Reviews by taigatsu
Completely serviceabletaigatsu | July 17, 2014 | Review of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified - Codebreakers
Codebreakers is in a bit of an odd place. By itself, it's perfectly acceptable. If you didn't know it was a piece of downloaded content, you wouldn't think twice about its appearance early on in the game. It's actually entirely possible to miss it. It plays pretty much like any other mission in the game, and you won't remember many of the details after you've finished. That makes it a decent opportunity to help gain experience for your troops, but that was never an issue with the game anyway. It's hard to whole heartedly recommend it, but it doesn't have any real flaws either. Just don't expect anything going in.
Straightforward mission packtaigatsu | July 17, 2014 | Review of Company of Heroes 2: Southern Fronts DLC
The two original armies in Company of Heroes 2 each got their own mission packs. Southern Fronts aims to offer an even portion of both, with a pair of new challenge missions and more co-op battles than both of the other packs combined. The Southern Fronts DLC is by far the greatest value for the dollar out of any of the CoH2 add-ons. There's nothing you haven't seen before here. Instead, you'll find an even broader selection of maps to play on and the opportunity to relive more moments on the Eastern front. The maps are all pretty good, at least. Pick it up if you're still clamoring for more action after you've finished the main campaign, or are still looking for more Axis missions.
Treat yourselftaigatsu | July 17, 2014 | Review of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified - Light Plasma Pistol
It's a gun. It's not of terrestrial origin, but it packs quite the punch. It's never really mentioned in the game how the hero manages to come across one so early in the game - it just shows up in your inventory one day and nobody seems keen on talking about it. For what it is, it is actually one of the better guns in the game, and having access to it considerably earlier than you would otherwise can be a definite advantage. You'll still need to manage your squad and fight tactically to overcome the alien invasion, so it doesn't turn the game into a complete cakewalk either. It’s a very nice convenience to have, but don't sweat it if you don't bother with it.
Really well put togethertaigatsu | July 17, 2014 | Review of Company of Heroes 2: Victory at Stalingrad DLC
While a lot of the existing DLC for Company of Heroes 2 focuses on customizing the appearance of your army, or expanding your roster of commanders, Victory at Stalingrad is one of a trio of expansion packs that actually substantially add to the game. Focusing entirely on the Soviet side of the conflict, this pack stands as probably the strongest of the three in terms of quality. Six missions is only a modest amount, but there is a lot of variety, and a good mix of challenges, scenarios and AI battles. Both of the challenge maps are particularly enjoyable, with the just the right amount of difficulty, and the new maps are balanced and well designed. It's still not a lot a whole lot of content, but what is here is a consistently quality selection.
Enjoyable but still comes up a bit shorttaigatsu | July 17, 2014 | Review of Company of Heroes 2: Case Blue DLC
The little orphan brother of the CoH2 mission packs. The base game has nothing in the way of campaign missions for the Wehrmacht faction, which was a disappointing omission. At least the Case Blue DLC does its best to make amends for that, even if it could afford to have a bit more to offer. It's a pretty light in the content department, with only 5 missions to choose from, which isn't really a lot. You get a little bit of everything, at least, from challenge maps to new skirmish missions. The two challenge maps in particular are fun, if not particularly inspired. Fans of the game who are looking to expand the scope of the campaign should be sure to pick this up, but be aware that it doesn't bring particularly much new to the table.
Not bad for what it istaigatsu | July 17, 2014 | Review of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (NA)
It's a shame that this game got shackled with the XCOM name. More than anything, that has acted as a burden around its neck, inviting comparisons to one of contemporary gaming's most respected IPs, when in reality, it is a solid, enjoyable third person shooter that requires a greater amount of tactical consideration than twitch reflexes. The Bureau pays minor homage to its progenitor during the game through its use of common enemies and equipment, but makes radical departures in most other regards. Actual gameplay largely consists of using a radial menu to give your squadmates commands, ordering them into flanking positions, making good use of each class' unique abilities and contributing a healthy amount of gunfire yourself. Your squadmates are fairly un-autonomous, and require constant supervision, which can be frustrating, but is actually beneficial, as they are also your greatest asset and should be utilized constantly.
Enemies are intelligent and aggressive, and will work to outmaneuver you and your men. There is a healthy variety of foes to face, some of whom have unique abilities and traits that have to be taken into consideration. The developers did a fantastic job nailing the retro, Cold War aesthetic in many locations. From banks of computer monitors lighting up, men in horn rimmed glasses chain smoking, a small town homecoming parade complete with straw bales and a burnt out school bus - every detail seems pitch perfect. Unfortunately, over half the game seems to consist of alien structures which are utterly uninspiring. It's too bad, since it is a setting has so much to offer. And that fantastic G-Man outfit you see in all the promotional material? Enjoy it while it lasts, since you'll be trading it in after the first mission. It should also be noted that the plot is barely passable. The voice acting is listless and the story full of cliches. Fortunately you can skip through almost all of the dialogue.
Don't just write off The Bureau as a cash-in or a spin-off. There's quite a bit to appreciate hiding behind that big name in the subtitle, and is a lot less brainless than you might think. It's more than just another cover based third person shooter, and does a lot more right than it does wrong.
A representation of how a great franchise declinedtaigatsu | March 2, 2014 | Review of X-COM Complete Pack
Taken as a whole, the X-COM Complete Pack is a very lacklustre bundle. While the original X-COM, and arguably, it's follow up, Terror From the Deep, still stands as a near timeless classic, the other games in the pack suffer from increasingly diminishing returns in terms of quality.
