2 Games to Look For in 2015

Resident Evil 5

Capcom’s long-awaited horror sequel is almost here. The fourth game was a reboot for the series, combining a fantastic storyline and great action with just enough of that movement-limiting feeling that makes the Resident Evil series so challenging. The new fifth game adds a cooperative element between the two protagonists while continuing to make sure that you can’t just blindly run-and-gun it like a shooter. Previews so far have been very positive, so if you liked RE4, it seems like a given that you’ll enjoy number five.

Wii Sports Resort

wiiOf all the Wii games that get kicked around, few have the instant fun factor of the original pack-in, Wii Sports. Its infectiously simple gameplay leads to more depth than you first thought as everyone improves at each game, and its accessibility is top-notch. The sequel takes everything to a beach resort where new sports come into play, like fencing and jet skiing. With the new attachment to further refine the Wiimote’s motion sensing capabilities, we’re not just looking at the same stuff with sand and oceans in the background.

Either way, will people pay full price for a Wii Sports sequel, and buy the appropriate attachments for the rest of their Wiimotes ? Will they even be in stock in local stores ? We’ll find out soon.

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Heavy Rain Review 2

Of course, things don’t have to turn out with Ethan starting to repair his relationship with Shaun. You have the option to widen the gap between Ethan and Shaun by screwing up when you throw the boomerang, or not, say, playing with Shaun on the seesaw, or pushing him on a swing. Heavy Rain’s design is firmly rooted to a linear track, but your actions are not. In almost every chapter of the game there is some scenario or situation that comes with ramifications, whether they’re immediate or affecting something later in the storyline. They can be as minor as Shaun remaining despondent, or, say, one’s physical appearance being damaged, or as significant as what ultimately happens to a major or minor character. After Shaun is kidnapped by the Origami Killer, a serial killer who drowns his victims in rainwater, it becomes clear that the game is as much about death and sacrifice as it is a study about what makes make life worth living. Particularly in Ethan’s case, the intense psychological torture and suffering he is forced into is emotionally gripping, almost reminiscent of the sheer abuse exacted on Snake over the course of Metal Gear Solid 4. The point is, just like in real life, you have the ability to play a situation the ‘wrong’ way. And because of the level of emotional investment you place in these characters, chances are you’re going to do everything in your power to make sure they don’t end up hurt. The psychological effect of this is ingenious—choices in Heavy Rain carry real weight, and threats to your mortality are panicked, harrowing experiences. There are no checkpoint restarts here.

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Heavy Rain’s most important fulcrum lies in its narrative, however. The game is split up in a series of chapters that flow (more or less) in a strictly linear line, and generally alternates characters between Ethan, Scott Shelby, a private investigator; Madison Paige, a reporter; and Norman Jayden, an FBI profiler called into to investigate the latest in the series of murders perpetrated by the Origami Killer, all of whom become gradually more involved and connected to each other. For the most part, the plot is well-written and executed, although things will occasionally pop up without much explanation (Jayden’s futuristic Added Reality Interface glasses, which he uses for forensic purposes, seem an especially odd sci-fi element for a story set in 2011). The story, taking elements of Seven and Saw (which, let’s face it, is just a poor man’s Seven to begin with) has some minor imperfections, and has a few plot elements which may or may be explained, depending on your actions. But the human approach he generally takes over that of a stereotypical thriller keeps things both interesting and thoroughly engrossing.

Oddly, Quantic Dream relied almost entirely on European actors doing American accents, which could have derailed the entire game had the voicework been poor. The result is that occasionally an unintended accent slips through here or there, though such instances generally are confined to minor characters. Despite a cast of (to western audiences) unknowns, the acting here is generally top notch, with the major players all delivering expert performances (the game’s somber score is also excellent). In particular, Pascal Langdale and Sam Douglas (playing Ethan and Scott, respectively) are worth noting for their natural qualities. The high quality of the game’s production values is uniform, in fact. Quantic Dream has been working on Heavy Rain since 2006, and it shows, particularly in the amazingly rendered detail seen in the character models. The game’s numerous sets are also well designed (although their linearity often makes the levels feel like walking around a movie set), but the environments themselves remind us of the misery that’s buried deep in the characters, plot, and setting. Even in all of its moodiness, the first time you see the thick dust hanging in the air of an abandoned, dilapidated apartment building, you’ll know this one’s something special.

Like Indigo Prophecy before it, Heavy Rain is what you might call an imperfect masterpiece. While there’s nothing as patently ridiculous here as Indigo’s attack of the giant invisible inter-dimensional space fleas, Cage still likes to cull oddities, however small, into the narrative space, making some of the game just a little wonky at times. He also occasionally fails to affect the right emotive response in a scene, such as when Madison is forced at gunpoint to strip for a sleazy club owner. And although I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, let’s just say that you can’t always entirely trust Cage, either. Still, if he can deliver a game whose narrative focus is on emotional connection, and is ultimately about love (which he has), a few incidental tangents are acceptable. Missteps or not, Heavy Rain’s legitimacy to the medium is a commentary against the often too-myopic approaches to game design—a quality that should be both recognized and lauded.

