Average Overall Score Given: 7.63529 / 10
Total Forum Posts: 5035
Overall: Very rarely can you sum up an entire game into a three-word phrase, but I think I've managed to do it this time. Beautiful Katamari: Rollin' crap up. Usually such brief summaries are requisite to puzzle games, like Tetris: Stackin Blocks. Or older game like Asteriods: Shoot Rocks! But please don't let the short misnomer deter you because never has rolling crap up into a ball been so entertaining.
For some reason there is something oddly addicting about adding things to an object to see just how big you can make it. I'm sure we all at some point had a rubber band ball as a kid. Pee-Wee even had his giant foil ball. This is a lot like those except without the chance of popping yourself in the eye with a weak rubber band or getting sent to jail for indecent exposure at an adult theater. Yes, 360 owners now have a way to indulge themselves in the Katamari series that Playstation owners have been enjoying for years now.
Gameplay: For those of you who are uninitiated in the realm of Katamari crap-rolling, it's a fairly easy concept. You start with a little ball (presumably made of ticky-tack covered with super glue) and begin rolling it around in an effort to collect stuff. At first you'll be grabbing tiny things like toothpicks and coins but by the end of the game you will be ripping countrys, continents and even planets from their foundations to add to your conglomerate m@!%#*! of oddities.
The plot behind Katamari games have always been asinine at best. You play the prince of all cosmos, an acorn sized son of the King of all cosmos. The basic plot has always been the King does something that destroys half the universe and it is your job to roll up big balls of stuff for him to turn into new planets, stars, satellites and such. Honestly the plot doesn't really matter because the King is about as coherent as a sugar-deluged kid with ADD who accidentally dropped some acid. Very quicky you will byp@!%#*! the plot all together to get more gameplay in.
Each level has a time limit, size goal and side goal for you to accomplish. Usually you get about 2-7 minutes to do all the damage you can. The goals vary from stage to stage. When you are rolling up a new saturn your job is to collect as many ring-shaped objects as possible. The sun you roll has to contain lots of objects with 'energy'. So on and so forth. At the end of the level you get a point rating that factors in your size and how well you collected what was asked of you.
Graphics: Graphically the game is very, very mediocre for a 360 game. It may be on par with what you would expect out of a Live Arcade game, but for shelling out 40 dollars it doesn't seem like they did much to upgrade. All the objects in the game look like they were built from legos and smoothed over with a bit of wax. Animation is practically nonexistant and it seems that none of the 360's advanced power was utilized for anything special such as extend draw distance or more onscreen objects. Of course to Beautiful Katamari's defense I will say that the quirky graphics are kinda what adds the charm to this very Japanese game.
Audio: The soundtrack is where this game really shines though. From J-Pop to Acid Jazz, if you looked at the soundtrack on paper it would make absolutely no sense and seem like a mish-mash of non-compatible styles... but for some reason in game it works together well. Unfortunately the sound is metaphorically crapped on by some very harsh, repetetive and obtrusive sound effects. The worst part of it is you will eventually start rolling things into your katamari that are making these sounds hand have to listen to them over and over until you roll enough more stuff to bury them.
Suggestions: So is this game worth buying? Depends really. Have you played any Katamari game before? If you have I would give a definate 'no'. Being a Katamari veteran I burned through the entire game in about 2 and a half hours. There is a little replay value if you factor in trying to max all your point values for every level but the game gets very repetetive while doing this. There is an online multiplayer aspect but it is weak and not much fun at best. You do a 1 on 1 challenge to try to roll things up and can ram the other player to knock collected objects off of them. While this sounds fun in theory your katamari doesn't actually grow so the gameplay seems rather restricted. They could have made it more fun by having a 4-player arena for a Hungry Hungry Hippos type of gameplay but alas, this didn't happen.
Of course if you haven't played Katamari this may be a fun game to indulge in. Being only 40 dollars may make it worth it as new players will have a bit more of a learning curve and in turn get some more playtime out of it. But even still most may find it better as a rental as it is still an exceedingly short game no matter how you look at it. Either way, whether you buy it or rent it Beautiful Katamari is worth checking out for the sheer quirkyness of it.
