maanantai 29. lokakuuta 2012

2013: No Rest for the Wicked

2013 is shaping up to be a great year in the video game scene. Tens of interesting titles have emerged throughout the year, and I find it hard not to go over some of the most interesting ones; games that I will most definitely buy, as well as intriguing stuff that is bound to get my attention, but not necessarily worth my hard-earned money. There are also sequels I have no great expectations towards. There are all three kinds of games on this list; what this list lacks, however, is the bulk of titles that are currently in the state of speculation. Although I could carry on and on about Batman 3 (I bet you a fifty they're gonna call it Arkham Origins or something just as common) or Fallout 4, not to mention the new, mysterious BioWare installment set in the Mass Effect universe, it'll save a lot of space and time to just talk about titles that have been formally introduced to us on some level bigger than terms of considered plot outlines.

Developer(s): MercurySteam
Release date: TBA

Not much is known of Lords of Shadow 2. Actually, MercurySteam has spilled more details on the upcoming Nintendo 3DS counterpart Mirror of Fate than "the big one". Not much, though. We've only seen one trailer thus far, but MercurySteam has promised to deliver the game by the end of 2013. I'm eagerly waiting for more information, as I have grown to like the previous game a lot more than I originally did, and judging by the introduction of Alucard into the rebooted Castlevania universe, this game might turn out to please old school fans of the franchise a bit more than its predecessor. Here's to hoping they'll include symphonic scores based on old school Castlevania music, and change the name of the game. "Lords of Shadow 2" simply doesn't ring very nicely.

Developer(s): Visceral Games
Release date: February 5, 2013

Isaac Clarke is back, yay... with a co-op partner?! Oh, God damn. I have a pretty good guess of what this means: the last two Resident Evil games revisited in a setting ripped straight off Lost Planet, and considering how Dead Space 2 turned out in my books, I don't think this game's gonna rock my world a whole lot. Anyway, considering how good the first game was and still is - even with its notable flaws - there's always hope for at least a decent action game. Not a survival horror game, though - I sincerely do not believe in the spook value of this game, and in a game like Dead Space's case, that's one lethal shame.

Developer(s): Ninja Theory
Release date: January 15, 2013

From the makers of Heavenly Sword comes a whole new first chapter in the story of Devil May Cry. In this game, Adam Lamb... sorry, Dante, is a whole different Dante than the overtly suave and sleek, demonic private detective from the original series. Although it shares some common plot elements like a twisted twin brother and the head demon Mundus, the game is part of a completely different story arc that may or may not be expanded upon. The first trailers pissed off a lot of folks into the original quadrilogy; I, on the other hand, have never been a huge fan of Devil May Cry, even if the first game initially struck me as one of the best games ever made before disappointing me severely. I lost all of my taste for the franchise with Devil May Cry 2, and I found Devil May Cry 4 embarrassing, so to me, a reboot was very much in order, and I dug the trailer. This is one game I have to read about a hundred positive reviews of before sinking my money in it, and I doubt there'll be a lot since the original series has a lot of fans among the most respectable critics, but I'm interested to see it and try it out for size nonetheless.

Developer(s): BioWare
Release date: Q4 2013

Lost all your faith in BioWare? Well, that's nice to hear, but I haven't - not even while half of the original crew that brought us instant classics like the first game in this series and Mass Effect have since ventured elsewhere. OK, so Dragon Age II was a disappointment, Mass Effect 3 was a disappointment to some and Star Wars: The Old Republic was a downright commercial flop, but BioWare established such a solid base for themselves with their first games, that I for one am giving them one more chance. Little is known of the third Dragon Age game besides its name, but I reckon we'll be hearing more of this epic game with an equally epic title sooner than anyone would expect, maybe even before the end of the year. Can't wait.

Developer(s): SCE Santa Monica Studio
Release date: March 12, 2013

What else can they possibly do? What elements from the Greek mythology have they left unused? How far can they go with prequels? God of War: Ascension is a prequel to the whole God of War series, which kind of waters the game's credibility down beforehand, since Kratos has pulled so many epic stunts later in the franchise's timeline, which are hard to outdo. However, I went into Ghost of Sparta with similar thoughts, and I enjoyed the game - thoroughly. My prediction is that God of War: Ascension isn't out to outdo anything, it's just there to offer God of War fans yet another treat in the very same vein as the previous games, and in this franchise, that's been quite enough thus far. I believe in this game, I truly do, and I believe that the most sociopathic bastard ever to wear the mark of the main protagonist will kick some serious ass when he returns to our screens in March. Going to pre-order the collector's edition of this one as soon as I receive confirmation of having the proper funds when the time is ripe.

Developer(s): Rockstar North
Release date: Q2 2013

Daddy's back AGAIN, you bitches, and there ain't no way you're going to escape the hype once it truly hits. The franchise that revolutionized R-rated presentation and open-world gameplay is back, bigger and more beautiful than ever, and set in my personal favourite out of all the cities created by Rockstar: Los Santos, SA. I'll place the pre-order for the game as soon as details spill on a collector's edition. Oh, haven't you heard? It's coming in SPRING! SPRING, BITCHES!

Developer(s): Naughty Dog
Release date: TBA

A post-apocalyptic survival game from the very same people that conjured up the almost inexplicable magic of Uncharted? Count me in, and do it twice while you're at it. Since the game is the first in a possible series of games, and a release date hasn't been carved in stone yet, I'm not too apeshit about The Last of Us just yet, but I believe I'll enter the crazy hype zone at some point.

Developer(s): Square Enix
Release date: TBA

This is an epitome of my blind love for Final Fantasy; I hated the first XIII game, I haven't even touched the second one even though I bought it a long time ago (I refuse to play it before completing the first one... which is one tedious project), and still I'm hyped about the third one just because it bears the name Final Fantasy. There's always a chance the game turns out awesome after a disappointing stepping stone or two. A very slight one, but it's still a chance.

Developer(s): Platinum Games
Release date: February 19, 2013

I had to include this one just to express my disbelief and near disgust towards it. OK, Raiden redeemed himself in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, but I still consider that game the final one in the Metal Gear chronology, and I always will. Even though Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance might turn out a decent ninja slasher, it's never going to change how I view things, and I will never consider it a part of the Metal Gear franchise. Unlike the other one.

Developer(s): Kojima Productions
Release date: TBA

Hideo Kojima returns to the helm in an open-world Metal Gear Solid game running on a whole new engine codenamed FOX. Fans of the franchise know I don't necessarily have to say anything else, and I won't. This game will probably take a few years to take form, but I think we'll be getting a lot of info spills throughout the year, and no matter how long it takes, I'm pre-ordering it the first opportunity I get. This game is going to fuckin' rule.

Developer(s): Maxis
Release date: March 5, 2013

My favourite simulation game of all time returns as a fancy-looking reboot that runs on a new engine, but is promised to pay tons of respect to the very original article. So far, the game has been marked as a PC and Macintosh exclusive, but I think it won't remain that for long, and even if it does, I have no qualms about playing SimCity on my laptop. As long as I get to play it.

Developer(s): Obsidian Entertainment
Release date: March 5, 2013

The long-anticipated South Park RPG by Obsidian Entertainment is finally about to see daylight, and it's gained an official title, which is South Park: The Stick of Truth. I'm really excited about this game due to Obsidian's close collaboration with Trey Parker and Matt Stone of how the game should be directed, and just for the fact that they're Obsidian.

Developer(s): Crystal Dynamics
Release date: March 5, 2013

Finally, we have the long-anticipated and EXTREMELY awesome-looking reboot of perhaps the most overrated action franchise of all time (or perhaps one rated for the wrong reasons). I'm considering of playing through the whole series before this game comes out, but that's a big fuckin' "if", right there - if this game turns out half as good, not to mention as mature as it looks, I think it'll wipe the old ones right off the map.

So, there we have it. No rest for the wicked, huh? From the looks of things, March is gonna be an especially tough month to handle, as a total of FOUR of these games are up for release then. God of War: Ascension and SimCity are the only ones I'll get for absolutely certain, though, the others'll take a lot of research and personal consideration. Here's to hoping I'll get the chance to review at least some of these games when the time comes for each. Thank you and good night!

