Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Madden NFL 12 Review: Clash of the Curses

Madden NFL 12 Peyton Hillis

Every year football fans get to hear about the Madden curse and how all powerful and accurate it is. How every year the player on the cover has to sit at least one game because of the Madden curse. It’s not the brutal and body pounding sport that is football that takes the blame. No, that makes too much sense. Instead blame is placed on a very mythical Madden Curse.  Madden NFL 12  was the be-all-end-all of football video games, a game that was supposed to be the definitive football video game graced it’s cover with something that could prove to be far more powerful. Madden NFL 12’s cover was picked by the fans and I don’t think many of them knew what they did.

While many people believe the Madden Curse is absolute there is one curse that is potentially more potent and taxing in sports. It is seen every time Cleveland sports do anything worth taking note of. It is played any time a Cleveland team faces a potentially season ending game. It is shown by ESPN any time there is any mention of “Cleveland” and “Hope” in the same sentence. I speak of the curse that gave Cleveland wonderful names like The Catch, Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, and The Decision. But that’s not all. There are other acts attributed to the curse that have no fancy name including the Curse of Rocky Colavito, the Cleveland Browns relocation to Baltimore, and the 1997 World Series. Our curse has been going on longer and has had a bigger impact than a player missing a few games. It punishes our hopes and our spirits every year. It’s the only constant we see in Cleveland sports. So the question is, which curse is bigger? The Madden Curse or the Cleveland curse?

Madden NFL 12 Gameplay

While great strides have been made to the franchise mode in this outing of Madden there are still some things that are irksome. But lets focus on the good bits shall we? To start with the preseason is a little more meaningful this time around. I was one of the many Madden players who would bypass the the preseason because it offered little to no advantage. This time through you can properly evaluate a large swath of players to decide who to keep and who to cut. Preseason in Madden finally takes on the meaningful game that the true Preseason is supposed to.

Madden NFL 12 Sack

To bad your ass got saaaaaaaaaaaaaaacked

The other nice addition was options in the gameflow play calling system. One of my biggest pet peeves with last season was the inability to easily determine if you wanted to go with gameflow or pick a play yourself. It was an all or nothing approach that led to me simply forgoing the gameflow altogether and picking plays. At least then I knew what I was getting in to. In Madden NFL 12 you are told the play you are running and given the option to pick something a little different. The downside is that when you switch between Gameplan, Passing and Running on offense or Gameplan, Aggressive and Conservative on defense it changes the play on you. While I may like what I see under an Aggressive defense it’s nice to see what the Gameplan has in store. However once I switch away the play is gone.

In addition to Madden NFL 12 not being able to make up it’s mind on what the Gameplan is we seem to find that it makes a great number of mistakes while on the field itself. Take for example the use of a red flag to challenge the play. I have yet to see a play not overturned. A booth review after a fantastic 45 yard completed pass means one thing. You have to go back to where you were. However this can work to your advantage. Anytime you throw the flag you are all but guaranteed to have the play come out the way you want to. While totally unfair it’s an interesting tactic to utilize.

It also doesn’t seem to make up it’s mind on what is or is not possible within the rules of football. I had one play where I threw a pass down field in a very last ditch attempt to pull out a victory. As the ball sailed through the air I watched as defenders crowded around the receiver knowing full well that it would result in a dead ball. Then something magical happened. As the ball bounced between the hands of players down field it bounced off the ground then 15 yards up field (back towards the line of scrimmage) what it was eagerly met with the waiting hands of an open player who ran it in for a touchdown. It was a player on defense. It should have allowed me to red flag the ball as being dead and seemingly altered in some way to cause it to fly 15 yards on it’s own however I was not given the option. I had to suffer the loss I knew I was getting, but something about the rampant cheating of the game was so mindbogglingly bad that I turned it off.

