Reviews by Jahman

55

Not my kind of Vegas, but also not really a bad game

Jahman | July 4, 2011 | Review of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas

As I first matter of business I must admit that I missed out on the Rainbow Six craze prior to Vegas, so I won’t be comparing it to the previous installments. Second of all, a tl;dr: I admire the ideas and innovation put into this game, but it wasn’t enough to make me enjoy it. Now on to the game itself and a longer description:

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas is a “squad action first person shooter”. What that does mean is that the gameplay consists mostly of running around with two squad mates, breaching doors, hiding behind covers and shooting terrorists. For me, the story was rather bland and boring (yet another terrorist attack / hostages / bombings etc.) and the characters were shallow. As for the gameplay, as I mentioned before, I really admire the idea behind the squad command system and the possibilities it offers. On one hand it’s simple and doesn’t require multiple button presses or whole tactical screen, on the other it’s efficient and allows for stacking up for entering the room via multiple doors, different breaching scenarios and circling around enemy positions while the teammates draw the opponents attention.

The problem is, however, that while the ideas are great, the gameplay doesn’t really implement them that well and hinders it even further by the horrible AI. For one, there are many parts of the game where you have to simply move down the corridor/building/street and eliminate enemies via cover-based firefight. Practically none of the fancy squad commands will help you there as there are hardly any alternate paths to take. What’s even worse is that the squad mates hardly ever seem to actually eliminate enemies (at least not before you get shot multiple times), but they do love getting shot themselves. Also, while you can revive your teammates for some reason they do not possess the same ability when it comes to you. On more than one, very frustrating, occasion I was forced to choose whether to let my companions take point – it takes a long time to move forward as they hardly ever hit the enemy but I can always revive them - or take point myself, whereas the combat got much quicker, but a couple of stray bullets and it was back to last checkpoint for me.

This might be a very personal opinion but while I can’t say that the game itself was bad, for me it offered far too few and too far between moments of “awesomeness” (like using actual tactics to eliminate an entire room of hostiles while not adding any extra holes to any of the hostages). At the same time it also forced me to endure a very long periods of hiding behind cover and taking pot-shots at the enemy, made even more infuriating when after a long firefight I got killed because my team mate didn’t manage to intercept the enemy circling around my cover. For the same reasons I got the feeling that while some levels (and vistas) were quite memorable others were boring and badly designed BUT this may be because I often had to replay a single part over and over again (even on normal difficulty).

As for the multiplayer I went for it after finishing the single player and was at first pleasantly surprised that a random group of players served as much better team mates than the AI. Also, the cover mechanics work pretty nicely, although they do tend to slow down the gameplay (as almost everybody slowly stalks around, hoping not go get shot). While some of the matches were balanced and fun, the experience got tiring for me rather quickly due to the pace (far too slow for my taste) and the presence of campers (players who know the maps tend to find spots like rooftops or skylights and eliminate other players who can’t really attack them without leaving cover – needless to say this can be quite infuriating as it breaks the notion of “tactics” in the multiplayer).

I know this review might sound a little bit like a rant – but the question is – can I recommend this game to anyone? The answer is yes. If you are patient, don’t mind an action shooter with some “slow and steady” bits and don’t mind replaying some parts of the game time and time again – go for it. Also, if you’re tired of generic run’n’gun “Rambo style” FPSs Rainbow Six Vegas might also offer just enough variation to be a very pleasant experience after all.

85

Solid western shooter - one of a few

Jahman | July 4, 2011 | Review of Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

First of all – I don’t really like westerns. Why do I mention it? Because in spite of it I really enjoyed Call of Juarez : Bound in Blood. The game is actually a prequel to Call of Juarez (the first one), but the story of the three brothers it presents itself much better than that of its predecessor and really comes off as believable, manages to introduce a few nice twists and I’d even dare to say – is movie-worthy. The gameplay is good, but it does require some getting used to – especially when it comes to handling weapons. Ranging from pistols and revolvers through rifles, bows and explosives it offers a wide arsenal that not only presents different stats for each weapon (displayed in an “rpg fashion”), but also a different “feel” for each. Also, thanks to the possibility of selecting one of the two brothers (tougher Ray and stealthier Thomas) the player is granted a little different side of the story, set of weapons and “special abilities” (which in both cases allow player to enter different kinds of “bullet time” after killing enough enemies). All the pros mentioned above coupled with proper western level design (complete with chariot and horse chases and cannon/Gattling sequences) present enough variation throughout the entire game to keep it fresh and entertaining until the very end. If I were to nitpick I would have to say that the AI is not always very bright, some bugs do appear (I was forced to replay an entire chapter due to “enemy invisibility” bug during the chariot chase), the “open world” interludes feel forced and are rather boring, the controls during the “slow-mo showdowns” are clunky at best, the “shop” and money tends to be useless (I myself made only two or three purchases apart from ammo restock throughout entire game). Also, the story allows the selection of Ray or Thomas only on some levels (which was annoying for me as I always preferred to choose Ray, but was sometimes forced to play as Thomas). Bound in Blood also offers a multiplayer mode complete with character unlocks and upgrades, but nowadays it is mostly dead or filled with cheaters on a few remaining servers. It may just be my luck, but only one out of three matches I joined was actually playable – so no recommendation there. To put it short – CoJ:BiB is a solid, western, single-player experience with varied levels, good story, some level of customization and proper gameplay. Also, while not really a very new game, it’s still got very good graphics. If You are a fan of the Wild West, will not be disappointed by this game.

95

Assassin's Creed 2 - review of the GAME for a change

Jahman | May 11, 2011 | Review of Assassin's Creed 2

First of all, a little disclaimer: I admit I played the console version so I won’t discuss the DRM, keyboard & mouse controls and the PC optimization topics that tend to be main focal points of many AC2 reviews on the web. “Oddly enough”, I want to focus on the game itself for a change.

