Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

L.A. Noire Review

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L.A. Noire. You're gonna be impressed... to death.

Since I first heard of a game by Rockstar that promised to have the most epic facial mapping that was integral to the detective storyline, I was hooked.  With a concept so unique and sure to leave the other guys wondering why they hadn’t thought of it first, L.A. Noire is absolutely one of a kind.  This moody game isn’t afraid to delve into dark storylines to give it a gritty, yet realistic feel.  The frequent success of the Grand Theft Auto series spelled out no surprise that Rockstar has once again delivered an amazing game.  Read on to see the review of Rockstar’s latest, L.A. Noire.

Controls

The controls for L.A. Noire still need a little work.  The cover system in gunfights (and gunfights themselves) felt very awkward, and I found it difficult to move around in cover.  Yes, it’s true, I miss the ability to launch myself over the crate I’m hiding behind and run towards more cover.  Occasionally, while trying to be stealthy, I would have Cole pop out of cover to aim at the bad guy, and from him simply peeking out, the guy would notice him and start shooting.  I also got frustrated with how Cole ran, as I thought it was hard to run from cover and crouch behind a new hiding spot.

In certain areas, Cole seemed to shy away from walking into a corner or nook.  Me being the as meticulous as I am, this was exasperating.  I want to walk where I want to walk, damnit!

The investigative controls were somewhat finicky as well.  Cole needed to be in exactly the right place and stop just so in order for him to find a certain piece of evidence.  Normally I didn’t have too much trouble with this, but it could be frustrating to walk over the same spot multiple times, trying to get Cole to pick up the evidence.

Moving on to the car controls, I found these to be much improved from GTA’s latest installment with sluggish car controls.  In fact, the controls were nearly too touchy for me.  Believe me, I wracked up a lot of city and car damage costs in every case.  And killed someone walking down the street each time, too.

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L.A. Noire gets 3 out of 5 for Controls

Gamplay

The gameplay in L.A. Noire is almost 100% immersing.  You play as Cole Phelps, a cop who slowly rises in the police world by investigating various deaths and murders, and it’s easy to feel like you are Cole.  The tiniest details are placed in the game with care, and the vibe of the 1940’s is spot on.

LANoireEvidence

Yeah, this tiny tube could be easy to miss.

That said, there are a few factors working against the feeling that you really are there as Cole.  For one thing, the ‘side quests’ that come through over the radio tend to break in the tense mood that is so wonderfully created in L.A. Noire.  It actually feels like a letdown, when distracted by taking a mini mission, instead of racing to the bar where you need to go, as you’re sure to find some details in the recent murder you’ve been given.  These ’emergency radio calls’ feel very tacked on, as though the developers needed something else to keep the gamers going.  Why do we never hear other police units accept the challenge?  Are Cole and his partner the ONLY ones patrolling that could help?  These street crimes are fairly quickly resolved, but most end up in a shootout of some kind, and this is what really breaks the atmosphere of the 40’s.  Cole can take as many shots as he wants to take down the bad guys – he’s got UNLIMITED AMMO.  This may be a crutch of some kind, or maybe the developers were feeling extra giving that day, but it completely ruins the mood.

Another item would be the occasional feeling that Cole is connecting things that I didn’t know, or that I’m not completely following his deductions or the trail of the investigation.  Maybe I don’t have that detective wiring or maybe some investigations don’t get completely answered.

You know how in Grand Theft Auto, you can change the radio station in the car, or just completely turn it off?  It seems you can’t do that in L.A. Noire.  And that’s… a bit annoying.  Yes, I know that sometimes it’s the mood music.  But othertimes… there’s just no way to turn the car’s stereo off.

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L.A. Noire gets 3 out of 5 for Gameplay

Graphics

There’s nothing like L.A. Noire, with its gorgeous visuals and enormous yet accurate cities.  Or at least, I’m assuming accurate.  I’ve never been to Los Angeles.  I’m not joking here; the city is AMAZING.  It’s huge!  Yet every building, every house, every car, every mailbox has immaculate detail.  You can tell where the richer folk live, and where the people with less money live.  It’s incredible to be able to walk into a house and go through clues, or walk around the police building and see all the detail and busily working employees.

LANoireCharacter

Is he lying? You tell me.

Then there’s the actual ‘actors playing a character’ aspect.  And in my opinion, the decision to use this technology was the best choice.  It’s astounding to see a character go from tearful to shifty, from calm to explosive.  The ability to actually READ a person’s face in this game to determine if they are lying is incredible.  There is no hint of uncanny valley here, because the necessity to watch the characters on screen is so integral.  While sometimes movements from characters seems stiff or jerky, mostly everything is believable, and a small indiscretion doesn’t detract from the performances of the actors involved.