Madden NFL 12 Peyton Hillis Running

Lets hope by this time in the season he's still healthy

Couple poor adherence to the rules of both football and ball physics with a poor understanding of what the human body is physically capable of doing. When running with a ball defenders will suddenly leap, almost immediately, varying distances of a few feet to a few yards to find themselves directly in front of my charging player. While most human beings would be so astonished by the sudden change global positioning that they would either poop themselves or decide then and there to use their powers of teleportation for good or evil, we do not see this take place in Madden NFL 12. Instead, without skipping a beat, the defender acts as if their feet were literally planted in the ground and they were made of hardened steel to stop the runner dead in his tracks.

This round of the Clash of the Curses goes to Cleveland given Madden NFL 12’s seeming inability to abide by longstanding laws of physics and rules of football. One way or another you’re bound to be royally screwed while playing the game.

Madden NFL 12’s Gameplay gets a 2 out of 5

Madden NFL 12 Controls

The controls in Madden are very tight and well done. They maintained the ability to effectively run the football with thumbs on the thumb sticks or add a flourish or two (stiff arm, dive, etc) with a quick jaunty thumb trip to the right. They did nothing to really revolutionize the in game controls but they didn’t mess them up either. They essentially kept them normal. Which, in lieu of everything else can be considered a godsend.

However what is lacking is the inability to control not seeing certain in game cut scenes. If you’re like me you turn off the commentary. While that makes listening to the game much more tolerable it does make it relatively strange to see the styling they took with the game. Giving it a TV feel was a cool and familiar direction to take with Madden NFL 12. Without commentary however it’s very unusual. The ability to control the way the game is presented would be nice. However this is not enough to hurt the controls. In this instance we can’t really give any points to the Cleveland Curse. Madden, though, doesn’t really come out on top in this round either leaving the score at 1 to 0 in favor of the Cleveland Curse.

Madden NFL 12’s Controls get a 3 out of 5

Madden NFL 12 Graphics

On the field Madden NFL 12 looks phenomenal. Visually Madden has never been bad. This season they took greater care to recreate the players in the game and give them a more realistic look and feel. From running, hitting, catching, and even down the players faces, Madden NFL 12 definitely ups the standard for sports video games.

Madden NFL 12 Aaron Rogers

Players don't look fantastic, they look like the actual players.

However it goes down when it goes off screen. More often than not, when showing the stadium, instead of seeing the streets, the buildings, the parking, and lake that surround Cleveland Browns we see a blank field of green. It’s simple elements like this that keep it from being a truly beautiful game. It’s not even held solely to the external views. Even when they pan to the coaches and sideline players the rendering doesn’t always follow suit. While it’s not a game breaker it’s still a minor step back from what could have been a flawless presentation leaving it at just a notch above average. This gives it a slight edge in favor of Madden over the Cleveland Curse. Score now site at 1 to 1.

Madden NFL 12’s Graphics get a 4 out of 5

Madden NFL 12 Sound

Good. Sweet. Christmas. I have patience for poor commentary. I can sit through just about anything. I have trained myself by listening to Bernie Kosar’s preseason commentary. For those of you who don’t know he sounds like he’s kicking back the Jack Daniel. So much so that during one memorable game the closed captioning actually came up with “?????” as one of his statements. The people who get paid to listen and transcribe were lost. It’s because of this I can usually make it through at least one season with the commentary on. Not this time. I made it to Week 4.

The Cleveland Browns face off against the Tennessee Titans in week 4 on the banks of Lake Erie. While this isn’t exactly going to be the clash of the NFL greats here one would at least expect the announcers to understand who is playing. Especially in a video game. To my surprise Chris Collinsworth spent the entire game calling them the New York Titans. He never once said Tennessee. He spent the entire game calling them New York. This was so off putting I actually didn’t save this match because I wanted to see if it would happen again. Sure enough the second time through he kept referring to them as the New York Titans. It was about this time that I had to hit the internet to see if they had moved without me noticing. Yes. Madden NFL 12 made me question reality.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Announcers talk about players that aren’t even on field, call plays that didn’t even happen, all the while seeming to repeat the same 6 or 7 statements throughout a single game; the sound quality in Madden NFL 12 has taken a major step backwards. I, just today, noticed that during a kickoff the sound of the ball being kicked is heard at just about the same time that Joshua Cribbs is catching the ball. Apparently Madden NFL 12 decides to bend the laws of physics one last time and distort the way that sound travels.

