Reviews by Baha
Open World Adventure GameBaha | Nov. 16, 2011 | Review of L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition
L.A. Noire is an interesting game. On the surface it appears to be an open world sandbox game much like Rockstar's GTA series and yet it couldn't be anymore different. If anything, L.A. Noire is more of an adventure game in an open world. This introduces some interesting gameplay mechanics but also plays against expectations most would have when playing an open world game.
As Cole Phelps you work your way up the police ranks which gains you access to new desks with new cases. As a cop, you are expected to follow the rules of the road and as such you will be penalized for causing mayhem and destruction once you set foot in the open world. Thanks to the partner mechanic, you don't have to drive everywhere and your partner essentially becomes your chauffeur for the remainder of the game. With that out of the way, how does the story fare? Quite well actually.
Crime scenes in L.A. Noire are great set pieces as you explore them and attempt to find all the clues. In addition there is an interrogation system where you must pay close attention to any signs or reads the person being interrogated may have. Team Bondi used a unique facial capturing system for this game which not only allows for finer details but actually captures the actor's face quite well (You'll be surprised by who you may recognize). Using this system, interrogation works quite well and characters provide a convincing performance.
As mentioned previously, the open world in L.A. Noire does not provide the freedoms that other infamous open world games do and that may take some getting used to. The biggest problem however will be the lack of interactivity with the environment. Aside from plot locations, everything else is just for show. This can be jarring especially when there are collectibles strewn about the environment with little to no reward for their completion. Team Bondi have captured the look and feel of 1940's Los Angeles but have neglected to include anything to do in this world aside from collectibles or travelling from location to location. There are moments however where you get to follow suspects or perform high speed chases but aside from that the world feels strangely empty. There are police activities that you can do by responding via your police radio and they do add some variety to the game but I can't help but feel like they're there as nothing more than filler. It's very clear that the story takes precedent in this world and while that's not a bad thing, it seems odd giving the player the freedom to roam without the freedom to let loose upon the environment. It really comes down to how you approach the game however, if you're one to go nuts in a seemingly open world game, you'll have to rein in such expectations. If you can get over that, the story is quite intriguing with various twists and turns.
All in all, L.A. Noire is a unique hybrid of two genres that may not gel with what most gamers expect but is interesting nonetheless.
Utter InsanityBaha | Nov. 15, 2011 | Review of Saints Row: The Third
Saints Row The Third is a game that thrives on encouraging and rewarding the player for doing crazy stuff. While the immediate comparisons to other open world sandbox games are only natural, SRTT has carved out it's own niche in this genre and isn't ashamed of it. You play as a customized character who is the leader of the Stilwater 3rd Street Saints who've accumulated so much wealth and notoriety that they've become pop icons and celebrities despite their criminal activities. After a run in with an organization calling itself the Syndicate, you must gather your forces and start the turf war once more, this time in the Syndicate controlled city of Steelport.
One of the first things you will notice upon arriving in the city is the amount of freedom available from the offset. Running around killing civilians or starting gang wars, it's available pretty much at the beginning (once you've acquired your crib you should also have access to more side missions). You do have a cellphone in this game but it functions as your in-game menu with access to your map (with GPS functionality), homies, cash, upgrades, cheats and much more. With the amount of things you can buy via upgrades or via in-game stores or even on property, you'll never be at a loss on what to spend your money on. It should also be noted that you can change your character at anytime (including gender) via plastic surgery so you have the ability to mix things up later if you want to try something new. Not to mention a 2 player co-op campaign that works seamlessly (drop in/drop out). Most importantly though, it runs on PC. IT RUNS. After the atrocious PC port of SR2, many were cautious regarding the SRTT port but I'm here to say that it runs fine and gamers can rest a little easier now that we can actually play the game.
In conclusion, SRTT isn't a game you should play for an "oscar worthy" story or anything elaborate like that. Rather, if you're looking for a good time, then SRTT is willing to provide that and deliver.
