Far Cry 3

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2013 by caseystorton

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-This right here is the reason that I didn’t finish Bioshock Infinite sooner. You see, I was on Spring Break last week, and I was scheduled to work 38 hours that week at my old job. However, I only had this game at home, and I couldn’t take it back to college with me, so it got most of my attention even after Infinite came out. But was it worth it?

-You play as Jason Brody, one of a group of 7 kids right out of college who are on a sky diving trip or something out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean somewhere. Basically, you get captured by some crazy pirate slaver named Vaas. After a bit of intense scenes with Vaas, you and your older brother Grant manage to escape from your cage. After a bit of stealthing around the camp followed by Grant’s death at the hands of Vaas, you escape and wash up in a nearby village run by a resistance group that’s fighting Vaas’s organization. You and the village leader Dennis start working to get your friends back, but as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that Jason will have to lose a big part of himself in order to get his friends back and destroy Vaas’s organization once and for all. For a game like this, there’s a surprising amount of weight to Jason’s character development. It’s clear that he knows he’s slowly turning into a bloodthirsty monster, but thinks that maybe this is the only way he can get what he wants.

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-On the gameplay side, Far Cry 3 is a lot of fun to play around with. There are a lot of RPG elements to the game’s progression, but they feel very central to the design, so it makes sense that they have the opportunity to take up so much of your time. A big part of the game’s progression involves hunting animals in order to acquire the  skins necessary to upgrade all of your various holsters for ammo, weapons, syringes, ect. On the note of the syringes, a big thing about Jason’s character is that, while he’s always been a bit of a daredevil, all of this stuff has him very much scared out of his mind from the beginning, and he must eventually grow into his role as action hero by way of constant, life threatening danger and taking a whole lot of drugs. Yes, really.

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-While the story progression never really stops, you’ll want to take a break from it every now and again in order to make progress in other ways. Areas on your map aren’t visible until you’ve activated a radio tower in the vicinity, so it pays to run around and just activate all the radio towers pretty early on so the entire map is visible. There’s also the continuing mechanic of liberating outposts from enemy control by killing all of the inhabitants. While it is possible to eventually win by simply running in and shooting everything in sight, you get a significant XP bonus for clearing it out before the enemy sees you. Sometimes, though, this can lead to some rather strange occurrences. On at least two separate occasions, I was crouch-walking around outside of an outpost, marking all of the enemies so I could keep track of them, and just when I was about the move in a freaking tiger strolls on in and murders everyone in sight. It is a little weird, but the random, uncontrolled nature of this sort of thing is a nice change from the over-orchestrated set-pieces of games like Call of Duty and Battlefield.

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-Overall, Far Cry 3 is a great game. It’s got plenty of fun, open-world action and randomness and a surprisingly personal and engaging main-character arc for Jason Brody. It’s a great value for what you’re getting, and the open world means plenty of collectibles for those that desire them. 89/100

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Bioshock Infinite

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2013 by caseystorton

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-I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time. The original Bioshock is possibly my favorite game of all time, with the major competition being Resident Evil 4. Bioshock 2 wasn’t bad, it just had only a few rudimentary upgrades to gameplay while taking a severe hit in the story department and suffered for it. With Bioshock Infinite starting off fresh with an all new story and setting, I was interested to see the franchise evolve beyond its roots in the underwater city of Rapture.

-You play as Booker DeWitt, a mysterious man with an equally mysterious debt that can only be paid off by going to the flying city of Columbia and bringing back a girl named Elizabeth. The first major difference you will notice between Infinite and its predecessors, is that unlike Jack and Subject Delta, Booker DeWitt has both a face and a voice, as well as an actual personality that evolves as the story progresses, with more than a little help from Elizabeth. On the note of Elizabeth, developers, this is the new standard for a secondary character in an action game, and any future game that can’t do escort characters this well is automatically getting marked down for it. Once you first rescue Elizabeth, she follows you around wherever you go. As soon as you get her, you see a message that says “You don’t need to worry about Elizabeth in combat, she can take care of herself.” I was skeptical about just how true this was, but ultimately, they were right. Enemies don’t ever bother with her, and in the midst of a battle she will toss you health, ammo, and salts, which are fuel for Infinite’s version of Plasmids called Vigors. She also has the uncanny ability to open “tears,” which are basically holes into another version of reality. These can yield things like weapons, health kits, and friendly turrets to aid you in battle.