The Cleveland Curse has once more reared it’s head to mar what should have been a very simple victory for Madden NFL 12.

Madden NFL 12’s Sound gets a 1 out of 5

Madden NFL 12 Overall Score

Madden NFL 12 was intended to be the best Madden to date. It was supposed to be a perfect Madden. It was a Madden for the pure Madden fans. Then they went and attached themselves to the Cleveland Curse who (if you’re keeping score) has taken the contest at a score of 2 to 1 over Madden.  Overall Madden NFL 12 gets a 2 out of 5.

As far as which curse is mightier it seems that the Cleveland Curse has come out on top. Really the only way the Madden Curse will win out is if Peyton Hillis suffers some outlandish injury. This is a man who is over used in a very punishing position. He was going to get hurt either way. However is a velociraptor suddenly appears wearing a Raiders jersey and ninja kicks Hillis into half of the Browns starters then I will say the Madden Curse took effect. Okay I mean really he just has to sit for more than two games but come on, admit it, the VelociRaider just sounds kinda awesome.

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Rating: 3.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Bastion: Review

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I’ll admit it; I just wanted the bandanna.

It was day 3 of our family trip to PAX East in Boston last March, footsore and gamed out, when I came across Bastion’s demo booth. Somehow I’d missed them among the vast displays of the Big Guys all weekend; what I encountered now was a single demo station and a small stack of the very last of their swag – bandannas, kinda stylin’. I sidled over to pick one up; a young man caught my eye and introduced himself as one of the game’s designers. Oh crap, I thought. Guess I’d better try his game now.

Oh, that sounds bad. But don’t get me wrong – I didn’t travel 800 miles to a video gaming convention just to snag free T-shirts and lanyards. It had simply been a very full weekend already, and I was just cutting across the expo floor one last time on my way to gather the family and hit the road. And this wasn’t a crowded booth with distracted sales reps, but an actual designer, eager to show me the fruits of his labor. I was unnerved – it’s like an author handing you his book and expectantly watching you read. I’ve never been great at judging a game by its demo, and I was self-conscious as I tooled around with it. After a few minutes, I told him it seemed interesting, and scurried off with my bandanna.

Such was my introduction to Bastion, available on PC or Xbox Live Arcade from fledgling indie studio Supergiant Games. But I liked it enough to purchase it when it was released, and having now played through at greater leisure, I feel bad for blowing the guy off. If I ran into him again, I’d hug him. Because Bastion is freakin’ ART…and the longer I played it, the more it got under my skin.

Bastion: Story

“A proper story’s supposed to start at the beginning…ain’t so simple with this one. Now here’s a kid whose whole world got all twisted, leavin’ him stranded on a rock in the sky.”

With this cryptic introduction, the game opens to precisely that…the main character, referred to only as “the Kid”, sleeping peacefully in bed, in a crumbling remains of a stone room hovering in the sky. As the Kid snoozed, I waited for the narrator to continue, or for the Kid to get up, but nothing happened; I realized I was back in control already. I pushed the thumbstick.

the world of bastion

Kid wakes to find the world completely destroyed around him. Now that's a heavy sleeper.

“Kid gets up,” the narrator drawled in prompt response. “Sets off for the Bastion, where everyone agreed to go in case o’ trouble.”

