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Entries in review (49)

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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Monday
Sep242012

Rayman Jungle Run: Bite-sized review

It's hard to do platforming right on iOS. Touchscreen controls tend to make the intricate movements necessary for the genre difficult, rendering most attempts frustrating and imprecise. Rayman has successfully boiled down the core of the genre into a game that can be played with a single finger tap, yet feels no less interesting or challenging as a result. This is a magnificent use of a limited control scheme, and, especially considering the gorgeous art style, should quickly become a go to example for what gaming on iOS can do. Its relatively limited length will likely leave you wanting more, but this is mostly because what's there is so good. You won't see me complaining for the price. Don't be fooled by the relatively simple beginning. There is challenge in store for the platforming aficionado if you stick it out to the end. By mixing a little bit of Canabalt with proper console Rayman level design and art style, Ubisoft has created an iOS platformer worthy of its console brethren. My only criticism is that, as a new iPhone 5 owner, I'd love to see it support my new larger screen. I'm simply spoiled by my new toy though. Buy and enjoy.

Monday
Jun182012

Tera impressions - A slick, sexy, pervy action MMO romp

If there even exists such a thing as a “review” of the ever-changing beast that is an MMO, I shall not be the one to write it. My patience for repetition grows thin long before I’ve reached any level cap. I’ve never raided, nor participated in the elusive “endgame” that keeps so many hooked on these addictive treadmills. The MMO for me is a passing fling, a brief fulfillment of base urges to collect shiny loot and level up. 

Tera, I would guess, will turn out no differently. It always begins with grand ambitions. I always think this will be the time I find “the one” that sticks. Around the time I slaughter my forty-zillionth evil, spell-flinging walrus the magic wears off and I move on. Inevitably, the draw of spiffy virtual hats ceases to be compelling reason to go through the same tired combat routine again and again and again.

Surely Tera has repetition to spare. Its tedious “kill everything always” fetch quests make the rote drudgery of The Old Republic feel like a field trip, to say nothing of World of Warcraft’s spate of interesting excursions as of the Cataclysm revamp. The utterly forgettable story piles on the “taking a step backwards” bandwagon and provides plenty of incentive to quickly skip every boring text box in the game as fast as your index finger will let you. 

But the modern modus operandi when it comes to MMOs is one step forward for every step back, which brings me nicely to the reasons I started playing Tera in the first place. Tera is a genuinely gorgeous PC game with fun combat, two things near unheard of in the MMO space. 

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Tuesday
May152012

Mass Effect 3 review - A bittersweet goodbye

Note: No specific story beats are spoiled in this review, but it centers heavily around the general tone and nature of the ending. If such things are a concern, turn away now.


I stared blankly at the screen. The names scrolled slowly past, each one mocking my stunned visage in the darkness. My mind reached for words, silent when it knew it should be racing. I felt the controller slip slowly out of my hand.

Thunk.

Music rang lifelessly in my ears, little more than a distant murmur. Soon all was silent. I sat still for a few minutes more, waiting for it all to make sense. 

“This is it, isn’t it?” Liara had said only hours ago. 

The beautiful blue-skinned alien had stared sadly into my Sheperd’s eyes, her tone a mixture of lingering disbelief and the burden of dawning acceptance. The words bubbled to the surface of my disquietingly calm mind, an apt metaphor for my own feelings. 

Even now I still can’t quite grasp the truth. I feel there is a piece missing, as if some part of the experience simply escaped my memory and flew away. The last thing I had been led to believe I would feel at the end of this journey was incomplete. I can’t help but feel a little deceived.

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Monday
Mar262012

Alan Wake's American Nightmare review - A misguided misfire

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is an odd concoction built upon the weaknesses of its predecessor. A thin facade of Alan Wake has been spread over a foundation built with other goals in mind. The disconnect is evident. For fans of the universe, this morsel of campy absurdity will scratch the itch for more but stop short of satisfaction. The unfamiliar need not apply, as all they will encounter is an impenetrable fiction attatched to a game that struggles to justify even its bite-sized price. 

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