X-COM itself remains as playable today as when it was originally released. The blend of strategic and tactical game play is very compelling. Being able to engage the aliens in direct combat is just as important as understanding the need to research new technology and co-ordinate logistics. The graphics are definitely dated by today's standards, but retain a bright, cartoon character to them. It can be a bit fussy at times, with the degree of micromanagement required, but for some, that's part of the appeal.
Terror from the Deep is basically the exact same game, but with an aquatic re-skin and blistering difficulty level. There's very little to differentiate it from the first game, but anyone looking for more will be satisfied. Apocalypse attempted to do something different, introducing the option for real-time gameplay. It succeeds on some levels, but disappoints on others. The sheer destructibility of the environments opens up new tactics, but the new strategic considerations aren't as deep as the original. Aesthetically, it lacks the cohesiveness and charm of the first two. An interesting footnote in the franchise's history, but far from being a must play.
Interceptor and Enforcer are where the franchise really falls apart, and bring down the quality of the entire bundle. Both make an attempt to co-opt the X-COM name for a more action oriented game, and both fail. Even when they were released, they were considerably more shallow than other games in their genres, and are worth little more than as curiosities today. Other than a few token inclusions, they are devoid of the character of the original games and completely miss what made them so captivating.
By itself, the original X-COM is almost entirely worth the price tag. Aside from that, however, most of the games here serve more as relics of an earlier period in gaming than as worthwhile games in their own right.
A little bit 'out there'taigatsu | Feb. 15, 2014 | Review of Borderlands 2: Psycho Pack DLC
Probably the biggest departure of all the classes in Borderlands 2, the Psycho is something you'll either love or hate. His playstyle emphasizes a lot of dashing headlong into danger, balancing on a razor thin line between being a rage fueled beast of destruction, and lying dead in a gutter. The more you risk with the Psycho, the stronger he becomes. He gains buffs from gaining damage, and even has an entire tree dedicated to lighting himself on fire! Playing as the Pyscho is a lot different from the other classes. if you're interested in a character that puts it all on the line, getting up close and personal and grinding faces with a power saw, this DLC is worth picking up; if you prefer a more typical experience, you might want to stick to one of the other characters in the game.
Doesn't really grab your attentiontaigatsu | Feb. 15, 2014 | Review of Borderlands 2: Gunzerker Greasy Grunt Pack
Part of what makes Borderlands 2 work is an over the top art style and willingness to embrace the absurd. Its characters are larger than life, and everything about them tends to get taken to the extreme. So the Greasy Grunt pack is a real departure, because its just such an ordinary outfit for the Gunzerker. The new haircut gives him a vaguely rockabilly look, but seems hardly noteworthy when he can just as easily sport a bowler hat, a mohawk or afro. It's hard to go wrong at such a low price, but unless you're sold on the look, consider some other options first.
Should come with an air guitar animationtaigatsu | Feb. 15, 2014 | Review of Borderlands 2: Siren Glitter and Gore Pack
If you're the sort of person willing to drop a dollar so that you can play dress up in your game, you might want to consider the Glitter and Gore pack. It's probably one of the more significant customization options available for the Siren. There's a definite retro, glam-rock style going on with the hair cut. I found it be a little less appealing than some of her other options, and its not for everyone, but it definitely stands out when you're playing on-line. The costume itself isn't particularly noteworthy - I guess its worth it if you feel there isn't enough pink in Borderlands. The whole thing gets bonus points though, for referencing a classic 1980s cartoon.
Did they ever make them like this?taigatsu | Feb. 15, 2014 | Review of Anachronox
Anachronox is a peculiar game. Fundamentally, it plays like a JRPG, but was developed by a Western company. The setting is rich, rife with one-of-a-kind characters and situations, a fairly off-the-wall sense of humor and a willingness to play with the conventions of the genre. Really, the story is by far the strongest part of the game, and exceptional in its own right. It is at times self-aware, irreverent, maudlin and mature. Many of the quests are particularly memorable, and rarely fall into cliche.
The amount of enjoyment a player can get from the game depends on their tolerance for older games. Graphically, the game is incredibly imaginative, but a bit hamstrung by the technology of its time. Combat plays out like any other JRPG of its era. There are a few interesting ideas there, but the game doesn't really take any risks that way.
Nothing quite like Anachronox has come out since its release. Its distinct personality, remarkable story and inspired imagery converge to create an experience that will have a lasting impression on anyone willing to put up with some foibles and give it a shot.
Just what the series neededtaigatsu | Feb. 15, 2014 | Review of Tomb Raider: Legend
After several increasingly disappointing sequels, Tomb Raider : Legend managed to re-invigorate the franchise and set the standard for all of the Tomb Raider games to follow. It's exceptional in its execution of smart, intuitive environmental and platforming puzzles. The controls of tight and responsive, and movement is a joy as Lara bounds fluidly throughout the levels. Some of the puzzles can be quite challenging, but offer a lot of satisfaction when the solution finally presents its self. There are a few times when the rest of the game is gated behind less than stellar combat or driving sequences, but thankfully, those aren't very frequent.
Later additions to the series may outperform it, but Legend is still a great game, and proved that Tomb Raider could continue to be relevant so long after its original debut.
Keeps up with the qualitytaigatsu | Feb. 11, 2014 | Review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution – The Missing Link
Looking for more Deus Ex? The Missing Link offers several hours more of content for those looking to satisfy that craving. It doesn't really do anything differently from the main game itself; it's more of the same, which is really all anyone was asking for. The same mix of action and stealth is present here, in just as high of quality as the main campaign. It's a bit odd how this DLC takes place in the middle of the main game's plot, and launches separately. You'll have to start over from scratch, without any of the gear or augmentations you earned in Deus Ex itself, and they managed to shoehorn in some sort of explanation for it. Overall it's a great way to expand on your experience with an already superb game.