-There is also one initially interesting thing about when in the city’s lifespan Booker makes his journey there. In Bioshock 1, Jack accidentally enters Rapture some time after the city has gone to shit from the drug-addicted splicers going crazy and breaking everything. In Bioshock 2, Subject Delta comes back to life long after Rapture should have by rights been completely destroyed by both the ever deteriorating structure of the buildings and the destructive tendencies of the Splicers. In Bioshock Infinite, Booker DeWitt ascends to a city that is still in it’s youth, teeming with life, promise and goodwill, without a murderous, disfigured addict to be seen. This interesting change in scenery goes a long way into seeing what Rapture may have looked like in its prime, as well as give us a picture of a utopian society in a remote location that doesn’t suck.

-The combat in Bioshock Infinite feels radically different from that of Bioshock 1 and 2. Given the underwater setting of the first two, areas were generally pretty small, and necessitated small scale fights with only a few enemies at a time. With Infinte taking place in a city in the sky, levels are much more open and expansive, which permits battles with larger numbers of enemies. Another omission from the previous games is the ability to carry first-aid kits on your person, but there are now much more health items scattered around the level, and you have a small, rechargeable shield that protects you for a bit before taking more permanent damage. There is also one very major change that actually got quite annoying throughout the game. Previous games let you keep every weapon you found and switch between them as you saw fit. Infinite sticks to the more recent practice of only letting you carry two guns at a time. While there are a lot more guns this time around, a decent portion of them are just more powerful variants on more common weapons, and were these extraneous guns eliminated, there would be 9 weapons, which while that is a lot for a recent game, it would still be freaking awesome to be able to carry every gun at once, which is just one aspect of the previous games that I really enjoyed. Here, it just feels unnecessarily restrictive, especially considering that you can have every Vigor in the game equipped at once.

-Storywise, the game is a little odd. Initially this is just an extraction job, but as you go on, Booker gets more invested in the fate of Columbia and Elizabeth, and starts to take it upon himself to get rid of “Father Comstock” or as I liked to call him “guy that wishes he could philosophize as well as Andrew Ryan.” Still, he’s better than Sophia Lamb from Bioshock 2. An interesting story point involves Elizabeth’s ability to find tears that lead to alternate realities where one thing or another is how you need it to be, at the expense of something else possibly being different. With this ability, you can go through to different versions of reality that exist alongside our own, and all kinds of things can happen. It sounds odd, but it surprisingly manages to not be confusing and serves as an interesting device that could have otherwise been employed simply as a Deus Ex Machina to get the writers out of a corner.

-Back to Elizabeth as a character, she’s certainly one of the strongest female characters I’ve seen in a video game for a long time. For someone who’s spent their entire life locked in a tower guarded by a giant mechanical bird, Elizabeth is much more than a simple damsel in distress that just goes along with whatever Booker, her knight in not-so-shining armor, wants her to do. She actively makes decisions that alter the story for both better and worse, just the same way that Booker does. Again, pay attention developers, THIS is how you write a female character.

-Just a bit of an interesting thing to note here: if it weren’t for the existence of the Vigors, this could have pretty much passed as an entirely different game, totally separate from the Bioshock brand. None of the weapons from the first two games are here, it’s in a different time and place, with different combat, no Big Daddies, no Little Sisters, no Adam, no Andrew Ryan, and no carrying every weapon ever. The thing is though, it would still feel at least tangentially related to the first two games by way of the old-school health system, steam-punk aesthetics, and philosophical antagonist.

-While there will always be a special place in my heart for the original Bioshock, Infinite does a great job of breathing new life into a property that was showing some age around Bioshock 2. The story requires no knowledge of previous games, so returning fans and newcomers alike will find something to love about Bioshock Infinite. 90/100

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Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2013 by caseystorton

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-Allow me to make it clear that I only bought this game because Steam had a “free weekend” for the multiplayer a while back. I decided that it wouldn’t be a total waste to just go ahead and buy the game, and $40 wasn’t that much, especially for a Call of Duty game on Steam.

-Black Ops 2 consists of 3 separate parts, and even allows you to install them separately, which is good for people needing to save hard-drive space. You get singleplayer, multiplayer, and zombies. Given the major differences in gameplay between the three modes, I’ll cover them independent of each-other.

