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Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution

Developer

Firaxis Games

Publisher

2K Games

Genre

Turn-Based Strategy

Platform

Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo DS

ESRB Rating

E10+

Price

$59.99

Release Date

July 8, 2008

Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution is the fifth installment of the Civilization series, and the first of the series to release exclusively for the consoles. Along with being the first of the Civilization games to release on consoles, this is also the first Civilization game since Civilization I to be programmed by Sid Meier. This installment of the series keeps the addictive gameplay that Civilization is revered for alive, as well as the deep involvement in creating your own civilization.

Graphics

Civilization looks great on the 360 and PS3, partially due to the new cartoony look. The world reminds me of Super Mario Galaxy; you can see the curved horizon, and when you roam around the world with the cursor it moves a bit. The human characters have quite a bulky look, but it works due to the cartoonish world. There are plenty of vibrant colors, and all of the building models and environments look great. Everything is very easy to recognize, and there seems to be detail put into every model.

I like the stylistic choice for this game; it makes it very approachable and friendly. It also adds a bit of humor into everything, and exaggerates everything in the world. It really fits in with the style of the game, and allows for the play to feel more laid back. I also feel that when games aren’t going for realism, they can focus more on other aspects of the game. The focus here isn’t on making the game look great, it’s making the game play great. Granted, they have achieved both goals here.

Graphics
Here’s the Xbox 360 version, showing off the vibrant colors, curved horizon line, distinctive building models, and cartoony characters.

Sound

Civilization has great ambient noise. During battles, the sounds fit in and make sense. Tanks sound like tanks, rifles sound like rifles, and airplanes sound like airplanes. None of the sounds are out of place, and everything sounds very crisp and clean. My only complaint as far as sound goes is when the advisors or any other NPCs speak to you. Every time they pop onto the screen (which is quite often), they speak in gibberish, and usually don’t stop until you’re done reading what they say. This isn’t a horrible problem, though, because the NPCs can be muted. Other than the advisors, the sound here is great. There are fun little tunes that play when speaking to other World Leaders, as well as when important events happen such as a declaration of war, or when a World Wonder is build. So the sound here is nice, and adds to the gameplay.

Muting Braveheart
Talking privledges: DENIED. Sorry, Braveheart.

Gameplay

The gameplay is smooth most of the time in Civilization. However, when a character is coming to the front of the screen to talk, there can be a bit of slowdown. The camera always runs smoothly in game, but sometimes during battles the camera will do some odd things, like get too close, but battles only last about 30 seconds anyways, so it’s not a big problem. Before it’s your turn to make a move, the camera always moves you to where something is going on, whether it’s the completion of a building being built, a battle, or troops moving. That’s nice, so you always know what’s going on, but it can be a slight annoyance when you know something you need to do; in order to make a move yourself the camera has to make all of its moves first, and then you can choose to make moves. This isn’t a problem in the beginning of the game, but it can be annoying once you have more cities or are in a war, because the camera also moves and shows you when foreign troops near your territory are moving. All in all, the gameplay is great. There are some annoyances, but the game is so addicting it almost doesn’t matter anyways.

Control

The controls are fantastic in Civilization, from the menus to the button layout on the controller. The navigation is very simple, and makes it easy for first time Civilization players to understand. Pressing the right bumper brings up the Diplomacy panel, which is easy to navigate and looks nice. Another neat addition is the Civilopedia, which can be accessed at any time by pressing the Y button. This includes information on all of the World Leaders, World Wonders, Great People, and just about anything else included in the game. This Civilopedia is also very easy to navigate, using an x/y axis with categories on the x-axis and subjects within the category on the y-axis. Basically every menu is very clean and easy to control, which encourages the exploration of what they have to offer.

This simple button layout also makes micromanaging troops and cities a breeze. Each button controls a task for the troops, and navigating is simply done with the left analog stick. For new players who may forget what the buttons do, there is always a menu on the bottom of the screen that shows what the buttons do and the troop’s stats. The city screen is also very self-explanatory, and if you’re confused the advisors are always there to spout gibberish and tips at you. Basically, this game is very user friendly for new players to the Civilization series, but familiar enough to please returning players. The controls are really one of the shining stars of this game.

Thebes producting an ArcherMicromanaging at its best; you build that Archer, Thebes!

How it Stacks Up

Civilization Revolution does a great job of breathing new life into the series. I’ve always known Civilization to be rather difficult, and this game lives up to that reputation. On the lower difficulties, winning a game can be a walk in the park, but when playing on the harder difficulties, you really have to use a lot of strategy. My one complaint is that the AI can be very aggressive. No matter what it seems you will always end up in a war with another country. The AI just does not stop demanding money, technology, and cities, or whatever else they want. If you try to say no, or offer them anything less, it’s war time. So other than the overly aggressive and greedy AI, this game is fantastic.

As far as console games go, I would say that this is one of the finest Strategy games available, and should be added to anyone’s library if they’re looking for a challenge that will keep them coming back for more. Each playthrough takes about four hours, and I warn you, you won’t want to stop until that playthrough is over.

Genghis Kahn's Great DealONLY 720 gold out of my 790 gold? Don’t trust him, Genghis is just going to declare war again after those four turns anyway, unless he asks for my remaining 70 gold for four more turns of peace.

Last Words

This game looks great, sounds good, runs solidly, controls gracefully, and leaves you begging for more. Be warned, you’ll be beat up and betrayed, and as a result you’re going to be thinking about the perfect strategy in your sleep.

Here are my overall ratings for Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution:

Category

Rating

Graphics

A

Sound

A-

Gameplay

A

Control

A

Re-Play Value

A

Total

A

Napoleon commands you!

