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Game Review: InFAMOUS (PS3) July 9, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Game Reviews, Reviews.
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I’m a bit slow. Just about everyone is finishing off Infamous 2 on the PS3 and I’ve only recently played the original (purchased about 2 years ago when it first came out). I remember seeing previews for the game back in 2009, and they looked so cool that I just had to get it.

The premise was promising. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world and you are a mean-looking dude by the name of Cole McGrath, a bike messenger who may have started it all with a massive explosion. As a result of that explosion you have gained nasty superpowers, and it’s up to you how to want to use them. Save the world and become a hero, or destroy it and become infamous.

For whatever reason I didn’t get to play the game until now, but I’m glad I finally got around to it. If I were to summarise the essence of the game, I would say that it’s like Grand Theft Auto except your character is like an invincible, ass-kicking Jedi master.

Positives

There are several elements to Infamous that make it a whole lot of fun. The first is that it is a ‘sandbox’ game, which means there is a big open world (much like GTA) which allows you to run around and do whatever you want in it. The finely designed post-apocalyptic world is pretty big (3 districts) and there are train tracks, underground sewers, wharves, warehouses, industrial areas, police stations, hospitals and so forth. You can’t really go indoors but the outside world is big enough for you to explore for hours on end.

When I played GTA, I often wished I could just scale the walls, climb trees, jump from building to building, or even fly. In Infamous, you can do all of that and more. Cole McGrath is like Spiderman in that he can climb just about every object in the game, and he doesn’t even get hurt when he takes a massive fall. For me, this was the best aspect of the game, and kudos to the makers for creating such an interactive environment. The only downside is that Cole can’t drive (he’s one heck of a runner though).

Secondly, like GTA, Infamous has a variety of missions for Cole to tackle. There are the main plot missions, which are longer and more difficult, but progress the overarching story (I’ll get to that in a sec). Then there are the shorter side missions which help you clear specific areas (so they are safe from enemies), including the good/evil missions, the objective of which is either good (like helping the police) or evil (like blowing them up).

That brings me to the third element of Infamous, that is, the Karma meter. In the missions, Cole will often be faced with a decision where he can either choose to do good or do evil. During non-mission periods Cole can also do good or evil, such as healing injured pedestrians or killing them. The repercussions from his choices will push the Karma meter in one way or the other (between the extremes of ‘Hero’ and ‘Infamous’).

How is this relevant to the game (apart from influencing the ending)? That brings me to the fourth element of Infamous — the awesome superpowers. At various points Cole learns new superpowers which he can upgrade with experience points received throughout the game. However, the upgrades of a certain power may only be available if you reach a particular point on the Karma meter — the more extreme the Karma, the more powerful the superpower.

Cole’s superpowers are insanely cool. Some help his movement (such as being able to skid along wires and train tracks and being able to glide through the air), some are defensive (such as creating an electrical shield), but the majority of powers are offensive — from powerful electrical blasts, throwing electrical shock grenades, a sniper blast (for far away enemies), and even massive electrical storms. Collecting these new powers and knowing when and how to use them to your advantage is one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of the game. Most of these powers will use up Cole’s energy gauge, which he can recharge from n assortment of electrical items on the street (such as telephone booths and telegraph poles).

Difficulty and Replay Value

Another thing I should mention is that Infamous does run at a fairly good difficulty level. While the majority of missions are not particularly difficult, many do take more than one attempt, and the good thing about the game is that ‘dying’ has no real consequence, which significantly reduces frustration. One thing you learn quickly in this game is strategy matters — you can’t simply run into enemy territory and expect to blast everybody away. Taking cover and finding high ground are imperative if you want to be successful.

In terms of replay value, Infamous is also relatively decent. The game does take a little while to complete, and can be elongated if you enjoy exploring the city to look for ‘blast shards’ (which lengthen your electric gauage) or ‘dead drops’ (which are recordings of information that feed you bits and pieces of the back story), and try and perform one of the 20 ‘stunts’. And because of the way the game is designed, you must play through it twice if want to experience both endings (the good and the evil).

Negatives

That brings me to some of the shortcomings of the game. First of all, while the Karma meter idea is interesting, its design has a serious flaw — Cole is always better off being either really good or really evil and there is no point being anywhere in between.

Furthermore, being good or evil doesn’t have enough of a bearing on the game. The outcome of each mission is almost always the same regardless of which path you choose, and the only real impact is when doing good missions lock out evil missions, and vice versa.

A second complaint is that some of the missions get a little repetitive. To be fair, I think there is enough variety to keep you going, but several of the main missions are similar and quite a number of the side missions are basically identical.

My main gripe about Infamous, however, is the story itself. Honestly, it is not very well written at all. Despite the promising premise, the progression of the Cole’s story is convoluted, often confusing, and simply not very compelling at all. None of the key supporting characters are very interesting either. Villains suddenly appear and you get a long spiel about their background and life story, but it’s all too crammed and lacks conviction. I tuned out after a while and stopped trying to figure out what the heck was going on.

Some people might disagree, but I also didn’t like the way the cut scenes were designed. Infamous uses ‘comic’ style hand-drawn cut scenes rather than the traditional high quality videos you see in most PS3 games these days. I don’t have a problem with them per se, but they almost always try to tell too much of the story in one go. You might take half an hour to complete a single mission, then all of a sudden the cut scene crams three days of plot progression into thirty seconds. The disparity in pace was disorienting.

