Dead or Alive 5 Review Featured
After a seven-year hiatus from the official console fighting series, Dead or Alive returns to the ring thanks to the resurgence of the fighting game genre. Does this offer up another flavor of fighting notably different from Street Fighter or Tekken, or is this just another excuse for furthering the cause of hyper-realistic jiggle of completely unrealistic breasts?
Borderlands 2 Review (PC) Featured
Borderlands 2 is the sequel to the 2009 hit game from Gearbox Software and 2K Games. The original game was, without question, the most addictive “dungeon crawler” released that year. How does the sequel compare? Let’s find out.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
Borderlands 2 starts out 5 years after the events of the first game. After the discovery of the mysterious “Vault” by the four original heroes, a strange new crystal known as Eridian begins appearing on the surface of the planet, Pandora. This crystal has also attracted the attention of the Hyperion Corporation and its charismatic evil leader, Handsome Jack. You play as one of four new “Vault Hunters” seeking fame and fortune on the planet as you search out a new and bigger Vault.
My PC copy of Borderlands 2 arrived in a beautiful foil embossed amary case. Inside I was greeted to a meager 5-page quickstart guide and 1 game disc. Yes, 1 DVD game disc!
I insert the disc into my drive and begin the installation process.
Borderlands 2 is a Steam game and as such, installation is a breeze. Once you’ve typed in your serial key (provided on the back of the quickstart guide, you have the option of either installing from the disc or downloading and installing online directly off the Steam servers. Either way is trouble free. Once installed the game auto updates itself to the latest version (so long as you are connected to the Steam servers).
With the game installed I start it up!
HOW DOES IT PLAY?
Borderlands 2 plays out almost exactly like the first one. You begin the game by choosing one of four character classes – Salvador the Gunzerker, Maya the Siren, ZerO the Assassin, or Axton the Commando. Each class offers different perks and changes the way you play the game: The Gunzerker is brute force, while the Assassin attacks from a distance; the Siren and Commando are somewhere in the middle. Each one of these characters is essentially a tweaked and improved version of the heroes from the first game. For example, the Brute from the first game was my least favorite character. In this game he has become the Gunzerker. Instead of melee attacks as his main skill the Gunzerker is able to dual wield any two weapons - sniper rifle + rocket launcher? No problem. It’s awesome!
Another great thing about the characters is that once you’ve chosen a particular class, you can further refine their abilities by improving the stats that suit your playstyle. Playing as a Siren, for example, you can create a character that heals and supports your teammates. You could also do the opposite and create a Siren that’s full on offensive and destructive. The choice is yours to develop your character as you see fit.
Borderlands 2 is a “dungeon crawler,” which means that you will be spending a lot of your time clearing out hideouts in search of loot and gear then selling any unwanted gear back for more loot. On paper this sounds pretty mundane but in practice its very addictive. Most of the stuff you collect is junk but there is always that anticipation of opening one more chest and finding a rare shotgun or a powerful shield.
The game offers you lots of opportunities to collect loot as well through various missions. Missions can be obtained through a variety of means – bulletin boards, NPCs (Non Playable Characters), and random events, just to name a few. They offer a variety of objectives to complete. Though most generally end with you shooting something till dead, they all feel pretty unique and never repetitive. Some of them are longer, particularly the story related ones, however those are multi-leveled and can be completed (and saved) in smaller chunks.
Borderlands 2 does to guns what GTA does to cars. The entire game is based around them. There are so many combinations and they are divided by (fictional) manufacturers. Guns can be found throughout the land, bought, and/or sold (whenever you find a more powerful one). Each weapon has a variety of stats, perks and vices. The combinations for these stats are virtually unlimited and based around the current level of your character. All guns felt solid in my hands and I never felt underpowered against the biggest of foes.
One thing I didn’t like about the game (and this goes back to the original one as well) is how enemies spawn onto the battlefield. Every camp/outpost littered throughout the map generally has about 3 enemies guarding it. Upon being “noticed” by them, more spring out from predetermined “huts.” This really ruins any surprise/tactical attacks as you’ll never be able to take all of them out at one time. Every gunfight in the game is just that – a gunfight. Forget about stealth (even if you’re playing the Assassin class). Add in the fact that enemies are much smarter in this game and actually work together as a team to flank you, no hiding place is safe. Fortunately, gunfighting is very well executed and satisfying; I never got tired of shooting shotgun wielding, half-naked, midget bandits with high-pitched voices.
