Final Fantasy XIII-2: Time & Failure

Actual Review found here: Time & Failure

So as you might be aware of, I...was not fond of FF XIII. You can find my original review here: Final Fantasy XIII Review

I may have come at it in the wrong way though, and not fully stated exactly what my issues were with it, well here you go, reduced for your pleasure: The story was contrived, the gameplay boring, the graphics were pretty but it pushed the console too much, the characters became caricatures and were mostly stereotypes, the level design was linear as all hell and the music and voice acting were sub-par, with broken translation not helping in any way at all, not to mention the broken combat AI.

The question we’re all wondering is, however; did XIII-2 (to borrow some, and by some I mean the only, plot elements from the game) fix the mistakes of the past, and work towards a brighter future? No. No it did not. Suffice to say that this game not only managed to stay rooted in everything that was wrong with XIII, but it made things a hell of a lot worse.

That’s not to say that the game is utterly and totally devoid of any good ideas. The way the story is laid out, there was an overarching plot between these games that tied everything together, in fact, the two games seem like they were supposed to be the one, along with the third title in the series coming at some point in the future. The initial story was about defying god-like beings that used humans to fight their battles, the second? It’s about fixing time after a form of divine intervention from the first title. It explains one of the biggest plot holes in the game, but it shows that XIII was far too long for its own good, and that XIII-2 carries on that tradition by making a paper-thin storyline that can’t hold together properly.

Story-wise, we’re not starting off well. Lightning, the protagonist from XIII, has disappeared, and the only one who remembers her is Serah, her sister who was saved in the first game. We see, in a dream-like dimension piercing ability of a sleeping Serah, that Lightning is now a servant of the Goddess Etro, who needs her help to defeat the androgynous, purple-haired Sephiroth-wannabe; Caius. The player will play through some parts of the fight, and then we’re introduced the Noel, falling from a weird time portal, who is the last child born in the dying world, after some bad things went down. Lightning decides to send him to Serah to protect her and aid her in the fight to save time itself, and when he does finally arrive to help Serah and her friends...they just kind of accept that he’s a time traveller, and away they go on an amazing adventure. Oh and there’s a Moogle in this game called Mog, it’s really annoying, speaks like a high-pitched Yoda crossed with a Pokemon that keeps saying “Kupo!” over and over again until you wish it was dead, who can transform into Serah’s weapons. It’s also an expert on time travel and how to fix the Paradox’s that are messing with time. The story is pretty simple, but it gets drawn out over a minimum of twenty –five hours, and isn’t very well held together. The characters from previous games are thrown back into it, like Snow and Hope...yay...but they barely feature in it, so it’s ok. The major issue with the story however, is both the length of it, and the characters being abominably bad. Serah, a teacher mind you, can’t make up her frigging mind about what she wants to do, whether she wants to save her sister, or save time...because there’s a competition there...and as for Noel, his story of watching the last two people on Earth die and leave him, and his connection to Caius, is downplayed in place of Noel’s survivors guilt and abandonment issues, in the form of whining about it and being as depressing and pissy as he can possibly get. There’s no character development, because they keep resetting to these default personas in every poorly enacted cut scene until plot convenience says otherwise. It’s just...boring. The story lacks any definitive moment to really let the gravity of the situation sink in, and because of that, because the characters are so abundantly stupid, the story outright fails at what it’s trying to convey. Caius is a pretty pointless villain, his motivations are self-involved, he wants to end all time to save the Seeress, girls who are constantly born throughout the ages, can see all sorts of future and past events, but die young, and really, that’s all there is to him, he isn’t ever threatening, he just takes a beating and runs off. It doesn’t resonate with the player in any significant way, opting for a contradiction of tonal shifts and themes that don’t work properly.

Behold! A sissy! God giving up would've been a nice option...

Gameplay wise, nothing much has changed since XIII, there are still paradigms, you switch between them to suit the situation you’re in, and there are six roles in total and you can stagger enemies, the AI has been improved so that the entire team doesn’t waste their abilities at one time, helping with the Launch technique and you now have the option to switch the leader in combat, which is a nice change, though you still can’t control anyone but your lead character. The only significant change is the inclusion of capturing monsters and using their set paradigm skill as part of your team. It’s a pretty cool idea, allowing you to use most of the monsters in the game. You upgrade them through materials that you collect throughout the game, and can infuse other monsters’ stats and abilities to them. It’s a nice little system, and works fairly well...at least, that is, until the game decides that some monsters have limited upgrade paths, needing replacements, which is difficult for some classes, like the Medic, a fairly necessary role. You can always infuse their abilities to the new monster, even allowing that monster to gain up to two moves that the older monster has...however, it’s only if the monster is the same level or higher than the original. Confused yet? See, this is my main problem with this game. Simple ideas are overcomplicated to the point of utter and complete annoyance, and it doesn’t help matters that the paradigm system from XIII has returned in a more streamlined form. Now there is simply one Crystarium tree, where you put points into a certain paradigm role, unlocking abilities as you go. The issue here is that the more points you put into a certain role, the further other role’s abilities are from you in the tree. You can also expand the crystariums by maxing them out, gaining boosts to certain roles, adding to you accessory capacity, something that is also contrived, as the max if one hundred, and the best items are classed at seventy-five, but all of these ideas pale in comparison to the problem that hangs over them: it’s too convoluted and complicated to be any good. When I finally gained access to the Medic role, the Raise move was so far into the tree that it took nearly fifty-thousand points to access, because at points in the tree-route, the amount of points needed to upgrade is increased, the same can be said of monsters, whose expanded crystariums require more powerful materials. All of these issues really come to a head during more difficult fights, as you know you could beat them with the right movies, but they’re either buried so deep or require too many materials to access that grinding is the only choice you have. There are now Quick Time Events, or Live Action Sequences during some of the bigger battles, they mostly involve pushing the analogue stick and pressing a button...there are also Live Trigger sequences, where you will have to choose one of four dialogue options at certain points in time. Neither of these things are engaging, but are really annoying in terms of breaking the flow of gameplay. The QTEs try to show off how 'radical' the game looks...but it fails because the positioning of the prompts is so low on the screen, you can't be bothered to see what's going on as a result of your actions.

Enjoy pumping resources into monsters with limited level-up capabilities!

Mog has the ability to uncover objects stuck in time, and it can also be thrown to get items that you can’t reach alone...and also because throwing that little shit into a never-ending abyss is the best way to relieve stress while playing this game, it can also use the Mog Clock when around enemies, that allows you to get the jump on them with pre-emptive strikes and deal a certain percentage on the stagger bar. You’ll need to collect fragments, objects that can give crystarium points to the player and there are also Artefacts that unlock more areas through the gates in the game, with Wild Artefacts unlocking extra areas that aren’t as important to the overall story of the game. There are one hundred and sixty fragments in all, and all are required to get the ‘secret ending’...don’t bother, just youtube it, the real ending is actually just DLC released post-game, it isn’t worth the hassle. You’ll also need to fix the paradoxes throughout the different time periods that you travel to in order to continue the game, but a lot of them are just repeats of previous levels, so it’s not exactly amazing.

Conversations usually end like this, only to restart as: We need to save Lightning, I need to be brave...no wait! We need to save the world! No wait! Followed quickly by: KUPO KUPO KUPO I'M ANNOYING KUPO!