Conclusion

In short, notwithstanding a few flaws, Infamous is a very very good game. It looks good and sounds good. It combines many elements of other successful games and adds its own touch to it. There are some weaknesses and it certainly could have been better, but as the first iteration of a fairly fresh concept, you really can’t ask for too much more.

Will be looking forward to getting the sequel when the price comes down a bit more. Anyone know if it is a substantial upgrade on the original?

8.5 out of 10

Game Review: Fight Night Champion (PS3) May 11, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Game Reviews, Reviews.
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3 comments

Let me be upfront. You’re going to be reading a lot of complaining in this review.

Fight Night Champion, EA’s follow-up to the popular Fight Night Round 4 (my multi-part review of that game starts here), is a game that can be viewed in two ways. For those who have not played FNR4, the game will probably be the best boxing game you have ever played, whether it’s in terms of graphics, sound, gameplay, game modes or online play. On the other hand, if you already own FNR4, you’ll likely be sorely disappointed. The truth is, while FNC is an undoubted upgrade over FNR4, the improvements are so uninspiring and minor that it makes you wonder why they bothered with it in the first place. Well, apart from the obvious — make more money out of a successful franchise.

FNC Overview

FNC is basically a suped up version of FNR4. The ‘supposed’ improvements included:

  • blood, bruising and swearing;
  • improved gameplay and controls;
  • a new ‘Champion Mode’; and
  • an improved Legacy Mode.

There are still apparently over 50 licensed boxers (I didn’t count, but most of the ones from FNR4 are there, including add-on boxers from puchased updates, plus a couple more, including Tim Bradley and David Haye). Still no Floyd Mayweather Jr, no Juan Manuel Marquez, no Sergio Martinez. Heck, not even Naseem Hamed or Kostya Tszyu. At least you can still create your own or upload ones others have made.

The graphics and sound are, I suppose, also improved. So is the presentation. But they are, by and large, so similar to FNR4 that you won’t really notice them unless you care about minor aesthetic changes or study the game closely.

Let’s take a look at the supposed changes and improvements.

(to read on, click on ‘more…’)

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Game Review: Heavy Rain (PS3) February 2, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Game Reviews.
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In a nutshell, Heavy Rain is a ‘choose your own adventure’ cinematic experience squeezed into a PS3 game.  It’s a unique and important game, one that relies on a well-written plot, interesting characters, touching drama, moody atmosphere, and plenty of suspenseful action.  While it does have its fair share of faults, Heavy Rain is one of the most immersive and addictive games I’ve played in a long time.

[To read on, click on ‘more’…]

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Game Review: The Fight (Lights Out) (PS3 Move) December 28, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Game Reviews.
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Let me just get this out of the way first — The Fight (marketed without Lights Out in the title in Australia) is a good game.  It has been panned by many gaming websites and critics as a horrible game to showcase the capabilities of the PS3 Move, getting some woeful ratings.  While there are undeniably some problems with the game, for hardcore fight gamers, The Fight can be fun, strangely addictive, and an extrordinarily excellent workout.  The game is probably the closest thing to a real fighting simulation out there at the moment.  Those so-called critics who say the game is unresponsive and has poor controls are probably fat slobs who can’t be bothered getting off their lazy butts.

As a fighting fan, I had high expectations for this game.  I had a good time with games on the Nintendo Wii such as Wii Sports Boxing and Victorious Boxers Challenge (Revolution), but the lack of movement control on the Wii made the games frustrating, and once you figured out how to cheat the system, the games became far too easy and didn’t require ‘real’ movements (ie you can flick your wrists as opposed to using fully extended punches).

The PS3 Move is supposed to overcome this problem with ‘perfect’ 1:1 tracking, which not only capture’s hand movements, but also head movement and importantly, depth.  In other words, you actually need to move your body to play the game, punch where the opponent is standing (relative to where you are), and how far you punch depends on how far you extend your arms.

For the  most part, The Fight offers what is promised.  In terms of motion capturing, the PS3 Move blows the Wii out of the water.  Without having tried the XBox360’s Kinect, I can’t really say if the Move is the best on the market, but from what I hear, Kinect’s fighting game offering, Fighters Uncaged, has been rated even worse than The Fight.

Anyway, check out the review after the jump.  I’ll try my best to tackle all the complaints that have been hurled at this game, and discuss whether they are legitimate or not.

(click on ‘more…’ to continue)

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NBA 2K11 provides a glimpse of the new Miami Heat September 30, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Basketball, Game Reviews, Indiana Pacers, NBA.
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I’ve been following all the NBA 2K11 videos on YouTube in advance of the release on October 5th (October 8th in Australia).

The best of the lot has been from MrOperationSports, one of the few sites that seem to genuinely hold a copy of the real game.  But their latest video, which gives us a glimpse of the new look Miami Heat, is too much for me.  It’s entitled ‘The Conseco Massacre’, and depicts Dwyane Wade and Lebron James having their way with the new look Pacers.  Dunks, threes, spin moves, alley oops, big blocks — the video has it all.  It even has Lebron James trash-talking Danny Granger (probably about his lack of minutes for Team USA), while Brandon Rush stands in the background looking completely stoned.  And you thought basketball games were not realistic!

Here is the vid.

As a Pacers fan, that video was utterly brutal, but I’m not going to pretend there’s no chance of it happening in real life.  But why the Pacers?  Why, oh why?

Anyway, 2K11 is looking really good.  I’m not even a Michael Jordan guy, but this new trailer has my blood pumping.

Can’t wait.  And you can forget about NBA Elite 2011.  I’d be surprised if anyone prefers that game after what we’ve seen from the demo.

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