Archive for the 'Retail Games' Category

29
Oct
10

Vanquish

Shinji Mikami is known for games such as Devil May Cry, Resident Evil 4 and Killer7. There’s a lot more on his resume, but that sums it up pretty well. He prefer simplicity before complicated UI’s and millions of menus. In other words – less is more. He proves this well with his latest game. The high-paced, third person shooter Vanquish is, unlike many other games today, developed for the PS3 system and not ported from the 360 version. Furthermore, there is no on-line multiplayer option. Thank you Mr Mikami. That last part sounds great in my ears, since I think that co-op gaming should first of all take place together with a friend. Couch co-op, if you may.
Unfortunately, this game doesn’t have couch co-op, which is one of the two biggest flaws in the game, no doubts. On the other hand, when playing this game  I guess a split screen might reduce the necessary field of vision that is required to survive.
However, this game is a masterpiece when it comes to TPS action and I let my third playthrough stand as a valid argument for that.

The gameplay is superb and, as I stated in my Castlevania: LoS review, the controls are easy to learn and you can’t blame the game for failing. If you mix classic, side scrolling shmups (like Gradius, R-Type, etc) with the TPS genre, you get Vanquish. Intensity deluxe. Gears of war is awesome, but you advance in a slower pace and do not move in the same versatile way. Where Fenix and Don are tanks, Sam is a stealth bomber. This is, as mentioned, my third playthrough and I got the game five days ago. That says a lot about the length of the game, which is the second of the two flaws.
It’s WAY too short and when you’ve beaten it on Normal, you can easily go through the game in an afternoon on Casual. The firefights and the tempo makes up for that, though. The different weapons all have their significant role to play and none of them feels like a filler. I usually don’t use shotguns in these kind of games, but when you upgraded it a few times, the satisfaction of shredding russian androids is huge.

When you beat the game, you unlock an even tougher difficulty which giver you a new challenge to face, although there’s no trophy for it. The story is pretty vague and I never actually cared about it, sadly (GoW win this round with flying colors!). However, this is too entertaining to let the fact that it has a thin story matter.

The enemies are almost completely of robotic origin, which fits well into these sterile environments of steel. The bosses gives me a slight flashback to Lost Planet 2. The sizes they come in are impressive and the feeling you get while blasting away at these mechanical giants, surrounded by hostile and friendly fire, orchestrated to hard, fast-paced techno is great.
The speculations were right – this game beats Gears of War when it comes to TPS-precision.

The graphics are crisp clean and reminds me of the Metal Gear Solid series and the Zone of Enders games. The game takes place in a colony between Earth and our moon, which reminds me even more of the latter. Big spaces and stunning environments, all wrapped in clean, perfect technology.

The music is great and fits really good into the gameplay. It’s pure techno which synchronizes with the pace of the game in a great way. The voice acting wasn’t so impressive. I think Burns is related to Cole (inFamous), Alex (Prototype) and Solid Snake, since they all seem to be suffocating on oat meal, judging by how they sound. The stereotypical marine attitude and bad one-liners doesn’t feel fresh and with a story that is too thin, the dialogue doesn’t feel convincing.

The trophies in games usually suck, but this time they actually used some imagination and gave us (a lot) more than just chapter- and difficulty-related trophies. My only wish is that there were more of them.

This game is an awesome thrill for the TPS mind, but alas, too short. The music synchronizes so well with the action and the controls are pin-point accurate. In spite of a weak story and a storyline that is completed in a few hours, I still like this game a lot and intend to replay it many times, much like I did with the games back in the days were the  NES and SNES were my main consoles. If you’re a fan of FPS/TPS, you should definitely try this one out.
Shinji Mikami did it again and proved to us that less can be a hell lot more.

Why the length (of the game) doesn’t count…

I want it all – Finally some interesting trophies you WANT to achieve 

Eenie, meenie, miny, moe – Every weapon is useful. None is redundant.