Graphically, the game looks decent, cutscenes are still pretty, but the game itself looks fairly badly downgraded from the previous title. Movement is janky and details and environments aren’t as nice as they could be. However, there is a bigger issue at hand...the fact that a lot of the levels in this game are direct copy/pastes of the previous title. I’m not even joking, there are levels that are the exact same, no difference whatsoever, put into this title for you to explore, and they barely have any payoff towards the overall game, they could have been changed, but they weren’t, and it’s just sad that the developers had to resort to those tactics in order to pad out the game, because really, all it amounts to is a few extra minutes of padding to make the game seem like it’s worth a full price-point. The levels are slightly less linear, but really, it’s just an illusion, as there are very few deviations and nothing really interesting down any alternative paths that aren’t extra gates or things that are needed to complete certain objectives.

Do you see the lack of linearity? Neither do I.

The music in the game has barely changed, although some more J-Pop music and another song by Leona Lewis has been added to the soundtrack...they aren’t good, and you can play the game with the sound turned off, because there really is no reason to have it on. Voice acting is horrible, mostly due to the terrible script, lack of decent translation and the fact that it’s trying to convey some dark themes with the same stupid goddamn readouts that are on par with the first title. The story and the characters don’t line up one damn bit, they don’t work well together and nothing lines of thematically to make me care about anything going on during the game. Really, nothing here adds up into something even halfway tolerable.

There are a few extra, like...costumes...which count as DLC and cost money, so screw that. There’s a gambling time period where you can enter Chocobo races with Chocobo you’ve caught and strengthened during the game, and it’s genuinely fun, but it’s so limited that it wears out fast.

You can download this lovely bikini costume, and feel like a total pervert!

Look, I’m going to be honest, there were parts of this game that I may have actually liked, the ability to capture and use monsters was a great addition, but it got marred by the other design choices involved in that part of the game. The Chocobo racing reminds me of older FF games, and that’s why I enjoyed it so much. However, this game is not worth a full-price retail title, it’s dragged out and not well thought out, and the good ideas that are scattered throughout are kicking and screaming, trying to escape from the dungeon of mediocrity and utter shit that is the rest of the game. Finding a Golden Chocobo and then unleashing him to kick monster ass is really satisfying, but that isn’t enough to save the title. Caius is an unconvincing villain, the story falters and can’t stand on its own, the characters are annoying and undermine the entire, much darker story of the game and for everything the game does right, it isn’t enough to make up for all of the issues. Believe me when I say that this game had promise, but at the end of the day, it just doesn’t work. I'm just sad this so much was dragged out of so little, and was treated with so little respect. You can see that there was a grand idea at the conception of the title...but it’s long since been buried, there really is nothing left to say but...well the verdict:

Verdict:

1/5 (2/10)

Pros:

· Interesting use of monsters in combat

· Cutscenes are pretty

· Chocobo racing is fun

· AI is much better than in the previous game

Cons:

· Story is dragged out far too much

· Characters simply don’t deserve to exist

· Mog is the most hateful little bastard ever

· Combat is still boring, QTEs are simple but distracting

· Characters are too cartoony to allow the more serious themes to convey themselves to the player

· Soundtrack is just as impotent as before

· Copy/paste level design

· Still linear

· Having to retire older monster because of their lack of strength, despite time and effort upgrading them is irritating

· Voice acting is shameful and uninspired, with conversations options falling flat

· Crystarium is more frustrating than ever

· For all the more streamlined elements, no game has ever been so needlessly convoluted and complicated

WTF? Moment: So you’ve been told by an utter stranger that he’s a time traveller that your sister sent back in time to save time itself with the help of a Moogle, and you just go with it? Hell, there’s a severe lack of healthy scepticism here that really comes off as mind-blowing irresponsibility.

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Batman: The Case of The Disappearing Dini (A Silver Age Story)

So it came to my attention that Paul Dini, the writer behind both Arkham titles and Batman: TAS, is no longer a part of any future Batman projects with Rocksteady, according to his Twitter feed from July 27th (Paul_Dini). This comes a mere sixteen days after the rumour of a Silver Age prequel to the Arkham games, which suspiciously enough seems to tie into the release of a JLA movie at some point after 2015. It's well known that videogames don't exist in a vacuum, so does this all tie together in a very sinister fashion? Yes, I said sinister...now you want to read more, don't you?

Now I had my go at that rumour, I believed that it wasn't the decision of the developer, but of the publisher and the owners of the license, DC, to make a game using a company that is currently, excuse my language, hot as fresh shit right now. However, I thought that maybe, just maybe, this was another semi-believable rumour-as the games industry is that perverse and twisted, but I was willing to have my say and pray that it didn't come to pass...I mean, why would it? Rocksteady, and Paul Dini's ideas has created the two most successful superhero-related games this generation, as previous attempts had outright failed, or had been lackluster at best. Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't deny that it took a certain level of skill to create such a successful series.

Right now, we're seeing something that, from a certain perspective, could be seen as extremely negative, douchey and manipulative...after all, why make a prequel, in the campy silver-age of comics, potentially incorporate the Joker into it, and deny the fans of the series a continuation of the main series that has earned such acclaim? When you follow this up with Paul Dini not just being cut off from writing any more of the titles that he and Rocksteady lovingly crafted together, and add in the fact that he never knew the rumour, now seemingly a fact, even existed, there's a certain amount of apprehension that surrounds whatever comes next.

What I mean by that, to put it plainly, is that we're seeing a possible purging of what made the Arkham games so loved; the dark and grim atmosphere, which reached fever pitch when Arkham City came to a close. This was the defining moment in the Arkham series, allowing the game to spin off into its own continuity, something so brilliant that, married to the potential rouges gallery for the next title, got me excited as all-hell for the next Arkham game in this exciting, new and highly ballsy endeavour. Then Harley Quinne's Revenge came out...and it was lackluster, doing nothing for the story, raising feelings of disappointment over excitement at the potential that was lost in it...and now I know why.

You see, when you want to move away from an idea or a theme or even a style of storytelling, you release something that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the person experiencing it. In videogames, that means releasing a lack-luster DLC on the same day you release a GOTY edition of the title. GOTY titles indicate that the game is done and dusted, and that the team has moved onto something new, and won't be supporting that title anymore. So what's done is done, AC was a great game, it's over, people want another game in the series, and that's just fine.

...but wait...Avengers was such a big success right? That movie was so damn big, it forever upped the ante for what people expect from super-team movies. So within weeks, DC announce their own shot at the gold, by announcing Wonder Woman, a movie to appear on screens at some point after 2015 (the year Silver Age game is to be released) finally getting Man of Steel trailers rolling out, and giving it their all to hype the ever-loving crap out of the JLA movie that will be released after all of these movies hit screens (there'll be an inevitable Batman reboot, just wait and see). The only issue is, other than the Lego Batman 2 game which brings other DC heroes to the forefront, there won't really be any awareness raised for the other characters like Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, The Flash and fuck Green Lantern...fuck that movie...hard...where was I? Oh yeah: So what could DC do to raise awareness of this new idea? Well all they had to do was look at WB, and their developer Rocksteady, to find the answer! Who needs new, exciting departures from the norm? Who needs a game series that can dig into it's own mythology and create something new for the players, the consumers to enjoy? Fuck that noise, Rocksteady are now working on a prequel game, set in the silver age, where other DC characters will come into the spotlight at the point where DC will begin their expedition into live-action film making...something they haven't done well nine times out of ten in the last thirty years.