Happy Crap Rollin'
Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 ESPN NFL 2K5
Overall: At first you have to wonder exactly what Sega was thinking. 19.99? Are they really that hurting for ESPN game support that they have to go the Nintendo route of things and slash prices like it's going out of style? But after you get your hands on this game, and think about it for a while, it all becomes crystal clear. To start off with, Madden had one huge advantage this year: they started supporting Xbox Live. What that means is that Sega doesn't have that near-stranglehold on the Xbox market that they have enjoyed and needed to do something about it. To just say they 'did something about it' is quite the understatement.
If Sega and EA were not companies but actual people, then Sega just grabbed EA, spun them around, bent em over and stuck it to them hard with what is quite possibely one of the best football packages ever to grace a video game system. While diehard Madden fans will sit there and try to argue the same old things (the physics in Madden are better! Madden has a better franchise mode!) those of us who play both games regularly know that if there is a difference, it is negligible by this point. Even if all of the 'madden is better' stuff were actually true, it is blatantly obvious that ESPN = more bang for the buck... much more.
Last year the ESPN license did some nice things for Sega's sports lines. Throwing ESPN into the mix of an already decent and steadily improving game could only mean good things. Last year ESPN delivered plenty of eye and ear candy providing Sega with a game that was not only fun to play, but was fun to watch as well. No longer were the days of extremely repetetive commentary and boring cutscene, ESPN brought about good verbal audio and their signature 'glamour' fillers. This year takes that aspect of the ESPN license and runs with it like Faulk breaking through the secondary towards the endzone. This game is stupid fun to not only play, but to just sit back and enjoy. Honestly I could turn on a sim, crack a beer and watch it for an hour... which is something I haven't been able to do with a game since DOAXBV. It's honestly something which needs to be seen to be believed. As far as the overall presentation, ESPN just layed a backhand across Madden's face and is now forcing Madden to wear women's dresses in public. It's that awesome.
Gameplay: Since Sega brought its NFL series to the Xbox, Sega fans have always known that the mechanics have always been great. Sega football has been a joy to play since day one and every year they have improved upon this. This year is no exception. We see the return of many of the great systems that have been implemented, such as Maximum Passing, Hot Routes and other gameplay systems. The big one that has been added this year is the Maximum Tackle system. This is a two fold system that can benefit you both on offense and defense.
On the offensive side the way it works is if someone wraps you up for a tackle you can frantically press the A button to try to break loose of the tackle, or at the very least milk out and extra yard or two before the defender brings you down. At first I was a little worried that this was bringing a 'button mashing' feel to the game that I wasn't anxious to see. But then I realized that when I am 3 and 2, and get wrapped up a yard from a first down, I am usually mashing the hell out of buttons anyways, so with this system it is actually going to do something for me now!
The defensive side is a little more straight forward: Maximum Tackle lets you use two different kinds of tackles. The first one is the classic textbook wrap-up. When you wrap the runner or qb up you have a good chance of bringing them down, but they might be able to get a few extra yards before they hit the turf. The other tackle is a power tackle. This tackle will stop them dead in their tracks, but the negative side is this tackle is easier to avoid. The power tackle ends up being a judgement call, if you think you have the runner figured out, get ready to nail him with a pad cracking dive... else you might want to think about doing the whole wrap-up thing.
One thing that appeared last year and made another return is the First Person mode. I'm not sure why, but this isn't really advertised much on the literature for the game, even though Sega thought it fit enough to bring back for another year. I must admit, playing a football game in first person is pretty cool... but ends up being extremely difficult. While this is most likely the case in real life (if it wasn't hard then everyone would be in the NFL) I found myself only able to play so much before I got tired of not seeing my defenders and my pockets collapsing to the outside blitz and not knowing to try and evade. The mode is cool, none the less and it is nice having yet another option in the game.
Graphics: From the home theater technical aspect this game is a beauty. For all you video nuts, you will be happy to know that ESPN supports 720p so you can milk the visuals for all they are worth. On the other end, the audiophiles will wet themselves to the Dolby 5.1 encoding. While 5.1 really isn't necessary for a football game, it really adds some life to the atmosphere and brings us closer to the realization of all games supporting this standard.
