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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Binding of Isaac

84 hours, 84 long hours spent playing, "The Binding of Isaac." It took me a total of 84 hours to get every achievement in this game, all 52 of them. It was at times difficult, sometimes extremely frustrating but all the while one of the best games I have ever played.

Isaac is the brainchild of one half of Team Meat Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl. It is best described as a cross between The Legend of Zelda, games like Smash TV and Robotron and the Roguelike genre. You control Isaac who after some unpleasantness with his mother (She hears the voice of God telling her to kill Isaac) escapes into the basement of their home. Once there he has several floors on enemies to fight to try and defeat his mother and save his own life.

The inspirations for this game are worn on it's sleeve. The dungeons and several items are a nod to the Zelda games. From finding maps a compasses to the Ladder you can tell the designers are big fans of early Zelda games. The controls are just like any twin stick shooter you've ever played. WASD keys move you and the arrow keys shoot, these can be reversed for the left handed players which is nice to see. The roguelike features are what actually drew me to this game in the first place as it's a genre that I really, really enjoy playing.

Roguelikes for any that may not know are the spawn of a old game called Rogue. Mainly featuring ASCII graphics you're usually tasked with going through a dungeon of some kind to retrieve some item from the depths. Two tropes for these type of games are extreme difficulty and permanent death both of which Isaac has. If you die you must start from the beginning. There are a few items that can let you respawn after death but they're extremely rare and one is actually a cursed item which does more harm than good.

The first thing that jumps out at you when you see Isaac is the art style. Edmund's dark disturbed cartoon style is seen in all it's glory here. Many creatures look to be the things of nightmares often leaping at you in a fury of bloody projectiles and bodily fluids. It's all really well done and I absolutely love the art style in this game.

Isaac has a definite progression in place. You fight to the bottom of the dungeon, kill all the bosses and unlock a new item, then you do it all over again. On top of that none of the items are explained to you. It's up to the player to figure out what they do, just like many roguelikes. Some of the items (The Pills) even do different things on each play through, so you never know what you're getting into.

With a lot of games the further along you get and the more items you have access to they get easier but not in Isaac. Each time you do a full clear more enemy types are added and some of the older ones are buffed in some way or another. It's a good balance, you unlock the ability to get better weapons and items while fighting tougher foes. The game never feels unbeatable as one simple item or a random health up cam spell the difference between victory and defeat.

But you will die and you will die a lot. The game is extremely tough at first, before you know what all the items do and the enemies patterns you can find yourself dying on the first boss or even before you get to the first boss.

There is hope though. This game's difficulty reminds me of the Souls games. Hard at first but as you learn the game it can get to the point of being too easy and I am at that point right now. I can full clear Isaac pretty much 95 percent of the time. If I pull a bad run with crap items then I may not making it to the end.

I don't want to get to much into the specifics of what can happen in a game of Isaac because this is a game you want to go into as blind as possible, with any roguelike figuring out what everything does is part of the fun and dying and learning from your death is the learning experience you need to get better.

Right now The Binding of Isaac can be bought for 5 dollars and it's worth even more than that. Like I said at the start of this I've spend 84 hours with it. That's a huge amount of game time versus the money spent. There is an expansion coming out in a few months that's suppose to add tons more content to this already content heavy game and it's suppose to be around 3 dollars, still a great deal on fantastic content.

The Binding of Isaac was one of the best games to come out last year, probably the best to come out. It has earned a place on my Top Games of All Time list without question. It's simply fantastic and a great introduction to the Roguelike genre.

Don't waste anymore time, fire up Steam and BUY THIS GAME! It's simply one of the best and games like the is are why I love gaming.

The Binding of Isaac - 10 out of 10

Friday, September 9, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex. Deus Ex is a game that many gamers, myself included herald as one of the best games ever made. It came out in the year 2000 and was so far ahead of its time, the rest of the industry spent so many years trying to match what that game did and really no one was able to do so, until now.

The third (second) game in the series (screw Invisible War) Deus Ex: Human Revolution was released at the end of August. Developed by the good people at Eidos Montreal there was a lot of hype for this one and a little fear too. Would we finally get a good sequel to the godly Deus Ex? Or would this be a steaming pile of crap and so another great injustice to the name? I finished up Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DEHR) last week and I'm here to share my thoughts on it.