Napoleon has said it all. Be sure you join the Revolution!

Okami

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Clover Studios
Genre: Adventure
Platform: PS2 (September 19, 2006)
Wii (April 15, 2008)
SRP: $39.99

From the first time I laid eyes on Okami, I expected great things. And Okami more than delivered, it was jaw-dropping. Okami has to be one of the most awe-inspiring games I have ever laid my hands on. When I started playing I was hooked till the end. I just love this game, the characters, the art style, the gameplay, everything about this game is so unique and so distinctive that it’s sort of sickening.

Story

In Okami, you play as the newly revived sun-goddess Amaterasu. Amaterasu was killed 100 years before the current day in a battle between the eight-headed serpent, Orochi. At the beginning of the game, Amaterasu’s mission is to restore the world of Nippon to its former beauty, but it is soon realized that the dreaded Orochi has reawakened and Amaterasu’s new mission is to stop the serpent once again. I know it sounds cliché, but Capcom pulls it off with flying colors.

But what is really great about the story may not be the story itself, but the characters. The characters in Okami have a life on their own. The characters dialogue is witty and sarcastic. Especially the games two main characters, Amaterasu and Issun. Issun is a bug sized artist that serves as the games guide and comedic side-kick. Amaterasu is a goddess, but she’s also in the form of a wolf so she can’t speak, but that doesn’t mean she can’t come across. She’ll literally fall asleep if something bores her. Funny thing for a goddess to do.

Gameplay

The design of Okami is based around the use of the celestial brush, a godly instrument that allows you to literally paint object into the world or directly affect its state. There are 13 brushstrokes in all and the powers they grant you are truly amazing. You can revive a dead tree by drawing a circle around it or slice and dice enemies with a single drawn line. I particularly liked the fact that if you didn’t like something that a villager told you, then you could set them on fire (I’m not sadistic). And don’t worry, it doesn’t kill them.

At the beginning of the game the use of the brush is fairly limited. You can do things like changing night into day by drawing a circle in the sky. But as you get more and more into the game, the celestial brush gets fairly complex. As you collect more brushstrokes you can do have more freedom. You create bombs out of thin air by drawing a circle with a fuse attached to it or create gusts of wind to blow out fires. Some enemies even have to be beaten using certain brushstrokes. An interesting part of the game is learning how to use these brushstrokes together to solve puzzles or beat enemies. For example, you can create a bomb and a simple gust a wind will send it barreling towards the baddies, truly innovative if you ask me.

Enemies are usually encountered by running into demon scrolls that are scattered throughout Nippon. You have to actually touch one to initiate a battle so theoretically you could go through the entire game without encountering a battle via a demon scroll. But if happen to stumble into one of these scrolls you shouldn’t have any problem whatsoever, the enemies you fight are generally pushovers and most won’t give you any problem.

The bosses, however, are an entirely different story. Most of them tower over Amaterasu as if she were a bug. Big or small the games main bosses are a challenge and require a little puzzle solving in order to defeat them. The only problem is that the bosses are in limited amount so you’ll encounter very few of them. But the ones they have are a spectacular addition to the game.

In addition to the main quest of the game there are literally a TON of side quests that you can embark on. From helping the townsfolk with simple tasks, digging up turnips, feeding animals, or exorcising demons. Some of these tasks get you money, but what you’re really after is the praise. Since you’re a goddess, praise helps you power up by getting more health or more inkpots for your brush. With the side missions included, the game is over 30 hours so you’re sure to get your moneys worth.

Graphics

When I first set eyes on Okami, I was simply amazed. The graphics in this game are a visual feast. Visually, no other game on the market today can compete with Okami. Everything seems to be alive. Even when Amaterasu is running across a field, trails of flowers and grass follow behind her, truly a sight to behold. During the game, there were several times when I just stood there, taking in the great graphics in this game. The animation is superb too. Amaterasu looks just like a wolf should and would look if it were running, not some crappy imitation. The game is smooth and easy to control, the one and only time I witnessed any lag was when I would create too many bombs with the celestial brush, but even then, it wasn’t drastic and it passed quickly.

Sound

Think of what you would think a Japanese game would sound like only better. The game has a remarkable soundtrack. The sound blends extremely well with the world of Nippon. When someone talks and series of grunts and mumbles are what come out instead of words. I know that many people don’t like that, either voiceover or nothing, but it adds to the games charm. And this game has charm oozing out it’s ears (if it had ears that is).

Conclusion

Presentation: 90 (easy to learn game with informative help screens, lots of extra stuff to go around, decent story, and witty dialogue)
Graphics: 100 (one word…freaking amazing)
Sound: 95 (soundtrack=good)
Gameplay: 90 (great boss battles and plenty of side missions/puzzles, but most battles are just too easy)
Overall: 94 (Great Game!!)

If you haven’t had the privilege of playing Okami, PLAY IT!! It really is a game worth your money. I had a blast from start to finish. It’s a refreshing game that’s charming, witty, and engaging that any self-respecting PS2 or Wii owner need to pick up just because there isn’t anything else like it. Sure it does seem like Capcom might have taken a shot at trying to create a Zelda-like game, and it has so much in common with Twilight Princess that it’s kind of uncanny. But is that really a bad thing? If Okami wants to take its structure from Zelda and make a game even more unique, by adding the celestial brush perhaps? Then I say more power to ‘em. Okami is a game that you shouldn’t pass up, particularly if you like the Zelda games. It’s s stunning refreshing game that deserves your attention, as it greatly deserves it. So go pick it up.

And to all you people wondering…yes, since you’re a wolf, you can give your enemy a golden shower and yes, it is hilarious.

