Reviews

Here are (in no particular order) the game reviews we did for our site 2BitGamers.  Maybe, since we still play games, we'll get a chance to post up some new ones.

Cheers!



Uncharted 3 Review

Nathan Drake is back!  This time the story hits closer to home than any other, secrets are revealed in the third part of this fun action adventure series.

Perhaps the game that I've been looking forward to the most this year, Uncharted 3 Drake's Deception has come out to great fanfare and success already.  Does this game live up to the hype? Yes it does, but unlike Among Thieves this game is two steps forward and one step back.

Drake's Deception carries on Naughty Dog’s tradition of perfected videogame storytelling.  The game borders on becoming cinema, not only in giant action set pieces, but in acting and scripting.  Granted if you took this game verbatim and made a movie it would be lacking in AAA quality, but it shines as being among the best in videogames, the witty dialogue and emotional beats elevate videogame storytelling to new heights. Drake’s Deception takes the big missing piece of Uncharted lore and exposes everything.

SPOILERS

We find out how Nathan Drake became the man he is now, how he got Sir Francis Drake's ring and what Sully really means to him.  This isn't just a game, like the ones before it, it's an experience.  Naughty Dog wanted you to feel like Nate, all his pain, happiness, sorrow, regret and struggles as you push on to reaching the goal of the Atlantis of the sands.  I loved the new character Charlie, a rough Englishman who has just as much obsessiveness as Nate in archeology.  Chloe also returns and shows that she is just as reliable as ever. The main disappointment was the Elena story.  Again Nate and Elena are on the outs, we never know why exactly though it's inferred that it's Nate's need to keep on adventuring despite the dangers.  It's been there done that, and really pushed Elena to the side.  Granted there is good payoff at the end but the rift between them was unnecessary.  The best part was the Sully/Nate relationship and how deep it really runs.  We see that there is no limit to the sacrifice these two would do for one another and  mentor/student relationship is just the surface to the real one; Father/Son.  It's a beautiful story one that also has no limits to the action and surprises, and is a welcome addition to the Uncharted mythos.

END SPOILERS

No game is limited to just a story, otherwise go and watch a movie or TV.  Drake's Deception is mostly unchanged from Among Thieves, you'll still be doing a lot of exploration, climbing, quicktime button pushing, shooting from cover, stealth killing and melee attacks.  For the full story on gameplay check out our Among Thieves review.  There are a few things that have been added and expanded on that are worth highlighting.  The biggest boon is the upgraded melee combat.  Now Drake is able to take on more than one enemy at a time with the ability to punch, reverse and grab.  Funny enough if you've played Assassin's Creed or Batman Arkham Asylum/City you are using the same exact mechanics.  This for sure is the best new thing Naughty Dog has included, the fistfights are much more exciting and versatile and it's just so much fun to be able to fight more then one guy at a time and be a total badass. The only problem is that the game has a invisible bubble that will trap you in melee combat, effectively changing some of the buttons.  I found myself in the middle of a firefight getting caught up in a melee battle only to be getting shot by 4 other enemies, quickly getting close to dying.  I would hit the O button to roll out of the gunfire, but I forgot about the new grab move Nate does, as a result I would not roll but grab the opponent and then die from gunfire.

The other change was the high amount of kickback that guns would produce.  It was very hard to keep you aim on an enemy with any kind of automatic rifle as the kickback would knock your aim off.  Each gun would produce less or more, so it's important to know what guns have higher kick then others.  I get the reality in games but it kind of makes things less fun when you're re-adjusting your aim all the time.  It is also rumored (and I think it's true) that there is slight input lag.  Which I was wondering the first time I fired up the game as it felt more sluggish to Among Thieves.  I ended up pushing up the aiming sensitivity to full to get it to move at the speed that I wanted it to.

The last change and my favorite was the ability to throw back your enemies grenades.  If you time your throw right you can toss back a grenade and do some good damage, maybe even killing multiple targets.   I could see that some people might not like this since it really makes the game a lot easier.  You don't really need to run to new cover all that often and you get an almost endless supply of grenades to use.  I personally found it fun.