For me the Assassin’s Creed 2 was a great experience. I did enjoy the first part but in my opinion the sequel improves almost everything by leaps and bounds while preserving the original gameplay (and fun). First of all, this game has one of the most original and engaging intros (and I don’t mean just the cinematic) I have seen in the recent years. Through that it quickly captures the attention of the player and makes the initial tutorials very unintrusive. It then follows the story of the new main character, Ezio, and not only presents him as a fleshed out human being but also a very likeable one. Due to this the events presented in the game really make the player fell immersed and interested. I admit the story tends to slow down and complicate a little bit down the line and then skip whole chapters out of the blue (unless you buy the DLC – nasty trick) only to end with a bang. Still, both its presentation, the characters and the events themselves are simply awesome and unpredictable making this game a really grand experience.

As for the gameplay value the only real critique I can think of is that the game can still be a little bit monotonous, but only in the way that all the FPSs are monotonous because you always just run and shoot. Yes, you will have to perform lots of assassinations, chases, escapes, etc. because they are the focal points of most of the missions, but to me this hardly seemed tiring mostly because of greatly designed gameplay that makes them fun. Oh, and the beautiful graphics, vast and varied locations and visible combat improvements (via Leonardo’s inventions) help too. I admit that near the end the combat got a little too easy, but even then it still was fun.

The controls (again – I played this game on a gamepad) work splendidly and tend to be very intuitive as is the combat. Also, the climbing mechanics greatly improved. While I personally fell that though the “flying machine” part was overrated, I really liked the “renovation” aspect of the Monteriggioni and Villa Auditore and the balanced inventory aspect. Why, even the collectible aspects seemed much more appealing than they were in the first part of the series.

All in all, the story’s great, the gameplay has been vastly improved and, for me, AC2 was a truly great experience. I’d say to pick it up right away, but to be completely honest I would suggest reading up on the DRM and optimization issues first before making that decision, as – no matter how awesome the game is – they can be a deal breaker for some.

35

It really puts the "cry" in Far Cry...

Jahman | May 10, 2011 | Review of Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2. The world is beautiful, enormous and quite alive. You can explore almost all of it from the start and without restrictions (actually – it’s divided into two parts – you first get to explore one and then the other), you get to set things aflame and watch the fire spread (unless it dies out for no apparent reason), you get to buy and upgrade weapons (even though you can only carry three of them, so you’ll probably stick to the same selection all the time) and cars (you won’t use any single one of them long enough to really take advantage of the upgrades). Also, you get to blow stuff up that magically puts itself back together when you’re not looking and choose a side of a conflict (or work for both sides at the same time) between to equally boring and uncharacteristic factions.

As the large amount of parenthesis shows, Far Cry 2 is a game with a lot of potential, but almost all of it wasted. The presentation is awesome and the ideas are great, but loads of weird or downright bad design decisions make it a rather horrible experience. While driving through the great looking African land is very nice, doing so for the hundredth time in a row, usually even taking the same route is hardly a remarkable experience. Combat is pretty decent with rather realistic weapons and original health mechanics (a mix of medpacks and health regenerations plus need to take malaria meds). Problem is almost all of enemy outposts respawn the moment you get far enough from them and the game forces you to cross all of them multiple times. Add to that the fact that the encounters during missions don’t vary that much (even with the “hints and alternative solutions” provided by your “buddies”) and you get a game that consists mostly of driving around empty landscapes interrupted by repetitive slaughter. And once you get to the mission’s location – guess what? – more repetitive slaughter. Oh, did I mention that between each missions you have to get half way through the map to the “main city”, get the job, drive another half way through the map to the place on a radar, complete the task, repeat. And no, the fast-travel via buses doesn’t really help as there are really few bus stops and they tend to be annoyingly far from the mission’s locations.

So, maybe the storyline saves the day? Not at all. The story has at most two twists, horrible and illogical ending, one of the most boring intros since Half-Life’s tram-ride (and I think this “ride a car and look around” lasts even longer than that one did) and one you get in the middle of the conflict you’ll soon realize that not only what you do doesn’t really matter but everyone around you doesn’t really care either – neither the faction leaders nor your NPC “buddies”. I admit this improves once or twice, especially near the end but that is quickly outset by the horrible ending, mentioned before.

All in all, FC2 is fun but when taken in small doses. Trying to get through the game all in one go quickly results in overwhelming boredom and sometimes frustration and that is even without trying to collect all the diamonds, unlock everything and complete all the extra assassinations. This only goes to show that even decent combat and awesome game world can be ruined by forcing too much of both on the player.

96

The best Shock since the System

Jahman | May 4, 2011 | Review of BioShock DNS

Bioshock is THE FPS that made me believe in the genre again. I still believe that System Shock 2 is one of the greatest first-person perspective games ever and Bioshock started as it’s “spiritual successor”. And what can I say? It pretty much succeeded.

First of all, Bioshock takes place in an underwater city of Rapture, a would-be utopia created by a visionary Andrew Ryan. What that means to the player is that the levels will consist mostly of rather concise rooms with similar, dark and murky designs. While this does get a somewhat tiring and a little bit repetitive, the overall design and great graphics are still more than enough make the exploration enjoyable. The enemies are a similar case. There’s not much variety in both models and types, but their AI, ability to jump out of nowhere and the overall combat mechanics more than make up for that flaw. As for the combat itself, Bioshock is one of the dying breed of FPS that still embrace non-renewable health and medkits. This is also the case with EVE (“plasmid ammunition”) so the player doesn’t really have a chance to fell too over powered. The plasmids themselves fulfill the role of “spells”, they give active supernatural abilities (from lightning bolts to summoning swarms of bees) or passive bonuses, provide a decent amount of variety and greatly supplement the standard weapons found in game. All in all, the combat is very enjoyable and very much unlike the typical grey-brown, army shooter.

The story told throughout the game is well-paced, immersive and has one of the best plot twists I have seen in games. Ever. Seriously, if there ever was the reason to play Bioshock – it’s for the plot twist. Of course, I won’t spoil it, but believe me, it’s worth it. Apart from the radio transmissions and meetings with plot characters, the Rapture history is also presented in form of pre-recorded messages and diaries scattered around the city. This, like it did in System Shock 2, proves to be a very good method of providing real depth (pun indented) to the game’s world while at the same time avoiding “force feeding” the player with it.