As if all this wasn't enough, Sega decided to laden this game with even more features that will draw out the life of this product. A big one is the 'Crib' feature. If you haven't seen or heard of this feature before, here is the lowdown: You have a house, and earn points to pimp it out. Points are earned for a variety of reasons, meeting team goals, franchise goals, player goals, even for such things as exploring the menu systems. As your points wrack up you can buy things for your crib (furniture, games, bobble head dolls) or even add stuff to the game itself (unlock cheats, buy new soundtracks, buy mini-games). Think of cribs as the EA 'card system' but not nearly as stupid and as boring as collecting trading cards.
As funny as it is, one of my favorite features thus far is the ability to edit stadium soundtracks. You can take music that you've ripped to your xbox, and select clips from it to accompany many of the things that will happen in the game. For instance, when the other team intercepts the ball you will hear Jack Black come over the loudspeakers and yeall "F**k you, you f**king b**ch!". Or I can score a touchdown and the other player has to listen to the Bloodhound Gang tell them to 'Kiss me where it smells funny!'. This feature is golden and adds that much more personality to this game.
Audio: At this point I haven't even touched Xbox Live. There is soooo much to do on my own that playing against someone else has yet to even interest me until I unlock more stuff for my own amusement. With a price like this, though, I seriously doubt anyone is gonna have trouble finding a game vs. anyone else. Live, as with many other games, is going to add major playtime to this title, at least until 2k6 rolls around!
So Madden has finally gone Live, but is that going to be enough to compete with this 20 dollar piece of gold? I seriously doubt it. Madden will still get support from the long-term die-hard fans, but with a marketing strategy like this it is not hard to imagine Sega converting quite a few EA loyalists into their camp. The only thig we have to wonder about now is if this will bring a new trend in price chopping to our yearly sports titles... or you could not think about this and go get yourself a copy of this game as quickly as you can!
Visual: 4.5 out of 5 While the presentation gets a 5 out of 5, there does seem to be occasional frame stutters outside of the actual gameplay. I'm not too sure but it doesn't seem like a flying ESPN logo should really tax the Xbox enough to make it stutter
Sound: 5 out of 5 Commentary, top notch. Sound options, the same. Sports games have always been notorious for crappy repetetive commentary and lackluster music, but this is no longer the case. And as Pepsi would say, ESPN's sound is the choice of the new generation.
Gameplay: 4.6 out of 5. While the gameplay is steadily improving, there are still a few quirks. For instance: in any mode above pro you will get intercepted so many times it isn't funny. The defender could be running with his back to the QB then suddenly spin around, jump and intercept a pass he wasn't even looking at. While this does happen every once in a while in real life, the frequency it happens in this game gets to be ridiculous
Overall: 4.8 out of 5. ESPN 2K5 is the total package backed by a killer price. If you have any interest at all in football it would be a mistake not owning this game. Screw renting it, you will have paid for a 1/4th of the game already. Go pick it up.
See you all on the gridiron,
Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II
Along with the depth of the normal game Black Island Studios decided to add a feature that is booming in the RPG genre: item creation. When Diablo 2 was released it brought with it the grand idea of customizing weapons by placing runes in the hilt for different attributes. Soon other games like Everquest had tradeskills allowing you to create items from scratch. Baldurr's Gate has followed suit by allowing you to create items in game with pieces of stuff you collect. In the pre-release manual there is already a big list of all the gems and runes that are available, what attributes they will provide and what different kinds of armors there are along with armor class and damage modifiers. While not something that was imperative to making the new Baldur's Gate a good game, it definitely helps add even more life to the gameplay and gives players a little something extra to try if they are so inclined.
One thing about Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2 that makes it such a pleasure to play is the amazing graphics. There really isn't anything new and innovative to the graphical setup; it is a standard 3/4 overhead view which is becoming the set standard for games of this type. Where the greatness comes is the attention to detail. Beautiful textures, smooth framerate and fluid graphical effects give this game a smooth polished shine. There is a wide variety of levels from forests, to indoor mansions, pretty much anywhere you could ever think to swing an axe or cast a spell is in this game.
