Tag Archives: video game review

‘Dead Space 2’ Improves on Series Foundation

By Michael Torelli

Dead Space 2 is the second installment in the horror/survival series focusing on engineer Isaac Clarke on his mission to learn more about the mysterious Marker. Taking place in the Sprawl, a massive space city, Clarke has to battle the monsters called necromorphs, surviving both reality and the hallucinations that now haunt him.

After Isaac made his escape from the USG Ishimura, a mining vessel in space, he thought his run in with the Unitologist Marker, a device created by man with negative effects, was over when he crashed the Ishimura into a neighboring planet.

Developed by EA, Dead Space 2 is a vamped up version of its predecessor. Waking up in an insanity ward, Clarke had tests run on him for the past three years after the Ishimura was abandoned and Clarke was found in space. Players will instantly realize that Clarke is stronger, faster and knows more about the situation at hand. He takes control of issues, whereas in the original he was the messenger boy for the other characters of the game. Clarke now has a voice, showing the player what he’s thinking and giving some actual human emotion to Dead Space 2. Clarke is also unsure of what is real and what is a hallucination due to the close contact with the Marker and is haunted by his past, which gives the players a new dilemma to face.

The graphics themselves have become smoother than the original, but still contains the eerie feeling that the player cannot really see farther ahead. Items are easier to see on the screen and players will be able to comprehend a lot of the tools on the screen. Players will be able to pick up brooms, poles and anything else at their disposal to throw at the necromorphs. Clarke has an upgraded kinesis module, allowing him to do more damage with the environment.

The soundtrack to Dead Space 2 is what makes or breaks the deal in regards to the scare factor. Just like the original, players will have music increasing in noise as the player nears a door, readies to turn a corner, and players will not be sure if a necromorph will appear or not. The music does not always imply that an enemy will appear, but it’s certain to keep players on the edge of their seats.

New necromorphs have also shown up in the game. One is called the pack, which are mutated children that, hence the name, hunt in a pack. One of the pack will confront Clarke, while the others sneak up from behind to attack him where the player cannot see. They are quick but take only a couple of shots to kill per child, which can quickly drain the player’s ammo if they aren’t careful.

New weapons have also made an appearance. One is called the javelin, which is a heavy duty gun that projects javelins that can impale necromorphs to the wall. The secondary fire that the javelin has electrocutes the impaled necromorph with the last javelin shot.

The game consists of fifteen chapters, each having a difficulty increase. Players are still able to upgrade their weapons, armor and stasis module. Stasis allows the player to freeze oncoming necromorphs, giving Clarke the upper hand. Stasis also recharges over time in Dead Space 2, a nice improvement from the first game.

There is also a multiplayer, which pits players against necromorphs. Players can either be humans or necromorphs, which keeps the fighting interesting. As players get better, they will level up and be able to receive new upgrades to their disposal.

This game doesn’t have too much wrong with it, but there are a few things that could be fixed. One is when Clarke is in zero gravity. The new “zero-g” concept is that players have complete control over Isaac while he is floating in space. However, Clarke is very quick to flip upside down and disorient the player at some points. Players can easily fix this by pressing a button on their controller, but it’s a nuisance when fighting necromorphs.

Another thing that was noticed was trouble understanding some of the players, namely Clarke’s dead ex-girlfriend, Nicole. She makes reappearances in the game, and when she does, it’s hard to understand her at some points without subtitles helping out. If her voice was a little clearer, this game would be near flawless.

If someone is interested in horror games, then they should pick up Dead Space 2 on either their Playstation 3 or Xbox 360. It’s very driven on story, so it’s recommended to play the original Dead Space first.

Real-time Physics Engine Makes ‘NHL 11’ A Revamped Experience

By Michael Walsh

It’s another year and another round of applause for developer EA Canada as their award-winning NHL series hits 2011.

Sports games have often fallen prey to the perceived image of each installment simply being a roster update and a shallow feature or two on top. EA Sports’ NHL series has long defied this rightfully deserved label.

NHL 11 won’t fool gamers with it’s looks, as graphics, presentation and style have stayed relatively similar to NHL 10‘s. But like previous years, the true changes will only be identifiable to the fan base of hardcore gamers the series has picked up ever since it became a full-on simulation experience a few years ago.

Where NHL 11 excels is in it’s gameplay, thanks to a complete overhaul of the physics engine. This year the team at EA Canada has developed a completely new and realistic “real-time physics engine” that truly changes the way the game is played. Every year the game pushes the sports simulation bar one step higher with something new, and this year it’s the upgraded physics engine. Never has a body check felt so authentic, unique and fun as it does in NHL 11. Many wow moments develop from hits that send players crushing into the boards or flipping head-over-heels over a defenseman. EA Sports has expertly captured what the intense pace of hockey means to fans.