Kicking Paul Dini out was the crystallizing moment, you get rid of the one writer who has turned the Batman story in videogames into a dark, psychological exploit into the Dark Knight's mind, creating a wholly new creative avenue that people were actually excited about...and you scrap it. Why? Silver Age is safe, Silver Age is campy and light-hearted...and you can't make kids aware of up-and-coming movies if they don't know who the characters are...but kids know Batman, and kids in three years will know all of the main DC heroes thanks to a title that'll steer clear of dark and gritty undertones, of realistic violence and the word 'bitch' which people find offensive for some reason. It won't tread into all of the elements that made batman great, it'll be a starting point for pre-release advertisements for movies that need to sell, otherwise DC is straight fucked. I mean, let's face it, it makes sense, this is a huge cost, and if it fails, downsizing will come with it.

So at the end of the day, there really is only one question to ask: Is this all just coincidence, or have DC and WB decided to use videogames to promote movies in a manner that takes away any original ideas, forces the developers to work on games that their hearts won't be in, and cuts off those who made successes out of their franchises in the first place, as there will be far too big a loss if the movie ideas go bust? The answer seems to obvious, and I hope I'm wrong, but given how wrong-headed the industry is nowadays, where you have to sell five million copies of a game to make it viable as a series because of overblown budgets, where license holders try to capitalize on the current hot-button of entertainment, despite their strengths clearly being visible in other areas, like animation, where interesting TV shows are cancelled because they don't hold half the world's population's attention during their first airing and where bad twilight fan-fiction sells more copies than most classic literature and other genres, we really don't stand a chance. I want to be wrong, but the evidence is mounting up, and things are going from bad to worse. I love the Arkham games, I think the leap-of-faith they took with Arkham City was amazing, and well worth it, showing that you can make a game based on something done half to death and make it interesting-if you have the balls to go all out. To see such a great series pushed aside to accommodate for a, quite frankly, stupid and pointless investment is a crime against creativity at large, teaching us that our ideas and efforts are only as worthwhile as the interests of a company whose collective minds might shift focus onto something new that requires full compliance, prior positive or negative outcomes aside.

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Wii, Motion+ and A Whole Lot of Indecision.

Let me just start by saying that I have no love for the Wii. I'm an owner...I wouldn't say a proud one mind you, of a console that has systematically and repeatedly let me down, and cost me more money to play than any other console, for far less pay off than I'd like to admit.

When I first heard of the Wii, my mind wandered to the endless possibilities Nintendo could give to their games. I had felt that precision controls had always been an issue with games, with bulky/super-slim/somewhere-in-the-middle designs adding to frustrations. To be honest, there were only a handful of games that were enjoyable with these controllers. The Wiimote offered something new and exciting, helping players to cross the threshold of their TV screens, and interact with the game world in a way we could have only dreamed of.

Oh how the first year was a let-down. Twilight Princess was the only title I really enjoyed, with Red Steel following up as a game that I did enjoy quite a bit and the following year, I received Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the final game in a series that I loved, held back by sloppy motion control integration, something that, to this day, I'm bitter as all-hell about. Super Smash Bros. Brawl helped a little, with No More Heroes giving a little boost to my fading joy. Mario Kart Wii was fun to play with friends, but really, my days of purchasing for this console were at an end. Time and time again, I seen the odd title that peaked my interest, but I glanced over it. Why? Well, given our sordid past, the Wii and I were on thin ice.

Need, but don't want.

I found that I had to think every time I viewed a Wii title I thought I might enjoy, weight pros and cons of benefits, enjoyment, practicality, invested time, effort...in truth, playing games on the Wii seemed less fun, and more work than I had initially thought would be necessary for a console. It was only within the last year that I purchased No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, and was met with a startling surprise: the Wii, on a HD TV, looked very poor. I couldn't play the console anymore, as my eyes couldn't stand the screen tearing, the dull colours and the poor framerate...framerates aren't always an issue for me, I can usually ignore them, but this time around, everything else made this one gripe grow a thousand-fold. I eventually found a component cable, which cleared up that issue, though not by much, but it made the games playable again, and I finally got to play a game I had been anticipating for years.

That quickly faded too, as the controls began to show their inconsistencies once more. So eventually, I just left the console again, though I had an interest in buying Red Steel 2, I had an issue with the requirements for the title: Motion+. Nintendo called it a full 1:1 motion control extension for the Wiimote, giving players precision control...but only for certain, big titles, for a price of €25 as standard. My practicality alarms started blaring once again. Surely, this had to have been a joke? Weren't we promised 1:1 precision on the original Wiimote? Well yes, but, what dya know? People lie! Not a big shocker, but I felt as though I had been conned. I mean, having to spend quite a bit of money on a cable just to play my games on a HD TV, the kind of TV sets sold as standard upon the Wii's release, was bad enough, now I had to buy a damn extension for my controller just to play some specific titles? This was Nintendo, a company I had backed for years, even when they were down-and-out, and seemed to have all but lost the ability to sell games. These guys made a killing on innovation...then bent consumers over and corn-holed them with bits-and-pieces needed to play more recent titles. Disappointed is not strong enough a word, but I'm afraid all I could manage to really vent my frustration would be a line of profanities so horrifying in their context than not even the most hardened of people could walk away without needing a boiling hot shower.

Want, but can't have. A real shame too, thanks, Nintendo.
Would like, but isn't worth sinking the full price into, again, well done Nintendo.

Now it's coming near the end of 2011, and I find myself once again wondering what to do with my Wii (tee-hee). Xenoblade Chronicles looked so good to me, the same with Skyward Sword, but again, it's the same old song and dance. I can't buy Xenoblade Chronicles in any retail store locally, so this is like the days of my Gamecube all over again, and even then, I find myself in an annoying state of limbo, torn between whether to buy a game online, a large investment to be fair, or to leave it, knowing full well that it will more than likely disappoint me, given my past experiences with the Wii. Zelda falls into a previously discussed category: only playable with the motion+ controller, something I don't wish to buy, as it would be impractical, but want, because, despite my dislike for same-y games, this Zelda title actually seems interesting and fresh, adopting many stylistic choices that Twilight Princess had, and introducing some new concepts that I might enjoy.

Personally, I blame Nintendo for this. As a consumer, I should never feel ambivalent about buying a game for a console I purchased, it should be a case of "here, take my money!", instead of "well...I would give you my money, but from a practical standpoint, your game, while good, asks too much from me, for a product that may not be what I want, that requires another purchase of a peripheral, which won't get much use either". Average games are investments, you weigh up your options, but most of the time, you say no, as the cons outweigh the pros. Pure and simple. Great games are investments, but while you are wary of the potential for failure, you're willing to take a chance. Incredible games are investments, but you simply don't care. Unfortunately, we aren't talking about just a game here. Some of the more recent titles I'm interested in require another investment: the Motion+ peripheral, in order to play them. This throws me for a loop. The Wii didn't stand on even ground with me before this, and now, with another addition so I can play a damn set of games, and then never use it again, as Nintendo are all but jumping ship on the console to work on the WiiU, even more so.