Simply the besttaigatsu | Feb. 11, 2014 | Review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex : Human Revolution had a hard reputation to live up to. As a sequel to one of the most highly regard games of all time, there was a lot of skepticism that it could live up to the expectations. Deus Ex certainly does not disappoint. It is a highly polished gem that expertly blends action, stealth and some role-playing into a game that rewards different styles of play, with none of its traits feeling underdeveloped or unrewarding.
What makes Deus Ex so distinct is how it lets you choose how you want to play it. You can go in shoot your way through any problems, but then you'll miss out on opportunities to explore, sneak past particularly difficult parts, or engage in conversations that open up new options for you. You'll grow stronger as you unlock new augmentations and new abilities, and when you play through it again, the different choices you make will effect how you apporach the game.
The setting is rich and vividly rendered, a fascinating near future cyberpunk world gripped with a very real moral issue. Each environment is fully realized and helps creative an immersive game world. It takes an interesting look at exploring the concept of what it means to be human, with arguments made on both sides of the transhumanism debate.
Deus Ex : Human Revolution is one of the strongest games to come out in the past several years, and a must play for anyone looking for a more intelligent action and stealth game.
It's fun getting into troubletaigatsu | Feb. 11, 2014 | Review of Bully: Scholarship Edition
While the GTA series becoming increasingly self-serious, Bully carries itself with an mischievous swagger. It takes all the aspects of an open-world sandbox game and instead of building bigger and outward, it focuses on a more tightly constrained setting littered with detail. There is a real dedication to the theme here, where instead of murderous gun-toting sociopaths and career criminals, the world is populated by high school archetypes who throw stink bombs, wheel around on bicycles and have crushes on each other. Time progresses on a schedule, and you'll have to learn how to manage going to class and attending school functions with shenanigans and getting into trouble. It's a much more lighthearted take on open world games, but hangs on to its rebellious streak with pride.
Some of the greats, available againtaigatsu | Feb. 11, 2014 | Review of Raiden Legacy
The name Raiden is synonymous with SHMUPs. Finding any of the older titles in the series has becoming increasingly difficult, so to have several of them in one package is an absolute steal. They all manage to find that sweet spot between blistering difficulty and extremely satisfying action, and practically beg for repeated playthroughs as you learn to master their nuances. The inclusion of the Fighter series is the biggest delight, as these games broaden the scope of the game, with more power ups, more fighters and more playstyles to choose from. The developers have done a great job of porting all of these over, and even improved upon them from the originals. The Raiden games are explosions of color and fun. Seeing them re-released and widely available is a boon to anyone who enjoys a frantic and fast paced shoot em up.
Fun after all these yearstaigatsu | Feb. 11, 2014 | Review of FINAL FANTASY VIII
Still considered one of the classics of JRPGs, all these years later Final Fantasy VIII still manages to deserve its reputation. It's not a radical departure from the genre, but it makes enough tweaks and iterative improvements from the formula that remain compelling.
The Junction system is a lot of fun to play around with. There are no set archetypes in the game, instead you can customize each character's role as you see fit, and unlock interesting new abilities as you play. There is never any need to grind, which is uncommon for this type of game, since enemies will scale with your party. Squall, Rinoa and all the rest are still a highly memorable cast, and the art direction is inspiring. A special word of mention is reserved for Triple Triad, the collectible card game-within-the-game which can easily eat up as much of your time as the main campaign. It's addictive. The inclusion of Chocobo World is a real treat, since this is a clever feature that was incredibly uncommon for Western players of the Playstation release.
All that being said, there are several caveats that need to be considered in regards to the port to PC. The sound has taken a big hit, most considerably that the original music has been replaced with what appears to be MIDI tracks. There, of course, will be mods out there so that you can replace it, but the difference in quality is noticeable, particularly for a series long noted for its music. The graphic upscaling is hit or miss - it reduces the quality of the cut scenes, while making character models sharper. And in regards to gamepads, there is no true analog mode; instead, you are limited to only the eight cardinal directions, which can feel fairly clunky at times.
It's still a rock solid game, and anyone nostalgic for it would be remiss to pass it over. The re-release does leave a few things to be desired, and how much you enjoy it depends on your willingness to overlook the poor port.
Maybe not as good as you remembertaigatsu | Feb. 10, 2014 | Review of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
At the time of its original release, Soul Reaver stood out for its unique setting, tragic plot and well crafted gameplay. Disappointingly, its age has really started to show, and several hard to overlook aspects can make it hard to appreciate why it is remembered as a well regarded game. Its most obvious strength is the plot, an almost Shakespearan tale of betrayal and revenge, superbly brought to life by a brilliant cast. The world of Nosgoth is a bleak and strange one, and the possibilities of what lies beyond the game's borders evokes all manner of imagery.
Solving environmental puzzles by switching back and forth from the spectral realm is a clever mechanic, and unlocking new abilities lets you go back and explore previously unaccessible areas. Playing it today, many of these puzzles are still well done, if a bit unintuitive at times. The clunky movement and poor camera control do a considerable job detracting from enjoying the game, unfortunately. Time has not been kind to the graphics either; whereas some of its contemporaries managed an aesthetic that still hold up today, Soul Reaver's graphics do a poor job conveying the imaginative world that was envisioned for it.
