Resident Evil 5 Review


[---^What do you think of the banner? Yay/Nay/Redundant? Make more for future blogs? I was inspired by SuperMooseman's banners on his own blogs. :> --- ]

Video Review:

Sorry if the audio is a little too loud... Hope you all enjoy the ending, the audio clips are from Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4. The song that plays was created by a song generator at http://www.sr.se/P1/src/sing/index.htm. It's a little hard to tell what it's saying, but the lyrics are: "You are the master of unlocking..." I know it's really lame, but what do you expect from me? :P

  


Text-Version of Review:

Resident Evil 5
Publisher:
Capcom
Developer: Capcom
1-2 Players.
ESRB Rating: M for Mature, recommended for ages 17 or older.


For a long time, the Resident Evil franchise had been a perfect example of what the survival-horror genre was. With fixed camera angles, "tank-like" controls and grotesque enemies, scares were easy to be found. With the release of Resident Evil 4, not only were most of these features discarded, but the focus was now shifted to provide more action rather than scary elements. The perspective for playable characters was changed to an over-the-shoulder view, something that would go on to influence many other games. Four years later, Resident Evil 5 has released, compromised of the same core gameplay that was introduced in RE4. Although it lacks innovation and modern-day advancements, RE5 has a good amount of offerings to set it apart from it's predecessor.

After the fallout of the Umbrella Corporation, Bio-Organic weapons started appearing on the black market. Terrorists, guerrilla fighters and unstable state governments were now able to obtain those weapons. With the threat of another incident like Raccoon City, the Global Pharmaceutical Consortium created the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance) to neutralize bio terrorist hot spots. Chris Redfield, an operative of the BSAA, learned of an upcoming bioweapons deal taking place in Africa and requested permission to participate in the operation. Once he arrived, he became partners with another BSAA agent, Sheva Alomar.

Starting the game in single-player, players control Chris Redfield. In cooperative gameplay, one player plays as Chris or Sheva. For solo play, the artificial intelligence of the partner is decent. Obviously, it won't be nearly as accurate as playing with another human being, but for the most part it does a reasonable job defending itself as well as providing aid when players are low on health. Players can command their partner to attack or cover at any time, as well as trade weapons and items with each other. Most locations will have a number of enemies that must be taken out before one is able to progress forward and some areas will feature puzzle-esque sequences that require players to work together with their partner to solve them.

The inventory system seems like a nice upgrade from having to select from a menu while the game pauses as was the case in previous games, but in actuality it can also become a hindrance. While being able to quickly select from four different slots on the fly is good, it can make players vulnerable to attacks when trying to select from a different slot in the middle of battle.

Boss battles in the game seem to be toned down in difficulty compared to some of the grand battles that have appeared in the franchise before. There's little strategy needed to defeat a boss when most of them have glowing weak points that are very prominent and noticeable. All the boss fights feel very underwhelming.

While some sound effects in the game were carried over from RE4 (which is a bit lazy on Capcom's part), the voice acting and presentation are very good. The graphics are also very impressive. Each new area is very detailed and expansive, obviously stemming from high production values. Character models also look fantastic.

The ability to play online co-op is by far the best feature. Being able to play with a friend and help each other take down multiple enemies really boosts the fun factor for the game. Players can easily enter into a friend's current progression in the campaign and also leave just as quickly. In addition to the campaign, the Mercenaries mini-game that is unlocked after completing the campaign once can also be played solo or in co-op. Mercenaries pits players against enemies that continue to appear with the goal of achieving the best score possible until the time counter reaches zero.

Like Resident Evil 4, there really isn't much of a plot in the game, but information collected throughout give more insight to the overall storyline and events that lead up to the current circumstances in the game. Some of the choices made with the plot points may be seen as a poor choice with longtime Resident Evil fans.

For newcomers to the series the controls may be difficult to get used to, so much in fact, that it may be the deciding factor of whether one can enjoy the game or not. Relying on an old configuration and not a modern day control scheme may not be difficult for series veterans, but for people who have gotten accustomed to the controls of other shooters, it may be prove to be more than frustrating.