Moving toward the edge of the platform, stones rise up from the depths to form the ground under the Kid mere yards in advance as I progress, recreating pieces of the ruined world. Why? What happened here? Who is the Kid, and who is telling this story? All we know is that the world has been destroyed in some event called the Calamity, the few survivors are gathering at a safe haven called the Bastion…and the Kid is somehow the key to making everything right again. The story unfolds largely through the ramblings of Rucks, a fellow survivor in the Bastion (charmingly voiced by Logan Cunningham). His narration reminded me fleetingly of Sam Elliott in The Big Lebowski – gruff and folksy in a way that suits the game’s style perfectly, spinning a yarn that is grand and terrible, beautiful and sad. The narration is reactive, incorporating not just main story events but even the little things I do, from experimentally smashing the surroundings with my newfound weapon to customizing my supplies. It’s a choice that could very easily have become irritating or repetitive, but does neither. It flows easily as if my own actions had been scripted just so, and never repeats itself – giving me, even as I experience the Kid’s adventure firsthand, the feeling of listening to a fireside retelling at grandpa’s feet, the faint smell of pipe smoke hanging in the air.

Bastion’s Story Gets a 5 out of 5

Bastion: Gameplay

At its base, Bastion is a classic isometric hack-and-slash adventure with a rather linear progression. Bits of the old world spring up at the Kid’s feet, but don’t go thinking you can save the world with an extended jog – they are fragments, memories of old sidewalks and narrow trestles, just enough to guide you to your next destination. The world can only be repaired through the Bastion, which itself must be repaired through the use of cores that you gather from the various levels. I was clumsy with the controls at first, and I fell off the world – a lot. A minor setback, though, as falling off platforms simply cause the Kid to be plopped back onto the platform with a small damage penalty.

As you improve the Bastion, you create buildings that allow you to upgrade the Kid’s items, weapons, and even tweak the game’s difficulty level, making the experience fantastically customizable. Build the forge, and make upgrades to your weapons that, once unlocked, can be swapped at will. Build the distillery, and have your pick of ‘spirits’ that give the Kid different perks (as you level up, the number of spirits you can carry at a time increases). Build the temple, and you can invoke various gods, earning higher XP and money accrual for taking on extra challenges, like stronger enemies or scarcer health potions. Effects are stackable, so you could make your game a walk in the park, a living nightmare of difficulty, or anything in between.

There’s a wide variety of distinctive weapons, each with advantages in different areas. Acquiring a new weapon unlocks an accompanying “Proving Ground” at which you can practice your skills in competitions to win prizes – upgrade materials or special weapon skills. Story levels and proving grounds, once completed, cannot be returned to; but, if you still find yourself wanting more practice before advancing the story, there are additional bonus levels that eventually unlock within the Bastion itself, which can be played as many times as you like. Beware, these are long – survive 20 waves of enemies to win – and I recall yelling unkind things at the screen about the virtues of checkpoints after dying on the 19th round once or twice. But they shouldn’t be missed, as they contain some revealing backstory on the Kid and his companions.

Bastion’s Gameplay gets a 5 out of 5

‘But is it Art?’

(Graphics/Music: 5/5)
When I say that Bastion is art, I mean it’s art. This is a game that proves Roger Ebert wrong. This is where Bastion rises above the standard hack-and-slash, and I ain’t just talkin’ about pretty pictures.

But the pictures are pretty, make no mistake. The graphic style of Bastion has an almost watercolor look, and the inhabitants…well, I originally thought “cartoony”, but I realized that’s not the right word. Illustrative, perhaps. Brightly colored and fanciful, the world looks like illustrations out right out of a children’s storybook, adding an even greater sense of wonder.

Even the nomenclature of the game is artistic. In keeping with the rustic narration, creatures of the world sound like they were named by the locals – you’ll dodge flocks of Peckers, fight Gasbags from the mines, and watch your step in tall grass to avoid the Anklegators. If you wanna upgrade your your weapons, you better get your hands on Something Heavy, or perhaps Something Pointy. Need a boost? A swig of Werewhiskey might just hit the spot.

bastion the kid reaching for a drink

In Caelondia, you're old enough to drink if you can reach the shelf.