The actual stylings of the graphics themselves are quite akin to what we have seen in other 3/4 overhead games such as Hunter: The Reckoning. Since there is no scenery flying by you there was a lot more work put into the overall ambience of the atmosphere. Cool little nuances here and there, such as light filtering in through a window, water rippling as you step through it and more really give this game a splendid touch.
One other problem that was overcome is the fact that games like this can often have bad camera problems as items and enemies are obscured around corners until it is too late. It didn't take much to fix this, all they did was give full camera control to the player. The right analog stick now lets you swing the camera around to the desired position, allowing you to check every nook and cranny of a level for whatever you happen to need. The only minor complaint I have is that the zoom system is an all or nothing deal: either you are zoomed out for a bird's eye shot or you are zoomed and can only see about 15 ft. in front of you. There were many times where I was wishing there was a median as I wanted to see further, but still needed to be able to scope stuff out in detail.
The one aspect of the game that kind of let me down was the music. It definitely wasn't bad, but it didn't match up to the rest of the game. Now maybe I have been spoiled by movies and what not, but I was seriously hoping for some epic music that really set the monster bashing mood. Instead I received some mediocre, short orchestral pieces that were recycled over and over again. Now while music usually isn't enough to ruin a game for me, it will certainly add a lot to it... but unfortunately the music in Baldur's Gate didn't do that. Custom soundtracks might have helped by allowing me to play my Lord of the Rings soundtrack as I ravaged some orc looking creatures, but I didn't even get that much.
The voice acting thankfully made up for some of what the sound left out. While not as grand of an implementation as you would see in series such as Legacy of Kain, the voice acting was pulled off rather well and all of the voices fit the characters. The only voice that seemed to be a little off was your actual character's voice when you were in town and tried to do something you weren't supposed to, like kill a villager (I kahn't doo thaht here...) Aside from that the voice acting really helps to further the plot as you quest through Baldur's Gate.
All in all the game is rock solid. It is a blast to play through by yourself and even more fun when you team up with a friend to take down the evil around Baldur's Gate as a rampaging duo. The game is decently long as well, I've been playing it for close to 10 hours and have just completed the first of 4 acts which means there will be enough baddy slaying to keep you occupied for quite a while. If you are an RPG fan you need to pick this up. If you liked the gameplay in Hunter: The Reckoning you need to pick this up. If you like both of the prior then you DEFINATELY need to pick this up. Everyone else should probably pick this game up as well, as it is a solid addition to anyone's game library!
Overall Score: 9.4 / 10 Legacy of Kain: Defiance
Overall Score: 7.2 / 10 Counter-Strike
Get your butts working on HL2! And don't forget about us Xbox owners who would gladly give select body parts to see it end up on our system... Most of us would likely give even more body parts to see it as an Xbox exclusive :) Of course we could just pay you money for it like most normal people do.
Overall Score: 7.6 / 10 Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge
And finally the wait is over. It seems like Crimson Skies for the Xbox has taken years to come out and there is a reason for this: it literally has taken years. The history behind this title reads like a soap opera in the game development industry. The original team dumped tons of time into development and came out with a game that for all purposes was boring and not fun to play. So how do you fix that kind of problem? Simple! Fire everyone and start over! So they did and development for a new version of Crimson Skies began. So often games that take this long to develop become over-hyped and are a total disappointment at launch. (Did someone say Duke Nukem Forever?) So what about Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge? Is it going to suffer the same fate as the rest of the long awaited, hyped-up let downs? After playing it I can answer with a resounding 'hell no'! Crimson Skies is a game that Xbox, and especially Xbox Live, has long needed ever since the hopes of Battlefield 1942 were shot down by EA.
