Reviews by RyanFitz

85

Brilliantly manic old-school shooter

RyanFitz | July 31, 2013 | Review of Painkiller: Black Edition

Painkiller embodies a classic style of first-person shooting that seems to have become quite marginalised in recent times. Where now your Call of Duties dominate the battlefield, at one time most shooters were of a decidedly more arcade-ish persuasion. In the simpler times where Painkiller hails, there were no chest high walls to take cover behind; there was no regenerating health, no reflex scopes, no QTEs or stealth. Painkiller was all about throwing hordes of enemies at you while you ran around, spamming the space bar to jump, firing rockets and stakes and electrified shurikens at the bad guys, and laughing manically as they exploded in a shower of gore. The default weapon is a rotating sawblade on top of a staff that can be fired at enemies to obliterate them, or attached to a wall to create a laser beam that kills enemies who run into it. Let me say that again; this is the default weapon, the first thing you are given in the game. There are no crappy pistols. Only death.

Now I certainly have time for more considered shooting games But when I first started playing Painkiller, I can honestly say that I hadn't had that much fun with a shooter for a long time, to the point where I ignored everything else in my library so that I could play more Painkiller. Unsurprisingly, It quickly shot up to being one of my favourite FPS games, despite its stodgy cutscenes and the absence of any coherent level transitions.

Now, these are noticeable flaws with the game, but story isn't really why you're playing Painkiller, and who really cares how you got from the haunted cathedral to the secret military base, when all of the levels are designed so well? Indeed, the game constantly changes up its environments, which results in a great variety of enemy to shoot at as well. The game has tons of enemies, ranging from a "rocket hellangel" to a "supreme evil monk", or from a "zombie commander necromancer" to an "electro freak". Many of these enemies run at you screaming bloody murder, although there are certainly enough ranged foes to keep you busy.

Where the game does make a more egregious misstep is in its boss battles. They were unquestionably the most frustrating part of the game; there was often only one way to put them down, and their sweeping attacks would hit you hard. It was not the sort of frantic shooting that made the rest of the game so enjoyable, but a scurrying, desperate kind. Sure, it makes you feel like the insect that you are (at least in comparison to the bosses) but the gameplay is not as compelling. Luckily, these bosses only crop up at the end of each set of levels, and so don't quite get in the way as much.

Painkiller is not the most sophisticated shooter ever made. There are optional objectives to complete that will net you special powers, and a berserk-like system that enables you to essentially explode whatever enemies you can target for a short time after collecting enough "souls." But even here, the game flouts its singular direction: kill. There is nothing wrong with a single-minded determination; in fact, it was refreshing to play a game that seems to have set out to make you have fun above all else, and in that respect it was a resounding success.

70

Crysis past the Hype

RyanFitz | July 25, 2013 | Review of Crysis

Ah, Crysis. The game that released in 2007 that was nigh unplayable on PCs made in 2007. The game featured graphics that were beyond cutting edge, providing an expansive and immersive world, with rippling water, dappled shadows and translucent sunbeams. At the time of release, it was held to be amongst the best FPS games ever made, offering multiple solutions to its frequent battles with the Korean forces. The game has an excellent premise, great gameplay, and top of the range graphics.

And yet I often felt like I was forcing myself to continue, against a constant desire to stop playing.

That is not to say that it was not an enjoyable experience at times. I'll start off my commending the game's suit system, which allows you to engage the enemy in a variety of ways. There is the default "Maximum Armour" setting, which reduces damage taken and quickly regenerates your health; "Maximum Speed" which (unsurprisingly) let's you run incredibly quickly for incredibly short bursts; "Maximum Strength" which allows you to jump high into the air and makes melee hits OHKOs against all but the toughest of opponents; and finally the "Cloak" device which turns you invisible but drains depending on how fast you are moving. The combination of these four devices opens up an excellent range of options when faced with an enemy encampment, and is undoubtedly one of the game's greatest gameplay achievements. But it was simultaneously one of the things that made me want to stop playing - at least in the early stages.

When the suit system works, it is like a dream come true. Some of the greatest moments I had when playing this game - moments that truly were, in fact, some of the best I have had when playing an FPS - were down to the seamless integration of the suit mechanics and the shooting. My problem was that at the start of the game, before learning how to use the suit effectively, things were a lot less enjoyable. I would recommend treating the first level like a playground to test out how the suit works, or even look up a few simple tactics (part of the fun is figuring it out, but it would be nice to have more guidance in this respect).

A number of people have complained that the game tails off in the last third. I would agree that the final two levels are definitely the weakest, though for different reasons. Indeed, the levels preceding these were actually very good. However, I was unable to complete Crysis. As I said at the start, this was a game that was released in 2007 and was nigh unplayable on PCs made in 2007. Well, its final level is nigh unplayable on a PC made only last year. Even with all the graphics options switched to "low", Crysis is such a resource hog that the final level stutters, lags and crashes every time. Maybe it's just me, but I spent more time waiting for my computer to catch up than I did actually shooting. The game was using 97% of my computer's physical memory, and twice crashed entirely. I must have put over an hour and a half into the final mission, and it is a real shame that this was how my experience of Crysis came to an end.

