Thursday, January 29, 2009

Prince of Persia review (PS3, Xbox 360)

When we saw the last Prince of Persia game titled Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones on a console, it was approximately three years ago. With this latest entry into the next generation of consoles, Ubisoft proves that Prince of Persia still has a magical touch. The storyline commences with the Prince traversing his way though a barren desert, and finds him entangled in a furious sandstorm. He is in search of his donkey known as Farah, but he comes across Elika. Elika is a princess, and she leads the Prince into a temple. Once both the Prince and Elika arrive at the temple, they notice that Elika’a father annihilates a tree of life. As a result, the destruction of the tree of life releases the nefarious God of darkness Ahriman. In addition, Ahriman begins permeating its ire on the land. Consequently, the Prince and Elika are the only hope to restore prosperity to the territory. The Prince of Persia games have always seemed to have a riveting plot, and this adaptation falls right in line with its predecessors. The gameplay is a streamlined endeavor that boils down into three phases: exploring, platform jumping, and combat. There are grand total of four segments that span over twenty areas. One of the primary objectives in the game is to fend off the corruption by vanquishing the darkness. Bringing the light to the terrain is achieved by defeating various adversaries. Because each enemy you defeat is one of Ahriman’s minions, you must overthrow that creature to rejuvenate that particular location. The bulk of the combat entails battles against these sadistic foes. Both the Prince and Elika are together during these fights, and you will both have to work cohesively to eradicate the opponents. The battles are engrossing, but some of the challenge is removed by the lack of dying. Rather than a game over screen, the Prince will be rescued by Elika. For example, falling off of a ledge will result in Elika extending her graceful hand and picking up the Prince and dropping him at a nearby safe-haven. Furthermore, that exact same rule can be applied to any near death experience that the Prince faces. Since Elika interferes to prevent the Prince from dying, the only real punishment for getting killed during a fight is a small portion of the monster’s health is replenished. Due to the fact that there is no way of dying, it will make gamers experiment a bit and see what the outcome or outcomes will be. The double jumping and platform jumping is as unsophisticated as the combat. Unlike Assassin’s Creed, players will not be making a terrifying leap of faith. Instead, there is a fairly low risk and high reward mentality. Using Elika is the second component to the gameplay. In order to advance, the Prince has to retrieve orbs. As the Prince eliminates the darkness, the Prince will see new orbs. When you discover and acquire the orbs, Elika can use plates to travel to a new location and progress the narrative. It is a straightforward premise, and there is even an optional white light to navigate your way through the game if you are ever lost. If anyone has ever played a game like Dead Space or Army of Two, it emulates that same philosophy. With all of the athletic feats that the Prince can accomplish, the controls are never a hindrance. The four face buttons are used to use a sword attack, jump, use Elika, and use/lift attack. Left shoulder button communicates with Elika, and the right shoulder button allows the Prince to utilize his gauntlet and block. A conspicuous flaw about the gameplay is that there is too much backtracking, and there is no legitimate reason to obtain all of the orbs. Still, there are moments that you want to play again just to look at the scenery. In terms of visuals, Prince of Persia subscribes to cel-shading (ala X-Men Legends, X-Men Legends II: Rise of the Apocalypse and Jet Set Radio). Clearly, its graphical appeal is more animated than realistic. But that is not necessarily a negative aspect. Without a doubt, some of the animations were inspired by Assassin’s Creed. The character models are sharp and pristine. Moreover, the seamless movements of the Prince and Elika from one platform to the next are brilliant. The audio is also scintillating. Musically, the effervescent songs are astonishing and intensify the combat. The sounds effects are solid, as it is easy to appreciate Elika’s mystic charm. On the downside, the voice acting is dubious. The character who is the Prince is the voice actor who plays Nathan Drake from Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and he came off as a likable individual in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Nevertheless, he acts more like a pompous fool in Prince of Persia. Elika is far from perfect, nonetheless her voice actress is respectable. Overall, Prince of Persia is a ravishing title. Although it does have some untied loose ends, its scope of mysticism and intrigue is what drives Prince of Persia.