What's what, what's not and all the things in between

Good morning. An ice cold one.

It's been a while since I made my last general update. So much has been going on the past week and I reckon there's going to be a lot more going on the next one, so I think it would be essential to look into some of this stuff.

The weather back here is unbelievable, in the core sense of the word. It's only October and it's already begun to snow. A very stereotypical Finnish weather in the eyes of a foreigner, but I tell you, it's weird even by our standards. It brings upon very early sensations of darkness and seclusion that have usually inspired some of this blog's most productive moments. Here's to hoping the tradition will continue. It has all the potential in the world to continue, as I have a lot of reviews to consider doing, and a lot of reviews I've already decided to do. Read on.

A year ago, I swore I would never get
hooked on something so silly and overtly
commercial. But... you know how it is...
A few weeks ago, I finally took the long-anticipated quantum leap from the middle ages to the modern times and got myself a smartphone; the Nokia Lumia, to be exact. It's still somewhat difficult for me to grow accustomed to a touchscreen since I've been using a traditional interface for 14 years, but I'm learning. I knew modern mobile games are incredible at best, but I had no idea they could work as such excellent learning material for the features and use of the touchscreen. Been playing a LOT of Angry Birds and the Windows Phone remake of Final Fantasy lately (it's awesome, by the way), and wondered whether it would be a good idea to review mobile games. They're so advanced these days... so advanced that they're releasing them for major consoles as they originally were.

After at least two years of bitching about portable exclusives, I can finally proudly claim to have beaten whole of the God of War saga, and finally I can truly set my sights on the upcoming prequel of a prequel of a prequel, God of War: Ascension, which is scheduled for an early 2013 release. God of War: Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghost of Sparta, which were originally released exclusively on the PSP but later bundled into the PS3 game God of War Collection Volume II (known as God of War Origins Collection in the U.S.) are up for a review some time in the near future. I can tell you already, that I never expected to have this much fun with direct PS3 ports of portable games. Both games are more than solid, full-blooded episodes in the great saga that is God of War.

I hope you've enjoyed the Monster Mash. I know the pace has been kinda ridiculous, as I first reviewed Resident Evil 6, then nothing for a few weeks and suddenly a million reviews poofed up from out of nowhere during the course of one day. But, that's just how my day job dictates things nowadays - can't make any direct promises or sensical schedules, I have to truly invest in the brief moments I have real spare time on my hands, spare time that I've not already committed to my relationship or friends. There are a few more Monster Mash reviews coming up, then it's time for a revolution.

Come tomorrow, the frontier will
not be the same again.
Assassin's Creed III is released tomorrow, and it marks the coming of the third big review of the year, after Mass Effect 3 and Resident Evil 6. Actually, most Europeans will have to wait 'til Wednesday, but for once, a game I pre-ordered is on midnight launch at GameStop, and I will surely be there at midnight sharp to get my copy - I'm still not sure which edition out of the dozen candidates I'm getting, but I'm hoping it to be something a little more photogenic than a standard-looking issue.

Finally, I'd like to try something new and tell you in detail what's coming up after the Monster Mash and Assassin's Creed III, since I think a lot of you are in good spirits right now, for a certain theme I've never touched but know much about. As do all of you. I went to see Skyfall with my girlfriend a couple of days ago. I haven't been huge on James Bond for a number of years (I grew out of the 007 franchise somewhere between GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies), but the tickets were free refreshments and the movie was the only recently premiered one I remotely wanted to see, so. To my complete surprise, I loved the movie. It was so different from the 22 previous ones, of which I found over a half having the exact same structure, and James Bond as a character had sucked on my account since Roger Moore called it quits after A View to a Kill. Daniel Craig ruled, the punchlines ruled even more, the easter eggs related to the Bond franchise due to the 50th anniversary schtick ripped my ass apart, and the movie had the best 007 pre-credit sequence ever, and a great villain, played by the always creepy Javier Bardem. As it happens, they're showing every Bond flick ever made on TV right now, and I thought I should offer my own homage to the mother of all spy vs. spy franchises by reviewing a bulk of 007 games.

This widely acclaimed title will receive the honor
of being the first FPS game reviewed on VGMania.
How does it fare today, and what did I think of it to
begin with?
So, a 007 marathon is coming up. Not immediately, of course, 'cause if Assassin's Creed III turns out what I expected, I think the game's going to take me a long time to complete, not to mention review. But, it is coming. There, we have one of the most critically acclaimed games in history, and a lot of games that have been deemed total shit. A total of six or seven games, for five different platforms - more might turn up along the way, as I'm currently in search for more. A franchise everyone knows to some degree - I smell an exciting marathon full of nostalgic memories. I think I'll have a blast, regardless of the actual quality of the games.

That's it - for now, since this update was meant to be the first part of a double set. The second part is an article I was originally planning to publish somewhere between the Legend of Zelda marathon and Resident Evil 6, but my broadband collapsed just when I was about to lay it down, and then it kind of slipped my mind. I've found the draft, I'll make a few changes and finishes, and it'll probably be up in a few hours, so stay tuned.

keskiviikko 24. lokakuuta 2012

REVIEW - Godzilla - Monster of Monsters! (1988)

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: December 1988


Godzilla might not cross every one of our Western folks' minds when it comes to the greatest movie monsters of our time, but in Japan, this huge, hideous creation of "the bomb" is a legendary standard on which pretty much all modern daikaiju literature, film and other media's based on. Godzilla has been the subject of many alternate backstories since the atomic bomb craze of the 50's toned down, and a 1988 video game - published by Toho, who to this day own rights for every piece of Japanese Godzilla media - couldn't use the original, so they made Godzilla Earth's guardian, a hero instead of a hulking monster with his mind set on destroying the planet, fighting off multiple intergalactic threats. This game, called Godzilla - Monster of Monsters!, is somewhat of a cult title, and I couldn't live without including it in this Monster Mash and using it to kick off a Godzilla mini-marathon. I could live without the game, though - not much of a surprise.

With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound...

On an unspecified date in the 21st century, Pluto and Neptune inexplicably switch positions, resulting in the emergence of Planet X. The inhabitants of Planet X, an army of monsters, declare war on Earth, and it's up to Earth's guardians Godzilla and Mothra to put an end to their march of destruction.

Let me tell you right now that I'm not doing this marathon out of fandom. I just thought it would be cool to do a mini-marathon on Godzilla like I once did with Dracula and Frankenstein, 'cause Godzilla is one of the most popular standards when it comes to movie monsters. I, myself, have never been a fan, and to be perfectly honest, every time I think of Godzilla, I can't get that moronic Matthew Broderick flick from 1998 out of my head. The only great Godzilla I know of is the namesake song by Blue Öyster Cult. So, forgive me for not really being ecstatic or even very knowledgeable about this issue. I know the 'Zilla basics, and I know the art of gameplay, and I think that in this case, that's all I need.

You know what would make this game a lot
better? Tokyo in ruins.
In short, Godzilla - Monster of Monsters! is an incredibly pointless, confusing mix of a side-scrolling beat 'em up, shoot 'em up, and a board game. It's not exactly ugly, but the semi-transparent characters are a little distracting and there's some serious lagging and glitching going on all the time, even when there's nothing too demanding happening on screen. The level design is dull beyond belief. The game carries on with the same copied and pasted backgrounds from the beginning to the end... which comes pretty fast, though, assuming you're interested after figuring out what the game's doing to you. I was expecting a lot out of the music after hearing the awesome, but horribly synced theme song, but all you get is a few simple loops once you get to the game.

So, what is the game doing to you? At first, Godzilla looks like just about the easiest game ever. Godzilla himself is so damn overpowered, over everything imaginable, and health power-ups pop up all the time. By beating one of the bosses - each of which is a monster from a Toho movie, which is actually pretty cool - you level up, which basically means even more maximum health for your non-consumption. You can't possibly imagine how far you can go by simply sliding through the level with Godzilla's tail in an offensive position! SLIDING!!! Mothra can fly and shoot projectiles, which are her assets... for once, you don't need these assets, though, since just busting your way with Godzilla by mashing - or simply holding - buttons is so God damn easy. Also, even if bosses are able to pin you down in a corner and mashkill you to ultimate defeat without you having any chance to defend yourself, which is one of the worst common bugs that ever plagued video games, in this game you can give them the same treatment! The bosses are complete pushovers. However, getting to them turns out hard quite quickly.