One area where Naughty Dog has outdone themselves is the look of this game.  Damn if it's not the best looking console game ever.  Where it really shines is in the details.  Realistic water and sand physics make you do a double take, questioning if it's really in game or not.  The way the sand falls from Nate's feet is astounding.  The bobbing of the ship as it sails over water and how the boxes go back and forth over the deck made me speechless.  The way Nate reacts to the environment makes you feel like he's a real person, touching walls as he passes them, or stumbling on different levels of terrain, or churning waters.  And it's not just all polygon counts and HD graphics, there is a high level of care taken to the design.  The abandoned city in the desert, the Atlantis of the sands and even London are painstakingly realized in this game.  After finishing the game take a look at the concept work that was done and marvel at the imagination of the artist.  There are also some amazing set pieces most of which aren’t the most original, but being able to do stuff that you saw in movies makes it satisfying.  Some of the most memorable that come to mind are the Airplane ride (do you remember 007 Living Daylights? Yeah, it’s from that movie), the Desert chase (Last Crusade) and the all the boat sequences which were very original.  

The music, as usually, is unparalleled.  Especially the desert cues, which just adds to the already incredible cinematic experience.  Voice acting is top notch and Nolan North leads a cast of the best, while Naught Dog wisely continues to mo-cap the voice actors to create a believable experience.  My only fear is that Uncharted is getting dangerously close to too many scripted sequences, which forces the player into too many falling from broken floors and trying to climb back up scenarios.   As amazing as the desert wandering scene was to look at, it was also too long and boring.  How long are we supposed to just push the analog stick forward and be entertained?  While mostly successful, Drake's Deception crosses the line a couple times and the game takes a hit for it.

Multiplayer has returned and has been beefed up since Among Thieves.  Not much has changed but there are little improvements sprinkled all over.  The leveling system is more forgiving allowing for quicker level ups which unlock better weapons and items, It feels like you can progress even when you don't do so well in a match.  There’s also a new create a character option, which is very basic, but you can customize them by purchasing items to accessorize with, making them more unique.  Instead of medals earned going towards trophies you can now use them in the game and give yourself a short advantage by activating a kickback, such bonuses include getting a rocket launcher, or a sniper rifle, or throw three grenades at one time and so on.  You can also create up to 4 loadouts, which let you assign certain weapons and perks per each loadout.  Whenever you die you can choose a different loadout that may help you fight the battle better.  The co-op maps are a little shorter, but you also get 5 of them and they connect into one big story (kind of like an alternate reality).  They are a lot of fun but the story amounts to nothing, making them feel like fan fiction.  Finally treasure hunting has been added, if you collect the treasure set from a level you can unlock skins or items.  This is pretty cool except for the fact that you can keep getting the same treasure over and over, and there is no reward for duplicates, all the while you can’t complete the set.  It would have been cool if you could collect extra treasures and then sell them off for money to spend unlocking items.  The multiplayer is very good with all the standard game types, but if you're not into it it won't change your mind.

One glaring issue I have with Drake's Deception is the lack of single player bonuses.  It seems as if all their time going into multiplayer took away the time to get the single player bonuses in.  You can no longer view the in game movies, or use gun cheats or even do fun stuff like turn off gravity or change skins on Drake.  While mostly silly, it's taken out the re-playability of the single player game, which many people exclusively play Uncharted for.  I'm shocked that Naughty Dog left this out, and it has irked many of the loyal single player only fans.

