The Last of Us (2013)

People Always Talk About the Apocalypse Like It’s the End of the World.

The Last of Us (2013)I had a vague interest in today’s game for a while.  It looked interesting enough, but did not strike me as the greatest thing since sliced bread.  In its defense, I fucking love sliced bread.  Just think of how useful that stuff is!  Anyway, when the game came out, I was mildly interested, but more because I lacked anything much better to play at the time.  But then the world got involved.  The game received such massive praise around the time of its release that I knew what the world really needed: my opinion of it.  I finished this game a while ago, but was busy with my sister’s wedding and unable to finally let you all know how you should be feeling about this game.  Well the time has come for me to review The Last of Us, written by Neil Druckmann, developed by Naughty Dog, published by Sony Computer Entertainment, and starring the voices of Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, Merle Dandridge, Annie Wersching, Robin Atkin Downes, Hana Hayes, W. Earl Brown, Brandon Scott, Nadji Jeter, Jeffrey Pierce, Ashley Scott, and Nolan North.

We play primarily as Joel (Troy Baker), a single father living in Texas with his 12-year-old daughter Sarah (Hana Hayes).  Things are fairly normal for them until an outbreak of a mutated cordyceps infection breaks out around the United States, turning people all over the country into violent creatures bent on spreading their infection through bites and spores.  Let’s just call them “zombies” for short.  In the rush to escape the infection, Sarah is shot by a soldier trying to contain the infection and she dies in Joel’s arms.  20 years later, small pockets of humanity survive in contained quarantine zones.  Joel makes a living as a smuggler with his friend Tess (Annie Wersching).  A cache of weapons is stolen from them by an arms dealer named Robert (Robin Atkin Downes) and, in the process of hunting him down, they meet a leader of the Fireflies rebels named Marlene (Merle Dandridge), who promises them double their weapons for smuggling a teenage girl named Ellie (Ashley Johnson) outside the quarantine zone.    Joel reluctantly agrees at the behest of Tess.  They later find out that what makes Ellie so important is that she was once bitten by the cordyceps, but was found to be immune to the infection, making her the last hope that humanity has for destroying the infection once and for all.

My feelings about this game were pretty conflicted, and for pretty much the same reason that I have disliked quality games in the past.  My expectations were set too high.  I feel like, had I gone into this game completely ignorant to it, I would have loved it much more than I did.  As it was, I thought the game was really good, but it did not quite manage to live up to the hype.  The story was definitely the game’s primary selling point.  It was definitely solid.  Though I still have not gotten around to watching it, it felt to me like what I expect watching an episode of The Walking Dead would be like, especially around the times when Henry and Sam were around.  There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of dealing with surviving the threat at hand, and a lot of surviving the different sections of fallen humanity, such as soldiers, rebels, cannibals, bandits, etc.  The emotional part of the story starts off right away.  I was not expecting Sarah to die.  I thought this was the girl I had seen in the commercials or gameplay footage.  I was confused because I thought I heard her called Ellie, but they could’ve rewritten the name for all I know.  I didn’t get very attached to the daughter at first because, though they seemed to have a sweet relationship, she did throw “even though you’re never around” into a birthday letter to my character.  That’s not cool.  He probably feels horrible about it but doesn’t have a choice because he was a single dad that has to provide for his daughter.  I never threw that shit in my mom’s face because she was at work a lot.  Hell, I relished it because it meant more time to sit at home playing video games instead of doing my homework.  That woman cramped my style.  I don’t really consider it a spoiler to say that stuff about Sarah because it happens in the first few minutes of the game, but plenty of other people die in emotional ways.  I felt myself predicting a lot of them because these characters that the game acts like might be here forever were never seen in any of the trailers, but it was still done well and pulled a lot of emotion from the audience.  There were a lot of emotional moments between Joel and Ellie too, especially since Ellie seemed so desperate to be able to connect with Joel but he was intentionally closing that door because he didn’t want to get too attached.  The conversation between the two of them where Joel said, “You’re right: you are NOT my daughter,” was brutal.  It hurt MY feelings even though he wasn’t talking to me because I REALLY wanted these two to get into that father/daughter relationship that Joel so desperately wanted to squash.  Maybe my biological clock is ticking…  Also, at the very end of the game, how did Joel not clock the dude that hit him with the rifle butt because he was trying to save Ellie’s life?  I understand they turned out to be “friendlies,” but clock me AFTER I’ve saved the girl’s life, douchebag!

The visuals of the game are well realized, but not always pleasant to look at.  I guess you should expect that from dystopian settings.  But it did have a good amount of beautiful visuals as well.  Most of the rural areas are pretty grey and ugly (as they were intended to be), but the stuff in the wilderness was generally very pretty.  And since they went all the way across the United States and travelled through an entire year, the developers got to stretch their legs and show what they could do with all the changing seasons and environments.  Rural, sewers, streets, wilderness, forests, icy landscapes, they span a plethora of environments that are all well realized.  I guess the only problem I had with the look was the “secret tunnel” that we enter at one point.  You could see the edges of it behind the entertainment system shelf that was supposed to be concealing it.  I guess the education system suffers in the apocalypse.

I had very few problems with the controls, but they didn’t really take any chances here.  It was like Uncharted with less climbing and more stealth.  It’s safe, but it’s functional.  Stealth in this game (as stealth in most games as far as I’m concerned) can get a little frustrating for the less patient audiences (such as myself) but it’s not too painful, and it’s pretty necessary since the game decided that a few of the enemies you face can instantly kill you if they get too close.  That’s a little irritating as well, especially since it can sometimes be hard to tell which ones are the instant killing ones and which are the regular ones.  The thing I felt was most irritating was that this game was still trying to push Sixaxis on us.  It’s dead, Sony!  Let it go!  It does not immerse me more in the game to have to shake my controller as if it was my flashlight and we all know that gets your batteries working right.  Another problem I had was with ammo availability.  I’ve felt this about other games in the past, but if I kill someone that was just shooting at me, I want their ammo.  I know they have it; they were just throwing it at me.  Give it to me!