Flight control, this is Mothra. I'm getting shot
at. By what, I have no fucking clue.
Enter our favourite enemies: the invisible ones. I could stop this review right here and get to the next game without elaborating at all, and give this game a shit rating. I'll certainly pull the last stunt, but just to be fair, I'll tell you what's wrong. So, I'm walking - or flying - through an intergalactic battlefield I've seen about a hundred times already. Shit's flying from left and right, I'm getting shot at, but what's great about our big ugly is that he can slam projectiles to atoms with his fists and actually destroy just about every obstacle and hazard there is. Perhaps the invisible ones were a conscious choice then, to fuck with the player - can't destroy these, can't dodge them either. I'm watching my character twitching in place, getting his health drained, by something I do not see at all! OK, so Godzilla's dead, but I'm given the chance to redeem my game by using Mothra. I'll use her to fly over whatever the hell that was back there, right? Well, whatever it is, it's in the air, too. Game over, and I really do have to start over, after beating about a fourth of the whole game. In ten minutes, I might add. Well, I finally got over that part, but it turns out it wasn't the only one of its kind. Now I can end the review.

Seeing that the game was made by the very same people who had been doing everything revolving around "the monster of monsters" for over three decades already, I'm still not convinced to be missing a whole lot for not being a Godzilla fan. Godzilla - Monster of Monsters! has some fashion of authenticity when it comes to the visual side of character design, I'll give it that much, but it is not a good game. Moving on to the sequel, which I hear is wholly different, but expecting just as much.

+ The protagonists and antagonists make up for an interesting all-star daikaiju cast for fans
+ The theme song is sequenced terribly, but it has the potential to rock!

- Incredibly boring and repetitive in and out, for starters
- Laggy and twitchy
- The difficulty level switches between a soft breeze (just about every standard level and the pushover bosses) and near-impossible (invisible havoc), there's nothing in between
- The board on which you advance has no point to its existence, there's no strategy to this game

< 4.3 >

REVIEW - AAAHH!!! Real Monsters | SNES | 1995

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: August 1995
DEVELOPER(S): Realtime Associates
PUBLISHER(S): Viacom New Media

AAAHH!!! Real Monsters was a Nickelodeon cartoon that ran for three years, between the fourth quarters of 1994 and 1997. Two identical video games based on the successful cartoon were made in 1995 for the dominant 16-bit consoles of the era, by Realtime Associates, who were somewhat "specialized" in licensed games based on American cartoons, including one game in the video game series spun off Nickelodeon's greatest 90's success, The Ren & Stimpy Show. That game was just as unmemorable as the rest of Ren & Stimpy's run in the video game scene, and all that AAAHH!!! Real Monsters has on its side is a bewildering name to stand out from any database.

AAAHH!!! Real headache

Headmaster Gromble sends Ickis, Oblina and Krumm out on a field trip as their Monster Midterm Exam, the final test standing between the trio and graduation from monster school.

To this day, I've never been a Nickelodeon buff. I don't get Ren & Stimpy, SpongeBob SquarePants even less, and back when a very small minority in my school was watching Rugrats, I was watching Beavis & Butt-head. I don't think AAAHH!!! Real Monsters ever even ran in this part of the woods, and even if it did, I didn't notice, probably wouldn't even have cared. The game, I've known by name for ages. Like I said, it stands out from every database with that opening exclamation. Up 'til a few years ago, I didn't know what it was about. It was obviously not a scary game or anything like that, but I had no idea it was actually based on an American cartoon. I did a lot of research on the subject before playing the game - after all, I don't want to play a licensed game if I have no idea what it should look, sound or feel like. I watched a couple of episodes from the opening season, and the show already repeated itself in the latter episode, so I figured I knew enough. So, I played the game, and came to the conclusion that it's a faithful adaptation of the cartoon: it looks the same, it sounds the same, and it feels the same. In this case, at least feeling the same is not a good thing - as I said, the show repeated itself. So does the game - and it repeats a lot of other games besides itself, too. Good ones, but not well.

This level design makes me wanna Hulk it up!
It's obvious they invested at least some amount of money in this one. Like a typical 16-bit game living off a cartoon, AAAHH!!! Real Monsters looks and sounds good, if not great, but when it comes to the gameplay, every remotely good feature in it has already been used to the last drop or done much better in some other, usually altogether good game. Just a small list of games that pops to mind during the first five minutes of gameplay includes great games such as Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose! and Lost Vikings, and some fairly playable licensed games such as Tom & Jerry and Asterix on the NES. If you grew up with any of these games or their peers, keep in mind that even if the game reminds me of these titles, does not mean the "borrowed" features are identical in presentation, moreover quality. In a nutshell, AAAHH!!! Real Monsters is playable. But it is dull, tedious and one fling of a game, something to rip off the parents of America and nothing more.

By far the most interesting comparison I made is that to the cult classic Lost Vikings. Whenever one says Lost Vikings, you immediately think of clever puzzles that need multiple characters with special abilities to solve. Well, this game has no real puzzles, which is not what the manual says. You switch between three characters all the time, but rather to make simple progress - for example, you can't reach certain ledges off-ground without Oblina's high jump. Ickis can jump the same horizontally, while I have no idea what's the point of having the heavy and stiff Krumm in the group. Each member of the group has a special trio ability, which is damn hard to perform. It's done by "simply" pressing the X button, but whether it connects or not is completely random. Well, Oblina's trio ability is the only one that has some real use, anyway, and none of them are related to attacking, but it's still frustrating to hear an error cue in the stead of connection when you know you're in the exact right spot.

The main method of offense for all three characters is throwing trash around. If you run out of trash to throw, you'll still be swinging practically infinite fishbones at enemies - which are of the exact same strength and range as any other pieces of trash, so I don't get the point of collecting trash! Each character has a unique scare (grrrgh, Beetlejuice) which can be used by collecting monster manuals hidden around levels, to effectively scare off every enemy on screen or do heavy damage on bosses. That's... actually pretty cool. But, the worst part is coming up.

Evil high school geek 1/1000.
A game like AAAHH!!! Real Monsters (not this particular game since I never played it) is a prime example to why I gave up on platformers for a while back in the day, and why the genre was generally taken a little less seriously for many years, aside from the most serious must-have-must-plays. It's so bland and lame. There's absolutely nothing new or exciting to it, which was the case in a sad amount of 2D platformers of the time, that weren't made by first parties. If developers had their minds set on anything else besides money, we would've been spared by a whole lot of sometimes straight-up crappy, at the very least boring platformers, made just for the sake of the dough. The level design in this particular game is just epic - spectacularly shoddy. While the first level's length is OK, and it includes some extremely typical, but tolerable ideas, the second level reveals the truth. It lasts just about forever, and it's pretty much identical to the first one. This is how the game goes on 'til the end. The backgrounds might change every once in a while - but at long intervals, and most importantly, the gameplay's the same damn tedious, non-capitalizing dung throughout. You kill (or scare...) countless enemies of different look but the exact same endurance, and try to cope with the flunky controls in narrow hallways filled with spikes as well as the trio's constant refusal to co-operate. You wander around looking for an exit in an endless maze that makes you feel you're running in circles, 'cause nothing exciting ever happens or looks different to prove otherwise.

The show apparently still has fans, and from the info I've collected, it seems that the whole thing is up for its final DVD release, but the game's been all but forgotten. I don't wonder why, at least not anymore. It's probably almost fun if you're a fan of the show, but as a complete stranger to what's so great about these "Real Monsters", I find "almost" exaggeration.