Now before I begin this review of the soon to be released blockbuster I should probably warn you that I am a flying junkie. Ever since the days of yore I have played any type of flight sim I could get my hands on from the olden days of Commodore64 Apache games to the latest and greatest F-22 flight sim. I was a bit skeptical of Crimson back in the day for the fact that it looked less like a flight sim and more like a glitzy arcade game. But then again, Sega's Afterburner was an arcade game and it rocked, so I made sure to keep an eye on Crimson. Then came the moment of truth when I played the demo at this years' E3 and to keep a long story short I was totally floored by it. Screw Halo 2, Rare, booth babes and anything else going on, Crimson Skies was definitely the highlight of my trip. Booth babes were definitely up there too, but Crimson ruled all. Ever since then I have been anxiously awaiting a chance to play the whole package and when the chance finally came I nearly crapped myself in happiness. Luckily I own 3 different pairs of underwear in case this happened!
So enough about my lack of clean underwear! Onto what you all are reading this for: the actual game! So here is the quick and dirty of Crimson Skies: You fly a plane (duh) in what Microsoft Gaming Studios calls an 'alternate reality where commerce took to the air after the depression'. This alternate reality looks more like the set from The Rocketeer, but that's fine because as far as I'm concerned that was a great movie. The very beginning of the game throws you into a fun movie sequence where your character (Nathan) wakes up in bed next to a naked woman (good) and notices a guy standing over him with a gun pointed to his head (bad). The man then informs you that you lost your plane and your zeppelin in a bet last night. So right off the bat we know the main character is a boozing, gambling, womanizing flyboy who is quite frankly someone high up on my list of people I would like to hang out with. assuming they were real. Of course it also turns out that you are someone who doesn't honor your bets, as you manage to steal your plane back, steal your zeppelin back and then steal the plane of the guy who had the audacity to call you on your bet! With a great main character like Nathan you know the plot is going to be great which means that for the first time ever we will have an Xbox Live game that is fun to play in single player mode.
The actual gameplay itself is a perfect mix of exploratory flying and linear missions. There are times when the game will push you into a direction and give you a certain task to accomplish. Other times you will just be flying around exploring and looking for stuff to do. Of course the exploration isn't just a boring 'fly around and look at the pretty scenery' situation; there are plenty of bonuses to be found from cash to upgrade tokens tucked away in spots that will test your abilities as a pilot. Once you are done exploring you can look for work to do to make money which range from people asking you to do escort missions to requests such as taking down groups of bandits which have been causing havoc in the area.
On top of this there are certain points in the game where you encounter 'boss characters' that need to be dealt with. These range from armor plated zeppelins to giant mechanical creatures a 'la Wild Wild West. At these points you will find that shooting down everything in site isn't going to get you any further and you actually have to start looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the target. This adds a little more depth to the single player game and really keeps it from becoming a monotonous shooter. Then you can also add to the list of goodness that this game is adequately long to be worth the purchase to someone who doesn't have Live. I've been playing crimson for a good 15 hours and have barely scratched the surface of what is available for the single player game.
Then we have the feature that many of us have been drooling for: Xbox Live gameplay. Crimson Skies will be our first aerial shooter available for online play and even before it is release I can assure you it is going to be a hit. It has everything going for it: 16 player support means there will be tons of action going on. There are 6 game modes including standard dogfighting, team dogfights, capture the flag, keep away, team keep away and a crazy spin off of capture the flag called 'chicken'. With a great game and all these game modes this will add unending replay value until we (hopefully) see Crimson Skies 2 grace our Xboxes.
Now here is the one part of the game that is going to either make people fall in love with it or turn away from it: the controls. For those of you who are looking for a true to life flight sim, look elsewhere. While this game does give you the ability to do control your pitch and roll, there is no yaw control and both pitch and roll are controlled by one stick. This means if you move your stick to the right your plane will automatically roll and pitch up to turn. There is no way to change it so the player is stuck with the more 'arcade' setup. Of course you still have the abilities to pull off true-to-live aerial maneuvers from immelmans to Cuban eights, but there is no point since there is a more 'arcade' way to do that as well. With the use of both analog stick you can cause your plane to automatically pull of precise maneuvers which happen much faster than just doing them manually. This means that anyone can play this game and effortlessly pull off split S's, barrel rolls, snap rolls and immelmans without having ever taken a flight class. Even with the arcade style setup, though, this game is a ton of fun to play once you get the hang of it.
