Reviews by AvistTorch
A short game that captures what's fun about shootersAvistTorch | Oct. 26, 2011 | Review of Hard Reset
Make no mistake about it: this game's singleplayer only, and it's got 7 chapters of robot-smashing action to offer. Of course, 7 long levels is still 7 levels, meaning it only takes about 4.5 hours to beat the game. However, those 4.5 hours were the most fun I've had with recent shooters, and the game has quite a few incentives for you to play it again.
Story: 64 When the game came out, everyone was talking about how the story is incomprehensible and all over the place. It certainly does read as though several lines of dialogue are missing, but I was able to get the gist of what's going on. It's not a particularly good or bad story, entertaining enough for a game like this. It gets kind of interesting halfway through, but ends rather abruptly with a plot twist that could go somewhere, but doesn't have a chance to. It seems to me as though they were planning to make the game longer, but ran out of time or money.
Graphics: 93 This is a great-looking game, and well-optimized to boot. I can almost max it on a Radeon 6670. The visual design is fantastic, effectively evoking a drearily consumerist cyberpunk world. Robots visibly take damage as you shoot them, and speaking of shooting, the effects on the weapons are also pretty (the rifle even heats up as you fire it!). The only gripe I have is a certain rocket-launching enemy that starts showing up later in the game doesn't seem to have any visual damage effects until it's destroyed.
Music/Sound: 88 There isn't much of a variety of music in the game. The levels have more of an ambiance than a music track when you're not in combat, but that works just fine. In-combat, the music becomes adrenaline-pumping electronic music, and the themes in the boss fights really get you going.
The voice acting in the between-level cutscenes is good enough, and the electronic voices on the advert-kiosks are at once hilarious and chilling. The sounds of the weapons and the robots are spot-on and distinctive; you'll be able to tell enemies apart by the sounds they make.
Gameplay: 95 This is a run-and-gun shooter like Serious Sam or Painkiller, down to having a health bar and no regenerating health... well, kind of. You have a slow-to-recharge shield protecing you from some damage, and there are plenty of health packs around. The small health packs dropped by enemies restore a fair amount of health, too, so you won't have to worry about limping around with only a little health left until maybe the last few levels where health becomes more scarce.
Your opposition will be a horde of robots determined to put an end to you. Before each encounter, you can usually spot a few small ones skittering around. The robots come in small, medium, and large varieties; generally, the small ones are melee-focused or explosive, the medium-sized ones have various ranged weapons, and the large ones could go either way. That comes out to about 10 different enemy types. The largest, called Gorillas, take many, many shots to bring down, and even the small ones take about a second of sustained weapon fire. Even if you destroy a robot's leg or such, it isn't dead until it's no longer moving.
Luckily, there are tons of explosives and electrically-active destroyables around the game worl that will explode on (or shock) enemies en masse. However, if environmental destruction isn't your thing, the game is set up such that you don't necessarily need to use these in order to win (although they're a BIG help).
Speaking of weapons, you have two: the CLN and the NRG, both capable of transforming into 5 different "guns" that each have 2 fire modes, effectively giving you 10 weapons at your disposal that share 2 ammo pools. You unlock these with NANO, which you can find hidden around each level or obtained from killing enemies. These points are spent at upgrade stations where you can upgrade the guns, purchase new fire modes, and upgrade your personal suit, which can give you stuff like more ammo capacity, health, and armor.
The levels are well-designed, with secrets to find and stuff to destroy. Each robot encounter is tough and perfectly capable of killing you, but fair enough that you can get through regardless of your weapon loadout (well, I guess you'd have trouble if you never bought any new weapons).
One thing I will note is that the game uses a checkpoint save system instead of quicksaves, but I felt that the placement of the checkpoints was balanced and did not hinder my progress.
A final highlight: The game has two bosses and one miniboss that I consider to be the best boss encounters I've ever had in a first-person shooter. I won't spoil anything, but the boss fights really are that good.
Replayability: 82 You won't be able to try out every upgrade in a single playthrough. If you're the type who hates starting from scratch, there's an "EX Mode" that allows you to start a new playthrough on any difficulty with the upgrades you got on the previous playthrough. Additionally, the developers have stated that they're going to add a "survival mode" in the next patch.
Conclusion: Short but sweet. A variety of fun weapons and well-designed swarms of robots make for a great experience, and the boss fights are possibly the best I've ever played in an FPS. If you're looking for a break from modern-style shooters, consider giving this one a go.
More co-op RPG than shooter, but still a fun gameAvistTorch | Aug. 13, 2011 | Review of Borderlands
The first thing to know: the shooting action in Borderlands doesn't play out like most shooters. For example, your character's level strongly affects how much damage you'll do. The main draws to the game are the procedurally-generated weapons (and when you find one you like, you won't want to let it go) and full co-op, which lets you go through the game with a team of friends. Co-op is the way the game was meant to be played, but I still had fun with it in singleplayer.
Just don't expect something like most modern shooters. It's also a relatively easy game. For instance, when you go down, you ahve a chance to kill an enemy and revive. Even if you die then, all you lose is a portion of your cash. The game does feature a "second loop" that's reputed to be harder, but I haven't tried it yet. Also, the AI is very simplistic. However, if you're just looking for some shooting fun and not necessarily a challenge, this game will eat your time. I've spent over 30 hours on it so far, and haven't regretted it once.
The perfect fusion of old and newAvistTorch | Aug. 13, 2011 | Review of Painkiller Black Edition DNS
In an era where most first-person shooters center on running down a scripted corridor and shooting small, exposed body parts, one grows to hunger for shooters that hearken back to the old days, while retaining that modern flair. If so, Painkiller:Black Edition is exactly what you're looking for.
The story is throwaway; the game throws you right into the action with 5 different weapons that each have 2 different firing modes, so it's more like 10 different weapons. The expansion, included in this bundle, delivers 2 more dual-mode weapons. Each is a twist on old classics, such as a rocket launcher/chaingun.
Gameplay has been simplified to the basics: enter a room, doors close and enemies spawn, kill them all. Instead of throwing lots of health packs at you, dead enemies briefly leave a soul that restores a bit of health. Getting 66 souls allows you to transform for a while into a mode where you're invincible and can tear apart most enemies with a single blast.
Completing optional goals, such as collecting a certain amount of souls in a level, unlocks "tarot cards" that give you a temporary (or level-long) boost, such as an increased maximum health or damage. This also factors into the wide difficulty range: on easier difficulty levels, your health is restored at checkpoints, while harder difficulties leave you to scrape through the game without that boost. In short, shooter fans from all eras and of all skill levels will find something to enjoy here.