Overall, Crysis is a decent shooter that has seen so much hype that it is a little difficult to go into it without immense expectations. I don't think that this game does live up to all the hype surrounding it. Play it and enjoy going through the motions, save your game frequently, and try out all the different tactics. Once you hit your stride, the game can become amazing, but it can too frequently get in its own way with the more frustrating elements.

96

The game that we both want and need!

RyanFitz | May 28, 2013 | Review of Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year -

Before I even start the review proper, let me just say that I am not really a big fan of DC at all. Batman is probably the best of the lot, primarily thanks to the eccentric cast of baddies that Batman must go up against - I find the vigilante hero himself a tad on the boring side.

But boy oh boy, this game is amazing.

Combat is beautifully fluid, with easily executed sweeps, leaps and counters. Most of the boss fights are epic and gratifying. Exploration is highly addictive, with a bunch of things to find over the course of your journey. Sound and voice acting are both top notch.

You need to pick this game up, don the cape, and become the Dark Knight. It's one hell of a ride.

93

Short but so so sweet

RyanFitz | May 28, 2013 | Review of Dishonored

This game is a dose of excellence. There truly are multiple ways to tackle each mission, whether you want to go fully stealthy, or full-out blazing guns! Choice is paramount here.

Beyond that, the environments, aesthetics, sound design all fit beautifully together. This is a very well made game that only really gets a grumble for me for being too short - but this very flaw is testament to how good the game is, that it leaves you wanting more.

In short, this is a wonderful game that doesn't outstay its welcome. Recommended.

66

A Game?

RyanFitz | May 20, 2013 | Review of Dear Esther

Dear Esther is definitely worth experiencing for the aesthetics and the haunting story that it tells, but it is a little too preoccupied with its own artistry to deliver a satisfying gaming experience. The semi-randomization might sound as though it allows for multiple play-throughs, but I found that the level of randomization was just not enough to make me want to go through the game again.

Moreover, this title was crying out for some sort of interaction beyond walking and jumping; one of the first things that I tried (and failed) to do was pick something up. Without that layer of interaction, you feel like you are no more than a passenger walking (very slowly) across the island.

Credit where credit is due, though: the game looks and sounds wonderful, with the faint music and soft-spoken voice doing a particularly good job of drawing you into the game world.

But the bottom line is that this is an interesting experiment with narrative, but not a game for everyone. And in all honesty, I believe that it lacks enough interactivity to take advantage of the medium on offer.

96

Brilliant

RyanFitz | May 10, 2013 | Review of The Walking Dead: A Telltale Game Series

Another of my favourite games of recent times, Telltale's "The Walking Dead" series is an astounding piece of interactive entertainment. A zombie game - a genre which has been as devoid of inspiration as the shuffling corpses are of life - but with the focus not on running and gunning. In this game, you will develop relationships with a varied cast of characters trying to stake out their existence in a Zombie-filled world.

And trust me when I say that this game delivers on those relationships - I can say without hesitation that this is a moving and emotive game. As the reviewer above said, whether you are incited to rage or brought to tears, the game allows you to experience more than just the thrill and fear that we may be accustomed to with previous entries into the zombie genre.

Although we do have the occasional annoyance of Quick Time events (as Yahtzee pointed out, I think this game tried to break my Q key) most of the game is dialogue and puzzle driven. Nearly all of the puzzles are realistic and straightforwards in their solutions - the craziness of previous Point & Click games is mostly missing. Significantly, it allows players to make choices that affect how other characters react to you, and choices you make can have an impact on the story outcomes of later episodes.

Indeed, the biggest commendation I can give to this game is that as soon as I had finished I loaded it up again for a second run, just to see what could have happened if I'd made different choices.

96

Countless hours of fun

RyanFitz | May 10, 2013 | Review of The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac has to be one of my all-time favourite games, not because it has cutting-edge graphics, an enthralling plot-line, or limitless complexity. It is brilliant for its simplicity.

This game is perfect for a short half hour, or a full evening's entertainment. You might end up dead within minutes, but you always want to have another go ("How could I let that thing kill me?!"). The thousands of possible combinations of special items that enhance your character stop the game from ever becoming stale, and the range of enemies certainly helps keep things fresh. Try crying explosive green tears, whilst farting toxic gas; dress up as your dead cat; become the Lord of the Flies with the ability to soar through the air; then die and do it all again. The fact that BoI near enough takes the player out of the equation in customizing the character means that you are never bogged down in statistic screens, and can just leap straight back into the action.

The graphics, whilst simple, are utterly compelling. Repulsing and attracting in equal measure, they fit the tone of the piece completely. I mentioned the plot earlier - what little scraps we are given between levels are just enough to plant the seed in the mind when confronted with all of these disgusting creatures. I am reminded in some ways of the symbolism of Silent Hill 2's enemies - which is an especially commendable given the 2D nature of the game.

Last but not least is the music and sound effects, nearly all of which are excellently suited to the game (some creatures late on have irritatingly high-pitched squeals, which may be one step too far!).

I cannot recommend this game enough. Buy it, get the DLC Wrath of the Lamb, and lose yourself in Isaac's world.