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L.A. Noire gets 5 out of 5 for Graphics

Story

Like I mentioned earlier, there is nothing on the market like L.A. Noire.  The story is driven by a detective / investigative scenario set in the 1940’s, where underneath all the glamour lies a grittier truth; murder, lies, and mobs.  The story about a detective will always be dark, and L.A. Noire doesn’t hold back.  The scenes of the crime are mainly all gruesome, and having to search the – sometimes naked – body (including turning the bloody, lifeless head back and forth to examine it) is one of the chilly details Cole must do.  Theft, rape, murder; it’s all here.  This is certainly no kids game.  But solving a crime using the evidence Cole has found, even accusing someone of lying, is a very satisfying feeling.  Choosing wrong answers in a conversation won’t necessarily leave Cole unable to continue in his investigation; it just offers a different ending.  **SPOILERS**  Take one case in which a hit and run accident is believed to be the cause of a man’s death.  However, talking to his wife, finding out how she didn’t love him (and how she had taken a lover on the side), and discovering from the coroner that, in fact, he had been stabbed prior to being hit with a car, leads you to the truth – that his wife and lover had planned to kill him.  This takes you on a very different path than had you not found all the clues or chose wrong answers in the wife’s conversation, which would result in the driver of the hit and run being blamed.  **END SPOILERS**

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The Coroner's Report

Being a better observer, and being able to catch when a person is lying based on evidence you found, will open up more dialogue options for you, and potentially, different endings to a case.  This makes the game more exciting to replay in order to have a case take a different turn.

The world is also completely open, so you are not forced to work on a particular case if you don’t want to.  There are plenty of other distractions, including the 40 street crimes to be resolved, finding every car variety and unlocking hidden cars, and unlocking landmarks.  You do receive experience points for doing these items, which helps you level up, so it does pay to look for them.

Cole’s past is explained in flashbacks between cases, so you do get to learn more about the ambitious detective you play as.  This helps to differentiate Cole from any of the other police officers.

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L.A. Noire gets 5 out of 5 for Story

Overall

Definitely worth buying if you’re interesting in the rich and mature detective story. The visuals on this game alone, particularly the characters, are worth a try.  Overall, I’d have to say that I’m absolutely enjoying this game, however there are a few setbacks that have trouble keeping me immersed in the world.  Those setbacks are not enough to keep from buying this game, but may cause a few annoying moments.  However, this title is worthy of standing with the Grand Theft Auto games by Rockstar, and I know I won’t be putting it down anytime soon.

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L.A. Noire overall gets a 4 out of 5

-Kat

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Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 Review

About a week and a half ago it came in the mail. I was a Star Wars fan-boy growing up and still am to this day. The Force Unleashed was a simple wet dream for anyone who ever wanted to go absolutely buck wild with the Force and show gravity that we’re sick of living under its theoretical rule. However there were other matters at hand that kept me from playing. I was married October 30’th and quickly hit the honeymoon. There my wife put up a rule of “Absolutely no video games or Polish the Console.” She won that round so when I got back I decided it was time to get to work. I had done everything imaginable to stay away from other reviews of the game. If I hadn’t then I would have known what was ahead of me.

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This is what this game could have been. Dark, brooding, awesome.

I couldn’t wait to get back into the boots of Starkiller and traverse the galaxy throwing Stormtroopers through windows. I could only hope a few Jawas would get tossed into a large ship or chasm because, well…what else do you do with Jawas?

What I got started off on a strong note and then slowly Force Choked itself to death.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 – Controls

The controls for The Force Unleashed 2 were absolutely tightened up when compared to the previous outing. Force gripping behaved more intuitively and precisely. Plus the addition of being able to manipulate multiple objects at once became really fun.  This did however become a bit of a problem when you had to be precise with your force pickups however it wasn’t a game breaker. Force powers definitely got a big upgrade in the control department.

That being said lightsaber combat took a step back. They added the fun addition of “grapple” where you hit two buttons together and you either do a Force manipulations and lightsaber combo, or just lightsaber the hell out of the guy. However there were only two to choose from. It never varied to anything more interesting, never allowed to learn new moves. It fell flat. Add onto this that there was no variation in what you did with your lightsabers. In the first game the speed with which you tapped the lightsaber attack button caused for new combos to be unleashed. It became interesting to find the right timing and use for them. There was none of that in the Force Unleashed 2. It was almost pure button mashing.

However it was enjoyable button mashing.

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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2’s controls get a 4/5

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 -Gameplay

Star Wars The Force Unleased 2 from Lucas Arts

Nothing to worry about when this pup's leash is off. It's not a fighter.