DEHR takes place before the events of the original Deus Ex. Mankind is at the beginning of it's augmented age. You play as Adam Jenson the head of security for Sarif Industries. After an attack on the Sarif building Adam ends up augmented and out to find the people responsible for the attack. As I like to do that's about as far into the story I will go.

DEHR is a first person, I'll say action stealth game with third person mechanics. You move and explore for the most part in the first person, when you get into cover the game goes to a third person view. You explore a kind of open world, each area has a main hub you're confined to and you can go anywhere in said hub until it's time to move on. Then the hub is locked and you cannot go back, just like the first game.

Even though this game wasn't made by Warren Spector and Ion Storm, Eidos Montreal really nailed the whole Deus Ex thing. You can tell right from the start it's Deus Ex and it's in such a good way. The world, the atmosphere, the characters it's like they stepped out of the original masterpiece. Eidos did make some changes and some of them are for the better. The gun play is all player skill based now, you don't have to pump XP into getting better with a gun to be lethal with it. You point the crosshair or iron sites at something and you'll hit it. Hacking has been changed too, now it's a mini game as you work your way from the start of the system to the exit to complete the hack. It's fun but by the end of the game after hacking so many things I was wishing for the originals hacking, just a timer that goes down and you have that time to read all the stuff you need to before the alarm goes off. With all the upgrading to hacking you can do I'm shocked this wasn't an upgrade choice.

Movement and the combat is great, it's feels so right. If you chose to go stealth the stealth in this game actually works and if you chose to go in hot and smoke dudes you'll be able to with a vengeance. Graphically the game is outstanding and looks really sharp even with the green/yellow tint to everything.

So basically the game is amazing, you must play it. Above I just touched on some basic mechanics but what I really want to do is talk about some of the things I didn't like about DEHR.

One of the most shown features was the item highlighting, where items and things you can interact with are highlighted in the environment. I personally don't like that but you can thankfully turn it off. I'm not a fan of overdone huds and even though this is a game where the hud is explained (You don't get a hub until your augmented) I still like a minimalist hud. You can have way points on screen too and with all that crap on the screen it gets in the way of fighting and exploring. I don't know if the hud is in Adam's eyes or in his aug sunglasses but if it's in the glasses I would of loved to see the option to make them retract and go completely hudless. You can get close to this in the options but I wanted an in game option, would of been cool.

The next thing may be funny to some but I didn't really like the augs. What? I didn't like the augs in a Deus Ex game? It's not that they weren't neat they just didn't seem that useful. First thing I did was get most of the hacking aug upgrades because you need those to survive. After those were upgraded I didn't know where to put my points. I was going combat but most of the combat augs depend on you having a crosshair which I didn't as I was playing on "Give Me Deus Ex" difficulty, so those were useless. I ended up going to strength and just working my way around the list. By the end of the game I was just putting points into whatever and I ended up almost maxed out.

Just like everyone else I didn't like the boss fights, they weren't needed and just threw off the balance of the game. They're not as hard as everyone has been making them out to be, you just have to "game" the system. I would of liked the choice of not killing them though. No matter how you take them down they die in the after battle cinematic. They're never really explained it's just a few people that want you dead for some reason. But at least is had boss fights, so many games nowadays don't have them and I like to have that challenge at the end of a level. These bosses though aren't really different from other enemies you've been fighting, they just take more bullets. I do think the way Barret's arm spins apart to reveal the Gatling Gun is really cool.

The last thing I didn't care for was the way the ending(s) were done. They don't really wrap up anything but that's hard to do when it's a prequel, we already know what happens in the future.

I can't really think of anywhere else to put this part so it goes here. Difficulty wise this game isn't that hard. I was on the hardest setting with almost all the "help me" stuff turned off and I breezed through it. The boss fights were the only places that I was hung up on. You die in a few shots but from what I've seen it's like that on normal too so I don't know. If you're looking for a brutal challenge it's not here.