+ Good graphics and decent music, the animation's faithful to the cartoon and the voice samples are of surprisingly high quality
+ The scare feature worked in this one

- Personally, I do not feel any slight attraction to the license
- The boring levels continue 'til infinity
- Good, borrowed ideas with no purpose
- General controls are not all that bad, but certain functions such as the trio moves respond poorly
- Everything besides actual progress, like collecting power-ups, is completely pointless

< 5.5 >

REVIEW - Monster Party | NES | 1989

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: June 1989

Monster Party for the Nintendo Entertainment System - sounds like the perfect game for a Monster Mash. What we have here is an obscure title from the late 80's, which was originally planned as a really gory and dark game, and as a test subject to the laws of video game censorship upheld at the time. The game was released in 1989 as a totally different interpretation of the original draft - a bizarre horror parody, that is still considered a cult game due to its consciously ridiculous presentation and prototype images of the original version, that emerged years after the game's release. I've got more requests for this game than I used to have for The Legend of Zelda (honestly!), so I think the time is ripe to attend the Monster Party.

One fucked up game

A young baseball player named Mark meets a gargoyle-like creature called Bert, who convinces the initially reluctant boy to join his fight against monsters that have taken over his planet. With his ever so powerful baseball bat, Mark sets out on a monster-mashing trip across Bert's home planet, fusing with the creature to improve their chances against the menace.

I was fully aware of the game's reputation in the big book of video game camp humour, but I was not prepared to be speechless. Did they really try to sell this game as anything more or less than a parody, I wonder? After all, the box art doesn't exactly scream out "satire". The moment you slap the game in, you'll know what it's gonna be all about. You can try to take it seriously, you can try not to find hidden meanings to the dialogue and imagery, you can try not to laugh at the completely non-sensical quotes... but there's no way you can survive this LSD-induced round trip without smiling just a little. That's good, ain't it? Seeing what random hilarity lies around the next corner is what makes Monster Party somewhat addictive, even all the while the generic and dull gameplay is slowly driving you insane. It's no Earthworm Jim and it's not nearly as straight-up surreal, but Monster Party does have its moments.

Easier than Bob the Killer Goldfish in
Earthworm Jim
Not much to look at, this one, but let's reflect a moment. It was 1989, it was made by a third-party developer with a small budget and a lot of uglier 8-bit games emerged after the turn of the decade, so I guess I should play fair and call the game sufficient-looking for its time. There's some good, nearly great music here, to be even more fair - and honest - but also some really generic material that would find a better home elsewhere. Even while this is a humorous game, I was expecting something a bit more haunting feeling to it, which is present in the better tunes.

Monster Party is a platformer with simple level design - and when I say simple, I mean level design that a fourth-grader can do given the tools of the most simple level editor. That simple. Your goal is to advance through eight levels, and beat one to three bosses per each, some of them in really awkward, random ways, but most of them in generic "who gets there first" bash 'em fashion. The walks between the boss rooms are filled with enemies you may want to kill to gain some power-ups to get the early upper hand in each boss fight. As a unique feature Sofel later upgraded with their surprisingly good Dragon Fighter, by collecting these capsules (that look like painkillers) you can transform into your butt buddy Bert, who can not only fly across stages, he can also use his flying ability as well as his projectiles to make a much more formidable stand against bosses than Mark, who's equipped with a pathetic baseball bat with an equally pathetic range. What's great about the baseball bat, though, is that Mark can use it to reflect enemy projectiles. You need both characters to beat the game... and much more than that, though. Patience above all.

Welcome to demonic airlines, where everything's
a breeze.
Though it's simple and surprisingly easy to clash through at first, Monster Party can and will leave you hanging in unwinnable situations that will leave you no choice but to reset the game if you're not keeping constant tabs on the passwords. There's one well known glitch that prevents you from beating the game in one of the final rounds, and there's tons of missable shit before that, which you can't reach without Bert's help - and since the power-ups are random, he can be extremely tough if not impossible to morph into at the right moment. Some specific bosses are also as extremely tough if not impossible to beat without Bert's skills. You have unlimited continues, but no checkpoints, so if you die in the last boss of the round, you're gonna have to do the whole thing again and wish for better luck with Bert, as well as health power-ups. Since the game is so boring to play, running through the same levels over and over and praying for better luck gets old quickly.

Aaaaargh! A smiling sea monster with a single
tooth, swimming on one straight track! Aaaargh!
If you can get through the most boring and tedious parts of the game - which the developers would call "the trickiest parts" - as well as over the game-ruining glitch in the seventh round, you're practically done with the game. Monster Party really isn't difficult, or at least it's not from the most difficult end of 8-bit obscurity, it just takes a great deal of luck to pass with flying colours.

Monster Party would've taken a greater deal of work than Bandai was willing to sacrifice for it to pass with flying colours as a game, but seriously, it's not that bad. It's simple semi-fun with, and I quote, "outlandish" lines that are retro legend. It's also one of the chosen few Japanese 8-bit games most devoid of bad grammar, so the jokes hit home as ridiculous themselves, and not because of ridiculous developmental errors. It's definitely an interesting item for the most devoted retro gamer to get familiar with.

+ The story is so whacked I can't help but like it in a campy sense
+ Switching between two characters via power-ups is basically a good idea, and somewhat innovative, considering the game was made in '89
+ Some very good music and visual ideas
+ Some simply hilarious bosses, like the "Punk Rocker", the "Deceased Crab" and the "Dancing Dead"

- Dull gameplay and level design
- No checkpoints within levels
- You can get stuck without Bert
- Severe glitches that have the potential of ruining the game

< 6.8 >

tiistai 23. lokakuuta 2012

REVIEW - Beetlejuice | NES | 1991

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: May 1991

In 1988, former Disney animator Tim Burton directed his second full-length live action film, which would go on to serve as the standard for all his work, be considered his finest film almost 25 years later, and solidify his status as one of the most unique film makers of our time: Beetlejuice. This classic, morbid comedy is one of my personal favourites in the genre, as well as one of my favourites in Burton's wide array of outstanding works, right there alongside Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, and of course, Batman. Like just about every even the most non-applicable blockbuster film of the 80's and early 90's, Beetlejuice got a game made out of it. Like in the case of just about every even the most non-applicable license of the 80's and early 90's, LJN was involved. If only Beetlejuice would just go away if you uttered its name three times... which I already did and the game's still there, so I might as well dig into this pile of trash.

Daylight come and me wan' go home

Adam and Barbara Maitland die in a tragic car accident and return to their house as ghosts, only to find it's been bought by the obnoxious Deetz family. Since they have no clue about how to convincingly haunt people, the Maitlands enlist the aid of Betelgeuse, an eccentric expert of all things morbid, who's working towards his own causes.

Promotion for the Jaws game comes four years
late, just as that game was about 12 years late.
Ah, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetl... erhm, what a great movie. It's not Burton at his absolute prime, but it is a movie I would advise someone who's never heard of Tim Burton to see first, to get an idea of what the fuss is all about, and how he stands out as a film maker. I've seen the movie more times than Betelgeuse has seen The Exorcist; as a Batman fan, I've found it really cool to see Michael Keaton in a completely different role, and the one that actually paved the way for this great COMEDIAN to star as the brooding Dark Knight in Tim Burton's duo of Batman movies - the only two movies that actually mattered in the original Batman quadrilogy. Too bad Batman went on to haunt Keaton for the rest of his career, it would've been great to see more collaborations between him and Burton - the way they worked both Beetlejuice and Batman were incredible in their completely separate ways. Enough about the movie - Burton never gave his consent for a video game, and one would think that the game's based on the animated series that followed the movie. Rare and LJN collaborated on a Game Boy game that was based on that cartoon, but unfortunately, Beetlejuice on the NES is, surprise, surprise, a run-of-the-mill platformer, and it follows the movie's plot (very loosely, to once again explain all the nonsense traditional to LJN's licensed games), and Keaton's likeness is stolen for Betelgeuse's portrait. A very loose likeness, that is.

The graphics are simply dreadful, and that's not a compliment. The game looks rough, totally incomplete and the screen flickers all the time. The music isn't the worst pile of stock jingles I've ever heard, but it certainly isn't what I'd expect from Beetlejuice or any other game made out of a Burton movie, at that - except for Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Thank Lord we never had to bear something like that except in our twisted imaginations... the movie was quite enough.

So it's a platformer, and it's not a good one. The controls suck, that's not much of a surprise, and it doesn't cause much of a stir inside my head to fall off an edge while standing perfectly still on it or walking straight into an instakill of glitched timing - it's totally expected. What truly bothers me is the environment - they didn't even fucking try to make this look anything like Beetlejuice. Walking on clouds? A high school quarterback for a boss? The need to buy all your scares from the bulky guy with the shrunken head? The presentation stinks. Just forget the name of the game and play it. Or wait, don't.