Resident Evil 5 is certainly not trying to be innovative, it merely builds upon the same formula of it's predecessor. Although there could have been enhancements made to make the game more playable and more modern with today's standards in shooters, it's a solid game on it's own. In a lot of ways, RE5 falls short of outdoing the previous game. It lacks some of the tension and atmospheric elements that made Resident Evil 4 enjoyable. It's also unfortunate that boss battles aren't very difficult and that the story is somewhat disappointing, but it's core gameplay still remains engaging. Having co-op may be a good enough reason to justify the game's very existence, but even the solo campaign is worthwhile. Although it may forever live in the shadow of RE4, it has more than established itself in today's market.

This review is based on the 360 version. The game is also available on the PlayStation 3.


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Special note: In the review, I mention the fact that the glowing weak points on bosses are annoying, but that didn't bother me for bosses in Lost Planet. The difference being that Lost Planet is an original game, but implementing this into a game that's part of a big franchise that has never had it before bothers me. I don't know... Maybe I'm just crazy.
9 Comments

MadWorld Review

Note: Some of the audio may be a little low/rough. Meh. As always, comments, criticisms and/or suggestions are appreciated.

  

Text Version of Review:

MadWorld
Publisher:
Sega
Developer: PlatinumGames
1-2 Players.
ESRB Rating: M for Mature, recommended for ages 17 or older.

Shigenori Nishikawa, who previously worked at Capcom as a planner for multiple games, makes his first debut as a director with MadWorld. With comic book inspired graphics, over-the-top violence and adult comical satire throughout, MadWorld aims to be a unique experience not found anywhere else. If one can look past some of it's problems, there's an enjoyable game to be found.

On Jefferson Island, a terrorist group known as the "organizers" have taken over, trapping the residents and cutting off all means of communication to anyone outside the island. With no chance of escape, citizens are forced to compete in the violent and deadly sport called DeathWatch or risk dying without a chance. While these people fight to the death, the audience places bets on who will win. Each kill earns a number of points for the participants. The winner of the games will obtain fame, fortune, and the right to continue living. On the third night of the games, a new challenger appears to compete, and his name is Jack.

Players take on the role of Jack Cayman, a highly skilled ex-marine whose main weapon is a chainsaw attached to his right arm. Jack starts off in Varrigan City and progresses elsewhere once he's defeated each boss in every area. Players will always have two lives at the beginning of each area and if they die they can choose to continue right from the spot they were killed at. If players run out of lives, they will have to restart from the beginning of the area. In order to face each area's boss, players will have to earn enough points to open up the boss challenge. Meanwhile, they will unlock new weapons and also open Bloodbath challenges. Bloodbath challenges are short, timed trials where players will defeat as many enemies as they can using new environmental objects presented to them.

The game really uses the motion control functions of the Wii, but not so much that it becomes bothersome. Basic attacks don't require much emphasis with the controller, and it makes sense to require more force when quick time events occur. Overall, the controls feel nicely balanced out.

There are a few issues with the game. For starters, the game relies heavily on canned animations, most executions for enemies will be performed exactly the same way for other types of enemies. The announcers, who provide comical commentary throughout the game, can get really repetitive and this is especially apparent during Bloodbath challenges. The default audio settings are also not the best, it's hard to hear the announcers with the music and sound effects being just as loud. The game itself can also become a little mundane, but this is usually broken up with new segments like areas that require a bike [motorcycle] to traverse forward. It would have been nice to have some more variety for executions, such as having more weapons available or more stylistic finishers.

MadWorld has a comic book inspired art style, using black and white tones throughout the game. Some sound effects appear on screen as text and comic book panels are used in cut scenes. There's enough contrast between the colors to make it easy on the eyes. The soundtrack for MadWorld is completely original, consisting of hip-hop beats and lyrical forms. The music really fits the atmosphere and presentation of the game.

MadWorld is relatively short, but it flows well and it's pretty entertaining in it's entirety. Although there are some issues that almost make the game unenjoyable, there's enough substance to keep it from falling too short in it's offerings. As the first game to be directed by Nishikawa-san, this is certainly not a bad start. For Wii owners who are interested in mature-themed games, MadWorld is definitely worth checking out.