Single Player

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-The story is largely a far-off sequel to Black Ops 1, skipping from the late 60s to the year 2025, with a few flashback missions taking place in the 80s and 90s. The story involves David Mason, the son of Alex Mason from the first game, going after some asshat named Raul Menendez who somehow gained an international following via the internet. The story is pretty silly, with tons of overdone betrayals and set-ups for you to ever honestly think that something will go right, which leads to a very cynical and detached way of playing the game. It was this very cynicism that actually sort-of hurt me in terms of timing my reviews. I posted a first-impressions of The Witcher 2 a couple of days ago because the story in Black Ops 2 was so dumb that I literally had no idea how much longer I had to play, when in reality I was only about 2 missions away from finishing the game. Also the ending is an abrupt cop-out that clearly sets up a Black Ops 3.

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-As far as gameplay goes, it’s standard Call of Duty fair, with a couple of changes both for better and worse. The better involves the interesting near-future technology, which manages to hit the magic sci-fi sweet spot of appearing possible while still being cool, with advancements such as localized radar and night-vision for your guns, EMP grenades, miniature remote-controlled plane things guns, and a few interesting new weapons to keep things from getting too dull. The thing is, I swear they made the series’ customary health system even worse. You appear to die much earlier than in previous games, as it looks like the blood effects on the screen are much more understated than they have been in previous games. I would say I liked the old way better, but I actually prefer it like this, if only to draw more attention that games like this are in desperate need of a NORMAL FUCKING HEALTH BAR.

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-I’ve been playing a bit of Serious Sam 3 lately, and I cannot tell you how incredibly wonderful it feels to simply glace at a corner of the screen and immediately know exactly how much health I have left by way of a straight-forward number, not an ugly, jarring blood effect that impairs my vision and leaves me guessing how much more I can take before I die. I’d give a score now, but considering that you still have to pay for the game as a whole, I’ll be scoring it as such.

Multiplayer

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-Multiplayer is a bit different from previous entries in the series, but anyone familiar with how it has worked in the past will most certainly see the similarities to earlier games. There’s the standard Primary Weapon, Secondary Weapon, Lethal Grenade, Tactical Grenade, first, second, and third Perk options, but they’ve added in a new weight system, where each item added to your created load-out is worth one point, and you can only have ten points of stuff on you at any given time. That said, there’s a considerable amount of freedom in how you can make room for extra gear. For example, if you want to add on a “Wildcard” that allows you to carry two lethal grenades, but don’t have the spot for the second grenade, you can get rid of one of your perks, or even one of your guns to make room for it. While not exactly practical, it is entirely possible to fill up all ten spaces and not carry a single gun. You could just run around with your knife, which while it seems a bit weird at first, the fact that the game allows for this level of freedom is a welcome change from the tighter restrictions of the Modern Warfare series.

-My favorite thing about Black Ops 1’s multiplayer was the new COD points system, which allowed you access to almost everything from the beginning provided you had the points for it, with only guns left for you to unlock through progression. This allowed people more creative freedom with weapon attachments and perks, and improved customization options in ways not previously seen in a Call of Duty game. Black Ops 2 does away with the COD points system, although on reflection, I think this was a very conscious decision. You see, with futuristic weapons come futuristic weapon attachments, and allowing everyone access to these attachments out of the gate could have provided problems. The one that really comes to mind is the Millimeter Scanner, a sort-of gun-mounted radar sight that allows you to see enemies through walls. Imagine a game of Team Deathmatch where every single player had a Millimeter Scanner on their gun. You’d just get a bunch of people hiding around corners, afraid to come out because they know someone can see where they are. While it is a bit annoying to have to unlock attachments again, this was only done in the name of balance, so I’ll let it slide.

-Modes are relatively standard, although if you play on the PC version like me, good luck finding a game anywhere other than Team Deathmatch and Team Objective. The maps are largely based on areas from the campaign, which is either lazy programming or the developers wanting to allow players to fight in familiar areas. Since I’m pretty much done with multiplayer discussion, I’ll go ahead and talk about the controls. First Persons Shooters generally play better with a mouse and keyboard than they do with a console controller, but it’s abundantly clear that Black Ops 2 was very much so designed to be played on a console controller, as a lot of the actions that are easily pulled of with a controller take a bit more effort with the keyboard. This awkward porting combined with me being too lazy to figure out where I wanted my mouse sensitivity to be led me to eventually give up and just play the game with an Xbox 360 controller. I’d go back and forth on numerous occasions, and every time I would note that I performed distinctly better with the controller. I don’t know if this is due to my own personal familiarity with the controller or if the PC controls are just that bad, but I didn’t experience annoyance on this level with Rage, Skyrim, Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead 2, or Saints Row the Third.