What's happening is that my jaw magically
fell off and someone took a shit on Otho.
You can't kill any standard enemies with your standard habitus; you can only stomp on small beetles. "Beetlejuice", get it? Ha-fuckin'-ha. You'd think you can jump on enemies just like in any other platformer - well, that's true in some cases, but you won't know if you don't try it for yourself. To do some damage, you indeed need to buy scares, which include a skeleton form and a medusa head, just to name a couple. Even most of these scares only work on specific enemies, and once again, you won't know which ones until you try them out - in other words, waste 'em. The only way you're able to get vouchers to buy more scares is to stomp on a shitload of more beetles and keep returning to the shop over and over. The worst thing about all this is that to beat bosses, you need a specific amount of one certain scare in your inventory, and if you run out - in other words, fail to hit with just one out of each and every projectile you have in store - it's too bad. You usually respawn right where you died in until you run out of continues, with the exact amount of scares you had in store when you died, while the boss regains all his health. It's time to reset the game and think long and hard whether to even look at this forward march of poop again.

It's funny that after all these years, I'm willing to give games like Beetlejuice the benefit of the doubt. No expectations, not at all, but there's always the slight hope of finding SOMETHING good in it. Beetlejuice has absolutely nothing. Comparing it to some of LJN's greatest mistakes like Friday the 13th and some of their "contributions" to the Terminator franchise makes me think we have something a bit more playable on our hands here. And we do. But not by much. Beetlejuice is horrible.

+ I'm aching to watch Beetlejuice again

- Horrid graphics and sound
- Not so loveable glitches, all around
- Oversensitive controls
- The game doesn't even look like Beetlejuice at all
- The least they could do is give us some default weapon
- Stocking up on scares is boring beyond belief

< 3.8 >

REVIEW - Limbo | PS3 | 2011

GENRE(S): Platform / Puzzle
RELEASED: July 2010 (Xbox 360)
DEVELOPER(S): Playdead ApS
PUBLISHER(S): Playdead ApS

The last few years have been very kind to independent and/or heavily obscure games, mostly due to the conception of commercial networking services for every platform released in the last seven years; Xbox LIVE, PlayStation Network, Steam and the Wii Shop Channel, as well as the evergrowing popularity of mobile gaming. Many independent developers around the globe have been given a chance to shine on these small, but renowned forums, and some of them have gloriously hit the bullseye with their very first title. One of the luckiest ones is Playdead ApS from Copenhagen, Denmark, who released the fascinating horror game Limbo to huge critical acclaim in the summer of 2010. Limbo is a very unique experience that everyone with an ounce of respect for independent games should consider to have - it's not the best digital download there is, but one refreshing game nonetheless. Not to mention, a damn creepy one.

The dark side of Oddworld

To discover the fate of his sister, a little boy enters the dark, obscure, monochromatic world of Limbo, where every step might be his last.

They hang children around here. Nice. Real
To put it simply, Limbo is the bastard child of LittleBigPlanet, Silent Hill, Pitfall Harry and good old Oddworld. I don't remember what drove me to download the Limbo demo - which I loved, by the way - and I had no idea it was a horror game. I thought it would be some cute and weird game like Flower. Well, it sure is weird, it's kind of cute at first too, I guess, but the truth reveals itself in less than a minute into the game. There are no cutscenes at all, no tutorials, not even a main menu to begin from - the moment you press that Start button, you find yourself staring down a beady-eyed silhouette of a small kid in a dark forest, ready for your brief commands. The list of functions is very short and to the point; you can run, climb, jump, push and pull stuff. You have no direct means to attack or defend yourself from the dangers of Limbo - which include huge sawblades, a tribe of bullies with dart guns, areas with anti-gravity, gun turrets and finally, one relentless, not to mention fuckin' gigantic spider. You have to use your creativity, and do it fast, or else you'll be a black pile of blood and guts in a nanosecond whenever you come across some of these hazards or any other surprises the world of Limbo has in store.

At first, Limbo's very obscure story and unique artwork hit me in a Goosebumps-like fashion - not much more than a creepy bonfire tale for teenagers wanting to get laid. Like every obscure story, Limbo's has a deeper meaning, but unlike Flower which openly rallied against industrialization or Journey that I interpreted as "walking towards the light", beautiful games with colourful graphics and high spirit, Limbo honestly turned out one of the creepiest and most disturbing games I've ever played. A lot of the violence is left to the player's imagination, with the total absence of the color red - as well as any other color besides black and white - but let me tell you, Playdead knew how to screw with the player's imagination with the delicate use of sound, well designed animation, and many details which one will certainly notice, but can't necessarily point out when it comes to the direct question of what's so creepy about the game. You have to see it for yourself.

Along came a spider... and he's huge.
Limbo's audiovisual design is perfect, there's no way around it - if you like experimentation, that is. The whole game is in monochromatic black and white, and there's barely any music to go with the gory sound effects. This creates an atmosphere like no other, and what's best about it - in my case, at least, since my PS3 HDD is filled to the brim! - is that the game doesn't hoard up any more hard drive capacity than a measly 90+ MB. That being said, it's a great game, and it honestly is one of the most audiovisually pleasing PSN games I've played - I do like experimentation.

Limbo is by no means a perfect game. It only takes a couple of hours to complete it, and still I think it's a bit too long, or that a couple of the more repetitive puzzles could've easily been edited out from the final product. It starts out really intelligent - in a really simple sort of way - and fascinating, but starts to taste flat towards the end. I've never been a huge fan of puzzles related to anti-gravity, which the final levels of the game are solely based on, but I'm even more annoyed by the glowing worms that stick to your protagonist's head and force him to walk in a certain direction until he comes in direct contact with sunlight or "birds" that'll eat that squiggler straight off his skull when close enough. Even though the physics engine is mostly incredible for a game of this size, it does have its awkward glitches and sensitivities which will lead to a lot more gruesome deaths than any on-screen hazard, the way I see it.

The fact that the trip through Limbo isn't that long at all - although it might start feeling like one before long - doesn't mean that the game would be easy. Some of the later puzzles are true brain wreckers; with such limited functionality to your character, you'd think that everything's plain as day, but it truly isn't. The solutions are simple, but you have to work to get to them nonetheless, and ALWAYS mind and study your surroundings from the very bottom of a puzzle room to the very top. There are many puzzles which test your reflexes above everything else, but luckily the annoying and oppressive feeling of being rushed or forced to race against time is relatively rare. Also, checkpoints are right on the spot most of the time.

Indy made it all look so easy.
Getting Trophies/Achievements has a twist. It's not enough to meet the stated criteria, you also have to find what I like to call "Trophy Eggs" from the vicinity of the met criteria, and some of them are so well hidden, that even while I completed the game and did most of the stuff needed to complete the Trophy list, I only ended up with 33%. One of the Trophies requires you to play through the game in one sitting - which I did - but also, playing through the game getting killed less than five times, which I think is just impossible, especially on the first round. After all, Limbo is a game in which every small mistake or slight error in judgement might spell your doom. You're going to utter a lot of bad words, but you'll feel good in the end.

Thanks to the general deflation of even the game's most attractive qualities towards the end, I'm not taking another trip in Limbo any time soon, but ultimately, I'm extremely glad I took the first one. The game's price is steep, but I have spent a lot of PSN credits on a whole bulk of games and add-ons that can't compare to this one game even by cumulative quality. Stay tuned for more by Playdead ApS, I'd say.

+ Simple, yet unique and perfect audiovisual design

+ Gruesomely violent, but in a subtle, calm and even somewhat beautiful (?!) way
+ Starts out as a really intelligent game with emphasis on great physics and great puzzles, in which the biggest challenge lies in the main character's limited resources...

- ...In time, these puzzles start to repeat themselves a little more than necessary, and the main character's limited resources become less of a fascinating feature - to put it nicely

- The worms
- Some minor glitches are abound, nothing too major to be all beefed about
- The staggering price of the game is a huge turn-off (try the demo to be sure!)