Chris Newell

Gaming Seminar

9/3/08

Game Details:

Name: Age of Mythology: Gold Edition

Developer: Ensemble Studios

Publisher: Microsoft

Genre: RTS, Real Time Strategy

Platform: PC

System Requirements:

Microsoft® Windows® 98/Me/XP/2000

PC with 450 MHz equivalent or higher processor

128 MB of system RAM

1.5 GB available hard disk space

32x speed or faster CD-ROM drive

16 MB video card required

Sound card, speakers or headphones required for audio

Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device

56.6 Kbps or better modem for online play

Cost: $19.99 List price

Release Date: June 30, 2004, Original Version October 30, 2002

Now, the real reason your reading this review. The juicy, extra saucy mash potato plated masterpiece of the actual game. When I first picked up this game I didn’t know what to look for in games. This was one of my first pc games. Yea I know I’m a little late to the pc world. I was looking for something to occupy my time. I also was interested in mythology, so once I saw this game it was a given.

When I first opened the box, I noticed there were two disks. I thought this was simple, compared to Baldur’s Gate with 4 or more disks (cant remember). Now I cant remember very many other games back then. Heck all of high school is pretty much a blur. So here we go!

2. ELEMENTS
1. Graphics

When I first started the game, you get a cinematic trailer. It captured me as soon as I saw it, I liked it so much, and I immediately quit the game and restarted it to watch it again. Then like the good little boy I was, I immediately launched the campaign. I mean for the time this game was made it has pretty good graphics. The colors in the game are still pretty good, even by today’s standards. They’re extremely bright and detailed, and there are a lot of units on screen at the same time. The units are pretty detailed, and the environments were visually interesting.

2. Sound

I found the sound in this game decent. I mean the sound in Real Time Strategy isn’t the main focus. However this game, along with most Real Time Strategy, doesn’t totally ignore sound. Each unit has it’s own unique sound byte that comes along with moving sounds and battle sounds. The background music is involved with the themes of the game. A little Greek, a pile of Norse, and a pinch of Egyptian combine into the games music. I never wanted to turn the music off, nor did I want to break my eardrums. It was peaceful and Zen like for me.

3. Game play/Control

The game play was the best part of the game for me. I like a game to have a lot of replay value. It’s been 6 years now and I’ve never stopped playing it. The game is a smooth ride, with not a detour in site. I never once experienced any lag spikes or slow processing times. Of course I had the graphics on full blast, but even then it was running very smooth.

The controls in this game were pretty easy to learn and part of the brilliance of the game play is just that fact. The learning curve is pretty good for an R.T.S.. Compared to Empire Earth where it took me considerably longer to learn the controls, in Age of Mythology I was immediately into the game.

3. Conclusion

When I first played this game 6 years ago, I was shocked at how much I liked the game. 6 years later here I am, still playing the game. Even if you hate R.T.S. id recommend that you try this game out. The game would of gotten a 100 from me if I had reviewed it when it first came out. I can proudly recommend getting the gold edition now, because it has held up to the test of time and still is a 100.

Link to the Official trailer: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4757082574169386904&ei=E2O_SOfAOZPm-wHuoLH_CQ&q=age+of+mythology&vt=lf

screen shot

nother screenie

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames Review

World in Flames

Published by: Electronic Arts

Developed by: Pandemic Studios

Released Date: August 31, 2008

Genre: Third-Person Shooter

Platform: XBOX 360

The Review

If you like blowing  shit up Mercenaries 2 is the game for you. Most of the game is just blowing crap up. The story is simple, we have herd it before, basically your pissed of because some guy shot u in the ass and you want to get revenge on him by killing him. So you must do jobs for people to earn money so u can buy new weapons and various items that will help u through the game. The game is funny and i found myself laughing at every cut scene. It has single player mode and also a fun two player mode only allowed over xbox live.

Graphics

Merc 2 graphics are pretty good. There are just a few things that bothered me. For one when you are in a vehicle you can pretty much drive through anything and destroy it. This is cool in some ways but come one you cant drive right through a full grown tree. Another thing is the vehicles dont leave tread marks on the ground. I think this is a nice touch and a pretty lazy decision for not doing it. Last thing is once things/items have been touched they disappear. This is ok in some cases but not with big items when its clearly noticeable. These are just some small minor things that i am picky about. The colors are nice and everything looks pretty realistic, but for the amount of time that it took to make this game i think that it could have looked better.

Sound

The sound of the explosions where nice and loud. If you have the surround sound hooked up you can here explosions all around you which make for a nice intense experience. The sound or the AI is the worst of this game. You will here the same five lines thought the whole game.

Gameplay/Performance

Almost everthing in the game is destructible, and when blowing theses things up the game keeps a nice steady frame rate witch is surprising for how big the world is. The camera angles are not bad. The only place it can get kind of confusing is when operating any vehicle.

World in Flames Screenshot

Control

The controls are fine. They are like pretty much like any other FPS. Its easy to learn. Teh only time when it gets hard to control is when in a vehicle. You have to use both joysticks at once which can get confusing for some people.

Compare/Contrast with other games

I have never played Mercenaries 1 so i cannot compare to that. The games world reminds me of GTA but not as big and not as polished. Nothing special with the layout its just like any other 3PS. Its not anything that we have not seen before.

