Great artists have prolific periods in their career when they produce their best work. They also have the “fall from grace” period, when they lose their way and struggle to reclaim the magic of their past work.
id Software had their prolific period in the 1990s, inventing the first person shooter, revolutionizing the gaming industry and producing Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake.
Sadly, id is in their “fall from grace” period. Rage, while a competent and beautiful post-apocalyptic shooter, doesn’t live up to the legend of id, and shows a development house struggling to adapt to a modern era.
- Side of Wings Please!
Rage features all the weapons you’d expect in a first person shooter. Pistol, shotgun, sub-machine gun, machine gun and rocket launcher. What gives Rage some jazz and differentiates itself from the crowded FPS market, is the side weapons.
The most effective of these weapons is the wingstick. Wingsticks are boomerangs from hell, allowing you to decapitate any mutant, bandit or solider that crosses you in the wastelands of Rage. If you time and aim correctly, your wingstick is returned and resources aren’t wasted. You can also fire your primary weapon AND throw wingsticks, as they are controlled by the left trigger on your controller. Throwing these suckers around and seeing heads explode was one of Rage’s highlights.
- DeathKart 64
The dark horse gameplay of Rage is the vehicular combat and racing. Rage is a partially open world game, and there are two main towns you inhabit: Wellspring and Subway Town. The only way to get around is a vehicle. You start out with an lowly ATV, but you acquire upgradeable vehicles as Rage progresses.
Wellspring and Subway Town have races that you enter to win certificates to upgrade your vehicles. There are several different types of races: Time Attack, Racing, Rocket Racing and Pulse Racing. The vehicles handle very well and the vehicular combat is excellent. There’s been a real dearth of car combat games for Xbox and Rage fills the void nicely.
- Reality TV
Rage’s best sequence comes in Wellspring. To complete an early story mission, you need a Cuprino, one of the vehicles in Rage. To get a Cuprino, you must win a race. But in order to race, you need a corporate sponsor. Sounds like American electoral politics, right?
You find your corporate sponsor at Mutant Bash TV. It’s a reality show where the participant, you guessed it, kills a bunch of mutants. To win the Mutant Bash TV sponsorship, you must star and survive an episode.
Rage’s pacing is slow and follows one formula throughout the game. You get a mission from a lifeless character then you travel to the destination. You kill a bunch of enemies, walk, kill some more enemies, walk some more, kill a few more enemies, pick something up and drive back.
Mutant Bash TV was the only mission with kinetic energy. It was an exciting level! There were brights lights and constant action! I played another episode after I won the sponsorship just for kicks. Mutant Bash TV was essentially several monster closet levels that culminated in fighting a giant mutant squid hybrid, but it was fun! I wasn’t bored playing Rage, but I wish id brought the same level of pace and excitement to the rest of the campaign.
- AI That’s Actually Intelligent
Rage features the best artificial intelligence I’ve seen. Mutants dart across your line of sight and climb on ceilings to avoid fire. Bandits and soldiers do a great job of getting behind cover and using the environment. Enemies never walk in a straight line or leave themselves vulnerable for a kill shot.
Most publishers like to market their in game AI, but very rarely do they deliver on their promises, i.e. Crysis 2. id Software has cracked the code for realistic enemy artificial intelligence. Hopefully, they can incorporate this fantastic technology in Doom 4.
- What’s In A Name? (Everything)
Your character doesn’t have a name. As Rage begins, you awaken from an Ark after an asteroid collided with Earth. You are then rescued by Dan, voiced by Walter Shoback. But you are never told who you are, your back story or anything to make you personally invested in the character.
There’s also a government army you fight in the second half of the game. Their name? The Authority. Later, you join up with some rebels in Subway Town to take on The Authority. Their name? The Resistance. I guess The Empire and Rebel Alliance were taken.
It comes off lazy and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Rage has been in development for seven years and they couldn’t hire a writer with more imagination?
- Waiting to be Saved
Rage’s game saving process is completely broken. The game only auto-saves as you leave a destination. The dungeons you fight in are long and are filled with enemies.