Heavy Rain Review

David Cage is a man of deliberation. Where most developers don’t bother much with characterization or dialogue interaction, he revels in it. Rather than pointing a gun at someone to solve all problems, he prefers to create characters that use their heads. Hell, in game from Cage, you may not even be solving a common problem, from a game design standpoint—say, getting past or around an obstruction, or fighting your way out of a situation. Instead you might just have a conversation with someone. It could even be something as simple as making dinner for your son.

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This is exactly what makes a game like Heavy Rain so polarizing, not to mention a ‘threat’ to the status quo of the typical games-as-big-business mentality that so often bottlenecks the medium. Simply put, it isn’t the same old thing. The game isn’t an entirely new concept—Cage and his dev studio Quantic Dream used a similar design model, taking the tenets of adventure game and changing the parameters to affect how the storyline plays out in 2004’s Indigo Prophecy (and to some primitive degree in the Dreacast-era Omikron before that). Heavy Rain is essentially an evolution of this somewhat-freeform adventure design, but one that’s generally more sophisticated than its last-gen predecessor. That Sony has put so much effort into getting the word out about this one shows their faith in the project, a surprising move considering just how different Heavy Rain is compared to just about any other game out there. In many ways, it’s about as far away from the status quo as you can get, despite a story revolving around four people’s relationships to a series of serial killings.

These are the more nuanced elements of the game, however. What’s also intriguing about Heavy Rain is how Cage has continually stressed that this is a game for mature players. The reactionary response to this has been crude and obvious: what about the sex? Where’s the nudity? But to keep an ejaculatory focus on this aspect alone completely misses the point of what the game is actually about. Cage is right—Heavy Rain is made for adults. But it’s because of its overall emotional maturity, and, later, psychological anguish, that makes it so. We get a glimpse of this from the game’s opening, actually, as architect Ethan Mars, one of the four main characters in the game, gets ready for the day in his beautifully designed home. After getting out of bed, showering, shaving and brushing his teeth—all of which are handled with on-screen contextual commands that float around your character—Ethan makes his way downstairs to greet his wife and two children. It happens that today is tenth birthday of the Mars’ eldest, Jason, and after Ethan speaks to his wife about party preparations for that afternoon, he decides to go outside and to roughhouse with the boys. Once outside Ethan can pick up either Shaun or Jason and zoom them around the back yard on his shoulders, have a fake lightsaber duel with them, and pick up one each with his arms. It may be a pretty typical day in upper middle class America, but in terms of gameplay this is anything but. Even so early on in the game, you can already start to feel the emotional connection Ethan has to his family.

Later, after tragedy strikes, Ethan is sitting on park bench with Shaun. He tries to get him to open up, but his son is distant. With a little effort, he teaches Shaun to throw a boomerang, and in an effort to make him happy, buys him candy. It’s clear that the boy is still troubled, but temporarily feels better. Again, the empathic power of a father trying to re-connect with an offspring Cage is conveying is hard to ignore. Ethan himself is even a wreck, no longer caring enough to shave or dress with much care. A near-constantly updated internal monologue is available for you to see what the character is thinking at any time, and in this scene, Ethan silently worries about his deteriorating relationship with Shaun. It’s these little things that resonate with you in Heavy Rain, which is as much about the characters themselves as it is about telling a story. While the game clearly plays at and borrows heavily from cinematic conventions, Cage’s refusal to stick entirely to tightly edited scenes of action is admirable—the kinds of day-to-day scenarios of real-life humanity seen here are rare in a medium that’s more often than not driven by primal, competitive design sensibilities.

UFC Undisputed 3 PS3 Review

UFC undisputed 3 is a significant addition to the franchise. There are many real fighters to be found and the look and style is that of actually mirrored real events. There is an extraorfinary amount of depth and the tutorial system is very comprehensive so that you know which buttons to press. An interesting aspect is the submission where it is almost like a mini game where you have to get your graphic to overlay your opponents graphic.

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There is a wide variety of modes that you can play in Career mode allows you to start off small and not like an established fighter so that you have time to acclimatise. The training is fun you get to do activities like punch bags etc… allowing you ample time to build up your repertoire. Other modes include title defense, tournaments, title defense and ultimate fights. The online multiplayer is also very comprehensive and allows you to search for a player with a similar skill level to fight.

The one nifty feature about career mode is that you get to create a custom fighter that you will know inside out so you can tailor it to all your strengths. The only thing I found about it was that it was a little dreary or should I say too mechanical. The title defense mode allows you to go up to 100 fights to defend your title. It is very unlikely that you will ever reach this figure. Ultimate gights mode allows you to recreate all the classic fights.

Overall if you like fighting games then you will definitely not be disappointed.

2 Games to Look For in 2013

Street Fighter IV

It took Capcom a good eight or so years to “count to three” (as fans would say), and almost another decade later, they’ll be back with an all-new Street Fighter game. Taking the classic 2D gameplay and updating the look with full-3D characters that still have a hand-drawn look, Capcom is going to need some masterful design if they want to bring back the charm of SF2 way back from 1991. And the online play will be brutal, so hopefully Capcom can find a way to get more casual players to jump in together. Either way, fighting games might be a dying genre in some people’s eyes, but not to Capcom.

