Explore
 Lists  Reviews  Images  Update feed
Categories
MoviesTV ShowsMusicBooksGamesDVDs/Blu-RayPeopleArt & DesignPlacesWeb TV & PodcastsToys & CollectiblesComic Book SeriesBeautyAnimals   View more categories »
Listal logo
All reviews - Movies (2) - DVDs (34) - Music (10) - Games (46)

-

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 29 October 2009 07:38 (A review of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)

Let me forewarn all of you who will eventually read this review: I'm not a Modern Warfare fanboy. If anything, I much prefer Treyarch's World at War to Infinity Ward's overrated entry in the Call of Duty canon. But before I jump head-first into Modern Warfare, let me recap my experiences with you all.

I first purchased Modern Warfare's PC port just under two years ago. I played it to the conclusion and found myself really enjoying the time I spent with it. I began wondering what Infinity Ward's next move was going to be, as well as quietly hyping the game up to friends that had absolutely no idea what Call of Duty was. Now mind you, in late 2007 this game had not yet entered mainstream consciousness, not to mention the CoD series was largely PC-oriented. Maybe six months or so after I had played through the game, friends of mine (and it would seem people from just about every other country also) jumped on the Modern Warfare bandwagon and it was then that I began to truly loathe it. Sure, it's a great example of a fast-paced war shooter done right, but it irritated me to no end that my beloved Call of Duty series had become synonymous with Modern Warfare.

Allow me to elaborate a bit. I have no problem with Modern Warfare other than the fact that most fans of it aren't really Call of Duty fans. They have absolutely no want or desire to play the games that came before it and even then, have no interest in CoD 4's short but totally involving single-player campaign. I understand that multi-player gaming is the wave of the future, but I stand steadfast in my reviews and focus only on the single-player portion of each title. I could care less about meaningless game modes and heaps of perks that Infinity Ward introduced to their vast online community with this game. If anything, I'm more irritated at the fact that so many "CoD fans" have denounced Treyarch's far superior World at War when I'm fairly certain that if it had the Infinity Ward logo on it they would be commending them on a job well done.

But don't let this fool you. Before the fanboy love started turning me off to this particular entry in the franchise I couldn't get enough of it. As I briefly mentioned, the single-player story is inexcusably short. Your first playthrough will probably last you six or so hours, and subsequent playthroughs diminish that length considerably. I picked up a copy of the game for my PS3, yearning to have another CoD game on a console, and breezed through the single-player mode in roughly four-and-a-half hours. It comes as no surprise to me that most reviewers nagged on the game for having such a short single-player campaign, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

Modern Warfare is unapologetically repetitive. I'm not one to stick my nose up at games that abide by a formula, but there's really not much else to do here besides blow holes in Middle Easterners and Russians and set a few demo charges here and there. I firmly believe that some games benefit from a lengthy single-player campaign... if they manage to do more than routine shooting throughout. That's the problem I face. Too many people ignore what is an action-packed, well-paced, and well-told story simply for the fact that it has largely been regarded as "too brief." I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend 10-15 hours repeating the same actions over and over again ad nauseam. I really enjoyed Modern Warfare for the fact that it said what it had to say, did what it had to do, and then scrolled the end credits with nary a second glance. No matter how short it may be, I found myself enjoying nearly every second of it even on what is probably my fifth playthrough.

So why am I deducting half a star when World at War was awarded a perfect score? Simple. I thought World at War did so much more with the Modern Warfare engine and patented formula of the franchise. It looked better, played better, and seemed so much more refined as a result of that. I also really liked the fact that Treyarch weren't afraid to push some buttons with their oh-so-gruesome take on World War II. I thought to myself numerous times while playing World at War, 'Now this is how you make a war game.' I felt Modern Warfare could have been a bit grislier and more foul-mouthed in order to emulate a real-war situation. MW has the better plot, but WaW has such involving action that you barely notice its thin narrative.

I guess two years after MW's initial release and a year after the release of what I consider to be the best CoD game out of the bunch, I just don't look at Modern Warfare in the same light. It's still a great looking game and has many intense action sequences that have by and largely gone unrivaled, but a lot of that initial magic is gone. I've recently found myself impatiently wading through slower-paced missions with said impatience virtually non-existent while going through World at War. I'm also of the mindset that having CoD 4 take place in a modern setting reduced some of it’s charm. I'm probably one of the few who still loves WWII shooters and hasn't yet gotten over the change of setting. There are more gun and enemy variants, but something was lost when Infinity Ward made that awkward sidestep.

As for what worked then and still works now; the soundtrack is simply amazing, the graphics are still beautiful, and Captain Price's All Ghillied Up level is one of the best missions, bar none, in any Call of Duty game. Infinity Ward made sure to place as much emphasis on squad combat as possible, and by the end of the game you really feel as though you are a part of the unit you have just fought alongside for six hours. The ending is truly harrowing and one of the best closing acts to a video game in a long, long time. There's a lot of interactivity in Modern Warfare also. There are no cut-scenes and that makes for a highly involving campaign. Everything that's happening on your TV screen you play an active role in which really helps CoD 4 earn it's place in the upper-echelons of pure immersive action gaming.

So what's my point here? I don't think I really have one. This is just something that's been eating away at this seasoned CoD fan for going on two years now. I've been down with the series since it made its first appearance on the PC six years. I've even spent time with the mediocre handheld Call of Duty game, Roads to Victory, so with that said it's even harder for me to watch the days go by as more and more players ditch the previous games in favor of a massively overrated one. It really is a great game but not nearly as great as the fanboys would have you believe. If you don't already have a copy (which I think is not the case) seriously look into picking one up. No matter how overrated, it's still one hell of an experience. I do, however, recommend picking up World at War first. Just as Modern Warfare is criminally overrated, Treyarch's WaW is about as underrated as a CoD game can get.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

-

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 25 October 2009 09:37 (A review of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)

Hype can do one of two things for a highly anticipated upcoming title. It can spark interest in a game that no one really cared about beforehand, or it can increase buyers' expectations to a level that, no matter how good or great the product may be, it will never be able to reach those daunting heights.

Sony's latest blockbuster, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, has been so hyped and so awaited for so long that you'd have figured by default that acclaimed developers Naughty Dog couldn't do much to meet fans' and critics' lofty expectations. Remember back, if you will, to mid-February; I reviewed the first Uncharted and gave it a perfect score. I was completely enamored by Drake's Fortune and couldn't, in a million years, fathom what would or could make it any better than it already was. I'll admit, I was really, really anticipating Among Thieves, but I figured Naughty Dog would take the Epic Games route and simply refine the visuals, touch up the game play and leave everything else as is.