Art Direction 9
Clearly, its graphical appeal is more animated than realistic. But that is not necessarily a negative aspect.
Audio 9
The audio is also scintillating. Musically, the effervescent songs are astonishing and intensify the combat. The sounds effects are solid, as it is easy to appreciate Elika’s mystic charm.
Gameplay 8.5
With this latest entry into the next generation of consoles, Ubisoft proves that Prince of Persia still has a magical touch.
Presentation 9
The Prince of Persia games have always seemed to have a riveting plot, and this adaptation falls right in line with its predecessors.
Replay Value 7
A conspicuous flaw about the gameplay is that there is too much backtracking, and there is no legitimate reason to obtain all of the orbs. Still, there are moments that you want to play again just to look at the scenery.

Final Verdict 8.5 out of 10

Friday, August 31, 2007

Killzone 2 Preview

Killzone 2 will be the sequel to the original lackluster title Killzone on the PlayStation 2. Do not be lulled into believing that the sequel will be as abhorrent as the first iteration. Killzone 2 was another one of those video games that was missing in action until now. The first glimpse of Killzone 2 was at E3 2005, and critics said that the footage shown was not actual gameplay footage. Those critics were dead wrong when actual gameplay footage was divulged to the media at E3 2007. At a recent gaming convention at Germany, more details were revealed regarding the game. In Killzone 2, gamers will be at war against the Helghast troops (same opponents from Killzone). The game developers accentuated how easy and intuitive the controls were on the PlayStation 3. Specifically, a brand new gameplay mechanic was introduced. This was known as lean and peek. In a nutshell, this is about utilizing cover (ala Gears of War). Interestingly enough, this was the first time I have ever seen taking advantage of cover being used in a first person shooter. I have never seen using cover in order to get a tactical advantage be used in Halo, Half-life, Resistance: Fall of Man, Doom, Call of Duty, or Killzone 1. This is definitely an original feature to the first person genre. Do not fret because the lean and peek method works like a charm. The gaming company Guerilla will be making the game, and they also showed a boss battle. This is where some strategic contemplation was entailed. These bosses are called heavies, and you cannot just fire at them arbitrarily. Shooting their vulnerable areas are the only way to defeat these juggernauts. The physics in Killzone 2 seems to be much more responsive than Killzone. For instance, shooting an adversary in the legs will result in him bleeding and falling to the ground. In addition, a headshot will instantaneously eradicate a foe. A lack of a heads up display (ala Fight Night Round 3) was also publicized in Killzone 2. This is shown to have the players more immersed in the video game atmosphere. It worked well in Fight Night Round 3, so I believe it will work perfectly in Killzone 2. The visuals are stunning to say the least. The whether effects are right on par with other first person shooters like FEAR. The most intriguing aspect of the gameplay has to be its versatility. If you are a fan of duck and cover (ala Gears of War), use the lean and peak feature. If you are a fan of running and gunning, (ala Resistance: Fall of Man) feel free to spray your rivals with bullets as you run circles around them. Killzone 2 is exclusively for the PlayStation 3, and it is slated for a 2008 release date.
Countdown to Metal Gear Solid 4: 7 months away