This does not seem like it’s a great game for trophies.  I’ve not come anywhere near getting them all yet, but just reading through them makes them seem daunting.  I’ve beaten the game, and I was trying to collect stuff and finish trophies, but I’m still at a meager 5%.  A lot of them are for collecting and beating the game 8 different ways (the difficulties do stack though) and crafting different items, but that is an awful amount to have beaten the game with.  I doubt I’ll ever get anywhere near finishing them.  I did like collecting the comic books because it made Ellie happy, but I didn’t find a single comic book while exploring the dorms in the Colorado college level.  Are you shitting me?  No one in a Colorado college reads comics?  Those kids don’t know how to party!

My enjoyment of The Last of Us was hindered by the overhyping it received, but not so much that I couldn’t still say it was a really good game.  The story was well written and actually able to illicit emotional responses from me, and the graphics were pretty outstanding when they got out of the bland cities.  I could have perhaps asked for a little more innovation out of the controls since they seemed to mainly stick with what was safe, and the trophies are way too much work for me, but I would say that this is a quality game.  I don’t know if I’d be prepared to say it was worth the full $60 for it, but if it drops even $10 on sale, I’d say that would be enough reason for you to pick it up for yourself.  The Last of Us gets “No matter what you have to find something to fight for” out of “It doesn’t matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.”

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PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (2012)

Sony’s Super Smash Brawl All-Stars Royale with Cheese.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (2012)When I learned of the existence of today’s game, I scoffed.  I had no interest in playing this game.  Well, that’s not necessarily true.  I actually have had interest in playing this game many times before, and I’ve enjoyed playing.  Problematically, I enjoyed playing these games when they were called Super Smash Brothers.  But this time PlayStation was doing it.  I still only decided to play this game because I have a somewhat underused Vita and my roommate gave me a code that would get me this game for free.  Consider yourself endorsed, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, developed by SuperBot Entertainment and SCE Santa Monica Studio, published by Sony Computer Entertainment, and including the voices of Eric Ladin, Sean Pertwee, Tim Phillipps, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Unshô Ishizuka, Josh Keaton, Max Casella, Sanae Kobayashi, Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson, Jennifer Hale, Nolan North, Dred Foxx, Quinton Flynn, James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Stephen Fry, Stephane Cornicard, Kevin Miller, Marc Silk, J.S. Gilbert, and, of course, Mario.  No one is going to read through all those names to see that one joke.

…story…Hmmm…  Well, a while ago, a company made a game called Super Smash Brothers because they had been around long enough and had enough iconic, exclusive characters that a game could justify it.  Years later, another accomplished company took their few iconic exclusives, added some exclusives no one gives a shit about, and acted like another character or two were exclusive, and pretty much jacked Smash Brothers blatantly.  And you use those characters to reach the end and beat a disembodied head to make your character glow blue in his epilogue.

You will find that the biggest problem I had with this game is that it is Smash Brothers.  It is so blatantly and unforgivingly Smash Brothers.  I feel like I will use the word Nintendo in this review more than I will the word Sony.  I felt like the credit sequence was so painfully long because they also had to thank everyone involved in Super Smash Brothers.  It lasts like a half hour!  I could bust through the story in less time than I could the credits.  And to refer to what it had as a “story” is true exaggeration.  Every character, no matter how different, hears that something is happening where characters from different worlds are collecting.  They go, they fight, they have a brief, one-stage-long rivalry with a character, and then they fight a disembodied head.  Winning gives them some sort of power that makes them glow blue, in the still-frame ending movie, and then a half hour of credits.  And the final boss was so disappointing to me.  The disembodied head has nothing to do with any Sony product I’ve ever experienced.  It DOES have something in common with a certain Nintendo product that ends with a pair of disembodied hands and polygonal, colorless versions of the other characters in the game.  I will eventually remember the name of that game.  But I believe Sony missed a huge opportunity to make the final boss Kevin Butler.  That would have been fucking perfect!  …SMASH BROTHERS!  That was it.

I was vaguely surprised to see that Sony had actually pulled off a fairly strong set of characters for their Smash Brothers rip off, but they cannot justify it nearly as well as Nintendo could.  Kratos, Nathan Drake, Cole MacGrath, Sweet Tooth, someone from Killzone, Big Daddy and Dante (neither of which are Sony exclusive, by the way.  And didn’t Bioshock originally come out as an Xbox exclusive?), Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, PaRappa and Nariko (why does anyone remember these two?), Raiden (the least favorite of all Metal Gear characters, since Nintendo already had the most popular), Sackboy, Sly Cooper, Sir Daniel Whogivesafuck and Toro Whatthehell from Huh? for Red October.  I lost focus near the end.  I started wondering if Xbox could pull this off.  My research pulled up Marcus Fenix, Master Chief, Blinx, Alan Wake, Joanna Dark, the Viva Piñata characters, the dude from Condemned (which admittedly might be a little dark for a Smash Brothers rip off), and no, they can’t pull off this kind of game.  Of course, they might be able to pull it off if they add in characters that are not exclusive to Sony (such as Big Daddy and Dante) or if they actually had the audacity to make Cole into 2 different characters, justified by being a good and an evil version of the same character.  Hell, I guess Microsoft could pull of this kind of game.  There are like 10 different Carmines in Gears of War, and they could always have Master Chief and crestfallen Master Chief.  And, strangely, the characters I enjoyed playing as most were the ones I didn’t know or didn’t give a shit about.  I liked Sir Daniel from the game I can’t even name because I gave all of my shits away to the orphans in Africa.  I liked the strange cat thing, Toro, from whatever the fuck crazy Japanese thing it spilled out of, partially because he felt like this game’s version of Kirby.  I even liked playing as Nariko.  Certainly more than I liked playing as her in the game she came from.  I kind of defaulted to Kratos most times, because I wanted a character that played well that wouldn’t embarrass me.  I liked the Big Daddy too, but watching a Big Daddy get suplexed by Sackboy is not something I endorse.    I do endorse beating the crap out of PaRappa, especially when he keeps shouting about how you’ve gotta believe.  Believe this, PaRappa: I hate you.