Aside from the combat and the story, the game offers some mini-games (hacking cameras, vending machines and turrets), an interesting method of gaining advantage over enemies (via photographs) and a distinctive and somewhat controversial method of acquiring currency used for buying aforementioned plasmids.

To put it short, if you enjoy First Person Shooters Bioshock is pretty much a must-buy. If not for the great story or awesome atmosphere then for the plasmid-enchanced carnage. Either way, go for it.

80

Beyond Good and Evil but not much else

Jahman | April 28, 2011 | Review of Beyond Good and Evil

Beyond Good and Evil is game widely recognized as a cult classic. Myself, I don’t really know why. Sure, the game isn’t half bad but it also doesn’t offer something that would/did revolutionize gaming as we know it.

The simplest way to put it, BGaE is a TPP platformer-adventure-fighting game. Half of a game is based on running around, talking to various characters, buying stuff and collecting things and the other on exterminating or sneaking around various creatures while exploring hostile locations. The combat is pretty decent and Jade is often accompanied by one or two companions with unique skills, that make the fights somewhat more interesting and help you solve some of the platforming puzzles. The downside is that you have to take care of their lifebars yourself, mostly by sharing your health-expanding bonuses and healing items. The nice thing is that Jade’s abilities can be improved by finding or buying a special “power-up” items that allow her to access new moves, so you’re not stuck with only the basic ones through-out the game.

The best part of Beyound Good and Evil is probably the setting. While the visual theme may seem to be a little on the cartoon-trippy side, it actually fits the game’s tone and ages pretty well in terms of graphics. The story is rather interesting (though the ending is an annoying sequel-bait), there's a lot of good humor, the characters are very believable and well-defined, and the voice acting is top-notch. Also, the game’s world is filled with little “extras” like mini-games and loads of collectables including newspapers, animals and pearls. A somewhat annoying thing is that some of those collectables are used as currency or means to acquire it (Jade has to photograph different species of wildlife to gain cash) and are sometimes required to move the story forward (which means they are not really optional and you will be forced to go looking for them on couple occasions).

To put it simply, the BGaE is a visually appealing game with very good level design, a rich and interesting world, great characters, mediocre combat and otherwise decent gameplay. It can be somewhat boring and tedious when it forces you to collect wildlife photos and pearls (especially if you don’t really like that kind of stuff) and the sneaking parts later in the game feel sort of forced, but other than that the challenges are pretty entertaining and the story more than makes up for that shortcomings.

On a technical note, the game is best played with a gamepad but unfortunately the PC version doesn’t support most of them “out-of-the-box”, so you may need to use some third-party software to get it to work.

95

Are you meaty enough?

Jahman | April 19, 2011 | Review of Super Meat Boy

This game will make you go insane, smash your keyboard (or controller) into little pieces and, the worst part, you’ll probably love it.

SMB is a very unique game that started as a little, Flash-based platformer and blossomed into a wholesome monstrosity you see before you. The graphics are quite simple but also offer a wide variety of themes and suit the gameplay perfectly and tend to be cute and gross at the same time. The story shows that the game does not really take itself very seriously but also does it in style and it will make you smirk at least once.

The most important thing however is this – THIS GAME IS INSANELY DIFFICULT. No, really. This is quite possibly one of the hardest, most unforgiving and frustrating games I have ever played. Every time you die you have to redo a lot of difficult platforming again. And again and again. Because you will die. A lot. The “problem” is the controls (and gameplay itself) are so fluid and the pure fun that the game provides is more than enough to make you want to try that level again, and again, and again until you (in a blaze of glory) finally get it and make that last, awful jump.

Oh, and for those that really have no idea what this game is all about, you’re a piece of meat that has to jump/stick/slide its way through each level without getting killed. Really, that’s it. The thing is that the level design is so devious that almost every jump you make has to be steered with great precision and at just the right moment to avoid quick and gory dismemberment (and the need to replay the section again). But because the simple running and jumping is really so much fun, SMB WILL keep you trying until you know the whole level by heart and finally make it (by mixture of skill and luck) to the end.

On top of that this version of SMB provides lots of cool boss fights, loads of unlockable content and many, many challenges (even the final level proves to be not-so-final after all as it unlocks yet another, even harder campaign – you’ve been warned!) that make it a truly wholesome meal for any gamer that can stomach the frustration that comes before finally honing his or her skills to beat the entire game. Oh, and really, do keep that backup keyboard or controller at hand. You’ll need it after you smash the first one.

70

Tomb Raider The Remake - yay, Tomb Raider The Eigth - nay.

Jahman | April 18, 2011 | Review of Tomb Raider: Anniversary DNS

Tomb Raider Anniversary is two things – a remake and a yet another installment of the Tomb Raider franchise.

From the first perspective it fulfills its role perfectly. It manages to incorporate vastly superior graphics, more detailed environments, character models and animations while at the same time preserving the original’s gameplay, story and level design. Moreover it seamlessly blends the new additions, like grappling hook or pole swinging, thus improving the already decent set of acrobatic moves. I must say that, other than pure nostalgia, there is hardly a reason to play the 1996 version if you can get Anniversary instead.

On the other hand, for me the Anniversary was a much less engaging experience than the Legend or Underworld. While I understand the need to stick to the original content I found the levels to be rather monotonous and the combat lacking. The worst part however were the bugs in the acrobatic parts of the game coupled with awkward camera. It’s really annoying when you have to redo a large part of platforming only because Lara suddenly decided she just wanted to jump in some other direction (as in – straight into a bottomless pit) or that the ledge was unworthy to be grabbed by her (again, as opposed to the deadly fall) or it simply wasn’t there (and the evil camera successfully concealed that fact). I’m not saying this didn’t happen in Legend, but for some reason it seemed much more pronounced (and annoying) in Anniversary, possibly due to the level design.