It seems logical that id would place save points throughout them, right? Unfortunately, id didn’t see that logic. To save your progress, you have to pause the game and go to the save menu. It doesn’t sound like much, but doing that 15 times during a session is clumsy and ruins any pacing Rage had.
- Take the Power Back
Rage is a first person shooter and developed by the people who invented the genre. Rage has problems, but you wouldn’t expect shooting to be one of them, right?
Save for the rocket launcher, the guns in Rage are criminally underpowered. I routinely had to pump 20+ rounds into enemies to kill them. Several pointblank shotgun blasts were needed to take bandits and Authority soldiers down. I’m all for making games more challenging, but the whole point of shooters is having powerful weapons, right?
- Really, that’s it?
Rage’s final level is poorly designed and executed. Next to Crysis 2 and Bulletstorm, it might be the most anticlimactic finish to a game this year. It consists of traveling to Capital Prime, The Authority’s base, and fighting mutant/Authority hybrids. That’s what Rage had been building up to: a hybrid of two enemies you fight. After you kill the hybrids, you press a button.
No final boss fight, no epic finish.
You press a button and the game ends.
Recently, developers either get lazy or run out of money to properly finish games. Crysis 2, Bulletstorm and now Rage have concluded with weak sauce endings. It’s an awful trend, and I hope this is the last I see of it.
Expectations are everything. If you expect greatness and greatness is not what you get, you are disappointed. If your expectations are low, and your experiences exceeds them, you are pleasantly surprised.
I had high expectations for Gears of War 3. Besides the Halo HD remake, this was the only Xbox exclusive coming out in the crucial holiday season. Gears 3 was also delayed 6 months from the original April release date just for marketing purposes. I expected big things! This was it! This was the final game in the storyline, I expected an epic conclusion.
While the game has impressive multiplayer options, Gears of War 3 was a letdown. Instead of going out with a bang, Gears 3 ends in a whimper.
- I’m Glad I Have Live
I’m not a multiplayer guy. The only game I buy for mulitplayer is Halo. Most people treat games as a competitive, interactive sport. The reason I play games is for the campaign. I treat games more like interactive reading. An engrossing and lengthy campaign is what I want out of my neon green cases.
Gears 3 has a bevy of multiplayer options that would keep even a gamer like me satisfied. Gears 3 comes with competitive multiplayer and campaign score attack options. I didn’t play the campaign score attack, but the competitive player is a fun option for players turned off by the rapid and repetitive Call of Duties of the world. Gears 3 also features Beast mode, which puts you in the massive boots of the Locusts as you take on a COG camp. You start out as a lowly Ticker, but you make your way up to the massive Bersker. I played and beat the 12 waves of Beast Mode. It’s fun and a nice change of pace, but it won’t hold most gamers’ attention.
The main attraction of Gears 3’s multiplayer is the Horde mode. The replay value and length of this could’ve been it’s own game. The basics are that your 1 of 4 COG soldiers and you must survive 50 waves of Locust attacks. Each 10th wave features an increasingly challenging boss fight. You continually level up your character by building fortifications, helping downed soldiers and slaughtering Locusts. I reached wave 40 and I loved every minute of the 3+ hours it took me to get there.
If Rage and Arkham City weren’t out now, I’d still be playing Horde now.
- Use Your Pallet
Gears of War and Gears of War 2 were great games but had the typical brown and grey color pallet that have dominated this generation of games.
Epic Games thankfully used all the colors of the rainbows in Gears 3. There are beautiful mountaintop vistas, lush greens and vast oceans throughout the campaign. Most of the game takes places in daylight, which makes the violence look even more gruesome.
- Hop on Board
Gears 3 has a couple exciting on-rails segments to break up the stop and pop gameplay. There’s one fantastic sequence on a dilapidated highway as you pilot a machine gun on the back of a speeding truck. Locusts attack you from the front and the rear and it plays similarly to the highway scenes in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
The next sequence can only be described as taking command of a giant pig zeppelin and getting in a dog fight with some airborne Locusts. It’s thrilling and easily one of the more memorable sequences of the campaign.
- Should We Fire Onto The Civilian Population?