World in Flames Screenshot

Conclusion

Overall i like Merc2. It has a lot to it. Of coarse there is just the main story  but there are also side challenges, a ton of unlock able items, and bonus missions with each real mission. Its one of those games that you dont even have to play the main mission to have fun. You can drive around town, hit pedestrians, and blow shit up. You do the main story at your own pace which is nice. Its not on any level with GTA but its worth a try. There are just a few things wrong with the graphics that i thought they could have done a better job on but other then that its a pretty solid game. Witch is why i give it a pretty solid 7.5 out of 10. I would not buy this game but for you crazy people out there who cant get enough of blowing shit up it might be the game for you. When it comes down to it Merc2 is a fun game  and thats what its all about.

-Matt Burns

Name: Warhawk

Developer(s): Incognito/SCE Santa Monica

Publisher(s): SCEA/Incognito

Genre: Third-person Shooter

Platform: Playstation 3

Cost: $29.99 ($39.99/$59.99 if bundled with USB Headset/Bluetooth headset)

Release Date: August 28, 2007

Media Formats: Blu-Ray disc or download from Playstation Store

INTRODUCTION

To be fair, before ever playing anything on a Playstation 3 (PS3), I considered the PS3 the devil. I enjoyed the simplicity of Xbox Live and I could find most of the games available on PS3 were available on the 360 as well.

All that changed last year when I was introduced to Warhawk. The one thing that really made it interesting to me was it was a multiplayer-only game. It allowed people in the same room to play in a match against people from around the world. In my opinion: the perfect package, albeit with some issues here and there.

GAME ELEMENTS

Graphics/Look and Feel

The graphics in Warhawk were, at the time of it’s release, among the best the PS3 could offer; However, when compared to other games, it just doesn’t have nice realistic smooth look found in games like Gears of War, which was released almost a full year before on a technologically-inferior console.

An entirely different matter is the look and feel. Warhawk forms much of its action and fun by changing the look and feel of the game. For example, you are playing a Capture The Flag (CTF) match on the map and it’s layout is set to full map with full access for ground battle; next map, the layout “Dogfight” is set which forces each team to fight the other in just a Warhawk or Nemesis. With variety in map layouts, 8 maps can become up to 30+ different maps and force the players to change their strategy to the new layout.

Sound

Sound is one of the most important components to any shooter. Whoever worked on Warhawk‘s sound sure knew that going into production of the game. The sound is absolutely wonderful, both in terms of dimension and just the basics.

The sound makes gameplay a whole lot better, because it has a wonderful 3D sound system that just makes the matches all the better. With 3D sound, if you don’t come up quietly your target will know you are there. It also helps in air combat since you can hear the enemy’s engines behind you. In all, the sound totally lends itself to making the matches and game much better.

Gameplay/Performance

As the picture above illustrates, Warhawk‘s gameplay is far different than most third-person shooters. The best part of the gameplay is it allows you to have three people beside yourself playing in an online match. Weapons used in Warhawk are great as well because every weapon has a counter to it. Even Warhawks can be countered by ground weapons and the reverse is also true, making this one of the most perfect weapon balances ever seen in console video games.

However, the game can lag or stutter because it is a multiplayer-only game. If you don’t have a proper network set-up, you could get kicked from a match halfway and lose all progress you were making. If that happens, be sure to check the ports on your router or go to port-forward.com and follow their simple instructions (be sure to look for Playstation Network under your router).

The camera angles are almost perfect because it is always focused on you. Wherever you look, the camera always stays looking at you whether you are on the ground or in person. This also means you must be good at turning around fast if you are being chased or else you are dead.

Gameplay is really smooth and flows nicely, given how big the maps are and what people are doing at the time. Even if you are on the ground getting chased by a Warhawk, you can enter Warhawk as well and take it to your enemy without so much as a hiccup or stutter. It may take a little while to get your aim speed down, but it won’t take long so it’s hardly noticeable. It can take a match or two to find your balance. Other than that, gameplay is wonderful and just screams for you to play and play a lot.

Control

The controls for Warhawk are both a blessing and a curse because while you will have an easy time learning ground combat, it will take a long time (roughly ten matches) before you understand the controls of a Warhawk. A common problem is that people will not learn the Pro Flight mode, which is what 80% of all players use when flying.

However, with the recent release of update 1.5, there are two tutorials that will help out greatly. The tutorials are Warhawk Training and Flight Practice. Warhawk Training will help with understanding the basics while Flight Practice will help you practice Pro Flight and various other advanced techniques that will make you a good pilot. Once you have mastered the ground and flight controls, you will be ready to unleash pain on your foes.

Compare/Contrast

Warhawk is something of an enigma today. It seems to be as if Incognito took Gears of War and blended it with Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. After all, it has the tactical, team-based gameplay of Gears mixed with the fluid of flying found in Rogue Squadron. The best part is that it is so well blended. By mixing two very different gameplay styles almost perfectly, they created a whole new style that is just fantastic. That is what makes Warhawk so great: it is a representation of mixing two very different styles of combat and tuning them together so well, it is hard to notice them separately.

CONCLUSION

Warhawk has everything you could want in a multiplayer game: great variety, excellent gameplay, good controls, and wonderful sound. Ever since I first played it, I have been hard-pressed to find a better console multiplayer experience. It doesn’t matter whether you are a fan of Madden, Halo, or even Lego Star Wars, this game will appeal to you if you are a fan of great video game multiplayer in general. In all, a great video game that I recommend for owner of a Playstation 3.

Graphics/Look and Feel: 95 (Graphics aren’t as good as some games the year before)

Sound: 100 (An all-around great sound set-up)

Gameplay/Performance: 94 (The port issues may cause you problems if not solved)

Control: 96 (Flight control requires time to become familiar)

Compare/Contrast: 100 (Gears of War-meets-Rogue Squadron. What could be better?)