The gameplay in this game was as good as it was a few years back on the Nintendo, but they again failed to live up to Smash Brothers.  The biggest problem was that beating up enemies served no good purpose.  In Smash Brothers, you beat people up because weakening them makes them easier to knock out of the level.  There is no ring out in PSASBR.  In other fighting games, you beat up your enemies to take their life bar down to zero.  There are no live bars in this game.  You beat people up to build up super moves, and super moves are pretty much instant kills.  So, basically, your ability to win is only as good as your character’s super move.  Kind of takes a little bit of the fun and strategy out of it.  There were other issues, like how annoying it was to double tap on the screen to pick up an item instead of just pressing a button to do it, but I think I hate most games that force touch screen use on you.  The big problem I thought of in regards to playing this game is I don’t see any reason to do it.  With Smash Brothers, you did it on the big screen on a console that could support four players simultaneously.  On my Vita, I play alone unless I want to go online (which I never really do).  Of course, this game is also available for the PS3, so I might have liked it more that way.

Graphically this game was fantastic.  Sony will always have that over Nintendo because the decision makers in Nintendo really have gamers figured out.  But this graphical improvement comes at a cost.  The load times between levels are awful, and really take you out of the pacing of the game.  You play a level, taking three minutes tops to beat it, and then you can put the Vita down and go get a sandwich waiting for the next match to start.  The levels are also nicely designed.  They start off as one person’s level and, over time, get invaded by a character from another game.  Like playing in Ratchet and Clank’s Metropolis and having the Hydra from God of War pop out of the ground, or having a Metal Gear slice its way into the Patapon level.  The game was musically delightful, but there was a problem with my game and the sound at first, but I don’t really fault the game for it because it was patched while I was still playing it.  And after that, I got to listen to the music from Uncharted from time to time, and I am always ready for that.

Of all the categories that this game comes second to Nintendo in, there is one category that Nintendo could never touch Sony in: trophies.  Sure, one could argue that Nintendo did not do a Trophy or Achievement system, but that feels irrelevant.  The trophies in this game were super easy, and not even very time consuming.  It’s not much more complicated than beating the game with all the characters and using their Level 3 Super Move in their own level.  Then just grab Toro, go online, and get an easy triple and double kill with his Level 3 move that seems to kill everyone on screen no matter what.  Easy Platinum.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a decent enough game that was ripped off wholesale from Nintendo’s Super Smash Brothers, and without very much by way of improvement.  Their characters aren’t nearly as iconic and the gameplay feels pointless and unsatisfying in comparison.  But, this game is not without its charms.  If you don’t own a Nintendo system, if you’re looking for an easy Platinum trophy, or if graphics are more important than gameplay, I could see there being reasons to play this.  Ultimately, I wouldn’t have paid money for this thing, and I wouldn’t be able to recommend it to you.  PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale gets “Super Brawl Brothers” out of “Melee.”

WATCH REVIEWS HERE!  YouTube  OTHER JOKES HERE!  Twitter  BE A FAN HERE!  Facebook  If you like these reviews so much, spread the word.  Keep me motivated!  Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!

Twisted Metal (2012)

Welcome … to Twisted Metal!

The bulk of the presents that I get for any holiday are video games.  This is not a complaint, but an exclamation that my family at least partially “get me”.  This year was no different.  Though I did get a sweet watch from my sister, the other presents I got were all video games, and that’s alright by me.  Especially since it’s been so long since I actually reviewed a video game.  They often take so long that it ends up being difficult to do a more comprehensive review, and since I want to review one thing a day, I lean more towards the much easier to review movies.  But it turns out at least one of the games I got for my birthday was particularly easy to review, as I was able to finish the single player mode in little more than a day.  Let’s see how well my sister picked her second present in my review of Twisted Metal, directed by David Jaffe, produced by Scott Campbell, developed by Eat Sleep Play, and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.

The story focuses on three characters of the Twisted Metal franchise.  Sweet Tooth the Clown, Mr. Grimm the motorcycle rider, and former model Krista Sparks, now known as Dollface.  Each of these three characters is participating in the Twisted Metal tournament run by the powerful Calypso, the winner of the tournament getting one wish, regardless of value.  The murdering clown Sweet Tooth wants only to get another chance at “the one that got away”, his daughter Sophie, who escaped him when he started murdering his family after his split personality “Needles” took over the personality of the family man, Marcus Kane.  Mr. Grimm is the son of a motorcycle daredevil who died during one of his performances, leading to Grimm turning into a vicious killer and gang leader.  His wish will be to go back in time and warn his father, stopping the chain of events.  Krista Sparks is a famous supermodel who rises to fame with her beauty … and her violent tendencies towards anyone that might be more famous than her.  She gets into a car accident which damages her face, but after some surgeries gets it reduced to a tiny scar that her brain turns into a hideous, rotting wound.  She finds a doctor who is no longer allowed to practice and he gives her a white, doll mask that will return her beauty if she wears it for 6 days, but then it won’t come off.  She enters the tournament to regain her fame and beauty.  Of course, if you’ve played any of the Twisted Metal games, you can probably guess that these wishes will not turn out as they were expected to.  Also, there’s a crazy guy named “the Preacher” that is protesting Calypso, but that’s not very important.