Your primary enemy in Gears 3 is the Lambent, which is essentially a zombified Locust that has been infected by Imulsion (Sera’s natural resource). It’s a nice change of pace, as the Lambent and Locust are no fans of each other either.
Towards the middle of the game, your COG team enters an abandoned city. Right from the outset, you can sense something is wrong. Soon, you realize the humans that inhabited the city have been infected by Imulsion. They are no match for your firepower, and it’s always fun to fight an underpowered enemy.
- Let’s Go Under
I’ve always loved dinosaurs. They were a favorite of mine growing up and my fondness for them hasn’t diminished over time. I’ve also always loved sharks. Jaws was my favorite film growing up and my love for sharks hasn’t abated.
Recently, I’ve come to love prehistoric sea monsters, as it combines two of my favorite animals: the savage nature of a dinosaur and the stealth of a shark.
I knew going into Gears of War 3 there was an underwater sequence and I couldn’t wait to dive into waters of Sera. Surely, Epic Games would waken the child within me as I battled a giant sea monster in the waters of Sera.
The underwater sequence of Gears 3 is a letdown. It’s relatively short, which is surprising as the buildup to it is strong. It mainly consists of piloting a torpedo turret as kamikaze fish (Yes, I said that correctly) mines and a giant fish you have already killed twice in the series attack your submarine. The underwater sequence is poorly executed and the campaign never recovers from it.
- Martin’s Story
Like the previous games in the series, Gears 3’s story is a cobbled together mess. It’s completely incoherent and I had no idea why I was searching for guy X or why I was marching my way to destination Z. The action movie one liners throughout the campaign don’t help the proceedings either.
Epic makes an ill-advised trek into Pulp Fiction territory during the first act of the campaign, as the player takes control of Augustus Cole, another COG solider. It doesn’t make sense thematically, as Marcus Fenix is the only soldier to you play as throughout the rest of the game. Marcus is the only soldier you play as in the first two games as well. It’s a jarring change, and it took me out of the story. It seemed like Epic was scrounging for content, as the main focus of playing as Cole was fighting a boss you defeated as Marcus.
I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. Most people don’t play Gears of War for the story. Gamers plunk down $60 bones every three years to chainsaw Locusts in half. In this respect, Gears of War is The Transformers of video games. Graphically, both are state of the art. But cinematically, they are both disasters.
It’s a shame too, because the trailers for Gears 3 made me think Epic was going to be bold. The trailers hinted that all the characters you came to know and not care about were going to die in epic fashion. Sadly, only Dom dies and his death is hardly a surprise.
I wish more storytellers would take risks like the ones Epic hinted they might have taken in the trailers for Gears 3. My guess is they had an ending where all the COG soldiers died, but a boardroom decision was made to keep everyone alive for the inevitable sequel. That’s sad, as the best game of this generation, Red Dead Redemption, ended with the main character’s death. Instead, we get a cliched war movie ending, with characters celebrating and a blonde placing her hand over Marcus’s.
I didn’t think I was going to like the latest (and sadly final) entry to the Red Faction series, Red Faction: Armageddon. I thought it was going to be mildly entertaining, passable entertainment at best and the last game I played before the fall game season started.
I was wrong.
Red Faction: Armageddon was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. It was an exciting and action packed adventure through the caverns and surface of Mars. While not without it’s problems, Red Faction: Armageddon is a worthy sequel to 2009’s Red Faction: Guerrilla.
- Rebuild What Was Lost
One of Armageddon’s main and completely unique gameplay mechanics is the ability to the rebuild the environment around you. Some games feature destructible environments, the Red Faction series has always excelled in this field, but they have upped the ante in Armageddon. You can now rebuild the structures around you that you have just destroyed. This is all possible because of the nano-forge, a device strapped on the wrist of Darius Mason, the game’s protagonist. It’s pretty awesome to run across a bridge as it’s being reconstructed.