Total Score: 97 (Some minor issues may annoy, but doesn’t take away from enjoying the game)

Title: Deus Ex: The Conspiracy

Developer: Ion Storm

Publisher: Eidos

Genre: FPS/RPG

Platform: PS2 (Also PC but this is a review of the PS2 version)

When I began playing Deus Ex, I was a little discouraged by what I first mistook as difficulty. Since the game is played from a first person perspective and you use guns to kill your enemies, I mistakenly assumed that Deus Ex was simply another FPS game. But I soon discovered that using the same strategy that I had used in other FPS games did not work in Deus Ex. And so, when I began to change my strategies, using brute force, stealth, and diplomacy in different ways, I realized that Deus Ex was not so much an incredibly difficult game, but instead, a game with a type of gameplay I had never experienced before; a type of gameplay that I ended up thoroughly enjoying and that Deus Ex has done better than any of the other games in the genre. It is the engrossing gameplay along with a masterful plot that make Deus Ex such an amazing game. However, the game is of course not perfect, as no game is, and so, before I continue swooning over the amazing storyline and gameplay, I’ll go into more depth about the game’s shortfalls.

To begin, the game is pretty ugly. Even for its time, I feel the graphics did not quite meet the standards. There were many other games that looked better, even on consoles. The game did receive some minor graphical enhancements for the PS2 port, mainly dealing with character appearance, but for the most part, it looked the same. There is also a lot of loading screens, far more than I like in a game but after getting entranced in the game’s plot, they no longer really bothered me. Also, there is fortunately little to no graphical glitches: no clipping through walls, and the like.

Deus Ex has a pretty steep learning curve for those unfamiliar with the open ended, strategical, RPG-like, first person gameplay (did I use enough adjectives?) of games like it, Bioshock, and System Shock 2. While it is possible to run and gun and still get through game, you will find that using that strategy alone is difficult. Ammo and health pick ups are not entirely nonexistant but far from abundant, encouraging the player to think of new ways to approach a situation. While some may find this restricting (Hey if I want to just run and shoot things, why can’t I?), I think in the end, it leads to a much higher replayability. To this day, after owning the game for nearly 6 years, I still find new things everytime I play it.

And so end the grievances I have with the game. Now to get to the good parts. I will start with the gameplay. While System Shock and it’s sequel came out before Deus Ex, this was my first experience with open ended FPS/RPG style gameplay, and as I said before, I really liked it. I am a big fan of RPGs and so the upgradeable skills and bio mods really appealed to me; they gave me that “leveling up” feel that I enjoy so much. They also really buff the replay value. Since you can not upgrade every skill or bio mod in the course of one game, it encourages one to start again with a new skill build and bio mod set. The skills all deal with combat, movement, and primarily physical things while the bio mods all give you special abilities, such as being able to see through walls and detonate explosives before they reach you. Coupled with the skill and bio mod system, is the ability to handle almost every event in the game in an infinite amount of ways. For instance, in any given area, you could choose to just kill everything in your way, whether it be hostile or civilian; or, you could sneak through some path and eliminate half the confrontations you would have normally face. Still, you could also bribe an npc to escort you to some area you would not normally be able to access. And those are just a few of the ways that a level can turn out.

The control system is easy to pick up and not at all different from a typical first person perspective game, although your aim with guns improve as you upgrade the skill set that ties with a particular fire arm (Rifle skill improves your skill and aim with shotguns, sniper rifles, and assault rifles. Heavy arms improves your skill and aim with rocket launchers, so on and so forth).

The sound is well done. You can hear the enemies footsteps, or the hum of a camera, and plan your strategy accordingly. The music is hit and miss. The theme song is a real winner, whereas most of the ingame soundtrack falls between pretty good and horrible.

The story, moreso I feel than the gameplay, is what really brings Deus Ex to the pinnacle of its genre. I do not want to go into too much detail, as I do not want to spoil anything for anyone, but I will give you the basics. It is a mixture of Sci-fi, consipracy drama, with cyber punk elements. It takes place in a dystopic future where America is under attack by the NSF, a terrorist group, and suffering from a new plague with no cure, called the Grey Death. You control JC Denton, a nano-augmented agent. JC works for UNATCO, a United Nations counter terrorist group (Think 24’s CTU except globalized), and his first mission is to neutralize an NSF attack on the recently bombed Statue of Liberty. The plot is far from black and white, and twists are around every corner.

Thusly, I feel Deus Ex: The Conspiracy is definitely worth a buy. You will find endless amounts of replay value and unique storyline that will keep you engrossed time and time again. If you are really concerned with aesthetics then you may want to consider borrowing it from a friend  or renting it, if there is anywhere that it is still rentable. If you are a fan of either of the System Shocks or Bioshock, this is definitely worth your time.

In the End(A concise score card for each aspect of the game, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest)

Gameplay: 10

Story: 10

Graphics: 3

Replayability: 10

Sound: 6

Difficulty: 7

The Orange Box compilation contains three games, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress2, and Portal. It was published by Electronic Arts, developed by Valve and is available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. It was released in the United Stated in October of 2007, for consoles the game cost $60, while for the PC it cost $50.

While Portal can be classified as a puzzle game it stands unique from other titles in that it is first person, has a detailed story line, and it forces the player to think in a completely different way. In the game you play as Chell who wakes up in a testing facility to the voice of GLaDOS who is a computer which monitors and directs your actions. GLaDOS directs you through various tests which test a portal gun and your ability to solve puzzles. The portals created by the gun in the game can literally flip the world upside down or turn it on its side; it really challenges the player to view the world in a different way.