Zombies

-As silly as it is that this mode has persisted as long as it has, I’ll admit that Zombies is a pretty good time. It’s clearly meant to be played with friends, as it’s very easy for zombies to sneak up on you, but it is perfectly functional as a single player experience. Basically, you fight through increasingly difficult waves of zombies, barricading them out whenever possible and spending points earned by killing them on buying guns, perks, and opening up more of the map. It’s kinda fun for a bit, but there’s not all that much to it. Granted, it’s just another part of the game, and it isn’t supported nearly as much as competitive multiplayer, so I see no issue with it inherently.

Conclusion

-Black Ops 2 is the best Call of Duty since Modern Warfare 2… which is to say that it’s not too bad, and it passes the time. The laughable story appears to finally be demonstrating a bit of self-awareness, and the multiplayer is moving in an interesting direction. Not bad, but there’s no need to run out and buy it. 69/100

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2013 by caseystorton

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-I’m starting to get just a little bit embarrassed by how long it normally takes me to put out a game review. The thing is, I usually just play whatever game I feel like playing that day, whether or not it’s something I’ve reviewed already or something that I should probably get to at some point depends largely on the day. That said, I’ve currently got several games in progress (this, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Serious Sam 3: BFE, The Walking Dead, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin), and thought I’d devote some time to a “First Impressions” of the one that I knew would take me the longest to finish.

-The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings centers around Geralt of Rivia, a “Witcher” who is assigned to protect the king is Temeria from harm during a battle with some rebels. After a battle the king gets offed by a professional assassin and Geralt is blamed for it, forcing him to go on the run and pursue the king’s real murderer. It seems like a pretty standard plot, but I can already tell that there’s a lot more to this story than there initially appeared to be, with plenty of side characters and plot diversions to keep the pace going.

Image-Probably my favorite thing about the first few hours that I’ve played is the combat. I’ve heard some people complain about the difficulty, but really, it’s not a hard game. I’d heard some people mention the controls, so I went through the tutorial once with the mouse-and-keyboard and once again using an Xbox 360 controller, and while the keyboard setup doesn’t exactly have any major issues, I’m thankful that the game was designed with a controller in mind. Really though, the combat isn’t hard if you know what you’re doing. You can sort-of get away with simply charging into battle slamming the light attack button like a moron on Easy difficulty, but Normal difficulty requires at least a little bit of discipline to play. You need to effectively pick your targets, know when to block, dodge, counter, throw bombs, cast magic, enhance your sword, or drink potions in order to survive a fight. On the topic of potions, you can only drink potions before battle, which isn’t really an issue, as at least so far, combat happens in continuous bursts, and the first fight is never the hardest, giving you plenty of time to stop and drink a potion before heading to the next battle. The only real problem I have is with the targeting system, which doesn’t always work quite as well as I want it to, but a quick dodge or parry is usually enough to get me out of any bad situation the targeting got me into.

Image-I can already tell that the branching dialogue options will lead me through a long, well written, and very worthwhile story just by the huge variance each option has from the others. The dialogue isn’t really something that can be adequately explained, as it largely revolves around what you as a player want to do and who you want Geralt to work with. Major side-note, if you don’t have a relatively high-level gaming PC, just go ahead and buy the Xbox 360 version instead, because this is a very demanding game. For my more tech-savvy readers, I’m running it on an MSI gaming laptop with an i7 2.3 GHz processor, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M with 2 gigabytes of DDR5 video memory. This is what my current settings are, and keep in mind I tweak a couple settings every time I boot up the game, and I experienced some minor drops in frame rate during the cut-scenes last time I played:

Image-It takes a LOT to run this game, so don’t think that just because the game is nearly two years old that it won’t take a powerful machine to run it on full settings.

-So far, I’m really enjoying The Witcher 2. The combat is fun, the story shows lots of promise, and the lack of hand-holding is incredibly refreshing for a modern RPG. Sure, the inventory screen is a bit weird, and the visuals may put a strain on your rig, but I’ll go ahead and give it an early recommendation. Also, there’s lots of sex in it.