Halo Wars

haloEvery time a strategy game is released on a console we get the same crap about how this new game finally makes RTS “work” on a console controller. We’ve heard it at least 4 times now, and so far we’re unimpressed. Halo Wars, the final project by the soon-to-close Ensemble Studios, seems like it might just do it this time. Microsoft doesn’t seem to care either way, though, since they’ve already handed out the pink slips. Let’s at least hope that this fine studio that created the Age of Empires franchise has one great final hurrah for us. Gameplay : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JdCuoN8fHs

Arcade Bowling Review

One of the great things about going to an arcade was the Skee-Ball that allow you to get tickets to get the “high quality” toys that were available behind the ticket counter. Now Arcade Bowling does not give you tickets for each round of the game you play, but it does give you the opportunity to play this old classic from the convenience of your iPhone/iPod Touch.

There are two modes of play, classic and progressive. In classic mode, you are given 9 balls to fling up toward the holes to score points. Progressive mode is similar to classic but you need to keep improving your previous round’s score by at least 20 points to continue playing.

The premise for the game is very simple. You are given a ball which you need to roll up an alley and shoot in a series of holes. Touching the screen near the bottom allows you to bring up a ball, and then you can move the ball to left and right based to help aim the shot. You then pick your speed and hope you get the ball in a hole. To further influence the ball, you can tilt the screen in any direction to change how the ball with land. Based on firsthand experience, I would recommend not playing the game on a bumpy road as it will throw you off during gameplay.

Each hole has a different point value assigned to it ranging from 10 to 100 with a minimum of always getting at least 10 points for each ball. If one of the holes is flashing, its value increased 5 times the points indicated for that hole. This was a great asset in the progressive mode of the game as you could obtain the score for a round by simply hitting a flashing 100 point hole. Your high scores are tracked on your iPhone/iPod Touch, but there’s no way to see how you compare against other players of the game around the world. Hopefully this is a feature they will consider in the future.

Being a fairly simple game, the graphics were plain but well done with clean art for the balls and the alley. It works for a game like this and gives it a more arcade feel to it instead of some flashy, whizzbang thing.

Music and sounds are not extensive but do add some enjoyment to the game. I wish the music was a bit more jazzy as it did not seem to have the same level of pep that I felt in Arcade Basketball, another game by Skyworks Interactive. The sounds of balls rolling up the alley were dead on with the “real life” version.

Even though the game took me a moment to start enjoying, once you get into Arcade Bowling, you will have trouble putting it down. Skyworks Interactive has done it again by bringing yet another arcade classic to the iPhone/iPod Touch.

Resistance 3 Insomniac Review

To be honest this is the first Resistance game that I played so I cannot compare it to the first two. Even though you were an epic hero in the first two Resistance games the Chimeran nation have still taken over the planet. In the first two episodes you played the character Nathan Hale. In Resistance 3 you play the character Joseph Capelli. It is a very personal story where a very average Joe is on suicide mission to enter the Chimeran territory to save his friends and family.

Outstanding things that I really liked is that on each level the art and graphic design reflects the personal story. This makes the game one of the best that I have ever ever played. The graphic design and maps are superb in a game telling an epic story. There is often the feeling of grandeur in the story similar to God of War III as the cut scenes play and also when you need to defeat the bosses. The level of quality of these movie scenes are similar to an animated movie released by Hollywood. Also the personal story combined with the epic world and combat as you defeat the Chimera provide for one hell of a gaming experience.

The game is extremely dark. It is a combination of a first person shooter game and an adventure game. The single campaign will take you about 10 hours to complete. The voice overs, acting and sound effects are extraodinary. I think that these are some of the best that I have ever seen on the PS3. The plot is very engaging and you always understand what you need to do. There are many different types of enemies in Resistance 3 and I think that this added immensely to the gameplay. Also you get to choose a wide variety of guns. Each gun is suited for a different type of enemy. You get the primary weapon and the secondary weapon. There are also upgrades that you collect and you also get to collect different types of grenades that you can fire at your opponents. I think choosing from the wide variety of magnificent guns and using them combine with the wide variety of enemies makes this one of the most entertaining games that I have ever played.

The online play is just as much fun. Insomniac have reduced the 64 player games to 64 to better suit the maps and the graphic and art design of the game. There is a wide variety. You can play co-operative with a friend using split screen mode or with an online player. There is a wide variety of online games that you can choose from eg. death match, team death match and capture the flag to name a few. You will definitely find a match that you will find entertaining. If there is one criticism that I can level at the game is that Sony have introduced an online pass similar to Electronic Arts. You get to register using the online pass once and if you do decide to share the game or trade it in then the new owner will need to purchase a new online pass from Sony. I never really liked this feature from EA games and Sony have decided to follow this strategy with the new games that they release.

I got the special edition which incleds the following extra content: vinyl effect blu-ray disc, multiplayer booster, SRPA black ops skin, infected Nathan Hale skin, “Sentinel” multiplayer title and “air fuel grenade”. In conclusion this is one of the best PS3 titles that I have ever played and you should get it.