The Wii has managed to, at least for me, turn all of its games into the first category of investment: these games, even the supposedly undeniably great ones, aren't worth it, and require an investment that is both impractical and really not worth my time or money. I wish it was different, but in truth, Nintendo need to pull their collective heads out of their publicity's massive asshole, and realise that some of us don't want to buy extra additions just to play a console with very little in terms of genuine support. Or at the very least, make these extras optional. Maybe I'll wait until the WIiU launches, when all of these games will be lowered in price, and I can purchase a motion+ for the price of a Snickers, but right now, given the current state of the world, buying a game, then a peripheral to play it, is just not practical.

Maybe I'm all wrong about this, but other than owning a Nintendo Wii, I really can't see any other reason to make such an investment, when I'm never really going to use these games afterwards. All I can imagine feeling is obligated to play more and more motion+ games...and that really isn't what gaming is supposed to be about, at least, it shouldn't the the dominating factor when you're really looking for some entertainment. It seems to me that consumers are the only ones making an investment in Nintendo, with the company itself moving on, giving what should have been an amazing console, the most whimpered of send-offs.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum: I am the Batman!

Full Review: (click to see the one picture that wouldn't fucking copy!) Batman: Arkham Asylum

Arkham Asylum served as one of those out-of-left-field titles of 2009. Developed by Rocksteady, whose only other published title was Urban Chaos: Riot Response, they aimed to create a game based on the super-popular Batman character, given the hype the movies were getting at that time. This had the entire world gazing on this game with the stigma of many sub-par superhero licensed games they had to endure prior to its release.

I have always been proud to say that Arkham Asylum broke the ranks of mediocrity and managed to enter the spotlight as the finest example of superhero licensed gaming to date. But was this just lightning in a bottle? Did the sudden big-screen comeback of the Dark Knight, coupled with the relatively large blob of shitty licensed games, aid this titles praise for it?

In a way, these elements did, but they did so only to help solidify the epic scale and ability of the game as a whole.

Batman is not amused, but his voice is awesome.
Why so...serious?

Arkham City takes place just as Batman has detained the Joker, and is escorting him back to Arkham Asylum, home for the criminally insane in Gotham City. Feeling that the Joker cannot be trusted, as he has escaped Arkham many times, Batman decides to stay with the escort party, including Commissioner Gordon, until the Joker is secure. At the same time though, all of the Joker’s henchmen are being transferred to Arkham itself. But wouldn’t you know it? All hell breaks loose, the Joker escapes, and with the aid of his goons, Harely Quinn, and a few other familiar faces, takes over the Asylum. Batman is now forced to fight his way through legions of henchmen, insane enemies, and at times, his own mind, to defeat the Joker and end this riot, but the Joker is searching for something inside of Arkham, and will do anything to get his hands on it. This premise is exciting and fun, allowing the story to exist on its own without any influence from the movies or comic stories. In fact, the history of Batman is on full display, as we are introduced to several well-established characters, all with their own unique backgrounds. The character roster is far from overwhelming, saving the spotlight for specific, important characters.

Arkham Asylum works on a gameplay mechanic of stealth, combat and exploration. Enemies are dangerous, the goons with guns can quickly dispatch Batman, so stealth and combat go hand in hand. But there is another element that aids you in these situations: gadgets. Ranging from the signature batarangs to explosive gel, even a grappling hook, each of these items will help you traverse the levels and take out enemies in more difficult situations. One major element is the use of the grappling hook to gain access to higher areas and vents, which pose different ways to perform takedowns. Takedowns are a rather cool feature. From high points, if an enemy walks under your position, you can knock them out and leave them hanging from that position. It’s an extremely gratifying to take down multiple opponents in a row using this method, but its actually part of a larger mosaic in the system. Using different combat, stealth and gadget elements can optimise how many opponents you can take down at any one time, and you’ll need to be precise, as enemies have no set patterns. You can also activate Detective mode, which allows you to track enemies, telling you the lethality of specific targets, and even trace footsteps throughout the game. This is handy when you want to get your bearings in a room full of enemies. It's an interesting and cool feature, especially when you can see an opponents skeleton.

Detective mode gives the player some cool screens
Batman about to be punched in the head...or is he? Counter-attack FTW!

When the hand-to-hand combat begins though, that’s where this game really comes into its own. Rocksteady have managed to integrate a precision combat system into Arkham Asylum, whereby punches and kicks are accompanied by a counter system that can be triggered when enemies are seconds away from attacking, and a stun system, used to stun more difficult enemies. You can also use a system of acrobatics to dodge and jump over enemies to give yourself room to breathe. As you attack and counter more enemies, you’ll activate a combo counter. When the counter hits ten, you can perform hand to hand takedown moves mid-combat situation. All of these elements flow together near seamlessly, although on major issue is that dropping the combo counter is too easy, as a single enemy just a little too far away can screw up the entire flow, and leave you swearing at the screen. Taking down enemies also grants experience, which allows you to gain levels and unlock more moves or more powerful weapons, like triple batarangs. This is a cool feature, and constantly makes you want to do better.

Exploration is another large element of the game. In each area of Arkham, there is a wealth of Riddler trophies and audio recordings to find, and riddles to solve. This is a way to coax the player into exploring, as these extra elements give you insight into the world of Batman itself. Levels are expansive and allow the player a lot of choice in how to traverse them. It’s a really clever way of opening up the levels, and you’ll always find a new way of getting through the levels. If you happen to fall from a particularly high place, don’t worry, you have your cape, which can be used to slow your fall, and help you glide down to the ground, even combining with an attack to knock enemies out. Area structure is linear, leading from one area to another in an A to B fashion, as the story goes, but the level of exploration and complexity of level design more than make up for this linear storytelling/level structure idea.

Doesn't get much grittier than this...but damn it looks good.
One of the Scarecrow encounters; looks good, and actually has some innovative level design, changing up the controls for side-scrolling.

The graphics and aesthetics of Arkham Asylum are what really immerse the player in the world of the Dark Knight. The gritty, dank and dark world of Arkham, and Gotham itself, suck the player into the atmosphere. The characters and their respective areas, as seen with the bosses of the game, are diverse, but they all reflect a certain psychotic element of the world Batman is sucked into. Death is not uncommon in this game, and one slip up by the player can cost more people their lives. The character models are extremely well detailed, Batman himself accumulates damage throughout the game that never goes away, and the level designs are all interesting and diverse, but lend themselves to the darkness and insanity of Arkham. The lighting is perfect, mixing areas of shadow with areas of bright light, allowing the player to make choices on how to traverse the levels themselves. All in all, the presentation is amazing; this is one of the most beautiful looking games I’ve seen in a while.

The audio of the game really shines as another key element of the title. The music adds to the atmosphere, and hits all the right notes at the perfect times. The voice-acting is incredible, bringing back the original Batman himself Kevin Conroy and the original Joker Mark Hamill who pretty much make this game the most epic creation in existence. But every voice actor plays their part with conviction, and not even the henchmen voices are lacking.

Boss fights are one of the more negative aspects to the game. Bosses are generally a hit and run affair, with some generic combat technique to take them down. One of the first bosses is basically a throw batarang then dodge scenario, with some lackey-combat waves to deal with. The best moments involving key villain characters are the Scarecrow levels, which are trippy and surreal, bridging a surprising gap between Batman and those he fights against.