With that said DEHR is an amazing game. I played it like a fiend for 35 hours. It was nice to play a modern game that was actually long and not over in 6-8 hours. The entire time I was playing I was having a lot of fun with it. With the exception of the stuff above everything else about this game is godly, it's so good. If you like game you need to play this one right now! I can't imagine a better game than this coming out this year.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution - 9 out of 10

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How Low Can You Go? (derp) A Limbo Review

Today was the day, it was the long awaited day! At the time of this writing it's the day Limbo was released on the PC. After seeing it come to the 360 last year and the PS3 a few weeks ago, it was the PC crowd's time to play it.

Limbo is at it's core a 2D platformer like Super Mario Bros or any of the numerous other games. There is a dash of Another World with the way the game feels. The one thing that you'll notice about Limbo from the outset is the art style. It's a silhouetted look with the boy you play as being all black except for his white eyes and everything else is either grey or black. It looks nice but now I've see a few games do it too so it's not as special anymore.

Game play is simple, you move through the world and solve puzzles. Again a lot like Another World or other similar games. But I insult Another World mentioning it in the same sentence as Limbo. Why you may ask? Because Limbo is a giant piece of shit, it sucks so hard.

What the hell? The indie darling of last year is a bad game? Yes it is, for starters you can barely call it a game. It feels like a tech demo, it feels unfinished.

Where to start? I don't know, I guess on the story or the total lack of one. I can understand minimal story but you are NEVER clued in on what's happening. The game starts and ends and you never find out what's going on. The developer said it's open to interpretation, well here's my interpretation! You're all lazy and just didn't want to write a story so you went with the old let the players decide what it all means. LAZINESS!!!

The puzzles are simple, it's obvious what to do at all of them but Playdead made most of them a pain in the ass to complete. One in particular I did the solution multiple times but the game just didn't except it. Eventually I made it past, I guess the game decided to let me continue. A lot of the puzzles are repeated multiple times in different levels. The one in my mind right now you have to deal with 4 times! You get this worm on your head that makes you only move in one direction until you get hit by the sun. It's not fun it's poorly designed and you have to do it 4 freaking times, absurd! I prefer puzzles that are tough to figure out but actually doing the solution isn't the hard part, this game is the opposite. Like I said above every puzzle's solution is easy but doing the solution is infuriatingly hard to do most of the time, because a lot of the puzzles are time based. You throw a switch and you have to hurry to do the next part before the time runs out, THAT IS NEVER FUN! And it's never fun here, the controls have a clunkiness to them that makes rushing to do these tough but for the wrong reasons. Then when you mess up a part you have to wait for everything to reset so you can try again, it doesn't have to be an instant restart like Super Meat Boy but waiting like that is horrible.

The checkpoint system to garbage too, you die and sometimes it sends you way to far back. If I die on a puzzle I should start before that puzzle not the one before it. I've passed the old one, I've proven I can do, what do I have to do it again? Because this game is crap and the developers are assholes.

I played Limbo for 3 hours today, it took me 3 hours to beat it and that 3 hours I will never get back. The game is utter and complete crap, overhyped and I have NO idea why the gaming world was so in love with this game. It boggles my mind! A lot of people compared it to Braid, Braid wipes it's ass with Limbo. It's crap, I hate it, it's one of the worst games I've ever played, actually it may be the worst because it's getting the lowest score I've ever given a game. If you like the art style go to Newgrounds and play Coma it's actually fun and it's free. DON'T waste your money on Limbo, don't, please don't!

Limbo - 0 out of 10 (Fuck this game)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

WAR uh, good god yall... Darksiders Review

Darksiders is an action game that was released at the very beginning of 2010. It was a game I was looking forward to but was unable to play it until about a week ago. I picked it up during Steam's Summer Camp sale and let me tell you something, I am damn glad I did.

In Darksiders the player takes control of War one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The battle between Heaven and Hell has started and you've been summoned before your time. When this happens Heaven and Hell are not happy to see you and all "hell" breaks loose.

The first thing many will notice about Darksiders is that it takes A LOT from the Legend of Zelda. The game's structure, with a kind of over world and a few dungeons strewn about. The weapons and items, you'll get a boomerang type weapon and something that's basically a hook shot. You increase your health with skull pieces instead of heart pieces, you get the idea. But with this you're playing the best "Zelda" game to come out in a long time.