Oh how wrong I was. As you read through reviews for Among Thieves and take note of all the perfect scores, endless amounts of praise, and resounding cries of "Game of the Year contender," you will probably be predisposed to think otherwise, but this really isn't enough praise. Among Thieves is one of the best action games, best adventure games, and perhaps best games of all time, period

Playing through Among Thieves is like being the director of your very own 10 hour action movie replete with engrossing shootouts, death-defying stunts, amazing set pieces, and beautiful visuals. Uncharted 2 is the virtual equivalent to a Michael Bay film but with better actors (or in this case, voice actors) and endearing characters. But not every gamer will appreciate what Among Thieves dishes out. There will be plenty of those who will complete the single-player campaign and exclaim, "That's it?!" There's literally no focus on any kind of realism and, trust me, your suspension of disbelief will be tested. But that's the beauty of it. As much as we as consumers feel that over-the-top action movies are insulting to our intelligence, the same will more than likely be said about Uncharted 2. If you're into grounded fair that plays more realistically there are still plenty of other games you should consider purchasing because this is not one of them.

Some of the more engrossing aspects of Among Thieves are the numerous elaborate set pieces that would ordinarily define any big-budget summer blockbuster, not a piece of interactive entertainment. During one such sequence, Drake will find himself jumping from moving truck to moving truck as he narrowly dodges RPG rounds, as well as hurling himself out of a crumbling building's window that, consequently, just had its supports blown to pieces by an attacking helicopter, and even a moving train segment that ends in one of the game's most beautiful displays of pure visual prowess. Among Thieves' entire package is simply jaw-dropping from the time you pick up the controller to the last time you put it down. One minute you're climbing up huge, lumbering structures and making incredible leaps-of-faith, and the next you're blowing and shooting shit up as you fight to stay alive against insurmountable odds. Perhaps more an interactive action/adventure flick than a game, but for this gamer that was not at all a problem.

Keeping in tone with the "bigger is better" approach to sequels, Naughty Dog are not resting on their laurels here. The mechanics of the game have been greatly improved in the two years between games. The platforming segments feel more natural and as a result more fun, shooting is as good as it's ever going to get, and enemy AI is greatly improved. I loved that Naughty Dog ditched one of the biggest problems of the first game: enemies that were able to soak up nearly a full clip of ammo and keep coming for more. Not only was this a nuisance in intense firefights, but having enemies that were constantly moving didn't help, either. I'm happy to say that the so-called "breakdancing enemies" have been done away with. There's also the ability to play stealthily whenever possible. Surprisingly enough, it is fully functional and works better than I would have ever anticipated.

Drake has also learned some new moves over the years. Hand-to-hand combat has been revamped and no longer requires combinations of the square and triangle buttons to pull off hard-to-perform combos. Naughty Dog has seen fit to relegate all melee attacks to only the square button this time around. Not only are combos much easier to perform, they are even more satisfying here than in the first game. Apart from this, Drake can also shoot while hanging from various objects in the environment. This gives the game a nice vertical feel and allows for more variety in ways to play through a gun fight.

I was also relieved to find that the puzzle-solving elements were given more depth even if they aren't as frequent as the first game. Each puzzle segment in Drake's Fortune felt criminally easy and way too simple despite their abundance. The puzzles in Among Thieves, however, require a bit of digging through Drake's journal (and this time around you can actually scan through the numerous pages in his journal in order to find solutions to these puzzles instead of being presented with the correct page no matter what) to solve and often go just as vertical as the gunfights. It's obvious to this gamer that Naughty Dog didn't place as much emphasis on these segments, but by giving you puzzles that weren't as easy and also much more complex, they feel more rewarding.

But I would be remiss if I didn't mention the graphics, and Naughty Dog have truly outdone themselves here. It's been rumored that the first Uncharted used about 30% of the PS3's Cell processor whereas Among Thieves uses between 90%-100%. It's also been said that the game's files take up all available space on the Blu-ray disc. Considering the sheer amount of detail strewn across 10 or so hours of game play, as well as the astounding differences between each respective locale Drake will visit, this all comes with nary a framerate drop, no in-game loading screens, and more surprisingly still, no installation process. With that said, Uncharted 2's visuals do not disappoint. Graphically it's right up there with PS3 favorite Killzone 2 only much broader in design and with much more variety in colors. One chapter has Drake traversing a moving train as his surroundings slowly transitions from dense jungles to snow-capped mountains. It's awe-inspiring to just sit back and watch this happen as the lighting swiftly shifts tone to pronounce the snowy textures. Drake then says aloud, "Jeez, I should have brought a jacket!" It's this attention to detail that makes Uncharted 2 such a joy to play.

No matter your stance on shooters, adventure games, or platformers, Among Thieves is the first must-play, must-buy game of the season. With the holidays fast approaching and so many great games being set for release, we'll see if the inimitable Nathan Drake can sustain the competition. For my money, the first Uncharted piqued interest in me and many others, and quickly became the one reason to contemplate owning a PS3. With the release of Uncharted 2 there should no longer be any contemplation, you should already be heading out the door to purchase the system along with one of the best games I've ever played. The explosive action, brilliant cut-scenes, mouth-watering visuals, superb voice acting, memorable, relatable characters, and mesmerizing story is only scratching the surface as to why this game should be in every PS3 owners collection. I can sit here and talk all day about how great a game Among Thieves is, but it means absolutely nothing until you experience what will undoubtedly be this year's best action game for yourself.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

-

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 11 October 2009 09:38 (A review of Wolfenstein)

Let me begin this review by saying that Wolfenstein is, indeed, not a "clone" of Halo as many uninformed gamers are thinking it is. For those not in the know, Wolfenstein 3D is considered to be the granddaddy and main inspiration of many other first-person action games with Doom coming in a close second. id Software - developers of these two highly acclaimed FPS's, as well as the Quake series - would certainly have a lot to say about their beloved series being compared or argued a clone of a vastly inferior console shooter.

Enter Wolfenstein (no... the new one). Developed by Raven Software (Heretic, Hexen, Soldier of Fortune, and Soldier of Fortune: Double Helix) and published by id Software (they honestly need no introduction though I have already given them one), this game takes place after the events of Return to Castle Wolfenstein and is considered to be the series' only true sequel. You see, Wolfenstein 3D was later remade in 2001 under the name Return to Castle Wolfenstein. But for those who haven't played the classic original or its excellent remake, don't fret. This is as much a sequel as it is a fantastic stand-alone FPS. Franchise fans, however, will definitely get more out of it than those unfamiliar with the series.

So how exactly do you keep a treasured shooter series relevant 17 years after its first incarnation and eight years after its remake? Favoring old school game play over new school ideals, this new Wolfenstein is about as simple as shooters come. Surprisingly enough, Raven have not opted to go the route of "updating" the game with an abundance of modern touches (aside from a pseudo-open environment and regenerating health) and have kept it as the twitch shooter the series started and stayed as. Granted, some FPS fans, as well as those that got their first taste of the first-person shooter genre on the original Xbox, will find that there is really nothing new to see or do here. You do have the Veil powers but the game play itself is decidedly old school.

