quest objective you can’t find is because of a bug. Eventually I was able to figure things out and the game winds up being surprisingly bug-free, but after the bug-ridden (yet often brilliant) Gothic 3, it was difficult not to expect them. Still, Risen‘s inexplicably obtuse interface for equipment, inventory, quests, and the map seems to bury pertinent info as deep as it can; it almost seems like the developers knew they had to add these features, but wanted to bury them so far down that gamers learned to deal without them.

And let’s face it : FPS and RPG developers from Germany and Eastern Europe often have a habit of doing this. Over there, games are not something to be fed to a player, they’re something to be figured out through trial and error, with the eventual discovery of greatness taking many hours worth of work. If American games are strawberries, theirs are coconuts. And sometimes this formula does work, but often it doesn’t, and here on the 360, Risen fails to make it worth figuring out what makes it a good game.

Can’t there be a balance between spoon-fed objectives that require no exploration, and the kind of open world that gives you no direction at all, even when told to go somewhere and finish a quest ? Developers like Bethesda and Mass effect 2 seem to have found something that works with console RPG fans the best, and if Risen was an experiment to see if they can be pushed further in the direction of discovering the game all by themselves, I think we can call this one a failure.

It’s too bad, because Pirahna Bytes does know how to craft a very interesting world and some deep, interesting RPG systems. The passion they have for their work clearly comes through – but only if you can slog through the tough parts to find the brilliance that’s deep down in a game like Risen. But they just haven’t figured out how to add the kind of intelligent accessibility to their games that keeps it interesting right from the start but doesn’t compromise on the mystery or the discovery. If they ever do manage that, they’ll probably deliver the best effort they’ve ever made, but until then, frustrating games like Risen will continue to be the result.

Risen Xbox 360 Review

If you’ve been itching for another game like Fallout 3 or Oblivion on 360, a few developers have offered up some options, but none have quite hit the mark. If you’ve kept an eye on Risen, it might fit the bill – but I hope you’re ready for a deep and yet deeply flawed, rewarding but also excruciatingly frustrating game. German developer Pirahna Bytes split with their previous publisher JoWood and didn’t get to keep the license to their Gothic franchise, so they’ve partnered with Southpeak Interactive and have started over with a whole new intellectual property, Risen. But veterans of their games will notice quickly that this could have easily been a Gothic spinoff or sequel, as Pirahna Bytes’ signature style of RPG will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s played their past games.

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Risen has you playing a nameless stowaway that shipwrecks on a jungle-filled volcanic island named Faranga. After a brief scramble to find food and the most basic of weapons, you begin on a journey to help the inhabitants of the island and solve the mystery of why temples and catacomb entrances started popping up from underground and spewing forth all kinds of otherworldly creatures.

The action is in real-time as it is with most western RPGs nowadays, but you’ll quickly find that early on, the combat is clumsy, frustrating and shallow – yep, just like it often was in Gothic. Eventually it improves, but in Risen it lasts even longer than in past games, because you don’t even start to work on becoming a warrior, archer or a mage until you’ve spent quite a while in the game. Until that point, you’ll be forced to endure many RPG-stereotype side quests and more than a few deaths at the snout of the stereotypical annoying Pirahna Bytes enemies: wolves and boars.

The fact that the protagonist makes fun of NPCs who can’t protect themselves from woodland creatures is only a small consolation to gamers who are sick of these kinds of quests, especially since the developers then make you go and kill them anyway. (If you’re going to make fun of it, at least make it seem like it’s beneath us. Then again, the main character did just wash ashore with nothing but the soggy shirt on his back.) And if you yourself get killed while flailing around trying to fight off a couple of wolves at once, no amount of jokes will make this experience fun. Early on, fights are tougher than you might think, too, especially when you find out that popping into your inventory to drink a potion doesn’t pause the game.

