November 6, 2012

Review – Assassin’s Creed III

Assassins Creed III
After five entries I imagine it’s easy to overlook the level of craft in the Assassin’s Creed series. Meticulously rendered locations and historical accuracy is par for the course at this point, but thankfully Assassin’s Creed III brings these elements back to the forefront by leveraging the most interesting setting, backstory, and secondary characters in the entire series.

The American Revolution is explored with a balanced perspective, and historical information is poured on in such a way that even the most oblivious player will be compelled to think critically about the stage and the motivations of the actors.

This is not Assassin’s Creed: SUPER PATRIOT EDITION. Bad people and bad choices are everywhere; compromise is ubiquitous. The game begs you to look deeper into the conflict, and it works. That most players will have a stronger working knowledge of the history here than in previous entries is a massive boon to the story being told; it’s easier to grasp opposing viewpoints when the nature of the disagreement is easily understood, allowing the game to more deftly elaborate on the moral struggles the series has always tried to illuminate.


October 29, 2011

Review – Batman: Arkham City

Review Batman Arkham City
There’s a certain vocabulary in the Batman fan community, a dialogue made up of stories that everyone recognizes, with an acknowledgment of common reverence that need not be spoken.

Few need to explain what they thought of The Dark Knight Returns, or ask about The Long Halloween. It is simply understood that one should know of these stories and their significance, as such tales are the seminal books of Batman.

It’s not often that outside media enters in to this exclusive lexicon, where respect and adoration are implied merely through reference. If one talks about Burton’s 1989 film, it is not simply assumed that he speaks of it with approval.

Those outside properties that have entered this elite class, such as The Dark Knight and Batman: The Animated Series (so revered that its original ideas bled into the comics for years) succeeded in the same way that Arkham City does: by being more than a mere cipher for the source material.


September 20, 2011

Review – Gears of War 3

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 2:24 pm

Review Star Fox 64 3DS
So, here’s Gears of War 3 in a nutshell: somewhere on the battlefield, a Locust drone fell to his knees, and out I ran—because it wasn’t acceptable that he might just bleed out. I had to get to him, so that I might ram my flamethrower into his chest and burn him from the inside out.

Yeah, that’s a thing you can do.

I think what makes Gears of War special, as a franchise, is its unique aptitude for making me want to do things like that, and, more importantly, for making me need to shoot monsters.

That’s the impetus of any shooter, of course, but the focus here is notably more pure. Every asset is leveraged toward this end. Whether it’s brutish dialogue that can only rightly be answered with a shotgun, the satisfying kick of the rifle, the suffering atmosphere of the world, or a story that demands good old-fashioned revenge, everything in this game compels me to shoot monsters, and fashions that need into the most satisfying experience possible.

It’s the art of the shooter, and Gears of War 3 is a symphony on the subject.


August 31, 2011

Review – Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 8:46 am

Deus Ex Human Revolution
I spend most of my days waiting for games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution to come along; games that do science fiction well, and authentically.

William Gibson has said that all great science fiction isn’t really about the future, it’s about the present—and that’s part of the strength of Deus Ex. At the heart of Human Revolution is the augmentation debate, and within it are shades of modern day quandaries, reflections of the everyday arguments of politics, science, and religion.

Care has been taken here to craft a genuine, believable world. This game doesn’t feel like a caricature; the ideas and conflicts feel true to life, and so does the argument the game hinges on. That fidelity informs Revolution down to its core, and makes it successful.


August 19, 2011

X’11 – Hands On With Dead Island

Filed under: Features,News Feed — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 8:14 pm

dead island
In the latest installment of our 254-part series “Games Sugar Played at X’11” we have Dead Island, much-anticipated co-op zombie masher.

This particular demo was timed, so I quickly set about grabbing my weapon—a wooden paddle—and getting down to business. The business of zombie-murder, that is—and as several franchises can attest, business is good.

The beach I stepped out onto seemed safe enough, until a zombie came up at my flank and grabbed a hold of me. A prompt informed me that I should pull the left trigger, setting the zombie up for a pull of the right trigger that socked him directly in the face, staggering him away.

This was actually one of the more satisfying moments in the demo, so intuitive that I didn’t actually need to see the second prompt to know what the game wanted me to do.

Now the zombie was down, but he wasn’t out—he was climbing back to his feet. I swung the paddle and he crunched nicely, but to my surprise, he endured.


X’11 – Hands On With Rise of Nightmares

Filed under: Features — Tags: , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 5:09 pm

Rise of Nightmares
Among the wares Sega was showing at X’11 yesterday was Rise of Nightmares, the Kinect exclusive survival horror title that’s due out in a couple of weeks. That demo happened to be my first opportunity to play a Kinect game, and while the title may not have been on my radar beforehand, that I walked away feeling good about the experience speaks volumes.

The demo began with a brief rundown of the basic control movements. I found myself in a rather unpleasant prison-like setting, where I was able to walk forward by placing one foot ahead of me and back by doing the reverse. Interestingly, the further forward my foot was placed, the faster my character would move, while turning my shoulders to either side would steer me through the world.

Placing an open hand in front of me brought up a cursor used to interact with and pick up nearby items, while pushing with that hand would open doors—a task that could also be accomplished, to my infinite amusement, by kicking wildly.


X’11 – Hands On with Binary Domain

Filed under: Features — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 8:30 am

Binary Domain
When Sugarhumans descended on X’11 yesterday, I had the opportunity to get my hands on futuristic robot shooter Binary Domain. I approached the game having seen only what the trailers provide—offerings that can feel a little generic, given the crowded third-person shooter market.

I suppose it’s the videogame equivalent of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” – that you don’t really know the nature of a game till it’s in your hands.

To my pleasant surprise, Binary Domain proved to be a sharp, limber shooter.


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