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Devil May Cry 4 Preview

After Capcom made an abysmal Devil May Cry 2, they redeemed themselves with an amazing Devil May Cry 3. Even though Devil May Cry 3 was a prequel, it was immensely better than the original Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 2 combined. Devil May Cry 4 is the next chapter in the Devil May Cry franchise, and it look on par with Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 3. Devil May Cry 4 takes place after the events of Devil May Cry, but before the events of Devil May Cry 2. For those of you who are keeping track, this means Devil May Cry 4 will transpire after Devil May Cry 3. Avid Devil May Cry fans will be surprised to see that a new character named Nero might be the protagonist. Dante will be a playable character, but he seems to be in a much more limited role than Nero.
The environments in Devil May Cry 4 look eerily similar to Devil May Cry 1; however, the gameplay resembles Devil May Cry 3. Obviously, Devil May Cry 4 will have its fair share of memorable action sequences. Particularly, the bosses Nero will encounter will act somewhat superfluous before they strive to pummel you to the ground. It is still unknown if Capcom plans on having half of the game in control of Dante, and the other half in control of Nero. Capcom divulged that player will be able to alter their fighting styles instantly, instead of the cumbersome menu system of Devil May Cry 3. The visuals in Devil May Cry 4 are phenomenal, and they take full advantage of the next generation hardware. Devil May Cry 4 will be available for the Xbox 360, PC, and the PlayStation 3 and is slated for a 2008 release date.

Countdown to Metal Gear Solid 4: 7 months away

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Madden 2008 Review: A Quality Next Gen Sports Game

The most notorious sports video game of the year is available today. Many critics and even devoted Madden fans have been perturbed with Madden recently because they have been the same old Madden. Some would even go as far as to say that there has not been many innovative features after Madden 2005 (which introduced the hit stick). Others believe that Electronic Arts is not striving to make the best NFL game because there is no competition. Since EA bought the exclusive NFL rights, they have been making the same old Madden video games. Madden 2008 is an exception to that rule because it is brilliant. After an average three iterations of Madden that have disappointed fans, Madden 2008 will definitely please fans. The visuals are amazing on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but they are dreadful on the Nintendo Wii. Players will notice is that the somewhat vexing Tony Bruno is no longer doing his absurd radio show, and the gratuitous newspaper information is nowhere to be seen. The gamplay is more fluid than previous iterations of Madden. Gamers will realize that the players do not arbitrarily run around the field like Bobby Brown addicted to crack cocaine anymore. There have been some minor alterations to the hit stick; moreover, high and low tackles can be executed. The pass rush is more realistic in Madden 2008 than in Madden 2007. You cannot expect to pick up the blitz with only five offensive linemen; you ned to alter your protection and blocking schemes. Quarterbacks will be more precocious because high IQ quarterbacks like Peyton Manning will be able to see what play the defense is running. To counter this, defenders with high IQ will be able to view what play the offense is running. Players with low intelligence like Michael Vick (dog killer) will not be able to read defenses. This feature is only available if the defense or offense runs the same three of four plays every time, but it is still a nice touch and prevents any team from running the same plays every time.
Offensively, the highlight stick has been revamped; more maneuvers can be performed on your way to scoring a touchdown. This is incredible because it reduces contemplating what to do next on the field. Wide receivers have some brand new things to do as well. Spectacular catches and possession catches can be utilized in Madden 2008. Many expert Madden fans will realize that each receiver plays differently. For instance, Hines Ward will attempt a conservative catch because he is a possession receiver. Conversely, Torry Holt will attempt an aggressive catch because he is a spectacular receiver. Another element about receivers is the chess match with defenses. For example, Terrell Owens (the guy who sabotaged the Eagles 2005-2006 year and helped the New York Giants win their division) will be much easier to play bump and run coverage than a swift receiver like Steve Smith. This is because Terrell Owens (the guy who tried to commit suicide last year with pills) is an easier player to press at the line of scrimmage. The same rule applies for Randy Moss (weed smoker). Substitutions are more of a factor in Madden 2008 than last season. Teams like the New Orleans Saints will run a two back system, and Reggie Bush will share the load with Deuce Mcallister. Superstar mode has been overhauled in Madden 2008. Players will have more control on the rating of their created Superstar. He will compete in 40 yard dashes, lift weight, and various other drills to bolster his attributes. This is much more proficient than the asinine DNA mode which was random. Subtle icons are shown under each player to accentuate their field of expertise. For example, Brett Favre has a rocket under his name because he has “rocket arm.” Overall, Madden 2008 has given even the most novice NFL fans something to be elated about. It seems that the Madden franchise is finally heading in the right direction.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Metal Gear Solid: The Best Metal Gear Game