Eventually the experience picks up as you learn to endure the ridiculous interface and get some decent equipment buckled onto your nameless hero. It is nice to see that when you choose one of the three factions that locks you into a “class”, the rest of the populace recognizes you as being part of that group – and you can quickly make enemies that way, too. It extends a system started in the Gothic games that never quite got it right, but here it does seem to work better. Even the equipment you wear sort of identifies you with a group.

Ninja Gaiden II Review – 2

As you progress through 14 breathless chapters, you’ll gain new abilities, weapons and magic—yup, Ninpo is still your go-to offense if you wish to quickly clear a room. The Dragon Sword is your old stand-by, but some new blood-letters are hard to resist. Our new fave, a sharp set of foot and hand claws, offer an organic fighting experience, as these extensions of your limbs make you feel like Wolverine’s worst nightmare. Ryu’s also equipped with a nice array of projectiles that come in super-handy for those hard-to-reach foes.

The default Shurikens are about as damaging as a mosquito bite, but the bow and arrow and exploding throwing knives are highly effective. Using money at the blacksmith’s shop will allow you to upgrade many of your death-dealers, and this is probably the single most important reason to play through the game multiple times. Each weapon offers a truly unique feel and gameplay experience, and although you’ll want to experiment with them all, you won’t be able to max each one out in a single go-round. Don’t be surprised if the allure of powering -up your staff to maximum skull-crushing potential lures you back to Ryu’s fantasy-meets-sci-fi world.

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NG2 also serves up some of the coolest baddies we’ve ever seen. Sure, the boss battles have always been a hallmark of the series (and they don’t disappoint here), but even the low-level menaces are a sight to behold—and a bitch to take down. Every enemy, from the various versions of the Black Spider Clan ninjas to the grotesque hordes of fiends, is an absolute blast to face-off against. Of course, the hardcore challenge is still a big part of the NG experience, so don’t expect—even on the easiest mode—to breeze through this one. Bosses will take up to an hour (an multiple attempts) to defeat, and even smaller enemies bring the pain. In fact, NG2 has given your blade fodder a new defensive tactic to take you out; once wounded, many baddies will charge you or explode in an attempt to take you to hell with them. Being chased by a purple, goo-spewing demon-dragon-thingy—whose clawed paw we’d just severed—was just one of several encounters that had us fearing our downed opponents as much as the able-bodied ones.

Whether you’ve been slaying fiends for years or are just learning the power of Ninpo, it doesn’t matter; Ninja Gaiden 2 is a game all action fans should spin in their 360s. Be prepared for gore like you’ve never seen; blood flows like an over-active geyser and limbs fly like fleshy confetti. The difficulty is also nuts—you will toss your controller…several times. But, if these elements don’t dissuade you, don’t let our earlier complaints keep you away either. It doesn’t pack the knock-your-socks-off punch of the original, and some of the design feels dated, but despite these flaws, NG2 is still an amazing ride.

Ninja Gaiden II Review

Ninja Gaiden was an astounding entry on Microsoft’s original big, black box; it redefined the action genre with bar-raising visuals and amazing gameplay. Years later, it’s still considered one of the console’s crowning achievements and one of the best hardcore gaming experiences of all time. And as great as it was, it was actually bested by its own enhanced versions—Black, also on the Xbox and, more recently, Sigma on the PS3. Now on the 360, gamepad ninja finally get the true sequel they’ve been waiting for with the aptly titled Ninja Gaiden 2

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Once again, Team Ninja doesn’t disappoint with a balls-out, gore-filled actioner, offering a challenge and addictiveness that will gnaw dedicated players’ thumbs to bloody nubs. But more on the blood-soaked goods in a minute.

