Reviews by gwynplaine
cake and stuffgwynplaine | Dec. 5, 2013 | Review of Portal
If you missed this, you missed a piece of gaming culture. It's a game with a novel gameplay mechanic - the portal gun - and embeds it into the Source Engine. It plays like the jumping puzzles from Half life, which are not that hard. There are advanced levels too for gamers looking for more than a challenge.
But it's so much more than a simple puzzle game because of the polish that Valve puts into its games. From the humor in the script, the inanimate sidekick, to the song at the end, the game dug itself into many people's brains.
I can think of a few games today that rely on references and old internet memes for its humor. Games like Guacamelee and Borderlands take old memes and ride on other people's jokes for laughs. Portal - think of all the fanart and catchphrases from that game. It was a big part of internet culture in the late 2000s. It's still very enjoyable so get it. It's not too late to catch up.
tied to the tracksgwynplaine | Dec. 4, 2013 | Review of Hitman: Absolution
A big part of the charm of the previous games was the open level design and the freedom to tackle the objective from any angle. The closed off sandbox feel of the game let you end the level in minutes or a lot longer.
The on rails experience here really detracts from the experience. There are a number of ways to kill the target but it's just cosmetic. Gunplay is another way to blast through the game and it's passable here. No more pistol juggling with the ballers, unfortunately.
I would recommend the older Hitman titles over this one. If you like cinematic shooters then this is okay too.
on par with Resident Evil 4gwynplaine | Dec. 4, 2013 | Review of Resident Evil 5
RE4 gets a lot of praise for inventing the over the shoulder third person shooter and its great design and RE5 gets slagged for not doing the same. But it's very enjoyable as its own game and its own merits. It's not as bad as critics have said it is and is very fun in co op with a friend (there's a split screen mod too).
The storyline and cutscenes as with 4 too is full of b movie zombie cliches, ham fisted dialogue and hilarity - just the way it should be.
The guns and tank controls are great in this game. it's one of the few games where the guns pack a kick, recoil and punch to it - heads are popped and limbs are downed. This is one of things which they got wrong in RE6, in my opinion at least.
Good game for two players, and Sheva is great eye candy too.
incredible value for moneygwynplaine | Dec. 4, 2013 | Review of Left 4 Dead 2
This game has everything - versus, horde, 2 free DLC campaigns, the campaigns from L4D1, workshop additions and continuing updates and more. There is a tremendous horde of content in this game.
It was revolutionary when it came out (well it did come out not shortly after the first one) and did more for the zombie genre than Resident Evil ever did, and has since reinvigorated the zombie craze. The shooting is tight, graphics and design are top notch and there's enough variety killing the different kinds of infected. The personal touches and characterization are great too and you can't expect less from Valve.
best from the fourth person perspectivegwynplaine | Dec. 4, 2013 | Review of The Walking Dead
The puzzles aren't as deep or taxing as most point and clicks but the mechanics aren't too shallow. It's not wholly worth playing for gamers who like "gameplay" but it's perfect for the non gamer in the house and to watch over their shoulder when they are playing to soak in the story and help out when they're stuck.
The animated comic look is really unique and probably the most well done part of the game. Cell shading has been done before but never this good.
If you like the walking dead - either the comics or the show then it's for you, obviously. If not, and you like zombies, it's a good starting point to jump into the series.
niko bellic and friendsgwynplaine | Nov. 27, 2013 | Review of Grand Theft Auto IV: Complete Edition
The game was a chunky system hog when it was released in 2008 and never optimized from then. But any modern mid tier systems a couple years later should be able to run it fine. Getting a smooth 60 fps is another story though and you will need a top end system for that.
The mods available in this game are astounding if you have the system for it too.
The game itself is memorable for the Slavic accents and the big American titties line, and not much else. It's far more fun to just mess around in the city. Lost and the Damned is a weaker entry in the series but the Ballad of Gay Tony makes up for it. Multiplayer is dead these days but there's always the new GTA to look forward to if you want some online action.
