Monday, January 30, 2012

Resident Evil: Revelations Review

The tale revolves around exposure yet another strand of weaponized virus called the T-Abyss, released by a terrorist group known as Veltro. If you're expecting some revelations, you're definitely in for a treat. The game plays out a lot like Alan Wake did, with each part of the story separated into its own episode, complete with a story recap after each mission to ensure you remember exactly what happened and what's going on. It's a handy feature for those that like to take frequent breaks between game play sessions, as it quickly brings them up to speed.

Resident Evil Revelations

Exposure plays a lot like RE4 rather than RE5. Though you still have companions at your side, you don't rely on their participation much, aside from a little help with firepower. The control scheme is fairly unchanged from Resident Evil: Mercenaries and still allows you to aim down your sights while moving around as long as you have the left shoulder button pressed down. This was an extremely helpful addition in Mercenaries and really helps out in tight situations when you just need to move further away but you want to keep pumping those virus abominations full of lead. The game also features a Circle Pad Pro control scheme which I'm sure makes the game much easier to play, but sadly since we didn't have the add-on, we couldn't put this to the test.

In true continued existence horror spirit, the game doesn't necessarily throw a lot your way. Sure it's scattered around levels here and there, but since the monsters take quite a few hits to take down, aiming carefully and precisely is an absolute necessity. Weapons can also be upgraded at various workbenches scattered around each level with upgrade items found through exploration, which makes taking down nasties a much quicker affair.

Resident Evil

New to the series is an item called the Genesis Scanner. Much like the scanning done in Metroid Prime, this allows you to survey the surroundings for any hidden useful items, such as healing herbs and ammo clips. Scanning downed enemies also fills up a percentage meter, which when full grants an extra healing item. It definitely adds incentive to use this scanning device about everywhere you go. There in lies a little bit of the problem. Since scanning is so necessary for your survival, you'll find yourself more behind the lens of the scanner, than actually in third person.

If there ever should be a benchmark of what the 3DS is capable of graphically, Revelations should be that benchmark. Whether you're playing with the 3D effect on or off, the game looks absolutely amazing. Mercenaries was no slouch in the graphics department either, but I feel like that was just a taste of what Revelations has to offer. The sound design is equally as impressive with an ambiance that will send shivers up your spine. I highly recommend playing with headphones if you want to feel some fear while you're playing.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Dustforce Review

Dust and grime surround us. Every day, they gather atop coffee tables and in beyond kitchen corners, but no more. In Dustforce, it's time to fight back. 5th Filth falls before four acrobatic janitors--each identical parts ninja and handyman. Their world is built on speed and has you building momentum while sweeping away patches of leaves and battling waste-covered foes. It's up to you to determine how these chores piece together to earn the best score, and when you do, it's immensely satisfying.

Dustforce Review
DustForce Review

There is a unique economy of movement in Dustforce that must be mastered to succeed. Running and jumping are simple. It's when you start zipping around in midair that things get tricky. For instance, most characters can either double jump or dash while in the air. That is, unless you defeat an enemy while airborne. Then you can either dash again or make a third jump. And once you touch the ground, the whole system resets. If this sounds confusing, don't worry; the game eases you into this system through a comprehensive tutorial stage and several basic early stages.

At the end of each stage, you're graded on completion, finesse (a blanket term that factors in your combo meter, whether you defeated all enemies and the like), and speed. If you perform well enough, you earn keys that unlock doors leading to more challenging stages. Each stage also has two unique leaderboards: one for overall score and another for time. However, the best feature is the replay support for each entry on the leaderboards. These can offer insight into surmounting the tougher stages. They also offer plenty of "That doesn't look so hard" moments and feed into the game's already addictive nature.

Compared to other 2D platformers, such as the masterful Super Meat Boy, Dustforce feels slower and heavier. This weight stems from the extra layers of complexity afforded by the game's movement and combat. For combat, each character has a light and heavy attack. By chaining light attacks together you can propel your character through the air while striking an enemy. Hitting a foe with a single, heavy attack is faster; however, this leaves behind a patch of filth for you to clean up. Everything--from cleaning to combat--feeds into your combo meter.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dark Souls Review

Dark Souls' forerunner Demon's Souls was symbolic of all of them. Where most games do their most excellent to be something else – to tell a story like a narrative, to make an impression with cinematic techniques like a film – Demon's Souls is pure game, a complete and darkly fascinating vision that makes no concessions to the modern conception of how games should be. Instead, it was an exploration of how games could be; how bleak, how twisted, how focused and – most famously – how challenging. Most developers take pains to protect you from failure. FROM Software turns it into an artform.

Dark Souls Review

Dark Souls is the next step along that path. Like Demon's Souls, it is a brutal and demanding third-person action-RPG set in a world full of monstrous, disturbing things that are trying their hardest to end your life as quickly as possible. Using whatever weapons and armor you can scavenge, buy or forge, the challenge is to inch your way through this damned and deadly place, now and then coming across gigantic bosses that take especial valor and tenacity to kill. The eventual aim is to make it out alive, but there are about 50-60 hours of creative cruelty between you and that goal.