There are also Challenges that you gain access to as the game goes on, these take place outside the main game, where you have to traverse particular levels with time limits set for completing objectives. While this isn’t exactly something important, it’s a nice addition, especially when you can unlock different suits for Batman, which is kind of cool. It adds more value to the game, which is already overflowing with hours of main game content.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is simply an epic affair. In terms of comic-book characters turned videogame heroes, Arkham Asylum is up there with games like X-men Legends 1 & 2. This game stands on its own merits, giving the player everything they could ever want from the Batman franchise. Even non-Batman fans will enjoy the complexity and simplicity of the gameplay, the look of the game, and the fun of gadgets or exploration. This is a top-tier game, and would is damn-near perfect, if it hadn’t been for the mostly uninspired boss battles. Overall though, this game is the pinnacle to what all comic book hero based games should be. It is quite literally a revolution in its genre.

Verdict:

4.5/5

Pros:

  • Graphically stunning
  • Audio is excellent on both music and voice acting fronts
  • Stealth elements are intuitive and fun
  • Combat is fluid and fast, never boring
  • Challenges add value to already large gameplay elements
  • Collectibles are interesting and involve themselves in the Batman universe.
  • Storyline is excellent, interesting and involving
  • Scarecrow boss fights are interesting and innovative

Cons:

  • Boss fights are mostly uninspired
  • Killer freaking Croc
  • Dropping combos because of game hit detection or slight distance discrepancies can be irritating.
  • Last boss is a weak ending to an epic game. (yes the bosses are THAT bad)

A damn near perfect title, some minor issues coupled with boss fights knock this game from its perfect throne, but overall, it’s an excellent, solid title.

WTF? Moment: Why did anyone think shipping Joker’s goon squad to Arkham was a good idea? Could we not just break Jokers back and leave him in a cell without food? DOES NOBODY IN THIS UNIVERSE WANT TO TAKE THE DAMN INITIATIVE?!?

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F.3.A.R.: Nothing to fear...at all.

Full Review:   FEAR 3
 
Fear 3 marks the end of the Alma trilogy, what began as a FPS that was filled with a dark atmosphere, a creepy little girl, and an interesting, conspiracy-esque storyline, which quickly degraded into jump scares and half-baked ideas, along with broken continuity.

Despite these facts, there’s no mistaking that Fear 3 attempts to meld all of the broken continuity issues together the best it can, and deliver an experience that is at least in some way enjoyable…and deliver it, it did.

Fear 3 puts you back in the shoes of Pointman, the protagonist of the first game, who has been captured by Armacham forces and is being interrogated for information involving Alma…though he’s mute so I don’t know why they’re doing this. He is rescued by his brother Paxton Fettel, who is now a ghost…just roll with it. The two must try to find Alma, who is pregnant following the events of the second game, to witness the birth of their newest sibling, with each having their own plans for the child: Pointman wishes to kill it, Paxton wishes to raise it. And the game continues on from there at breakneck pace, throwing in a few convoluted moment of what can be loosely interpreted as storytelling along the way. The campaign is fairly short, maybe taking a maximum of five hours on co-op, and maybe a little bit more on single player. The story itself is fairly weak, and attempts to weave together several elements of previous games, thought to be out of canon, into a jumbled mess.

Fettel & Pointman: Two ugly mama's boys.

 

The combat mechanics of FEAR 3 are solid, probably better than most modern day FPS’s. This makes the combat sections extremely enjoyable to play, as the controls are fluid, and the weapons are diverse and never seem to be unbalanced. Pointman has the ability to enter a state of reflex time, allows the player to deal with large scale situations in a more manageable manner. Fettel, on the other hand, uses his psychic powers to suspend enemies in the air, possess them, or, for want of a better word, explode them. He can also pick up objects and fire them like projectiles. However, both Fettel and Pointman have limits to these abilities, with timers on screen to tell the player how long is left until the ability ends. These gauges can be extended by completing certain challenges and gaining levels, for completing certain feats. Some can only be unlocked via co-op, but it gives the game a sense of purpose, at least for the campaign. Each character, bar Fettel in ghost form, can perform melee combat moves, which range from jump kicks, to slides, to good old fashioned knife attacks. These vary the gameplay and allow the player to change up their battle-plan, so combat remains enjoyable and fun throughout the campaign. This also transfers to multiplayer, but we’ll get to that in a while.

 

The graphics are somewhat muddy, and aren’t anything to be particularly wow’d by. To be honest, the engine seems as old as the idea, and while some of the backgrounds of levels can be quite beautiful, for the most part, the colour palette consists of grey, black, and a lot of red. Character models are somewhat stone-faced, and while movement is not an issue, the rendering of enemies and even main characters is pretty poor at the best of times. Enemies have very little variety, and crazy hobos can only have so many different looks.

 Featuring such amazing levels as: A basement with holes in it
 On the other hand: this looks quite awesome! But still not great.

 

Sound is something that won’t blow you away either, with enemies and weapons sounding pretty generic at times. The main attraction in the sound department is Fettel, whose funny quips and one-liners make this game worth playing, just to see how much of an asshole he’ll become as the story continues. The music can’t really be heard until the moment something horror-related is going to happen, and ends up hindering the experience more than helping it. Truly, there were more than a few cliff-notes lost in the sound department about what game they were working on.

 

The gameplay itself is pretty standard: run here, enemies attack, run here, cutscene, and repeat. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Since the combat is fun, the player won’t mind the enemy encounters, as no two encounters are the same. The player has full control over how they wish to take enemies down. However, it can grind at times, as enemies are far from thick, but the player is severely underpowered, taking relatively few hits before dying, even for a realistic mode of gameplay, this was a bit too confusing, especially when you fight alongside a ghost brother as a guy who can boost his own reflexes. The brothers each get a certain amount of points for killing enemies in certain ways. Challenges also contribute to this. At the end of each chapter, the game will show who is the ‘Favourite Son’. This adds an edge of competitive co-op to the game, and can be quite fun at times.

Will you be Alma's favourite son? More than likely...


 

The most important aspect of a game entitled ‘FEAR’ would be the atmosphere. The game was put forward as a horror title; much like the previous games…I just wish the developers knew that before making the damn game. The atmosphere is anything but tense, and the horror is merely filled in by pointless jump-scares that can be seen coming a mile away, thanks in part to the musical scores that seem to well up, just in case you don’t see what they’re trying to scare you with. Any and all of the possibly tense moment are immediately killed by the music, making the game a laughable experience at times, when nothing takes you by surprise.

 Some enemies are really big..and bright. Did nobody get the title of this game?

 

Multiplayer is really the backbone of FEAR 3, and where the real fun lies. The Multiplayer is split up into four different variations, Fucking Run, where you…fucking run from a cloud of death, killing enemies with your team to make it to the next checkpoint. It’s a fun mode, and requires a good, tight team to complete. Soul King is roughly the same as Halo: Reach’s Headhunter mode, except more refined. Each player, as a Spectre, must possess enemies, and kill other players and enemy bots in order to collect souls. At the end of each round, the player with the most souls wins. Soul Survivor is much like Soul King, except players must possess enemies to kill each other. Finally, we have the Gears of War-esque, Horde mode: Contractions. In this mode, players must work together to collect supply crates, which grant them strong weapons and more ammunition to fight the ever-increasing waves of enemies, who increase in difficulty, from waves 1 to 20. All of these modes are nice in their variations, although Contractions has the most promise for a multiplayer experience in which players will last longer working as a team. There are certain maps for each variant, although only 3 for Fucking Run. However, this does not take away from the fact that the multiplayer is solid, somewhat fresh thanks to the combat mechanics, and is worth playing with friends in order to make the most out of it.