Crazy Co-op funBaha | Nov. 11, 2011 | Review of Renegade Ops
Renegade ops is a twin stick style shooter but in an open world environment that allows for flexibility when tackling various missions and side quests. There is a variety of a characters to choose from, each with specific special attacks and individual upgradeable stats to cater to your own play style. While the game is somewhat on the short side (9 missions in total), there is incentive to try different characters and unlock upgrades for them as well. There is also free dlc with this version of Renegade Ops that adds Gordon Freeman as a playable character. All in all, Renegade Ops is a fun diversion and worth giving a shot if you're looking for some fun co-op action.
A classic worth revisitingBaha | Sept. 16, 2011 | Review of Tomb Raider: Anniversary DNS
As a person who has not followed Lara Croft in her adventures for many years since her first game, Anniversary was a great opportunity to revisit the world of Tomb Raider. After so many years I'm pleased to say that it's nice to be back. The classic Tomb raider platforming is back with an improved camera, though it's not perfect it is still serviceable. Traps and puzzles are back with more visual flair, not to mention the levels look great in this updated version of the 1996 classic. Whether you're a long time fan or a gamer who hasn't played a Tomb Raider game, Anniversary provides a fun challenge and is certainly worth checking out.
Short but not sweetBaha | Sept. 16, 2011 | Review of Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days
Kane and Lynch 2 is an interesting attempt at a gritty narrative that falls short on various levels. The 'youtube' style camera is neat at first but starts to get in the way of the gameplay as it begins to disorient players and make long play sessions difficult for those prone to motion sickness. Also the game is rather short and even in co-op, you can expect to beat this game in 5 hours or less. As such, it really is hard to recommend this game unless it's on sale for a fraction of the retail price.
Pain never felt this goodBaha | Sept. 15, 2011 | Review of Super Meat Boy
A very difficult game that brings back the trial and error of platforming and ramps up the madness with speed and seemingly pixel perfect jumps. Slow and steady does not win this race, you have to be on your toes and react accordingly or else you're dead. Super Meat Boy's greatest strength lies in it's execution which entices you to keep trying without any form of arbitrary punishment for failing. Coupled with fantastic level design and a humorous story, it's really hard not to recommend this gem of classic platforming goodness.
Open World Zombie Game, FINALLY!Baha | Sept. 15, 2011 | Review of Dead Island
The title says it all really. For years many people have waited for such a game and finally Techland have delivered. The rpg elements and lush visuals are the icing on this cake.
In Dead Island, you choose between 4 protagonists (each with their own backstory and set of unique skills) and essentially travel through the island of Banoi in an effort to save survivors and ultimately get to safety. While the 4 characters have unique skills, they will all start off with melee weapons and for the most part Dead Island is largely about melee combat. The melee combat uses a stamina bar (which is also used for sprinting & jumping). Smaller weapons like knives allow for spamming attacks and larger weapon use more stamina but deal heavier blows.
Where Dead Island really shines however is in it's exploration. Games like Borderlands provide a lot of terrain to cover but such terrain is empty and really just distance between you and your objective. Thankfully in Dead Island, the environment is dense with content and whether you walk or drive, you'll always find something in the distance or even around a corner beckoning you to explore.
Unfortunately while the gameplay and environment shine, the story isn't exactly gripping. NPCs are a means to an end whether that means XP or a rare weapon reward or mod. Luckily, there is some variety in side quests and traveling around looking for loot still remain addictive. Performance issues have for the most part been fixed with a little help from the community. Dead Island is a flawed game no doubt but it's easy to overlook the flaws when it delivers on the fun factor in spades.