You will die, a lot. You will die on the end of a sword, on the edge of an axe, crushed by a boulder, impaled on fangs; you will be poisoned, eaten, stabbed, assassinated and pushed off cliffs. Death is everything in Dark Souls. It's education, it's progress, it's the recurring stylistic and thematic motif that runs through all of its spectacularly varied, decaying and depraved environments. The first thing that you have to understand about this game is that survival is in itself a tremendous accomplishment. It can be punishing, cruel, sadistic and uncompromising. It can also be the purest, most thrilling adrenaline rush in gaming – it can take over your life and reward you like nothing else can. Exactly because your chances of success are so slim, each victory feels monumental.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review

The region of Skyrim might be frosty, but the role-playing game that takes place within it burns with a fire few games possess. In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you take up arms against dragons, and your encounters with them are invariably exciting--yet depending on where your adventure takes you, such battles may not even represent the pinnacle of your experience. A side quest that starts as a momentary distraction may turn into a full-fledged tale that could form the entirety of a less ambitious game. 

Yes, Skyrim is another enormous fantasy RPG from a developer that specializes in them, and it could suck up hundreds of hours of your time as you inspect each nook and crevasse for the secrets to be found within. If you know Bethesda Softworks' previous games, you might be unsurprised that Skyrim is not a land without blemish, but rather harbors any number of technical glitches and frustrating idiosyncrasies that tear open the icy veil that blankets the land. Many of them are ones Elder Scrolls fans will probably see coming, but they're ultimately a low price to pay for the wonders of a game this sprawling and enthralling. Prepare for many sleepless nights to come. 

Those nights traversing these lands are ones well spent. The game returns you to the continent of Tamriel, where you explore the northern realm called Skyrim, home to the Nord race. In these northern regions, snow flurries cloud your view, and platforms of ice float on the chilled waters. Nighttime often brings Tamriel's version of the aurora borealis, with its gorgeous blue and green ribbons stretching across the heavens. Skyrim's predecessor, Oblivion, featured prototypical fantasy environments--pretty but not quite evocative of the lore's darker undercurrents. Skyrim embraces its darker elements. You might feel an eerie chill as you glimpse a half-sunken ship through the mist, or watch as a dragon comes to life before your very eyes under the swirling firmament. Skyrim's atmospheric tone harks back to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, only the hazy dust storms of the earlier game have been replaced by glimmering snowfall and opaque fog. 
These lovely vistas are best seen from a distance.
 Closer inspection reveals hard edges, plain painted-on textures, and other visual flaws that are conspicuous should you seek them out. But like many enormous games, Skyrim makes a fantastic impression not because its individual elements are sharply honed, but because they contribute to a grander whole. There's so much to do that your quest log becomes an embarrassment of pleasures, offering dozens of choices at any given time, each one as enticing as the next. You could follow the story, of course, which weaves a compelling tale that casts you as a dragonborn; that is, the soul of a dragon emanates from within you. As such, you are the key to discovering why dragons have returned to the land, terrorizing cities and potentially ending the known world.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Star Wars: The Old Republic

The opening cinematic, where the Sith come into view out of nowhere and get back Korriban, introduces you to the conflict between the Empire and the Republic. Then you decide which faction you're going to play for, and another cinematic sets the tone of your alignment. For Empire players, the focus is on power, control, and anger. The Republic cinematic portrays a need to take back what's lost through planning and tenacity. The cinematics are spectacularly compelling and make me wish Blur, the creators, were contracted to do a feature-length film.

Old Republic
Then you're kicked back to a menu screen to create your character. The creator is quite flexible, with a wide range of customization options unique to each race, but you're limited only to strictly humanoid races and a few rather similar body sizes (males at least get a "fat" option – female characters don't even get that). For a universe with a vast number of established intelligent races of all shapes and sizes, this feels limited. You can't, for example, play as a Jawa or a droid. In the grand scheme of things, it's a minor annoyance though.

The classic scrolling yellow text of the films begins immediately after you've created your character, accompanied by the Star Wars theme. There is, in my mind, no better way BioWare could have kicked off your adventure. The text briefly explains who you are and in what context you're entering the galaxy. It's unique to each class and, along with the cinematic that follows, sets you on your way to making a name for yourself. This is where inexperienced players will hit a figurative force-field.

The Old Republic has no structured tutorial. Rather, there's a tip system that offers help about an aspect of gameplay whenever the context calls for it. In any other MMO, that would probably suffice, but the moment you set foot in The Old Republic you are faced with quest-givers, future quest-givers with grey quest icons, class-specific story areas that you can't enter, vendors, dialogue trees, half a dozen abilities and hostile NPCs who will attack on sight. That's a whole lot to take in within the span of about five minutes, and while many of the systems that The Old Republic uses are familiar to MMO players, I can't help but think how overwhelmed I was by my first MMO, and just how much more The Old Republic throws at the you from the get-go.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

India's Kite Festival - Ahmedabad

On Jan 10 2012, French kite flyer Petter Washe displays gigantic puppet to the kite lovers at the international kite festival in Ahmedabad.