Because of those reasons I would recommend Anniversary mostly to those who have played the first part of the series and would like to relive it again without the fear of horribly aged graphics running their fond memories. As for the younger crowd just looking to pick one of the newer installments I would rather recommend Legend or Underworld.

85

Another good example of how not to ruin an awesome series.

Jahman | April 18, 2011 | Review of Heroes of Might and Magic V

For me the best part of the Heroes of Might & Magic V is the fact that it is much more similar to the third part rather than the fourth (although I know that this may be a disadvantage to some). It’s graphics are nice if a little dated, the gameplay is just as fun as it was in the initial trilogy and the story is quite entertaining and lets you control various armies as it unfolds.

The camera can be a little bit annoying at times and the unit’s animations can get boring after some time, but all in all the Heroes made a pretty decent transition into the new 3D environment.

Also, the maps and missions in the single player mode are varied enough to prevent boredom as are the units and factions, each requiring a different strategy to attain the best results. The combat sticks to the traditional formula with only a couple of new tricks (mostly units, spells, abilities and more active role of the player’s hero), so it’s still quite easy to grasp while providing a decent challenge for those who seek to master it.

In short, Heroes of Might & Magic V is another great game in a legendary series both for those who know and love the previous installments and as a starting point for those who don’t.

80

Overshadowed by it's sequel, but awesome nevertheless

Jahman | April 11, 2011 | Review of Assassins Creed

Assassin’s Creed is far from perfect, but still a very decent game. You may say it is also a kind of experiment, one from which it’s sequels gained a lot.

I admit that when the game was gifted to me a hadn’t the slightest idea what to expect of it (for some reason I have never heard about it before then). What first struck me on my first playthrough was… the level of innovation. For me, the biggest advantage of AC is the sheer number of original ideas implemented in the game. While not all of them good and almost all of them improved in the sequels, they provided more than enough incentive to keep me glued to the monitor for at least a couple of hours.

First comes the setting and story. The “Animus” idea was great and immersive, even if the “out-of-Animus” parts were somewhat sluggish. The story itself - nicely done characters and a couple of twists I really didn’t see coming.

Then there are the esthetics and the level design – both of them on a very high level. The cities seem not only pretty accurate historically but also very alive. The architectural designs suit the gameplay needs perfectly and the cities and their streets are varied enough to not seem repetitive. Also, the graphics themselves age pretty well.

Then there is the gameplay. The most criticized flaw of the AC is it’s repetitiveness. Well… it’s true. It is. But for me it’s rather a fault of its length (as in “too long”) than what it offers. Actually I can’t seem to remember another game apart from the AC series where the medieval combat was equally well done. The move animations are great, the controls (and the “high and low profile actions” mechanics) are very good and while the enemies AI may be rather dim and the combat itself may not be very advanced, it’s still fun. And that’s even taking into account that you can beat almost the entire game only using the “parry and counter” move. On top of that the “platforming” (for lack of a better word) part of the game is even better. What AC did is offer the monkey-moves and climbing already known from other games and mixed them up with sandbox environment. A very well done sandbox environment, I should add. Thanks to that, not only is the platforming aspect a very intuitive one, but also makes simply moving around fun. Oh, and it’s one of those few games that you don’t have to wonder if that wall is climbable or not – if it’s not flat – you can scale it.

To sum up – if Assassin’s Creed is a very good game even in the shadow of its sequels. It does have its flaws and the repetitiveness later in the game may prevent you from finishing it all in one go, but it’s still innovative and entreating enough to be worth playing.

90

Not really a Tomb Raider, but still fun & fresh

Jahman | April 11, 2011 | Review of Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light

If you loved all previous installments of the series you’ll… quickly realize that apart from the presence of Lara C., this is hardly a Tomb Raider game and has pretty much nothing to do with the entire series. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the game itself, from a more stand-alone perspective.

The LCatGoL is a fresh, fine-tuned and rather original platformer/hack’n’slash mashup. You spend most of your time jumping or swinging around, exterminating waves of enemies and solving puzzles that require some intelligence and lots of dexterity. While the game itself may not be a revolution in a genre it offers far more than enough to entertain a player of at least a couple of hours.

The strongest point of this game is that it manages to keep the pace up during both combat and platformer sections. Add to that quite varied enemies & weapons, distinct bosses, balanced difficulty, nice co-op, properly done “spear as a ladder” and grappling hook mechanics, remote detonated mines, some physics puzzles (mostly involving rolling a giant ball) and you get a very entertaining gameplay that will keep you on your toes until the end of each level.

As for the levels themselves, the design is very good – the themes are unique and the maps are just the right size – and the graphics quality is more than enough given the perspective. Also, the additional challenges, different for each level, and the collectible aspect (“red sculls”) are a really nice touch.

One of the best things about LCatGoL is it’s replay value. While the maps, challenges and the simple joy of playing often provides more than enough incentive to complete the game again, the free DLC included with the game (and paid one too, of course) provides an even better one – a new set of main characters complete with their own voiceovers – Kane & Lynch for free and Raziel & Kain for a price. While this is hardly more than a gimmick (the gameplay remains the same), I find it a very pleasant one which further proves the point that LCatGoL would be (and is) a game equally worthy of attention even if it wasn’t marketed as a part of Tomb Raider franchise.

In short - it fast-paced, it’s fresh, it’s fun.

95

UFO - The sequel done right

Jahman | April 7, 2011 | Review of UFO: Aftershock CAP

“If it isn’t broken, why should I fix it? You shouldn’t, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt to improve it.” With this, UFO Aftershock is an example of a properly-done sequel. Both the tactics/real-time/pause mash-up and the world map/base-capturing/team management are still there, same as they were in the UFO Aftermath. Fortunately, so is the fun and there’s even more of it now.