Pump up the volume – A soundtrack that couldn’t be more perfect 

Shmup + TPS – A great combination that gives the genre a rebirth

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22
Oct
10

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

The change:

This game does not follow the kanon of the previous ones. This is a whole new legend.
We need to remember that this game is not developed by the ordinary Castlevania team. Mercurysteam from Spain is behind this one, under guidance by Hideo Kojima. If you played the old Castlevania games and expected to experience Symphony of the Night, or Super Castlevania in 3D, you’ll be disappointed. But make no mistake, this is a great game, but you will just not get that “Vampire Killer-feeling” as you used to.

The prints of Kojimas mind are many in LoS, although much more subtle than in the MGS-series. This time, the plot presented to us through previews and trailers are not to kill Dracula. This time we’re gonna save our fair lady, much as in Dantes Inferno and Shadow of the Colossus. This tells us that this game is different from the other ones. But don’t worry.
Dracula has an appearence in this game to.
Kojima is a genius and he seldom fails when involved in a game. The minutes that follows after the end credits will make you understand and when you’re done shitting bricks, let’s all wait for his next nocturnal project in childish anticipation.

Gameplay:

This game is addictively fun.
Not only is the gameplay wonderful (clever mapping of the controls, dynamic use of magics, sub-weapons and the whip) but the replay value is great as well. You’ll have a lot of techniques to learn and by revisiting levels and chapters, you’ll gain the XP required in no time – and have lots of fun doing so. There are three kinds of crystals representing life, light magic and shadow magic that you need to collect. While on the world map, you can easily check which levels you’ve missed crystals or weapon upgrades on and since you’ll need specific abilities to reach to the places where these items might be, the stat screen on the map comes in handy for these revisits.
Another thing that I find awesome in this game is the boss fights. They demand more than just button mashing and when you’re playing it on the second hardest difficulty, that is not a suggestion. It’s a must if you want to succeed. The diversity of actions gives you a splendid control of the situation in an user friendly way.
So if Gabriel dies, it is not the game who fails – it is you.

The story:

I did not find the story very compelling. Or entertaining.
It didn’t made you feel like “Holy shit! What will happen next?!” or anything like that. It’s an okay story, but WAY too thin and in lack of substance. A classic move in previous Castlevania games is to refer to other games in the franchise, but this time, I felt that was lacking. Sure, some characters and  locations was sharing names with previous equivalents from the predecessors, but it was not enough. The game was TOO new for an old fan of the franchise like me. Much like FF13, but this time I didn’t want to flay the characters and push them down a slope in a barrel full of salt.

The music:

The soundtrack is awful. Come back, Kinuyo Yamashita! We DO love you!
The Castlevania series has been known to have a really strong soundtrack. When we first heard ‘Vampire Killer’ on the first stage, smashing torches and collecting whip powerups in 1986, we knew that the music was awesome. We still know that it is. In the coming games, new songs appeared, but there were almost always a few old classic from an earlier game turning up somewhere. In Symphony of the Night, we fell in love with a whole bunch of new songs that today is considered Castlevania classics. With this in mind, there were still a couple of old songs reappearing – remixed or remastered.

There is only ONE song present in this game that is familiar to us. Listen carefully to it, because that will be the only time you hear anything from the past in this game.
This soundtrack is just your ordinary, mundane philharmonic score with no personality. It’s good music, but it’s NOT Castlevania material and if that was what they aimed for, they failed epically.

The voice acting:

As you probably already know, Robert Carlyle and Patrik Stewart are the voice actors of the two main characters and you can tell that there is a huge difference between acting in front of a camera and giving voices to animations. They succeeded in displaying emotions aurally, but they do it as you would in front of a camera. This is an epic adventure in a videogame and that demands some over-dramatic acting if it should be convincing. It was good, but not good enough.

The trophies:

“Collect them all” and “play the game”.  Oh yeah – there’s one for each difficulty too.
Surprised? Didn’t think so.

In short terms:

Just like Final Fantasy XIII, this is a game for new players. Sure, FFXIII was utter crap, convincing us of the enormous ego that Square Enix has gained after years of success and what shitstained damage that can leave us with.
This, however, is not that bad. There are new developers and a TOTALLY different mind supervising the whole thing.
But this is not a Castlevania game.
Yes, it has the same title and yes, the main character is named Belmont, but NO – this is not what some of us grew up with. With that put aside, the game is still great and I recommend you to play it, especially if you’re not familiar with the old series.