And the music…the music is exquisite. Darren Korb’s soundtrack is easily the best game music I’ve heard in years. The style is described by the composer as “acoustic frontier triphop” – clearly a description of his own invention, but it hits the mark. The music combines old with new, fantasy and science fiction and Wild West. Remember how you felt when the “Serenity” theme would play at the beginning of each episode of Firefly? Yeah. Like that. Sometimes twanging, sometimes pulsing, always with a keen feeling of lonesome blues and loss. But don’t run over to the website to listen just yet – trust me. Part of the beauty is discovering each piece as it is introduced, perfectly enhancing the tone of each segment of the game. It may not fully grab you at first. But as you experience the music with the story, it will seep into you. Some of the game’s characters even have their own beautiful theme songs with vocals…and when they eventually blended together into one haunting ending theme over the credits, I got goosebumps, I really did. (In fact, I bought the soundtrack, and I never buy video game soundtracks.)

Bastion’s Graphics / Music gets a 5 out of 5

Bastion: Overall Score

I wanted to dig up some complaints about this game and give it a 4/5 on sheer principle. Spare the snark, spoil the studio, you know? But in the end, I just can’t do it. I may have gotten frustrated over some difficult battles, or fallen off the world a few (dozen) times, but even my minor complaints melted away with just a little practice. At about 10-15 hours of gameplay, you’re just not going to spend a better fifteen bucks on entertainment this year.

Overall Bastion gets a 5 out of 5

Buy this game. You’ll be supporting a promising up-and-comer (did I mention that Supergiant Games is currently a handful of friends working out of someone’s house?), and you’ll be upgrading your game collection with Something Special.

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Rating: 5.0/5 (4 votes cast)

Catherine: The Review

When you start Catherine you’re not really sure what’s going on. What you do know is that you are looking at Vincent. Vincent is in his underwear. He has horns on his head. Vincent is surrounded by sheep and standing at the base of strange wall. Suddenly you are forced to climb as the floor beneath you begins to crumble away. Oddly if it was any other way it just wouldn’t feel as right.

Catherine Video Game Review

TL/DR - Catherine is definitely worth the buy

Catherine: Controls

Controls are a vital part of any game (hey there Captain Obvious!). If they are not spot on the game becomes infuriating and frustrating. This, more often than not, is the case with Catherine. While I’m not ruling out that this is by design to add a new element of difficulty to the game, it did seem that I felt a very frequent and overwhelming urge to break my controller in half and throw it into a wood chipper because Vincent either moved or didn’t move how I instructed him to.

The controls for Catherine were, however, delightfully simple. This was a fantastic boon for the game since there was a very present time limit that is chasing after you, in some instances very literally and also while screaming. There were few simple options during the game: move in a direction, grab a block, use whatever power up you have and from time to time you get to talk or to text. Very simple. But it was the movement that became a little fuzzy. It’s this level of “fuzz” that takes away from Catherine’s delightfully simple controls. When precise movements mean the difference between life and death it’s the precision that needs to be in place before the simplicity.

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Catherine’s controls get a 3 out of 5.

Catherine in bed with Vincent

This is a typical morning for Vincent. That. Asshole.

Catherine: Gameplay

Catherine is a game that is quite unlike any other. Right from the onset you are are thrust into a wonderfully realized world that is full of confusion and chaotic fear. More often than not you will be asking yourself, “What is the correct answer? What is the correct course of action?” With no clear choice of right and wrong you are literally forced to make a choice between two possible answers. Sometimes you may not even agree with these answers. For example the question was posed “Do you believe that life begins or ends at marriage?” You literally have to answer this question in order to progress the game. It does not matter if you agree with either of the decisions, but you do have to answer. It’s these answers that will ultimately determine the outcome of the game.

In both the dream world and the real world time always flows. There are certain things you can do to stop it like check your phone or play a video game (within the video game) but other than that time keeps on moving. In the real world there are people you can talk to and learn interesting bits of information about the denizens of the world. However you have to act quick because if you don’t talk to them quick enough, they wind up moving on with their evening and you may not be able to help them.

Then there is the difficulty. Catherine is not what you would call easy. It is hard. It’s hard because of this always moving time frame. Once you start to work with the puzzles the dropping floor comes up faster than you expect it to. This is without the bosses. You throw them into the mix and you have a confusing puzzle that is quickly getting smaller and smaller while something tries the falcon kick you, chop you, or crush you into paste. Each time you die you see one more continue go away, and with it…a small piece of your pride.