11 Comments

Prince of Persia: Epilogue Review

See Prince of Persia Review. Warning: Spoilers for the ending of Prince of Persia are within this review.

  

Text Version of Review:

Prince of Persia: Epilogue
Platform: PlayStation 3
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
1 Player.
ESRB Rating: T for Teen.

There was no doubt in anyone's mind that there would be a continuation of the storyline from where Prince of Persia left off, but only when Prince of Persia: Epilogue was announced did everyone realize it was not coming in the form of a sequel, instead it would be released as downloadable content (DLC). With the asking price of ten dollars and the short amount of time it takes to get through it nothing more than calling it a "rip off" can be used to describe it.

The Epilogue continues where Prince of Persia left off, with The Prince carrying Elika away from the temple that Ahriman has escaped from. Shortly after, the two work together to escape from the corrupted land while Ahriman sends servants to try to stop them. Once again players go through each area by jumping, running across walls and passing obstacles that block the way forward. New abilities include being able to sprint and clash with enemies during battles, a new power plate for crossing through areas, and a set of alternate skins for The Prince and Elika that players can select.

When there is combat, it is with identical enemies that were in the game before. It quickly feels like battles are becoming a chore to get through when they appear so often. This really wasn't that prevalent of a problem with the game before because it was nicely spaced out in the duration of the game, but with the Epilogue being so brief, it's far more noticeable.

Although Ubisoft Montreal promised that this content would enhance the experience for fans, it really boils down to nothing but more of the same with a few small additions that barely change anything. For such a short span of content it becomes far too repetitious. Although the difficulty of obstacles is a bit more complex and tougher to get through, it isn't enough to justify the cost.

The ending is abrupt, like a sharp artificial halt that was created on a whim rather then thought out well enough. It's incredibly disappointing where it leaves off, because the prior ending was a great way to end the game.

It's hard not to feel ripped off when PoP: Epilogue is incredibly short and feels more repetitive in the short time frame than the entirety of the full game beforehand. With the content being released only three months after the game's launch, it's pretty obvious that it could have been included with it. The continuation of the story should have been created with a sequel instead of the additional slap piece of content they are charging money for. Unfortunately this kind of DLC appears to be on the rise for future videogames and one can only hope it doesn't get too far out of hand.

This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version. The DLC is also available for the Xbox 360.
4 Comments

Killzone 2 Review

Comments, suggestions, critiques and criticisms are always appreciated. I changed my review format a little bit, can you tell? I also got a new headset, so I'm not sure if mic volume is better or worse.


  


Text Version of Review

Killzone 2
Platform:
PlayStation 3
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
1 Player, supports up to 32 people in online multi-player.
ESRB Rating: M for Mature, recommended for ages 17 or older.

When the first Killzone debuted in November 2004 on the PlayStation 2 it was met with high expectations but ultimately fell off most people's radar when it turned out to be an average game. Despite it's good qualities, it did nothing special to stand out from the crowd of other First-Person Shooters on the market. With the announcement of a sequel in the works much doubt was placed on the same developers to provide a quality game. However, most players will find that their expectations have been exceeded as Killzone 2 has an engaging single-player campaign and a substantial online multiplayer component.

Killzone 2 takes place two years after the events of the first Killzone, with the ISA (Interplanetary Strategic Alliance) continuing the war that the Helghast started. This time they're taking the battle to the enemy's homeland, planet Helghan, with the goal of capturing the Helghast leader: Emperor Scolar Visari. Players take on the role of Sev, a veteran of the ISA Special Forces unit and a dedicated soldier who follows orders without question. As a part of Alpha squad, Sev travels with three other team members throughout the game.

It doesn't take long before players are thrust into the first battle, using this time to provide a quick tutorial to get players accustomed to the controls. From there, players will move from one objective to the next until the very end. The default control scheme isn't the same standard used by other first person shooters, so it may take players a little while to get used to. The game takes a realistic approach when it comes to handling weapons. Similarly, friendly fire is also integrated into the campaign, which can lead to some unintentional damage being targeted towards allies. Players can heal squad members if they are down, but never have to worry about them completely being killed, as they will automatically revive after a short period of time. The same does not hold true for players though, once down, they will restart from the last save point they passed.