PS. By demand from my dear co-writer, I’ll recommend you to check out the Castlevania Wiki in case you’re not aware of the earlier games.

 

Why Dracula should fondle Big Boss…

The end is the beginning? – Beat the game and find out 

Solid Belmont – The spirit of Kojima is everywhere and I like it

Violence is fun! – Some bosses are just awesome to confront

Jooyyy….stick. – Tactical gameplay FTW

17
Oct
10

Final Fantasy 13

Final Fantasy. Two words that tend to jolt many a gamer into veritable fits of Déjà vu and verbal battles over which of the games that was the best or the worst. It has been almost impossible to if not to have played one of the games in the series but then at least having heard of them. For those few of you that might not have though, know that Final Fantasy is a series of RPG games by Hironobu Sakaguchi and published by Square Enix. The games are loosely tied together by the concept of magic, a world in danger and a group of people battling The Great Evil while brooding over their own personal issues. The game series have unarguably been a critical success with over 97 million sold games over the years.

Final Fantasy 13 Characters

Yeah, 97 millions – and Final Fantasy XIII is the fastest selling of them all so far.

It is with that information in the mental backpack and being a great lover of most of the games in the series that I am going to stick my head out and start off this review by saying that Final Fantasy 13 is an appallingly poor title. There, I said it! With that in mind, let’s take a few steps back and look at what Final Fantasy 13 is:

Just as its predecessors Final Fantasy XIII is a role-playing game. This one takes place in the world of Pulse and you start out on Cocoon, a hollowed out artificial moon where you fight the Sanctum,  a government ruled by the fal’Cie, which are mechanical god-like beings. The fal’Cie are responsible for sustaining pretty much everything on Coccon; keeping the water flowing, the moon floating, light, power – you name it.

This would be all and well if not the fal’Cie were having a thing for picking out and branding some humans with a growing, tattoo-like brand and giving them a Focus to complete lest they be transformed into a mindless beast called Cie’th if they do not complete this within a certain time. These chosen ones, called the l’Cie are never told straight out what their focus really is, but must instead interpret visions they are given. If they figure out their focus and complete it, they turn into crystal and supposedly gain eternal life.

I'cie brand on Snow

I'cie brand on Snow

If all this is starting to sound like the host of a Japanese game show is standing behind the curtains and laughing while everyone jump through the hoops, don’t worry – I’m with you.

The game plays out as you run around with up to three team members at a time. Sometimes you are forced to play as a specific character with a limited choice of your team members or even alone. There are some interesting new things added to the battle system over previous games:  Here you only control one of your characters at a time, the others go on auto-pilot but you can switch to them to make them perform specific actions.

Essentially the battles play out with you increasing the enemies’ stagger meters which once filled up, makes the enemies behave differently and become especially vulnerable to attacks. Also new is the Paradigm function where every character can instantly switch to another class of fighter, Either a Saboteur, a Medic, Commando, Synergist, Sentinel or a Ravager; all these have their own purpose and skill tree to expand upon to further their abilities.

The battle system is based around something called the ATB – Active Time Battle, and is a real-time based system where your ATB meter charges up over time. Spending bars of this meter allows you to perform different attacks. The fights are visually pleasing and fluid as you switch between both characters and paradigms. Gone however, are the days of the intensive pleasing music of past games and instead we have have some generic techno beating in the background.


The Eidolons, the great summon beasts featured in almost all Final Fantasy games are still present here, and are warped versions of ones featured before. They can now transform, Shiva for instance are now two sisters that turn into a motorcycle. Yeah let us just let that one sink in for a bit. Shiva, The Great Goddess of vroom-vroom!

These Eidolons are first summoned into battle and use different magical abilities. Each of them have a summon point meter that depletes over time and when you take damage. Once these are spent or your Eidolon is beaten they vanish. You can also put your Eidolon into Gestalt mode, transforming them and letting you perform various special attacks, often damaging every enemy on screen.