< 8.1 >

keskiviikko 10. lokakuuta 2012

REVIEW - Resident Evil 6 | PS3 | 2012

GENRE(S): Action / Survival horror
RELEASED: October 2012

Albert Wesker might be dead and buried, but despite the loss of its chief antagonist, the Resident Evil franchise seems to be alive and well. Many things have changed during the sixteen years that have passed since the very first installment in this most classic survival horror series, all the way from the core design team to the very orientation of the core gameplay - not to mention the cinematic values. First teased in late 2011, Resident Evil 6 was to be a dramatic ensemble game, with many playable characters ranging from enigmatic newbies to worshipped vets, core gameplay that would have the best of every Resident Evil that came before, and finally, a whole truckload of its own tricks. Resident Evil 6 is the first true horror game in the main series since Resident Evil Code: Veronica. Resident Evil 6 is the most cinematic game in the whole series. Resident Evil 6 is the most action-packed game of 'em all. Resident Evil 6 is the ultimate Resident Evil experience. ...What is it, again? All of these things, or just one of them? Or NONE of them?

Zombie kept a-comin'

Roger Craig Smith : Chris Redfield
Christopher Emerson : Piers Nivans
Courtenay Taylor : Ada Wong / Carla Radames
Matthew Mercer : Leon S. Kennedy
Laura Bailey : Helena Harper
Troy Baker : Jake Muller
Eden Riegel : Sherry Birkin
Joe Cappelletti : Derek C. Simmons
Salli Saffioti : Ingrid Hunnigan
Dave Mallow : HQ

Two massive viral outbreaks on opposite sides of the world leave people with the dramatic conclusion that there is no hope left for the human race. Six people are caught in the middle of both events. Government agent Leon S. Kennedy and his partner Helena Harper are turned fugitives for the assassination of the U.S. President and being the main suspects in the case of the outbreak in Tall Oaks, USA. Meanwhile in Lanshiang, China, B.S.A.A. Captain Chris Redfield is dragged back to active duty by a young soldier named Piers Nivans after a tragically failed mission some months back. Raccoon City survivor turned agent for the National Security Advisor, Sherry Birkin, seeks out a young mercenary named Jake Muller, who is completely immune to any virus, and whose blood is therefore invaluable to the world.

The bastard son of Albert Wesker meets the
bastard son of Steve Burnside and the Nemesis.
For 16 long years, Resident Evil has been at the top of my favourite video game franchises of all time. Hard to believe it's been so long. Now, Resident Evil has spun off to a million different directions - none of them good. Although it seemed promising enough, I hated Resident Evil: Outbreak. I hated the rail shooters. I haven't played Operation Raccoon City, but I believe I would've hated that, too; I've read the reviews. Finally, I kinda count the live-action movies as spin-offs, and although the first two of them had some good moments (some of which might've featured Milla Jovovich naked), I haven't found the time or the interest to watch the rest of the series that never seems to end; to be completely honest with you, I wouldn't know how many of these they've made if the Internet wasn't there to keep me posted. My point is, that Resident Evil - the main series - has never let me down. Sure enough, I didn't like Resident Evil 3: Nemesis all that much, but I never played it in chronological junction with the others. In other words, this is the first time I've bought a brand new Resident Evil game... and been gravely disappointed with it. That's right, most of what you've read is true. Although I aim to find and point out all the good and fresh qualities of this game, it's no secret that the main Resident Evil series has definitely seen better days. I can be all angry and sarcastic about it, or I can be rational and calm, for the sake of all this franchise has given me. Or, I can try to balance it out.

The driving force of the story is that even if the series' main antagonist Albert Wesker is dead (like DEAD-DEAD-DEAD!!!), double agent Ada Wong STILL lives, as shown in the end of Resident Evil 4, after dying at least twice during the series' timeline. The game feasts on the common thesis that this bitch just won't die - you'll see. Additionally, Wesker's unique genes still exist in his son, who serves as one of the three main protagonists - his evil heritage doubled with his nasty attitude makes him kinda suspicious from the beginning, which in turn serves as a great dramatic backdrop for any interaction between him and series stalwart Chris Redfield. So, even after having witnessed Wesker's ultimate demise and at the same time, the supposed demise of Resident Evil, I'd say this game has got a platform for good storytelling in the bag. And sure, the story is great. Its on/off execution aside - such as the whole character of Helena Harper (what a fucking useless whiner!) - it will be the main reason for you to bear with the game's mistakes, if you're half a die-hard. It has some ridiculously epic scenes, the kinds of which we've never seen in this game - an underwater battle with a huge, mutated fish, a falling plane filled with zombies, and even the most ultimate of sacrifices made by a playable character for nothing but the greater good. Where can the franchise possibly go from here, besides down? That's what I'm afraid of - while cinematically very impressive, Resident Evil 6 isn't that awesomely great a game to begin with, and I have a terrible feeling we're going to see something even worse if the main series is continued, now that they've used their best chops. Does Resident Evil 6 pave way for yet another sequel? Yes, it does - by far, the only thing missing from this story is true closure.

Things are not very dandy in China tonight.
There are four different campaigns, with a total of seven playable characters. There are only three campaigns to access from the beginning; you need to play through all of them once, with one of the two characters involved, to unlock a fourth one, a solo op which will finally explain the whole plot, the strange occurrences and the dramatic, potentially lethal meetings between the main characters, most of which are already known to anyone who's watched the trailers. The first scenario stars Leon and Helena, and I guess this campaign's focus was meant to be set on survival horror. Well, not really; "survival" is a key word, though, as the enemies just keep on coming. It's not any more of a horror game than anything released under the brand name during the last decade. It does have some creepy moments, sure, and a lot of in-jokes relating to the two previous main series games that starred Leon - which happen to be the finest games from both sides of the franchise. But, a horror game? Most Adam Sandler movies are scarier. Chris and Piers' campaign is a straight-up, objective-based third-person shooter in the vein of Gears of War. In this case, when I say, "in the vein", I mean "completely like"; even the main characters are similar. Jake and Sherry's campaign is similar to the last, but there's more emphasis on hand-to-hand combat, which is only natural, seeing that the whole character of Jake is like homage to Capcom's age-old beat 'em ups - and is most definitely being reserved a spot in the next Marvel vs. Capcom game. Ada's campaign is non-surprisingly the most difficult campaign of 'em all, and the main focus in this maelstrom of torment is stealth (yeah, they made Resident Evil a stealth game too) and puzzles. I love puzzles, but there's a huge difference between good ones and dumb ones, and I can tell you, these are not good ones. I will break down every campaign in more detail later. For now, I'll just say that no matter how much you butter it up, every campaign shares the same basic elements: lots of Quick Time Events dedicated to those who hate 'em (Jake has more than anyone else), somewhat quirky controls, way too many enemies, even more sudden deaths. Lousy checkpoints - I mean, God damn. Which brings me to the autosave system - you definitely cannot trust it, but you DON'T HAVE any other save option besides it, so you'll find yourself taking risks in turning the console off to go to work or take a little healthy break, or perform some other equally mundane task. The game doesn't give a shit about such stuff. I find myself missing the age-old typewriters that were laid to rest after Resident Evil 4; they might've been annoying and out of place, but at least they saved your game at a 100% certainty.

Co-op isn't quite as essential as it was in Resident Evil 5 - as proven by the game having NO multiplayer Trophies/Achievements at all; I'm sure the game would reach another level with a friend beside you, but in Resident Evil 5, having a friend tagged along raised the game to whole new spheres, after which you couldn't return to the single-player campaign, 'cause your partner's A.I. sucked, and it sucked bad. Well, in this game, your A.I. partners cannot die except in choice scenes that test your reaction speed, and they cannot use consumable items, nor can they pick them up for you. They have infinite ammo to boot, so it's no wonder if you can't even feel their presence from time to time. The only reason for you to risk your butt to save them is that they're very capable of thinning the numbers of enemies whose numbers are hard enough to thin as it is. If co-operation with the A.I. - not to mention the inventory system - was as clumsy as it was in Resident Evil 5, this game would frankly be completely unplayable. I'm glad they worked on the comfort of the single-player campaign as opposed to the co-op, but of course, I find myself a little disappointed with the fact that the game is damn easy, once you figure out how to get around its quirks.