I started my playthrough of Borderlands 2 with a Keyboard and mouse as I do for all FPSs (First-Person Shooters). Movement was great and responsive. Navigating the in-game menus was not. Everything felt stiff and clunky. Switching over to a gamepad made all the difference. Menu navigation was effortless and the driving segments later in the game felt natural (clearly Borderlands 2 is a console port). I wish they would have added more keys to the game so I could drive in one direction while looking in another on a keyboard/mouse setup.
Borderlands 2 features a “drop in/drop out” co-op multiplayer experience. That means at any point in the game you (or your friends) can jump in and out of each other’s game session; the single-player campaign is not separate from the multi-player one. Enemies also get tougher with more players in the game. To assist with the difficulty, the loot drops get better as well.
Like the first game, Borderlands 2 co-op experience is great with friends. Having a helping hand come in and save you when you’re down is awesome. Also being able to communicate with friends helps coordinate attacks if you play as different classes (yes, you can play as the same class) against the “smarter” AI. The comradely of the game is much more entertaining with friends.
Playing a matching-making game with random people is a little less exciting. Verbal communication is mostly non-existent. Players tend to run to the end of the level collecting all of the loot and leaving you to scavenge for leftovers. It wasn’t exactly the best experience so I didn’t stay in it very long.
WHAT’S IT LOOK LIKE?
Just like the original game, Borderlands 2 has a hand-drawn, cell shaded look. It’s very pretty and always great to look at. One improvement over the first game is how much more colorful it is. Borderlands had a drab and faded look to it perhaps to reflect the barrenness of the deserts of Pandora. Borderlands 2 isn’t afraid to experiment with the color pallette. Everything from the textures to the HUD (Head’s Up Display) looks “flashy-er” and brighter with more contrast.
Borderlands 2 also supports DirectX 10 and nVidia PhysX effects. Lights realistically bounce and reflect off surfaces. PhysX effects make tattered cloth and banners flap in the wind. Liquids and particles flow and explode. With the game running in full 1080p it looks very amazing and much better than the original game.
Borderlands 2 is built upon the Unreal Engine. As such it runs almost flawlessly on a variety of systems with an nVidia graphics card. During my entire playthrough I experienced no crashes or graphics anomalies whatsoever. I did experience a few bugs however.
Once after killing a boss, I was instructed to search his body for a collectable. No matter where I stood, the “Search” option never appeared. I was unable to complete the quest so I abandoned it for another. Upon leaving the zone and returning later the body reset itself and I was able to complete the quest.
In another boss fight, the boss got stuck inside a part of the map and disappeared. He was still there on the mini-map, however, I couldn’t see him or shoot him so I couldn’t finish the quest. Once again, leaving that zone and returning reset the boss. In both instances, I was able to complete the quests however it was annoying having to leave it for a while just so it could reset itself.
WHAT’S IT SOUND LIKE?
The soundwork in Borderlands 2 is amazing. Sound effects are fantastic. Guns sound great. Even the dialogue from the enemies attacking you are appropriate to their character (some of them spout off hilarious nonsense; I couldn’t stop laughing). I played the game with a 7.1 surround sound system and a virtual 7.1 headset. In both instances surround sound was pinpoint accurate. Music in Borderlands 2 was mostly minimal and kicked up during gunfights. All of it was beautifully composed by game veteran Jesper Kyd.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
YES! If you liked the first Borderlands then you’re going to love this one!
NO! It’s basically just the first game with a number “2” slapped on it.
YES! In essence this game probably should have been titled “Borderlands 1.5”. Story aside, it’s more or less the first game with a lot of tweaks. That’s not necessarily a bad thing however as everything about the game is really fun and addictive. The single-player storyline, with side-quests will take you over 30 hours to complete. If you play as each of the 4 different character then you’re looking at well over 100 hours of gameplay. Add in New Game + mode and that total can easily climb past 200 hours! I was never bored during the game and the story was well written, very funny, and full of surprises and twists. A competent multiplayer component is only icing on the cake. Borderlands 2 is a must have for any gamer! Buy it from Amazon today!
I've been a fan of Resident Evil since I first began gaming. It's the first thing that comes to mind whenever I hear the word Zombies. I've played every game in the series (main series, that is) and I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment. I've had the fancy super-edition pre-ordered for some time now. So I jumped at the chance to play the demo the day it came out (and by jumped I mean waited semi-patiently as my cruddy internet downloaded it). I was actually quite pleased with it. Nothing really stood out as new or surprising, and I found a few things to nit-pick about, but overall I'm still looking forward to it.