The ability to base a game on your decisions is not something new or unique to a video game anymore. However the always moving, always flowing time frame that takes place in Catherine adds a wonderfully finite dynamic that is something I wish more games carried through. It’s this sense of constant urgency that gives Catherine a special edge.

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Catherine’s gameplay gets a 4 out of 5

Catherine: Graphics

Catherine is an exquisitely beautiful game. This is no secret. The pre-rendered anime cutscenes are definitely well drawn. While the anime style may not be for everyone it is certainly something that I enjoyed. But what struck me was how well the rest of the game lived up to this style.

Catherine in engine cutscene

This is not pre-rendered. This game looks THIS nice.

There is little else to say other than it is so beautifully crafted and rendered that it absolutely deserves recognition

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Catherine’s Graphics get a 5 out of 5

Catherine: Story

This is a game that will automatically default you to the easy setting. It’s not that Catherine doesn’t believe in you, it just knows precisely how frustrating it is and it wants you to enjoy it’s story. It’s the story that will carry you through the game. As you climb you interact with other people. As you interact you begin to learn more and more about them. Learning about their problems you begin to know them. When you see them at each landing between climbs you are happy to see they made it. When they perish you are met with a sense of grief.

Catherine and Vincent in The Stray Sheep

Seriously Vincent. I don't care what she really is. You're a lucky asshole.

Then there is the real world and your friends and bar patrons. Their struggles and stories keep you gripped to the world. The game ceases to be the standalone tale of Vincent and his peccadilloes. The game becomes a living breathing world with surprisingly deep and rich characters who’s lives and problems you begin to genuinely care about. The time in between climbs becomes treasured moments of dialogue and depth that is rarely seen in a game these days.

While the game itself is short I find myself wishing that I could have spent more time in the Stray Sheep talking to friends. It’s the calm and subtle down time of alcohol and conversation that ultimately keeps you gripped to the game and wanting more. It’s the brief interludes on the landings between climbs that somehow manage to be small but powerful.

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Catherine’s Story gets a 5 out of 5

Catherine: Overall

Overall Catherine is a solid and well put together video game. While the controls were the biggest point of contention they should in no way, shape, or form detract anyone from purchase. With multiple possible endings to both Catherine and (surprisingly) the in-game video game the replayability is sure to keep fans coming back for more. Atlus has absolutely just delivered a winner with this one.

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Catherine gets an overall score of 4 out of 5.

Now, first person to answer the name of the game within the game and it’s endings gets the first ever Ass Stamp of Approval.

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Dragon Age 2: Legacy Review

dragon age 2 legacyDragon Age 2 was a fine game that we at Polish the Console really enjoyed. While it wasn’t the marvel that Dragon Age: Origins was we can’t help but feel that perhaps we may have let our expectations from BioWare get the best of us. All in all Dragon Age 2 was a good romp through the Free Marches.

Many reviewers touted the lack of diversity in the landscape as a flaw of the game (and it was) and almost irrelevance of Hawke to the story as another drawback, BioWare looked to correct some of this in Legacy. Correct it they did. What we have is an adventure through an old Grey Warden prison buried underground that holds an ancient Darkspawn. While it’s not going to be enough to elevate Dragon Age 2 to the epic heights of Dragon Age: Origins it does serve to help lend more weight to the game by further fleshing out the tale of Hawke

Since this is just an expansion we still see the same graphics, gameplay, and control. BioWare didn’t revamp the entire system. It’s just an add on and as such we will forgo droning on about them with the same cliched analogies that you’ve heard before. What will ultimately make you want to play Legacy is the question “Is the story in Legacy worth spending $10.00 on?”