Also, fortunately, it doesn’t end there. The new installment in the series adds a lot. To begin with: the redesigned (and a bit clearer) interface and graphics, the introduction of cyborgs, psionics and grays, each with their own unique equipment and abilities that boost the team’s effectiveness, the single, mobile mother-base, Lapuda, and the new team deployment mechanics. Add to that loads of new weapons, tools, armors and enemies and you a truly satisfying experience. There are however two downsides of the combat part, first is the same one as in Aftermath – the much too visible recycling of locations. After a couple hours you’re bound to recognize the layout of the map just after it loads. Sure the mission may be different and you can choose another starting location, but it doesn’t really help. The second one is the imbalance of power. After developing a sufficient number of technologies your soldiers will simply blast past dozens of weaker enemies making some of the missions far too easy to be fun. Thankfully, there’s no need to complete them all.

The territory acquisition was also redesigned and is now reliant on diplomacy efforts (doing missions for them, mostly) with the factions currently occupying the area. The concept of resources was also introduced, making the player’s progression highly dependent on efficient acquisition of aforementioned territories. On top of that, acquired bases/cities can by fully customized by selecting a set of buildings to be build, such as weapon-producing armories or research facilities, which adds another layer of micro-management.

The most visible change however occurs in the storyline. Not only does it start with a bang and presents characters you can actually care about, but also with the progression on time offers more and more interesting events even, at one point later in game, drastically changing the challenges the player is faced with. In my opinion, of all the games in the trilogy, it was the Aftershock’s story that I found the most interesting and unpredictable.

The amount of innovation in comparison to Aftermath is truly grand. If you only want to play one part of the trilogy, I would suggest picking this one. You won’t lose much of the story and both the gameplay and the graphics will surely provide a much more complete experience than the first part.

80

UFO - the successful resurrection

Jahman | April 7, 2011 | Review of UFO: Aftermath Cap

While it differs greatly from the previous UFO installments, the Aftermath is a great beginning of an even greater trilogy.

The game consist of two parts – the combat encounters and the base/world map management. In the first one, the player controls the team of soldiers in an attempt to complete a certain mission, like exterminating all aliens, capturing one of them or simply getting to a selected position. While the combat takes some getting used to and, mostly at the beginning, it’s quite easy to send a solider to their death without even knowing it (you often don’t see where the enemies are until you’re in their range), it also gets pretty addictive over time. Formulating your tactics and adapting them to different enemies can be really engaging and the real-time gameplay with the possibility to pause to plan ahead makes UFO a great tactics game with a decently-paced action. On the downside, the terrain does become repetitive after a couple of missions time and Aftermath does sometimes force you to go round the whole map just to find that one alien you missed.

The other part – the management – is also a bundle of fun. Given a rather wide choice of missions and an ever expanding arsenal and research branches and the possibility to train soldiers and adapt them to the player’s needs nicely prevents boredom. After all, you do want to test those newly developed plasma guns and alien armor, don’t you? Also, the option to acquire new bases and intercept UFOs with your own aircrafts adds yet another bit of variety.

While the story may not be the strongest part of the game, it is still nicely done and does have a twist or two (no, I won’t spoil them).

All in all, Aftermath may not be beautiful or astonishing, but it sure is a nice blend of strategy and tactics with more than enough content to provide addictive fun for at least a couple of days.

Also, if you’re planning on completing the whole trilogy it’s a very good stepping stone into the later parts.

95

THE Painkiller. Enough said.

Jahman | April 7, 2011 | Review of Painkiller Black Edition DNS

Painkiller is a game where your only objective is to kill everything that moves. That’s the sentence that pretty much sums the game. The story is somewhere between nonexistent and ridiculous, there is no connection whosoever between consecutive levels, there’s a rather limited number of enemies, you’ve probably seen better graphics and the gameplay is repetitive.

But you know what? All of that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that “Painkiller is ONE OF THE BEST games where your only objective is to kill everything that moves“ and the way the game manages to pull it off makes it a truly great achievement.

What Painkiller does is offer a player load of unique weapons , each with two different modes of fire, spices it up with “souls” mechanics that forces you to visit the spots where you just vanquished your enemies and rewards you with health and a burst of invincibility and mixes it up in a bowl of awesome, fast-paced and gripping gameplay.

To put it short – Painkiller is pure fun to play. Really, that’s it. It is “wave after wave of same enemies”, but the way the gameplay was designed turns each of those killings sprees into, maybe not unique or memorable, but surely enjoyable and adrenaline-pumped experiences.

On top of that, each level contains a special challenge – ranging from “destroy all items” to “only use one weapon” – and rewards you with “Black Tarot” cards for completing it. Not only do those cards allow you to gain an upper hand in the following levels (by boosting the players speed or slowing the enemies), but they often require the player to change the way they play in order to obtain them. That in itself can often provide a healthy dose of variety.

If you consider yourself a true fan of the FPS genre and/or love a virtual, mindless carnage, Painkiller is a must-buy. If, on the other hand, your reflexes are more than rusty, games you play must have a story and the sight of flying guts is somewhat off-putting, you might want to stay away. You know - for your own health.

45

Less like "next in the series" and closer to "more of the same"

Jahman | April 7, 2011 | Review of NecroVisioN: Lost Company Cap

There are games that make you want to play them again and again and again… And then there is NecroVision: LC.

I rather enjoyed playing the first NecroVision (although it got a tad bit boring near the end), so getting Lost Company seemed like an obvious move. Bashing and shooting my way through the first level I got an intense feeling of déjà vu – didn’t I play this before? “Nah – it’ll pass” I thought to myself. And then I finished the level, and the next one, and… the feeling only intensified. Not only did the gameplay feel the same (that I did expect) but, to me, both the enemies, the locations and the weapons seemed like a sorry rip-off of the first part. I mean – sure – there were new ones and the graphics were (somewhat) improved but in the thick of it hardly felt as I was playing a sequel/prequel. More like… that’s it! A stand-alone expansion pack! To me, that’s what LC is – a glorified expansion pack. Sure, it contains new stuff, but it doesn’t help the fact you’re still bashing the same old zombies with the same old methods and only a couple of new tricks. And for the most part, that’s what both NecroVisions are all about – slaughtering wave after wave of similar enemies.