Quite a selection of different weapons are available to pick up throughout the game, each having their own unique sound and variation in firing power. In close-quarter situations, melee attacks come in handy. Taking cover is also an important aspect, providing protection against oncoming gunfire. There isn't very much variety in the types of enemies but that doesn't mean they can't be difficult, especially in large groups, which is how players will normally stumble across them. The music and sound effects really add to the atmospheric pull that the game produces, though the voice acting and dialogue is generally nothing special.

The major weakness of Killzone 2 is it's storyline. Players aren't given much information about the enemies they're fighting or the squad members they're fighting with. The game prefers to place players in situations with minimal details and seems to rely on constant enemy barrages to distract players of the minimal plot lingering in the background. Luckily the game provides plenty of action to keep players occupied, with very few slow points in between.

In multiplayer, each match contains up to five different modes to play. Each of these are smoothly transitioned from one to the next without forcing players to back out into a lobby. Although players don't usually need to partake in completing each mission, they can still continue to just take out enemies on the opposing side. By continuing to play matches, players gain experience and earn ribbons that unlock certain abilities, weapons and different classes for future use.

For the most part, Killzone 2 maintains a smooth 30 frames per second even in intense online matches. The only real problem that can be found with the graphics is the character animations being awkward at times, most notable between non-playable characters during dialogue sequences that are not in cut scenes. This is only a small annoyance though, transitions between cut scenes and gameplay are usually seamless. It's also rare to find a glitch in the singleplayer campaign, proving just how polished the game really is.

Killzone 2 is not without it's flaws. However, the single-player campaign is a satisfying experience and the multiplayer has a lot to offer. Although the storyline leaves a lot be desired and the campaign is relatively short, it's presentation is done extremely well. With three difficulty levels to choose from and another one unlockable if players feel the need to be challenged further, there's a lot of replay value to be found here. For fans of shooters, this is definitely a worthy title to have in their collection.
7 Comments

New Profile Mock-Up

I posted this in the "Official Redesign thread," but I figured I'd make a blog post about it.

Profile Mock-Up

First off, I know the staff have been working very hard on this design and I'm sure they will be tweaking things that will make it better within the next few weeks. I just wanted to get a feel of what some things would look like if they were tweaked.

Current Profile
Mock-Up Profile.











Full Size View:

Note: I cropped both images to only show one blog post, since you can probably get the general idea.

Changes made in the mock-up:
  • Removed heading - This will make it so you can see your banner better, I don't really see the need for the heading if all it will say is that you can customize your profile, a reminder to make bug reports could be done on the home page. Customize your profile button is moved to the top. Avatar placement has been changed to be next to the status.
  • Colors - The balance of grays were really just about perfect beforehand, now it seems they are way too dark and actually strain the eyes of the some viewers, I used lighter grays for just about every box area, using the same gray hex code as the previous profile pages, the links have also been changed to yellow. I tried different colors, but yellow seems to be the less straining on the eyes for links. White text was used to replace some of the darker gray text that is hard to read (such as the blog feed, activity, etc links).
  • Friends Blogs - Right side of profile. One of the best ways to find blogs from others was being able to go to someone's profile and seeing one of their friends blogs listed. Having the "friends blog" list only appear on the Homepage really limits how many people will see those blog posts. I think this should be added to the profile, especially since they is plenty of blank space there to fill. EDIT: This has been added now! w00t!
  • Capitalization - In the wiki edits, the first letters are not capitalized, such as "franchise, game concept." I think it would look better if these were capital letters at the beginning.

I also did a tiny mock up of a forum post, with lighter colors, and more readable text:
Mock up (Top). Current (Bottom).









Full view: http://media.giantbomb.com/uploads/1/12478/903097-forumpostmockup.png

I'd love to hear others thoughts about this. I know the mock up isn't perfect, I think there's a little too much yellow with all the links, but that's the best color that seemed to work in my opinion.

I really hope the colors are lightened up, or we can customize them, they are really straining my eyes, and I've heard several others complain about this as well.

9 Comments

Devil May Cry: TAS Review

Devil May Cry: The Animated Series Review

Warning: The ending is very stupid. Please don't sue me if your brain cells are damaged.