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Mafia 2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2013 by caseystorton

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-Kind-of a random game for us today, Mafia 2 came out in 2010, and it seemed that the most common response was something to the effect of “wait, I think I remember Mafia 1.” Well, a strange series of exchanges got me this game as a gift on Steam, and I only just recently decided to play it all the way through.

-You take control of Vito Scarletta, an Italian immigrant who grew up in the Italian ghetto of Empire City in the 30s and 40s. He got himself arrested in the early 40s and drafted into WWII for the invasion of Sicily. We get to see a bit of a mission that serves as a tutorial for moving, shooting, taking cover, and selecting weapons.

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-Anyway, you get shot, and get some time to go back home. Your old friend Joe gets you discharged and working for one of the local crime bosses. It’s a basic Mafia story from here on out, with plenty of contract killing, stealing ration stamps, fancy suits, old cars, and period weapons to go along with it. It’s nothing special, but it does the job, and it stays relatively interesting throughout.

Image-As far as gameplay goes, at first, Mafia 2 looks like a GTA style sandbox crime game, where you are free to drive around the city, steal cars, shoot guns, bang hookers, and occasionally do missions if you should see fit to do so. However, the open city map is a bit of a tease, as you are always locked into a linear mission structure with no option to stop or branch out. At first it’s okay, but as you go on, having to drive across the city every time you need to complete another mission gets incredibly tedious, especially with my handicap of driving with the keyboard, all while having to make sure to not exceed the speed limit or run into anything for fear of starting a police chase or costing myself money in repairing my car.

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-As far as the PC port goes, the game offers plenty of graphics customization options, but considering how the game looks, it’s a lot more demanding that it needs to be, especially considering what turning on some weird physics option does to my frame rate. The controls work well enough, and of course all of the keys can be rebound as you see fit.

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-Mafia 2 is a decent game. The driving between missions gets pretty annoying, and the story does a fair bit of jumping around, but the dialogue is pretty good, and the shooting mechanics all work fairly well. If you can get it for cheap, it’s a good little time-waster. 76/100

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Saints Row The Third (for real this time)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2012 by caseystorton

-Yes, I know I sort-of reviewed this already back in January, but at that time, I was too busy plowing through the game as fast as I could, still working on figuring out how to use the PS3 controller I was playing on, and dealing with my cousin’s dog to really get a good look at what I was playing. Also I only finished about half of the game, which I feel is a little lacking. Feel free to write that little adventure off as a first impressions, and consider this one the full review.

-Basically the Third Street Saints have become massive celebrity media whores, and mostly just sign autographs and make movie deals because they can. Eventually, though, a new gang moves into their native Stillwater and forces them out, forcing what’s left of the Saints to regroup in the city of Steelport. While it initially seems as though you’ll have to start from the bottom and slowly work your way up to get anywhere in this town, in about five missions you go from a shitty apartment and a starting pistol to a massive penthouse and a full arsenal of weapons, so the game makes sure that the audience isn’t bored, which fits with the game’s tone pretty well.

-The thing about Saints Row The Third is that given the absolute stupidity the game puts on display, I really shouldn’t like it as much as I do. To counterbalance the overly serious story about taking control of the city and avenging your dead friends and stuff, everything in-between is down-right insane. There’s a ton of different things to do as the game goes on, and it’s a genuine pleasure to see what ridiculous new thing the game will tell you to do next. You might have to cause mayhem from a tank, drive around some prostitutes, protect your tech-savvy ally on a run to some hacking spots, or shooting up mascots in “Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax.”

-The thing that keeps it all flowing is consistent variety. Mission types rarely repeat, and even when they do, you typically have plenty of other options to keep yourself busy if you don’t want to do those missions just yet. The fact that the developers could make a game this absurd and still be able to make the rest of it work as well as it did is actually pretty amazing, and it makes for a very entertaining experience. Side-note, I didn’t really appreciate this as much when I first played this game, but it’s something that I’ve been craving for a long time. In Saints Row The Third, your character has their own voice in both gameplay and cut-scenes, and has some sharply written dialogue that varies based on which gender your character is. With games like Borderlands 2 where your character is pretty much just told what to with no option to argue about it or even voice anything resembling an opinion, and games like Mass Effect providing little to no incentive to customize your character when they’ll just say the same lines in their same voice anyway, it’s incredibly refreshing to see a mainstream action game take this step and make the player an integral part of the experience.