While structurally close to Zelda the game's combat is closer to something like God of War or Devil May Cry but not as complicated. You have one button combat here much like Arkham Asylum, the first button is for your sword and the other is for a secondary weapon. You can kind of go back and forth but it's really not worth it and you'll stick with one weapon at a time. But most of the options from those other action games are in this one, if you like to be in the air for most of your combat you can do that here and it's very easy to do, if the ground is your thing you'll be just as badass. Something about this that a lot of these action games don't have is a lock on, just like Zelda's. For the most part it works but there are times when you'll hit the lock on button and it focuses on some guy far away from you and not the guy right next to you. It did happen more than I would of liked but I can forgive it. You could actually make it through the whole game without using the lock on at all.

The story was something I was extremely impressed with. At it's core it's a basic Heaven versus Hell thing but it is told so well. The script is awesome and it didn't have any parts I thought felt tacked on or out of place. The voice acting is some of the best I've ever heard with big name voice guys like Mark Hamill and Phil LaMarr. The whole thing never felt predictable and I was actually surprised near the end. Something that rarely happens for me is the ending actually made me super psyched for the sequel coming out in 2012.

But Darksiders wasn't a perfect game and I did have some complaints as I played through it.

One level in the game, The Black Throne was really horrible. It has a gimmick where you're given a portal gun and most of the level is spent using this item to make your way through the dungeon. If I wanted to play Portal I'd play Portal not Darksiders. It just wasn't ever fun, you have a mini-boss you fight as you go through and you have to fight him three times. It was just really garbage and the fight was just frustrating. I played about two thirds of this level and took a break for the night, I didn't even want to play anymore it was so bad but the next morning I played again and I was almost done with it so it ended up being bad but not super long. I'd recommend using a guide when you get there to just blast through it and go on to enjoy the last amazing parts of the game.

You have a fast travel option to get around the maps but when you teleport you have to go through a short level type thing. At first it's okay but you have to do it each time you port. It grates a bit after so many times but it's not a big deal.

Lastly and this seems to be something I complain about on almost every game, this one was too easy. I played on the hardest setting and it wasn't really a challenge. There were a few tricky parts and a couple bosses that were tough but the regular game was a breeze and the last boss was simple which I kind of liked. It's too often in this genre of game to have a last boss that is super brutal to beat but in this one it was a little on the easy side.

Darksiders is a great game. If you're a fan of Zelda and games like God of War it is a must play. I cannot recommend this game enough, it is utterly fantastic. Even with that one bad level the rest of the game is so good it makes up for that one. I can't say enough here about how much I love just do yourself a favor and go pick it up, like right now go get it.

Darksiders - 9 out of 10 (If the Black Throne hadn't sucked so much it would of been a 10 out of 10)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Danger Close: Medal of Honor Review

Medal of Honor started as a series that defined the World War 2 shooter. For a long time it was the only good WW2 game out there. Then Call of Duty came along and took all the great stuff Medal of Honor did and improved on it. After COD took over the reigns from MOH it focused on the modern times and many other franchises tried to catch up to them. Eventually Medal of Honor followed along and with that we get the new Medal of Honor.

The 2010 edition of Medal of Honor takes place during the War in Afghanistan and it never pulls any punches about that fact. You play as several different characters over 2 days during the conflict but for the majority of the game you'll control "Rabbit" a member of the Tier 1 APO Neptune squad. You also spend a good part of the game playing as "Deuce" a Sniper for AFO Wolfpack who runs along the guy from the cover of the game whose name I can't remember and I don't really want to look up.

From the story prospective the game isn't ever really clear on what's going on. You just seem to be going along killing guys and getting extracted but I'll go into that more later on.

Gameplay wise MOH is a modern wartime first person shooter. It's plays a lot like the other Modern FPS games on the market. You can carry two guns at a time and have an assortment of grenades to use. You use all the modern weapon hotness through out, M-14s, shotguns and the .50 caliber sniper rifle. At it's core it is a really by the numbers shooter, if you've played any other modern shooter you know what you're getting into.

The game does control decently, mouse aiming feels good and I didn't really have any issues with killing guys. The one complaint about the control set up is so many things are spread to far around the keyboard. I had to do a ton of rebinding on my keys to get stuff closer to my movement keys and that to me just screams lazy PC port because they just threw the keys where ever. It is cool in this time of not letting us bind keys they allowed us to do so, so we do have that.