  


Text Version of Review:

Devil May Cry: The Animated Series Review

Based on the videogame franchise of the same name, Devil May Cry is a 12 episodic series that follows the staple protagonist Dante, a devil hunter who takes odd jobs in order to both rid the world of demons and try to pay off his debts. Starting off, Dante is tasked with looking after a "young lady" named Patty, an orphan who likes having everything her way. Eventually Patty starts to frequent Dante's shop, as well as hanging around him when he's not out on a job. From there, Dante completes menial jobs throughout the show. Strong language and graphic violence warrant the Mature Audience rating, although the language is fairly mild with only a strong profanity said every now and then. When there are battle sequences, it tends to be quite bloody.

The first few episodes offer a promising outlook on how the entire show will flow, with action scenes filling the screen, but unfortunately it all goes downhill from there. Most episodes focus on relationships of original characters that viewers will most likely not care for. For such a short series, this is not justifiable, and really just feels like filler for a small plot to be drawn out until the end. Thus, there is no major storyline, but self-contained plots in almost every episode.

The selection of music is well fitted to the atmosphere of the show, from rock selections to orchestral pieces, the soundtrack is appropriately used. The animation is great overall, having a serious art style that's both rich in color and dark in tone. However, the character designs seem a little generic, though this is mostly an issue with the demons, as there's nothing that makes them really stand out or seem unique from one another.

The English voice acting is quite good, with Reuben Langdon returning to voice Dante. Patty's voice actor accurately portraying a spoiled child can become slightly grating. Otherwise, the other characters are voiced well enough, though some fans may be disappointed that Lady's voice actor is not the same person who voices her in the games.

For a videogame series that relies heavily on action, more emphasis should have been put on the action sequences and less on character depth for one-episodic characters. For the times there are battle scenes, it feels too rushed and finished with before it even begins. Even the episodes where Dante has to fight supposedly powerful demons feel no longer than the fights with weaker ones, which is especially disappointing when the story has built these characters up to be very powerful.

The show definitely has some perks, with the characterizations of staple characters from the franchise being upheld, and some humorous situations that will give viewers a few laughs, but sadly the downsides outweigh the good. Although the anime is canon, taking place between the first and fourth game, there really isn't much a Devil May Cry fan would miss out on if they skipped watching the entire show. It's unfortunate that so much potential was wasted, this could have been a great spin-off but it just ends up being average.
10 Comments

Hardcore Versus Casual Gamers

The following is a response to April Carlson's blog post, "The Hardcore vs Casual Gamers Debate"

Hardcore Versus Casual Gamers: Defining the undefined.

What is a "casual" or "hardcore" gamer? Many people have their own definitions. Some define a "hardcore" player to be someone who has a certain level of skill and can stand on their own in a multiplayer game. Others see it as playing many games in a short time period, or what type of game consoles the person owns. I've always considered a hardcore gamer to be someone who's really passionate about games, no matter their skill level. I've thought the people who fall under the casual label only played games occasionally, or never really thought of games outside of actually playing them. In other words, if one were to ask what a person's hobbies were, casual gamers would not write games as a hobby, because they don't really have a strong passion for them.

So, what is the true definition of these two terms? Everyone's answer is different, but it seems that these terms are being thrown around more frequently these days. Why exactly has the videogame industry fallen into this practice of separating their demographics with these labels and are they really necessary? I don't think so. I think most publishers use the terms in order to justify why their game has been created a certain way. I think this is a bit foolish on their part, as they are denying a bigger audience by saying their game was not created for certain people. In fact, I would call this approach a marketing disaster.

Sadly, I don't see this trend of separating demographics and labeling going away anytime soon. Not when associations like the Casual Games Association exist. Below is an excerpt from their Frequently Asked Questions page:
"What’s the difference between casual games and enthusiast (core) games?

Think of Atari and games such as Pacman, Space Invaders, Frogger and Donkey Kong. Casual games have maintained the fun, simplicity, boundless creativity that characterizes arcade-style games. On the other hand, enthusiast games also termed core games, such as Grand Theft Auto, Doom and Mortal Kombat, have been developed using high-end technology that appeals more to younger audiences. Using movies as an analogy, casual games would be Friends or ER and enthusiast games would be Reservoir Dogs or Silence of the Lambs."
Funny that the writer compares movies in relation to these terms for videogames. Imagine if other industries used these terms, such as the music industry. 'Country is causal, Jazz is hardcore.' What sense does this make? It doesn't, and it should not make sense to use these terms when marketing games. 