-Overall, Saints Row The Third is much better than I initially gave it credit for. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and it’s chock full of all kinds of juvenile humor that most other outlets won’t allow you to indulge in.  It’s currently on sale for $15 on Steam. So yeah, go for it. 86/100

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Borderlands 2: Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2012 by caseystorton

-Barely a month after Borderlands 2 saw release, Gearbox already has its first bit of DLC. It seems a little early for this sort of thing, but hey, let’s give it a try.

-First off, I’ll address the other piece of DLC released for the game. Namely, the fifth character class known as the “Mechromancer.” I got this one for free with my pre-order bonus, and it was most certainly worth it. I didn’t expect it at first, but the Mechromancer is most definitely my favorite character class. Her special ability allows her to summon a robot called Deathtrap that can help you out in combat and has a number of useful upgrades. There is a lot of room to customize your character build, and I ended up putting all of my points into things to largely help me out with Deathtrap, a choice that I certainly don’t regret. It is with this character that I decided to embark on this new DLC adventure. Basically, you end up in some weird desert area full of pirates and giant sand worms. You meet Captain Scarlett shortly after clearing out the first town and she tells you about a magic compass that will show you the way to a huge treasure cache or something. It seems like pretty standard stuff, but there is one thing that makes to plot a good time. From the very beginning, Scarlett makes it no secret that she plans on betraying you once you gather the four pieces of the compass, but hey, she’s a pirate, did you really expect her to be your best friend?

-There isn’t a whole lot new to this DLC, but what is here is pretty neat. Most of the enemies are just skinned versions of their original story counterparts, but there are a few newcomers to be found. There’s big, hulking Anchormen that can grab you from a distance and reel you in. There’s Pirate Ninjas that are a lot like Psychos but with the ability to turn invisible. By far the most annoying enemy is the Cursed Pirate. It’s basically just a regular psycho, but it regenerates health every time it damages you, so if you can’t kill it from a distance, you might as well just give up. While here you most likely will find some new guns to add to your arsenal, but sadly there aren’t any specific new types of guns that makes them different from the ones that you would find in the main story.

-Pirate’s Booty is a fun little adventure for those that need more stuff to do in Borderlands 2. It’s not the lengthiest experience in the world, but it’s a neat little diversion if you’re between games. 75/100

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Spec Ops: The Line

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2012 by caseystorton

-Well, this one certainly flew under the radar. I literally don’t remember taking any notice at all of this game when it was released. But then, little by little, people popped up telling me about how Spec Ops was something different, and that it had one hell of story, especially considering the fact that it was a modern military shooter. So when it dropped down to $30.00 on Steam, I couldn’t help myself.

-I’ll get the easier part out of the way first and talk about the gameplay. Usually I start off these reviews with a discussion of the game’s plot, but since the plot here is such a big deal, I think I’ll save the best for last. Long story short, Spec Ops: The Line is a linear, cover-based, third-person shooter. The closest thing to something original is the use of sand. The game takes place following a huge sandstorm in Dubai, and sand is now piled up all over the place, resulting in a few extraordinarily rare moments that allow you to drop sand on enemies for an easy kill. There are also squad commands that rarely ever get used, and alternate fire modes for most guns, which are a nice touch, although they don’t really affect gameplay all that much. Ammo is pretty scarce, which adds another layer of challenge, but really just forces you to constantly change up your loadout and occasionally go in for a risky melee attack. So yeah, basic stuff, not too exciting, kinda a drag to slog through to the end.

-Now, I know what you’re asking yourself if you haven’t played the game yet. You want to know why, if the gameplay was so generic and repetitive, that I stuck this one through all the way to the end? Well, I’ll tell you why. It was the story. Spec Ops: The Line has, without exaggeration, the best storyline that I have ever experienced in a game. I don’t play many RPGs, in case you were wondering. Basically, the story concerns three Delta Force, American soldiers that are sent into Dubai following a massive sandstorm that crippled the city. There’s also the matter of another battalion that was already sent in, a plot point that never quite stops developing. The thing is, unlike most modern military shooters, Spec Ops barely has you killing any foreigners. Yes, after offing a couple dozen or so early on, the rest of the game’s enemies are rogue American soldiers that never quite have a clear motive. There’s also a commander that was stationed in the city when the disaster hit, and unconfirmed reports say that he’s still alive somewhere.