 

Overall, FEAR 3 is a game that lacks the atmosphere its predecessors brought to the stage. Although it is a solid shooter, and a lot of fun, the lack of atmosphere hurts the game in a very severe way. Its basic premise is not fulfilled, so it can only ever reach an average level of entertainment.

 

Verdict:

 

3/5

 

Pros:

 

  • Shooting mechanics are solid and fun
  • Fettel’s voice acting is extremely entertaining
  • Multiplayer modes are solid
  • Co-Op extends play-time, and each brother plays differently, so players can experiment with what either can do, or combine abilities
  • Scoring system adds competitive nature to Co-Op

 

Cons:

 

  • Graphics are poor
  • Very weak horror atmosphere
  • Music contributes to the lack of immersion in gameplay
  • Story is weak
  • Character models are badly rendered
  • Most side characters are pointless additions
  • Enemy variation is very low
  • Campaign is extremely short
  • Jump 'scares' do not constitute as scares at all

 

FEAR 3 should have been a grand send-off the FEAR trilogy, but ended up being a flop. While the mechanics hold up, the overall feel of the game lacks in any and all of the strengths a horror title might have. In the end, all I can say about FEAR 3, is that it’s a fun FPS, but a poor title given the atmosphere.

 

WTF? Moment: Hobos? Really? Alma could have taken over the legions of psychic soldiers, but instead, Hobos?

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Mortal Kombat: Kanon isn’t set in stone

Actual Review: Mortal Kombat
 
Having been away from fighting games for a long time, I missed out on the MK series’ previous instalments, later in the series, so I never really knew that Mortal Kombat had a storyline other than a bunch of ninjas, monks and skantily-klad women beating the krap out of each other. I was surprised to learn that, in fakt, it did have a storyline that was interesting and fun, but had waned in later instalments of the series. When MK was released with this reboot/retkon, I had to get my hands on it, in order to diskover what I had missed out on, and I was not disappointed. 
 

 It really is as epic as it looks.


Mortal Kombat has a very simple story, mixed from the first trilogy of titles. I won’t be giving anything away here, as all you really need to know is that the fate of the Earth-realm, as it’s kalled in this game, is at stake, and it will take the combined force of some of the greatest fighters on the planet to defeat the evil Shao Khan, lord of Outworld, who seeks to kontrol earth realm and konquer it as he has done to eight other realms…so you know…no pressure or anything.

 

This is all dealt with in the storymode, which in itself is actually quite long. It allows the players to engage in several fights with different kharacters, through a range of chapters outlining the tournament. It’s a nice system, and easily the best choice for a game with such a large roster of characters to play as, though in this mode, you won’t really play as every single one of the available kharacters. However, the only real issue here is that you’ll be thrown into other kharacters shoes, when you’ve already gotten comfortable with the previous characters move sets. It can be daunting, and may put some players off, as some of the fights in the mode are cheap, placing you in situations where you fight 2 on 1 against enemies who you’ve never faced before. Still, all the main plots are there, Johnny Cage is an idol, an asshole, and one of the most hilarious members of the cast, while Lord Raiden, proper title for a proper god, is portrayed as having the weight of a world on his shoulders…which he does, so it makes sense.

Kabal: fast and awesome
Shang Tsung: Magic using bastard!
Johnny Cage vs Jax: Not his face!

 

Arcade mode is the section of the game where the player kan choose either a single characters, or use a tag-team, to work their way up the ladder in order to fight Shao Kahn…who is yet another member of the cheap boss family. The one thing that people playing this game might not enjoy, and might aktually get angry and perhaps throw their kontroller at the screen over, is how lazy this fight is. Spamming is the word in these fights, and the game pretty much breaks down into hit and run tactics when fighting bosses like Shao Kahn or Goro. The sad thing is that these fights work against the fighting mechanics, which are fun and flow very well together. The pacing is immediately lost, and the game falls into mediocrity that doesn’t suit it.

Shao Kahn: Should be an amazing fight, ends up being a hit-and-run match...also: Cheap bastard!

 

Along with training mode, players can also access the Challenge Tower, which is exactly what it sounds like. Here, players can participate in challenges which grant them koins…I like to abuse the ‘K’ joke, so sue me…which can then be used to buy concept art, alternative costumes and fatalities from the Krypt…but really you’ll only want the costumes, and maybe the fatalities, the concept art is everywhere, in greater abundance than anything else, and this becomes annoying as it holds no use in a fighting game practically. The Krypt limits the player to only knowing a code for each stone, so unless you have a guide, it’s a guessing game, and an expensive one at that. The tower is fun, ranging from some variants of side-scrolling shooter ideas to slapstick fights between Scorpion and Mileena, who wants to give Scorpion a teddy bear, much to his dislike…so you can ram her head into an oncoming train. There are 300 different challenges in the tower, each one being unlocked after the previous ones completion, so there is always something to do when it comes to MK.
 

Of course, Multiplayer is the supporting structure of any fighter these days, so we delve right into this section of the game…only to be kicked out 30 seconds later. The worst thing about this mode is that it’s so well thought out, but has such bad net coding that the player is immediately booted from many one-on-one matches. This is depressing, as MK gives the player a choice of player created rooms to join, and several different variants of fights to participate in. Normal 1Vs 1 matches are available, there are also tag matches, and a variant called King of the Hill, where up to 8 players can join, watch and participate in matches, ranking winning fighters with scores from 0-10. This allows players something to do, and makes them feel like they’re actually important to the room. It really is a nice, fresh system, and a lot of fun, as a group of friends can get together and play, with everyone having something to do. Unfortunately, the main issue is the bad net code, which can cause lag, right before everyone is kicked from a room. It isn’t as bad anymore, with patching, but it still isn’t great, and can really kill the game for the player.

 

Now, since you’re now aware that this game is bursting with content, we can talk about the kombat mechanics. The mechanics of MK are flawless at times, to say the very least. Each character has a set of special moves and combos that they can unleash on an opponent, ranging from low, medium and high attacks, to combos tied together with special moves. The player can also grab enemies, which is handy for controlling the fight. When attacking, or being attacked, the player will see a gauge at the bottom corner of their screen slowly increase. There are three sections to this gauge. The first allows the player to execute more powerful special moves, the second allows the player to perform a Breaker, which can break an enemy’s combo, granting your ass some respite from being kicked, and the final section is the X-Ray move. When activated, the entire gauge drains, and the player is entered into a kind of cutscene of their character performing a brutal, literally bone-crushing move on their opponent, taking a large sum of health from the enemy. Each character has a specific X-Ray move, and while it may get a little boring to see the same thing over and over, the game can always pull it back, especially when the X-Ray is used to turn a match around. Finally, we have the finishing move, the Fatality, of which each character has three, and each level has one specific move based on its design. While Fatalities are designed to score more koins in arcade mode, they’re used online to humiliate enemies…if only the button combinations weren’t so finicky. Some characters have easy to use moves, like down, down, forward, punch, while others have moves that must be activated from a distance, which you have to enter the fatality practice to figure out. This seems a little counter-intuitive, as the opposing player has already lost…so why make things more complicated. With an xbox controller, this simply falls apart, as the game can’t seem to register the movements, so forgive me if you’re playing on ps3 and pulling them off without an issue. Blocking is also simple, available at the push of a button, though it doesn’t negate all damage. Overall though, the gameplay mechanics of MK are simply breathtaking, combining speed, ease of control, and finesse which hasn’t been seen in a fighting game in a long time.