While the levels are challenging and can take some time to figure out, as they should be, the controls are extremely easy to use. Besides GLaDOS explaining everything for you, during the first few levels icons pop up to help you figure out the buttons which are very simple. Another way in which the game helps you is that before every testing room there is a wall which contains icons telling you which techniques should be utilized to finish the task.

Portal Icons

All of the avaliable icons

As some of these icons illustrate, Portal is, beside an extremely challenging game, an extremely comical one. The game keeps a lighthearted feel the entire way through, even when things turn a little violent. GLaDOS is always offering you cake or perhaps lying to you about how the next test is impossible (when you complete this test she compliments you for working under very negative conditions).

GLaDOS is talking to you throughout the entire game which makes sound in this game pretty important, but she keeps things entertaining. The only other real use of sound in this game is created by the few dangers in the game, like the glowing orbs that appear pretty early in the game. You can hear them bouncing off of walls and being shot out of the dispenser. These things kill you with one hit so without the sound they would be a little more than unfair. There are also the sentinel guns which appear in some of the later levels. The sounds help you to locate the guns since their laser sights make a slight humming noise, also when it starts shooting at you the sound helps pretty fast to find it. But again, with the humor the sentinels with also talk to you, asking you where you are and forgiving you for destroying them. The only irritating thing about the sentinels is that they can see you through glass walls and they don’t understand that the wall is there so they fire at you. And they don’t stop until one of you is dead…goodness does that get old fast when you can’t reach the little creep just yet. That constant wearing away at the glass always inspires me to go faster and kill the thing. The last enemy is another type of gun which fires rockets at you once you have been sighted. Again there is a laser sight which makes a slight noise but the gun also beeps. Once it finds you the beeping grows loud and fast so you can tell when it is about to launch a rather large rocket towards your face.

As you can see above, the game is very monotone in color palate, however, I feel that this works perfectly with the setting. You are in a scientific testing facility, everything is kept clean looking and was made to help prevent distraction, so it is all shades of boring grey. However, when you advance in the game or find the hidden rooms, more color is added to the game and everything looses its clean look. The grime can sometimes be a little pixilated, but I am willing to forgive. While the shapes and settings may be simplistic in design the graphics are fairly realistic. Again, I attribute the simplistic design to the setting of a testing facility, it is meant to be that way.

Chell

The main character Chell

The game play is pretty smooth throughout. I have personally never experienced lag or stutter, but sometimes I feel as though there is a foot of impenetrable space between me and some of the objects. This feeling is intensified by the fact that you never really see hands in the game, when you pick up and object it just kind of floats there. This however, should not make game play more challenging it is very easy to get used to and is not very cumbersome at all. Since the game is viewed in first person, there is no real problem with awkward camera angles.

I really enjoy a good challenge in a game and Portal truly delivered for me. The puzzles got me very engaged and were always completely different. The story line and the humor that takes place in this game is a real treat and will leave you wanting more. And you will definitely be wanting more; the game is only a three or four hours long if you are really good at puzzles. However, once you beat the game you unlock new versions of old levels. You can beat levels within a time limit, within a certain number of steps, with a certain number of portals used or you can play the level on a higher difficulty. These additions are a life saver once you master all the various tests; they force you to look at the puzzles in a different way.

So while it stinks that this game is really short, it is a definite must. There are two other games on the disk which make it a smart buy. And it has true replay value with its off the wall humor and it unlockable difficulties. I would easily give this game a 91/100. It loses points for being too short and for having the occasional irritating moment (like sentinels who don’t understand glass or how when you die you must move the control stick for it to register and start over).

Companion Cube

I loved this game as much as my companion cube.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC Version)

Morrowind Banner

Product Information

Developer: Bethesda Softworks Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Genre: RPG Platform: PC Release Date: 05/07/2002 ESRB: Teen (Blood, Violence)

Cost: $6.00-$20.00 depending on retailer

Minimum System Requirements: Windows ME/98 128 MB Ram, Windows XP/2000 256 MB Ram, 500 MHz Intel Pentium III, Celeron, or AMD Athlon Processor, 8x CD/DVD-Rom Drive, 1 GB Free Hard Drive Space, DirectX 8.1

Now to the fun stuff; the actual review! If you are new to the Elder Scrolls scene, this is the third game of the series, preceded by Arena and Daggerfall. The beginning of the game takes place on a boat carrying prisoners, one being your character, to the province of Morrowind. Once you dock, you learn that you mysteriously have been set free and released from imprisonment under the emperor’s orders. From there is the start of an experience completely open-ended that will have you playing around the clock for months to come. (Note: I used a PC running Windows XP with 2 GB of ram, and a 2.4 GHz AMD Athlon Processor to play this game).

First off, the graphics are gorgeous. One must take into account that this game was released in 2002 to entirely understand how good the graphics are. When it was released, it was one of the best looking games on the market. It is hard not to get sidetracked while doing quests just to go exploring through the beautifully laid-out and lush landscapes. Adding to that, every object in the game was hand-placed by a developer; from a small rock in the wilderness to a hidden sword in a cave. The fact that the camera angle used for your view is first person (you can also change to third person if wanted) only magnifies the beauty that is already there; it is quite easy to feel like you are actually in the game. All of the colors and textures used match perfectly within the environments that they are placed and produce a completely realistic, Middle-Earth like atmosphere. All of this together creates an astounding feel to the game. You feel frightened when you first face the path that traverses Red Mountain, with its infestations of Corprus plagued enemies. Your breath is taken away the moment you stumble upon the intricate plant inspired design of Sadrith Mora. Overall, the graphics and atmosphere do not come much, if any better than this in the year that it was released.

Image 1

A beautiful night in the Ascadian Isles Region.

