Archive for sci-fi

Saints Row IV

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2013 by caseystorton

 

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-I’ve been majorly excited for this game for quite some time now. While Saints Row The Third had a bit of a mixed reception as some enjoyed it for what it was, a silly, over-the-top action romp, others criticized it for what it wasn’t, a game with a bit of wackiness sprinkled over a serious plot, much like what I’ve heard about Saints Row 2. The fourth entry in the series looked to be continuing the silliness trend from its predecessor, but with a well-needed dose of hindsight with how to improve itself after the last game.

-We start off with a basic tutorial mission that has you teaming up with Shaundi and Pierce from the past as well as MI6 agent Asha Odekar in the field and Matt Miller back at base. Matt being the leader of the cyber-punk Deckers gang from SR3 now having done a bit of growing up and moving over to join the good guys. You run through a basic assassination operation where you have to stop commander Cyrus Temple from launching a nuke at Washington D.C. Afterwards, you land in the oval office and put up your feet. Five years later, you’re the president, with plenty of friends, old and new, to help you out with your new duties as Commander in Chief. As president, you really only make a couple of major decisions, some important…

Image-…and some world changing.

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-That doesn’t really last long, though, as not long after the earth is invaded by aliens. After a brief bit of you fighting them off, you and all of your on-hand crew (the four from earlier plus Benjamin “Motherfucking” King from SR1, Kinzie from SR3, and famous actor Keith David, who’s also your Vice President) are abducted by the evil alien overlord Zinyak. Next thing, you wake up in a 50s sitcom called “Leave it to the Saints” complete with a new outfit, although my previously created character kept some souvenirs from the outside world.

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-After messing around a bit, you break what turns out to be a simulation, and Zinyak drops you into a simulated version of Steelport from SR3, only now the Saints have no presence, and he runs the show. You soon gain the ability to escape and reunite with Kinzie and Keith. Then Zinyak blows up Earth. You may call that a spoiler, but it happens about two hours into a game that I spent about 19 hours on, so whatever. Now, your job is to use the simulation to mess with Zinyak’s systems and join up with the old crew again to avenge the Earth. Considering the not all that impressive narrative of SR3, 4 is a very pleasant step up. The story sees you fighting the Zin Empire any way you can as you attempt to reunite with your crew to show Zinyak why you don’t fuck with the Saints. There’s some very cleaver and well-done writing all throughout the game that actually sells you on the experience, rather than just being the glorified framework that we were given in SR3.

Image-The gameplay in Saints Row 4 is easily its greatest strength, and it’s easily one of the most raw, no bullshit, straight-up fun games that I have ever played. Through a bit of sci-fi technical jargon, Kinzie is able to harness loose pieces of code in the simulation that give you superpowers. Yes, superpowers. It starts off simple with just super speed and the ability to jump really high, but progression and upgrades net you some really awesome powers, from freeze blasts, anit-gravity ground pounds, mind control, running on water, telekinesis, and so many more.

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-The rest of the game has so much variety that I don’t even know where to start. There’s a few mainstay activities, but plenty have been added or at least altered to fit the new play-style more appropriately. There’s Crackdown style orb hunting for the code clusters that let you upgrade your powers, there’s destruction-derby style mayhem missions like before, but the new powers and vehicles make them feel fresh and new again. Then there’s the biggest source of variety, the side missions with your crew. Much like Mass Effect, once you acquire new crew mates, you can take them on loyalty missions to give them new abilities, in this case giving them superpowers when they join you in the simulation. Including *drum roll please* JOHNNY GAT!!!! Now, I haven’t played Saints Row 1 and 2, so I wasn’t quite as broken by his death at the beginning of SR3 as longtime fans were, but that awesome motherfucker saved my life in that game, and having him on hand to kill some aliens and avenge planet Earth felt completely right. 

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-Before you can do the loyalty missions, though, you have to rescue your friends, which is done by jumping into their personal simulations and breaking them out, which is usually completely different from anything else in the game. You see, each simulation represents the person’s worst fears realized, and each nightmare is presented in totally unique ways, from an old school text adventure

Image-to a battle with a giant monstrous soda can

Image-to a sidescrolling beat-em-up, with plenty of others making due with just giving you new things to do with the normal gameplay engine

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-Before I drift too far away from Mass Effect, there’s also a hilarious take on the Mass Effect “Romance” system, that allows you to have hilariously varied, and on exactly one occasion, an actual emotional personal encounter with the other members of your crew.

