Reviews by kufooru

90

A surprisingly engaging and thought-provoking masterpiece.

kufooru | July 2, 2013 | Review of Spec Ops: The Line

Now here is an unexpected gem. Despite the generic and run-of-the-mill vibe you might get when you first lay eyes on this game - partly due to the overflooded market of TPS military games and, yes, partly due to the rather unimaginative title - don't let that put you off, for beneath it's seemingly bland exterior lies a surprisingly deep, thought provoking and, at times, downright sickening (in a good way) experience, that deserves your attention.

The game is set in a post-apocalyptic(ish) Dubai, torn apart by constant sandstorms and civil conflict. Despite how overused the middle-eastern setting might appear at first, the game bolsters some pretty impressive visuals, both in your immediate surroundings and off in the distance. I have to say, this has to be one of the best looking Unreal Engine 3 games I have seen to date. The visual style and feel is surprisingly varied, even though that's not something to be expected, given the game's setting. You'll be taken from the city's outskirts, through the underground and back, ending up on the massive spires, that are Dubai's skyscrapers.

The gameplay itself is what you'd expect. It plays like your typical TPS; no better, no worse. Movement and shooting both handle as expected (with the usual slight margin of error) and generally feel comfortable. You're given a pretty basic set of weaponry, each arguably as useful as any other in any given situation. One thing worthy of note, is that you won't constantly find entire stockpiles of weapons and ammo just ripe for the taking; the game sets the mood of a torn and ruined city and it stays in this mindset, meaning that you will find the occasional ammo crate, but for the most part you'll need to scavenge what you can from the battlefield, which really does enhance the game's feel.

But now onto the aspect that truly sets this game apart from it's peers, and where it shines most bright - the story. Now take a moment to let that notion set in. A military third person shooter with a good story. I bet you didn't see that one coming. And it's not just a chain of cut-scenes, whose soul purpose is to tie together all the shooting gallery scenes and give them a neat little context. This game sports a genuine, thought out story.

It starts out pretty basic. You're part of a 3-man military squad, known as Delta, tasked with getting into Dubai and preping it's inhabitants for evacuation. Pretty cliché. However, things gradually get darker and more complicated as you're taken through the city streets and into the heart of darkness, both literally and metaphorically. The reason I chose those exact words, is because the story is actually a sort of reimagining of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, with heavy "war is hell" overtones and, to the game's credit, they're presented masterfully. And what brings it all together is spot-on pacing, that eases you into the terror and gruesomeness, as what's truly going on in the war-torn city slowly comes to light. All of this literary goodness gets wrapped up nice and tight in one of the most shocking and (at least to me) completely unexpected twist endings I have ever witnessed in any game, and one where you're also given one last, final choice.

As far as the game's length goes, it's about 6-10 hours, depending on the difficulty and how much you explore. There are also additional multiplayer modes, however they're rather shoddy compared to the story mode, so unless you're REALLY interested, you won't be missing out even if you skip them entirely. The meat of the game is in it's campaign anyway.

The bottom LINE (get it?) is, if you're interested in a game with a higher purpose than simply to entertain; one that aims to tell a story and convey a message, I think you owe it to yourself to play through this game. It is yet another underrated and underappreciated title, but definitely one that should not be shrugged off so easily.

90

One of the most entertaining shooters in the past few years.

kufooru | July 2, 2013 | Review of The Darkness II

Behold yet another underrated gaming jewel. From the forges of Digital Extremes' mountaintop workshop comes The Darknes II, a sequel to Starbreeze Studios' 2007 console exclusive game The Darkness (another good, but vastly different game), both based on the comic book series of the same name.

For anyone who has, like me, played the original Darkness on the 360/PS3 will immediately notice the huge shift in direction and style between the two games. The first one was a dark, gritty looking non-linear, but slower paced FPS with a "realistic" visual style, whereas the second one is a colorful, linear, fast-paced shoot-em-up with comic book style, cell-shaded graphics. Now that's a pretty big leap between games that turned a lot of people off, myself included. However as I played through the game for the first time, despite the vast difference between it and it's predecessor, it really sunk its claws into me, and I ended up loving every second of it.

As I have mentioned, the game uses a cell-shaded visual style that might not look on par with other games released in 2012, as far as visual fidelity is concerned, but it seeps character from every pore. It might not be the best looking game out there, but it's nevertheless gorgeous, as it does it's thing very well.

While the game may not excell at visuals, the gameplay on the other hand is top-notch. You're given a rather small array of weapons, however the ability to mix'n'match them with the use of dual wielding certainly spices things up, as do the Darkness powers that you acquire throughout the game. The powers are split up between different skill trees and range from active skills like Gun Channeling, which makes your guns shoot Darkness-powered projectiles that do increased damage, to more passive ones like health increase and the like. In addition to that, you also have two tentacle-like "Darkness arms" you can use to slice, smash and tear enemies with, which essentially gives you the option of quad wielding. The skills can be acquired via experience points called Essence, and the way you earn them brings me to the game's next feature - executions. While you will earn Essence by simply killing your enemies by conventional means, you will however be awarded more points by performing gruesome executions, which not only look amazingly gory but also reward you with bonuses, such as healing and extra ammo. The campaign itself isn't particularly long (around 5-6 hours tops), but it offers the option of New Game+ along with a side-story mode called Vendettas, that can be played either alone or with up to 4 people online. If you decide to play through all the game has to offer, I'd say you're looking at 20 hours in the least.

Lastly, just as the game boasts good gameplay, the story is equally impressive, if not better. I was surprised to discover a very profound and heart-wrenching tale, enclosed within this otherwise somewhat campy shooter. It's also worth noting that the game's characters are also a delight, as almost every one is memorable in his own way. The story follows Jackie Estacado, previously (in the first game) a mafia hitman, now head of the local mob, who has since the events of the original game vowed never again to use the Darkness, now lying dormant within it's host. Shit starts hitting the fan once he gets attacked by a group of unknown assailants and is forced to once again unleash the Darkness, after which he goes on a crusade to find out who attacked him and why. Throughout the story he is haunted by visions of his lost love, Jenny, who was brutally murdered by what Jackie believes to be his fault.

All in all a very underrated, but definitely memorable FPS that deserves at least one playthrough from anyone looking for a fast-paced gore filled action game.