Metal Gear Solid was released in 1998 and is notoriously known by many as the greatest Metal Gear game. Instead of playing a flat two dimension game, this game was Konami’s first foray at making a Metal Gear game that was in three dimensions. Just like the previous iterations of the series, Metal Gear Solid was a tactical espionage action game with an emphasis on stealth. The game occurs in 2005, and Foxhound is now a terrorist organization that has no affiliation with Roy Campbell and Solid Snake. Foxhound’s intentions are to launch a nuclear attack if their demands are not met. Their headquarters are in a remote island called Shadow Moses (somewhere in Alaska). Roy and Dr. Naomi Hunter (colleague of Roy Campbell) begs Snake to assist in eradicating the terrorist threat. Snakes goes to Alaska and begins his mission; his first objective is to find the DARPA chief (Donald Anderson) and Arms Tech president (Kenneth Baker). Our hero tracks down Donald, and Mr. Anderson informs Snake that another Metal Gear is under construction. Donald also tells Snake about a way to deactivate Metal Gear that entails PAL codes, and then the chief dies from a heart attack. Snake resumes his objective and come across Kenneth Baker (who is being held hostage by Revolver Ocelot).. Revolver has placed wires connected to explosives that are set to detonate. Snake manages to rescue Baker and severely injure Ocelot but no kill Ocelot due to an esoteric ninja. The ninja slices Ocelots hand, cuts the wires that are attached to the explosives, and flees. Too wounded to fight, Ocelot run offs as well. After that, Snake has a succinct conversation with Kenneth who also dies of a heart attack (eerily similar to Donald‘s death). On his way to find Otacon, Snake encounters Vulcan Raven in a tank; Snake destroys the tank and heads towards Shadow Moses nuclear disposal area. As Snake reaches Otacon, he sees the ninja again. The ninja divulges to Snake that he is Gray Fox (Snake’s former comrade from Foxhound). They have a melee, and the ninja (Gray Fox) runs away again. Snake discovers Otacon (creator of Metal Gear) and asks him to help in destroying Metal Gear. Realizing that Metal Gear will be used as a weapon that is a threat, Otacon concurs to assist Snake. Meryl (Roy Campbell’s daughter) finds Snake, and she teams up with Snake. Unfortunately, they are sniped by Sniper Wolf. Meryl gets injured, but Snake figures out how to beat Sniper Wolf at her own game and does. Snake is then captured by soldiers and Sniper Wolf (who did not die); Ocelot comes back in the picture and torments Snake by electrocution. Fortunately, Snake escapes and recovers his gear. Undesirably, Snake is attacked by the leader of Foxhound (Liquid Snake) in a helicopter. But Snake shoots the helicopter multiple times with a stinger missile launcher to annihilate it. Snakes goes on to fight Sniper Wolf and Vulcan Raven again, and Snake exterminates both of them for good. Knowing that Raven’s death was inevitable, Raven reveals to Snake that the DARPA chief was really Decoy Octopus in disguise.Afterwards, Dr. Naomi and Snake have a conversation via codec in which she tells Snake that she has injected him with a virus known as Foxdie. This revelation explains why Decoy Octopus and Kenneth Baker died when they were in contact with Snake. Naomi admits she did it because she is the step sister of Gray Fox and wants revenge for Snake’s actions. Feeling remorseful, she apologizes to Snake and acknowledges that she has no desire to kill Snake. Recognizing that he must complete his mission, Snake finally reaches the hanger where Metal Gear is being kept. He attempts to defuse Metal Gear; however, he unintentionally makes it active. Much to Snake’s chagrin, Liquid arrives yet again. Liquid notifies Snake that he was being used to trigger Metal Gear and tells Snake that they were twins who were part of the “Les Enfants Terribles” project; furthermore, Liquid says how this was a project intended to clone another Big Boss. Snake hears that he is the superior dominant twin, and Liquid is the inferior recessive twin. When their prolonged conversation comes to an end, Liquid jumps in the cockpit of Metal Gear and attempts to kill Snake. Since Snake is unsure how to put an end to Metal Gear, Otacon helps him via codec. As the long and arduous battle continues, Gray Fox appears and supports Snake in demolishing Metal Gear. Sadly, Gray Fox is killed in the process. Before dying, Gray Fox has a poignant moment with Snake and discloses to Snake that the ninja suit gave him a split personality. Liquid somehow survives the Metal Gear fiasco and challenges Snake to another fight in which Snake is triumphant. Later on, Snake sees Meryl and together escape from Liquid (yes he is still alive) in a climactic car chase action sequence. Their vehicles collide, and Liquid dies at the hand of the Foxdie virus. Knowing that he could die at any moment, Snake and Meryl get on a snowmobile to depart from Alaska. After the credits scroll across the screen, it is revealed that Revolver Ocelot is still alive and plans on giving the Metal Gear Solid data (from Kenneth Baker) to a man named Solidus.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

