Reviews by ryanclive

79

A few issues here and there, but still a solid tactical shooter

ryanclive | Aug. 23, 2013 | Review of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

The following is an honest-to-goodness review, and my personal take on The Bureau. Take note, this is my first game in the XCOM series.

Prior to finally being able to play this game, I went through several articles that gave this game mediocre ratings and reviews. Instead of feeling regret for pre-purchasing the game, I actually felt more intrigued, as I often experience games and films that I end up liking - only to find out later that they have less than desirable critic ratings.

First things first, let's get the issues out of the way.

Having played all of the Mass Effect games, I quickly noticed that the combat somewhat borrows heavily from the ME series, right down to the Lift ability of Carter. Originality is a rare commodity these days, and frankly, I couldn't think of a better way to improve on the tactical shooter formula. The graphics in the cutscenes are terrible; Initially, I was under the impression that the "style" was intended to fit the noir/vintage look, but I have a strong feeling it really isn't. In the same vein, the graphics can look a bit outdated; Lip sync is off, and the textures could have used better samples.

Now that we have gotten those out of the way, let's get to the good parts.

The Bureau is actually a solid tactical shooter. I have played and absolutely completed all Mass Effect games on Insanity mode, and even here, my squad sometimes gets knocked out even on Rookie. The point being, it's a tactical shooter at heart, and will require serious micro-management on your part - which I find fun and refreshing (of course, you could also argue that it was negligence on my part, LOL).

The perks you gain vary greatly with each squad type, and from commando to engineer, there really is no weak link. All squad types are useful, and will depend greatly on your play style. Flanking and positioning is given a lot more emphasis, and the game punishes rubbish preparation on the part of the player. Weapons do not have mods, sadly, but they all do the job and there are good variants in the game, both Earth and Outsider (alien) types.

The Bureau's story is actually engaging, too, complemented by a period-accurate soundtrack. The dialogues are borderline cheese at times, but unlike the cutscenes I have mentioned, they are at least period-centric, and exudes a genuine B-movie feel. There are no collectibles or audio logs that extend the story, other than a few negligible notes scattered around.

The game does not break any new ground, but it isn't overly terrible either. I'm taking a bit of a guess here, but the complaints probably stem from the high expectations of people, expecting this to be closely related to Enemy Unknown, but Enemy Known and deep strategy and tactics this is not. Having played the likes of Mass Effect and Gears of War (both of which are somewhat close to the gameplay structure), I personally find the Bureau to be competent and fun.

As a closing note, I would recommend getting the pre-purchase version of the game (if there's still time) that comes with the free DLC, Spec Ops game, and XCOM collection; as I can hardly recommend buying the game solely at $50.

75

Great action game with wit, but a bit on the short side

ryanclive | Aug. 14, 2013 | Review of The Darkness II

The Darkness II was a bit of a surprise to me when it comes to the graphics, but then I realized after that at least this time, the game is closer to its source material. Even better, the gameplay mechanics are vastly improved.

Jackie's powers are more fleshed out this time, allowing you to have better customization. Gunplay is still pretty standard, and the powers are still what makes the game different.

I personally liked Jackie's monologues in the loading screens; I think it contributes a lot to the narrative, and gives the player a good idea on how Jackie thinks, and what The Darkness is really doing to his psyche. Or is it really just him, all along? In any case, the Darkness II is a huge jump from the first game when it comes to the writing and narrative.

Sadly, the game suffers from being terribly short. If you're not in for the collectibles, and if you're not absorbing the idle banter from NPCs, the game may take no more than 5-6 hours to complete. While it would have been understandable for an FPS game, sadly, there's not much to come back to, other than a co-op mode which is somewhat lacking in narrative content. What hurts this the most is that as of this writing, it's no longer easy to find co-op partners (to be fair, this is game is more than a year old).

Overall, an enjoyable single player game with good story material. Just short, and lacking in solid extras.

86

Might be a bit less than the first game, but still great

ryanclive | Aug. 14, 2013 | Review of Darksiders II

Darksiders II continues the story with Death in a parallel storyline with the first game. The game sees a lot of gameplay improvements, namely a loot system which makes things more interesting.

Like the first Darksiders game, I enjoyed this one because I personally find these RPG hybrids refreshing and addictive at the same time. The hunt for better loot will drive you forward, at the same time, the Metroidvania-esque progression lets you feel how further you are into the game. This time though, there are side quests to complete, and more NPCs to interact with.