At the start, I learned there are three playable campaigns, each focusing on a different character in the series. In each campaign you can play as either that individual or his partner, with drop-in co-op as an option. Personally, I prefer playing alone unless I have a close friend to play with. Nothing breaks zombie tension like a player who is AFK or running in circles screaming at his mother. I began with Leon's story (my favorite character anyway). It starts with him having to shoot the newly-zombified president in the head and escape a college campus infested with undead students. On first impression I thought the graphics were nice, not astounding, but nice. It unfortunately didn't seem like much of an improvement of RE5's graphics. I felt like Leon's character model took up a bit too much of the screen, making it difficult to see enemie's coming from my left side. I like 3rd-person shooters as much as the next guy, but I don't really need to see Leon's lower back. The character's animations were much more believable though; climbing over obstacles and meleeing the zombies looked very fluid. Speaking of which... Zombies!!! No weird, tentacle, eyeball growths here, just straight-up moan-and-groan, walking dead.
Walking through the quiet hallways brought back found memories of earlier games, despite the armed femme-fatale partner watching my back. I noticed a frustrating amount of repeatable objects though: in one hallway there must have been a dozen or more identical pictures of the late president, and the same two boxes were present several times in every room. It didn't take long to find my first zombie to slay. Also didn't take long to find out how dumb my AI partner was. A slight difference in terrain level caused her to unload several clips into the back of a chair instead of the guy trying to eat my face off. As I continued on I came across another annoyance. After years of zombie killing, I've been conditioned to assume every dead body on the ground is a potential face-muncher. So I automatically shoot each in the head once before I proceed. However, as soon as I walk by, they get up and attack me! Cheap scare tactic aside, this is pretty frustrating. I should be rewarded for noticing them before-hand, not groan as I have to turn back around to finish them off. Soon after I came to a metal detector. Obviously I'm carrying a gun, and obviously the alarm will attract zombies. But the game wouldn't let me hop over this tiny desk, forcing me to set off the alarm. Again, I wish games in this day and age would reward me for playing intelligently, especially since there were many other obstacles I can hop over in the demo. Fast forward to the end of Leon's short 30-minute level and you'll find me quickly surrounded by zombies. I took a wrong turn and quickly found myself cornered. Thankfully my partner came and revived me quickly with what looked like super-healing breathemints. We escaped by hopping in a cop car before quickly crashing it, once again proving that Leon is a terrible driver.
The other two parts of the demo featured Chris and newcomer Jake. These two campaigns played much differently than Leon's. First off, you'll be fighting the Majini of Resident Evil 5, you know, the intelligent gun-wielding ones that sometimes grow tentacles and other nasties when damaged. Which is fun at first until you find that almost EVERY single one transforms. To combat this you'll be armed with many more weapons including assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns, and grenades. It became much more of a shooter than I really wanted. Taking cover and returning fire was a bit difficult, and enemies seemed to rush blindly straight at me. I actually got a little bored with it to be honest, and I hope their campaigns aren't entirely like this. If you can't compete with Call of Duty, Gear, Halo, or Battlefield, don't TRY. I much preferred Leon's slower, spookier campus exploration with normal zombies. While I enjoyed the demo, it definately has two sides to appeal to two different kinds of gamers. Both were fun, but I'm worried about the direction Resident Evil is heading. If it were up to me I'd have made it single-player and scarier, but it's not. I'll have to wait until the full game releases in a few weeks to see if my fears are justified.
Ready or not, we are now heading into the holiday season. School has started, and Wal Mart has pushed out 5 aisles of holiday cheer. While I lament at the ignoring of Thanksgiving, it is never too early to discuss gifts for those you care about the most.
Spec Ops: The Line Featured
Wow. How to write a review based around a game's story without including spoilers... Spec Ops is your typical generic cover-based shooter turned on its head. Whereas in most shooters you would come for the action with the story as an afterthought, in Spec Ops the story will keep you in your seat, your jaw dropped, and your eyes glued to the screen. You will see things and do things that you'd never thought you would see, and you won't necessarily like it. I couldn't quite tell if I was having "fun" playing this game, despite being completely engaged in the story. I know that's a hard concept to understand, but I will do my best to explain.