The Force Unleashed 2 does a good job of not breaking the environment. Everything flows naturally and there are no awkward load screen pauses. The downside is that I was seemingly unable to skip these scenes on my first play through. I’m willing to admit pilot error on this one. Just how the hell do you skip these things? I just don’t want to watch all of them all the time.

Conversations via communicators help to create a sense of urgency, although I feel they could have done a better job addressing these communications by a little more than “I see you still use the same com frequency.” Really guys? Couldn’t get more creative than that? Hell even ignoring it all together most likely would have made me think…well…nothing. You just had to blatantly address this? Really?

Then there is Starkiller’s incessant whining about having to find Juno and not caring about the Rebellion. While I can certainly understand his goals and his drive does he really have to keep on about it? At some point I was praying someone somewhere would just say “Hey, Mr. Jedi….stop being a whiny bitch and just do it.”

Not to mention there is a level that is 100% pointless. Dagobah’s entire purpose is to throw a few crystals, spheres, and a fancy pants movie that you can’t interact with at you. Forget adding a fun Force puzzle, or at least one boss that requires me to fire up the twin lightsabers. Nope, walk a little bit. Jump a little bit. Find a small green Jedi and sit back and watch a movie. I wanted to pull a X-Wing from a swamp damnit! I know this takes place in events after the game, but let me pull SOMETHING awesome from the swamps. Anything….

I sat down thinking I was coming back from my honeymoon to a great story that would take me a while to get through. I was ready for an all day all night Star Wars love fest that would leave me panting, sweaty, and red eyed for work come Monday morning. I didn’t get that. It took me 6 hours. Yes. 6 hours. Instead of a Force fueled nerdtastic Star Wars honeymoon of sweaty Jedi love of my own I had game that prematurely ended all over itself just when things were starting to get enjoyable. It didn’t even say it was sorry. Or that this was the first time anything like this has ever happened. WTF TFU2!?!?!!It was absolutely the let down of my gaming year.

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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2’s gameplay gets a 1/5

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 -Graphics

The graphics also received a much needed upgrade from the first outing. While I would never say that they were below average to begin with they seem tighter and more thought out. Everything from the clothing to the lightning got a wonderful upgrade. They took thought and care into showing how a TIE Fighter may look when being caught and crushed by an overwhelming amount of Force power to how an active lightsaber would react when hit by rain (spoiler alert: they steam). Its the massive and minor overhauls that really make this video game feel more polished than before.

There is one minor part that irked me about the first game that was never corrected. Every time a character walked in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed they looked like they were trudging through a muddy swamp with a pant load. It it was more of a lumbering than a natural fluid motion. This wasn’t really corrected. I can’t understand why nobody at Lucas Arts seems to notice that they character move as if they have a loaded diaper and are on a floor made of caramel.

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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2’s graphics get a 4/5

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 -Story

And this is the part where the fan-boy in my takes a screaming dump. Canon aside the story ends when it really begins. They had this potential to take a really captivating and potentially moving story of Jedi love but instead they give you a half finished patch work blanket of Star Wars cameos. It’s like the blanket my grandmother made me back in the 80’s. Loved it, thought it was epic,  but it never felt truly…Star Wars worthy. The greatest part of The Force Unleashed was that it told the story of how the Rebellion came to be. The Force Unleashed 2 tells the story of how cranky a Jedi becomes when it won’t stop raining. That’s about it.

And not to ruin any spoilers, but in the last scene you will find yourself thinking “Either PROXY is a lying prick bastard or a total dumbass.”

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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2’s story gets a 1/5

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 – Overall Score

Overall the shortcomings are insurmountable when compared to the improvements. It’s a hastily made, poorly concluded mess of a game. If you’re a total Star Wars junkie then grab it from GameFly or Blockbuster. Else just wait until it heavily discounted and used from GameStop. Save your money. Buy a dog instead. At least that will leave you feeling rewarded.

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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 gets an overall score of 2/5

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – The Review

Our story begins on a crashing ship in a post apocalyptic world. Girl breaks out, boy breaks out, girl crashes ship, boy chases girl, girl fires an escape pod with boy clinging for dear life on the outside, girl enslaves boy and forces him into servitude. Pretty standard tale. I met my fiancé in a fairly similar circumstance. Okay so it was yelling about Christmas Carols in a fraternity house in Ohio…it’s similar.

Monkey - Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

How could you not think this is awesome?

You assume the role of Monkey, a brutish shirtless man with a large pole that enjoys beating up gigantic robots that force humans into slavery. Anyone who has ever thrown a controller or smacked a computer monitor in frustration will absolutely relate to his facial expressions when throwing a beat down on a over sized intelligent can opener. I say over sized though I’m fully aware that an intelligent can opener may in fact be six feet of walking sharp metal. It is possible, right?