Graphically Crimson Skies is a solid performer. It is by no means the prettiest game out there, but it is definitely one of the better looking games available for Xbox. The frame rate is constant, the movie sequences are well polished and presentable and the explosions are great. Nothing is quite as cool as watching a zeppelin explode into a huge fireball and fall out of the sky while you imagine the captain sitting there saying "I KNEW we shouldn't have filled this with hydrogen!" Then you get to watch the zeppelin crash into the beautiful landscape. No detail was missed when creating the different flying environments. You'll get to weave your plane through desert canyons, lush coastal regions, huge industrial cities and more. These levels are a bit exaggerated looking more like a real life rendition of comic book sets, they are still visually pleasing to the eye and offer plenty of nooks and crannies to navigate through and test out your elite piloting skills.
Even the subtle effects play quite nicely. For instance, you are flying close to the water and someone starts shooting at you from behind. You will not only see the bullet splashes in the water but some of the water will come up and hit your screen then bead off as you continue flying. It is things like that which let the gamer know that the developer cares about their game and took the time to tweak everything out!
There is one beef that I do have with this game, but it is a minor one. I am of the opinion that every game should have custom soundtracks, whether or not the in-game music is good. If you don't want to give us control over the in-game music, at least let us listen to our favorite tracks when we are gunning it out in multiplayer. But I suppose this is only a minor problem since the soundtrack really lends to the atmosphere of the game. Remember my reference earlier to the Rocketeer? Well this reference is still valid when it comes to the music. You will be subject to a lot of orchestrated 30's music which is far from what we like to call 'exciting'. but is good enough not to be a nuisance and doesn't interfere with the ability to enjoy Crimson Skies.
The rest of the sound department shines as well. Sounds is a place where most games tend to fail in as the music becomes repetitious, sound effects are monotonous and thrown and commentary is bland to say the least. Crimson doesn't suffer from these ailments. Your plane engine happens to sound like a plane engine, bullets whiz by in a realistic fashion and hearing people complain as you shoot them out of the sky never gets old. Nathan has a steady stream of one lines he will deliver every once in a while as you bag another kill as well.
So the final verdict on the whole project? Well, you have great graphics, great sound, 10 different planes which are almost all upgradeable, you have 6 different multiplayer modes, you have the ability to jump out of your plane and man anti-aircraft guns, there are explosions, vendettas, online play. This game has it all. Ladies and Gentlemen, say hello to the first game which has successfully pulled off an amazing online and offline game in the same package. Yeah, and you thought you would have to wait until Halo 2 for something like that! Needless to say I wish we had more 'total package' games like this and my hat is off to Microsoft for putting this game on the market. Crimson Skies was definitely worth the wait and on October 21st your wait is over. Go buy this game!
Suggestions: I do realize there was no such thing as radar in the 1930's, but a way to lock on to people would have been nice for tailing a target. Aside from that this game is immaculate and I am sure you will be hearing that comment for a long time to come! Now get to work on Crimson Skies 2!
Overall Score: 9.6 / 10 Otogi: Myth of Demons
Suggestions: Woohoo! Otogi 2 has been announced! Make sure we see this in the US, Sega. And possibly make it a little longer, as that seems to be the complaint heard the most on our site.
Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Pro Cast Sports Fishing
Excellent first entry Capcom! I think a lot of fishing fans will be wishing for a little more customization, but this is a solid title for the price it is being sold at.
Overall Score: 7.2 / 10 Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Island Thunder
Suggestions: Why the oversite of obvious flaws? This is your second run with practically the same product and you let these things slip?
Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Bloody Roar Extreme
Suggestions: This is a great game for the younger crowd. How about working on a serious fighting title now? You know, for those of us who enjoy more involved fighting games? (And for the love of god either get some good music or let us use our custom soundtracks!)
Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Moto GP 2
Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Run Like Hell
Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Buffy the Vampire Slayer
So when I was told there was a game coming out that let me delve into a primetime Blockbuster full of lust, betrayl and action I said "No way!? They are making a Friends video game?!" Well, not quite... Fortunately, even though I still have yet to see my Friends game, Electronic Arts has Buffy: The Vampire Slayer to keep me company. While I must admit I am not the most adament of Buffy fans out there, this game definately brings the television experience to your XBox.