These are some of the basics I needed to get out of the way before actually reviewing the game. For those not really that into Resident Evil, I'll do the favour of a short summary. The game is easy to summarize. It's a cinematic thrill ride beyond pleasure, but it suffers just as much as it benefits from it. It's somewhat dumb, incoherent, and tedious. It does not cash in on nearly all of the theoretical hype. It's not the new Resident Evil 2 or Resident Evil 4, and it's not much of a successor to Resident Evil 5, either. BUT, a game that yields a Trophy called Zombie Massacre, for defeating 500 zombies, as early as in under six or seven in-game hours, over the course of one single campaign, can't be half bad by any possible measure. Ugly - meet shotgun. Shotgun - meet ugly.

She's back, she's hot, she's enfuriating.
And man, does shotgun meet ugly or what? In this context, I'm not talking about the crazy amount of enemies, or criticizing it - I'm lauding the presentation. Ever since Soldier of Fortune (one of my favourites in a genre that is not one of my favourites) came out in 2000 and revolutionized graphic violence by enabling you to shoot off the enemy's limbs in a highly graphic fashion, I've found myself very annoyed with capitally violent games that do not actually capitalize. For example, a game in which you blast your shotgun in some guy's face and he just falls down. Resident Evil is one of the few franchises which has never had a huge problem with showing what really happens when you do that, and Resident Evil 6 is definitely no exception. It's visually very pleasing as it is, but what puts the final cork on it is the fact that when you shoot someone in the face, the result is not pretty. Now, we've seen heads blown off... but rarely merely halves of them blown off, and the victims of your sick antics still comin' at ya after the supposedly last shot, with their brains leaking out of their half-broken skulls. Yeah, I might find my delight in strange things, but what can I say? Ultra-violent presentation is one of the things firmly in place in Resident Evil 6.

The only thing bothering me about the acting is that it takes three different actors to build a Resident Evil character nowadays; the voice actor, the stuntman, and the model. You know what the problem is, so I'll not overanalyze this - I'll just say what needs to be said. The voiceover work is superb, the best in the series. Now we all know better than to even count the first three or four games anymore. Roger Craig Smith and Salli Saffioti are the only actors to reprise their respective roles as Chris Redfield and Ingrid Hunnigan. It's kind of distracting that they keep switching actors for certain characters all the time, but there's not much essential difference between the guys who did Leon in Resident Evil 4 (Paul Mercier) and this game (Matthew Mercer); hell, even their last names are almost the same. Great voiceover work raises Sherry's character to a whole new level from the annoying bitch for a kid she was in Resident Evil 2, and Troy Baker further presses on the damn fact that Jake's a character to watch out for in the possible future. Luckily he's such a great character; I didn't enjoy his campaign all that much, with all those damn QTE's and vehicular sequences being the proverbial wedge lodged between me and utter pleasure. The music's greater and more noticeable than it's ever been, but I think the Batman-schtick (you'll know) is used a bit too much nowadays. I hate the Mercenaries' theme, though - tongue-in-cheek's got limits.

The unavoidable tutorial sequence stars Leon and Helena, and theirs is at the top of the campaign list, so let's start with that. An official, encyclopedic description of this scenario would be something along the lines of: "atmospheric survival horror in the vein of Resident Evil 2, fit into the gameplay mold of Resident Evil 4". Well, the atmosphere does work, but only for about a half of the campaign. Most of it's really just action. Until the obvious breakpoint in the story that sees this duo travelling to China to join the rest of the characters, you might experience a few slight scares and some of you will most definitely be delighted by the return of the true living dead as opposed to the brainwashed human individuals we've been blasting to oblivion for the last decade. To be completely honest with you, I think I ultimately enjoyed Leon's campaign the most. It has the most awe-inspiring cinematic moments, the most unique gameplay sequences, and the adaptation of some classic scenes from the ghost of Resident Evils past into this environment is kinda cool. However, some of the button prompts are just plain stupid and they last forever - like the L1 + R1 climb which you have to use the most out of the whole game in this one campaign - and it has the most annoying and resilient enemies in the whole game, like the main antagonist, and that one regular enemy that just keeps knocking you over with his scream and then running away like a bitch. There are a lot of boss fights, but after the fish, the fight on the falling plane, and another boss fight in a subway train on a one-way trip to hell, nothing really feels like anything anymore, except dull. Sudden deaths are a-plenty; there's no way for you to survive the whole deal with a good rank on the first time around, if you're out to find the collectables. And, your heavily breathing partner was created to annoy the shit out of you with her inability to just spit things out and refrain from blaming herself for everything that was ever wrong with the world. She's lucky her model is hot. On another positive note, I was pleased with how things turned out in the end - Leon had probably the best and most carefully written ending in the game.

There's always time for some teasing.
Being the first campaign I saw through, Leon's scenario introduced me to a lot of the game's problems. At first I was enraged, in time I grew used to 'em, but that doesn't mean I'd no longer perceive them as problems. Might as well go over them before I continue. Where to start...? Well, the crappy GPS, as well as the shifting camera angles are extremely disorienting, and they switch at the most inappropriate of times, leading into even more sudden deaths than the in-game stipulations themselves. I already told you everything there is to tell about the sucky autosave system, and the even suckier checkpoints. With all those sudden deaths looming throughout the game - I mean completely unpredictable the first time around - the developers could've at least spared us from having to hear the same damn dialogues and watch the same damn informative cutscenes on every consecutive try. Then, there's the inventory system. That's right - it has been a problem since the very beginning. It has changed shape in almost every game, but it's always had its quirks. I already said that it's not as bad as in Resident Evil 5, but it's still like from one gutter to another. You see, Resident Evil 6 adapts the system used in most action games - including the previous game to a certain degree - and automatically assigns items and weapons to directional buttons. They're all stored in the inventory, and the inventory has limits as always, but there are different categories; one's for weapons, ammo and herbs, while one's for First Aid Sprays and grenades. I know, kinda weird. Well, anyway, "automatically" is a key word, since to my knowledge, you can't reassign the slots. The most important thing is, that I know for a fact that you cannot remove the knife from the inventory. It's a real pain to toggle through the weapon inventory (Left and Right on the digital pad) in the heat of the battle to find a weapon that has some ammo left (the game does not automatically make the switch, don't even dream about it), especially when that useless knife is constantly in your way. You choose the grenades or the First Aid Spray by pressing Up or Down on the digital pad, but once you've used one, you automatically switch back to your basic weapon. Not a really practical quirk against enemies that won't fall easily to anything else besides explosives.

If all of the above doesn't sound so bad, get this. OK, so from day one, your basic healing item's been the Green Herb. When you pick up a Green Herb, it goes to the inventory... but to USE it, you need to assign it to the HUD, from where you use it by pressing R2. It doesn't go there automatically. You know why? Because the game developers couldn't let go of the Red Herb. Apparently, the Red Herb was so important to them that they decided to sacrifice the joy and consistency of gameplay for it. So, only in the inventory screen (which doesn't pause the action, by the way) you can mix the Green and Red Herbs to get... yeah, what exactly? Well, multiple Green Herbs, which you must then assign to the HUD to be able to use them!!! GOD DAMN IT! How fucking far can they go with this system before they realize they MUST let it go, just like they did with the typewriters?! Since you cannot pause the game when you go to the inventory, mixing those herbs just to get a few more at once might cost you your damn life! Oh yeah, and they do take up inventory space. Just like ammo stacks only to a certain amount.

The last problem I'll mention for now is the problem I have with the new Combat Gauge. It's right there under your health squares in the HUD, and it determines your current physical aptitude; in other words, your current hand-to-hand combat strength, and your ability to perform certain actions. The latter is key. I had no problem with it at all before I was nearing the end of Chris' campaign; in one certain non-combat sequence, it's unforgivingly hard to merely survive if you haven't bought and equipped an upgrade for the Combat Gauge. There are way more important upgrades for the whole game than this one that practically just applies for one single sequence. Why does it matter to anything else besides combat? It's called COMBAT GAUGE, right? They should've kept it that! I'll save the rest about the skills for later, you can be sure I have a few more words about 'em.