In an interview with Vishal Lamba of Chakra Interactive, a company based in India who are primarily focused on developing mobile games, the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) asked the following questions about their demographic:
"When developing games for mobile phones, how do you see the target audience?
You must keep in mind that your target audience is NOT hardcore gamers (like PC gamers, GameBoy and other consoles). They are the guys and girls who have 5 minutes to 10 minutes to spare. Also, the guys and girls who travel by train for 30 minutes and more but have nothing to do - and have a mobile phone in hand."

"Why do you think a hardcore gamer might play games on a phone and do you see any way that they might be enticed into the mobile game world?
Most likely it's because they cannot afford the Gameboy and its expensive games. This has not yet been exploited by many companies. You have to think of building multiplayer games that last for 5 to 10 minutes.. and are easy to play."

Some people would love to play games more but simply don't have the time. I don't think people are required to play a certain amount of hours each day or every week to be a passionate gamer. Many of us have other obligations to fulfill and cannot devote the desired time to games. Even more so, financial reasons are a big part of why many cannot acquire certain games.

Outside of marketing, the audience themselves now use the distinctions in order to not associate themselves with fellow gamers, for example, enthusiastic gamers would not want to be grouped with the same people who frequently buy "shovelware." Some take offense to being grouped with people who are not on the same skill level as them. In the end, it only creates pointless arguments.

These terms should be done away with, because there is no one definition for what "hardcore" or "casual" is, it's all subjective. I believe that developers and publishers are unintentionally limiting their audience by branding their game with these labels. What happened to making a game fun that everyone can enjoy? Or understanding that not everyone will enjoy the same thing? Let the games speak for themselves and let people enjoy them without giving them labels.
11 Comments

2008 Wrap-Up

~ 2008 Wrap-Up ~

Unlike most people, I can't choose a favorite game. I like all my favorite games equally, so if I had to decide a game of the year, I would go crazy. So I don't, nor do I ever plan on having to, choose a "best game of [console]" or "game of the year" because I just can't! Instead, I'll highlight a few thoughts about some games this year, as well as give some personal thoughts on things I'm thankful for.


Not even seeing Dante in high definition can save the fail of this game. (But he does look amazing...
13 Comments

Prince of Persia Review

[Note: The audio sucks and I realized this too late... Blargh. I should use a robot voice in the future, it would work out way better. >:P Also I may have fudged some names, I had no idea how to pronounce the names of the two composers. Edit: If you are having trouble viewing the video, try going to the video's page.]

  


Text Version of Review:
Prince of Persia
Platform: PlayStation 3
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
1 Player.
ESRB Rating: T for Teen.

Long ago, there were two gods who balanced the universe: Ahriman, the god of darkness and Ormazd, the god of light. Eventually Ahriman became greedy and wanted everything for himself. Ormazd was able to imprison Ahriman and left the people, known as the Ahura, in charge of guarding the prison. Over time, the Ahura lost their powers and the prison weakened. Now Ahriman is on the verge of escaping again.

In order to trap Ahriman, players must travel to the locations that have fertile grounds. Players travel with their female companion, Elika, so she can heal the land. Most locations are traveled to by foot, consisting of a lot platforming. Jumping from one spot to the next, climbing walls and passing over obstacles are all key components in the game. Players can move as quickly as they are able to without worrying if Elika will fall behind. She is able to not only keep up the pace, she is also there if players need an extra boost in a jump or if players are on the verge of dying, she will save them. Almost every path can be traveled in the opposite direction, so there's little chance of getting stuck in a particular area. There are also a few puzzle sequences that must be solved to go further. A world map is used to determine which location players want to go next. They can choose to go to just about any location at any given time, although some areas won't be open until a number of light seeds have been collected. If lost, Elika can use her magic abilities to create a light that will show the direction players need to go.