I feel very torn about my feelings on this game.  It’s good and fun in parts, extremely irritating in parts, and the story was disappointing to me.  I’ll start with the story.  One of my favorite parts of the other Twisted Metal games was forcing myself to get through the stories of each individual driver to find out what happened.  The most disappointing thing about this game was that you only get to play as three different characters in the story mode, and only get to see the outcome for those three characters and maybe one more if you count the Preacher … which I don’t.  Sure, once they’re unlocked you can play in any vehicle you want as one of those three characters, but you’ll find pretty quickly that there’s very little need to switch your car.  Mr. Grimm’s Reaper motorcycle, the man in the giant wheels called Axel, and numerous fast vehicles will be destroyed in about 30 seconds.  From the start, if you’re smart, you’ll probably lean towards Sweet Tooth’s ice cream truck.  It can take a beating and dish it out, and also turn into a giant robot clown that served no purpose I could ascertain.  It’s the only way to go for the greater majority of the game, at least until you unlock the Juggernaut that takes massive damage and can deal instant kills with a good charge.  But, even though you can choose all the vehicles, you still only get to play as the 3 set characters.  It’s just so sad and disappointing!  It was never about the cars for me; I wanted to see the individual stories of each character.  It just seems so lazy to only give us the three.  Granted, the three that they give us are fairly good and extremely dark.  All three of the characters are mass murderers, so you expect them to be dark, but Sweet Tooth’s story is way dark.  Also, you expect Calypso to technically grant the wishes of the three characters, but to do so in a way that works against the characters.  What he did to Sweet Tooth and Grimm was pretty great and was almost unexpected, but what he did to Dollface was just stupid.  ::SPOILER ALERT::  She tells him that she wants to be on the “World’s Biggest Runway” and to be the center of attention.  That’s a strange way to say that, don’t you think?  But still, I have no idea how he could possibly take that out of context.  OH!  Runways are also things that planes land on!  Fuck you, game.  ::END SPOILERS::  One thing to remember about the story mode is that there are two credit sequences that are definitely worth watching, so make sure you stick around.  One of them introduces a character that I’d be really happy to play as, while the other one just brings back a character that was killed in the story, but it does so in a pretty cool way.

The game is SOMETIMES an enjoyable romp and brings you back to a day where vehicular battle games were some of the most fun you could have, especially if playing with your friends.  The enjoyment of destroying your enemies and even running over the drivers that run out of the wreckage on fire in order to replenish your health still exists, but is marred a bit by some frustrating situations and some odd decisions that pertain to the controls.  My first recommendation: play the tutorial!  It gets you a trophy and lets you know how to play a game.  It’s probably not the greatest thing that I’ve gotten so in the habit of the first level of any game being the developers holding your hand and leading you through the controls, but it’s a sad reality.  I had already beaten the game before I learned that you could drive in reverse.  I knew that it was PROBABLY an option, but not how to do it.  You can also apparently jump.  Who knew?  Certainly not me.  Other than that, it’s a pretty standard vehicular shooter, and that seems to be what they were going for.  They wanted to recapture as much of the original Twisted Metal games as they could, right down to the controls.  Left trigger shoots side arms, right trigger shoots main weapons, square to drive, X to hand brake, circle to brake, and double tap circle to reverse … for some reason.  That’s basically all you need to play.  You’ll still probably die, and die often.  I played it on normal and almost burned my house down on more than one occasion.  The greater majority of the fights – when it’s just you against the regular vehicles – are not that difficult, especially if you choose your vehicle well (meaning only Sweet Tooth and Juggernaut).  They also throw in some races which boil down to choosing Kamikaze and trying to destroy Crimson Fury until the time comes when you unlock Crimson Fury, and then it’s just about choosing Crimson Fury.  The fastest car wins the race, and that’s it.  None of this “Tortoise beats the Hare” bullshit.  The gate rule in the races pissed me off though.  You didn’t have to go through all of the gates, but if you missed 12 you’d blow up.  This wouldn’t be that difficult to stick to in a normal racing game, but this is a racing game where your enemies are really excited to smash into the side of your vehicle and shoot you from behind with missiles.  Many times would I be speeding towards a gate, only to get hit and knocked to the side, missing the gate and getting one step closer to death.  But that’s only a bit tedious.  The real annoyance of this game is any situation that involves the word “Juggernaut” without you driving it.  They’re giant diesel trucks that can take quite a beating, drop mines if you’re following, fire missile barrages if you’re too close, and spawn more enemies out of their rear ends every minute or two if you don’t take them out.  And it gets worse when every other character on the map has nothing else on their mind than your destruction.  I got the feeling that the developers decided it was a good idea, but never bothered to play it themselves.  If they had, I think they would have killed themselves and someone else would have removed it out of respect.  After you face them for the first time, you’re just happy to get through it.  Then they do it again, but this time there are two.  Then they do it again, but this time there are two and they’re even more powerful.  Fuck you, game!  The boss battles are less annoying than this!

