November 13, 2012

Review – Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:39 pm

Review Call of Duty Black Ops II 2
It’s fair to say that gaming has taught us some rather strange lessons. Eating mushrooms allows us to grow, powerful critters can be caught and stored in balls, rubbing two differently colored plants together creates medicine on the fly – the list goes on and on to spiral around a few city blocks.

And considering all the ridiculous activities videogames enable, I have to find something better to say about Black Ops II, rather than simply stating that it has a ridiculous plot at the heart of its campaign – that would just be a silly and wasteful thing to say.

It would probably be fairer to say that the story of Black Ops II simply builds on the well-worn foundation of the franchise, which may feel plenty worn depending on how many of the numerous releases in the series you’ve soldiered through.

And yet to simply suggest this would be selling the game short.


November 3, 2012

Review – Halo 4

Review Halo 4
Soldiers scramble past fleeing scientists as Covenant troops fill the tight corridors of the Ivanoff space station. Emergency lights flicker over broken instruments as communications crackle and the battle consistently threatens to create hull breaches. And as the Master Chief charges forward, his faithful AI companion raises added cause for concern as her program continues to degrade and Cortana essentially thinks herself to death.

343 Industries returns the franchise to the opening tension of 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved along with a sense of horror – an action game where players discovered fresh threats in that empty space where no one can hear you scream. Having fully taken the reins from developer Bungie, 343i doesn’t simply mimic the flow of the story that started the franchise however, waging a war of their own to bring a deeper theme of sci-fi horror alongside the grand operatic leanings of the series.

That doesn’t mean that 343i reinvents the wheel, rather, that they take the opportunity presented by a new trilogy in the franchise to refine the ride – often with layers of attention that, either owning to a fear of breaking the formula or the idea that “if it ain’t broke you don’t fix it”, were very much overdue.


September 13, 2011

Review – Hard Reset

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 6:45 pm

Review Hard Reset
I’m going to be honest with you: I have no idea what Hard Reset is about.

Indeed, the problem is even more fundamental and more deeply rooted than that: I have legitimately no idea what is happening in this game.

As a disciple of electronic entertainment simulations, I’ve endured some pretty miserable narrative constructs. I managed to make some kind of broken, incomplete sense out of games like Vanquish, and endured the emotional incompetence of Gears of War, so I feel like I’ve run the gauntlet of bad videogame stories and come out the other side with my sanity mostly intact.

Hard Reset, however, elevates poor storytelling to an artform—though, fortunately, it doesn’t make the game any less fun.


March 8, 2011

Review – Killzone 3

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 7:59 am

Killzone 3
Killzone 3 is a true example of franchise mentality; the entire affair is constructed with that distinct “Triple A Franchise” shine, the whole nine yards players have seen on titles like Gears of War and Halo. This is a product with significant resources at its disposal, all the way down to a high profile voice cast.

Though the core game is deserving, the concept is simply not the equal of this treatment. From the opening cinematic to the grim, atmospheric music in the menus, the player is primed for a dark, compelling tale of war, but as the campaign begins it becomes immediately apparent that this will simply not materialize.

The unfortunate reality is that the Killzone universe is simply not interesting, or at least unexplored in an interesting way. No amount of pomp or franchise expense can elevate what is distinctly lacking conceptually.


October 9, 2010

Review – Halo: Reach

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 8:44 am

It’s 2010 now, and at this stage in the videogame universe reviewing a Halo game seems largely unnecessary. You’ve played it. You know what it is. You know if you’re prepared to spend your sixty-dollars for it. Still, there are some things about Reach that deserve to be said, so we’re going to say them, regardless of the fact that you already bought the game on launch day.

When I reviewed StarCraft II I wrote that a level of perfection in the gameplay design allowed the original StarCraft to endure, without sequels, far longer than any game has a right to. The Halo franchise is characterized by a similar condition with opposite results; in this case, a string of fundamentally similar sequels have been produced, capitalizing on the natural strength of the core gameplay mechanic.


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