Many will probably ask what the purpose is of making a shooter with it’s play aesthetics firmly planted in the early ‘90s when so many newer FPS's are vying for supremacy with top-of-the-line visuals, brand-spankin'-new ways to play the single-player campaign (such as co-op or heaps of unlockables), and multiplayer modes that are keeping youths worldwide up to the wee hours of the morning. Case in point, Wolfenstein has none of these things and doesn't need them. Where it succeeds is with its single-player campaign that is both involving and fun. There's little to do besides going from room to room and blowing away those ghastly Nazis, but that’s the beauty of it.

I very rarely find action games that place such firm emphasis on keeping the action this satisfying. Game developers of today seem too worried about sales, multiplayer/co-op modes and finding interesting, albeit vein ways of keep the gamer playing without actually offering much in the way of a fun, memorable experience. Wolfenstein dishes out some of the most intense firefights I've had the pleasure of playing through so far this year. Raven was obviously unconcerned with current facets of game development and opted instead to create a game that was rewarding to those favoring fantastic single-player experiences over a fantastic multiplayer one. Wolfenstein brings us back to the good ol’ days of cool weapons, great level design, and huge boss fights. Gamers looking for that extra drop of icing on the cake won't find it here but those of us that grew up on old school shooters will certainly dig the new face put over an all-too-familiar canvas.

Going into the Veil powers that you will have to master as the game ramps up in the difficulty; they are a unique addition to the game but ultimately amount to very little. Watching time slow to a crawl as you slam through waves of enemies while watching them fly through the air via Havok physics is insanely cool, but too much of the game relies on the Veil powers as a sort of gimmick instead of a helpful aid to completing levels. There are a number of enemies that require you to use different Veil abilities to defeat them, but I can't help wondering if the game would have been even better without these obvious inclusions created simply to pander to the modern gaming audience. Wolfenstein was meant to be a pure, unfiltered run-and-gun shooter and I would have definitely preferred it that way.

There's also the issue of what would appear – at least on first playthrough - to be an open environment. Gunfights take place in larger areas than seen in past Wolfenstein games and there are just as many open-locale firefights as there are ones set in tight corridors. I really did like this approach, but I could have done without the gimmicky (there's that word again) "open-world" game play. As with most modern games, you accept missions from a couple of different locations that you must travel to throughout the game, then rush out to complete them. Raven could have just as easily made Wolfenstein a level-based shooter instead of a mission-based one. It brings nothing new to the table, but because this feature is so dumbed down it doesn't affect the overall feel of the game much.

And as much as I enjoy open-world games and love innovative game play features and jaw-dropping graphics, I just can't get into the mindset that Wolfenstein adhere to these rules, too. I loved playing the previous two games because they were so simple and a nice break from more complex shooter fare. Wolfenstein is still unapologetically simple, but you get that feeling that id was having Raven shed their old school roots instead of embracing them.

Wolfenstein is also not a visually stunning game. It does look good, but gamers will find nothing here that begs them to tap their friends on the shoulder and say "Holy shit! Look at this!" As visually stunning as Return to Castle Wolfenstein was eight years ago, I half-expected to see the same kind of visual quality for its sequel. The various lighting effects are nice and water looks good, as do most character models, but there's only so much Raven was able to squeeze out of the aging Doom 3 engine. Enhanced it may be, but this is simply not a game where graphics were the forerunner.

As old school as Wolfenstein is - even with the inclusion of some new school elements - that will ultimately be the deciding factor between buy, rent or ignoring it completely, I loved nearly everything it threw at me. I bought the game on release day and haven't looked back. It's a rewarding, well-programmed, intense, and unbelievably fun experience that I have been awaiting for eight years. It's nothing new, nothing extraordinary, and won't win any awards for originality, but what it does offer is some of the best twitch shooting since PC favorite Painkiller. If a game lacking any sort of complexity and/or plot turns your stomach, it's best to not even give Wolfenstein a second glance when passing by it in the aisles.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

-

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 9 October 2009 03:12 (A review of Saw)

When I first caught wind that now-defunct developers Brash Interactive were working on a Saw videogame I had hoped for the best but expected the worst. As much as I love and enjoy the Saw films, Brash wasn't exactly known for its quality titles. Among these games are movie tie-in's like Space Chimps, The Tale of Desperaux and the abominable Jumper: Griffin's Story.

But when Brash folded near the end of 2008, development firm Zombie Studios took over the project and proceeded to both revamp and complete the title. With the publishing help of Konami, I really started to wonder if Saw: The Videogame wasn't going to be the detestable monstrosity I had first anticipated. Zombie Studios has only worked on a handful of games (including the fantastic PC military shooters Spec Ops and Spec Ops II: Green Berets), but if a well-respected company like Konami would risk their near-flawless reputation by releasing a movie-based game from an unknown developer, it had to be better than us rabid Saw fans were giving it credit for, right?.

Going back to when I first heard of plans for a Saw videogame, my most permeating thought was, 'How are the movies' universe and mythology going to translate into interactive entertainment?" Initial guesses from fans were that the player would take on the role of Jigsaw, create traps, and test unwitting victims while others anticipated it to be a mini-games-and-puzzles-based title that tied lightly into the Saw universe. I'm happy (and quite relieved) to reveal that Saw is almost none of these things.

You play as Detective David Tapp (Danny Glover's character from the first film) in a story and script written by series creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell. It is revealed that Tapp was nursed back to health by Jigsaw after the gunshot wound he suffered at the hands of hospital orderly, Zepp, and is thrust into a game of his own. Wan and Whannell's script takes place between the first and second movies in the franchise and proceeds to answer previously unanswered questions while also delivering an all-new story.

Tapp wakes up to find himself sitting in the bathroom from the first movie - which is now located inside of an abandoned insane asylum - with Amanda's bear-trap device on his head, no less. The Television in front of him flickers on and Jigsaw proceeds to warn Tapp of the device strapped to him and that, if he should make it out of this room alive, there will be a slew of others in the asylum that have devices on them as well. This wouldn't pose much of a problem, but the obsessed Detective learns that the key to these devices has been surgically implanted in his body, making him highly sought by the asylum's desperate inhabitants.

But what a way to open a game. Not only are you immediately pushed into play, but there is a Quick Time Event following this extremely atmospheric introduction that forces the player to remove the trap from Detective Tapp's head or witness a gruesome death animation if they fail. The Saw films usually open with a character being offed by one of Jigsaw's devices, and if you so choose to let that happen the videogame is no different.

I'm sure the biggest question I should address is, "How exactly do you make a Saw videogame?" The answer to that is very simple, actually; take one-third Silent Hill, one-third exploration, and one-third puzzle-solving, mix it up, and you have yourself a unique concoction that is nothing original but certainly better than any of the other movie tie-ins presently available. Couple that with the quick-cut editing and strobe-like scene transitions of the movies and you have yourself a visual treatment very faithful to the franchise.

