March 19, 2012

Review – Silent Hill: Downpour

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 8:52 am

Review Silent Hill Downpour
While the Silent Hill Tourism Board has long since given up hope, the collapsing town still attracts a few lost souls each year as stray individuals find themselves wandering the misty streets and confronting truths they’ve worked hard to suppress.

I suppose Silent Hill is a bit like the town Freud might have built, where the subconscious takes physical shape and the only way to survive the demonic torture chamber unleashed is to shine light on the darkest recesses of the mind, exposing what visitors have failed to resolve on their own and desperately tried to bury.

The earliest visits to Silent Hill began with physical searches, whether it was Harry Mason searching for his lost daughter, or James Sunderland chasing the chance to see his wife again. That latter search set the bar for a series about people burdened by the past, forced through a cathartic process while wandering those streets. It’s a legacy that frames Silent Hill as a twisted parental hand that isn’t really trying to kill people, but rather, attempting to heal them.

Silent Hill is a psychological meat grinder, with people going in one end and the crank slowly turning to show the raw meat at the heart of each. It isn’t surprising that the premise has created formulaic entries in recent years, such as 2008’s Homecoming, which seemed to create a patchwork quilt from previous releases. But 2009 saw the release of Shattered Memories, which attempted to include the player in the analytical process, and regardless of your feelings toward that release, that experiment created a Silent Hill title that was unquestionably unique.

There are times that Downpour appears to bridge the gap between those points, mixing familiar mechanics and mind games to find brief moments that feed on the player to create some space for empathy with the trials of convict Murphy Pendleton. But as the truth about Murphy comes to light, the complicated narrative misses any opportunity to truly create a character that earns enduring sympathy or comprehension.


February 17, 2012

Review – Twisted Metal

Review Twisted Metal
Calypso’s apocalyptic tournament of car carnage returns, bringing one of Sony’s legacy franchises to the PlayStation 3 with an emphasis on multiplayer as the primary reason for investment and potential longevity. With a franchise that has seen successful releases on every piece of Sony gaming hardware to date, sans the new Vita, Twisted Metal has a strong list of accomplishments to draw on when it comes to maintaining its title as the King of vehicular combat. Mind you, that genre is far from crowded, particularly today.

It’s also worth noting another long-standing Sony franchise, the Wipeout series, as one that hit the PlayStation 3 with a digital release to deliver the core experience of its anti-gravity racing without unnecessary trappings to round out retail expectations. Under the watchful eye of David Jaffe, Twisted Metal stretches for retail justification with a single-player campaign again accompanying the multiplayer priority, see-sawing while struggling to beat familiar expectations for a story mode in addition to bringing the old war horse out for another round of competitive action that has certainly been wanting on the console.


February 13, 2012

Review – The Darkness II

the Darkness II 2
Videogames that enable players to act out extreme power-fantasies often struggle in presenting checks to balance the ability to do anything with the consequences of such actions – or at least they should. Being let loose to smash and slaughter on a God-like level offers players incredible freedom, but wants for purpose rather quickly. The majority of such games resort to unleashing the hounds with old ideas of order and control, which often take the form of recognizable authoritative order reacting in force scaled to the level of chaos being created.

Powered by comic book source material, The Darkness II continues to serve as an oddity in power-fantasy gaming, with Jackie Estacado’s superhuman abilities offering players a check via the weight of conscious felt purely through the narrative.

The Darkness hits us with something applicable on many levels, with a power that makes Jackie great at what he does, which just happens to be killing people. But it also consumes him via its usage, with each act of power surrendering more of Jackie to The Darkness that works to consume him. And while Jackie’s relationship with The Darkness plays out this way, the consequences of this union emerge entirely through the relationships within the game rather than any play mechanic that might attempt to spank players with the parental hand of morality.

This allows The Darkness to actually brush against a pursuit often cited but rarely achieved, creating a game that does cater to those gamers simply looking for a few hours of visceral tentacle murder as well as those players inclined to read and write lofty words about the more subtle potential being tapped.

The Darkness II continues to offer the opportunity to consider consequences without the weight of heavy handed intention, though the game also struggles with subtlety, at times slipping into preachy forced moments hoping to stress the narrative effort at work beneath the layers of blood players can paint the town red with.


December 26, 2011

Review – Where Is My Heart?

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — Colette Bennett @ 3:23 pm

Review Where Is My Heart
Where Is My Heart? aims for opposite goals compared to most games. While so many current gen titles try to woo us with fanfare, Where Is My Heart? takes a more quiet and contemplative approach. Perhaps not so surprising for a game that was inspired by the story of a real family lost in the woods and the way they fall apart when forced to rely on just their senses and each other.

We can only hope you fare better as you navigate this enchanted wood…


November 15, 2011

Review – Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 1:40 pm

review assassins creed revelations
The latest innovations in stab-simulation from stealth-murder industry leader Assassin’s Creed can be had today, with the release of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. The latest entry in the series sees the aged Ezio Auditore seeking to uncover the secrets of series originator Altair—who appears in a handful of flashback missions throughout the game. Meanwhile, Ezio also battles the Templar armies in Constantinople, and oversees the Assassin guild in that city.

Lording over your Assassin minions is much as it was in Brotherhood, with a few quirks. Assassin’s are recruited in small sidequests and can be deployed at the touch of a button to emerge from the shadows and nail enemy targets.

These disciples see upgrades through combat and can still be sent away on missions to gain experience, but the missions now have more tangible rewards—in that completely freeing a city of templar control yields continuing income and bonuses, much the way renovating shops does.

Additionally, Ezio’s Assassin forces wage a war for control inside Constantinople, whereby Ezio’s captured dens can be contested by Templar forces—resulting in Revelation’s most curious offering: a tower defense mini-game.


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.


October 26, 2011

Review – House of the Dead Overkill: Extended Cut

Review House of the Dead Overkill Extended Cut
The return of the infamous 2009 Wii addition to the House of the Dead series represents the latest effort toward Sega’s goal of preparing gamers for the zombie apocalypse a significant number of scientists cite as inevitable. Perhaps more importantly, the PlayStation exclusive HD revisit offers those gamers who invested in the PS Move fresh reason to charge their glow sticks.

This extended cut of Overkill supports both the Move and the standard PS3 controller, but honestly, the idea of playing it with the latter loses plenty of the fun that justifies giving up standard movement controls to the rail that controls the camera and guides players through this mutated funhouse of horrors.


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