Drake's Deception is a marvelous game.  An adventurous romp as fun as any Indiana Jones movie.  The gameplay is solid, the graphics are unrivaled on any console and the multiplayer will keep you playing after the main game is done.  However many of the surprises that were heart-pounding in previous installments are now predictable and overused(falling through a floor, a staircase breaking and having to climb it, a pipe breaking and having to jump to the next ledge), the game is overly scripted in some areas (the lonely trek through the desert), some of the gameplay changes hurt the experience (gunfire recoil and slower response) along with odd spikes in difficulty in some areas, and the exemption of single player bonuses kill half the replay value.  Regardless Uncharted 3 is a game that everyone should give a chance to experience, it will thrill you at every turn, and with so many open world games out right now, this is an alternative that will take you on a journey that you won't soon forget.



Silent Hill: Shattered Memories Review

Game Description:  A remake of the original Silent Hill game lands on the Wii.  Harry Mason travels with his daughter to Silent Hill, when he loses control of his car and crashes Harry awakes to find that his daughter is missing.  Harry now has to traverse the dangerous streets of Silent Hill to find his missing daughter.

Silent Hill is possible one of the most disturbing series of games I have had the fortune of playing.  Making a total of 5 in the series and one on the PSP Silent hill has been terrorizing us for years.  Now Konami has re-envisioned the original game for the Wii.

Take 2 of these and call me in the morning

The story starts with you talking to a psychiatrist and taking a short written psych exam.  This all plays into how the game will read the player and make adjustments to some of the mechanics of the game.  It then goes to Harry Mason waking up after having been in a car accident.  Harry finds that his daughter Cheryl is missing, Harry grabs his flashlight (one of the coolest parts of the game) and goes off into the winter wonderland that is Silent Hill.   Little does poor Harry know that there are creatures lurking about and these things will stop at nothing to get you.

Here’s Harry!

Harry Mason as the protagonist of the game is the quintessential everyman and quite uncommon for the "hero".  He's not much of a fighter and uses his head to get through things more than his fists, he wears glasses and is a family man.  Harries primary “weapon” is his flashlight.  This works incredibly well on the Wii as the flashlight is moved with the Wiimote and uses some impressive dynamic lighting.  The flashlight does not do anything except to illuminate dark places, but it is done so well that it makes me think that people really don’t know how to program on the Wii.  Another important item that you will be using all the time is Harries iPhone.  This is one of my favorite things in the game as the phone can be your map with GPS, a camera, a phone (of course) and get text messages.  All of the phone calls comes out of the Wiimote speaker, these are the little things that add to the already creepy and immersive atmosphere.

Now this game shocked me as there is no way, NO WAY to kill your pursuers.  All you can do is run.   When the world turns to ice (which is a cool effect) you know that the creatures are going to start chasing after you.  I have a problem with this, you are concentrating on running so hard it's easy to roam aimlessly and get lost.  The map is attached to the phone so in order to see where you need to go you need to pull up your phone and check your map.  Never at any point can you consult the map and pause the game at the same time so choose wisely when you do so.  I found it best to map out your run at the start of the world conversion and try to stay on track.  There are a few of things you can do to fend off your pursuers; one is a flare that you can pick up during the chase sequences that keeps them from attacking you and last for about 30 seconds, second are objects that can be thrown on the ground which can slow them down, and the last is a defensive throw that is made with a gesture on the Wiimote to throw them off of you if you get caught.  For better or worse this is it for the action and it's a bold move made by the developer.  I liked the concept but the execution is a bit flawed.

Tell me about your mother.

One of the coolest parts of this new Silent Hill is the inclusion of a psychiatrist who will profile you throughout the game, and your answers will change how Silent hill will play out.  Most of the changes you will see are purely cosmetic for example the psychiatrist asked me to color my childhood home and when I did the house in the game was that color.  It’s these little  touch that add to the life of the game and enhances the spiral into insanity.  These are some other actions that can make changes in the game, for instance if you concentrate on half naked girl posters and answer sexually on the phych test you will find that the cop will have her shirt buttoned very low and the monsters will start to take a female shape.