No Monkey is complete unless it’s got its goofy looking organ grinder calling the shots. In this case “goofy looking” is replaced with “attractive” and  “organ grinder” is replaced with “ginger kid”. Trip is a timid, entitled pain in the ass who will quite literally ride Monkey to get her home. The strange part is she actually becomes quite endearing despite the whole “forced into servitude” aspect.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West - Monkey

PC Load Letter?

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Controls

The controls are nothing short of standard. Enslaved seems to adhere to the concept that everyone needs to be able to play it and play it well. It’s button mashing at its finest. There is almost no creativity involved.  If you can mash a button you can play Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. It would have been very nice of them to include a way to make Monkey run a bit, but that seems to be as much thought into original, interesting, and fun controls as there was put into making this paragraph interesting.

That being said, they aren’t bad controls. They are the tried and true control scheme that every gamer should feel more than comfortable with. But they are still pretty average.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West’s controls get a 3 out of 5

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Gameplay

Trip - Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Most of the game involves Trip running or being carried and thrown. GINGER TOSS!!

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West does a very good job of masking loading screens with cinematic sequences. While not every one of them is interesting there is at least something going on that takes your attention away from the fact that the game is loading. Anyone who has been to this site before knows that I’m not a fan of boring loading screens.

While the main flaw of the gameplay stems in the fact that it is quite literally a collection of loaded rooms with phenomenal backdrops that’s more or less the mood of the game. You’re not in this game to look around and take your time. You’re always trying to get the attractive ginger somewhere.

Add to that the intense sense of urgency in certain situations. In some instances you will reach a hand hold and it will begin to crumble beneath your hand. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West goes balls out and actually makes you move quickly.

Early in the game when you’re clinging to the outside of a crashing plane you see a building getting closer in the distance. Twenty seconds later and it’s crashing into you. Some video games allude to a sense of urgency that doesn’t really matter. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West flat out says “get it done and get it done now.”

The downside comes in that after a while the video game becomes rather stale. It falls into the Assassins Creed pitfall of repetition.  After a while I caught myself thinking “okay this again”. Climb, flip a switch, kill a robot, toss a ginger. That’s not to say the entire game is repetitive and has some genuinely fun pieces throughout the entire game. But the same 5 glowing hand holds and common tasks just become stale after a few hours.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West’s gameplay gest a 4 out of 5

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Graphics

Much ado has been made about the graphics in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West but its really not the up close graphics that make it borderline majestic. In fact the foreground much of the environment are just trying to do a little too much. It’s quite nice , mind you. It’s just that…well…it almost feels like that kid that everyone likes but he just tries a little too hard.

The real beauty in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West comes in two big aspects. 1.) The Background. Yes the foreground isn’t anything to write home about, but the backgrounds have the feeling of a living breathing world that you can almost feel. As smoke billows out from a crashed slaver ship you can almost smell the air carrying the smoke.

2.) The faces. Ninja Theory took a tip from Heavy Rain and seemed spent time looking at the subtleties of a human face and how we look while we interact with one another. It’s these minor cues of  emotions conveyed in each facial expression in every interaction speak volumes more than the words spoken.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West’s graphics get a 4 out of 5

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Story

The story is the true gem of the video game. It will absolutely catch you off guard with how emotional it is. Some credit goes to the actors for helping to convey this in some otherwise mundane scene’s of “Go from Point A to Point B”. For instance at one point Trip essentially has a breakdown and Monkey is chasing after her showing obvious concern.

Ultimately its the story that helps reinforce this strong attachment between the two. Through every step of the story there is always something to illustrate the caring and bond between Monkey and Trip. This makes what you are doing far more important than the “do it or you fail” mentality present in some games.

On top of the emotional attachment the story is just fairly epic. There are unique and memorable characters, deep understandable motivations and though the tasks are somewhat repetitive the reason for doing them is always present and wrought with actual motivations. Especially when you have a fat man named Pigsy hanging from a sub about to get put into a spinning fan.  Yeah, got your attention now didn’t it.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West’s story gets a 5 out of 5

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Overall

It took a while to get fully immersed in. After all, no emotional attachment happens in a snap. However once you’re in, you’re totally in. There are pieces that include fantastic surprises and delightful dialog. Graphically this game is sound and quite intriguing. While it may not be for everyone it is absolutely for people who want an interesting adventure with an entirely different story. Sadly though, you won’t find an innovative or interesting control scheme.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West gets an overall score of 4 out of 5

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)