It's easy to look back and remember Soul Reaver as a brilliant game, and truthfully, for its time, it was. It's a shame that I can't wholeheartedly recommend it any more.
Breezy but funtaigatsu | Feb. 10, 2014 | Review of Prince of Persia (NA) other
Although it may not offer a particular challenge, Prince of Persia is an enjoyable ride. By making a more accessible game, the game broadens the appeal of 3d platformers, even if afficionadoes of the genre may be turned off by the seeming simplicity. What makes this game different from its predecessors is how the gameplay has been streamlined. This allows you to focus on getting from point to point and taking in the beautiful vistas and stunning architecture. The way that dying is handled means that it's impossible to fail, which frees you from having to perfect particular sequences and constantly reload, allowing you to sit back, relax and enjoy yourself. It's a graphically elegant game, and the interactions between the two main characters are believable and humorous. Definitely pick this game up if you're interested in trying out a less frustrating platformer with some personality.
Wait did he just say that?!taigatsu | Feb. 8, 2014 | Review of Bulletstorm (NA)
A bro-tastic shooter through and through, Bulletstorm is like a testosterone soaked roller coaster ride. It's a bit of a blur and a rush while it's happening, but afterwards you'll feel a little sick and not sure why you had so much fun. Muscle men with a gift for profanity have a vague reason for wanting to shoot other mean men, and what that means for the player is an opportunity to flex their homicidal tendencies. The skillshot system is an absurd delight to play around with, rewarding you for mixing up the basic kick and tether mechanics with environmental hazards littered about the levels and increasingly overpowered guns. You'll spend half your time trying to figure out inventive new ways to create kill combos, each of which rewards you with a clever little tagline and bonus points. The whole thing is about as mature as a fart joke, but if you turn your brain off for a while, Bulletstorm is a solid, if one-note shooter.
Fluffy white cat not includedtaigatsu | Feb. 8, 2014 | Review of Evil Genius
Let your inner mastermind reign supreme in Evil Genius, a fun filled romp through a tongue-in-chic swinging 60s spy pastiche. The core gameplay revolves around building your secret volcano lair and managing your corps of henchmen and nameless minions, balancing their everyday needs with your goals of research, covert criminal operations and eventually, world domination. It's great fun, and the Austin Powers meets Dungeon Keeper comparisons are apt, and deserved.
Something that sets Evil Genius apart is the aesthetic. It operates in an exaggerated art style where everything is a caricature of 1960s tropes. You'll build absurd traps and torture devices, including an oversized blender or a slowly moving laser beam, and your subordinates walk about in brightly colored jumpsuits, hunched over banks of consoles. It's bright and cartoony, and doesn't take itself very seriously. Thumbs up for this one for sure!
Slow motion symphonytaigatsu | Feb. 8, 2014 | Review of Max Payne 3
News of development of a third title in the series may have raised some eyebrows, but this release shows that the franchise still has some life in it. Max Payne 3 retains most of the strongest qualities of its predecessors. Diving out of cover, slowing down time and firing akimbo is just as good as it has ever been. There are a few issues, like when a slow mo shootdodge over a table will be interrupted by landing on the surface flat on your belly. Or how cutscenes will unequip any two handed weapons you are carrying before dropping you into the action. Overall though, the gameplay is more than strong enough to carry you through the campaign.
Sao Paulo itself is a terrific backdrop. The levels take place in a much broader variety of locales than before, and mostly avoid the pitfalls of the oh so typical warehouses and boxes school of design. Like in the other games, the voice acting is top notch, particularly Max himself. The graphics are very well done, and even though some may take issue with it, the use of saturation and filters helps the game put its own unique mark on the franchise. In terms of writing, it manages to sell a desperate noir tale as almost well as either of the prequels, and stands out for confining itself to a smaller, more believable story, unlike the grandiose conspiracies and machinations of the first two.
One thing that bears mentioning is the quality of the multiplayer. It feels underdeveloped and inadequate. The community for it is struggling, at best, with a very small amount of active players. The balance is weak, and somehow is utterly unable to convey the same sense of action that the single player campaign does.
Taken as a single player game, Max Payne 3 is a well polished title that captures the essence of first two games. It's not as much of a marked improvement as the second one was over the first, and some of the smaller changes made are a bit questionable. That being said, it's still a great game that offers a viscerally gratifying experience.
Ballistic ballettaigatsu | Feb. 8, 2014 | Review of Max Payne II: The Fall of Max Payne
A sequel ought to improve on the original, and Max Payne 2 manages to do this in every conceivable way. From the beginning to the end, this is a game that has refined everything that made the first one stand out.
While the level design tends to be bland, composed mostly of warehouses and derelict buildings, the gunplay is tightly tuned and never gets old. Bullet time is a fantastic mechanic that still provides hours of enjoyment. The physics are fairly exaggerated, but the amount of debris that is sent flying during a firefight helps create the feel of an action movie. What is also remarkable is how well the graphics and sound design hold up even a decade later.
The plot can be a bit melodramatic at times, however, it also has moments where it truly shines, blending maudlin lamentation with a determined conviction. Max's penchant for overwrought metaphors is part of the charm, and the game is littered with all sorts of offbeat details that draw you in.
Out of all three games, this is the most consistent and well rounded. The original feels somewhat janky and outdated, while the third makes some changes that will disappoint some. Max Payne 2 manages to hit the sweet spot, and offers just as much adrenaline inducing action as it did upon release.