Can I use your phone, man?
On to Chris' campaign. Here we have a good partner, an upstanding young soldier named Piers Nivans, who might seem like an annoying punk at first, but turns awesome quickly, and in the end, I think many Resident Evil fans will go on to remember this guy as one of the best and most important characters in the history of the franchise. Yeah, so this is Gears of Evil; it's a straightforward shooting campaign, with a fairly straightforward plot, and the greatest and most meaningful co-op campaign Resident Evil 6 has to offer. Both players get to play as an awesome character, switching between together and separate at a steady pace. The enemies turn from brainless zombies into gun-wielding, intelligent, virus-ridden mercenaries called the J'avo, which evens the odds a little. Being so straightforward, however, is the downside to Chris' campaign - in retrospect, I think I should've taken it on first, since it lacks notable variations, and is more or less a traditional, chaotic shooter. It does, however, come equipped with the most interesting storyline twist in the whole game, which occurs in the very end of the campaign. It's kind of a reward, and leaves you craving for more... or at least it would, if you weren't already heading to the third campaign with a mental reserve tank ready to help you through a third round of the very same cutscenes and gameplay sequences.

Any sane person that grew up with Resident Evil 2 wouldn't want to play as Sherry, especially when Jake's around to impress, but I must say the annoying brat from Raccoon City is all grown up, into an attractive young lady... with some serious weapon skills and a Wolverine-like ability to heal extremely quick, thanks to the G-Virus strain her dear old daddy Bill injected her with back in the "good old times". Sherry and Jake make for a good duo, and being such an interesting character in just about every possible way - the kind of which I thought impossible to create in this day and age of the Resident Evil franchise - Jake namely promises great things as the main protagonist of a whole single-player campaign. Jake's campaign is the shortest out of the three main campaigns, and unfortunately, as well as ironically, it has the most useless crap in it. Tedious sequences such as a chaotic motorcycle ride that doesn't allow one single mistake to be made - and of course, they're hard not to make since you can't properly make out what you're driving at - not to mention the previous motorsled escape from a mountain cabin, or previous to that, the search for three small keys on that very same mountain, in the middle of a fucking snowstorm and being hounded by constantly respawning J'avo. I tell you, after two good, but disappointing campaigns, I was almost ready to call it quits right here. I mean, what good things could the game offer me anymore? After I decided to grit my teeth, I truly hoped for the better, but I never got it. There are way too many Quick Time Events, way too many sudden deaths, way too many annoying sequences in which you simply just don't know where to go, and which are not made any easier by your partner that has a tendency to disappear. Actually, they go to the place where they're supposed to be to make progress. That's great - what would be even greater is a functional GPS for YOU to find the place where you're supposed to be to make progress. After all this shit I've frisbee'd at it, Jake's campaign has the benefit of the most unique boss fight in the game, perhaps the whole franchise. I didn't exactly love how it played out, and I definitely didn't jump out of joy when the L1 + R1 climb from Leon's campaign made a return afterwards, but I loved the idea.

That was my car, you asshole!
When the same plot is witnessed from three different angles, it's time for the game to finally explain it, and I guess you can't help but be intrigued - that's what Capcom was counting on. Enter Ada Wong. If you came into this game thinking you'd finally figure out this broad's true motives and where her allegiances lie, I can tell you right now that you're going to be none the wiser. NONE. I've never really liked the bitch, but since she's been part of two of my favourite games in the franchise in the past, I guess she's somewhat grown on me, but here's where I draw the line. She has gone from an intriguing anti-heroine into a stale, annoying enigma. Nothing she does surprises me anymore, least of all falling dead. The three main campaigns all feature Ada in a central role, perhaps the most enigmatic one she's ever had in the whole franchise, and heading into her "secret" campaign is supposed to be exciting, but it really isn't. The story is lame, forced and predictable, and Ada has never been much of a playable character in my opinion; I enjoyed the bonus content in the PS2 version of Resident Evil 4 as it was, BONUS content. On top of all, Ada's campaign's main focus is on three features that aren't Resident Evil 6's strongest: stealth, races against time and puzzles. The stealth elements are great to have, but a whole campaign was not prepared to be built on 'em, and the puzzles are generic and dumb. The only things I appreciate about this campaign are the high difficulty level in comparison to the three main campaigns, stemming from the solo op setting and the fact that alerting just one enemy will result in an all-out assault from all sides, as well as a few choice sequences that almost save the whole thing - but not quite. There's a wrong reason for the difficulty too, that being the worst checkpoints in the whole game - that already has crappy ones. As for the races against time... well, I've never been a huge fan of them in any game, but mix that with the disorienting camera and the occasional "no can do" response from the controls, and you've got yourself not a piece of shit, but a whole shit. This campaign is like cough medicine; it tastes awful, you'll feel great after taking one sip, but you're never touching that crap again.

Since Resident Evil 4's bottle caps, Resident Evil hasn't been itself without extras, and those we have a-plenty. The Serpent Emblems represent in the stead of the blue medallions and B.S.A.A. Emblems - they look pretty much the same. Finding and shooting these 80 blue trinkets (occasionally) well hidden across all chapters unlocks interesting files to be read in the Collection, found in the main menu, on the characters and different storyline events that have taken place between games. Finding all Emblems from one chapter, thus unlocking four files, unlocks an action figure, traditional to the series.

Every standard weapon in the game is either found on the field or received in accordance to script; there is no merchant or weapon store this time around. The skill points you collect can be spent in the Skill Settings screen between chapters. It's a little hard to figure out it's there, and NO, it cannot be accessed in-game; you have to quit your session to access the screen. You can assign three different skills into one skill set from a pretty long list, and with a shitload - that's "a LOT of" - skill points, you can raise some skills up to Level 3. Might seem pointless as there are a lot of skills available, but believe me, these ones are the most useful ones. If not the only useful ones. Like Defense and Firearm... wouldn't leave home without 'em anymore. Although you can't equip skills in-game, you can switch between different skill sets, but at least I haven't had use for any more than just one.

It's on. Vote for your favourite.
The game is full of sudden deaths that will have you turning whatever controller you might be using into a wall ornament, and a crappy autosave system that will have you on your toes all the time especially if you're a working man, but it's really not that hard at all. Neither is getting all the Achievements (in Xbox terms) or platting the game (in these PS3 terms). There are some secret Trophies that provide some challenge, but no multiplayer Trophies (from The Mercenaries or the Agent Hunt online minigame) at all, or Trophies that would require you to keep hacking through the game for years way beyond its life cycle.

Everybody's saying Resident Evil 6 suffers from an identity crisis, which I do not see as a problem at all. The way I see it, it's one of the reasons the game stays at least somewhat alive through four campaigns. Well, three, since the fourth one pretty much sucks. Anyway, it seems the gamer in me also suffers from some identity crisis, since I started this review over three times. First I absolutely hated the game, now I sort of appreciate it as at least a different experience, all the gameplay quirks and other criticisms aside. It's the weakest game in the main series, but not a totally lost cause, and it will please true fans to some degree... except for the Chinese ones. For casual gamers, I'm still voting for Resident Evil 4 as a good starter for the modern Resident Evil experience.

+ Great story, how they can still pull this off is beyond me
+ Very impressive cinematics; cheesy as hell, just the way we like it
+ Ultra-violent presentation, it goes to "that place"; shotgun-shotgun-shotguuuuuuuunnn!!!
+ Great sound
+ Good partner and enemy A.I.
+ A big welcome to the characters of Jake Muller and Piers Nivans
+ The overall length of the whole game works to both ends, ups and downs, but being an action game this big is an achievement nonetheless

- No matter which order you play the campaigns in, at some point you'll get tired of the same twists, making Ada's whole campaign feel like you're feeding a dead cat
- Helena deserves her mouth sewn shut
- Disorienting camera and quirky GPS system
- Sensitive analog control, occasionally totally non-responsive action prompts
- The inventory system - especially the thing with the herbs - is horrible
- Sudden deaths galore, way too many Quick Time Events, and horribly designed button prompts; some might say this is Jake's campaign in a nutshell
- The autosave system and checkpoints suck; ironically, the latter suck even more so whenever there's a sudden death looming around the corner
- There are sequences which make me wonder whether the Combat Gauge was really a necessary addition or not
- A lot of loading screens

< 7.2 >