- Tools of the Trade
The majority of the enemies you face in Armageddon are aliens that live beneath the surface of Mars. Think the xenomophs from Aliens crossed with necromorphs from Dead Space. Their design isn’t particularly inspired, but the boys at Volition, give you more than enough weaponry to take the creatures down. There’s the standard sub-machine gun, shot gun and rocket launcher. The shotgun is a fantastic weapon in your arsenal and the reload animation harkens back to Terminator 2, as I felt like the T-800 riding a Harley with John Connor. The nano-forge also has offensive abilities, including a blast impact that launches nearby enemies into walls and a dead-eye mode which makes you bulletproof and have unlimited ammo for a short period of time. The game’s finest weapon is the magnet gun, which allows you to fire enemies into each other, take debris and fire it at an enemy or fire an enemy into an unforgiving Martian wall. Really, the magnet gun’s killing possibilities are limitless.
- No Let Down
Armageddon is buoyed by a strong third act, which features an on rails segment and several vehicle segments. During the final third of the game, I would complete an awesome segment and think, “Wow, that was awesome. That’s a great way finish.” But the game kept going, and building on its momentum. There’s a great sequence when you’re in a mining cart being pursued by Adam Hale, the game’s antagonist, whose piloting a giant mechanized spider. You then get to pilot your own giant spider, along with a jet and standard video game mech suit. All of these segments break up the campaign nicely and keep Armageddon from becoming stale.
- Who wrote this?
Armageddon’s script and story are laughably bad. The game was co-published by SyFy Games, and you can expect a script that mirror’s a SyFy Movie’s in cheese. The game is ridden with action game cliches: standard tough black guy best friend, busty love interest and a female cyborg guide. Sample line delivered without a hint of irony: “We lost a lot of good man out there.”
- The Terrorists Win
Red Faction: Guerrilla had a great political element to the game’s story. You were a terrorist and lead an uprising against an oppressive government regime, the Earth Defense Force. Game progress was gauged on how many structures of the EDF you could destroy. Now, because the game took place on Mars and the main character was white, you didn’t see any outrage from right wing ideologues protesting a game that was training our nation’s youth to become terrorists. Most video games steer clear of politics, but Guerilla did a great job of incorporating politics and current events into the game’s story. Blowing up buildings meant something. Sadly, Armageddon drops this element completely.
- I’ve Already Seen This
The majority of Armageddon takes place beneath the surface of Mars, and there’s no distinguishing any of the game’s environments. You just go from red cave to blue cave, which makes the campaign seem even more linear than it is. The game would’ve benefited from different environments and more trips to Mars’ surface.
Shadows of the Damned is the most complete and satisfying game I’ve played this year. It features a lengthy 11 hour campaign, solid upgradeable weapons, a striking original art style, visceral combat, towering boss fights and a fantastic script.
The game tells the story of Garcia Fucking Hotspur (Yes, that’s his full name), a Mexican demon hunter whose girlfriend Paula has been abducted by Flemming (Satan) and taken to the depths of Hell. Yes, this sounds pretty similar to Dante’s Inferno. While Dante’s script was a liability, Shadows’ script shines. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, poking fun at the absurdity of the grind house influenced plot.
- We Cut Off Your Johnson
Traveling with you on this exhilarating adventure is Johnson. He’s a former demon and acts as your guide to hell. More importantly, Johnson transforms to various weapons to help you ward off the countless demons you encounter. He starts out as a torch, but Johnson upgrades to a pistol, shotgun and machine gun. Johnson is voiced by British actor Greg Elis, and brings a great levity and sense of humor to the game. He sounds like Stephen Merchant and is the best game companion I’ve had in recent memory. I found myself laughing at Johnson’s musings throughout my play through. Too often than not, games are way too serious for their own good. I hope developers take a cue from titles like this and Bulletstorm and bring some humor to their next titles.
- See The World
Suda 51’s version of hell is an original take and it’s not something I had seen before. It’s unfortunate, but many shooters tend to blend together. You start seeing similar levels and environments and your experience suffers. I did not feel this way with Shadows’ hell. This version of hell begins in an eastern European city and continues on through caverns, grave yards, libraries and a red light district where you traverse a gigantic, climaxing Paula.
