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Gears of War Judgment

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2013 by caseystorton

Image-After I was sufficiently disappointed with the way Gears of War 3 turned out, I was pretty apprehensive about how Judgment was supposed to work, especially with it being a prequel that basically spoils its own ending to anyone that remembers a few minor details from any of the first three games. That said, I had some time and disposable income last week, so I found it for $40 and gave it a whirl.

-Our story follows the previously unseen Kilo Squad, led by Lieutenant Damon Baird, the whiny engineer guy from the other games. And there’s your spoiler right there. The story sees Baird being accused of war crimes, and his current rank of Lieutenant puts him above Sergeant Marcus Fenix, the guy that he had to take orders from in previous games. Anyway, the rest of the squad consists of Cole, sadly much more quiet and less funny than before, and newcomers Paduk and Sofia, respectively a former member of an anti-COG resistance army that’s joined them for the sake of killing the Locust, and a new recruit to some kind of COG special forces, who also serves as further proof that for all their silly macho-man heroics flying everywhere, Epic Games is surprisingly competent when it comes to writing female characters. For a prequel that any series veteran with half a brain already has figured out, Judgment manages to achieve a decent level of engagement with its plot, as the writers wisely made sure that the final verdict of the war crimes tribunal is far from the only thing that we need to concern ourselves with.

Image-As for the gameplay, Judgment sticks to the tried-and-true formula of previous games.  It’s a third-person shooter with emphasis on using the game’s cover system to avoid the worst of the punishment being doled out by the Locust. Every new installment has brought with it new weapons and enemy types, and with this being a prequel, they actually justify the new stuff by saying the new stuff is left over from the UIR, the army that Paduk used to serve. Unlike Gears 3, however, the new weapons are actually really good, with a new kind of sniper rifle, a bolt-action rifile of sorts, a semi-automatic redesign of the Hammerburst, and a new grenade launcher. The fact that every one of these guns had me excited whenever I found them already puts them way ahead of the disappointments that came with Gears 3. In addition, new “Declassified Missions” have been added in campaign. They’re basically optional objectives that make the game a little harder in exchange for a higher yield of experience that can be used to unlock new modes and multiplayer characters.

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-The competitive multiplayer is relatively standard stuff. Playing Free for all mode is a bit of a joke, since the weapon system basically forces everyone to use the shotgun, but other modes allow more flexibility, and are actually pretty fun. It’s nothing too revolutionary, but fun nonetheless. On the co-op front, the entire campaign can be played with up to 4 people, and there are a couple new variants on the Gears mainstay Hoard mode to keep things feeling fresh.

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-Overall, Gears of War Judgment is a fun little game from a franchise that has lasted much longer than I thought it would. It’s hardly a masterpiece, but it’s a fun time with some badass guns and interesting enemies. 84/100

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Fable 3

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

Image-Allow me to preface the following entry by saying that I would most likely never have played Fable 3 had it not been free to Xbox Live gold members recently. That said, I stopped paying for Gold almost a year ago, so I used some other trickery to get the free game by other means. 

-The game starts you off having to choose whether to play as a man or a woman. Ever since the hilarious opportunity playing as a female afforded me in Fallout New Vegas, I’ve always chosen a female character in RPGs on the off-chance that the designers decided to leave a present for players that took the road less traveled. Anyway, after that you wake up from an apparently rough night of having sex with your dog (seriously, it kinda looks that way) and your butler kindly informers you that your brother, king of the land has been a massive jerk face for a while now. So after some slow, boring tutorials and walks around the castle, you escape with the butler and your old soldier friend. There’s some more bullshit later, but eventually you get to the meat of the game: earning the trust of influential people in the kingdom so you can raise an army to overthrow your brother. It’s not exactly riveting stuff, and the absence of any real characters other than your old friend Walter makes for a bland time to be had doing odd jobs for stupid villagers just to earn upgrade points.

Image-Now here’s where things start to suck. One of the more important aspects of an RPG in terms of immersion is the interface design. The player will never feel like the hero of Albion if they have to spend tons of time navigating ugly menus to try figuring out how to equip their new sword or change clothes or whatever. That said, Fable 3 might just have the worst interface I’ve ever seen. Rather than a simple menu system, Fable 3 has a “Sanctuary,” basically a room with different doors that represent your weapon stash, clothing stash, map, story progress, options menu, and Xbox live store. It’s a mess, and having to physically walk around in what is basically a 3D menu just feels stupid and clumsy.

Image-Then there’s the combat. Dear lord, the combat. Let’s pause for a bit and discuss the role that difficulty has on a game. A game needs to present at least a minor bit of challenge in order for the player to feel engaged. If a game is too easy, the player will feel as though the game is a waste of their time, more of a chore than an actual game, so to speak. With that said, Fable 3 might just be the easiest game I’ve ever played. In my  entire time playing, I never once died. Hell, I never even used a health potion, or any of those other weird potions that the games puts in to help you with the hilariously easy combat. Melee fighting is a load of shit, with overly defensive enemies not so much making the fight harder as much as drawing it out, so you’re left with guns and magic. Both guns and magic allow you to blast enemies from across the screen with unblockable attacks, and it makes combat feel more like an obligation than an enjoyable experience.

Image-One last thing that I need to mention. The system by which you earn money is the most hilariously exploitable thing I’ve played in a long time. Some background: after you get enough friends, you lead a daring assault on the castle to overthrow your brother. After destroying most of a town in the battle, your brother simple gives you control and lets you become ruler of Albion. Oh, by the way, this big evil monster thing will show up one year from today to destroy the kingdom, and I was acting like a dick so I could save money for an army to fight it off. Now you have to choose between spending the castle’s treasury on keeping people happy only to have them all die in a year, or breaking your promises and making life shit for another year so that you can save all of their lives. These two options are rather stupidly referred  to as “good” and “evil” respectively. That said, you can save everyone and still get the good ending. How, you may ask? Well, the best way to get money is to rent property and own stores which pay out to you every five minutes of real time. The countdown to apocalypse only ticks in between story missions, so basically buy all the best stores and houses, then leave the game running for several hours while you let the money pour on in. I mostly just did this to gain the satisfaction of giving a big fat middle finger to the designers that came up with this stupid “good and evil” nonsense.

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-Basically, Fable 3 is a massive waste of time. The story is dull, the combat is way too easy, and the overall execution can best be described as lazy. Even if it is still free, your time is too valuable to be wasted on something this pointless. 34/100

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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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