Excellent Co-op mayhem!Baha | Sept. 15, 2011 | Review of Killing Floor
Tripwire Entertainment released Killing Floor back in 2009 and since then have provided the community with not only content packs with new weapons, maps and a higher level cap but even going as far as holding special events. As of this point, Killing Floor is a content rich game with an active community. The comparison to the Left 4 Dead series is not unexpected, they're both fps games with "zombies" or zeds/mutants but the comparison ends there once you get into the details. Killing Floor is a slower game but with a gradual difficulty curve. Maps are not linear but rather sandbox/open world in that you'll find yourself travelling across the map not only during waves but also to get to one of the may trader locations in each map. So while you may think you've found the perfect spot to hunker down and hold off the waves of Zeds, you'll find yourself scrambling to get to the trader and back before the next wave arrives. This management of time and resources (saving up for weapons in a counter-strikesque way) makes this game less about reflexes and twitch and more about strategy and planning. The different classes allow for various play styles (healing, melee, sniping, setting things on fire, blowing things up, etc) but they really determine how well you will fare against the tougher waves near the end. All of this culminating with a boss fight that will require the efforts of the entire team in order to survive. With six player co-op and a nice assortment of classes/unlocks, it really is hard not to recommend this for anybody seeking a challenge or co-operative fps.
Splendid Open World MadnessBaha | Aug. 31, 2011 | Review of Just Cause 2
When you can plummet from great heights without fear and propel yourself across vast distances with a grappling hook, you know life is good. Just Cause 2 throws you into a large 3 island environment and lets you run wild. Whether you stick to story missions or wander aimlessly causing death and destruction, there is something for everyone here. Beautiful landscapes and a dynamic weather system bring the islands to life as you traverse their wide vistas.
Many open world games restrict you in various ways but in JC2, you have that freedom you've always craved. Want to surf on cars? Ride a gas canister into the sky or hijack an airplane? Maybe you just want to tie your foes to moving vehicles and laugh like a mad man as they get zipped away? You can do these things and more in JC2.
The story is secondary to everything else in this game. Don't buy this game for the plot or any sort of story telling. Buy this game for the countless hours of fun you can experience as the Spanish Spider Man.
Excellent Parody DLCBaha | Aug. 31, 2011 | Review of Magicka: Final Frontier DLC
The PvP map is a faithful recreation of the infamous arena battle between Kirk & Spock from Star Trek. In addition to the map, this DLC includes Federation robes and phasers for that extra bit of detail. Worth a purchase alone for the robes and weapons but as a package it's highly recommended.
She still has it!Baha | Aug. 30, 2011 | Review of Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light
As somebody who hasn't played a Tomb Raider game in years, it was a pleasant surprise when I picked up this title to play with a friend. Lara Croft & the Guardian of Light is an isometric twin stick style shooter with a fun relic system that increases stats and firepower. Whether you play alone or online with a friend, the game is a joy to play as you'll find yourself racking your brain to solve it's many puzzles or navigating across chasms with the help of a friend. There are various traps as well and you'll find yourself at the mercy of your partner as you attempt to solve them. For a downloadable title, there's plenty of content here to play through not to mention that the single player and co-op campaigns differ slightly in puzzles as well. Time attack challenges and hidden collectibles provide incentive for replays (not to mention achievements). If you plan to play this alone then I would recommend it but the game really shines when played in co-op with a friend.
GOTY materialBaha | Aug. 30, 2011 | Review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex Human Revolution provides players with a significant arsenal of tools to use how they see fit. Whether you prefer to shoot and ask questions later, sneak and get answers right away or even a mix of both, your play style is well accommodated. Borrowing elements of stealth from Metal Gear Solid, an intuitive cover system from Rainbow Six Vegas and the immersive dialogue and rpg systems from it's predecessor (Deus Ex), Eidos and Square Enix have succeeded in marrying these engaging gameplay mechanics into a fantastic gaming experience. The story and various methods for completing quests ensure repeated playthroughs, not to mention the amount of detail in the world will keep you busy for hours just exploring and finding hidden treasure troves. As a huge fan of action rpgs, I cannot recommend this game enough. It may or may not be my game of the year but it is most certainly a contender at this point,