The new real-time physics engine doesn’t stop at checking. Player to puck detection is improved, making for more authentic bounces than you might hope for. The control that one has over their player is at its highest in NHL 11; the game feels more authentic than ever, with disallowed goals from high sticks and kicked in pucks. Players can have their sticks broken in a number of ways, and if the puck happens to go in the direction of the snapped equipment, it will take a diverted course.

EA didn’t stop at just creating a new game on the ice. Stepping up their mission the team put together the new Hockey Ultimate Team, an on and offline mode where the owner builds a fantasy team from packs of cards purchased after earning reward points. The game starts you off a lot of young, bottom of the barrel players from the game’s newly featured Canadian Hockey League teams, with a few mid-level pros thrown in to the mix. As you progress in tournaments both online and offline, owners earn more points allowing them to buy more packs of cards, which in turn will give them the chance to get the rare superstars of the league. It’s a league full of possibilities with the number of professional hockey players from all over the world available to throw into your lineup. Owners control contracts and salary caps, as well as the training their players receive.

Returning for another year is the acclaimed EA Sports Hockey League. EASHL, where you control one position player on a team of up to six human players, is revamped in some ways, with new practice modes allowing teams to fine-tune their skills and customizable jerseys so no two teams have to look alike. This mode is by far the most fun in the game, as it’s still the most true to real hockey, where you control just yourself. It’s also the most rewarding, as the mode takes on a sort of RPG-type outlook and is the closest thing you’ll get to haven clans in a sports game.

Destroying the notion that sports games are for casual gamers only and that they aren’t worth purchasing every year, NHL 11 is the type of game you won’t put down. It’s rough on beginners, but a little practice will reward in an outstanding and authentic experience. The team at EA Canada keeps going above and beyond the call, topping their previous product on a yearly basis.

Not Without Flaws, ‘Metroid Other M’ Is A Worthy Entry Into Series

By Michael Torelli

Metroid: Other M, released on August 31, 2010 and exclusively on the Nintendo Wii, is the second Metroid installment to come to the Wii (with the first being Metroid Prime: Corruption). Other M takes place right after Planet Zebes was destroyed in Super Metroid (SNES).

Samus Aran, space bounty hunter, made a narrow escape off the Planet Zebes after her newly-found baby metroid died saving her life from her final enemy, Mother Brain. The thought of the metroid still haunts Samus as she goes back to the Galactic Federation for her next mission.

Developed by Team Ninja, Other M takes a whole new style of the Metroid series. Whereas the Prime series was a first-person shooter and other games like Metroid Fusion and Super Metroid were two-dimensional side-scrollers, Other M has a three-dimensional twist, but a very linear path. The straight forward game play that Other M carries can be a flaw of the game, but a very unnoticeable one. Samus is finally vocal in the game, with full voice acting. She talks just the right amount to not overdo the new vocal cords and to not make her voice random either.

The story of the game dives deep into Samus’ past from when she was a Galactic Federation soldier. Young and naïve, Samus went against everything her superiors told her to do. Now in the same boat, she must follow orders and work together with the same crew she once considered a team.

Holding the Wiimote horizontally, players control Samus with ease. All the buttons are easily accessible, allowing the player to get a full experience of being on the ship Samus explores. Most of her mandatory skills make reappearances for Other M, such as the missiles, super missiles and morph ball, along with some of the other obligatory skills like the grapple beam. Her cannon receives a couple of new improvements as well, but that’s for the player to find out. Melee attacks and slow motion finishers are samples of what Team Ninja put into Other M, but it all comes down to hitting the action button over and over.

The game doesn’t come without a few flaws. In some scenes of the game, players are forced into a first-person view until they locate a hidden piece of information on the screen, which can take a good chunk of time away from enjoying the game. Some scenes are also forced into over-the-shoulder view while Samus walks slowly through rooms. This view is not needed in the game as it just delays time, but it can easily be overlooked. Samus has remarkable lock-on skills, which allows the player to easily run through rooms while repetitively pressing the one button, decimating everything in his or her path. Also, all the moves can easily be dodged by charging Samus’ cannon and tapping any direction on the d-pad, which will render Samus invincible until her action is over. These minor flaws in the game stood out and may have an effect on how some people enjoy the game.

Other than the few flaws, Other M should be picked up if not only for nostalgia purposes, but for the fact that it’s another excellent Metroid game. The graphics are up to date and will leave the player feeling satisfied knowing how much they learned about Samus as a person.

‘Final Fantasy XIII’ Beautiful But Flawed

By Matt Kiernan

The latest installment in the Final Fantasy video game series provides gamers with an all new gameplay system, amazing graphics and an intriguing storyline that aims to make players feel connected to the characters they’re in control of.

The game’s setting takes place in the paradisaical city of Cocoon, years after the city was in a war with the underground race of Pulse. Now, the people of Cocoon live in fear of the Pulse, being told not to come in contact with them or else face the consequence of exile. The main characters are part of a rebel group, fighting against the government that forces its people into exile after coming in contact with the Pulse.