But the visual authenticity is only half the experience. The game play is solid and offers up a vast array of fantastic, oft-challenging puzzles that need to be solved (some with time limits and some without) in order to progress, but exploration feels a bit stilted. You are usually led down a linear path with a mostly easy-to-understand way of proceeding if stuck. It's obvious that the focus of Saw isn't on exploration. The meat and potatoes of Saw: The Videogame lies in the aforementioned puzzles that you must solve. It seems like there are puzzles accompanying nearly every action you must perform; picking locks, escaping rooms, opening boxes, and saving Jigsaw's victims (the ones that are important to Tapp's game, at least). There are times, however, when exploring, one almost feels as if the game is holding their hand. While Saw has derived unarguable inspiration from Konami's Silent Hill series, it is considerably easier in comparison.

As a matter of fact, the traps in Saw: The Videogame that even Tapp must avoid (like shotguns hanging in doorways, for example) are usually what will off you and not the various other puzzles/traps that you will encounter. Timed ones will result in your death if not solved fast enough, but players will undoubtedly learn that dying a few times is the best strategy in which to study them, restart them, and then complete them. All of the puzzles are sufficiently difficult, but extremely logical.

I find the biggest complaint from those who have actually decided to purchase a copy of the game is that the combat system is unresponsive/broken, but I wholly disagree. Sure, swinging your weapon takes way too long and hitting an enemy sometimes depends on dumb luck, but that's the point. The object of the game is to avoid direct confrontation as much as possible while still eliminating your enemies. The AI is decent and there are numerous ways you can defeat them without "melee-ing." The traps that you disassemble can be re-activated to your benefit, such as the shotguns in the doorways. You can often lure the AI into these traps. You can even bolt doors to keep enemies away from you until their traps spring. I found this to be one of the coolest aspects of the game.

Saw: The Videogame is running on UnrealEngine3 technology and, considering the quality of most movie-to-videogame adaptations, looks way above par. Some textures are blurry and the various areas of the asylum tend to look the same after a while, but that's the Saw universe in a nutshell; grimy and dingy locales with victims who are practically interchangeable. Tapp's character model looks good, but it's sorely disappointing that Danny Glover was not available to voice or be rendered for his character. The look of the game mirrors that of the films flawlessly with dark, decrepit rooms and quick-cuts galore.

Voice-acting is shoddy, but that too ties in with the movies. The Saw films aren't known for their Oscar-worthy performances and have become infamous for their poor acting. Whether through intention or coincidence, the game is no different. I will say, though, that the music is an eclectic mix of original pieces and more familiar bits from the films. Hearing some of these music tracks from the early Saw movies put a huge, fanboy-ish grin on my face.

Saw: The Videogame is by no means a Game of the Year contender. What it is, however, is a shockingly solid experience that is signicantly better than any other direct movie tie-in I've ever played. It is faithful to the Saw universe while also being fun, challenging, and rewarding in its own right. I can't recommend this to those who have no interest in the movies as that is half the fun: recognizing similarities and parallels to the Saw films. Survival-horror fans may get some enjoyment out of it, but this is a game that was made with a lot of love for the fans and really is intended for them. So if the thought of a Silent Hill-lite experience set within the Saw universe gives you goose bumps, don't hesitate to pick this up or, at the very least, consider a rental.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

-

Posted : 10 years, 9 months ago on 12 August 2009 04:39 (A review of Friday the 13th: Part 5, A New Beginning (Deluxe Edition))

I'm seriously considering starting a "Friday 5 is underrated" campaign. If one decides to read through message boards and fan sites, there's quite a bit of hate directed towards this film. Both A New Beginning and Jason Takes Manhattan are the most maligned in the entire Paramount series of Friday the 13th movies.

It's not hard to see why these would be the most disliked, however. Jason Takes Manhattan is virtually goreless; many of the kills were either reshot or hacked to death by the MPAA to secure that coveted R-rating. One of the other big reasons being the title of the movie is quite misleading. About 20 minutes of the movie takes place in New York or Canada doubling for New York, while the other hour or so is set on a cruise ship full of graduating high school students which, needless to say, is headed towards Manhattan.

A New Beginning is always the one that gets me. It is essentially a trashier version of the previous three sequels, but just as entertaining. The kills are very imaginative, but so ridiculous at times that the movie approaches parody. Director Danny Steinmann (who had his hand in the porn industry at one time) throws his influence all over the picture. The flick is gratuitously violent - with a body count over 20 - and features the most T&A I've ever seen in one of Paramount's Friday films. The fans' biggest complaint is the lack of villain Jason Voorhees; an issue I've never quite understood. Up until the end of the third act, we had no idea this hockey-mask wearing maniac wasn't the Jason. The big twist of the film revealed that it was a character named Roy, an ambulance driver, who donned the iconic mask and was cleaning house.

Herein lies the problem. In 1985 no one suspected the third-act twist which must have been terribly disappointing for those wanting to see Jason doing what he does best again. With that said, it would be totally understandable for unsuspecting audience members to be vastly upset with Paramount's decision to not have "Jason" in the film. But after 24 years, I find the stream of complaints of "It's not really Jason" to be superfluous. A big guy wearing a hockey mask and carrying large cutting implements in which to dispatch of horny, pot-smoking teenagers is no less Jason than the iterations seen in the previous films. Just because there's someone "pretending" to be Jason, which isn't revealed until the end anyway, shouldn't automatically negate the fact that there is at least a Jason-like villain in the movie. And besides, Jason's iconic presence is brought to life through very recognizable physical traits; like the mask and trademark machete. This pseudo-Jason walks, moves, acts, and kills like the J-man; therefore it is.

By 1985 Jason wasn't just some cut-and-paste murderer, either; he was the omnipresent poster boy for slasher films and '80s horror flicks. But beyond the imposter problem, this truly is the last of the "realistic" Friday movies. Tom McLoughlin's Jason Lives, for example, had a resurrected Jason Voorhees robotically slashing his way through Crystal Lake accompanied by McLoughlin's gothic imagery. Steinmann's film is rooted firmly in the Jason-can-be-hurt motif of the previous sequels. The character of Tommy Jarvis (played well here by John Shepard) is also the only returning character from personal favorite The Final Chapter. Funnily enough he is the film's focal point yet I don't think he uttered more than 10 words throughout the course of the movie. I also love how Danny Steinmann never took the film too seriously. Many of the kills and expected Friday moments (like the final chase sequence and revealing of the corpses, for example) are injected with a bit of humor. In fact, the entire movie is.

But it's disappointing that there exists no uncut version of A New Beginning. For as violent and unrelenting as it is, there's not a lot of on-screen gore. Most of the kills are cut dreadfully short or relegated to having their gory details revealed in an after-the-fact fashion. On the other hand, the characters are some of the most memorable in any Friday film (especially redneck couple Ethel and her son, Junior) that elevates this beyond simple slasher fodder. Quite true that the movie is utterly ridiculous and many of the kills are just thrown in there so Steinmann was able to meet his quota (the director has gone on-record as saying that Paramount had him toss in a scare or kill every six to eight minutes), but I would rather have a slasher flick do too much than too little.