As I mentioned, the first NecroVision really bored me near the end (after wave, after wave, after… of enemies I just had enough) so the fact that NV:LC brings, in my opinion, only minor improvements (you even get the same “magic glove” with the exact same abilities) didn’t really remedy the problem. It still was fun, but it got repetitive and boring even faster than before.

True, you now can fly a plane for a short while (and with awkward controls, nonetheless) and trample some zombies with a tank. Yes, the maps are new, there are a couple of new guns and enemies and the graphics are overly better. But unfortunately, all of this doesn’t change the fact that, at its core, only slightly refurbished NecroVision you probably already know.

My advice? If you haven’t played the previous NV and really want to bash some zombies – start with Lost Company. If you loved NV so much that you just couldn’t get enough of it – but LC now! It you kinda liked NV but got your fill – well – wait until you’ll want to play it again and then go for the LC.

75

Very good design & atmosphere / not so good combat

Jahman | April 7, 2011 | Review of Cryostasis

When I started playing Cryostasis I was expecting something like a high-res version of Penumbra. While I was by no means disappointed by it, having finished it I now think that missed my prediction by a mile.

The atmosphere may be equally deep - both the ships dark interior and the enemy/character models go great lengths to reinforce the feeling of loneliness and danger – but the combat parts of the game quickly dispel the notion of slow, stealth-based gameplay. Don’t get me wrong – it’s by no means a bad thing – but I personally think that Cryo would be a lot better off without the clumsy punching & shooting (without cross-hair) and jumping around, trying to dodge loads of bullets and other monster’s attacks . It’s just not very good at it.

What the game is really good at is showing off its visual candy (lots of it), telling a decent story and using ‘Mental Echo’ gimmick. I truly enjoyed traversing the giant ship and was really intrigued by its history. I loved the “ice and snow” mechanics (the way it’s ever-present, the way its rendered and how it was used by developers to, say, temporarily block off some areas), but the ‘Echo’, while very innovative, often proved to be also quite frustrating as I had to die a couple of times before I event figured how, where and what I am supposed to do. On a brighter note, the ‘warmth instead of health’ aspect is a nice touch, although while hugging another fireplace I couldn’t shake the feeling of it being much too similar to the auto-regenerating health thingy coupled with often decreasing health level to keep you moving faster.

85

Thankfully, not a botched sequel

Jahman | April 7, 2011 | Review of Commandos 2: Men of Courage CAP

Commandos 2: Men of Courage is an honest successor to the first part in the series and it's expansion.

While the gameplay remains mostly the same, it brings in a couple of new characters (like the thief), loads of new skills and actions (such as climbing up the walls or entering buildings through windows). This alone is more than enough to want to jump right back into WW2 action after finishing the first part of the series.

Unfortunately, while the graphics have vastly improved, the introduction of the 3D building interiors was, in my opinion, not the best idea. It's not always the case, but often, coupled with awkward the camera work and pixelated objects in the 3D environment, you won't notice the enemy until you walk right into him. Still, the higher resolution levels are much more visually pleasing than the one in the previous installments.

Simply put, Commandos 2 is as much fun as the first part if not more. New additions really improve the gameplay and, while it still requires a lot of patience, improve the pace and add many new solutions to the presented challenges.

My favorite way of playing consisted mostly of clearing the entire map, one German at a time, and while it might sound monotonous, believe me - it was fun - and that alone says something about the game.

75

Commandos - still as good as ever

Jahman | April 7, 2011 | Review of Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines CAP

The first in the series and already awesome.

Granted, playing Commandos does require a lot of patience and if this is your first time with the series you may find it difficult to master the controls and skills of all the commandos, but once you do you're in one hell of a ride.

The levels are nicely varied and the tools and abilities that each member of the team has to offer make this gameplay far from boring. It has to be said that the fixed-point rotation of the camera can be a nuisance and takes some getting used to, but the possibility to view enemy's line of sight and the option to view multiple points of the map at once pretty much balances that out. Even though the difficulty is rather high, the graphics are visibly dated and the maximum resolution is low, the gameplay value still remains high and there is hardly another game outside this series that can offer similar experience.

Simply put, Commandos has that "special something" that may pull you in for hours, despite what you may think of the graphics or controls.

81

The Golden Gobliiins

Jahman | April 7, 2011 | Review of Gobliiins Trilogy

Gobliiins games may not be as popular as many of the other 90's adventure series, but they are still prime examples of an adventure game's golden era.

All games in the trilogy offer a very pleasing visual experience despite their age (maybe except for the interface), distinct characters and a large dose of humor. It is this "tongue-in-cheek" attitude that makes them truly memorable and offsets the annoyances I will mention in a moment.

What you have to remember about Gobliiins games is that they're quite difficult and sometimes require the player to use a unique brand of logic to solve the presented challenges. Add to that the possibility of losing if you fail too many times (in the first game) or the need to synchronize the actions of more than one player character (in the second) and the experience may become irritating for a casual gamer.

On the other hand the riddles, while far from simple or straightforward, are often very rewarding to solve and then to be jokes themselves.

In short: those who like old-school adventure games will surely enjoy Gobliiins trilogy a lot. It does require some patience & it will often have you not knowing to do next, but it is rewarding and it is sure to make you laugh out loud at least one.

Also - for me the games work perfectly on a modern machine running Windows 7.

80

Running around, punching Condemned

Jahman | April 7, 2011 | Review of Condemned: Criminal Origins CAP

Condemned is a great example of a console port that does not blatantly feel like one.

The game is a gritty, dark FPS with strong emphasis on melee combat. Given a wide variety of weapons like fire axe or wooden plank (complete with RPG-like statistics to compare them), only an occasional range weapon with limited ammo and a taser, the games manages to pull off one of the best close combat fighting experience I've ever encountered in the genre. The controls are far from clumsy and executing different strikes, dodging, blocking and finishing your enemies is simply a bundle of fun.