First, as much as it pains us, it’s got to be said that NG2 just doesn’t pack the “wow” factor of its predecessor. In part, this can be blamed on Team Ninja’s excellent track record, specifically the three aforementioned versions of Ninja Gaiden. The original was just so damn impressive that topping it is a near impossible task. Because its visuals were practically a generation ahead of the hardware, it’s difficult to get as excited about NG2’s slightly upgraded presentation. Additionally, rather than delivering a sequel earlier, Team Ninja honed their skills on Black and Sigma. So, advances—both graphical and technical—that could’ve been saved as sequel surprises, are now the norm because they’ve already appeared in these NG follow-ups. By delivering such fantastic previous entries, Team Ninja essentially shot themselves in the tabi-booted foot; had we not seen uber-ninja Ryu Hayabusa since the Xbox’s original offering, then we’d no doubt be more struck by his next-gen debut.

Not all of NG2’s inability to leave our jaws on the floor can be blamed on the developers’ previous awesomeness; another issue is that NG2 stubbornly sticks to some old school conventions most current games have moved on from. For example, invisible walls and cheap path blockers are much more noticeable in a generation when even movie-based mediocrity like The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man offer some moderate free-roaming.

It just seems a bit odd when Ryu, who can scale an elevator shaft with ease, can’t jump a hip-high blockade. After doing pretty much whatever we wanted in GTA4’s Liberty City, it’s somewhat jarring when Ryu attempts to hop on the roof of an NYC taxicab, and is deflected by an invisible wall. Additionally, Ryu can slice through bone like warm butter with his steely arsenal, yet his blades don’t leave a scratch on this same cab; shouldn’t he be able to tear it up like a ginsu through a tin can? NG2‘s other occasional aggravation is the sometimes difficult camera. In any other game it probably wouldn’t be noticable, but because the action unfolds at such a rapid pace, you’ll wan’t optimal viewing angles at all times. These can usually be achieved, but be prepared to frequently center the camera (with the right trigger) behind Ryu.

You’ll be pulled out of the action occasionally by these dated design choices, and you won’t be saying “Holy sh*t, look at that!” nearly as often as you did with the original, but that’s not to say NG2 doesn’t deliver one of the best action experiences the 360 has ever seen. Don’t let the complaints fool you; this one’s still an amazing experience, both in its gameplay and presentation, and a must-own for fans of the franchise. The combat is as beautiful as ever. Ryu’s acrobatic moves make the Prince of Persia’s look like grade school gymnastics, and his finesse with a blade yields a bloody ballet that’s endlessly satisfying to control. The simple combination of light and heavy attacks (X and Y buttons) and left trigger-controlled blocking deliver visually impressive animations almost always resulting in large piles of chunky, blood-spitting flesh. As with the original game, button-mashers will quickly learn that quick hammering just won’t cut it. The block button is your friend, and blink-of-the-eye counter attacks will generally keep your black-clad badass safe.

Deus Ex : Human Revolution PS3 Review

Deus Ex was a game that was first released on a pc in 2000. The wonder of the Deus Ex franchise is that is a combination of a first person shooter and a role playing game. This is a rare breed of game. The story is also based on science fiction and this became a classic. The last instalment was the Invisible War released in 2003.

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First of all if we examine the graphics and compare to other first person shoots like Killzone 3 and Crysis 2 there is no comparison. The backgrounds are not that detailed and the colour scheme is very simplistic. However, they are efficient and the animation of the characters are adequate. The characters are unique and grab your attention and there is a lot of variety in the gameplay 25 – 40 hours. So overall the experience of the game is very good even though it will not win any awards. Similarly the sound is also adequate, but not outstanding.

Indeed the science fiction story is very intriguing and this is where the game dramatically makes up for what it lacks in sound and graphics with a very engaging story. It is very captivating and makes you get deeply engrossed into the game. The longer you player the deeper that you will get involved into the game. You portray the role of Adam Jensen the head of security for Sarif Corporation. Basically the primary business of this corporation is to develop a better human through advanced surgery and implants.

The gameplay is absolutely amazing. It has a huge world that you can explore and take different options for different outcomes. Sometimes the artificial intelligence can be awkard. The game is made for a single player and there is no online multiplayer. Overall based on the captivating story and engrossing gameplay this is an exceptional game. There is also a lot of replay value.