But as a Friday film and fourth sequel, this couldn't have worked better. The movie has an extremely high body count, a fantastic sense of humor, great characters, tons of nudity, inventive kills, and a quick pace. It also does the fans a service by bringing Tommy back and showing us what has transpired between the events of The Final Chapter and A New Beginning. Too many people, I think, let the five second unmasking at the end of the film completely negate the events preceding it. But watching Friday 5 again after a good four years doesn't make it anymore appealing as a straight-laced sequel. The movie is, in fact, so different from the others tonally that even sequences that were seemingly meant to be taken seriously (like Tommy throwing a character through a table after said character scares him with one of his own masks) had me howling.

All in all, however, A New Beginning is an immensely unique addition to the series. There is so much gallows humor & violence that the picture remains to be one of the most awkward, yet entertaining in the series. The bad rap the movie receives is something I will never be able to look past as I feel it has all of the right Friday ingredients only hampered by a miniscule problem that fans have chosen to beat the flick to death over. The last of the true Friday films and also a damn fine sequel.

*Paramount has released the film in a Deluxe Edition DVD set that is probably the best we'll ever get out of them for such a universally hated picture. The DVD includes a funny, but uninformative commentary with director Danny Steinmann, actors John Shepard and Shavar Ross, as well as self-proclaimed horror guru and Friday 5 fan Michael Felsher. It also includes a making-of featurette (short, but more informative than the commentary), another piece of the fan-made short film Lost Tales from Camp Blood, another installment in the DVD-based mockumentary The Crystal Lake Massacres Revealed, and the ever-popular theatrical trailer.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

-

Posted : 10 years, 10 months ago on 29 July 2009 02:50 (A review of Resistance 2)

First-person shooters are a dime a dozen nowadays. Therefore it takes a very unique, truly quality FPS to make even a dent on the ardent shooter enthusiast's radar. It takes something even more for piqued curiosity to evolve into a purchase.

As far as first-person shooters are concerned, Resistance 2 doesn't do anything particularly new with the genre. If you've been around long enough to play through the original Half-Life, it's expansions, as well as Half-Life 2 and its respective episode packs, you'll know just what to expect. That familiarity, however, isn't always a bad thing as Resistance 2 so matter-of-factly proves. Short on story but big on everything else, this isn’t a game that seeks to innovate a tried-and-true formula, but rather to do everything within the confines of said formula extraordinarily well. I give developers Insomniac Games major credit for delivering not only a stand-out FPS experience, but also delivering one that trudges through various FPS clichés without coming off the least bit contrived.

Everything you would expect from a post-Halo shooter is here; limited weapon slots, regenerating health, and hordes of odd-looking creatures/aliens to shoot your increasingly interesting weapons at. Battling the Kraken in R2's second chapter and finally bringing the monstrosity down offers to the player one of the most rewarding sights in video game history. And to think, there are at least five more boss fights of the same scale and spectacle. The reward for playing through Resistance 2's intense single-player campaign is definitely the lead-up to each of the game's bosses.

However massive the scale in these end-chapter battles, R2 is otherwise precisely what you'd expect from a first-person shooter post-Half-Life in which you utilize particular strategies in order to defeat these huge enemies. One particular boss fight sees protagonist Nathan Hale having to quickly move from generator field to generator field, trapping something called a Swarm in these fields’ electrical range, and then blasting it with the Pulse Cannon (which is basically a huge gun that shoots plasma electricity). What the Swarm is is never clarified, but it looks to be a bunch of electrically charged molecules that can decimate any living thing in its path (literally tearing them apart). Getting caught within it proves deadly and much of this end-chapter fight's lead-up has you running from it while spraying it with machine gun fire – disorganizing its cohesion - as it attempts to trap you within.

The boss fights are so huge and so epic that the rest of the game’s gunfights tend to pale in comparison. That in itself says a lot as most of R2’s skirmishes see you going up against at least 30 or more baddies in rapid succession. Traversing the streets of Chicago only to hear hatch pods burst open, followed up by dozens upon dozens of zombie-like Grims clawing bloody murder as they dart through the alley ways, crash through windows, and leap out from the inside of dumpsters with the sole intentions of taking you and your squad out is impressive to behold.

If Insomniac could have made any narrative changes, I would have preferred a more involving, perhaps even articulate story. As many publications have already pointed out, there is no narrator this time around (Resistance: Fall of Man had one) and Nathan Hale isn’t exactly the game’s most exciting character. Cut-scenes are brief and simply act as set-ups for the ensuing chapter. Nothing too big is revealed (I guess that’s what Resistance 3 is for) and there’s surprisingly less story being told here than there was in the first Resistance. Understandably, those seeking an involving plot won’t find one, but R2 does sport an unremittingly grim ending that will definitely have even the most jaded players talking about it long after they’ve finished the game.

Resistance 2 isn't running on the most groundbreaking hardware, either. But the amount of enemies the engine is capable of throwing at you while still maintaining its excellent frame rate is something worth mentioning. Some textures are a bit blurry and understandably low-res, most notably on in-door environments, but enemies and bosses are well-animated and detailed. The best looking environments tend to be those set in exteriors as opposed to interiors. Even given the scope of the gun battles there are some glaring flaws, such as static brush, largely non-interactive levels, and a jarring lack of visual polish. Cut-scenes, however, look fantastic. I'm also fond the cut-scene/in-game art style and the variety of locales you and the Chimera shoot it out in.

AI is one of R2’s strong suits as each class of Chimera has differing abilities that the game’s artificial intelligence implements to their advantage… and your detriment. Enemies require a good number of shots to defeat, so when you have angry Chimera rushing you, flanking you, and tossing grenades from all sides, you can expect to become overwhelmed. No, Resistance 2 is not an easy game. Due largely in part to fantastic AI (even in regards to friendly NPCs) you will die many, many times over. Sometimes the key to victory is as simple as having pinpoint accuracy, other times it is all a matter of adapting to a certain combat situation. Even if R2 can become a bit trial-and-error, that makes it no less fun.

Resistance 2 isn’t the most innovative game Sony has released as a system exclusive. But unoriginality aside, it’s an immersive, deeply satisfying FPS that warrants at least a couple of playthroughs. There’s much to do – such as taking on “real-life” foes in the competitive online modes and going through the co-op campaign with up to 8 players – and it is simply a fun, action-packed shooter. I’m most fond of the atmosphere that R2 is all but soaked in. Resistance 2 goes from fast-paced actioner to survival horror in the blink of an eye. The sense of being overwhelmed and outgunned makes for memorable game play and is also damn effective. Granted, R2 is, as I said, not easy, but it is a wholly rewarding experience that offers up some of the most intense gunfights on any system. Fans of first-person shooters owe it to themselves to give this one a purchase.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

-

Posted : 11 years ago on 15 May 2009 10:46 (A review of Crime Pays)

Cam'ron has been all but a ghost for the past three years. All attempts to track him down and get in contact with the former Dipset front-man have proven fruitless. His mother's health complications and - straight from the horse’s mouth - his disillusionment with rapping kept him relegated to the shadows while former best friend Jim Jones & protégé Juelz Santana saw their careers skyrocket.