The game has a much wider storyline than is common with all of the other Final Fantasy games, revealing character motives and pasts along the way. Humor is used here and there in the game, but for the most part the game takes a serious tone by making characters emotionally vulnerable.

Beautiful graphics, the Final Fantasy series’ bread and butter, once again holds up to past games by using highly descriptive scenery shots, fast-paced action and ability to convey the facial emotions of characters. This is perhaps the game’s strongest suit.

While the cinematic scenes in the game are great, the beginning may seem a little slow to take off, mostly because of the too-easy-to-handle battle system.

In the previous Final Fantasy games, players were always able to control all of the characters in their party, allowing them to chose which spells and actions they would take in battle. Final Fantasy XIII scraps all of the conventional gameplay by having players only take control of one character, and designate the jobs of other characters during battles.

This isn’t to say battles are easy throughout the game. After the first few areas, the difficulty begins to pick up and players are forced to be more tactical in their battles, providing a challenge that’s different from all previous games.

There is no designated main character in the game, a first in the series, making all of the characters in the player’s party equally important to the storyline. All of the characters are given their fair share of story time, with the producers making sure not to give one character more of the spotlight than another.

Personally being a little less than a third through the game, it’s safe to say that there are no towns or regular sets of armor to purchase throughout the game, instead you can only buy weapons and accessories or find them on adventures. This is a major drawback to the game, considering it leaves out possible side quests, explorations and breaks between new areas.

Adventures are for the most part straightforward paths, with only minor side roads to take to find items. Players walk a straight line between destinations and are forced to fight the monsters they see along the way.

In opposition to all other Final Fantasy games, the leveling system is gotten rid of for a system that enforces points that are determined by the difficulty and how fast a player wins a battle. These points are used to learn new abilities that fall under spells and melee fighting, which allows a player to determine which areas they would want the character to improve upon.

While battles and gameplay may seem repetitive at times, Final Fantasy XIII is like a movie that unfolds its depth with each succeeding scene, making it a game that is challenging and rewarding for every battle that is won.

MLB 10: The Show‎ Review

By Kenny Barto

With the 2010 baseball season on the horizon, Sony Computer Entertainment has released a masterpiece with MLB 10: The Show‎. This game is, in fact the most realistic baseball video game ever made.

The game’s core mechanics are based around being challenging but fun. Pitching is difficult, and I’m sure Sony made it this way for a reason. It’s not like past versions of the 2K Sports baseball franchise where you could retire the side on three pitches, and have a pitch count of 60 after throwing a complete game shutout. Despite being challenging, it’s also very fun, and is what makes this game addicting. Batters will foul away pitches, and it’s extremely hard to throw consecutive pitches in the same exact place. This causes realistic pitch counts, and will also make you pay more attention so you don’t make a mistake. Pitches also have realistic flight paths. You have to start the pitch and anticipate where the pitch will end up. You will also notice that umpires will squeeze you on occasions, and will also call strikes on pitches just outside of the zone, which adds more realism into the game.

Just like pitching, batting is also challenging while still being fun. The pitching intelligence is smart and will definitely challenge you with everything in that pitcher’s arsenal. One thing that has stayed constant in this franchise since the beginning is the “Guess the Pitch” feature. You can guess where the pitch is going to go and you can also get the location. Even if you get one out of the two correct, the game will let you know so you know at least half of what is coming your way.

Another improvement in the gameplay is the feature where you place your bat within the zone. This is yet another feature that makes this game so realistic. Using your left stick, you aim where you think the pitch is going. If you get this wrong, you will either end up hitting the ball off of the inside part of the bat, causing a slow dribbler, or one off of the end of the bat, causing a pop-up. You also have your choice of a regular, contact or power swing. They are both self-explanatory, but one common misconception is that you can’t hit home runs with a contact swing. In my time playing this game, I hit at least three home runs using the contact swing simply because I knew where the ball was going and placed my bat perfectly.

There really isn’t much you can say about graphics, because they are simply amazing. Using a 37-inch 1080p HDTV, I was simply blown away at how realistic they made this game look. Everything is extremely smooth, and I could not pick out anything about the graphics that I did not like. Even small moments stand out, like when a ground ball is hit foul near the crowd, you will see them leaning over the wall to try to grab the ball, just like in real life.

The “Road to the Show”  feature is what makes this game so unique. You create a player and take him through the minor league ranks and into the majors. I find that being a pitcher is much more entertaining, but you can create yourself as a position player as well. When you do well in a game, you earn training points, and you use those points to make yourself better by choosing what training you want to do. You can simply spend the points by bettering your attributes or by participating in actual events like simulated games to better your player’s ratings.

I strongly recommend any baseball fan who owns a Playstation 3 to buy this game. From the smooth gameplay to the incredible graphics, everything was done correctly with little to no blemishes. Even though MLB 10: The Show‎ might not break any sales records (mostly because it’s exclusive to the PS3) it is definitely in the early running for the top sports game of the year. Sony did not disappoint with this game.