Luckily Buffy has finally killed a trend. For some reason it seems whenever a game is created from a form of media it has a lot of things going against it. Blade 2 was less than satisfying, Shrek was a strikeout and Bruce Lee, a game that had incredible amounts of potential, was a total disappointment. With this long streak of commercial ventures gone askew I was a little weary when I popped the game into my box. I was greeted by Giles (Buffy's trainer) who so kindly filled me in on the story behind the game, which I am pretty sure is just the opening dialogue to the actual show. Either way, even if you have never watched the show you won't be totally lost going into this game.
Here it is. The place where the game has the most chances of faultering. 100 people were surveyed with the question "How is the gameplay in Buffy" and the 3 most common answers are on the board. So what do most people, including myself, think? Survey says... Awesome! As far as the fighting system, take the combo system from spiderman, throw in some slow motion supermoves and add the ability to impale people with sharp objects. This is the kind of system that should have appeared in Bruce Lee. The fluidity of it is great, and stabbing people in the hearts never grows old. Like all hack and slash games go, though, this game brinks on the edge of tediousness at times. Luckily newer harder enemies show up as you go along and a decent storyline help spice up the game to make you want to keep playing.
Of course the first wow I got was from the visuals. Just think, Sarah Michelle Gellar at your disposal whenever you want to see her... kick vampire butt (lets not get too carried away). Texture details are awesome, after hours of playing I didn't see any pixelation at all. Speaking of things I didn't see, add slowdown and crappy draw distance to the list. This game is an all around beauty that makes me proud to own the XBox. And if you are a Buffy fan, it will make you proud to... well... be a fan I guess. Trust me though, you won't be disappointed
The dialogue from this game is also incredibly well executed uncluding recorded comments from all of the show's actual actors and actresses. The dialogue for the most part is witty, funny and keeps you interested in the game. I do need to note that I am just talking about the cutscenes right now. The actual ingame voices become very quickly repetetive to the point of annoyance. On the other end of the sound spectrum the sound does a good job keeping the atmosphere. The original Buffy theme is, of course, intact along with other gothy sounding music that does a good job of complementing gameplay, but isn't really that memorable. You most likely won't be caught humming any of the tunes during the day.
Suggestions: A decent game based off a TV show? Get out of here... but somehow you managed to pull it off. Way to go!
Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon
"Kraft, movement in southwest quadrant on your six. Possible bogey." No way, I've been watching that west ridge like a hawk, nothing could have gotten behind me. Oh well, I've got decent cover, may as well check. How in the hell? How did he get back the..... My words fell silent as I felt the pain of a bullet ripping through my chest. Wait a second, I didn't feel any pain. Oh, thats right! I am just playing a video game! Lucky for me I can delve into the realm of squad military action without the hassles of real bullets and the risking of my life thanks to the folks at Ubisoft and their creation: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon. The first person shooter genre has always been dominated by solo ventures where the lone gunner takes on the entire opposing side. That makes good in recreations of Rambo-type movies, but what about the real life situations where your life rests in the hands of not only yourself, but your teammates? Finally real life gets a taste of the action with a game that isn't dependant on how many big guns you have, but on your ability to observe, plan and execute in the field. Sounds like it would be a great multiplayer, doesn't it? The good news is that it is. Ghost Recon was one of the premier titles to come out very close to the public release of Xbox Live, and for the most part it didn't let its players down. With realtime voice with your entire team it brought a new level of tactics and strategy the likes of which have never been seen in a first person shooter. Unfortunately, though this all sounds quite wonderful, there are definitely some drawbacks and shortcomings to be found. One of the most blatant ones that you have to deal with from start to finish is a very awkward and very confusing menu system. In game and out you will find yourself opening the manual again and again to try and figure out how to work it. The match finding on XBL seems to be a little bit weak, and also if people are ignoring you, there is a 90% chance you aren't holding down the white button to talk. These are trivial though and don't affect the online gameplay. Of course the single player game is another bag of problems in its own right. You will quickly find out your AI teammates are quite bipolar in their performace. One minute they will be shooting and killing people you haven't even seen yet, the next minute the will stand there while they are mowed down by an enemy... I guess they are under the impression if you don't move, they can't see you. But it isn't all bad and even the single player game has it's virtues that will keep people interested at least for a while.