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-There is so much that I could talk about with this game, if I go on too much longer we’ll be here all day, so I’ll try to wrap things up. Saints Row 4 is absolutely fantastic. It’s fun, it’s engaging, and it’s lasting. There are some minor complaints, like the lacking difficulty if you pursue the super-power upgrades and the uselessness of vehicles once you get the super speed and jump, but it’s a great game with tons of value for your money. You will most certainly need to be familiar with a lot of the Saints Row back-story to “get” some of the finer points of the narrative, but that really doesn’t matter when the game is this much fun.

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Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2013 by caseystorton

Image-A little late? Maybe, but I’ve kinda been putting this review off for a while now. I finished the game a few days ago, but I still wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. Anyway, Blood Dragon started off appearing as an April Fool’s joke, but was eventually leaked and later officially confirmed by Ubisoft to be the real deal. An interesting thing about this game is that it isn’t a piece of downloadable content like many had speculated, but rather a stand-alone game for the low price of $15. So I thought, why not check it out?

-Our story takes place in the dystopian future that is the year 2007. A decent chunk of the world has been nuked to shit, and now we’re on some island somewhere. You take control of Cyber Commander Rex Powercolt, voiced by semi-forgotten 80s action guy Michael Biehn (Aliens, Terminator, Planet Terror). Basically there’s this big bad motherfucker named Sloan that’s trying to take over the world (of course!) and it’s up to Rex to stop him. While the story does rely very heavily on long cut-scenes to explain its narrative, the actual plot and style of said cut-scenes are funny enough that I’m willing to forgive the overlong delivery of some story cinematics.

Image-The gameplay is very similar to that of Far Cry 3, with many of the mechanics like performing melee take-downs to instantly kill unaware foes and the radial weapon selector intact. There are a few minor changes that all serve to streamline the experience to make it fit better for a project of this scope. The leveling system is now completely linear, with new abilities granted automatically upon leveling up. Syringes are entirely absent, with the exception of health syringes, but I didn’t actually think about that until now, as I never really made a point to use syringes in the original Far Cry 3. There are also far fewer weapons, with attachments unlocked through side-missions rather than simply purchasing them, but this actually wasn’t really an issue, as you get every gun for free, and the sci-fi look and feel of some of the weapons encourages experimentation.

Image-Something you may or may not be wondering about is the origin of the game’s subtitle “Blood Dragon.” Well, Blood Dragons are in-game enemies that roam around the island attacking anything and anyone that they come across. Fighting the dragons is never easy, even once you unlike the intentionally overpowered fuck-off laser thing for the last mission, the dragons can still present a slight-challenge if you don’t aim for their weak spot.

Image-From a visual standpoint, the game has a very fun sense of style to it. Everything is very hazy and dark, with bright, blinding lights coming off of the Blood Dragons and humanoid enemies to present the overly glowy aesthetic of an early-80s sci-fi movie. The loading screens feature some of the funniest “tips” that I’ve ever read, and the tutorial literally had me laughing out loud at the silliness of it all. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is one slick looking game.

Image-Overall, Blood Dragon is a great little distraction. The main story can be completed in about 4 hours ignoring side-quests and collectibles, but for only $15, that’s not bad considering what you’re paying for. 91/100

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Spoiler ramblings: Bioshock Infinite

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2013 by caseystorton

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-I’ve seen/read a lot of discussions dissecting the story/ending of Bioshock Infinite lately,  and I just wanted to throw in my two cents for those that care enough to hear it. I will reiterate, there will be plenty of spoilers all throughout this post, so if you haven’t finished the game yet, don’t read this, as I intend to discuss plenty of major events that you deserve to experience first-hand. Sound good? Okay, let’s begin.

