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Entries in ps3 (8)

Tuesday
Dec042012

Better late than never review: SoulCalibur V

The once venerable SoulCalibur series has lost its way. The series that swept into prominance on Sega’s ill-fated white box, gloriously representing the downfall of arcades with its stunning presentation and packed feature set, has struggled to find its way in the modern era. After a sophomore success that many fans still see as its pinnacle, Namco produced two sequels that each failed to live up to their predecessors in their own unique way.

SoulCalibur V is evidence of a series continuing to struggle with a serious identity crisis, the roots of which were planted as far back as the beloved SoulCalibur II. The zenith of SoulCalibur’s popularity also saw the introduction of guest characters that, while seemingly innocuous at the time, signaled a marketing-driven tone that hinted at the difficulty Namco would face balancing its desire to sell more copies with the necessity of keeping the game relevant among the passionate niche of fighting game players that make up the tournament community. The clash between the hardcore zealots and the casual button mashers has long been at the core of the series’ problems. 

SoulCalibur V wrestles these inner demons better than either of its two troubled predecessors. The obligatory guest character, Assassin’s Creed’s Ezio Auditore, fits SoulCalibur’s aesthetic and tone better than Namco’s own two bizarre newcomers, magic orb wielding Viola and pseudo werewolf Zwei. The gameplay is solid, with a well-balanced cast fighting with renewed enthusiasm thanks to the speed boost the combat has received. Solid ideas have been borrowed from other modern fighting games in the form of super moves and meter management. These won’t win points for originality, but they do more to change up the strategies and tactics of fights than anything in the series’ history since Soul Edge became SoulCalibur. SoulCalibur V feels fresh again.

But trouble lurks in the periphery.

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Wednesday
Jan262011

Review - Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

The apocalypse is all the rage these days. Blown up, devastated, ruined, and post-nuclear worlds are as inescapable as the inevitable doom these glorious nightmare scenarios envision. It seems there’s something about imagining humanity’s demise that has captured our collective attention of late.

We’ve squeezed the apocalyptic fruit of so much juice that it seems to have nothing left to give. The apocalypse has become boring. How’s that for strange?

Enslaved manages to infuse this overdone concept with new life by abandoning the bland brown grit traditionally favored as the end of the world’s color of choice. Instead, it opts for a greener palette, one that sees nature as regaining its rightful control over the land after humanity has made itself scarce. 

While Enslaved dazzles with its unique setting, it decidedly lacks a historical focus. Those hoping to learn the details of this world’s downfall will be disappointed. Enslaved plants its foot firmly in its fictional present and you learn little more than vague hints of backstory throughout the course of the adventure.

The game finds its true strength in its characters. The world sometimes seems a confusing jumble of disparate elements, full of lush greenery and sentient robots alike, but the characters you encounter along the journey, while few in number, will quickly endear themselves to you. By the end of the game, you’re sure to care far more about the people than the land. 

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Sunday
Dec122010

Best of the Decade - Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time

Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time

Platform: Playstation 3

Release Date: October 27, 2009

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Developer: Insomniac Games

Ratchet and Clank clearly borrows from the Nintendo school of sequel design. It has a core foundation that lies largely unchanged while the peripheral elements are shifted around enough from game to game to remain interesting and fresh. 

I have fallen deeply in love with the Ratchet and Clank series since first playing it in 2002. It has risen to become one of my favorite series of all time, right there next to Zelda and Mario. In fact, I have beaten more games in this series than perhaps any other, eight in total. I’ve loved each and every one of them dearly. 

No other series has managed to match Ratchet and Clank’s mix of precise platforming, hectic gunplay with unusual weaponry, occasional puzzles, and consistent humor. It is a blend unlike any other and each new concoction raises the bar and renews my love.

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Tuesday
Dec072010

Best of the Decade - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Platforms: Windows, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

Release Date: March 20, 2006 (Windows and 360 versions)

Publisher: 2K Games; Bethesda Softworks

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios

Most of the games on this list were carefully chosen as modern experiences that still hold up as such. I have previously discussed my modernist mindset when it comes to gaming, a mindset that makes it difficult to enjoy certain older titles. In the fast-moving gaming industry, a game doesn’t actually have to be that old to feel aged. A glance at many PS2-era titles is proof enough of this. Even in just 10 years, games have come a long way indeed.

Oblivion is a good example of this. It wasn’t the first of its kind, as one need only look at its predecessor, Morrowind, to see where it came from. But Oblivion did represent a huge leap forward from anything that had come before. When it was released, it was definitively a “next-gen” open-world RPG. It was gorgeous, stunningly large, and complex. Perhaps it feels dated in some respects now, but Oblivion raised the bar when it was released and it’s telling that, even after all this time, few games attempt the sheer scale and depth it delivered. 

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Saturday
Dec042010

Best of the Decade - Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Platform: Playstation 3

Release Date: October 13, 2009

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Developer: Naughty Dog

There’s a lot of fuss in the gaming industry these days about “innovation”, and rightfully so. In an industry full of needless sequels, cheap cash-ins, and budgets so gigantic that safety takes priority over creativity, it’s important to celebrate those that dare to do something different. One of the reasons Geometry Wars is on this list is because the era of downloadable console games it ushered in allows for a great deal more creative freedom than was previously possible.

Not every game has to forge a new path, however. Sometimes, with enough attention to detail and a passionate development team, amazing new things can be crafted using parts we’ve seen many times before. Uncharted 2 is a spectacular example of this.

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