E3 2007: Winners and Losers

I like ending on a high note, (like George Costanza from Seinfeld) I will begin with the losers. The loser had to be Nintendo hands down. With the exception of Mario Galaxy, there was no original content. There were 2 new peripherals: zapper and Wii fit. That's it. No new innovative games were displayed. It was a shameless self-promotion. The entire press conference consisted of praising the Wii. That's a shame (another Seinfeld reference for you Seinfeld fanatics). Nintendo merely accentuated what they achieved; however, they did not say what they will accomplish. Microsoft was neither a winner or a loser; there were in between. They showed 2 noteworthy demos at their press conference which were Assassin's Creed and Madden 2008. I am not exactly sure why Reggie Bush was demonstrating Madden 2008 because Vince Young was the cover athlete, but that is a separate issue altogether. Furthermore, both of those games were multi-platform. The only 2 exclusive games that Microsoft was able to score were Halo 3 and Mass Effect. Halo and Halo 2 were the 2 smash hits for the original Xbox that redefined the first person genre. This will also be the conclusion of the trilogy. On the other end of the spectrum, Mass Effect looks like an epic role playing game.It is made from the same critically acclaimed creators of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for the Xbox. The gameplay looks eerily similar to Star Wars as well because making certain decisions can alter the outcome of the game. It looks to have a non-linear storyline imbued with side-quests and brilliant visuals. The winner is drum-roll please...Sony! I know Sony has to share its rights to games such as Assassin's Creed, Grand Theft Auto 4, Resident Evil 5, and Madden 2008; contrasty, Sony does not have to share its rights to anyone with Metal Gear Solid 4, Killzone 2, and Final Fantasy 13. As far as Metal Gear Solid 4 is concerned, a new trailer made its debut featuring Ocelot (Liquid Snake), Meryl, Raiden, and Solid Snake. Reprising their roles as antagonist and protagonist were Ocelot (Liquid Snake) and Solid Snake respectively. The trailer shown included a scene with what seemed to be Foxdie, and Naomi (from Metal Gear Solid) saying to Snake via codec that he must "fulfill his destiny."The 2nd and more appealing part of the trailer showed Raiden in a chaotic fight sequence with Vamp (from Metal Gear Solid 2.) Unfortunately, this will be the last and conclude the Metal Gear Solid serious. Creator of Metal Gear Solid, Hideo Kojima believes this game will tie up all the loose ends and answer all the unanswered questions. Konami has been teasing us with trailer after trailer, but no gamplay has been playable. The lack of gameplay footage gives Metal Gear Solid fans the impression that it will be available the same time as Madden 2077. After a dismal plot in Metal Gear Solid 2 which was like trying to decode hieroglyphics, MGS 4 looks promising. The bottom line is that Metal Gear Solid 4 will be the PlayStation 3 exclusive that salvages Sony's disastrous PS3 sales.