As you progress and gain experience you can fill up the Crystarium which is your skill-tree, and when you reach certain points in it, you gain higher stats or new abilities. The Crystarium is an elaborate design of crystal discs which you have to not only fill up but spend points on reaching.

The Crystarium

The Crystarium

Progressing through the world does not have the random pop-up encounters featured in most of the earlier titles, which I do think is a great change. Enemies are clearly seen and battle starts once you attack or are attacked, you can even sneak up on them and automatically get the initiative if they have their back turned on you.

Enemies drop items and sometimes weapons that you can use, and depending on how well you did in the battle you can get better and/or more items.
If one thing is to be said to be unquestionably positive about the game then it is that the graphics in the game is nothing short of stunning, the characters are beautiful in detail, hairs flow in the wind and attacks are beautifully animated, the textures are well detailed and battles although busy have no slow-downs of any kind.

If you have read this far and think this might be a must-get game I implore you to read on, for I cannot go on further without unleashing The Beast of Unpleased Gamer. This is where we must re-visit the different aspects of the game and I pick them all apart:

The battle system:

The battles are beautiful, but you soon realise that you will spend most of the 50 first hours of the game just pumping the X button to select the auto battle option which fills up your ATB meter with what attacks the computer sees fitting. Once you have identified mobs his function will function even better, choosing attacks that will be most effective against their respective vulnerabilities. In earlier games you had to figure out for yourself what their vulnerabilities were, when to attack, when to block, protect, recuperate, buff yourself or debuff the enemies. You have pretty much nothing of that here and I claim that you can spend the first fifty hours of the game mashing the X button through every fight while you read a book. Note to Square Enix: STUPID AND EASY IS NOT THE SAME THING AS FUN – OKAY? I’m sorry for letting out the caps-lock dragon, it had to be done!

Looting:

I love looting, gleeing over new weapons, armor and shields and being able to craft new items out of others. This system though is deplorable. You actually spend some items to upgrade your weapons which quickly leave you with your first weapon being the best. As you get new weapons you realise that yes they COULD be better, but it would take hours of grinding to even get it up to par with your current one and so it all falls apart until the post end-game where you actually have to grind grind grind and read stats carefully to get what you need to beat certain monsters. Did I mention the grind? If I were to channel the Angry Video Game Nerd I’d call this game Final Grind 13.

The Music:

The music for the game was written by Masashi Hamazu, known for his work on Final Fantasy X, Saga Frontier 2 and several other games; and I have to say that although his piano works for FF X was decent, the music in this game leaves me less than impressed. While I still to this day enjoy and even go around humming the scores Nobuo Uematsu wrote for Final Fantasy 7, I honestly can not as I write this; even remember any of the scores from 13. Why? Simply because they’re mostly very plain generic techno and doesn’t do much at all for the world, game, mood or settings. The music would probably have done well for a slow-paced shoot’em-up, but here is just deplorable. Final Fantasy has set the level high for its scores and this time Masashi doesn’t even come close.

The Graphic:

As beautiful as it is, I still wonder why Hope literally pulls out a boomerang out his butt when a battle starts, and most of the worlds although very beautiful look dead, simply because there are no people around. Square Enix decided to do away with the non-player characters and what people you see in crowds fade around you as ghosts when you pass them by. There’s no people to stop and talk to anymore and I think this was a horribly poor decision. Although beautiful many of the environments end up looking very repetitive, especially the indoors hallways which is quite frustrating when you spend so many hours grinding down them. Cut-scenes are vivid and rendered in 1080p but hey, really – resolution isn’t everything.

Vanille and Hope

Vanille and Hope

The Upgrade System:

As much as I love upgrading, I prefer to have some degree of freedom over them. You only have a few Crystarium discs available to you until you reach certain keypoints and trust me, by the time you reach a key point you will have completed any disc you already had available and there is hardly even the illusion of choice here which makes it awfully dull. The Crystarium is beautiful and easy to use I will give it that – but that is also all there is to it.