The story may be a little slow to progress & a little hard to follow, but in my opinion it is still rather enjoyable. The game could sure use a few more enemy models (as they tend to repeat quite often) and the "detective" parts are simply far too easy.

On the other hand, the game also offers a lot of engaging storyline moments and both the "and then he suddenly jumps at you from a dark corner" and “as you hear him shambling down the corridor” mechanics tends to work pretty well coupled with close quarter combat.

All in all, if you like intense, fast-paced and brutal combat with a dose of horror and without a feeling of being yet another overpowered army dude, Condemned will surely provide.

50

(Yet another) Space Siege... in space!

Jahman | April 6, 2011 | Review of Space Siege CAP

Space Siege is simply a nice, old-fashioned, sci-fi hack'n'slash.

It does have decent graphics, nice gameplay flow, rather varied environments & enemies. The "one for ranged and one for close combat" mechanic works pretty well. It also allows you to enhance your skills in either the "humanity" or "cybernetics" tree and it does tell A story. Of the nicer things, it also allows you to build & upgrade your own robot-pet that will assist you in combat.

Unfortunately, while still enjoyable and offering a pleasant experience, it hardly brings any innovation to the genre, the variety of the environment quickly wears off and the skill progression does not really influence gameplay that much. All that leaves you with a somewhat repeatable and boring struggle against waves and waves of the same old aliens in the same old corridors as you embark on a yet another "go there, do that, come back" quest to progress the story.

All in all, this is a game for those who simply love h'n's and finished their favorite games enough times already to want to try something new. It's very far from perfect, but also by no means bad.

75

The good Protocol that could have been better...

Jahman | April 6, 2011 | Review of Alpha Protocol

Alpha Protocol is a real gem. Nice, big 'n shiny but, unfortunately, also terribly unpolished and with a of cracks.

The biggest pros: awesome character design, very good spy/secret agent plot, intuitive & fun conversation system, important choices that truly stick with you up until the ending and have real impact on the story, varied locations all over the world, loads of customization via outfits, weapons & gadgets. The game also offers some memorable moments like truly original quests or situations in which the given the choice of different locations to visit the characters responses will change depending on the order in which you have completed the missions (like one being annoyed that you chose to visit him last).

The biggest cons: the combat is mediocre at best, some skills are greatly overpowered (like invisibility) while others are equally underpowered (pick SMG's & shotguns as your main weapons & you're pretty much toast), the graphics are hardly stunning and the animations tend to be terribly stiff. Also the stealth & cover mechanics tend to be flunky, which leads to the situations when the enemies sometimes seem to see you through objects or you can't really tell if an object or wall can be flattened against to until you try. Also, while lock picking and hacking mini-games are fun when using a gamepad, completing them using keyboard & mouse can be quite frustrating.

A little more: Alpha Protocol is rather hard to sum up in a single sentence or state that it’s good or bad. The game is an example of truly awesome design plagued by a lot of wasted potential and mediocre gameplay. If it's only the combat you're looking for - look somewhere else. But if you can look past the gameplay flaws, you will really enjoy what Alpha Protocol has to offer, especially when it comes to the story, characters and choices you will have to make.

85

Great example of how to make a true horror game

Jahman | April 5, 2011 | Review of Penumbra Black Plague

Penumbra as a series is a rare example of the fact that games can invoke a true feeling of horror in a player and don’t have to use “and then is suddenly jumps at you” mechanics to do it.

The Black Plague, second of the three parts of Penumbra trilogy, is probably the best of the lot. While the storyline is a direct continuation of the first one, Overture, the areas the player visits are much more varied, ranging from abandoned labs to alien-looking corridors, and the tale of Phillip progresses by leap and bounds.

The game, like its predecessor still offers a rather pleasant if straightforward puzzles, most of them physics-based, memorable moments and some nice plot twists.

The best part of the game is, however, the constant feeling of danger, lurking just around the corner, and hopelessness in the face of the monsters and the unknown. It is truly amazing how the designers managed to use concepts, such as somewhat clumsy physics and the necessity to do even simple things, like opening doors, not by clicking a button but by performing life-like motions using a mouse, and the lack of proper weapons to force the player to rethink twice each move they take. After all, facing an “infected” head-on in Penumbra rarely ends with a player staying in one piece…

While the game’s controls can cause some frustrating moments and learning to navigate the infected-filled corridors can be difficult, the atmosphere and the storyline more than make up for it.

In short, Penumbra is hardly a game for the faint of heart, easily frustrated or those that simply can’t stand a game forcing them to sit still in a dark for a minute of two. On the other hand, if you love games with thick atmosphere, the jolt of adrenaline as you sprint down the corridor & bar the door behind you to escape the monster you can’t even look at or the felling of fright as it lurks just on the other side of the wall, looking for a way in… Penumbra Black Plague is the perfect game for you.

90

After all these years - still a masterpiece!

Jahman | April 5, 2011 | Review of Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition DNS

Deus Ex is one of those games that only ages in terms of graphics. In all other aspects it remains a true masterpiece, impervious to the passage of time.

Most of the tasks the player is faced with can be handled via stealth, diplomacy, bribe or a simple, straightforward “gun them down” approach. Not only that, but the awesome level design makes each of those paths equally satisfying and rewarding. Still, it has to be said that combat mechanics does take some getting used to, but it’s fairly balanced by the a wide variety of weapons & the possibility to customize your character via wide choice of nanotech-augmentations and skills.

While the graphics can be somewhat appalling at first, it can always be remedied with the use of proper mods – both when it comes to environment & characters. Even without them, believe me, it’s worth suffering through, especially for the great storyline, unforgettable characters and multiple endings that Deus Ex offers.

To put it brief, while Deus Ex may be dated and no longer visually stunning , it is still one of those great examples of the age when games were made with true passion and innovation in mind that gave it that special “something” that makes you want to play it no matter how old it is.

90

For those that still can't get enough of Tyria

Jahman | April 5, 2011 | Review of Guild Wars: Eye of the North

Contrary to the games included in the Guild Wars Trilogy, Eye of the North is more of an expansion pack than a full-blown campaign. While it offers a great deal of varied content & greatly enchances gameplay, it does not unlock any new professions or character slots & does require the player to have at least a decent-powered character.

