Archive for September, 2011

Shadows of the Damned

Posted in Uncategorized on September 29, 2011 by caseystorton
-I just figured out how to add images, so this review should be at least a little more interesting than my previous walls of text. But anyway, on to the topic of the day. When I first heard about Shadows of the Damned, it sounded like something that should have turned into my favorite game of all time. It was produced by Shinji Mikami, the creative force behind Resident Evil 4, the game that continues to compete with Bioshock  for the role as my favorite game of all time. Also, the game is written and directed by Suda 51, the Japanese weirdo behind Killer7, the weirdest, artsiest game I’ve ever played, and the No More Heroes games, two of the most simultaneously hilarious and violent games that I have ever played. Also it has music by Akira Yamaoka, who did the music for the Silent Hill series, but I’ve never played a Silent Hill game before, so it didn’t really excite me at the time. With this group of all stars working on it, this game was shaping up to be an utter masterpiece.
-The game starts off with you, a tattooed, Mexican biker/demon hunter named “Garcia Fucking Hotspur.” And for the record, the work Fucking is capitalized in the subtitles, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s literally his middle name. After a brief tutorial section, you set off on a quest to save your kidnapped girlfriend Paula from the lord of the demons with the help of your former demon companion, a floating fiery skull head named Johnson, who can transform into a torch, motorcycle, or three different types of guns. The setup is very simple, but as you progress, the demon lord, Flemming, keeps killing your girlfriend over and over again just to piss you off. It’s an odd idea, that only serves to add in several pointless moments that end with a bad joke.
-On the gameplay side, the fact that the creator of Resident Evil 4 is on board certainly shows, with the game being an over-the-shoulder much the same, but with the added ability to move around while aiming and perform dodge rolls, which make combat much more manageable. Your three basic guns are demonic variants of a pistol, machine gun, and grenade launcher, that can be upgraded via red gems hidden throughout the levels or purchased from a shop owner (Resident Evil 4?). There are also major upgrades acquired from bosses, which grant special new abilities to your weapons. 
-More on gameplay, one thing the game definitely gets right is variety. The game occasionally focuses on interplay between worlds of light and darkness, with level specific methods for getting rid of the darkness, such as shooting goat lamps, following lantern slugs, or launching fireworks. In the darkness, you health slowly drains, and demons are invulnerable. But occasionally, a puzzle will require you to step into the darkness to hit a switch or kill a specific enemy. 
-Also, at three separate levels throughout the game, for some reason the game turns into a side-scrolling 2D shooter, one of which actually features a boss fight with a major villain, weirdly enough. While these sections are interesting changes of pace, the novelty wears off pretty quickly, leaving you to slowly finish off the level, which moves painfully slow. 

-Another thing also worth noting is Suda 51’s part in it. It’s rather obvious, at least to me, that they let Mikami design the core gameplay and levels, then let Suda add some personality and humor to the whole thing. Most of the game is pretty “normal” at least when compared to Suda’s previous work, at least up until one part about mid-way through the experience, that I believe needs to be described in full.
-You see, the pistol Johnson turns into is called “The Boner.” At one point in a sort of underworld equivalent of Las Vegas, you find yourself at the junction of several different alleyways that have giant monster in them trying to kill you. To upgrade you fire-power, Johnson has you call a sex line, causing the Boner’s barrel to extend by about 6 feet, making it the “Big Boner.” The following part is what I’d loosely call a shooting gallery, in which Garcia holds the Big Boner right in front of his crotch, and fires by pelvic thrusting forward yelling out, “Taste my Big Boner!”

-Overall, Shadows of the Damned it a good game with enough gameplay variety to make you want to finish it, if only once. While it may be a whole less than the sum of its parts, it’s still definitely worth a look. 7/10

Condemned: Criminal Origins

Posted in Uncategorized on September 12, 2011 by caseystorton

-I wrote a review for the new Rezerection DLC for Call of Duty: Black Ops, but it got eaten by the internet, and never appeared, so oh well there. In the mean time, though, I managed to finish playing Condemned: Criminal Origins, a first-person action game with heavy focus on realistic melee combat, crime scene investigating, and elements of survival horror created by F.E.A.R. developer Monolith Studios.
-You play as Ethan Thomas, an FBI agent sent in with a partner and local law enforcement officer to investigate a dead body. This introduces you to the crime scene mini-game, has Ethan pull out a special tool used to gather evidence that varies based on the situation, and you walking around the area trying to figure out just what it is the game wants you to find. It’s novel at first, but quickly grows tedious as you look around a dark room for the blood splatter on the wall for the 50th time in a row. Anyway, you separate from the other two to go investigating on your own. After having to put down a couple of crazy drug addicts running at you wielding melee weapons, you round a corner and are hit in the head and knocked unconscious. The guy that hit you then takes your gun and runs off. You quickly grab the nearest loose pipe off the wall and try to figure out what to do. After  some intense melee combat with a few more thugs, the guy with your gun finds you, and makes you watch as he kills the other two officers with your gun.
-What follows is an intense search for the man that killed your comrades. It turns out that he is some sort of crazy vigilante that has been following your case files and murdering all of the serial killers you have been perusing using their own methods. This search takes you through a number of interesting locations all with extremely creepy atmosphere, including an abandoned toy store, farm house, and library, all swarming with crazy thugs that you have to fight off almost exclusively with the melee weapons that you can find in the environment.
-The melee combat involves a complex system of balancing weapon types with well-timed strikes and block moves. Weapons all have different readings in the areas of damage, speed, block, and reach, and each one feels different from the last. The enemy AI also does a fantastic job of providing you with a real challenge when trying to predict when to strike, block, or back off to asses the situation. Enemies vary their attack speed, actively utilize the block mechanics, make swings to throw off your guard, or pretend to run away only to lash back out again. They also hide among the environments and utilize the darkness to make surprise attacks that are likely to scare you again and again as the game goes on and Ethan’s psychotic hallucinations make it difficult to distinguish between what is and isn’t really there.
-Overall, Condemned is a well designed game with an interesting story, fun gameplay, and terrifying environments that round out what is easily the scariest game that I have ever played. 8/10    

Call of Duty Black Ops: Rezerection DLC

Posted in Uncategorized on September 5, 2011 by caseystorton

-I discovered this as an old draft from September 5. It’s pretty irrelevant now, but I kinda feel like posting it anyway, enjoy 🙂
-Since I’ve been kinda eager to get a review out recently, I thought I’d do a quick rundown on the new Map Pack for Call of Duty Black Ops. I considered using the release of this map pack as an excuse to review Black Ops in full, but I ended up deciding against it.
-This is the fourth and presumably final expansion pack that will be released for Black Ops, but it’s a little different than the other ones. The first three packs contained four multi-player maps and one zombies map, whereas this one has five zombies maps instead. The interesting thing about the maps, though, is that only one of them is a completely new and original map, while the other four are re-released maps for Call of Duty World at War that have been upgraded to better fit the Black Ops model. These four re-released maps are fun in there own right, but likely won’t hold your attention for long due to the simple design and mostly dated weapons.
-The real attraction comes in the fifth installment, titled “Moon.” The map starts in a random desert area, where after a short period of waiting for a teleporter to warm up, you are transported to a base on the moon. From there, you have a fun new zombies map, complete with lots of power-ups, more of the same weapons, and movement physics that reflect the setting well.
-Overall, if you still have any interest in playing Black Ops Zombies, this is worth your money. To all others, It’s an interesting diversion, that’s best played with friends. 8/10