Disgustingly beautiful

The production quality of this game is very impressive and spans from the graphics to the music.  Like I said the lighting dynamics of the flashlight are the best I’ve seen in a game.  The particle system is no slouch either with an onslaught of snow falling to the ground and each snowflake can be illuminated by your flashlight, talk about detail.  Animations are smooth and character models are well rendered with each person showing a wide range of facial emotion.  The menu is a bit odd one but wholly appropriate.  Once again Akira Yamaoka returns to provide the music and as always it is creepy and moody, without him this would not have felt at all like Silent Hill.  There are a couple of disappointments in the game; first is the lack of variety in the monster design, there is only one monster in this remake and it's the lowest point of this game. The second problem was the length of the game as it clocks in from 5 to 6 hours of gameplay which is very short.  They do have alternate endings which add to replay value but I suspect that only the hardcore will be revisiting Silent Hill to see them all.

All in all this new version of Silent Hill is extremely well made but does come with flaws.  Graphics, story, music, and control all work well here but the “fight” mechanic is lacking.  Not just because you can’t fight but also because there is little direction of where you need to go, and while that might add to the tension it also adds to my frustration.  Like Resident Evil 4 this is a new way to experience Silent Hill and if a sequel comes out with a little improving it could be an amazing game.  For now I would say rent it since the game will only take about 5-6 hours to finish and there is little incentive to play through it more than once.

3/5

Dark Souls Review

Game Description:  Take on gigantic demons in the hardest game you will play this year.  Patience is your best friend as you explore a gigantic interconnecting world of death.

OK, OK, we are all tired of hearing how insanely difficult Dark Souls is, but it really is the most challenging game you’ll play this year, and yet it's also one of the most addictive games.  As you progress through the game you will start to realize that each area gets easier, well not easier, but you are getting better.  And that's the reward of this game, the more hard work you put into it the better you get and the easier it gets (though it will still spank you every time you get to a new area). This game is lite on story, which is something about fire and light and darkness and dragons and demons.  All you got to know is that you need to kill somethings and survive to the end.  This is not a game about stories but about gameplay, and boy did it excel in spades.

The game is based around real time fights where you must time attacks as well as block and dodge.  You can be cautious and wait for your opponent to attack first, block and then attack; or you can dodge an attack and go for a damaging backstab; and if you're great at judging attacks you can time and parry an attack and open him up for a devastating riposte.  Just to make sure the players don't rely too heavily on blocking or dodging constantly, Dark Souls uses a stamina bar that limits your actions.  Swing your weapon too much and your stamina will deplete, block too many attacks and it will deplete, run too long and it will deplete and dodge too much and it will deplete.  What happens when you run out of stamina?  Well, then you're open to every kind of attack without defense.  In short you're dead.

Now why is it such a big deal to die?  In Dark Souls you can accumulate souls which are currency, and humanity which lets you be alive (which allows you to summon other players to help you conquer a world and raise your luck for downed opponents to drop items)  but if you die you lose it all.  You can't bank these things, you either use them or lose them.  There is but one chance to recover your souls and humanity, you must make it back to the place where you died and touch your bloodstain to recover your precious souls and humanity.  If you die before you reach it kiss it all goodbye as that bloodstain is now gone along with your souls and humanity.

To help you make it through this cruel world there is a deep amount of customization through armor and weapons.  Equip yourself accordingly since different armor can protect you better from poison or curses or plain old physical attacks.  Also the more weight you put on the less mobility you have, so you can go in as a tank but be sluggish or you can go almost naked (which is wearing underwear) and be able to run circles around your opponent.   Your weapons and armor can be upgraded with souls and stones.  There are different stones to use to upgrade which change the parameter of your weapon and armor accordingly.   So if you want a weapon that deals fire damage use red stones, lighting attacks use titanite stones.  You will also be leveling up your character and it will give you a wide variety of options on how to mold them.  You can build a tank that can take heavy damage and still kill everything in your path, or you can go as a magician and rely on distance attacks, or you can try to go stealth and do as many backstabs as possible.  The choice truly is yours.