What's even better is that the game now has more optional elements to uncover, such as optional dungeons with optional bosses, as well as treasure chests to backtrack to once you have the pertinent skills to unlock them. All this leads, to loot, loot, and loot to make Death more formidable.

I personally think the season pass isn't worth it, as it only includes two of the scenario DLCs from the four available, although the Maker armor set for newbies help a great deal.

The game is not without its flaws, though.

First off, the graphic settings for the PC are unbelievably lacking. It would have been nicer to have more customization options. Second, the game has a tendency to be glitchy. I found myself stuck in invisible pits when jumping off platforms to try and discover if there are collectibles below, and sometimes, switches or puzzle placements are non-responsive. Luckily, a quick exit and restart would solve it, but I've heard of issues in the THQ forums where NPCs or items completely disappear without any reason, leading to a game breaking bug. As the forum admins suggested, if any of these happen to you, just quickly restart the game before the game automatically saves.

But honestly, don't let these deter you from experiencing Darksiders II. The game is a bit of a nightmare to complete for collectibles completionists, but other than that, the game is an incredibly satisfying action RPG worth your time.

90

A dark and foreboding world awaits

ryanclive | Aug. 14, 2013 | Review of The Witcher II: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition

I have played most of The Witcher 2 on my Xbox 360, prior to finally having a competent PC setup. Since then, I have bought this game again for the PC. That's how good this game is.

The Witcher 2 totally blew all my expectations. Having played the likes of Oblivion, Skyrim, Dragon Age, and a few others, The Witcher 2 is darker, more mature, and frankly, a bit better than the rest. The story is incredibly engaging, mixing parts of the whodunit formula, coupled with political intrigue, and you've got the perfect RPG story that will stand the test of time.

The combat is meticulous, and rewards careful players who prepare for every difficult encounter. Even more, as you discover more potion variants, you'll be able to take on more difficult opponents with ease, furthering the rewards for players who research the game's lore. It's all tied together by a cohesive experience, and is truly unique to The Witcher games (even the first game had these mechanics, but The Witcher 2 improved on these).

A highly recommendable alternative to the other RPG franchise giants, The Witcher 2 is fantastic. The Enhanced Edition furthers the game's potential with added content, game tweaks, and nifty bonuses that just sweetens the deal.

85

A good entry point to the series for non-fans like me

ryanclive | Aug. 14, 2013 | Review of Tomb Raider

I haven't finished any of the Tomb Raider games (played, yes, but I didn't finish any of them), so please take this review with a grain of salt. My initial hesitation with Tomb Raider is that it might be another quick cash-in to the series, and might end up being average and forgettable. I was wrong.

Right off the bat, the game sets you off on an epic adventure. Tomb Raider is a traversal game at its heart, where you figure out how to get from point A to point B, while stealthily taking down your oppressors, or going guns blazing against them. Character progression is incredibly satisfying; How much you can upgrade your gear is tantamount to how much you can salvage around.

But that doesn't mean the game is a slump when it comes to the game's many shooting segments. The game's combat is actually pretty good, and the game does a good job of letting you feel your character's progress through upgrades you make to your guns.

In a throwback to the older Tomb Raider games, the game also has secret tombs to discover and explore. At the end of these tombs are treasures that greatly boost your upgrades, making them a worthwhile distraction to your adventure.

As my title says, this game is a good entry point to the series for non-fans, to find out what the gist is all about when it comes to Lara Croft and tomb raiding. Tomb Raider is worth your time.

88

Excellent action game and reboot

ryanclive | Aug. 14, 2013 | Review of DmC: Devil May Cry

For the record, I've played and finished the Devil May Cry games, and I've enjoyed all of them. When "DmC" came out, most of the complaint stemmed from Dante's new look, which I personally find irrelevant.

DmC is a fantastic game all throughout. The action is fast paced, and keeps on giving. In lieu of puzzle-based mechanics, the game focuses more on platforming, while still maintaining the combat prowess of its predecessors which keeps you on your toes. I personally felt that the challenge has been toned down a bit, but frankly it's for the best. The combat mechanics is no less complex than the old DMC games, and it's still as fun to pull off wild combos from ground to air. The game ensures this by giving you a healthy supply of uglies to pummel, as well as tactical boss fights that highlight every couple or three stages.