Starting out his career on major labels - Epic's Lance "Un" Rivera-owned Untertainment to Jay-Z's own Roc-a-Fella Records, for example - must have felt great for the Harlem born-and-bred MC. But as his solo career began flatlining and his "sidekicks" saw a great increase in their stocks, and went from independent labels (Koch, for example), to Cam's former home (Roc-a-Fella for Santana and Columbia for Jones), I'm sure Cam can be nothing more than envious of his former group-mates. Cam'ron has always been the star and rightly so; he has the personality, lyrics, and flow. Subordinates like Jim Jones and Juelz Santana rounded out the highly successful rap crew The Diplomats, but are really nothing more than highly paid weed carriers who Cam brought on-board out of nothing more than loyalty.

Cam began his independent career sloppily with the release of his fifth album, 2006's Killa Season, on Asylum Records. The record sold poorly and it's success, or lack thereof, was a mere shadow of the gold and platinum-selling records he had recorded four times prior. Perhaps all of this attributed to his three year-long hiatus; a sick mother, a disinterest in the rap game, and spiraling sales for both his Killa Season album and self-made film of the same name. Things weren't looking too good for Cam. But three years later, Killa seems reinvigorated.

Receiving a big re-welcoming from fans and the hip hop community alike, Cam'ron's new single, (I Hate) My Job (one of the album's many highlights), renewed interest in his seemingly dilapidated career. Rapping from the perspective of a 9-to-5 everyman who hates his boss, his pay, his hours, and (of course) his job, Cam got ears perked by exemplifying the mindstate of the working class citizen in our rough economy. Not only were Cam fans awaiting his sixth release, Crime Pays, with all the impatience of a crack fiend waiting for their next hit after two weeks of sobriety, but this was going to be the album that put Cam back on top. If Cam was disillusioned with the rap game for the three years leading up to Tuesday's release of Crime Pays, it's sure hard to tell.

Produced almost entirely by (who I'm guessing are new Dipset beatsmiths) Skitzo and araabMUZIK, Crime Pays excels at one thing, at least. It has a very distinct sound that is carried through to the very last song. Not the richest or cleanest sound, but for the most part it suits Cam's flow & style well and he sounds positively refreshed rapping over these simple orchestrations. If anything can be said about the album's beats it's that they don't sound as refined as those found on previous Dipset releases or other major label records by the group or a plethora of other artists. Songs like Curve, Silky (No Homo), and Chalupa are certainly rhythmic, but they lack the infectious, upbeat "oomph" of Cam's past output.

The man probably doesn't have the money or label support to bolster his lackadaisical vocals with the highest quality beats anymore, but admittedly, many of the beats handed to him are positively magnetic. The album's Intro, as well as Get It in Ohio, Never Ever, Spend the Night, Get It Get It, and Bottom of the Pussy emulate those aforementioned big-budget productions with little flaw. Cam, ever the enigmatic funnyman, manages to poke fun at himself while still spewing some of the most verbally repugnant criminal yarns this side of Eazy-E. Some may be disappointed that Skitzo and araabMUZIK focus more on seething synths and banging drums to accompany Cam's unique rhymes instead of the sped-up-soul-sample affairs that was the Diplomats' past work. But if Cam'ron is rhyming this flawlessly, effortlessly and skillfully over these beats, I say let the abovementioned producers hammer out more product for Cam more often.

Disappointingly, however, some ideas aren't executed as well as they could have been and the record runs a little too long at 23 tracks with five skits linked into that running time. A trio of tracks, Woo Hoo, Cookies-N-Apple Juice, and the previously mentioned Chalupa are all overly chauvinistic songs that, if done right, could have held just the right amount of lyrical wit, charm, and trademark Cam humor that the rest of the material does. But because of an obvious lack of effort on rapper Cam'ron's part, they seem more like padding than essential listens.

Much of the record feels too "back to basics," with a reinvigorated Cam at the helm, to fixate on the facets of the LP that don't work. This isn't a Cam'ron album that will change the way you look at him. He's still materialistic, still chauvinistic, still pseudo-silly with a hint of self-deprecating cleverness, and still incredibly talented despite what the critics say about him. The production isn't nearly as good as it has been previously, but Cam is the star of this show and his rhymes are sharper than they have been in years. Despite the occasional odd production choice and sometimes low-budget feel, this is a more solid, more overall satisfying listen than the rather unsatisfying Killa Season of three years ago. Cam'ron fans definitely owe it to themselves to pick this up and support the man. He deserves it on this one.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

-

Posted : 11 years, 1 month ago on 3 May 2009 02:18 (A review of Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway)

I first played through Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway on the Xbox 360 and felt shockingly indifferent towards the whole thing. I had been awaiting the arrival of the game since it was first announced, and that slow-build of anticipation coupled with Gearbox's habitual delays and empty promises left me feeling rather underwhelmed by the whole experience.

That's not to say Hell's Highway is a terrible game. On the contrary, it's a damn good WWII shooter that delivers just the right amount of story depth, interesting & relatable characters, tight, rewarding combat, and a fantastic strategic gloss that makes the game play both effective and entertaining.

I do believe, though, that the game's release date played a major part in my disappointment. BiA: Hell's Highway was dropped right at the start of 2008's holiday shopping season when so many great games were looking to release. Silent Hill: Homecoming was dated for the week following Hell's Highway, Far Cry 2 the following month, and soon after there were heavy-hitters like Gears of War 2, Fallout 3, and Call of Duty: World at War setting their sights for November.

As big a fan as I am of the Brothers in Arms franchise, Hell’s Highway quickly fell from the top of my "most anticipated" list to somewhere towards the bottom when I realized just how many high quality titles were being released within the following months, usurping Hell's Highway's late September release. Perhaps my excitement had been shuffled elsewhere, or maybe I just wasn't looking forward to it as much as I had been when first announced due to Gearbox’s numerous delays. Or, perhaps the development firm’s proverbial "hype machine" had propelled my expectations to heights so high that the finished product could never hope to reach them. Whatever the case, I quickly played through Hell's Highway, reviewed it, then forgot about it.

Some months later I find an alarmingly high number of copies sitting adjacent to Assassin's Creed and Army of Two in the unoccupied PS3 aisle at my local Best Buy. Since selling my 360 and all of my games, I had begun yearning for Hell’s Highway especially and decided to purchase a copy for my PS3 for the mere $20 I was going to be charged. On the way home, I remembered that some of the game's biggest flaws - those that were not directly related to Gearbox's innumerable delays and Executive Producer Randy Pitchford's gaudy hype statements - were actually its myriad annoying technical issues. These include, but are not limited to, a sometimes choppy framerate, clipping problems, muddy visuals, and what appeared to be a number of half-finished textures.