A delightful game with a sense of humortaigatsu | Feb. 5, 2014 | Review of Cherry Tree High Comedy Club [Playfire]
Cherry Tree High Comedy Club is a title that is an absolute mouthful to say aloud. It is also a delightful slice of life adventure / life simulator reminiscent of visual novels, filled with heart and some genuine laughs. Gameplay largely consists of choosing how to spend your day, between hanging out with friends to strengthening relationships and developing your skills, which can be a bit simplistic at times. A playthrough will only take a couple hours, but the reward is loads of amusing dialogue. The localization is fantastic; the developers have done a brilliant job translating it and making it relevant for Western audiences. Games like this don't come around often, and it's certainly not for everyone, but if your curiosity is piqued, you'll it's quirky game unlike most anything else.
An underappreciated shoot em uptaigatsu | Feb. 5, 2014 | Review of Raptor: Call of the Shadows
One of the great things about shooters is how little they age. Raptor : Call of the Shadows is one of those games that seemed ubiquitous on shareware disks during the mid-90s, and playing it again today, it's a pleasure to see just how well it's held up. As opposed to similar games from the Japanese school of one-credit playthrough mastery, Raptor allows the player to earn cash based on their performance to gradually upgrade their craft.
Manoeuvring feels responsive, and on the harder difficulties, the hail of enemy gunfire is enjoyably hectic without becoming overwhelming like titles in the bullet hell genre. Leaving a trail of wreckage in your wake is satisfying, and while some of the ship designs aren't particularly inspired, there is enough variety to keep it from feeling stale. Raptor is one of the better shoot em ups from its era, and one worth revisiting.
One of the best expansions out theretaigatsu | Feb. 4, 2014 | Review of XCOM: Enemy Within (NA)
Before downloadable content became so prevalent in gaming, an expansion pack meant a product that expanded the scope of the original game and often provided new ways to play. XCOM : Enemy Within certainly falls within this definition. New mechanics, more build options, a greater variety of foes & several new set piece missions all add up to an expansion that definitely makes re-visiting XCOM worthwhile.
Having the option to upgrade your troops along the new MEC and genemod trees opens up new playstyles, and you always have the freedom to mix and match different type of units in your squad as you see fit. The new enemy types force you to rethink your tactics as you learn to cope with adversaries that will turn invisible, flank you more aggressively, utilize the same skill sets as your troops, or just shrug off everything you can throw at them. More maps means avoiding the tedium of running the same mission for the 100th time. One of the biggest game changers is meld, the new resource. If you want to upgrade your new units, you'll need to capture it before it expires, which means switching from the overly cautious playstyle that dominated the original game to one willing to take more risks and advance aggressively.
Enemy Within does everything that a good expansion should do. It builds on what made the original game so fantastic, and takes it in new and interesting directions. It improves on the original game in almost every manner and makes for an even more gripping game than the original.
A modern telling of an all-time classictaigatsu | Feb. 4, 2014 | Review of XCOM: Enemy Unknown (NA)
Countless devotees have clamored for years a worthy follow up to the classic XCOM franchise, and skepticism was high that this remake would follow through on its lofty promises. Fortunately, Firaxis has succeeded in developing a game that does justice to the original, while making its own mark on the brand. Much of the core gameplay remains intact, and is still as addicting as ever. The broader, strategic overlay provides a general direction for your progress, and feeds into the bulk of the game, the turn based strategic battles. It's easy to jump in, planning to only play for a short period, only to realize that you've spent several hours, repeatedly saying 'just one more UFO' or 'just one more upgrade at the base'.
Turn based strategy can be a remarkably obtuse genre at times, and XCOM needs to be commended for how well it has handled modernizing the genre. The granularity of deciding every single aspect of your operation and combat has been reduced in favor of streamlining several aspects. This shouldn't be mistaken for dumbing down the game, however. Instead, it makes for a sleeker, more accessible game where your options are always more apparent but no less meaningful.
Combat remains the highlight, as ever. Taking your troops through the ranks and seeing them develop new skills helps fuel a sense of progression, and finally fielding an arsenal that allows you to turn the tables on the alien invaders is incredibly satisfying. The difference in classes allows one to adjust playstyles as they go. Even a seemingly simple milk run can turn into a gripping battle royale when a simple bad decision makes things go lop-sided, while a cleanly executed operation provides an immense feeling of empowerment.
Many said it couldn't be done, or that turn based strategy could no longer be made relevant. XCOM proves them all wrong, and shows that some things are classic for a reason.
For those looking for a little something extrataigatsu | Feb. 4, 2014 | Review of XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Slingshot Content Pack
It's easy to take a quick look and dismiss this add on. A trio of new missions, a hero unit and a couple new options for appearance doesn't seem like a lot for a DLC pack. The missions themselves aren't particularly noteworthy. In the base game, they come so early that they actually provide a higher risk than some players might be comfortable with, although this has been remedied for owners of the new Enemy Within expansion. The hero character himself has unique dialogue in combat, but behaves just like any other unit.
The biggest reason to get this DLC is if you're the kind of person who bought the Elite Soldier pack; it offers multiple new ways to kit out your soldiers with new hats, helmets and armor skins. You're not missing much if you skip the missions, but for anyone who is looking for even more ways to add some personality to your operatives, this add on is worth it.
Helps make the game more your owntaigatsu | Feb. 4, 2014 | Review of XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Elite Soldier Pack
Perhaps it seems silly to spend a bit of money just so you can play dress up with your troops in XCOM, but being able to further customize the appearance of your soldiers really helps you personally invest in them. In a game where you'll be leading a small platoon of operatives and guiding them as they develop, cheering with each success and lamenting every loss, that kind of involvement goes a long way. You can easily play through the entire game without ever having to worry about how your units look, but it's surprisingly enjoyable to spend a bit of time giving everyone a bit more personality and individuality.