One of the best features of the EotN is that it does not only give you more of the same. For one, most of the storyline is now split into 3 mission paths – those of Azura, Norn and the Vanguard – each taking the player to a different part of Tyria and neither requiring to finish the whole path before pursuing another one. What has really changed, in comparison to the GW Trilogy, is the fact that the missions themselves are not only much more cinematic & engaging, but also offer the players a much more satisfying rewards such as an ability to recruit certain storyline characters as heroes & skills unique to the allays the player is supporting (like the transformation skills of the Norn or “technology” of the Azura).

While the main story is still kept on a very high level and is an integral part of the game, it is in the seemingly minor things that the Eye of the North really shines. Things like brawls, one-on-one Norn Fighting Tournament or new reward/reputation scheme of clearing combat-areas of enemies can provide true a breath of fresh air.

Another new concept that EotN introduces are the dungeons. While the previous instalments did offer long & difficult sets of areas, the ones introduced in the expansions not only increase the difficulty greatly but also require to construct many new tactics due to the varied challenges they offer. On top of that, both the theme and the main boss each of those dungeons is unique enough so that it’s really hard to get bored while exploring them.

Eye of the North also offers a little thing that can go a long way when it comes to players that prefer to play solo. Namely – it adds a lot of new heroes which coupled with the recently-added possibility to add up to 7 heroes into your party can enable them to create their own “dream-teams” and face the new challenges without the frustration of managing the under-powered henchmen.

To sum up, while not as grand as the previous games in the series and not really the most revolutionary part of them all, the EotN is nothing to be frowned at. It provides many great experiences & introduces a lot of variety to the already rich world of Guild Wars. Top that with a possibility to pass some of one’s achievements into Guild Wars 2 and it becomes a “must-buy” for any fan of the original Trilogy.

95

The Guild Wars like none other...

Jahman | April 4, 2011 | Review of Guild Wars Trilogy

While the market these days may appear to be swamped with all sorts of MMORPGs, both subscription-based & free-to-play, with themes ranging from fantasy, through sci-fi to gang wars, there has yet to be one as unique & enchanting as the Guild Wars.

(For those undecided but frightened by large amounts of words – there’s a “tl;dr” version at the end.)

First of all – the Guild Wars Trilogy contains three main Guild Wars games. While each is “stand-alone” & can be played without owning the others, the campaigns are not only vastly varied but also elegantly connected so that they are best played as a whole. Due to this the Trilogy pack is really a great idea for anyone who wants to give GW a try.

What really needs to be noted first is that the game is not really a “massive” mass-multiplayer only RPG, but rather a “cooperative” one. While the players do interact in a traditional manner in non-combat parts of the world (cities, settlements, etc.) the largest part of the game takes place in instance-based areas & missions (much like the “raids” in other games). This means that the both the party roster (of up to 8 players and/or computer-controlled henchmen & heroes) & the skills of each player have to be selected before exiting each town, as they cannot be changed without returning to the settlement.

While this may seem like a down side, it also allows for a gameplay very different from other internet-based RPGs and, in my opinion, a much more engaging one. For one, an instanced-based areas allow to unfold story events that are directly linked to current players’ quest s & require the team to cooperate as they know that no one is coming to their aid.

A truly unique feature of Guild Wars however is the class/skill system. While each of the player’s characters must choose a main profession (such as Ranger or Necromancer) that grants them powerful abilities of given class it is almost the only constant thing about them there is. Each time the player visits a settlement he or she can fully redistribute her attributes & choose different skills, so that rather than have a single “specialization” they can adapt to the situation they will be facing . Later in each campaign player can also unlock all other professions & use them as secondary ones, thus creating combinations like warrior/monks or ranger/mesmers.

The “cost” of such freedom is that each character can only equip a total of 8 skills at the same time. While this may not seem like much, the proper choice of skills & the search for the perfect set for any given challenge greatly adds to the experience & prevents the players from falling into the trap of constant, monotonous button-mashing. It also encourages the party to create sets that work well together and further deepens the cooperative aspect of the game.

Where the Guild Wars truly shines however is the story & setting. To be most precise – the three stories that the trilogy tells, as each of the campaigns is a separate one. Though very different from each other – from typical-fantasy land of Tyria, through oriental Cantha into the North-African-themed Elona – each presents the players a finely crafted, unpredictable and engaging story at the same time guiding them through beautiful landscapes of each realm. Each is also filled with moments that tend to remain with the player for long, though it’s hard to bring up any examples without spoiling some of the game’s events.

As for the “Trilogy” aspect, it’s worth noting that each of the games unlocks new professions, like Assassin in Factions and Dervish in Nightfall that the player can later access in all of the other campaigns. They also introduce new concepts like Faction-controlled areas (that grant bonuses to players that declare allegiance to given side of the conflict) or highly customizable heroes that can assist player in combat.

While the Guild Wars games sure have their flaws, like a bit dated graphics, some fetch-quests and some tedious battles, the sheer number of areas & quests the player can explore, the uniqueness of combat system and the true variety of each campaign makes them seem really small in comparison.

As for the final point, what is really my favourite thing about Guild Wars is that it is almost constantly updated with new content while at the same time keeping the micro-transactions aspect almost invisible. This includes not only regular balancing updates and festivities like Wintersday or Canthan New Year, but even whole story lines & new challenges presented to the players. It’s like you’re buying a game once and then it just keeps expanding on its own!

Now for the promised “tl;dr”: * It’s stands out from the rest. * Awesome story & campaign settings. * Rather “cooperative” than “massive” – you can’t change party roster on the fly, but you do get to control more than one character at once (through henchmen & heroes). * Unique skill/profession systems – yes, you are limited to 8 skills at once, but you’re not limited to single specialization/class. * Three awesome games in one elegant pack and for a great price too – really – what are you waiting for? Buy it already ;).