It’s worth noting, if you can find it, that my game included the download code for the full version of their previous game: Twisted Metal Black.  That’s a really cool thing to do … assuming the game is not too difficult and so dated that I won’t deem it worth my time.  Unfortunately, that was the case with Twisted Metal Black.  With the PS3 version of Twisted Metal, I could force myself through my annoyances because the game wasn’t awful to look at.  What Twisted Metal Black does have going for it is the fact that THEY WROTE STORIES FOR ALL THEIR CHARACTERS!  …Jerks.

I’ve never played a Twisted Metal game on multiplayer before, at least beyond split-screening with my friends.  This game afforded me the opportunity to play Twisted Metal online.  I didn’t want to.  I don’t like multiplayer, but at least this game seems to suit it.  So I gave it a shot.  But I quickly encountered the same problem I always encounter when I try to play games on PS3 online: the online sucks.  If your game isn’t Call of Duty or Uncharted 3, no one’s playing.  I played one game of Deathmatch and then spent the next two hours waiting in various rooms for someone to start the match.  At this point, I’ve given up.  I didn’t even want to play it; I just wanted to be able to talk about the different modes.  Oh well.  I didn’t see the point to playing Deathmatch, so I don’t feel like I’m missing very much.  It felt exactly like playing the single player story mode, but the enemies were slightly more difficult and you only start off with three cars.  Why would I want to play this when I can just play single player with all of the cars already?  I wouldn’t, so I won’t.

For those of you interested in trophies, this is not a game I’d recommend.  I am a certified achievement/trophy whore, but I will not attempt the greater majority of the trophies in this game.  I had a hard enough time just completing the game, let alone doing so on the hardest difficulty and getting gold on every mission, or doing so without dying or switching your car.  Some of you may be able to do it.  Congratulations!  You’ve won nothing.

Twisted Metal is a nice spot of fun and a nice trip down memory lane, but it was not without its disappointments.  The story that they had was good, but their choice to only give 3 or 4 characters a story was lazy and disappointing.  The gameplay was fun, but there were some serious controller problems, even if you sat through the tutorial to learn the things you’d probably never figure out on your own, and many parts of the game were frustratingly difficult.  You can get Twisted Metal Black with some of the games, but I don’t know why you would.  Also, don’t get this game if you’re looking for easy achievements.  But, if you want to split screen with your friends, or you just miss a time when all a game needed was something for your ice cream truck to shoot at, this game isn’t bad.  Twisted Metal gets “Sometimes the mind can bend so far that it snaps in two” out of “What a waste.  All those people I hadn’t killed yet.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Resistance 3 (2011)

Be Careful When Eating Soup!

Having not been impressed with the previous 2 installations of the Resistance franchise, I found myself hesitant to purchase the third.  But, as with many games near the end of 2011, when I saw it on sale on Black Friday, I could hardly restrain myself.  The game remained one that I had little interest in playing, but three months of owning it finally drew me to it … when I ran out of other games I wanted to play.  It’s been talked up to me by the greater majority of reviews I’ve read for it, but so were the first two games.  Let’s find out what’s really important (aka how I feel) in my review of Resistance 3, developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.

Four years after something called Operation: Black Eden, we play someone by the name of Joseph Capelli, a soldier dishonorably discharged from something called SRPA for executing someone named Nathan Hale.  I think Nathan Hale is the character we played in the first two games, but I have no recollection of any of the rest of that happening.  As I said, I was never a fan.  Either way, we live in Haven, Oklahoma with our wife, Susan, and our son, Jack, trying to hide from the Chimera (the big bad alien threat) with other survivors.  Eventually, our sanctuary becomes jeopardized, forcing everyone to evacuate.  With the help of some scientist we’re probably supposed to know, Dr. Malikov, Joe reaches the decision that he wants to do something more than hide and so, with Malikov in tow, Joe leaves his wife and kid to go destroy one of the Chimera Terraformers that are threatening our planet.

Some of the problems I had with the previous Resistance games were still present, but this was still a pretty damned good shooter.  The story was surprisingly good and had some pretty emotional moments within.  It’s still set within a alternate reality version of 1950’s America, which is a vaguely interesting concept, but it doesn’t really make any difference when the greater majority of the weapons are alien and futuristic anyway, leaving you to see very little to indicate that you’re in the 50’s.  But the story of the game is still pretty engrossing.  Your family gives you more of a reason to fight than the usual “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore”, or just simple survival, but a little more time could have been dedicated to connecting the audience with that family.  They’re only in it for the beginning of the first chapter, then just mentioned a lot until the end, usually taking the form of your son’s mitten that you carry around.  The setting then takes you plenty of interesting and diverse places, letting us see many different ways that the humans are coping with the Chimera menace.  You come from a fairly normal contingent, but you come across a more militant group, a super religious group, and even former prisoners that now just kill people, seemingly at random, along with the Chimera.  One thing that stuck me as weird came from the opening cinematic that attempted to catch us up with the story (though it apparently didn’t work on me).  The only part of it I paid attention to was a small bit of it that seemed to indicate that the Chimera virus started when a yellow orb fell from the heavens, landed in a guy’s soup, and was then eaten by him.  Is that really what you came up with for the start of this thing?  Food poisoning?  Maybe I should’ve just paid better attention.