Sound in Morrowind does not quite keep up to the same standards as the graphics, but it doesn’t disappoint either. Here is an example of one of its cons: there is exactly one song that plays on a continuous loop while exploring and exactly one song that plays when an enemy is attacking you. They can get quite old and may force you to turn the background music off in the options menu. Other than that, there really isn’t much to complain about. You can hear the resounding thud when you hit someone with a sword or you get hit yourself with say, a giant warhammer. Water sounds refreshingly nice while swimming or wading through it and it is always nice to hear your enemies groan, scream, and curse you as they fall to the ground dead. Which reminds me, it isn’t rare for people to insult you out loud. Apparently the majority of Morrowind’s inhabitants do not like foreigners, or as they put it, “outlanders.” It’s quite funny when Ordinators (guards that worship the Tribunal and dress in armor that if you yourself wear will get you attacked by them) callously tell you “I’m watching you.” It can definitely send a chill down your spine the first time you hear it. The thunderstorms will make you shiver with the patter of rain and booms of thunder. Also, if you have an internet connection, Bethesda released a patch that adds sounds to the Ascadian Isles Region such as bugs flying around that you can download off of their website for free.

Another great thing about Morrowind is that everything is loaded as you go, which means no loading screens except for one major exception which I will get to in a second. When Morrowind was first released, the loading on-the-go could prove to be a little choppy. It’s never fun when you’re running for your life in an epic chase down by an army of Daedric worshippers and the game freezes for about three seconds to load a new area. Fortunately, much stride has been made in the way of computers since 2002 and those loading screens are basically seamless now on an up-to-date computer. About that one major exception, there is a loading screen every time you enter or exit a door that leads to a new area. Once again, the loading time is near instant on up-to-date computers but it would have been nice to not have a loading screen at all. As noted earlier, you can play the game in either first person or third person as you choose, plus you can easily switch between the two with a simple keystroke.

Morrowind 2

A rooftop view of the beautiful city of Balmora.

Some might think that an RPG cannot work on the PC as far as controls go. But let me tell you, they most definitely can and I think that the game is better because of its use of the keyboard. A simple click to swing your weapon or cast your spell, an effortless keystroke to access your inventory. Of course you can map any weapon swap or magic spell to a macro key for easy accessibility. In fact, there are so many different things you can do such as readying a weapon/spell, switching weapons, swinging, casting, etc., I would find it more complex to do all of that on a controller. Obviously, with the versatility and all of the options comes a learning curve but after a short hour or two of play, the controls become second nature.

Sadly, every review must mention the bad things about a game. Luckily, there isn’t much that is bad in Morrowind. I have already mentioned the single soundtracks for exploring and combat, and the loading issues. When the game first came out, there was no way to tell how much health an enemy had, but in a patch soon after release, they added a health bar. Another deterrent is that there is a lot of text to read. There is some recorded dialogue but it is very minimal and most of it is short comments like “Make it quick, outlander.” or “You n’wah!” Also, the game really isn’t challenging enough. Once you hit around level forty, nothing poses the slightest challenge; you can easily take out a whole town without losing much health. Furthermore, since the game is completely open-ended, you can easily go and steal the best armor from people if you know where it is. Lastly, the journal system used to track quests is quite hard to understand and use. That’s about it as far as cons go.

Whew, enough bad talking. I saved the best part of the review for last; a brief description of the world and story. When I said this game was open-ended, I meant as open-ended as it gets. You can be anything you want; a barbarian, a ninja, an acrobat, a bard, a mage, a sorceress, an archer, a thief. The list goes on and on, you can even create your own class. There are hundreds of weapons and hundreds of pieces of armor. Spells come in the unlimited since you can create your own. There are a multitude of potions and once again, you can create them yourself. A wide variety of monsters are at your disposal to kill and even more non-hostile NPCs that can be fought if you so please. There’s the main storyline, the Thieves Guild, the Mage’s Guild, the Fighter’s Guild, the Morag Tong, the three main houses, all with their own storylines/quests, plus a bunch of miscellaneous quests to do. The people all have their own religions, their own beliefs, their own cultures, and their own histories. All of these are documented in the giant amount of books that the developers hand wrote that are viewable in-game. On top of all this, there is still a huge modding community that is constantly making mods for the game. You can also mod yourself, since Morrowind comes with the TES Construction Set which allows you to build, you guessed it, mods. This translates into literally untold hours of playtime due to continually fresh content; all of it for free!

Morrowind 3

This mod adds Lightsabers to the game!

If you are an RPG fan like I am, this game is like finding your main character’s ultimate weapon. Even if you aren’t an RPG fan, you should give this game a try. Its truckloads of interesting and compelling lore are more than enough to hook any gamer. Obviously you won’t be blowing things up or going up against armies or anything, but just the sheer amount of things you can do, the huge number of areas you can explore (bandit’s hideouts, caverns, mines, beached pirate ships) is more than enough to warrant a pick up of this game. Six to twenty dollars is easily worth it to add this classic to your library of video games. It’s not really like any other game in that it’s so open-ended and does it so well. If it weren’t for its few and little flaws, this game would be an easy 100/100 but since load times and repetitive music gets on everyone’s nerves and being too powerful really saps the fun, I am giving The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind a 92/100.

Based on a flash game created Jenova Chen, Nick Clark, and Austin Wintory.  This new make of the game was designed and created by “thatgamecompany.”  In this version of the puzzle game the standard PS3 sixaxis is used to move your organism around level after filled with smaller organisms and occasionally a few bigger more evolved ones.