-The beginning of the game feels very much like a false setup. We start off with some witty banter between Captain Walker (our player-character) and his two squadmates, Lugo and Adams. They are respectively a silly white guy with a sniper rifle and a silly black guy that likes to blow things up. For the first few missions or so, it seems like a fun-filled adventure of sillyness a la Battlefield: Bad Company, but a few missions in there’s a really big turning point that I won’t spoil. Basically, it happens when Walker, the squad, and by extension you as a player, unintentionally do a bad thing. I felt downright horrible afterwards. It felt like I’d just played No Russian where all of the civilians were little girl scouts that just wanted to sell me cookies.

-The thing that might be asked of the game at this point is, if the awesome story and character development make up for the dull gameplay, why couldn’t the game have just been, say, a book? Or a movie? And like any good video game storyline, Spec Ops has an answer for you. The amount of attachment that you feel towards Captain Walker is almost entirely dependent on the fact that whenever Captain Walker is presented with a difficult decision, it is you, the player, who must make the difficult decision and live with the repercussions along with him. On that note, you are given a number of decisions to make throughout the course of the game, and this is where the game truly shines. Unlike that Mass Effect bullshit where there is a very clear “good” and “evil” option for any decision that you may be faced with, Spec Ops has no such thing. When you make decisions as Captain Walker, it often feels as though you are trying to pick out the lesser of two evils, but nobody is telling you which is which, and it is left entirely up to you to figure out what to do, and live with yourself when innocent people inevitably die because of something you do.

-Spec Ops: The Line is a massive step forward in the world of video game story telling. Never before have I played a game that had such a powerful relationship between player and player-character. I found myself constantly asking myself, am I really controlling Captain Walker? Or am I just that last voice in the back of his mind, that gets quieter and quieter the more he goes insane from the increasingly horrible things that he sees and does? Am I really even here, or am I just as far removed from Walker as the rest of reality? Forced to sit back and watch as the closest things I had to friends in this world are pushed into an increasingly dark and inescapable hole in which there exists no salvation. A hole that holds nothing but destruction, fear, misery, and death.

89/100

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Borderlands 2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2012 by caseystorton

-When this game was announced way back when, I was quite excited. I really enjoyed the original Borderlands, even in spite of its few glaring missteps, including the nonexistent story, annoying interface, and occasionally repetitive missions. Now that the sequel has arrived, I can tell you all about how awesome it is.

-Things pick up a few years after the original Borderlands with four new main characters to serve as protagonists. We have Maya the Siren, Zero the Assassin, Axton the Commando, and Salvador the Gunzerker. They each have their own special abilities to complement different play styles. Maya can trap enemies in a Phase Lock which suspends them in midair and keeps them from attacking. Axton can deploy an auto-turret that goes after enemies and takes the attention away from the player. Zero can turn invisible, leaving a hologram of himself behind and dealing more damage when he exits his invisibility. And finally Salvador can enter a super mode that allows him to dual-wield two guns at once.

-The plot centers around Hansome Jack, the CEO of the Hyperion corporation who is currently recharging the Vault key from the first game to try opening some other vault that contains a crazy monster that he will use to wipe out every living thing on Pandora that he doesn’t like. Already, I can feel anyone who’s reading this mentally tuning out under the pretense that this is going to but another story like Borderlands 1. The thing is, Borderlands 1 didn’t have a story, it had a goal. The goal was to get to the end and open the vault. That’s it. Sure, there were people that may or may not help you with that, but the primary objective is exactly the same in the beginning as it is at the end. Borderlands 2 has, by contrast, a fantastic story. As the story goes on, the stakes continue to get higher and higher, with one of the most uncompromising game stories I’ve seen in a long time. In the original, the closest thing to an antagonist was the leader of the Atlus Corporation who talks to you once or twice over the phone, asking you to please stop doing what you’re doing. Hansome Jack talks to you continuously all throughout the game. At first he’s pretty funny, but as the game went on and Jack killed more and more people that I cared about, I started out-right hating him. At first he seems like a ruthless killer with a sense of humor, but by the end of it he turns into a disgusting, heartless monster, and I desperately wanted him to die. Slowly, painfully, die.