-First, we’ll talk about the centralized plot-point of the whole game: the existence of an infinite number of alternate dimensions. Some have complained that there are a few choices early on in the game that end up having no bearing of the story as a whole (bird necklace or cage necklace, heads or tails, ect.) but I feel like this may have been part of the point of it all. The major assertion of the game is that since there exist an infinite number of alternate dimensions based entirely around Booker DeWitt or anyone else making a decision that differs at least slightly from a decision that they made in any of the other dimensions. Nobody really has control over anything since each and every dimension exists solely for the purpose of being different from all of the other ones. Choices really don’t have consequence because for every negative repercussion that occurs in whatever dimension Booker and Elizabeth currently inhabit, there are an infinite number of other dimensions where such repercussion does not exist and things are better for it.

-On that note, I’m still deciding whether or not the paradox of the ending was intentional or not. Even after Booker kills Comstock, he and Elizabeth decide that they need to stop him from ever existing, and as such this Elizabeth as well as many others drown Booker there in the Baptistery in order to ensure that he doesn’t become Comstock and create Columbia. However, since there are still an infinite number of dimensions, for every dimension that Elizabeth kills Booker to erase Comstock, there are infinite others in which she doesn’t, and Comstock still exists. I feel like this may have been one final assertion of the writers’ point that nobody in this existence really has any choice about anything, but I don’t think that I’ll ever know for sure.

-On the point of the ending, despite the fact that it doesn’t really “end” anything in the story, it was really the best ending that the player-character version of Booker could ever hope for. This becomes a little more apparent once you begin to examine the subtle similarities between Booker DeWitt and Father Comstock. While they are trying to be different kinds of people, they did both have to find ways of dealing with themselves after the horrible things they did at the Wounded Knee Massacre. The Booker DeWitt that you play as dealt with his guilt by becoming a drunk and a compulsive gambler who was so morally bankrupt that he sold his own daughter to pay off his debt, whereas the Booker DeWitt that became Father Comstock dealt with his guilt by trying to baptize away his past and change his name, and while neither of them are good people, both did at least make an attempt at fixing themselves for their future.

-Now that we’ve (mostly) covered the plot, we’ll talk about some of the other things. Most importantly: the Vigors. There really is no reason that the society that is Columbia would ever want or need Vigors. In the original Bioshock, it made perfect sense for the citizens of  Rapture to experiment with Plasmids and Gene Tonics given the nature of their existence there. The whole point of Rapture was to allow scientists and visionaries freedom from things like morality and societal norm so that they would have the means to pursue the perfection of the human form in every way that they saw possible. In that world, it made perfect sense that the citizens were quick to charge a heavily armed man with nothing but a bit of pipe, because all of their splicing had screwed up too much of their brain for them to think through such things. In Bioshock Infinite, everyone there is just an overly religious racist that holds contempt for anyone that isn’t an overly religious racist along with them. Flawed as they may be, they aren’t insane like the Splicers were, and it appears that Vigors don’t inspire such tendencies in people like Plasmids did, which continues to beg the question of why enemies bother rushing you with clubs there there’s a drink that allows them the launch fireballs at you sitting on the ground ten feet away.

-There’s been a lot of talk lately about how violence effects the narrative in the game, and I’m still not entirely sure where I stand on the subject. The main sticking point for most people is the executions that you can pull off with the sky-hook once a target’s health gets low enough. Violence has always been part of the Bioshock series, but it hasn’t ever been quite as in-your-face as it was here, excluding a couple of gorier moments from the first game that were intentionally grisly in order to achieve a reaction, which I never considered a bad thing given the context in which they were used. Bioshock Infinite, however, allows you to tear the throats out of hundreds of generic foot soldiers with a series of dull hooks. I personally never really got used to seeing it, but that may just be because melee combat was never really viable in the context of the gameplay. The main question is: does the borderline sadistic violence in Bioshock Infinite detract from the seriousness of the story? While I personally didn’t have that big an issue with it, I will admit that the executions did not need to be as ridiculously graphic as they were.

-It’s hard for me to think about everything that I want to say about Infinite at any given moment, so I’m sure there are things that were left out of this post that I wanted to cover. So, here’s my deal: I don’t post that contact info at the bottom of all my posts for fun, I do it so you can contact me with questions, requests, or whatever else you want to say to me. So, if there’s something you want me to address that I didn’t mention here, send me an e-mail, tweet it to me, post it on my Facebook page, or just write a comment here on WordPress. Okay? Okay.

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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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