I really liked the way the game looked. Danger Close did a great job making the game look pretty. The sand and mountains look really nice as you're playing. One of my complaints about Black Ops was the guns looked like crap while the rest of the game looked good. It is not the case here the guns look good, the environments look good. I have an older PC and I could play this at max settings no problem.

It may feel like I just kind of glossed over most of the game but it really is a by the book military FPS. With that said I have some complaints and they're the big focus of this review.

First up the story, it never made any sense. I'm guessing there is a story here somewhere but for the most part it's just a squad of soldiers killing dudes and trying to get somewhere. The first level looks like it's trying to set up an attempt at a narrative but after that it never goes anywhere. I can see a military game without the big time Call of Duty type story just being about some guys and doing their jobs over a couple days but this isn't it. MOH keeps trying to make everything you do a big deal but it isn't important to me when it's not really explained or fleshed out.

MOH also suffers from repetition and I mean a lot of it. Here's the game broken down in a few words. First off you need to go somewhere, you get there and need to hold that point, you "Paint" a target which is always "Danger Close" and BOOM! Then you need to wait for extraction and you do this for almost the entire game. It's broken up with some sniper parts and a riding a quad runner but that's the whole game.

The two biggest gripes with this game, it's too short and it's WAY too easy. I beat the game on the hard mode in about 4 hours! What the hell? Hard mode is suppose to be hard but this game's hard mode wasn't even tough, it had a few tricky parts but it still only took 4 hours. It's inexcusable that a game would come out and cost 60 bucks and only be 4 hours long. That to me just says this game was released for multiplayer and the single player was an after thought. Boo-Urns to Danger Close and EA for doing that! I paid 10 bucks for this in the last Steam sale and I feel a little ripped off, I would of been furious if I'd paid the full 60.

So I mentioned the multiplay, what did I think? I didn't even bother. I played the Beta and it was bland as hell and I didn't want to waste anytime with it.

In the end Medal of Honor is fun but we've all seen what it does before. It doesn't really try anything new and I fear this will not bode well for the series. If Danger Close (Who are working on a sequel) try to make a more original game instead of trying to be the next COD then I think they can make a great shooter. If you can get this cheap or rent it you'll have fun. It will scratch your FPS itch but again it will feel like deja vu.

Medal of Honor - 5 out of 10

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Call of Duty: Black Ops - The Review

Due to unemployment (I now have a job) I had to put off playing the newest entry in the Call of Duty franchise. Thanks to a friend gifting me the game on Steam I was finally able to play Black Ops.

The middle of last year when Black Ops was announced I was really excited to play it. I came away from Modern Warfare 2 with a bad taste in the my mouth. I think Infinity Ward really dropped the ball on that one and I was hoping Treyarch could right the wrongs that were done in MW2.

I'm going to skip all the stuff every Call of Duty games has, if you're reading this then I'm going to assume you know the series and what it's all about but I will sum it up. You go to war, shoot dudes and then you save the day and that's about it.

Black Ops takes place in the 1960s a time frame not really explored by FPS games or really game in general. You play Alex Mason a super secret black op soldier who does all the dirty work the US government doesn't want people to know is going down. The game starts out during the Bay of Pigs invasion you and you're group are sent in to kill Castro, that goes sideways and then it's full throttle for the rest of the game.

Two things I think Black Ops gets right are the story and the overall action of the game.

The story is really well told and the time frame is actually fresh for a war FPS game as many people haven't messed with it in the past. You start out in an interrogation chair being tortured about Alex's past. Through that series of interrogations we learn all the stuff Alex has done over the years, I liked the way it was presented it felt fresh for the series.

After Modern Warfare 2 was basically a walk through the park Black Ops tries to bring the series back to the brutal difficulty it's known for and while it's a tough game it's not as brutal as COD2 or 4. As you go through the levels the fighting feels really nice, the enemies are well placed and the levels are all pretty cool. This game does suffer from Call of Duty's version of war where you poke your head out and the entire enemy army turns on you and begins to fire, it feels really unrealistic, all the COD games do it but I think it's garbage.