Cooler than a popsicle in Decembertaigatsu | Feb. 4, 2014 | Review of Jet Set Radio
When it first came out, Jet Set Radio stood out from the crowd. Even though it's core gameplay seems like a mostly straightforward platforming / score attack style game, the most significant thing that it has to offer is style for miles. Every last detail in the game, from the music, levels and character design, contribute to a self confident vision of a so hip alternate Tokyo where cool rules the streets. The conviction of its setting has so much appeal that is still attractive even today, and the (at the time) revolutionary use of cel-shading means that it holds up remarkably well.
It comes from an earlier era of console gaming, so the camera and controls can be a bit cumbersome, while the challenge level can grow a bit tedious and frustrating, as you are forced to memorize levels to learn the optimal path for each. Once you are in the groove of playing, it becomes easier to overlook these shortcomings and enjoy an experience that has never really been attempted since.
Still a shining example of the genretaigatsu | Feb. 4, 2014 | Review of Company of Heroes 2
One of the greatest real time strategy games to come out in the last decade was the original Company of Heroes. While most of the changes and improvements to gameplay are marginal at best, CoH2 still retains the tactical brilliance of its predecessor. This is a game that rewards intelligent use of combined arms tactics, positioning and situational awareness, rewarding players who can think on their feet. The new, hyped up features such as real line of sight, a weather system and bulletins (minor unlockable upgrades to units) ultimately have little effect on the overall gameplay, but the tight balance of combat remains.
Multiplayer is as addictive as ever, and the single player campaign features a wide range of challenge maps and missions to make things more interesting. At times, it can feel a bit more homogenous than the first, but fans will still find a few surprises in store. A word of caution, however : the DLC model is perhaps one of the most exploitative out there. Nothing you can purchase is essential or particularly overpowering, so you'll do fine without it, but prices for things like new commanders and cosmetic effects are a bit unreasonable.
Company of Heroes 2 is for real time strategy players who crave a game that emphasizes tactical thinking over build orders. Although the game is only an incremental step from the original, it is still one of the best games of its kind on the market.
For fans who just can't get enoughtaigatsu | Feb. 3, 2014 | Review of Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War II: Retribution
It's hard to believe that after two full length entries in the Dawn of War II series, that the developers would have more to offer. The universe of Warhammer 40K is expansive enough, however, that its not as difficult as it would appear. Taking the same compelling mechanics of the first two games - squad based tactics, skill and loot progression, and a focus on using the unique abilities that each unit has to offer, DoW II : Retribution takes the focus off of the story and gives you the freedom to play through the campaign as each race, including the new addition of the Imperial Guard.
Admittedly, each play through will be relatively the same, as you'll be running through the same missions but with different armies, but getting to play with units that you are used to only seeing as adversaries or in multiplayer adds a lot of longevity to the game. For fans of the original Dawn of War, there is also a compromise : you can easily swap out one of your hero units for a squad of standard units. The Last Stand multiplayer mode is also worth the price alone. It's an addictive co-operative mode that always leaves you with that 'just one more' feeling.
It doesn't do anything significant to really change up the gameplay, but DoW2 : Retribution is certainly a worthy final installment in the series.
Better in every way than the originaltaigatsu | Feb. 3, 2014 | Review of Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising
Fans of the Dawn of War 2 will definitely appreciate this expansion. Almost every aspect of the original game is iterated upon, adding up to a richer, fuller experience. In terms of game play it is still the same game, but inside you will find more units, more loot and more mission types to whet your appetite. The story line is stronger with the added Corruption mechanic, which gives you an incentive to play through the game a second time to see how differently things can turn out. Facing off Chaos Marines is exciting and forces you to approach familiar challenges in new ways. The attention to detail from the original remains - each unit type in the game is rendered with loving detail and has their own unique character. For a fun, squad based tactical level strategy game, this expansion has a lot to offer.
Perfect for your real time strategy fixtaigatsu | Feb. 3, 2014 | Review of Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War II
Dawn of War 2 is fantastic real time strategy game that takes a departure from its predecessor. Steeped in the lore of the Warhammer 40K universe, the action here focuses on a smaller number of units, utilizing their distinct abilities, a satisfying RPG system of progression and closer co-ordination of tactics and troop placement.
Where as the first game was about large scale battles, DoW2 is all about smaller scale engagements, with an elite cadre of classic Warhammer archetypes facing overwhelming odds. Each unit has their own personality and skill set that they bring to each mission, and you have the freedom them to mix and match them as you see fit. There is a larger focus on the storyline, which while not particularly gripping, is enough to keep you interested. Even better though, mission offers different gear as loot rewards, allowing you to power up your units and customize them for different play styles.
You want find epic conflicts of massive armies in this one, but for fans of smart, sharp tactical gaming, Dawn of War 2 is a fantastic use of the license and a unique take on real time strategy.
A brilliant title that needs more lovetaigatsu | Feb. 3, 2014 | Review of Alpha Protocol
To this day, Alpha Protocol manages to remain a massively underrated title. A fantastic piece of spy fiction, it's greatest strength lies in its verisimilitude and the depth of its reactivity. The sheer scope of conversation and the variety of character builds to try out means that you can play the game several times over and see find things that surprise you.