However with such a precision based battle system the game suffers from an almost game breaking bug: Input delay.  I wish it was just me who experienced it but I know SuperTom has encountered this as well on numerous occasions.  At times when the game is being pushed too hard it will delay the input of a command such as attack or using a healing potion.  This can have devastating consequences as I've died during stressful battles Vs. a boss, when he's open to an attack i go for it, but it takes 2 seconds for my character to do anything.  In the meantime the boss has recovered and has since hit me 2-3 times killing me.  It does not happen all the time, but it has occurred every time I've played.  I don't know if it is related to the online system as I have not played offline yet, but it is something I will investigate.

Dark souls is an amazing feat of design and artistry.  The game is essential one giant world, as you progress you can open up shortcuts to each area of the world connecting the whole thing.  The way it all links together just blew my mind, as areas that you can see from a distance you will be able to get to.  Each area seamlessly changed to suit its look.  You might be in a dilapidated medieval living quarters, or you could be in a poisonous bog and feel the stress and dread as you try to make it out alive, and then you will be in a gorgeous castle that is enormous and has beautiful scenic views.  Each place is painstakingly laid out to maximize the emotional impact and logical maze like quality.  Creatures that inhabit each area are appropriate, ranging from the  creepy to the noble knight to the disgusting to dragons!

The only downside to such a lavish world is the slowdown that it creates when there are too many enemies or a gigantic boss to deal with.  The slowdown generally does not affect the gameplay but it does wreak a bit of the aesthetics that the game creates.  More of an annoyance then anything.

Something that has divided people about Dark Souls is the blatant throwback mechanics in no hand holding.  The best comparison I can  think of is the original Legend of Zelda.  That was a game that was a big world but separated into areas.  Almost all of it was available to explore off the bat, if you could survive getting there.  You can take on bosses "out of order", and there are hidden rooms and passages that the game does not give you a hint about.  Dark Souls is all about exploration and trial and error.  They want you to figure it out.  How do you level up your sword?  They won't say.  How do you increase your estas flask for more health?  Their lips are shut.  Where do you go next?  Dark Souls is silent.  What the game wants you to do is utilize its unique online system, this game was designed for the players to build a community and for everyone to help each other.  They give you the ability to write on the ground simple hints or tricks.  By doing so you can alert a player of a hidden passage, or a valuable item, or a dangerous enemy.  You can also summon (if you are alive) other players into your game (up to 2) and they can help you get through an area and kill that boss.  You can also be summoned (if you are dead) and guide a player through the area since you have more knowledge of the layout and secrets.  It's an interesting design as there is no verbal communication between the players it's just following and helping and guiding.  But it works out beautifully, and there isn't anything like it in any other game.

Dark Souls is a refined experience against it's predecessor Demon's Souls, and has brought back the hardcore gaming of yesteryears.  With it's perfected fighting mechanics, and deep customization along with the new open world, and better graphics; Dark Souls is a contender for game of the year.  Only a couple things hold this game back from being perfect: slowdown and input delay.  If only the input delay was not in the game it would be an easy 5 out of 5, but as a game that punishes you for having perfect timing in combat it’s inexcusable to allow.  However, I hope that everyone can look past these smaller flaws to see an amazing feat in gaming, and one that will make you a better game player.

4/5

Dark Void Review

Publisher:  2K Games

Genre: First person Shooter/RPG

Developer: Gearbox Software

Modes: Single-Player, online 4 Player Co-op

Platform: PS3, XBOX 360, PC

ESRB: M

Release Date: 10.20.09

Review By:  Tom G.

Game Description: During World War II, pilot William Grey sets off on a transport mission across the Bermuda Triangle and is sucked into a parallel dimension known as the Void.  There he’ll use various weapons and his trusty jetpack to battle evil, fascist robots and shape shifting aliens set on destroying human kind..

Once again Nolan North voices a daring hero along side his trusty English female counterpart who jump headfirst into danger in this third-person action game.  No I'm not talking about Uncharted 3, I'm talking about Airtight Games’ newest game, Dark Void.