OG Fisher split jumping and busting capsgwynplaine | Nov. 27, 2013 | Review of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (NA)
This game started it all – the whole stealth genre. Metal Gear was about everything else plus stealth and a game like Thief was a niche title, but Sam Fisher brought stealth to the console masses and this was a killer app at the time. Finding places to split jump and killing from above was just too cool a thing to pass on a decade ago. Now the game is a bit dated in terms of how it looks and how Sam animates and controls, but it contains all the elements of the classic Splinter Cell series – shadows, precise aiming, stealth over shooting and no instant kills. The level design in this game and the next Splinter Cells go back to a time when games were designed with more of an open feel. It’s a refreshing change from the on rails experiences of modern Splinter Cell games.
same bat mechanic, same bat gamegwynplaine | Nov. 11, 2013 | Review of Batman Arkham Origins
Let's get this out of the way first. If you compare Arkham Origins to what's come before, then it's nothing special and nothing new. It reuses a lot of the map and assets and the gameplay changes and additions are even more incremental this time around. It's more of the same, and if you haven't had enough then by all means play this one.
Unlike the "rising tide" climax and buildup in Arkham Origins, the story starts off a bit slow, and then has a lot of highs and lows all over the place, like a radio signal. It definitely is the most cinematic in the series and has the most Hollywood action blockbuster kind of plot an cutscenes.
The game stays true to its formula, so if you've played either of the Bat games before you know what you're getting.
teaches you what the heck a couched lance isgwynplaine | Nov. 4, 2013 | Review of Mount and Blade Collection
That's when you hold the lance tight against you and use it to ram the other guy, just like in jousting tournaments. The game is a long adventure in single player that eventually and hopefully "snowballs" when you upgrade your units and have an all star team of NPCs. There are twists and turns in the campaign, but building up your character to own on the battlefield and sieges is what defines the game.
Multiplayer is a different affair - where you're not the star of the show but just another foot soldier. It's definitely more challenging and may be more fun for deathmatch and multiplayer fans.
The game comes with plenty of mod support and is an enormous amount of value for what you pay. There's something for everyone in this game.
Batman: face kicking and bone breaking editiongwynplaine | Nov. 2, 2013 | Review of Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year
If you want to get both Arkham games, play this one first. If you only get one, I would advise the sequel.
This game blew me away at release. At first it looked like another generic Unreal Engine "Gears of Bat" type game, but it differentiated itself quickly. I've replayed it recently and it still holds up well, even though the controls are stiffer than its sequel. The combos in this game are still very smooth and flows along. Batman picking up momentum as his combo meters goes up and then cartwheeling across an entire dining hall gymnast style and booting a thug in the face is probably the best part of the game.
The plot had a lot of hooks and a "driving" feel to it. That's what made you progress - the sense of immanency and expediency that made it feel like you had to hurry up and kick thugs in the face to get to the next area, all because Gotham was at stake. It's hard to describe but the game was very well paced and tightly constructed in terms of plotting and level design.
Batman at his bestgwynplaine | Nov. 2, 2013 | Review of Batman Arkham City: Game of the Year
With the removal of GFWL, it's a good idea to revisit this title. The game is running an optimized version of the Unreal engine and runs very smooth.
This is an absolute must try when it's on sale - especially if you haven't played Arkham Asylum. The mechanics, controls, bat gliding, gadgets and gameplay in general are improved in this sequel and it's a joy to play as the Bat. The core mechanics are definitely better than the first game, which feels a bit stiff.
I think the standout thing in this game is the world building, the atmosphere, and AAA production value. As someone who used to read Bat comics, there's a lot of callbacks, and references to issues of great good Batman stories. There's an amazing amount of content too. For completionists, there's always something else to do after the main quest.
As for the score, it's always hard to assign an arbitrary number to a piece. I thought it did what it set out to do really well, but after being blown away by Asylum, City was not as big of a game changer for me. I thought the story was forgettable, though I'm not a fan of Paul Dini. Still a good title to get.
stick thin recovering addict vs a 300lb chainsaw wielding maniacgwynplaine | Oct. 30, 2013 | Review of Killing Floor: Reggie the Rocker Character Pack
Reggie, the punk rocker with an indecipherable Manchesterian or some other northern England accent as one of the better DLC characters in Killing Floor. As good or better than the Domestic Assistance Robot. He's got a new voice actor (woow sonny) and as lithe as the female character models in the game. I've had remarks that he's ugly when in game but I suppose that's a good conversation starter?
He's a definite buy if you ever wanted to play a character who looks Super Hans from Peep Show or any of the Rolling Stones when they were in their sunset years.
Underrated budget title, but deeper than a lot of AAA releasesgwynplaine | Oct. 27, 2013 | Review of How to Survive
How to Survive is a good mix of established genres. The genres that shine through most are lite action RPG and twin stick shooters. The combat is simple but very satisfying. Most action RPGs are just click fests where you specialize one or two keys and spam one key or two keys irrespective of the situation (think Torchlight 2), but this game addresses by having a simple combo system and the need to switch it up between melee and ranged weapons. If you've played the Diablo 3, it's the same sort of principle - very simple combos but very satisfying.