I don’t have too much to say about the graphics beyond the fact that they’re nice.  Everything looks pretty great with no problems that I saw.  The closest thing to a problem actually came from too much realism.  In the dark parts of the game, your character’s flashlight would pop on to help you see.  The problem was that the flashlight looked too much like a real flashlight.  Let me try to explain this: have you ever used a flashlight that was adjustable?  When you twist it in one direction it will close to the center, but in the other direction it will spread out and create a part in the very center that isn’t lit.  Our flashlight does that in this game.  It’s annoying because the center is the part where you NEED to see the best, being the part that you’re aiming at and probably trying to look at and/or shoot.  But that’s a minor problem.  The settings were all great and varied.  You start in a pretty basic farming community, then you apparently transport to Louisiana and onto a boat traveling through a flooded town.  You go through cities, rural communities, at both night and day, in desert and winter.  You even pop into a prison for a spell.  And, of course, it all wraps up in a futuristic Chimera spaceship looking place.  All good looking.  Sometimes I did have a few problems with the sound, but mainly only that I would fire and it would make the sound a few seconds after, but that’s another minor gripe.

The controls are the biggest problem I have with this game, but the problem is probably more me than the game.  I just don’t enjoy playing shooters on the PS3.  The controller never felt right for shooters to me.  Unfortunately, this game is only available on the PS3, so I have to grin and bear it.  The analog sticks don’t feel right to me and the buttons feel almost gummy and weird.  That being said, the controls felt better here than they have on any other PS3 shooter I’ve played.  The best thing about the gameplay in this is the guns.  Insomniac is known for innovative and interesting gun types, and this game is no different.  Oh, they’ll give you the basic pistol, shotgun, machine gun nonsense, but they change it up too.  They add plenty of fancy guns like the Auger that can shoot through walls, the electricity-blasting Atomizer, the infection-causing Mutator, and the freezing gun (that, contrary to popular beliefs left for us by Batman & Robin, does not require you to speak in horrible ice-puns).  On top of that, they give each weapon an alternate fire.  The pistol bullets explode when you press R2, the carbine shoots a grenade, the shotgun shoots a concussion grenade, etc.  The thing that I loved that they added to this game was that you could level up your weapons.  Use the shotgun enough and the bullets turn incendiary.  Level up the Bullseye and the bullets will explode on impact.  The only thing I didn’t like about leveling the weapons was that there were only 3 levels.  If they’d have kicked that up to 5, it would’ve made me play for a lot longer.  The next biggest problem I had with the game was the health system.  In Resistance 1 & 2, your health would recharge if you kept out of danger for a while, as with most shooters.  It feels like it’s been a long time since I last had a set amount of health and needed to look for health packs.  I’m not a fan of this, especially in this game where the difficulty would amp up pretty harshly in parts and I could never find health, although the checkpoints are plentiful so it never becomes that annoying.

The trophies for this game won’t take you that long.  I’ve achieved the bulk of them in about 3 days.  They’re a little time consuming, and some of them are pretty tedious, but mostly not that difficult.  They have the basic ones that you get for leveling up weapons and killing enemies with certain weapons, but they have some stupid ones like throwing a grenade through a basketball hoop and finding a sock puppet and shooting it.  Some of the tedious ones are the ones that require specific timing, like freezing, igniting, and poisoning an enemy at the same time.  I haven’t attempted it yet, but I’ve read that the hardest difficulty can be a chore, but you should be used to such requirements if you’re an achievement/trophy whore.

I was surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed the third installment of a game series that made such little impact as the Resistance series has thus far, but it happened anyway.  Great story, good controls, excellent guns (and the ability to improve them), and fantastic and varied graphics make this a game that should be played by anyone who owns a PS3.  Resistance 3 gets “To uncover the Chimeran plan, I must look to their history” out of “I want more green crayons.”

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Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (2011)

Did He Save You From Your Life, or Damn You to This One?

It’s time for the review of my most anticipated release of this year. It took me a long time to stop saying that Final Fantasy VII was my favorite game of all time, and when I did, I switched it for Uncharted 2. So, obviously, the release to the third part in the Uncharted series was very exciting to me. Could it live up to my expectations? Bet you wanna know, don’t you? Well too bad! REVIEW OVER! Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is brought to us by Naughty Dog and Sony Computer Entertainment.

Our hero, Nathan Drake (Nolan North), and our hero’s old dude, Victor Sullivan (Richard McGonagle), are meeting a pretty obviously evil dude named Talbot (Robin Atkin Downes) in a pub. They are in the middle of a negotiation to trade cash money for Nate’s precious ring from his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. Nate and Sully decide that the money is counterfeit and refuse the trade, which starts a fight they must face-punch their way out of. In the alley outside the bar, Nate and Sully are surrounded by Talbot and Charlie Cutter (Graham McTavish) and Talbot’s client, Katherine Marlowe (Rosalind Ayres). She steals Nate’s ring and Charlie shoots Nate and Sully in the chest. The series has ended … if you’re dumb enough to believe the two main characters die in the first 5 minutes. We flashback 20 years to when Nate met Sully and when Nate stole the ring he wears. Back in the present and SURPRISE! Nate and Sully weren’t really dead. They were in cahoots with Charlie. The three meet up with Chloe Frazer (Claudia Black) and trail Marlowe. In her secret hideout, they find out she’s after the lost city of Ubar, which is apparently a super sweet city lost in the Rub ‘al Khali desert. As per usual, Nate must get to the special place before the random bad guy gets there and takes something that he will not use in a nice way. Also, they meet up with Elena Fisher (Emily Rose) in Yemen.