- Sign on Aim
Although each weapon Garcia Fucking Hotspur (I’m going to say his name as much possible in this review!) has a laser sight on it, aiming and shooting demons is surprisingly difficult. It doesn’t hamper the game play too much where you want to throw your controller down and give up, but something is definitely off with the shooting mechanics. There were several occasions when I had my shotgun drawn and a demon was directly in front of me and my bullets flew right past the intended target. It can be a real issue during the boss fights which require you to fire at a vulnerable red vessel on the boss.
- Repeat Your Delivery
Shadows of the Damned has numerous boss fights and a decent amount of demons to keep you busy during your stay in hell. Unfortunately, you face the majority of those bosses MULTIPLE times throughout the game. Now, I don’t mind facing a boss more than once. I understand games are expensive to develop and we gamers cannot expect to face 20 different enemies in a single game. However, when you face the same boss 3 or 4 times, taking that boss down again and again becomes more of a chore than an exciting battle. X-Men: Origins Wolverine suffered from this as well, as you faced the same two bosses several times.
Fear 3 is the conclusion of the first person-horror series that began with 2005’s Fear. A couple of expansion packs were released with Fear along with a proper sequel, Fear 2: Project Origin. The presumed final entry of the horror series tells the story of Point Man and Paxton Fettel, two brothers with physic powers, in their quest to kill their mother, Alma. Alma and her two sons were the results of paranormal experiments by the Armacham Technology Corporation. Fear 3 features three different ways to tackle the campaign: as Point Man, as Paxton Fettel or in a Cooperative Mode. Fear 3 has a few different multiplayer offerings but nothing stands out and the matchmaking is dreadful.
- Point & Shoot
Fear 3 features excellent run & gun gameplay. It actually feels like your carrying and firing these powerful weapons. They look and sound great. You’re glad pulling the trigger and not on the receiving end. Fear 3 has your standard first person shotter armory: pistol, shotgun, multiple sub machine guns, sniper rifle and a laser. The shotgun stands out as Day One did a fantastic job with its design and animation. It doesn’t look like your regular video game shotgun. There’s also a couple of armored mech sections of the game, that gives the campaign a nice change of pace.
- Mo’ Slow Mo
If you decide to play as Point Man, Fear 3 continues the series brightest spot: slow motion “bullet time”. This feature is as satisfying as ever, as there’s nothing more pleasurable than slowing things down and blasting an Armacham soldier in the face with that beautifully designed shotgun.
- Short In The Tooth
I didn’t clock my game time, but Fear 3 is on the short side. It’s not criminally short where you feel like you’ve been taken, but Day One definitely could have added an interval or two to the main campaign to make the game stand out.
- Different Names For the Same Thing
There is real variety of enemies in Fear 3. You have a couple different Armacham soldiers, a drug addict/possessed street thug and a demon hound. The soldiers and the supernatural enemies also fight each other, which gives you the opportunity to wait out some fire fights. There’s three boss fights that are repeated throughout the campaign with two different elecro-shock troopers and an armomed mech. There is a final boss fight, while not entirely satisfying, as it haunts you throughout the game in a smaller form, but at least there is a final boss fight. I’m looking at you Bulletstorm & Crysis 2.
- What’s the Story?
Fear 3, like previous games in the series, is short on the story side. There’s just no purpose or reason in the game. You are broken out of prison as the game begins, then the main goal is to break someone else out of prison. Then the goal is meeting up with protagonist of Fear 2. It’s a series of poorly conceived MacGuffins that never hold any weight. You never know why you want to kill Alma or if that’s even the goal. Director John Carpenter and writer Steve Niles were brought on board to help with the story but it’s seems like that was only for marketing.
Singularity, developed by Wisconsin based Raven Software and published video game overlord Activision, is the type of game I love and would be the type of movie I hate.
Why did I love the game?
- Accessible controls.
- Cool weapons and abilities
- Brutal violence and gore.
- Soldiers and monsters to kill also fight each other.
Why would hate Singularity if it was a movie? The plot surrounding the game is absurd. Something about a Russian scientist going back in time to save the world? The script is cobbled together and the characters are forgettable (I couldn’t guess the protagonist’s name from a choice of 4) or are retreads from better games (See Alyx Vance clone).