The Story:

With the fal’Cie, the l’Cie and Cie’th being thrown your way early on in a confusing jumble, my initial reaction was that the game should have been named F’inal F’antasy 13. The names of things and characters feel strained and forced most of the time. Although the story isn’t all bad it feels as if someone forgot to give it that final polish that made things feel more knitted together and giving it that flow, this however might really be the fault of what I am to bring up next:

The Characters:

Oh yes, the characters. Let me start off by saying, that if there was a PSN game dedicated to spending endless hours of using a Playstation Move controller to beat the shit out of them all, I would pick it up in an instant. It is not as much that they’re crying and doubting themselves every step of the way or even that they are so unsympathetic and plain, as it is that that they never once veer off from their stereotypes. The one exception being Vanille who behaves so irate you just want to punch her in the face every time she says something. How about patting a guy who just lost his mother on the shoulder, saying ”that must be tough on you” smiling as if on drugs and only being semi-aware of her surroundings; only to turn her back, start humming happily to herself and bounce away? WHO DOES THAT? At the end I had no sympathy left for any of the characters and couldn’t have cared less if they had all died a slow and painful death. The voice acting is not too bad, but Vanille and Thunder vary great in quality as the actors seem to flip between British and Australian accents.

The World:

Final Fantasy 13 really does a good job of showing you a beautiful big and wild world. Especially when you leave Cocoon and enter the wilds of Pulse, where the game finally opens up a bit. Do note though, there are no side stories, no major hidden bonuses to be found through the game until that point. As a matter of fact you will spend the first 50+ hours on-rail. At most you spot a short side-track leading to a chest containing some generic item that brings no joy. The monsters and especially the clothing in this game demand a mention though. The clothes especially are nothing but stunning, varying yet keeping a theme without anything feeling forced. Whomever made these should start their own brand of clothing.

The Trophies:

The trophies for the game are mostly generic ones. Finish different chapters of the story, fully expanding your Crystarium skill trees, but some of them require a fair amount of grinding to be done. Nothing creative or really awful to be found here.

Summary:

As much as I have raged on this game, I did play through the whole main story, complaining all the way. As it stands now I am very disappointed and will not pick up Final Fantasy 13 vs per automatic, I’m more than a little sceptic and disheartened. Where Blizzard has always gone the road of Do Not Fix What Is Not Broken, Square Enix has made a point of changing something that worked in pretty much every iteration of the games, not always for the better. VG Cats summed it up really well.

If you haven’t played a Final Fantasy game before and want some very easy entertainment without any depth, this might still be a game for you. Although the game has a much higher polish than say Enchanted Arms, at the end of the day it still has that fragrance of Eau De Fail.

This is Maximilian and the caps-lock dragon, raging signing off.

Why Final Fantasy is one straw short of a slurpee:

Cry me a River – Drag the crying and crying characters through the story.
Big Bag of Nothing – So many drops, so little fun.
Barbie wants her brain back – One word: Vanille
Bring on the OCD! You want your platinum? Go ahead – grind my day!

26
Sep
10

heavy rain

First of all, I want to apologize for the delay of reviews.
There has been some technical issues that has put a stop to our productivity, but that will change.
Sorry about that.
We’ll be up and running with weekly posts on fridays from now on.

Videogames used to be an arcade thrill in pixels back in the days.
You needed to think fast and learn how the stages/laps proceeded. It was all about skills and wits and not as much variation. Today, gaming has reached a whole new level and with games such as Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, they became a lot more an experience than actual hardcore button-mashing.
Heavy Rain is at the peak of this progression and is in an easy (although not very justifying) way described as a movie which gives you, as the player, options to alter the story with quick time events (QTE’s).