The combat in Prince of Persia isn't very complex, consisting mostly of one-on-one battles. The Prince attacks with a sword and a gauntlet and Elika can use magic attacks. Blocking and deflecting enemy attacks is crucial as it can be a little tricky to figure out when enemies will stop their offense and are open to attack. Enemies will frequently call upon Ahriman to give them more strength during combat, which allows them to enter three different states, each one only vulnerable to a certain attack. Quick time events also occur, sometimes unexpectedly, which can result in a failed attempt without having a chance to deflect them. Each boss in the game offers a different strategy in order to defeat them. Regular enemies don't hold much of a threat, however, and can usually be defeated quite easily. Although dying is not an issue, if players have to be saved by Elika during combat, enemies will be able to recover their health.

A big portion of the game's dialogue is optional, giving more insight to the main characters and the world around them. The game does a really great job adding depth to the characters. However, there are many places where the dialogue and the voice acting are badly executed. There are only a few loading screens in the entire game, allowing for an almost seamless playthrough. The game also automatically saves frequently, but players can choose to manually save at any time.

The graphics are gorgeous, a unique cel-shaded art style give the environments a vibrant color. Many areas are appropriately dark, and lights and shadows are nicely rendered. There's also a wonderful amount of detail to everything, from character models to backgrounds. Sound effects are also excellent and appropriately placed. Music for the game was composed by Inon Zur and Stuart Chatwood. Zur has composed music for many other videogames, including Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones and Fallout 3. Stuart Chatwood has composed music for seven other Prince of Persia titles, adding a sense of familiarity to this game. The orchestra sounds set a really nice tone for the game.

Prince of Persia does not feature any difficulty settings, which is unfortunate, because there will certainly be some players who find this game to be too easy for them. Despite it's shortcomings, the game makes up for it with it's presentation. Prince of Persia is a well-executed game and a worthy purchase for fans of platformers. Although the game won't take very long to complete, most players will find themselves wanting to replay this game several times. This is another great addition to a well-established franchise.

This review is based on the Playstation 3 version of the game. Versions for the Xbox 360 and PC are also available. 
13 Comments

Gears of War: Aspho Fields

Gears of War: Aspho Fields
Author: Karen Travis
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: October 28, 2008
MSRP: $13.00 (Amazon: $10.40)
ISBN: 9780345499433
Pages: 385

Gears of War: Aspho Fields, written by Karen Travis, tells the story of the tide-turning battle at Aspho Fields during the Pendulum Wars, the seventy nine year war that took place on the planet Sera before E-Day. Marcus Fenix, Dominic Santiago and Dom's elder brother Carlos all fought together at Aspho Fields. Sixteen years later, humanity now fights a new war that threatens to end their very existence against the Locust Horde. With the arrival of a former comrade, the memories of that unforgettable battle are resurfaced for both Marcus and Dom, and a haunting secret that Marcus had sworn to keep is in danger of being unraveled.

Despite being called a prequel, the novel also ties events between the first and second game. The book shifts back and forth from past events to the present, providing a unique way of giving more insight and depth to the characters. In this way, character development is handled extremely well. Readers who are familiar with the main protagonists (based off the games) will not be disappointed in their characterizations because their personalities are kept completely in tact. 

The writing is fluid and concise, there's just enough information presented without being too little or too much, and the right balance is maintained throughout the book. Everything is worth paying attention to, even the tiniest little tidbits of information, nothing is worth skipping over. There is always a situation taking place that engages readers, even non-suspenseful sequences.

Different points of view are taken throughout the book, switching from a first-person to a third-person perspective with various characters. By using a combination of these two perspectives, readers can better understand the current emotions the characters are going through and develop a more personal judgment of the plot.

The amount of build up to the culmination is just right and the events after it fulfills the story very well, all the way up to the conclusion. Although the book ends in a slightly abrupt manner, it sets up the events for Gears of War 2 appropriately.

Any fan of the Gears of War franchise should be interested in reading this, and once they pick it up, they'll have a hard time putting it down. Even though it is relatively short, readers will definitely want to read it over again several times. EPIC Games have already planned for two more novels, all officially tying into the Gears of War universe. If this novel is any indication of what to expect, then the next novels will be a worthwhile wait.
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