The world of espionage and intrigue is a breath of fresh air for an RPG, while the characters are varied and believable, and all respond realistically the wide variety of conversational approaches you can take with them. Not enough can be said about the dialogue in this game - each conversation can be played out in several different approaches, and how you treat each person effects how they respond to you and how they will interact with you in the future. One of the sharpest things said to describe the game is that while the beginning and the end remain the same, what happens in between can vary wildly.
Game play does suffer from a few weak points. It plays like a third person action shooter, but without the polish and precision that kind of game requires. Certain mechanics are bugged, broken or unbalanced. Combat can be either laborious at times, or rendered ridiculously simple by exploiting certain skills. It was designed with consoles in mind, so a gamepad is almost required - activities like hacking or locking picking are almost impossible without one.
Don't overlook this one; it's an absolute gem. If you're willing to overlook some rough edges, you'll find one of the most unique and compelling RPGs of the last decade.
Good clean destructive funtaigatsu | Feb. 3, 2014 | Review of Sleeping Dogs: Wheels of Fury
Did you feel like Sleeping Dogs was a little too grounded in reality and are looking for something that would spice it up a little? Does the idea of a combination hot rod / automaton of mayhem intrigue you? Then look no further than Wheels of Fury! This is a fun piece of DLC that does something different from anything else in the game. You get several missions that gradually upgrade the car with more and more ridiculous capabilities, and when you finish them all, you permanently unlock the car for use in the main game. This pack is a fun diversion that won't take up too much of your time, but gives you ample opportunity to wreak havoc!
More gear means more optionstaigatsu | Feb. 3, 2014 | Review of Deus Ex Human Revolution: Tactical Enhancement Pack
Sometimes you just want a little more out of a game, and sometimes a couple new weapons gives you that option. The silenced sniper rifle is an absolute treat for those who prefer a stealth oriented style, allowing you to pick off enemies undetected at range. For those who want a more personal and up close experience, the Silverback shotgun is both satisfying and devastating. Ten thousand credits does seem like a bit of overkill, but it does assure that you'll never have to worry about prioritizing purchases.
Nothing that you'll find in this pack stands out as something that makes you wish it was in the original game. However, if you're looking a little extra boost to make the going easier, or a pair of weapons that fill their role quite capably, the Tactical Enhancement Pack is worth your attention.
New gear means new ways to play aroundtaigatsu | Feb. 3, 2014 | Review of Deus Ex Human Revolution: Explosive Mission Pack
One of the biggest draws of the Deus Ex franchise is how it allows you to choose a wide array of options on how to approach the missions in the game. And what this DLC offers is a handful of new tools to expand on your preferred play style. There's nothing particularly game changing in here; the equipment simply gives you some new ways to tackle the game's challenges. Remote explosives are great for fans of surprising unsuspecting foes, the automatic unlocker will make getting into secured areas a simpler process, while the Linebacker grenade launcher is great for those that feel that every problem is best solved with a little bit of overkill.
The new mission is short but integrated well into the game, and features a fan favorite from the original. It's not necessary for the complete experience, but is a nice throwback for fans of the series.
Don't purchase this expecting anything groundbreaking. If you're looking for some new ways to play around though, for a few dollars you'll find a satisfactory amount of content.
Welcome to the world of Dungeons & Dragons!taigatsu | Feb. 3, 2014 | Review of Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara
Both of these games stand as the pinnacle of classic Capcom arcade era beat-em-ups. Beyond the art style, that has aged remarkably gracefully, and remarkably polished game play, which remains smooth and balanced to this day, what lies underneath is a game that has a surprising amount of depth and complexity to it. The difference in classes allows each player to consider their role more deeply - you'll still be wailing on gnolls & owl bears, but a sturdy dwarf plays appreciably different from a nimble thief or fragile mage. The inventory and spell systems give you a much larger variety of options during combat, and even prove critical in a few memorable moments in the campaigns.
Hidden paths, larger move sets than you'll typically see in a beat-em-up, experience growth, secret team up attacks, a veritable who's who of the classic D&D bestiary, chests exploding with loot - these are just a few of the things that make these games so special. If you're interested in a fantastic co-op arcade game, it's hard to go wrong with this pair. Even after all these years, they still feel timeless.
Man, you come right out of a comic booktaigatsu | Feb. 3, 2014 | Review of Sleeping Dogs: Zodiac Tournament
Zodiac Tournament is an unabashed tribute to the classic film "Enter the Dragon". From the beginning setup and title card sequence, the tone is set for a DLC the doesn't take itself seriously and revels in a aesthetic that calls back to 1970's Hong Kong chop socky films.
The focus in the missions is on the melee combat, which is definitely one of Sleeping Dogs' greatest strengths. Each of the missions has a mechanic or an enemy that provides a twist on what you've seen before, either with new environmental hazards to consider, or a move set that requires a different approach. It's not particularly deep, and you'll find that it's all over fairly shortly, but it's a fun, breezy add on that plays around with what you've seen before.
One of the biggest advantages of this pack is that you can access it at any time from the main game, unlike the other two larger expansions. This allows you to somewhat adjust the difficult, depending on your progress in the main game. The biggest flaw however? You can't change your outfit on the island itself, which means you can't wear the classic yellow jumpsuit you can find in the main game. A missed opportunity for sure.
Nice addition but misses the marktaigatsu | Feb. 3, 2014 | Review of Sleeping Dogs: Year of the Snake
Conceptually, this add on had so much more potential than what it actually gives. Taking the undercover protagonist from the base game, throwing him into a uniform and making him walk a beat seems like a great twist, but not enough is done with the idea. The game plays the situation too seriously to have any fun with the idea, but doesn't go into enough depth to make it more engaging. It also misses the mark when it comes to how it handles the Chinese New Year's celebration - other than a few case files mentioning holiday traditions and a couple of lion dancers, you would have no idea that this was set during the celebration.