This section is going to be broken down into two parts, the online play and the offline play. I almost consider them two entirely different games as you will play each one in a separate fashion and gain a totally unique experience from each. Since absolutely everone will probably play the single player game at some point in time we'll start there. As I said before, your teammates are either an immense help or a huge hindrance. You will probably find out very quickly it is much easier to take control of each squad separately instead of controlling one and leaving it to the AI to control the other. This cuts down on fatalities, though it does take a little longer to finish the mission. The game itself is average in length, you can breeze through it in about 8 or 10 hours on easy mode. Ubisoft entices you to play further with a series of unlockable items, people, maps and even gameplay modes, which almost all can also be used in the multiplayer setups. Totaling 50 unlockable items, you will begin breezing through them rather quickly until you hit around 40 when they become borderline impossible. Of course a little practice and you'll eventually be able to get those also. This is where the usefulness of the single player mode ends. After doing most of the unlockables on GR I never looked back to single player and it has been multiplayer ever since. Multiplayer has one huge distinct advantage over the solo missions, and that is your teammates have the potential to not be idiots. They also have the potential to actually communicate back and forth with you. Notice I keep saying 'potential'; just because someone can talk to you and not run out into a cornfield standing straight up doesn't necessarily mean they will. I have heard about people who don't like the online experience, but after a bit of discussion it almost always turns out they were playing with a bunch of random crappy people. Get some friends that you know and are willing to put some play time into this game and pretty soon you will be having more fun then you thought possible. The only area of actual gameplay that some people might have is the speed of a game. It must be emphasized that this is a THINKING game and not a balls to the wall Unreal type game where you are going to be running in guns-a-blazing and think you are going to make a difference. If that is the kind of fps you are looking for, feel free to look elsewhere.
The graphics of this game are pretty average. It's got come cool CG movies for an opening, but after that the game is totally engine driven, and it isn't the greatest implementation of the game engine they use. The development team, Red Storm Entertainment, said they reworked the engine to better implement the Box's built in hardware vertex shaders. I'm not quite sure what doing this improved, but the textures seem flushed out and grainy in places and all the shrubbery gets very flat and pixelated when you are crawling around in it. It seems that though it doesn't affect gameplay, a little more time could have been spent taking the graphics to that 'Xbox level' of quality. The rest of the graphics are either average or hit and miss. Character models are decent and they did a really good job with the ghillie suit for the sniper. The bullet holes show up where they need to be, though oddly enough if you actually walk face to face with someone you are playing with, where they are pointing the barrel and where you see it pointing don't exactly match up. The fog effect looks very layered at times and is almost annoying, and on top of all of that, the draw distances are sub-mediocre at points, leaving you wondering what good a sniper rifle is when you can't even see as far as the scope goes sometimes. It does need to be said that though the graphics aren't the best out there, this game is all about the gameplay and the shortcomings in the graphics department don't hinder the gameplay much at all.
The sound section hardly requires any discussing as in game it would have been very distracting. In the menu the music is that standard sullen, rhythmic military music with the snares in the background and the long drawn out horn chords. Once ingame you will actually have to use your ears to tell where very important sounds, like gunfire and shouting, is coming from. Positional surround audio is definitely an advantage as you will quickly identify where people are coming from or running to. Red Storm covered the sound effects well enough, the guns sound like guns, your guys will yell 'I'm hit!' when they get shot in the leg or arm or something like that. One really cool sound effect is when you have a grenade explode near you, you will be temporarily deafened by it. The other effect that stood out was during the raining stages. Hearing the rain patter around you and gunfire blasting from the field gives you that feeling of 'holy crap, I'm about to get shot in the head..."
Suggestions: You need to be more on top of the bugs on XBL. Game has been out for 3 months now and still not even one patch to fix all of the known bugs? Also, the gameplay rocks, but it's time to take a bit more time on the graphics department to give that overall wonderful experience.
Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The
Overall Score: 8.0 / 10