I believe this game would be much higher rated if it were Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 2 were Uncharted 3. It feels more like a midpoint than a successor. As with the other two games in the series, this is an action-adventure game with a good deal of platforming, some face-punching, and a good deal of shooting. The platforming works very well with no complaints. In Uncharted 2, the climbing areas would change as you made your way through them to keep them lively and keep you on your toes, and they brought this into Uncharted 3. At one point you find yourself trapped in a burning building. You shimmy up beams until they crack in half and you need to improvise. You run up stairs and they crumble beneath you, but they become less helpful grips on the wall. All very fluid and fun. The melee system takes a big leap forward in this game. It’s getting dangerously close to Arkham City quality. It handles roughly the same: punch faces with square, counter with triangle, tap the left stick twice to throw a Nate-arang. It’s a welcome upgrade because the melee system in Uncharted 2 wasn’t bad but didn’t impress. Of course, in Uncharted 2 you didn’t have to use it all that often. In Uncharted 3, there are entire parts where you’re just surrounded by multiple enemies and you have to fight your way out. And it’s not bothersome because they improved the melee so much. They also made it possible to do an instant finisher if you were in the right place. If you were standing next to them, you could finish the enemy with a bottle, a wrench, a pan, or even a fish. Not a joke. It’s funny, but it’s not technically a joke. But the greater majority of the gameplay here is going to be shooting … and therein lies the problem. I don’t know how it happened, but Naughty Dog done fucked up the aiming mechanics. I recently decided that it would be easier to run an HDMI cable through my wall so I could leave my PS3 in the living room and not have to move it back and forth into my room when I wanted to play it. The shooting mechanics were messed up to the point where I really thought the thin wall separating my PS3 from me was messing up the responsiveness of my controller. Turns out they just fucked it up. This is very strange since there were no problems whatsoever with the shooting mechanics of Uncharted 2, so you would assume they could just copy and paste the same code and at least leave it the same quality as their previous super awesome game. Instead, they messed with it and now it can be extremely annoying to try to shoot an enemy because the slightest touch of the analog stick would either not be registered or it would jump past the enemy’s head and you would just miss. Naughty Dog has promised a patch to fix their sloppy shooting mechanics, but I’ve already got the Platinum trophy for the game, so who knows whether or not I’ll be playing it when they fix it. But, to be fair, the shooting is not so sloppy that it will ruin the game, it will just hurt more than it should because of the game that preceded it. The last boss was also much easier than Uncharted 2’s boss and was slightly underwhelming.

The story, as usual, is well delivered. I think it may be getting to a point where it’s dangerous for Uncharted because all 3 games follow the same basic routine. Nate’s looking for something (mainly out of a sense of adventure), someone evil is also looking for it (mainly out of a desire to rule the world), and Nate takes it upon himself to stop them (mainly out of the fact that he’s the hero of the game). But one couldn’t say they retread the same path since they always go to completely new landscapes each time. The first Uncharted was mainly jungle, the second mainly snow, and the third mainly desert. I don’t remember the first one super well, but I know that Uncharted 2 and 3 do share some pretty epic set pieces. You explore and fight through a burning chateau, a sinking boat, a scorching desert, and a gorgeous city hidden inside a sandstorm. All of them are beautiful. Except for the desert. That sumbitch almost kills us. Douche bag desert. There was also a section that was VERY reminiscent of the scene in Last Crusade when Indiana Jones was trying to take out the tank. I think that even happened around Yemen, but I haven’t seen that movie in some time. But the characters have been well developed over three games and that makes you care for them. You never expected Nate and Sully to be dead in the first scene because why would they show that in the trailer, but there is a pretty surprising scene near the end that was shocking. I did find myself a bit bummed at the end that they didn’t really go that supernatural in this one as they did in the previous two. They had a hallucinogenic water thing going on that had a myth surrounding it about genie’s and some junk, but it’s not nearly as supernatural as the other games. And the water does set up a big fuck you thing like TV shows and movies like to do when something big and game changing happens but FOOLED YOU, it was a dream. That’s kind of cheap, but I saw it coming and don’t want to give it away if you don’t. There was also a part where Nate trips balls because of the water and that made me kind of nauseous. One thing I didn’t like about the story was that there was some backstory between Nate and Elena that was never really explained. They’re kind of awkward around each other in this one and they mention how she’s wearing a ring he gave her, so it’s kind of implied that they may have been engaged, or at least serious, in a relationship together and then it ended but she wasn’t super angry about it for some reason. I wanted to know what the backstory was but it was never explained.

They bring back the same voice crew from the previous games and they still knock it out of the park. Nolan North plays Nate as the cocky, Indiana Jones type character that he’s always played, but he’s still very charming. Sully is the father figure that I never had … just kidding. But he is a great father figure for Nate. Talbot is an asshole that really makes me want to kill him, and then make me happy when I do. Marlowe is more of a hands-off evil person that looks almost exactly like Helen Mirren, and I was a little bummed that they didn’t actually get Helen Mirren to do the voice. But the person they got did fine. She was a manipulative bitch as a good evil person should be. She tries to make Nate blame Sully for getting him stuck in the pattern of always being about to get killed. Chloe’s sexiness was potted down a bunch for this game and she wasn’t in the game that much, but she did have a good couple of funny lines. Elena was Elena, but I love her so it’s good. Charlie Cutter was an odd character. I felt it was strange that he was this brand new character that everybody in the game knew except for us. Just ’cause the crew has signed off on you doesn’t mean we’ll like you, buddy. You gotta earn it. All of the character’s interactions with each other were very natural and real, and usually had a good funny touch to them. I especially liked the conversation about cell phones that they had when Nate had been trying to contact Chloe and Charlie and he said he ran out of minutes on his phone and Chloe’s was broken. I’m not going to transcribe it or anything; you’re supposed to play this thing.