Starting up the game the player is greeted with soft ambient music, soft colors, and the simple controls.  After hitting the start button you are immediatly immersed into the beautifully colored primordial soup.  Your first organism is bigger than the other organisms that inhabit this first level.  To move your organism around you tilt the controller.  This form of control can take some time to get the hang of but once you get do the movement becomes natural.  A black mark on the score for control comes in after a few “evolutions” when you become a fish like creature with a small mouth which you have to use to hit the “food” just right.

The gameplay is pretty straight forward.  You are an organism that is trying to do what every organism does eat and grow.  Each organism has its own ability such as boost, spinning, and disappearing.  Further into each evolution you come across creatures that are the same size or bigger than you that fight back eating your life orbs.  However, these creatures don’t provide that much of a challenge in terms of AI.  This game, in terms of gameplay, is unlike any other game I have ever played or seen played personally.

The soft ambient music, the noncompetetive gameplay, and the soft colors combine in this game to create a unique and soothing gaming experience.  I would recommend this game to anyone looking for a game to relax with and a way to kill time with.  Overall I give the game an 85 on a scale of 100.

Warhawk

Warhawk

Developer: Incognito/SCE Studios Santa Monica

Publisher: SCEA/Incognito

Genre: Multiplayer Shooter

Platform: Playstation 3

Rarely does one find a game that completely forgoes any sort of single player mode and becomes a multiplayer only game.  Within this genre of games is the even rarer multiplayer-only console game.  Warhawk for the Playstation 3 is just that, a third person team based shooter that is 100% multiplayer only.  Developed by Incognito (formerly Single Trac), the game is loosely based on a PSone launch title of the same name.

The game consists of 2 teams, the Eucadian team (blue) and the Chernovan team (red) with 16 players on each team.  In it the two teams compete to earn points or attain various goals depending on the gametype.  Like most games, Warhawk supports a wide variety of game modes to pick from.  There’s the usual deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag, as well as some more unusual modes like zones where the two teams compete to expand their territory or Hero mode where each team is assigned a hero who has five times the health of a normal soldier and deals out double damage.  All of these modes create a varied amount of gameplay and extend the life of the game significantly.

Warhawk is reminiscent of other multiplayer shooters such as Battlefield 2 in that while walking around the level you will find vehicles that you can freely hop in and out of, albeit with a large emphasis on the flying aspect more than the land based vehicles.  The three vehicles which come with the shipped game are the Jeep which is fast and lightly armored, the Tank which is slow but usually only requires one or two hits to kill anything, and the warhawk, or plane (subsequent expansion packs have added a gunship, an APC, and jetpacks for infantry).  The tank and jeep are pretty strait forward while the warhawk element is a bit more robust. The warhawk itself uses any one of 9 different weapons outside of its main machine guns which it can receive via pickups around the map.  The plane can hover, as well as fly regularly and is easily the most plentiful vehicle in the game (usually about 3 planes to every jeep and tank).  This compliments the game’s more arcade-like style and differs quite a bit from similar games like Battlefield which rely on a much more realistic style.

While this take on vehicles may seem too simplistic, it helps that each vehicle is highly specialized and balanced.  It’s kind of like playing a game of rock paper scissors, except sometimes scissors outruns rock and other times paper drops a cluster bomb on scissors.  When it comes to vehicles, the only real loser is someone who isn’t in one.  Unless you’ve got a flamethrower or rocket launcher, if an enemy vehicle rolls up you can pretty much only hope that they don’t see you.  However the game is incredibly balanced and even a lone infantry man can stand up against a tank so long as he’s got a flamethrower and some guts.

Warhawk tends to be very over-the-top with some levels that take place on islands that are no more than 100 feet across yet stick strait out of the water nearly 600 feet.  Other levels take place on floating cities or on top of huge glaciers and even crashed spaceships.  The levels themselves dwarf nearly every other games, with some levels over a mile across.  The downside to maps this large is that if a player finds himself without a vehicle it can be a long trek until they can get to where the action is.

Technically speaking Warhawk is something to behold.  It’s draw distance is essentially infinite, which is great considering how huge some of the levels are, and its graphics are decidedly next-gen.  Even if you’ll never get close enough to see the individual hairs on your enemies face, they are there.  It’s impressive  that a game that takes place in third person and on a scale that is in the thousands of feet has little details like destroyable chairs outside a vacated shop or the way your character ejects a spent magazine sideways out of his gun when he reloads it.

The game’s sound design is also well done.  Simple things like the faint whistling noise of a TOW missile or the high pitched buzzing sound of a laser designator let you know that in a few seconds you’ll be destroyed.  Every single weapon has its own unique sounds, in particular the sniper rifle which sounds more like a cannon than a gun.  Other things like the plinking of machine gun bullets as they bounce off a tanks armor or the warning sound of a missile that’s locked onto your plane all help to immerse you into the game.

Warhawk is not without its flaws however.  The game is a bit shallow and can suffer from Counter Strike syndrome where although the game is fun, after a few hours you soon realize you’ve been doing the same thing over and over again. Fortunately there are numerous gameplay modes which can change up the pace and a rank system that allows the player to unlock new skins for his player model and aircraft.  The game also has a steep learning curve and can (In my case) take up to 2 hours before a player gets his first kill.  The game utilizes fantastic sixaxis control, probably the best of any game I’ve played thus far, but it can take some getting used to and the result usually ends up being shot down an awful lot before you can start some real dogfighting.

Overall the game is a well balanced shooter with some interesting and addictive elements. It’s a lot of fun and its arcade style of gameplay is a welcome change from the standard realism most shooters tend to follow.  If you can get past the shallow repetitiveness you can find some pretty deep and balanced gameplay that can keep you entertained for many hours. At a mere $30 it’s worth picking up if you’re looking for some fun online.