As we follow Alex's missions we go to very different locations and times. As I said above you start in Cuba and eventually make your way to Vietnam and onwards. When Black Ops was first announced it was rumored it was all going to take place in Vietnam. Vietnam hasn't had a really good showing in video games with only a handful of mediocre to downright crappy games and I thought this was going to be the one to be awesome. Now the Vietnam levels are the best levels in the game with some of the most brutal things like the sneak assassination of some Vietcong soldiers. It really should of been the full focus of the game. I know the Vietnam war is a soft spot for a lot of people but I think if done right it's time for a good full on Vietnam game.

The one thing I took away from Black Ops was one of the characters, Frank Woods. Frank Woods was an awesome character and one of the most believable the series or really any game has every seen. As I was playing I felt like this was a guy I could follow into hell and no matter what we'd both make it out. James C Burns did his voice and it was an outstanding performance. I'd have to put Woods easily in my top ten list of best video game characters, no question.

Finally the multiplayer. It's Call of Duty, it's an almost exact copy of Modern Warfare 2, it seems like they shoehorned guns that aren't from that era so they could include them in the multiplayer. One gun is the Steyr AUG, the game doesn't go any later than 1968, the AUG wasn't in service until 1979. It's a nitpick but they shouldn't of had it for continuity sake but I guess I'm expecting to much from a Call of Duty game. So really, if you like the MW2 multiplayer you'll like this, if you hated the MW you'll hate this too. And as far as Zombies go I didn't really spend a lot of time with it but I liked World at Wars better and of course you have Left 4 Dead which is way better, so go with those for Zombie killing fun.

I know a lot of people don't like COD after 4 but this one is actually an decent game. It does somethings the series hasn't done before but it does keep with it's traditions. So take that into account if you decide to pick this one up.

Call of Duty: Black Ops - 7 out of 10

Thursday, June 23, 2011

15 Years Ago... Quake

I can still remember it, I came home to find the newest issue of PC Gamer in my mailbox. This was back when the magazine still came with a CD with a couple game demos on it. The month I'm remembering had something I was so shocked to see and I had no previous knowledge of it being included on the disc.

PC Gamer came with a demo for the first Quake.

I was so excited to finally have a chance to play id's newest first person shooter. I like many others was a gigantic Doom fan and couldn't wait to sink my teeth into their first truly 3d game. A quick install and I was into it. It all passed by way to fast but I ended up playing that demo over and over again as the next few weeks passed by.

Eventually June 22nd 1996 came and the full version of Quake was unleashed on the world. Just a couple days after my senior year of high school I was spending the first nights of my adult freedom playing the living hell out of Quake. At the time I only had a 75mhz Pentium 1 with 4 megs of ram and no 3d card. I ended up getting 4 more megs of ram to help run the game better but without a 3d card I was unable to experience Quake in it's full graphical glory but the game was still amazing.

I spent the next month going through Quake several times, finding secrets and mastering the various enemy types. Eventually my playing took me into the realm of online playing.

Quake was the first game I played online and even though my 56k connection and my weak PC made it a chore at times to play I still had a blast. Reaching out and killing guys in other states from the comfort of my bedroom, it was amazing.

The first Quake holds a special place in my gaming history and it was a game that got everything right. The single player was great, it was for many their first online experience and it set the stage for how online gaming would be for a long time.

For me though the Quake series began and ended with Quake 1. I didn't really care for Quake 2, I wanted more demon's and Lovecraft influenced monsters but what we got with Quake 2 and 4 was a typical space alien enemies shooting game. I never cared for them. And as far as Quake 3 was concerned I liked it but at the time I'd rather of played Unreal Tournament and that's usually what I did.

In a recent interview John Carmack mentioned that id was thinking about doing a "remake" of the first Quake with the Cthulhu inspired demons and gothic setting and I am so excited to hear about that. It's the direction I've wanted to see that series go and I hope we'll finally see it happen.

I recently replayed Quake about 2 or 3 months ago and it still holds up. It's a timeless game in an age when many older games have a hard time holding up as the FPS genre evolves but Quake can still stand side by side with the best of them. If you've never played Quake (shame on you) do yourself a favor and grab it off of Steam, you will not be disappointed.