Dragon Age 2: Legacy Story

In a word, yes. I believe the word I actually used to describe it to Kat was “ballstastic”. To me this was a very worthwhile purchase. Dragon Age 2: Legacy playthrough lasted me around 2.5 – 3 hours which is fairly respectable for any expansion pack. Now this was padded intermittent pausing to take my two dogs out, so for you I would imagine that it would be less. Unless you really like to stop and enjoy the scenery.

dragon age 2 legacy gameplay

These shields are a nuisance on more than one occasion

It was interesting to me to watch the tale unfold of the family Hawke. Throughout Dragon Age 2 we were constantly reminded and spent time with the matriarchal side of the lineage, the Amells. But throughout this adventure very little was ever spoken of the Hawke side. Legacy provides a brief glimpse into the other half of Hawke’s lineage, but to be honest I found myself asking “Why do I care?” They never brought it up during the main campaign of the game, at all. I mean yes they made references to Hawke’s father so we know he existed and had some relationship with his children however not once did they ever mention that the family may have some additional purpose or strange history. It felt very tacked on.

Now this is not to say that it was not thoroughly enjoyable and interesting. As we explored our way through this Grey Warden prison my companions continued their interesting and witty banter back and fourth that elicited more than a few chuckles. Something about Isabela saying “See, this is why I don’t wear pants,” will go a long way to produce a wry smile across a man’s face.

But they didn’t stop with just an interesting story. The weapon received is not just some obligatory “here’s a fancy new sharp killy thing.” It plays an integral role in the story. In fact without it the story itself could not proceed. It’s called “The Key” and helps Hawke to complete the task at hand. While this may not sound all that interesting what sets it apart is that as the game goes on you assign traits to it based on what you want from it. Think of it a little like the weapons in Fable III, but better implemented. It’s this aspect I would like to see them develop more in future Dragon Age 2 expansions and Dragon Age 3. It became such that I got excited when I got to upgrade my weapon because I couldn’t wait to see what was out there for me. By the end I had developed the perfect weapon for my character and would have loved to have spent a little more time with it.

Now as you can tell from trailers and various pre-release information you are once more dealing with some talking Darkspawn that were believed to be seen for the first time in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening. This was referenced in the game by Anders (who was in my party) and questioned if there was a relation between the two. What began to unfold was a much more interesting story that also gives players some insight as to the origins of the Darkspawn altogether. This was like an unexpected present of knowledge and lore and who doesn’t love that?

While the story in Legacy isn’t going to make Dragon Age 2 a game of the year it did certainly make me feel better about Dragon Age 2 as a whole. It’s something that helps create a more complete offering. While it’s not earth shattering ground breaking by any means it’s still better than you see in some games.

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For this reason we’re giving Dragon Age 2: Legacy gets a 4 out 5.

 

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Rating: 4.0/5 (6 votes cast)

Portal 2 Review: Is This A Triumph?

Portal has come a long way since showing the cake, in fact, was not a lie.  Ever since the success of the first, Valve has meticulously planned a sequel to the franchise.  The initial fears of the sequel were apparent.  Sequels in the video game world have not been doing quite well to hold to the original (Call of Duty, Dragon Age, BioShock; all with their corresponding reasons).  However, this was different….this was Valve.  If anyone could make an awe-inspiring sequel, it would be Valve.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT.  I say possible because there are a lot of jokes and actual story elements in this iteration.  If you do plan on playing the game, some of the jokes might be spoiled.

 

 

Gameplay (5 out of 5)

Right out of the gate, the game assumes you are a new person to the Portal series (or video games themselves).  This means you will have to go through the initial tutorial levels once again, with loading screens after each simple test.  Fear not though, once the game ramps up the difficulty, and you travel deeper into the Aperture Science Laboratories, the loading screens become less apparent.  After playing through the entire Single Player campaign (and parts of the co-op so far), veterans to the series will come across some new found difficulty.  The new additions of a Hard-light bridge, Excursion Funnel, and 3 different types of gels give you a whole new sense of trying to think outside the box.  I found myself pouring over every corner of rooms before having that “oh…..duh” moment.

