Reviews by gtammen

88

One of the best of 2012 got a little better

gtammen | March 2, 2013 | Review of Sleeping Dogs: Digital - Ultimate Bundle

This ultimate edition of Sleeping Dogs is the best deal for those who haven’t picked up Sleeping Dogs yet. It contains the most essential, non-game-breaking DLC.

Nightmare in North Point and Zodiac Tournament are quirky, standalone games that are a fun homage to anybody who enjoys Asian horror tropes (hopping zombies, revenge from the grave) and the “Enter the Dragon” movie. Each is roughly the humorous side of Sleeping Dogs condensed into 1 hour. The Swat and Street Racer pack give you new cars and perks (like guns in the trunks) for the main game.

For those unfamiliar with Sleeping Dogs, it was easily one of the best games of 2012. Characters were interesting; there were some intriguing story threads; combat mirrored Arkham Asylum; the graphics were gorgeous with the HD texture pack; and most important, it was fun to play!

The only real knocks against the game are that some of the story lines don’t go anywhere and feel disconnected from events that came before them (this happens very twice or so in the game), and the game downloads all the DLC to your drive even if you didn’t buy it. I found that annoying when running a SSD and having the game frequently downloading 900mb-1.5GB files that I couldn’t access without unlocking.

All in all, if you haven’t picked up Sleeping Dogs yet and aren’t sure what DLC is “essential” from its long list, this ultimate edition is the way to go.

74

More Shank... hooray?

gtammen | Feb. 8, 2013 | Review of Shank 2 (NA)

Shank 2 is the game that no one really asked for and one that probably won’t find a large audience. It’s too bad because Shank 2 is an improvement over the first game and one that fans of sidescrolling brawlers should check out.

Gone are the stiff controls that held the first game back. Shank 2's controls have been fine-tuned. This makes moving, dodging and attacking feel more immediate and fluid. As a result, the move-forward-killing-everything-and-everyone-in-your-path gameplay doesn’t feel so frustrating and hit and miss with responsiveness as the first game. That said, Shank 2 is mindlessly simplistic in its gameplay.

The story is a forgettable tale of revenge that’s there to move Shank to different environments and give a justification for the body count.

Where Shank 2 really shines is its visuals. The animated characters on the 2.5D backgrounds are arguably the biggest reason to play the game. The cutscenes have retained their gorgeous animation of grizzly killings.

Co-op seems nonexistent since it’s difficult finding other players online.

Overall, Shank 2 is a relatively fun, though ultimately forgettable, game.

85

Devilishly enjoyable

gtammen | Feb. 8, 2013 | Review of DmC: Devil May Cry dns

The Devil May Cry series has always felt unwelcoming to new comers, and after a stale fourth game, a sequel felt unnecessary. Fortunately, DmC, a reboot of sorts, is loads of fun to play and is likely to be one of the best games released this year.

Pros:

-Combat is frantic and controls are tight, despite naysayers. -Levels are visually creative and spectacular, where the limbo version playfully mirrors the real world version. -Controls can be remapped. -Lots of graphics options. -Game runs smooth and is dazzling on ultra settings. -Right amount of "dumb" in its story line to keep things fun and light. -Weapons are fun to use and combo. -Creative difficulty settings can be unlocked, such as one hit player-enemy options. -Harder difficulties don't just increase enemy health and numbers. Instead, tougher enemies are introduced earlier and in different pairings, and enemies have new attacks. -New ideas are introduced into the series such as demon/angel weapons only working on certain enemy types and new story threads. -Pokes fun at complaints of this new looking Dante.

Cons:

-Some of the rendered videos look a little low-res and washed out, especially at a 2560x1440 resolution and compared to the gameplay graphics. -Replay value may be low for some once the main story is completed. -Metal-ish dub-step music gets old. To be fair I hated the metal music of the original series. -Auto lock-on is usually smart, but when there are lots of enemies it can target the wrong ones and mess up combos.

Other thoughts:

-More Westernized than DMC 1-4. Whether that's good or bad is up to you. -With tons of combos, it's difficult to remember all of them and instead you'll find yourself relying on a quarter of them. Not a fault of the game, just reality.

65

A maddening and not so wonderous experience

gtammen | Feb. 8, 2013 | Review of Alice: Madness Returns (NA)

Alice: Madness Returns is not enjoyable. That's unfortunate because the original game, Alice, was a cult hit and one of my personal favorites for years after it was released in 2000.

The problem is that as a game, A:MR is not fun to play. The controls feel stiff and are often unresponsive during blocking and double jumps. Idea-wise the game hasn't evolved much from its 2000 predecessor. Here's the game in short: Get a fetch quest; venture into a new area and fight waves of enemies; fight with the controls and camera for some platforming; fight more enemy waves; backtrack and return item; repeat. This drags on for an unmerciful 15 hours minimum. I felt like after the first 2 hours I had seen everything the game had to offer.

Mechanics are also a big issue.

The ability to lock onto a target is great, especially when you're fighting a large group, but it's done very poorly here. Where other games will keep your character in fame so you have a sense of space, A:MR says 'nuts to that' and often removes Alice from the frame. That's problematic because it often leads to death either from falling off of the platform/battle arena because you can't see where the edges are and the holes in the floor, or death from enemies who sneak up beside or behind Alice when things are out of frame. Each enemy type requires a different combo/weapon to kill it, so swinging your knife wildly while Alice is out of frame and hoping to kill any unseen enemies won't work.

The autosaves/checkpoint system (there's not a save anywhere option) is infuriating. On many occasions it would not save before a huge fight, which after struggling with the camera and usually falling to my death, meant having to slog through an unskippable cutscene and 10-15 minutes of awkward platforming time and time again.

A:MR says its controller supported… but that's only when it feels like it. Despite having a 360 controller plugged in, many of the first-time prompts for important actions like blocking showed up as keyboard controls rather than 360 controls. That's a problem when you're expected to perform that action several times before advancing the game and but also figure out what two buttons need to be pressed on the controller to progress things. Combine this guesswork with a glitch where Alice doesn't block (no patch yet) and I was ready to rip my hair out the first time I was expected to do several blocks before proceeding.

The story also makes no sense. Yes, it's Wonderland and things aren't supposed to make sense, but now suddenly enemies are friends; bosses who were killed in the 2000 game are now alive; and some things are steampunk.

All this said, A:MR is a game modeled on more than decade-old mechanics with a fresh coat of paint. Save your money and your sanity.