The game is really short but looks like it will be continued to be supported through DLC.
The local co-op in this game is really fun too. The game is on the easy side, unfortunately, but if you find someone who is absolutely bad at games it makes it more challenging because they'll scare off the animals you need to hunt and put themselves in all sorts of precarious positions with the different types of zombies. Resources seem to be scarcer too in co-op so that'll be another challenge. Your characters slow down if you don't have enough food or water to share, or if you can't get any sleep. If your co-op partner is good, well you can always sit back and enjoy some relaxing zombie smashing action together
One big open world story mission in Hong Konggwynplaine | Oct. 26, 2013 | Review of Sleeping Dogs Pack
Sleeping Dogs was a positive experience for me because it takes inspiration from Hong Kong films and tackled a setting that’s fairly new and different for videogames. I think the atmosphere and maybe the story would be the most astounding part of the game for people who have not been exposed to Hong Kong films and culture, and less impressive for people who already know the source material. There’s a fair amount of content and things to do– it’s not gargantuan and you’ll be done in 20 hours or so. The story DLC is well worth it and are inspired by different genres of Hong Kong film (martial arts and horror). The combat is brutal and bone crunching and it’s neat to progress and unlock more and better skills as you play. It’s a one and done sort of game and I didn’t find anything else remarkable in the game. I think it would be most easily compared to the Assassin’s Creed series rather than GTA as most other reviewers have put it. It’s easy to play through and progress in the game and it’s played for the story. The GTA series is slightly (not much more difficult) and the emphasis is both on messing around between missions as well as the story. I personally found the world of Sleeping Dogs less fun as a sandbox environment. It's basically one huge level going from mission to mission.
Satisfying gunplaygwynplaine | Oct. 25, 2013 | Review of Max Payne 3
I only played the original Max Payne at release and a bit of 2 recently.. but they haven't aged too gracefully. Rockstar does their own take on it and there is definitely their stamp and flair all over it, for better or worse.
The story is typical Rockstar - take inspiration from a bunch of movies and turn it into a game. Man on Fire is a definite influence, and I wouldn't be surprised if they saw Pixote or City of God. The RAGE engine is on full display and much improved from GTA IV. Multiplayer is typical Rockstar too - unlockable loadouts and various run around, kill and die, spawn randomly modes. All of it is very familiar, depending on how much of their games you've played. If you haven't it's definitely worth playing. If you have, and you really like their work, it's also worth it.
The main standout in this game is the precision gunplay. The headshots and diving are as satisfying as the first game. The game is also very well optimized for PC.
good and clever game design philosophygwynplaine | Oct. 25, 2013 | Review of Bulletstorm (NA)
Bulletstorm has bare bones writing and characterization that's ok for a rare laugh. Parody is not a good excuse for poor writing but of course, nobody plays a shooter for a story, right?
It's a shooter but doesn't play a lot like one because the designers lay out very small bits of what they want you to do, and compels you to act out the bite sized objectives they thought of with the incentive of cool animations and a higher score. You are constantly aware of your surroundings, and you have to shoot and constantly readjust to get the most out of the game (all the skill kills).
It's not just cover and shoot or cover and dodge like most shooters. It gives you a lot of freedom and you can play it exactly like Call of Duty but then you might as well shut down the game. I thought the game was very cleverly designed at least and did something different in the shooter space.
The multiplayer co-op horde mode is pretty dead but I don't think you'd be missing much.
for people who don't know they are playing platformersgwynplaine | Oct. 25, 2013 | Review of Trials Evolution Gold Edition (NA)
I suggest trying the demo first because there are frequent crashing, stuttering and performance issues on a wide range of computers. Technical issues and poor porting knock off several points - otherwise it would be an easy 90+ game for me.
If you're blessed enough to play it perfectly, the core game itself is astounding. It's a platformer at heart but infused with a lot of racing. The controls are bare simple (back, forward, accelerate, brake) but the physics engine and fine tuning is so robust enough such that you can do advanced moves like wall grabs, flips and precise wheel landing to take advantage of maintaining momentum.