The story takes place in 2011 and a serial killer, known as the Origami Killer, is on the loose.
The killer kidnaps young boys between 9-13 yrs of age. Since the cops have not yet managed to catch the killer or rescue any child, they all end up dead by drowning, with an orchid and an origami animal by his side, the signum of the killer.
Ethan Mars is an architect and a father of two sons. When one of his sons dies in a tragic accident, he loses himself and becomes depressed and isolated.
Madison Paige is a journalist that suffers from insomnia and involuntarily gets dragged in into the investigation of the mysterious killer.
Norman Jayden is an FBI agent that uses ARI technology (Added Reality Interface – a pair of glasses and a glove that can trace otherwise invisible leads on crime scenes) in his investigations, but to a high price.
Scott Shelby is a retired cop that has become a Private Investigator that now hunts the Origami Killer.
Lauren Winters is a former prostitute that has lost her son to the killer and decides to find the murderer.
These five persons fates will intertwine and the plot will take many turns before it unravels itself.

If you usually plays shoot’em up and action/adventure games, this one might seem a bit dull. To be honest, I found it a bit slow for my own taste, but it does not stop me from calling it a masterpiece. And by masterpiece, I refer to the atmosphere and the dramaturgy. This game truly is remarkable as it delivers a plot worthy of any well-produced crime/triller movie and the characters are not made up, in a physical way of speaking. The faces you see can easily be found if you search the internet for the actors behind the characters. Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid) is made up. So is John Marston (Red Dead Redemption), Sam Fischer (Splinter Cell) and Cole McGrath (InFamous).
These characters are “real”. And they certainly feel real in the game. No Final Fantasy bullshit, where everyone has to be homogenically supersexy and beautiful. No, these are REAL people and that is what gives the game credibility and it’s own, more authentic sense of beauty.

The score is good, but WAY too overdramatic for my taste. At one time, you have to take Ethan through a crowd of people at a train station and since he suffers from agoraphobia (fear of being in open spaces, in a crowd, to sum it up) this is a crucial moment. And the music gets REALLY dramatic at this point. Not anything creeping, like there’s a tension. It’s more like “For fuck’s sake, destroy the ring, Frodo!”.

The trophies are excellent, as far as I know. I’ve beaten the game once (which gives me at least ten more times to do it) and of all the trophies, there are only four(?) of them that are not secret ones. When you’re having an option in the game (save him/her, do NOT save him/her) you might get a trophy, depending on your actions and decisions. This gives the game a replay value, not only for the sake of the trophies, but for you to find out what would happen in you’d done things differently. And trust me – the “what if…”-factor is big in this game.

The only thing I can complain about is the voice acting. I don’t find it as convincing as it could have been. It’s good, but not good enough. The lip-sync is great and the credability on that point is great, but I just wish the sorrow, anxiety and anger could have had a better portrayal. A big plus for the fact that the voice actors are the same people that gave faces to the characters. That, on the other hand, gives it a credability that stereotypical (Solid Snake, Mario, etc) can’t deliver.

This game is not to be played as a game, as much as it should be viewed as a criminal thriller where you participate through QTE’s.
It is a kind of experience no other game will give you and I strongly recommend that you play it.
Not only for the different take on videogame experiences, but as to get perspective on how home console videogames have evolved through the aproximately 40 years they have been around. From “The Brown Box” of the 70’s, to our modern PS3, 360 and Wii.

Why movies and videogames mesh splendidly…

Keeping it real – Real faces, real voices.

What if…? – The re-play value is really cleverly designed.

“Cutie” – This is what Quick Time Events were made for.

Light, camera, action! – A new strain of videogaming experience.

29
Aug
10

Borderlands [Max]

If I say the words The Final Frontier, let us blatantly ignore Star Trek and think about the Wild West. In Borderlands the frontier is pretty much that – only the Frontier has moved on to other planets and you fondle, drool over and caress a bountiful of high tech weapons. Want a shotgun with a TFT screen zoom? Deal. How about a machine gun that spits fire and eats energy shields for breakfast? You got it.