Mechanically, not much is really added either. Using your taser and handcuffing suspects is a nice touch, but there is no real incentive to take a less violent approach. You can flash your badge and commandeer a car on the street, but all that means is that stealing a car takes longer while you wait for the animation to play out.
Compared to Nightmare in North Point, there is at least a greater variety in the missions, but nothing that you haven't already seen in the main game. You'll be chasing suspects on foot, get in a couple fire fights and race cars into the bay before they explode. Some of the content you will unlock that carries over to the main game is nice - a red silk kung fu outfit that allows you to parry easier and plant bombs in the trunks of cars, a SWAT outfit that reduces damage by 50% and the beat cop outfit are good, if not particularly inspiring, additions.
You'll get more mileage out of the game if you haven't had enough already, and there's more on tap here than in Nightmare in North Point, but be aware that this DLC is still fairly limited in scope.
Be the star in this Hong Kong masterpiecetaigatsu | Jan. 30, 2014 | Review of Sleeping Dogs Digital Edition
If you haven't played Sleeping Dogs yet, then you have been seriously missing out. While it's easy for an open-world game to get lost in comparison to bigger titles like Grand Theft Auto or Arkham City, this is a game that can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with those behemoths. Almost every aspect of the game feels like it's been tended to with care and talent, and the result is a title that is an absolute blast from start to finish.
The variety of activities is always engaging. Careening around in cars, vaulting over tables in slow motion and enjoying the spectacle of the scenery is always a great way to pass the time. Shattering kneecaps with a well placed spot of kung fu never gets old; the combat is crunchy, balanced and oh so satisfying. The story missions manage to keep you interested and excited, and somehow even invested in the characters themselves. And there's always another street race, drug bust or unlock around the corner to occupy your attention.
Finding a serious complaint about the game is very difficult. The acting is all top notch. Roaming around Hong Kong is a refreshing change of pace. Sleeping Dogs manages to capture the spirit of the city very well and has a fair number of surprises in store when you explore. Both the radio stations and original score are well done and supremely catchy, with traditional Chinese folk music co-existing peacefully with some stellar underground artists. There are a wide array of options to tailor your look, from track suit wearing street thug to designer thread sporting boss.
Credit to the developers need to be paid as well. They have gone above and beyond when it comes to the PC port. In addition to detailed control over the graphics settings, they released a free HD texture download and the option to increase the density of people and vehicles in the world. As an extra bonus, you can even unlock a free vehicle and some cosmetic options in the game!
Few games manage to do so much as Sleeping Dogs, yet remain as cohesive and captivating. If you've ever been vaguely interested by what you've heard about the game, then you owe it to yourself to start playing it today.
Police and thieves in the streettaigatsu | Jan. 30, 2014 | Review of Sleeping Dogs: SWAT DLC
Sometimes it's easy to forget that you're supposed to be one of the good guys. Let the SWAT pack help remind you! De-escalate tense situations with a 9mm and remind those pesky triads what law and order means. The focus here is definitely on the gun fights, and having backup on your side helps create a sense of being part of a team. You're not missing much without this DLC, but it's a great way to enjoy a rampage without having to worry about things like being discrete or getting arrested. So hop in a heavily armored van, turn up the radio, set the cruise control and get ready to serve up several healthy proportions of hot leaded justice.
You haven't lived until you've thrown a monk into a gongtaigatsu | Jan. 30, 2014 | Review of Sleeping Dogs: Dragon Master Pack
By bundling together several pieces of DLC, this pack offers a good amount of content for Sleeping Dogs fans looking to dive deeper into the action. Like any bundle, there are sure to be a few things that seem lackluster in comparison to the rest, but as a pack, it offers great value. Each pack gives you both an extra outfit that has a minor effect on game play, and the extra missions all have an interesting spin on the game's combat mechanics. One of the bigger advantages is that you can play these missions repeatedly, allowing you to gain more Triad experience - something that was a definite issue in the base game. If you want more kung fu fights, some new duds to run around town in, or just more to do around Hong Kong, the Dragon Master pack is there to help.
Please obey all the posted traffic lawstaigatsu | Jan. 30, 2014 | Review of Sleeping Dogs: The Street Racer Pack
The Street Racer Pack is fairly limited in scope. What you get is exactly what you read in the description : more races in a larger variety of locales around Hong Kong. How much you enjoy this pack depends on how much you enjoyed the driving mechanics. If you prefer just hopping in whatever vehicle is handy and cruising around listening to the radio, you can go ahead and skip it. If, however, you're looking for more to do, or an extra challenge, this pack gives you a good excuse to try out all some more of those spiffy cars sitting around in your garage.
Pulp Cinema, Hungry Ghosts and Rainy Nightstaigatsu | Jan. 30, 2014 | Review of Sleeping Dogs: Nightmare in North Point
If you've finished Sleeping Dogs and are still craving more out of the game, the Nightmare in North Point DLC is a fairly decent addition. It lacks more of the open-ended game play of the original, but it makes up for it with a campy B-movie aesthetic and a liberal interpretation of Chinese folklore. The new enemy types don't really add much depth to the combat; most of the appeal draws from re-visiting old haunts, encountering some familiar faces and soaking in the atmosphere. It's worth your time if you want more Sleeping Dogs, but isn't required to feel like you've gotten everything out of the game that you could.