I'm still in the top 5000 in the leaderboards out of 2.5 million on the console version of Trials Evolution, and did very well on the extreme tracks but it doesn't mean much. The game is very competitive and always challenges you to better your time. The game is robust enough so that the top 10 or so players in the leaderboards are literally worlds better than the top 50, and the top 50 better than the 100, and so forth. The players at the top of this game are amazing and robot-like in their precision, and it's possible because the game engine is that good even with such basic controls.
a very competent zombie action gamegwynplaine | Oct. 24, 2013 | Review of Dead Rising 2
I really enjoyed DR2. It’s completely tongue in cheek and over the top (a direction the Resident Evil games were pushing to a bit, but not all the way). Gritty zombies are kind of inane if you think about how ridiculous the situation really is. I’m sure there are people who watch the Walking Dead and laugh at the inadvertently funny moments. You don’t have to worry about that because almost the entire mood of DR2 is stupid fun and ridiculousness - motorized wheechair with mounted machine guns and a Stephen Hawking voice, anyone? Ya, that's in the game.
The game is misunderstood by some on a design level too. Without time restrictions built into the game, it would be way too easy. Even with the restrictions it’s possible to do completely all the missions and bonuses if you know your way around. There’s a lot of hidden stuff that I found out only with guides too. There’s kind of a sandbox mode if you fail the main mission but that’s about it. It gets ragged on for not having a sandbox mode but I guess its gamers like options. Can’t please everyone. GFWL may be patched out in the future too so that may be a positive for some.
pure gamegwynplaine | Oct. 23, 2013 | Review of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition (NA)
Dark Souls is a great game because it offers a unique experience. I played Demon’s Souls but not any of the King Field’s games and there are very, very few games that have the aesthetic and hand crafted encounters and enemy placement that Dark Souls has. The game controls differently too with weapon weight and a cool control scheme if you use a controller.
People fundamentally like novel things and Dark Souls really delivered it more so than any other game that has come out recently.
Once you know the levels, tricks behind upgrading and how to approach and pull in different enemies, the game kind of loses its magic, but it’s still very, very engaging. It can surprise you too and routinely kill you if you’re ever over confident and think you can rush in the later levels with your +15 upgraded sword and full Havel's rock suit.
The lore and story in Dark Souls are praised by most players too. It's completely out of the way and you can get into it only IF you want to.
The only problem was that I found the PC version a bit lacking in terms of multiplayer. There’s not a big player base compared to the console version so it felt barren. Of course it was client to client too so you had cheaters that were common too. That took away from the experience but if you prefer solo play, or have some friends to run through it, it’s perfect. Deathmatch and pvp are all right because of the dueling arena due to the added DLC.
grand strategy without the blobbinggwynplaine | Oct. 23, 2013 | Review of Crusader Kings II
A common problem to a lot of grand strategy games is the tendency to blob. There’s a critical point where if you’re successful enough in Europa Universalis, Civ or Total War, the momentum keeps building and your color on the map keeps swallowing other parts.
If you don’t abuse saves and loads in this game, it happens a lot more rarely. The family dynasty overlaid on top of empire building is a really exciting and nerve racking and frustrating game. Better for the hardcore fan who’s had enough of the other big strategy games.
The DLC for this game is a big racket though and hard to keep track of. A lot of people do recommend this as a first strategy game but with the hours that it seems to take up, it’s ridiculous DLC and emphasis on dynasties, I think Europa is a better choice.
More than the sum of its partsgwynplaine | Oct. 23, 2013 | Review of Killing Floor
Killing Floor is very old school - the requirements are low, the engine is old, it doesn't tell you much about the most efficient way to play it, and it's stuffed full of gameplay and mechanics.
The gunplay is top notch and very satisfying - all the weapons feel unique and have a satisfying kick to them.
I have over 350 hours in the game and it gives you a lot of variety to play with, especially if you play on harder difficulties. Just to mention a bit of it there's double hitboxes, run and gun (kiting) vs camping, speed kill techniques, melee locks and different kinds of stuns and a bunch of different classes. For a co-op shooter, there is A LOT of internalize and learn.
The only problem is it's kind of oblique and you need to really dig through a wiki and look at how other players play it to get the most out of it.
flares are a must havegwynplaine | Oct. 23, 2013 | Review of Killing Floor: Community Weapon Pack
The flares are so overpowered but fun. For firebugs, they finally allow that perk to decently engage scrakes from normal all the way to hell on earth difficulty. They're extremely useful for berserkers off perking too to one shot small zeds and apply burn damage to the rest.
All the rest are novelty weapons, in my opinion. The scythe was immediately nerfed upon reelase and the buzzsaw bow is a bit expensive and ammo limited to be useful.