The story centers around William Augustus Grey, a cargo pilot who during a delivery though the Bermuda Triangle gets sucked into a parallel universe.  There he meets up with a group of human survivors to fight against a previously banished, shape-shifting alien race known as the Watchers.  With the help of the Nikola Tesla you are able to use the Watcher technology against the alien race to find your way back home.  Long ago the Watchers came to earth to destroy the human race only to get banished to a parallel universe called the Void.  So now they’re trying again by infiltrating specific key figures to wipe out humanity.  For all you comic nerds out there this probably sounds a bit like Marvel’s 2008 event, Secret Invasion.  Fortunately the similarities end there.

The game strangely starts off with a huge dogfight, pitting you in your rocket pack against waves of UFOs.  I'm not sure why they started the game off here as you do not even start the tutorials until the next chapter and you don’t get your jetpack until about 3 chapters later.  It ended up feeling more like they tacked on the demo and called it a prologue.

That theme of confusion spreads throughout most of the game as I was never really sure what exactly was going on and for being sucked into a parallel universe, William along with all the other characters seemed rather calm throughout the whole ordeal.  The voice acting was decent and once again we get the “Ryan Seacrest” of video game voice acting, Nolan North.  I was unimpressed with the cut scenes as they were choppy and unfocused.  I’m beginning to believe that we’ve seen the best the Unreal Engine can offer, and this is far from the best.  The game is littered with pointless flashbacks and by the end I felt no attachment to the characters or the overall plot.  For such an interesting premise, I was really disappointed on how it was handled.

Weapons are ok but I wish there was more variety.  The ability to level them up is nice but to max them out requires multiple play-throughs.  The cover system works well and combat is easy and fast paced.  Airtight Games has brought something new to the genre with the “vertical cover system”.   Basically you can scale or decent vertical planes using various platforms as your cover.  The first time you jump into this perspective it can be a bit disorienting but overall it is done well.  I can see this being mimicked and improved in future third person action games.

Dark Void’s combat switches between your typical on-ground cover system to mid air dog fights. The use of the Jet pack adds a bit of depth to the gameplay and it’s actually a lot of fun to run off a ledge and immediately burst into flight.  To reverse that, flying into a fight and hitting the hover button to stop and slowly descend down to the battle field while shooting enemies is really cool.  The ability to jump and hover around during fire fights is also a lot of fun though I wish there was the ability to hover in place (like certain enemies) so you could more accurately place your shots.  The flight combat is where the game fails to impress.  The controls work well when you traveling from point A to point B, but when you are in combat you find yourself searching for enemies more than actually engaging them.  There is a button to show you the closest enemy but it ends being more disorienting that helpful. Also, because the right analogue stick rotates your character, you can accidentally rotate upside down or sideways forget which way is up. The ability to hijack enemy UFO’s is cool but after doing the same quick time event over and over it can loose its luster quickly.  You can take control of your allies’ ships and gun turrets which adds a bit of variety.

Your enemies through most of the game are robots controlled by young slug-like Watchers.  Some are in your typical humanoid form while other Watchers pilot huge tank-like machines requiring more quick time sequences to take them down.  On the ground enemy AI is decent though many times they’ll blatantly run out of cover.  During the flight portions of the game the AI varies greatly from, “Me going to fly into cliff” to, “you’ll never catch me. HAHA!”

Load times are quick and only occurred during start up and in between deaths.  Pretty much everything else performed like a fat kid in PE.  Texture pop in is frequent even during cut-scenes; at times the sound would cut in and out or not sync properly; and at one point I suffered through (and I’m not exaggerating about this) nearly two minutes of a what seemed like a frame rate of 1.

Dark Void does a few good thing and the implementation of the new “vertical cover system” is a refreshing new look at the third-person shooter genre.  Sadly, the confusing story telling, disorienting flight combat and the technological issues leave you with a mediocre gaming experience.  For about 8-10 hours of gameplay this game is worth a rent, but save your $60 for a more worthwhile adventure.

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