The addition of the co-op campaign adds the most unpredictable variable you will come across in this game…a 2nd player.  The co-op campaign is completely separate from the single player campaign (so do not feel like you are cheating yourself out of any experience by going with one or the other).  With 4 portals now (instead of 2), puzzles become even more mind-boggling than before.  Thankfully, Valve introduced gestures to help players (who might not be able to speak to each other).

There are non-mission gestures and mission.  Non-mission gestures include waving, playing rock paper scissors, teasing each other, and even hugging…awwwww.  Quite frankly, after figuring out some of these tests, you mind yourself hugging the other out of sheer excitement that the test is finally over.  Then there are mission gestures.  These act as more notifications for the other player to follow, like if you want the other player to look somewhere, or put their portal in a specific spot.  It also include a 3sec timer for times you need to complete an action at the same time.

Make sure you are a close friend with someone before playing co-op.  You might find yourself yelling at the other because they deployed the wrong portal FOR THE 1 BILLIONTH TIME KILLING YOU BOTH.  sorry…it does get frustrating if communication is not made a priority.  You will find yourself dying over even the simplest puzzles if both of you are not on the same page when navigating through these.

 

Story (4 out of 5)

Believe it or not, there is an actual story to be told in Portal 2.  You start the game where you left off from the first,  still captured, and doing exercises to keep your body and mind in shape.  However, something goes wrong, and you are not waken up for many years, until a new AI called Wheatley comes to free you from your slumber.  From there, you must once again, battle the over powering AI GlaDOS (who does not feel the emotion revenge for you killing her at all….you monster) and escape from Aperture Science.  Without giving away too much, you learn much more about all the characters, including the foundations that Aperture Science was built on, and even get to see some of their early experiments (which are quite hilarious to explore).  The narration by all the characters makes for very interesting conversation between tests, that I even looked forward to.  I was always looking forward to what was going to happen next or who would say what.  The reason I do not give this a perfect 5, is because in the end, the story elements do feel short.  With basically only 3 main characters,  there is not too much to explore.  Valve instead crams as much personality into them as possible…and it works quite well.

 

Controls & Graphics (5 out of 5)

Valve goes again with the Source engine to power the game.  This leads to the familiar feeling of swinging the view around to get your bearings correct.  For any people new to the series, the game will still give you hints as to what a certain button press will do (and sometimes, what control will help you in a situation).  Overall, the controls should not hinder your performance in any way (coming from the PC version).

Graphics wise, the game has made some improvements since the last iteration.  It adds many more moving parts and higher resolution textures to compliment the setting of the game.  You quickly learn that every square of a test chamber is hooked up to an actuator arm that can modify the room in any given way.  Seeing this in action gives a new sense of awe.  Environmentally, Valve does a great job of showing that the center has not aged well over the years.  With plants growing out of control (including those damn potatoes) and random floor sections missing or failing, it keeps the sense that the building feels alive.

 

Audio (4 out of 5)

Random dialog moments make up the bulk of this score.  Between Wheatley’s random moments of stupidity or one of GlaDOS’s retorts, you find yourself stopping so you get to hear the full dialog (so it doesn’t get cut off by entering another room and triggering another scripted event).  Included in some of tests are some music points (whether its smooth jazz or 8-bit retro sounds) that will ramp up as you progress through the test.  It is not overpowering and is a nice touch.  There is a new final song after you beat the game.  It does not match the awesomeness of Still Alive, but it is still enjoyable.

Overall (5 out of 5)

I’m making a note here: Huge Success.  Portal 2 is an excellent sequel to the original.  It adds enough new elements to challenge veterans of the series, while bringing in some new players.  With co-op, you can now share frustration and anger with a friend (just make sure you do not share violence.  Violence is not part of the test and will not help you along).  Valve has outdone themselves by making a very respectable sequel.  They did not hang around memes created by the first game, and set off to correctly expand the game and its horizons.

P.S.: One note though, co-op store for hats/skins that do not help and only have one other person see at a time….really Valve?  I forgive you for wanting more money….but really?

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)