Kung Lao X-Ray
Reptile X-Ray
Mileena X-Ray

 

Character rosters are important in a fighting game, and MK doesn’t skimp on that section of its content either. 27 characters are available without DLC, though all are unlocked through playing the story mode. Each character is diverse with individual abilities. No character is left unbalanced…well not anymore, after some patches, and each character has limitless potential in the right hands. Because each character controls differently, players have a choice in the type of character they want to play, and while some may be slow, dealing large some of damage, but only at short range, they may be given a weak long range attack to help fend off faster, long distance characters. Combos for each character vary in difficulty, but again, different players adapt to different characters, and experimentation is the key to figuring out just which characters are for you.

 

Level designs are nice and varied, and are anything but static backdrops. More often than not, each level has a specific fatality the player can use, and the backgrounds are often filled with beautiful backdrops and amazing scenes, such as dragons blowing up cities, and a hellish, nightmare world where bodies scream as they burn in pits of lava…oh and rivers of blood, while players get pelted with fountains of blood. Yes, MK is all about the blood, so the levels are designed to reflect that.

Sonya vs Nightwolf, and a big fuck-off monster in the background!
Reptile vs Sektor...but who cares? Breathtaking views ahoy!

 

The voice acting is top-notch, and the narrator is simply badass. You won’t care whether you win or lose, hearing that voice will make everything better. Voice actors actually sound like they’re interested in doing their jobs, and dialogue actually has a lot more depth to it than other fighter games. The music is also quite cool, with all the epic rises and falls of an orchestral score, followed by an almost apocalyptic-like rock theme.

 

Finally, graphically, MK is amazing. Characters are rendered beautifully, and well detailed, blood spills everywhere the harder you hit, and the body damage is amazingly well detailed, especially when you can see the brain of a guy you just froze, then stabbed with an ice sword, and then kicked in the head. The game is very, very gory, as you’ve probably figured out by now. Head will be ripped off, necks with be snapped, groins will be punched, and you will see it all in glorious HD. Overall, everything in MK looks sublime…both to its credit and detriment, because ripping someone’s skin off is just kind of over-the-top, in an awesome yet gross kind of way.

Blooooooood!!!!!

 

In the end, Mortal Kombat is the game that most fighting games should aspire to be. Its combat is fluid, its characters are all unique, and its over the top nature defines it as a great spin on an old idea. Unfortunately, some questionable design choices and bad net coding drag the game down from the throne of skulls, made from its competitors, that it should be snugly sitting on, but nonetheless, Mortal Kombat is an awesome game, violent to a fault, and just good, old fashioned fun.

 

Verdict:

 

4/5

 

Pros:

 

  • Excellent graphics
  • Characters are diverse
  • Kombat is fluid and fun
  • Character models display damage gained throughout the fight
  • Incredible amount of content
  • Unlockable content galore
  • Controls are easy to get the hang of
  • Character roster is large
  • Level designs are well crafted, and never static.

 

Cons:

 

  • Story mode can have cheap matches
  • Challenge Tower , while good, can sometimes ask too much of the player
  • Online net code issues prevent smooth online play
  • Shao Kahn

 

Despite some flaws, Mortal Kombat shines brightly as one of the best fighting games of the current generation…though that could only be because it’s covered in gallons of blood, siphoned from its enemies…

 

WTF? Moment: So we’re taught how to tag team…but it never comes into play in the story mode?

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Augments A-plenty, Uses Madatory.

Actual Deus Ex: HR Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
 
Dues Ex, a game published in 2000, was a game that earned itself a status as a cult sci-fi game of epic proportions. Its sequel, Invisible War, earned its share of hatred and beat downs. So, of course, we ended up getting a prequel, and boy oh boy…this idea hasn’t aged well.

Don’t get me wrong, despite the excellent setting and cyberpunk ideas Deus Ex is routed in mediocrity from the get-go. You play as Adam Jensen, disgraced former SWAT cop and head of security at Serif Industries, a company that manufactures augments to better human life. The introduction is your typical ‘walk around and see the wonders of science’ gig that has been used for many opening sequences of games before it. While this isn’t bad, and gives you a chance to get used to the controls, it really only serves as a set-up for some the major plot points of the game, along with some minor sub-plot details you’ll figure out almost straight away. The company is attacked (wow, what a shocker) and Jensen is nearly killed in a fight with one of the augmented assailants. His former love interest is killed, along with the other scientists, and Jensen ends up being augmented as a result of his injuries, and so six months later, we join Jensen, newly augmented, as he begins a series of barely-legal operations that begin to uncover a deep, dark conspiracy, that threatens the progress of mankind. Basic story, not much thought put into it and characters dying that I’ve known for 10 minutes…yeah, this doesn’t earn much respect at all in the seriousness department.

Adam Jensen may have the personality of gravel, but kinky arm attachments make him a hit with the ladies

 

The graphics are good, not amazing, the lighting can be dark and the character models can be a bit stiff at times, compressed cut-scenes lack the impact that they should have, and the game shows a kind of inferiority, at least, on the xbox version because of this, but still, the motions and surroundings of each area the player goes to will suck them into this futuristic society…right up until they are sucked into the bland, enemy-filled, confusing as hell dungeon- esque levels, as part of certain main campaign missions, and some side missions. Immediately, the creativity just dies. The world becomes less immersive and the game becomes more like a Tom Clancy game, than something original. Each area is designed to give the player complete freedom to approach them in any way they want…in theory. In reality, the player is limited by the augments they have, sometimes having to forgo paths that they worked hard to gain access to, because they are missing an augment that they didn’t believe they needed. Overall, the level design is let down by the tone of the game which was routed solely in a non-existent plot that doesn’t really have any creativity in it whatsoever.

 

The voice acting is probably where this game really starts showing its poor design. Adam sounds like he starts every day gargling ground-up cinder blocks, making him sound like Christian Bale from the Batman movies. NPCs can be awkward to listen to, as many of them are badly cast, and women sound like their being voiced by husky men…the kind of husky men that people don’t want around their children.

However, despite the piss-poor voice acting, the dialogues between important characters the developers actually gave a crap about are solid, offering some genuinely funny moments. There is also a kind of interrogation mode that activates among important characters, in order for the player to pry information from them. There is an augment that can be purchased which allows the player to influence the person with pheromones, which is optional (only it’s not). It’s a nice little system, and really forces the player to take stock of all the information they’ve collected and heard on a character in order to appeal to their good side, and get the information they need. It’s a more simplistic version of LA Noire’s, and much better in my opinion. 

Augmentations: Some of which hold no practical use...until one point in a level.