There’s no denying that Borderlands is a first person shooter, but when playing it the first thing that comes to my mind is Diablo, the old click-and-kill RPG classic from 1997, where once you had finished the main story and started the game again, you would keep on going at a tougher pace and pick up new exciting character boosting items. And you kept going, and going, and going. Borderlands picked up on this simple but spellbinding concept and brought it to its weapons, but I’m getting ahead of myself, let me back up a bit:

Borderlands starts you off as one out of four characters, all with their own play style, attitude and strengths. Brick for instance is a berzerker that can throw himself into a fit of rage that while lasting lets him sling devastating punches to his enemies while hollering like The Hulk on crack. Roland, is a soldier that brings his portable turret which brings large bonuses to his co-players, and this is where the game really gets great: You can play co-op with up to four players, either online or via split-screen. My PS3 has actually had to be sent in for repairs twice because overheating after long sessions of Borderlands. Sad? Yes. Worth every penny? Undeniably so.

As you disembark Marcus Kincaid’s rusty ol’ bus in Fyrestone and the last notes of the tone-setting intro music play, the story takes you on a hunt for the rumoured Vault, plowing your way through competitors, monsters, animals and territorial gangsters and what not, often guided along the storyline by a one-wheeled droid that you’ll soon learn to build a love-hate relationship with.

The game and story slowly builds up under the first few hours as you walk around the beautifully landscape surrounding Fyrestone; all rendered in beautifully gritty brown CEL-shading giving it a cartoonish feel that really works in favor of the game, and before you know it you’re hooked: just one more level, one more monster, enemy or boss to kill; one more sweet weapon drop, one more skill, one more level of weapon proficiency and GOD DAMN IS IT MORNING ALREADY??! Yeah, that’s addictive for you.

The story line is a bit sparse given all the side quests you need to undertake to get skilled enough to continue but it is never a problem, there is a slew of interesting, rough-edged characters to meet and be amused by and they often have new things to say. I was amazed at how many sound bits that have been recorded for the game. I actually had a peek and there are near 7000 sound bits in the game. Now there’s something for other game designers to pick up on. The ambient music of the game is also well balanced to bring you emotionally deeper into that Badlands-feeling without being repetitive or disturbing.

Although Borderlands stands fine on its own for single player it is really in co-op it shines. The more player the tougher the monsters become, the better the items enemies drop are and your players’ skills really compliment eachother. Suddenly the rush of storming a town together or nervously sneaking around unknown territory to take out whatever awaits is boosted to new levels.

Borderlands have brought in several good existing concepts but has also brought something new and interesting to the game mechanic: Second Wind. If you get shot down you have some time as your sight dims; to make a kill on an enemy which brings you back on your feet, unless a friend is along and can revive you. This is a great adrenaline booster and works perfectly!

Many that have played Borderlands are sure to draw some parallels to Fallout 3 and not without reason. It’s a far stretch to say Borderlands is Fallout 3 with co-op but it does give a general direction. Another thing they have in common is the style of DLC. Both have several packs that increases your maximum character level and provides more quests and areas to explore, although I encourage you to read up on which ones you want, they’re not all worth every cent.

As for trophies, Borderlands gets a meh-rating. They aren’t impossible and do not involve endless hours of online gameplay to get which is a bonus, yet many of them are uninspiring ones such as reach level this, level that. We can live with them, we could have lived without them too. There’s at least one secret one too that is near impossible to figure out on your own which is just plain annoying.

Without dwelling on more details I have to say that Borderlands is a game that will stay in my collection and brought out from time to time, characters in the game are charmingly flawed and have a lot of different things to say, the gameplay has a great flow to it and at times pushes you to find new strategies to take down enemies and the story although no masterpiece, works to pull you along.

Having said that, I have to go sit down right now and play some more right now. HEY LOOK AT ME EVERYBODY – I’M DANCIN’!

Why Borderlands is greater than borderline…

Oh you like that huh? – All the exploding dwarf heads you could wish for.
This is my rifle this is my gun! – Bullet love and a big bag of death.
Are you talking to me? – Great variation in voice acting and sound bits.
Once more with feeling – Dangerously high re-playability.

26
Aug
10

Borderlands [NKD]

As a kid I watched a lot of cartoons.
Transformers, Thunder Cats, Starzinger, you name it. Time passed by and I grew older, but my interest for cartoons never receded. I’m 28 years old as I write this and I still watch cartoons. I sometimes fall back on Transformers and reminisce, but it has generally been replaced by anime of various kinds.