-Now that we’ve discussed the complete 180 that is the story in Borderlands 2, let’s move onto the gameplay. The game mostly plays like a regular FPS with a few RPG elements. The challenge system from the first game which granted EXP bonuses for things like killing 100 human enemies, firing 100,000 bullets, and so on, has been replaced with a new system that grants “badass tokens” which you can spend on buffs like increased gun damage, shield capacity, accuracy, ect. It’s a nice new addition that adds another layer to progression that’s aimed at giving players more to strive for after they reach the maximum level, which is a nice touch.

-The biggest question recently when word of a sequel to an acclaimed original surfaces is always people wondering whether or not the sequel will be different enough and bring enough innovation to the table to warrant its own existence. In this regard,  Borderlands 2 more than justifies its existence. Even if they could condense the plot enough to sell this adventure as DLC, all of the changes in gameplay coupled with the new and improved gun models, gameplay alterations, and yes, even more new types of guns, Borderlands 2 innovates more in 1 game than Call of duty has in 5, and that’s a fact.

-The best thing about Borderlands 2 is the way that it makes amends for all of the issues from Borderlands 1. Claptrap no longer annoys you with missions you don’t care about, the interface is a little easier to navigate, and would you believe,they managed to give the original a story! No seriously, we hear some back-story over the course of the game, mostly from returning characters, about who wanted The Vault open, why, what they needed out of it, and how it all has an impact on what’s happening here in Borderlands 2. I don’t think I’ve ever played a sequel that actually managed to make the original better.

-At the end of the day, Borderlands 2 is a fantastic game. I consider it the best game to be released this year, and one of the best sequels I’ve ever played. It’s tons of fun, and it’s got a fantastic story to boot. So go ahead, buy it, there’s no need to wait and see how other people like it, because it’s just a great game. 93/100

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Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2012 by caseystorton

-I know I said that I wasn’t going to play this back in my Call of Duty: my experience review, but a friend was selling all of his 360 games for $5 each, and I decided that I’d never have another chance to see what this game had to offer while simultaneously making sure that Infinity Ward and Activision  got none of my money for it.

-As far as the plot goes, things basically continue on from Modern Warfare 2, ie, Soap McTavish has been stabbed, and he along with Captain Price and Nikolai are hiding out somewhere. Now Macarov (not bored enough to look up how to spell that) decides that he doesn’t really like Europe anymore, and kidnaps the Russian president while also somehow ensuring that Russia invades Europe. All of Europe. At the same time. I’m not even kidding. I’d try to explain more, but going on would only insult everyone’s intelligence even further.

-I received a bit of backlash from some people over my positive review of Modern Warfare 2, but I still stand by what I said about it. If there’s one thing that Modern Warfare 2 did right, it had variety. At any moment you could be gunning your way through the war-torn Middle East, a snow-mobile shooting at pursuer, climbing a glacier, or sneaking around unnoticed. Modern Warfare 3 attempts variety, and it fails. There is one laughable excuse for a stealth section that is nearly impossible to screw up. There’s a part where you drive around a remote drone to shoot a bunch of people, which is kinda like playing in god-mode for a couple minutes. That’s about it in terms of variety. Sure, the rest of the missions have different locations to run around in, but the actually gameplay never changes. Run to cover, shoot some dude, hide until the blood falls off your face, shoot more dudes, advance, repeat. This brings me to a fundamental problem that I’m starting to have with these games. I feel that as the series goes on, the games are actually struggling to keep the player a relevant part of the experience. The longer I played, the more it became increasingly apparent that in I was just one of a bunch of other people that are doing exactly the same thing I am exactly the way that I do it, which certainly isn’t the feeling that I want from an FPS. The idea of an FPS is to make the player feel powerful, make them feel that they have total control over the on-screen action, make them feel like they have nothing to fear. Modern Warfare 3 turns you into an average soldier graced with Wolverine style healing powers that nonetheless needs to hide behind a wall every 10 seconds to keep himself from keeling over and dying. Fearless and powerful indeed.

-Thankfully, the multiplayer is better than the campaign, which is to say that it’s merely passable. There are a few new perks, a couple new guns, and a few new kill-streak rewards, but it still feels like you’re playing the same multiplayer you were playing in Modern Warfare 2, just a little more balanced. The maps aren’t all that great, with the fan favorite apparently being Terminal, a free-download holdover from Modern Warfare 2.

-Really, Modern Warfare 3 sucks. I can’t say I expected much, and it’s not the worst game I’ve ever played, but it still just isn’t worth anyone’s time. 37/100

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