The writing and story is more grounded this time, delivered by superb voice acting. I personally enjoyed the reboot's take on Dante's underworldly connections. Vergil is also given a better role and involvement, which makes the whole story easier to absorb.

Game has good replay value, too, and has new game+ which makes succeeding playthroughs much enjoyable. DmC is one of my personal favorites for this year.

90

A tale of loyalty and honor

ryanclive | Aug. 14, 2013 | Review of Sleeping Dogs: Limited Edition

As somebody who enjoys gangster films like Election I and II, and Infernal Affairs, Sleeping Dogs hits home with its take on Hong Kong and conflicting loyalties between the triad and police force.

On the outset, Sleeping Dogs is very much like any sandbox game. You take on missions, you take on side quests to help complete strangers, and you find collectibles across the map. But what sets it apart is the amazing combat, character progression, and the gritty story of a conflicted man in a town where trust is hard to come by. The story has plenty of heart, and has some of the most memorable characters I've encountered since GTA IV.

Sleeping Dogs has plenty of activities to complete, and you'll often find yourself straying off the main quest to collect money caches, steal cars for your client, do tasks for complete strangers, or just waste time driving around and admiring the sights. Fantastic sandbox game, and deserves better attention.

And remember, a man who never eats pork bun is never a whole man!

95

Game of the year material

ryanclive | Aug. 14, 2013 | Review of Bioshock Infinite

Having experienced BioShock 1 and 2, I had very high expectations for Infinite, and I'm glad to say they were all met with flying colors.

Infinite is a breathtaking game. From its imaginative architecture to its run down alleys, the game truly takes you somewhere. The story is beautifully woven, and demands your attention from start to finish.

On top of that, Infinite is a highly polished FPS, and the harmonious combination of Vigor (power) usage and gunplay is a blast to experience. The game also has a healthy plethora of collectibles to acquire, ranging from stat boosting gears, to voxophones that extend the story further with intriguing monologues and expositions.

The story is incredibly moving, and the ending is truly worth it. My vote goes to this game as 2013's game of the year.

90

Incredible value for an incredible game

ryanclive | Aug. 14, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2 Season Pass

I don't normally purchase season passes for games, but I took a risk with this one since I immensely enjoyed Borderlands 2, and I'm glad I did.

4 separate adventures with wildly different themes and activities, plus the Ultimate Vault Hunter pack which adds a more difficult scenario then the True Vault Hunter mode. Each DLC scenario is still full of Borderland 2's witty writing and funny dialogues, and you get to see old NPC favorites such as Mr. Torgue, Sir Hammerlock, and Tiny Tina.

My favorite would have to be the Captain Scarlett DLC, as there are two more optional bosses in the DLC's map which drops Seraph Crystals, a new currency which allows you to buy even better gear past the quality of Legendary.

The best thing about the whole thing is that each DLC has its own set of Badass Ranks, which, like the main ranks for Borderlands 2, can be completed across different characters. This further extends your Badass Ranks, allowing you to get more tokens in your quest to further strengthen your character.

Almost an absolute imperative if you're a Borderlands 2 fun. Each DLC scenario takes about 5-6 hours to complete, and you still have the Ultimate Vault Hunter mode to go through with a few additional levels. Real bang for your buck.

90

The epitome of the FPS/RPG hybrid

ryanclive | Aug. 14, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2

RPGs rarely come in a hybrid form, and Borderlands 2 breaks that mold by seamlessly combining the two in a perfect action game, married with witty writing, memorable characters, and insanely fun quests.

Borderlands 2 is best played with 3 other friends, but I personally solo-ed my way through the whole campaign, and all its side quests offerings, and the whole thing was still top notch fun. Collecting hundreds of variants of guns, shields, and class mods never get old; the drive for better and better loot will propel you forward. Class offerings, at first, appear simple. But once you get into Axton, Maya, Zer0, and Salvador's skill trees, you'd be surprised to find out that each character has plenty of depth and specialization potential. Guns are an absolute joy to use, as each variant comes with different elements, scopes, and precision settings.

Borderlands 2 is also easy on the eyes, and for Nvidia/PhysX-enabled GPU owners, has some of the best PhysX effects when enabled on medium or high. Definitely worth any RPG fan's salt.