The mechanics of the game vary between areas. In some areas, the player can decide to utilise certain augments to traverse hidden sections of the level. In open world areas, the player can discover extra routes into buildings, hidden items and even weapon dealers…that are utterly useless. The game also allows the player to upgrade their weapons with kits they pick up throughout the game, usually hidden behind locked doors, or in secret areas. They allow the player to attach items such as silencers, extra ammunition, laser-aim assists and increased damage upgrades to specific weapons. The only issue with this system is that they’re only useful for specific weapons. This means that a player could pick up an upgrade kit, and not have the type of weapon that it works with. This can be irritating, as Adam suffers from Resident Evil syndrome, and can’t carry more than a predetermined number of items, that take up squares in his inventory menu. Placing points into a specific augment can upgrade the space, but in truth, most of the items picked up in the game will be thrown into Adam’s apartment, as the shooting mechanics leave a lot to be desired.

Augmentations, as I’ve stated before, are a mixed bag, which contradict the very ideals the game was created on. The game boasts the ability of choice and the repercussions that result from their choices, but they ring hollow because this game is a prequel, and therefore has a set canon, which will retcon any of the ‘wrong’ choices the player makes, rendering the entire affair pointless.

 

Augments can be purchased through the use of Praxis points. These points are earned whenever Adam gains a level up, through earning experience. Alternatively, there are a finite number of Praxis Kits spread across the game world and also available in L.I.M.B. clinics, which can be used to get extra points to spend. These augments can range from advanced hacking skills, to extra jump height, from super-strength to the ability to slow your fall, even the ability to cloak yourself for short periods of time. You can also add extra energy bars, which are consumed whenever you use a take-down move, or ability like cloak. This forces you to think ahead, and figure out what is the most efficient way to approach your situation. Or it’s really confusing and inconsistent, especially when a trained SWAT officer can’t punch a guy in the face without using the power of his augments…it’s a big metal fist, why is it such an issue? Does he consume an energy bar when he’s wiping himself? Anyway the energy can be regenerated through eating ‘cryoboost’ foods, such as bars, larger boxes of what I assume is a cinder block, and a container of what looks like protein shake…but isn’t…

 

Combat and stealth are two sides of the same coin in Deus Ex. The player can opt for a stealthy, non-lethal route, using the games array of knockout weapons to take down opponents, or choose to go all out, killing as many enemies as they can throughout the levels. Unfortunately, the player will almost always find themselves opting for the path of least resistance, as they can more experience from that particular set of actions than a run-and-gun, lethal individual. There are no balancing acts between play styles either. Combat and lethality driven players will net less XP overall than stealth players, and it again stops the player from playing the way they want. This system feels dated, like many of the concepts of Deus Ex. Taking down multiple opponents at one time through a combination of take-downs and knockout weapons can be gratifying, but more often than not, the player is forced to enjoy a bullet sammich, as enemy AI is broken beyond repair. Players will notice that the enemy AI has a mixed array of line-of-sight, and distance of sight discrepancies. Sometimes, enemies will glitch through corners to see you take someone down, other times; they’ll simply know you’re there, despite taking every precaution to stick to the shadows. There are even moments where the AI fails and can’t see you, even when you’re standing in front of them. These issues are compressed by the confusing level design, the annoying enemy walking routes, designed to piss the player off, and the severe limitations placed on the player in combat, as your resistance to damage is insanely low, unless you augment the Dermal Armour…see where this augment thing is going? And even when all is said and done, the stealth option can become repetitive and stale, so interest in the game might linger in later levels. Otherwise, the game is just a glorified FPS, with cover-based stealth elements.

 See through walls! Turn invisible! Then have buggy enemy AI catch you and murder you!

 

Boss fights get their own section, as never before have there been more annoying and badly designed bosses in a title that was marketed to the AAA standard. Bosses are not hard in Deus Ex, oh no. They’re just cheating assholes. The game will literally throw you head first into a pre-boss cutscene , only to push you into a throw down, unprepared and confused as to what the name of sweet jesus is going on. The irritating thing is that bosses can be defeated easily if you have certain augments or weapons, but as first time players will not know what’s coming up where they’ll be knocked for six. The combat with the bosses is severely lacking. Sometimes something as simple as laying down mines and emptying ammo into a boss is enough to kill them. Other times, the objective of the fight is unexplained, forcing the player to frantically look around for some way of defeating the boss, which would be fine, if these kinds of fights worked properly. The game simply lacks the creativity to come up with clever ways to fight a boss, so you can’t, once again, play your way.

 Oh my god, this is a boss? Kinda hot...wonder what her powers are...if any other boss is like this...
 Jesus Christ man! A Faux Hawk and a severe lack of skin? Is this Jersey Shore 2027?

 

The musical scores are a positive output of the game, mixing technological and swelling music, and hitting all the right notes to match whatever situations the player might be involved in. It really is a noticeable plus, as it adds to the atmosphere, and immerses the player in the technological world of Deus Ex.

 

However, this does not excuse one more, large issue, in the game. Side missions are few and far between, and depend solely on the section of the game the player is currently on. This is a good mechanic that allows the low number of side missions of varying importance to the main plot to span the entirety of the game. The issue is quite simple really. The game is filled with glitches right up the ass. On occasion, I couldn’t actually do a side mission because the NPC wasn’t anywhere in the level. Missions that were vague and generic in their objectives sometimes remain unfinished, as the game stubbornly refuses to help the player traverse the extremely unhelpful map it has to offer.

 

Overall, Deus Ex: Human Revolution attempted to offer players something that they had been seemingly denied for years: choice. Alas, the choices are artificial, and don’t hold much weight to the overall plot, usually resulting in some arbitrary short cutscene that ends with some minor information that isn’t that important to the overall plot. The game promised so much, and was viewed as a revolution, or perhaps a saving grace in gaming, as well as a throw back to the glory days, yet it fell so short of the mark that any of the good and groundbreaking/revolutionary concepts are crushed under mediocrity, disappointment, and poor design choice. It lacks definition, and because of this, the game ends up being just above average.

 

Verdict:

 

3.5/5

 

Pros:

 

  • Excellent soundtrack
  • Realistic character interactions
  • Simple and elegant conversation options
  • Excellent use of an interrogation system
  • Main character models are well detailed
  • Underlying plots are interesting
  • Side-missions are more engaging than the main campaign
  • Take-downs can be satisfying.

 

Cons:

 

  • Compressed cutscenes look poor
  • Enemy AI is bugged
  • ‘Choices’ lack weight
  • Augments can be broken down into a list of want vs. need
  • Alternative routes can be blocked by lack of augments
  • Weapon dealers/money are pointless
  • Xp system is unbalanced, again taking the choice from the player.
  • Main story is predictable and lacks creativity
  • Characters lack any real definition, lack investment.
  • Glitches in missions and weapons can ruin the experience.

 

Deus Ex should have made an almighty comeback as a title that K.O.’d the competition of 2011, but instead stands as a testament to why some classic games should stay that way. Dated mechanics, bad design choices, and an illusion of choice pull the player from the immersive atmosphere of the game. A disappointing affair that had the ideas, but lacked the ability to utilise them.

 

WTF? Moment: So where is the so-called ‘human revolution’ in this game? Because I don’t even think the game knows.

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