Videogames has also been a part of my life growing up, so when I finally played Dragon Ball Z: Budokai for the Playstation 2, I got really excited. Okay, it wasn’t a great game, but I was into the DBZ series and first and foremost, it looked like a cartoon. Well, it was cel-shaded, but that’s cartoon enough for me.

When I got my hands on Borderlands a few months ago, I was truly flabbergasted. Not only was it cel- shaded, but it was HD, FPS and RPG in one! I know I sound like a typical fanboy, all worked up over the latest release of a Star Wars movie or a new Final Fantasy game, totally totally oblivious to a critical and analytic way of thinking. That might be part of the truth, but this game actually lived up to my expectations.

The graphics are as close to a comic I’ve seen in a game so far. You have the stylized, striped shadows, the small “ink” details emphasizing body parts and the typical outline and it works perfectly. Nice details, but without getting too messy (unlike the armor of our bitter protagonist from Darksiders). Since it’s an FPS, you get a huge emphasis on the weapons and they surely deliver on that point too. Every weapon is unique, due to the “weapon generator”. The same goes for enemies and equipment too, so there’s a lot to pick from. The only downside is that you could get a shotgun with 4.9x zoom, while your sniper rifles tend to stick around the 1-2.5x range. I fail to see the logic in that.

A small detail to care about, considering the vast amount of weapons you’ll find. To top it off, you can also find weapons with different elemental attributes, with incendiary, explosive, chocking or corrosive additional damage. Trust me; you’ll find you weapon of choice.

Another thing that I like about the game is all the comments and one-liners you get from the characters, vault hunters and bandits alike. Every time I got a critical hit on one of the badass enemies (that is actually what they’re called), my character use to say “I don’t think he liked me”, followed by a sadistic laugh, which always made me laugh as well. Shared fun is twice the fun, right? I looked closer into the voice samples and I found out that it’s not only the weapons they have shitloads of. Every character have a couple of hundreds(!) different phrases and that alone gives a variation you surely appreciate.
Satisfaction abounds.

While running around in this desolate wasteland with tumbleweed and all that, you need some good ambience, right? Well, the composers responsible for the score made a great job. You get that ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ vibe while running around shooting skags and bandits and it really does the trick. To get a glimpse of its splendor, check out the awesome intro, with a great song from the band Cage the Elephant:

As you play the game, you’ll soon notice that you have a shitload of challenges that you can complete as well (shoot 2500 skags, get 500 critical hits, etc) and I’m still trying to complete the list, with great pleasure. You get experience points for completing these challenges, so it’s a good idea to check them out once in a while. Unfortunately, these challenges do not reward you with a trophy, once fully completed. Despite that, the trophies aren’t so bad. Sure, you’ve got the standard complete-an-episode thing going, which is just as classic as it is cliché nowadays.  You still got some goodies in there though. All in all, I like the trophies and they fun to achieve.

Since the game was released, they also released three DLC’s; The Zombie Island of Dr Ned, Mad Moxxi’s Underground Riot and The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, in that order. As DLC’s they were abundant and contained a lot of hours in gameplay, although it could get a bit repetitive at times. In Dr Ned and General Knoxx, you’ll have to travel back an forth on the map, completing one quest after another, but you can tell that the latter was the latest DLC to be released, due to it’s size and variation, in spite of the repetitiveness. Moxxi’s Underground Riot is just an arena add-on, where you can fight in three different arenas, completing different challenges. It also has a cool storage place, where you can buy space for up to 39 items, in case you’d have 4.000.000 dollars to spare. Let’s say you find a kickass gun, or mod, that you want to save for a later occasion (or character), you can just store it there.

The Video game magazine LEVEL wrote; “This game is for those who enjoyed Fallout 3, but would like to play in co-op”. I fully agree. It’s a fun game with a great tempo and if you’re into first person shooters, you should definitely try this one out.


Why Borderlands is greater than borderline…

You were saying..? Twice the fun with one-liners.
Slave to the grind Experience points in an FPS is a winning concept.
More…give me more! More guns and equipment than the US Army.
Can we do it again? Game plus!