Rock Band 2 Review – final

The new tour mode still has the same basic setup as before, where you’ll play single songs or sets of them at various venues around the world – many of them are real-life places – and get as many fans and stars and money as you can to get to better and better arenas. You’ll also be able to hire staff, some of which are really just a way to force you to finish a specific challenge before you can move up, but on the way you’ll get a choice of managers each with their own perks, a merchandising girl, a sound guy, roadies, a bus, eventually a plane, and more on your way to the hall of fame.

Playing in this mode is way more fun than before, as you’ll have much more in the way of choice of what songs to play than in Rock Band. You still won’t be able to veto that one RB2 song you absolutely loathe (and don’t get me wrong, the track selection in this game is just as fun as last time, but everyone will still find at least a half-dozen songs to hate) but you will be able to mix in your tracks from the first game if you exported them as well as any new downloaded songs.

rock2As with the first game, I have found a few tracks to be a surprise in just how fun they are to play. Foo Fighters’ “Everlong”, Nirvana’s “Drain You”, and System of a Down’s “Chop Suey” are all tracks I expected to be pretty good, but they are just a blast – and our impromptu band which has been revolving in and out of the house since Sunday still hasn’t unlocked every track, but the absolute best has to be “Master Exploder” by Tenacious D for just ridiculous fun.

Still, even when everyone else has gone home I can keep working on the band’s progress, because this time you can play your band in their world tour while solo. You won’t be able to compete in the fixed challenges that have been added or compete in the daily Battle of the Band competitions (where your band competes with those on your friends list to get the best score on one of several challenges changed out by Harmonix every few days – and once you top your friends list, you start competing with the rest of the world), but playing alone still winds up being much more fun than just going methodically through a list of songs like the first Rock Band and every Guitar Hero game so far.

Rock Band 2 Review

Get out your mandanas, because it’s time to rock – again.

It’s time to get out your cheap plastic instruments again, folks, and tear up the charts with some great new songs with Harmonix’ Rock Band 2. Of course, many people playing the first never stopped due to the weekly additions of new tracks, but with the release of the sequel, we’re getting a huge infusion of songs to play and some great new features that will make playing the game either alone or in a group easier than ever. The focus is even more on the music than before, so get three of your buddies and set aside a few days to take on the latest tracks.

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Rock Band 2 doesn’t change the formula – it just tweaks it. The first game showed us a vision of the “right” way to play a music game, where four people got together to all play cooperatively, and RB2 tries to perfect the formula while giving us a great selection of new tracks. It’s easier to play alone, it’s easier to play with friends, and it’s also easier to compete against others as a band. Mix in a slick new visual style, the same on-screen antics by the band members and plenty more convenience in the way of setting up controllers and band members and simply playing the game, and I think you’ll find that your original Rock Band disc will have become completely obsolete.

That’s also due in part to the patch for the original game that allows you to export the original Rock Band tracks to your hard drive for play in Rock Band 2 – the charge is a one-time fee of $5 for re-licensing those tracks, and it’s well worth it to be able to take those original tracks and mix them in with your downloaded music (all of which works in Rock Band 2, including the stuff sold under the first game many months ago) and the new stuff that is offered in this release. All told, the Rock Band series, according to Harmonix, will have 500 songs available to play by the end of this year, and all will be playable in RB2.

And that’s really where Harmonix has differentiated themselves from Activision and their upcoming Guitar Hero : World Tour. Sure, the new GH has some cool instruments and also reproduces a whole band playing with guitar, bass, drums, and mic, and hell, they even have real musicians like Ozzy Osbourne and Billy Corgan represented in-game with motion capture, but put simply, Rock Band 2 is all about playing a huge range of music with your friends. Rock Band 2‘s music is made up of 100% master tracks, although Harmonix has gone on the record saying that we may still get less-desirable covers in future downloadable tracks.