I admit I was bummed out, but when I look back, it’s still not a bad game. The only reason it seems bad is that it followed a game that was so amazing. The platforming is great, the melee is greatly improved, but they messed up the shooting. The characters and story is great and set in some of the most epic settings to date. It treads similar ground to Uncharted 2, but stands out as a great game on it’s own. Once they release the patch, this game will be amazing, but still a step down from Uncharted 2. If you own a PS3, I still think you should own this game, or at least play it. It’s a pretty easy Platinum too. The hardest thing about getting Platinum is beating it on Crushing, which isn’t that bad. So get this game already. …DO IT! I’ll give this game “Uncharted 3” out of “Uncharted 2”. Get it? ‘Cause it’s slightly worse than Uncharted 2? Eh, go fuck yourself.

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inFamous 2 (2011)

Nobody Had More Humanity Than Cole McGrath

I had put off finishing it for a while but, after getting the Platinum trophy for Uncharted 3, I decided I’d go back and finish inFamous 2 to get my Platinum trophy for that. My memory of the Good storyline may be a little foggy because I finished that back in June, but I certainly remember the Evil storyline. So let’s take a look at inFamous 2, developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.

Cole McGrath (Eric Ladin) has spent the entire course of inFamous preparing for the arrival of the Beast. As inFamous 2 starts, we get right into that battle and get our asses handed to us. We barely manage to escape Empire City with our long-time friend – and recent betrayer – Zeke (Caleb Moody) and NSA agent Lucy Kuo (Dawn Olivieri) to a town called New Marais, which is in no way affiliated with New Orleans. Here, Cole and Kuo meet up with Dr. Sebastian Wolfe (Michael Ensign), who has a plan to make Cole stronger using a device called the RFI (Ray Field Inhibitor) and Blast Cores. But, an explosion at Wolfe’s lab spreads the Blast Cores over the city. Cole must collect the Blast Cores before the Beast makes his way down the coast to New Marais. Along the way, Wolfe gets killed, we meet a crazy lady with fire powers named Nix (Nika Futterman), we try to over come the control of Joseph Bertrand III (Graham McTavish) and his militia, Kuo is kidnapped by Bertrand and given ice powers against her will, and we make some decisions that will make you either good or evil and affect the outcome of the game.

This is a pretty good game that just barely misses excellence. It’s an open world action-adventure game with similarities to Assassin’s Creed in that you can go anywhere and climb buildings at will. Then you throw in some electricity super powers and you get you some inFamous. I would say the problem with the controls, especially when compared to Assassin’s Creed, is that the wall climbing doesn’t always work that well. Climbing the building in Assassin’s Creed is so smooth and realistic, whereas this game is just a bunch of awkward jumping. I also found there was a couple complications in combat, like how it would take you using the circle button to dodge as you using the circle button to take cover against a wall that then gets you shot and killed. These problems were not super drastic or anything, but when this game will inevitably draw comparisons between it and a game that does wall climbing so well, it comes up in the brain. The new upgrades to Cole’s powers really make you feel awesome once you unlock some of the cooler ones. And you get to dabble in the ice and fire powers of your compatriots later on, and that get’s good too. One of them can even make travel easier. Taking Kuo’s powers gives you an ability that will launch you up into the air and make it easier to get around. Nix’s travel move was not as helpful to me, which bummed me out for my Evil playthrough.

The story of this game is awesome. Unlike most games that only have the final decision have any affect on the game, there are many choices throughout this game that affect the way people react to Cole, the way Cole looks, and even the environment of the city. And, of course, there are two different endings. Throughout the game, you side with Kuo or Nix on different problems that come up, and it even starts making a relationship develop between the character you side with. And then, it spins it all around on you by changing those sides at the very end. Both of the endings are very emotional and well written. I don’t know how they’ll be able to pull off inFamous 3 after some of the stuff that went down, but it made for a pretty touching ending on both sides and for different reasons. But don’t fool yourself, neither ending is a particularly good outcome for old Cole. There were a lot of moments I liked in this game: having a strained friendship with Zeke after he betrayed you in inFamous, dealing with Kuo after her kidnapping and painful conversion into a superpowered person, finding out Nix’s backstory, and even Bertrand had some sort of reason for what he was doing. Even quiet scenes like Cole and Zeke watching TV and drinking beers was kind of touching.

I thought all of the voice acting in this game was great. People complained a lot about Cole’s voice changing from the first game, but I didn’t even notice it. His voice wasn’t so amazing in the first one that they couldn’t decide to go in another direction for the second one. And this guy delivered anyway. The emotional story of this game would not have been delivered without great animation from Sucker Punch and great acting from the voice actors.

This game is also not a difficult game to Platinum, but I did find one problem with it. In the first playthrough, you can knock out about half of the trophies, choosing good or evil. The next playthrough, do the opposite and play it on Hard and you’ll pretty much have done it. Throw in a couple more exploration and collection things that aren’t that difficult and you’ll have your Platinum trophy. The problem for me was that I completed my Good storyline and started into my Evil one, then got bored and stopped. A couple months later, I finished my Evil one, got my Platinum, and was going to get the collectables again for fun but got bored and stopped. The game does not have a lot of replay value. You’ll probably want to play it twice anyways to see what would’ve happened if you made the other choice, but once you’ve done that it gets to be kind of the same old, same old and you lose interest. They are coming out with downloadable expansions to the game, one of which is already out and involves Cole becoming a vampire, but I’m not super interested. And, with no multiplayer, there’s not a lot of reason to hold on to your game after you’ve finished.

InFamous 2 is a great game that comes so close to excellence with it’s great storyline, solid graphics, fun gameplay, and great voice acting, but just falls short because of some wonky controls and lack of replay value. But it’s still definitely a game worth playing, and I recommend you do so, but it might be better as a rental. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game, but I no longer feel the need to hold on to it as I do with many fantastic games. But I still give this game “Great” out of “Great plus 2”.

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