Those aforementioned glitches prevented Hell's Highway from achieving the kind of gaming nirvana I initially expected it to. Endearing game play aside, early videos and screenshots made Hell's Highway look like one beautiful game, and all the years Gearbox had spent working on it, I was shocked to find that not only were the visuals decidedly average, but spotting an assortment of vexing technical hang-ups was not uncommon.

Purchasing the game for an entirely different platform has brought forth two positives thus far. The first is noticeably smoother controls and responsiveness with the use of the PS3’s dual analog sticks and button layout. Not only do I find the PS3 controller to be much more comfortable in terms of maneuverability, but the aforementioned analog sticks result in more accurate, well-placed shots with less time spent trying to overcome jumpy crosshairs.

The second positive is greatly improved graphics over that of the 360 version. The PS3 iteration looks and plays more similarly to the visually superior PC port in comparison to the 360's jarringly console-centric sheen. Cinematics still suffer from abysmal framerates, unfortunately, but animations are breathtaking at times, as are the well-lit and finely detailed environments. Some character's facial renders have a tendency to look too “flat” or “angular,” but with the improvements that were made to better suit the PS3 hardware – which includes fix-ups of some unforgiveable technical issues (including reprehensible framerates during game play) and the addition of many minor graphical touch-ups (like high resolution textures and shadows, finished textures, and better special FX) - the PS3 version is, visually, leaps and bounds ahead of its next-gen counterpart.

In terms of presentation, Hell’s Highway has a very clunky feel to it; not quite as "slothy," but nears the same degree of pseudo-realism found in PS3-exclusive, Killzone 2. Walking feels slow and sluggish and even running (performed by holding down X while pushing forward with the left analog stick), though faster, is disorienting. Turning is near-impossible to do while running which manages to create quite a bit of tension during heavy firefights. That also brings up a major flaw inherent in the game. About 75% of cover can be utilized, and that’s including breakable cover (such as wooden carts, barrels, sand bags, etc…), but finding cover that can’t be dug into is both frustrating and problematic. Running full-on to a key position while one of your fire teams suppresses, only to find that Baker (the player character) won’t dig-in to an object or wall that looks entirely worthy of being used for cover, usually means that a checkpoint restart is on its way.

But these situations are few and far between, and most of the time finding cover for you and your fire teams isn’t an issue. Sometimes your teammates don’t always go where you want them to or can’t seem to fire on a group of enemies due to distance restraints, but a little maneuvering will get you through that with no trouble. Hell’s Highway, because it is story-driven and nearly all of your squadmates are essential to the story, will respawn at each respective checkpoint if any of them have been previously lost in battle. For as many times as the game allows you to send one of your squads to cover only to have them stand out in the open as they approach said cover and get gunned down one-by-one, there are those beautiful moments where a fire team will work their way to a well-covered position and take down every single enemy in their sights.

But there’s more to Hell’s Highway than simply controlling your various squads and surviving the game’s 10-12 hour campaign. If you’ve played the previous two BiA games, you will find more to enjoy than just the revamped combat system and much-needed ability to dig-in to cover. An extensive plot covers story details from both Road to Hill 30 and Earned in Blood (with one of the biggest surprises being more back story on Pvt. Leggett), as well as detailing an all-new set of events with one of the most harrowing endings in the genre’s history. Even if Hell’s Highway’s last mission – a brief segment in which you commandeer a British XXX Corps tank - is relatively underwhelming in comparison to the events preceding it, the end cinematic makes sure to pack the real wallop.

It’s amazing what playing on a different system can do for the enjoyment factor of a game. Because of improved graphics and a system controller that was seemingly made to play Hell’s Highway, I’m having much more fun the second time around than I did the first. There are still flaws present, such as unusually cumbersome movement and tank missions that do absolutely nothing for me. But with such a brilliant story backing it and the same entertaining game play we’ve come to know and love, Hell’s Highway may just be the best game in the series. Although non-fans will be lost plot-wise and probably won’t have the patience to endure 10 hours of strict strategic indulgence; a distinctive "brains over brawn" approach and mature, intelligent writing should appeal to fans of the series as well as those looking for a WWII shooter more grounded and realistic than your average Call of Duty sequel.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

-

Posted : 11 years, 1 month ago on 6 April 2009 05:10 (A review of Wanted: Weapons of Fate)

Videogames developed from movie licenses are understandably subpar. Delving into that long list of mediocre titles isn't something I should have to do for the experienced gamer, but if games like the Atari 2600's E.T, the NES's Hudson Hawk, and the PlayStation's Street Fighter: The Movie are any indication, developers wanting to make a quick buck seems to win out over quality game play.

But there are a number of exceptions; the most notable among them being Starbreeze Studios' stealth/shooter The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, EA's The Godfather, and the love them/hate them Matrix titles from Shiny. Granted, movie licensed games are not totally without flaw and are seen more as "good for what they are" than "good... period." GRIN Games' Wanted: Weapons of Fate falls under that same category. It is an all-too-brief, all-too-simple, all-too-linear shooter that spiritually successes the hit film, Wanted, of last summer. It picks up only moments where the James McAvoy/Morgan Freeman/Angelina Jolie vehicle left off and allows players to further main character Wesley Gibson's story, as well as delve deeper into the past of his mysterious father, Cross.

As far as movie tie-in's are concerned, Wanted: Weapons of Fate is one of the better ones. It allows the player to do nearly everything seen in the film at the movie's same rapid-fire pace. For better or worse, the Wanted film was a big, dumb action flick and the game is just as big and dumb. Slow-motion shooting, bullet-curving, absolutely inane stunts, and dumbfounding linearity are about all this one offers up. Boss fights are rather fun, but ultimately pointless due to lax difficulty, and the game's non-stop shootouts do eventually become repetitious after about a good two hours of play time.

Firefights are all presented the same way in that Wesley or Cross attach themselves to cover by you, the player, pressing X. You can move to adjacent pieces of cover by holding the left stick in the direction of the object and pressing X again. This can be done ad nauseam to create a system GRIN has dubbed "cover-chaining." It creates the illusion of fast-paced "shooting-and-dodging" firefights even if both Wesley and Cross move rather sluggishly outside of running to cover. The entire point of the game is to keep moving and firing with rarely a pause in the action. At that, the game succeeds. Bullet-curving is also a must. Not only an incredibly cool aspect of the game, but it also lures enemies out of hiding when not instantly killed and allows the player character to drop them on the spot.

The so-far-unmentioned adrenaline meter allows for the use of the bullet-curving ability, as well as Wanted's take on bullet-time and, when they are available, firing grenades from twin SMGs. Wesley and Cross max out with four bars of adrenaline at game's end (you start with none, working your way up to one, then two, etc...), and each use of one of the listed special abilities may deplete up to one, two or three bars at a time.

Other interesting additions made to Weapons of Fate are on-rails segments where both Wesley and Cross must shoot frozen enemies and bullets (a reference to the movie characters' heightened reaction time and reflexes). The sequences play out mostly as cut-scenes, but are somewhat interactive when the game makes it mandatory to shoot down incoming bullets and enemies within a given time. I found these sequences to be quite exciting and more involving than your standard Quick Time game play, which Weapons of Fate also dishes out on occasion. I can't say I was too impressed with the turret and sniping segments, though they did make for some nice variety.

Most surprising about Wanted: Weapons of Fate, is that it sticks so closely to the source material. The art direction is top-notch and it beautifully matches the movie's high-contrast greens and dark blacks. Character models are large and well-modeled, though not as finely detailed as other, more budget-oriented games. Environments are rather drab and offer nothing new in the way of level design, but they look like locations straight out of the movie which I will certainly give GRIN credit for. And the cut-scenes may not be the prettiest, but thumbs up for making the McAvoy model actually look like James McAvoy. Other aspects of the game are serviceable, if not impressive.

Wanted: Weapons of Fate is certainly not a must-buy title. If you play through it quick enough, you could probably finish this sucker in four/five hours, maybe six hours tops. It's an incredibly short game and while I'm no stickler for game length, plopping down 60 bones for a five hour game is, admittedly, a bit much. It's a solid shooter with some interesting game play mechanics and a wonderful adaptation of the source material, but I can't recommend paying the full $60 for this. I should also warn potential buyers of some technical problems inherent in the game. It doesn't seem to be happening to everyone, but both Xbox 360 & PS3 users are reporting consistent lock-ups with said lock-ups sometimes corrupting the save data. Hopefully a patch is released in the near future to quell this rather vexing issue. Otherwise, Weapons of Fate is a fun shooter (while it lasts), but certainly not one worth a $60 chunk of change.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

-

Posted : 11 years, 2 months ago on 5 April 2009 08:35 (A review of Call of Duty 3)

The Xbox 360 release of Call of Duty 3 isn't perfect, but for a game that was only given a one-year development cycle, Treyarch's Call of Duty 3 could have been far worse.

As far as the PS3 incarnation is concerned, this is simply a case of a game being ported too quickly and not being given enough time to bake. Many problems present in this version do not exist in the 360 version and, while none of these bugs & glitches are game-breaking, they are constant enough to become more than miniscule annoyances and major enough to become problematic.

The biggest issues plaguing the 360 release of Call of Duty 3 was some rather amateurish programming (wonky pathfinding, for instance), mediocre voiceacting, and an inconsistent framerate. Other than that, it was a solid CoD game that surpassed all of my expectations for it after hearing so many negative things about Treyarch's first main entry into the long-running and award-winning FPS series. On the other hand, the PS3 variant of the title suffers from these same flaws and also an innumerable amount of other frustrating glitches and bugs.

The first of these that many will likely notice is that smaller solid objects (like rocks & large stones, debris, etc...) cannot be walked or jumped over and will stop your character dead in his tracks. Instead of "pushing" him aside side as you continue to hold the left stick forward when walking toward these objects, you will instead remain firmly in place. Much of the game feels "sticky" in much the same manner, such as getting stuck on the sides of walls, door frames, and pieces of debris & bits of the environment that litter the path in front of you. It makes for painstaking moments where, in order to survive firefights, you must avoid these areas at all costs. More times than not, your character will attach himself to one of these spots and remain a permanent fixture in the environment, thus earning you a reset.

Other annoyances come in the form of uneven sound, missing music cues, and popping speakers. Yes, this is yet another PS3 game that causes your TV/surround sound speakers to either hiss or pop. The Xbox 360 version didn't feature the most particularly enthusiastic bunch of voiceactors, but at least they had enough sonic ambience encompassing them to draw the player in during the game's numerous cut-scenes. The PS3 version is missing many musical cues, as mentioned, or the volume on them is so low by default that it is impossible to make out some of the (admittedly compelling) background compositions. Another rampant problem is one that may deter quite a few. If certain sound effects are too successive - such as holding the MP40 trigger down too long - the desired sound effects (such as the sound of bullets erupting from the barrel) will eventually begin to cut in and out of audibility.

What's worse, many have even reported lock-ups. I haven't experienced any thus far, but there have been reports of some gamers receiving a lock-up on the Chambois mission every single time they go to load it up. AI is decidedly weaker over that of the Xbox 360 version as well. Enemy NPC’s merely popping-and-shooting is not an uncomming find, nor is it to see three or more Axis soldiers running towards you in a single-file line. CoD 3 becomes a very easy game thanks to this kind of uncharacteristically sloppy AI. And remember that pathfinding problem I mentioned earlier? It's even worse here. I've noticed on many occasions an Allied soldier run right into the back of a stopped tank and continue to run in place as if said tank was still moving. Allied and Axis soldiers will even run around in circles trying to trigger "hot spots" or hitch up on walls as well.

So why am I still awarding this a 7 out of 10? Simply because it’s essentially the same game you get on the 360, albeit noticeably less polished. The fun factor is still there, the graphics are still mildly impressive (even for a game dating back to Fall 2006), and it is still a decent CoD game despite the poor reviews and lack of technical fix-ups. The added Sixaxis support - put to use during various mini-games - is phenomenal, if underdeveloped, and the washed-out visuals fit nicely into the game's down-trodden approach. I'm also a big fan of what Treyarch attempted to do with this game. Before CoD 3 there were only two other main Call of Duty games and each of those were barbarically simple.

In each of the previous Call of Duty’s you played through three campaigns as either an American, British, or Russian soldier with absolutely no storyline in which to bind the campaigns together. These two entries in the series were more like "best of" collections of playable historical battles than the CoD games we have recently received. Treyarch's first venture into the series spawned the now-trademark branching storylines, four different campaigns (American, British, Canadian, and Polish), and new features that became staples of the franchise (the ability to toss back enemy grenades and a multiplayer component with a ranking system and perks). Sure, a one-year development schedule isn't much and the PS3 suffers heavily from piss-poor porting and QA, but it's still the same game that the 360 got minus the superior quality.

If you own both a 360 and a PS3, I recommend picking up the 360 version if only for better playability. If a PlayStation 3 is all you own, this particular version still comes recommended due to higher quality visuals (even if the draw distance is lessened) and Sixaxis support. CoD 3 is not at all the travesty many Call of Duty fans have made it out to be, but the PS3 version is still inferior to the 360's iteration in many respects. Nonetheless it has received three-and-a-half stars from me because this has always been a fun game and will remain so, but the 360 version is definitely the way to go if the option is available to you. And for those interested, you can pick up the Platinum Hits version of the game for Microsoft's console for $29.99 with the Gold Edition bonus disc tacked on for free. It’s too bad us PS3’ers don’t get the same kind of treatment.


0 comments, Reply to this entry