Tag Archives: first-person shooter

Portal [PC] – Review

Portal

I’m a little late to the party on this one but I finally beat Portal. It’s an ingenious puzzle game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. In fact, I was befuddled that it was over as quickly as it was. Since I’d heard so much revelry and acclaim for it and witnessed the cultural impact it’d had in the gaming space I just figured there’d be more of it. What was there engrossed me though. The increasingly complex puzzles were mentally stimulating and the enigmatic GlaDOS’ darkly humorous speech had me chuckling well into the few hour experience.

Portal was a puzzle game with an ingenious mechanic.
Portal was a puzzle game with an ingenious mechanic.

The game is built around the portal gun which allows users to shoot portals on flat surfaces. The portals are connected and can be easily referenced as an entry and exit. At its most basic use, I could place a portal on ground level, shoot the other portal on a wall above a higher level and use the portal to reach higher ground without using a ladder. Through the game’s nineteen test chambers, the quandaries were rarely this simplistic. The way I had to manipulate the portals was fascinating and thought-provoking. Dropping into one and utilizing the momentum to fling myself across the room was always amazing.

As I mentioned the game has nineteen test chambers that lock progression behind increasingly difficult puzzles. There are no other lifeforms present although observation windows and empty chairs indicate there were at some point. Guiding the player through these chambers is GlaDOS, a disembodied mechanical female voice. Her statements are delivered with a sense of dry, deadpan seriousness that are made clear when her motivations are discovered. Things are not what they seem and while there is no narrative, there’s an abundance of environmental storytelling that allows the player to fill in the gaps themselves. It all culminates in an appropriate ending sequence that was riddled with GlaDOS’ hilarious interruptions.

Infinite portal loops were easy to do and fun to witness.
Infinite portal loops were easy to do and fun to witness.

For most I’ve probably revealed nothing new about this game. Portal sent shockwaves through the gaming culture when it arrived in 2007 as a part of The Orange Box and is still highly regarded and oft-discussed. I’m glad to have finally experienced it and would recommend it to those who have yet to do so. The game was brief but left me both fulfilled and wanting, in a good way. I can only imagine the impact the modding community had on this title and I’m excited to see the crazy stuff they came up with.

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Doom [Sega 32X] – Review

Doom

Who can say what sparked it, but one evening Jeff and I played the Sega 32X. It’s an add-on for the Sega Genesis that increased its power but never proved successful for a variety of reasons, namely poor timing. Its library rounds out at about forty titles which pales in comparison to the nine hundred plus that the Genesis hosted. Along with it, I also have a Sega CD which makes setup an absolute chore. There are three power bricks (although only two are needed if the Sega CD isn’t being utilized), an A/V cable connecting the Genesis and 32X, and an A/V cable connecting the monstrosity to the TV. Our session was a memorable one though, so it was worth it.

With such a limited library there aren’t a lot of options, especially when I only have a few games. The two that we spent the most time with were Virtua Racing Deluxe and Doom. As he’s not partial to racing games we barely touched VRD. That game’s primitive polygonal graphics can be off-putting at first, but I was surprised at how fast and responsive the game was; it’s definitely a worthwhile title. Therefore, we spent our time with Doom. Our session lasted a couple of hours, and we wound up making it to the final stage*.

One knock against the 32X version is the limited real estate devoted to the game screen.
One knock against the 32X version is the limited real estate devoted to the game screen.

His experience with Doom supersedes mine, having played it on PC closer to its cultural explosion. My first gameplay exposure came with the Xbox Live Arcade release. I couldn’t tell you what went through my head then, but I don’t remember being blown away, even considering the context of its release. After all, this was the most significant of the early first-person shooters and became one of the most popular, if not played, video games up to that point in time. Honestly, I wasn’t particularly jazzed about playing the 32X version but it’s hard to ignore how well-made it is, even this version.

For hours, we blasted demons with a handful of weapons and searched for keycards in order to open locked doors and progress to each level’s exit. That took place across fifteen-odd levels, with one or two focusing on a boss fight rather than exploration. On paper, this all sounds monotonous, but the gameplay was quite fun. It was a fast-paced shooter and the stages and enemy encounters never felt duplicated, despite a limited palette of either. Undoubtedly, playing with a friend and taking turns completing levels enhanced my enjoyment.

Doomguy, now's not the time for knock knock jokes!
Doomguy, now’s not the time for knock knock jokes!

This newfound enjoyment and appreciation of Doom surprises even me, considering I really enjoyed Doom 3 – a game most others didn’t. I’m contemplating more Doom and my next steps branch two ways. The 32X version was a port of the PC original which hadn’t even fully released at the time, so I haven’t completely seen Doom (which this FAQ detailing version differences is just phenomenal). I’ll either start up the XBLA release or the version included with the Doom 3 Limited Collector’s Edition. I’ve also never played Doom II: Hell on Earth so that’s a natural progression too. Either way, I’m excited to play more Doom. I guess that’s one redeeming quality for the 32X.

* The final stage to reach the credits. If we had reached the same stage on a harder difficulty, there were actually two more stages.

Far Cry 4 [PlayStation 4] – Snapshot Review

Far Cry 4

On a Friday night, just after Christmas 2014, I was surrounded by the usual gang – Jenny, Erika, and Jeff. The pangs to acquire a PS4 were getting to Jenny, and with much coercion from Jeff, I was finally dogged into taking the leap. That week, Best Buy was running a significant deal on the console, one that included a digital game. Jeff, a team member (ugh) at Target coerced me with the temptations of his substantial discounts, on top of their price matching. Needless to say, we walked away with the system and a couple of games. With Jenny and I being massive fans of Far Cry 3, the choice of a digital game was easy as there was no choice – it was Far Cry 4 all the way.

Once again developed by Ubisoft Montreal, this game is strikingly similar to its predecessor. That didn’t make it a bad game; it was just a less surprising one. As usual, the setting was a lush, sprawling, wide-open game world that offered many distractions. All together it took me about twenty hours to get its platinum trophy, so yeah it was expansive as far as single-player first-person shooters are considered and… there were multiplayer modes – enough said. Finally, the story and cast were anchored by an outrageous villain that gave Vaas a run for his money. The developers took the formula from the previous game, changed the superficial portions, got it running on the new generation of consoles and probably thought “that’ll do.” And it does.

Random Game #14 – KISS: Psycho Circus [Dreamcast]

KISS Psycho CircusWhen you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

It doesn’t matter who you are, you have an opinion on KISS. Or more realistically, you have an opinion on Gene Simmons. The group and the man are undoubtedly rock legends, but both can come off as cheesy and/or abrasive. I’m not a big fan, but I can appreciate the work they’ve done. With the exception of KISS: Psycho Circus. From what little I’ve played, it’s a gothic first-person shooter with bad controls and little narrative direction. It’s based on the comic book series Todd McFarlane concocted with Gene Simmons. Beyond the requisite amount of time I played to check it out, I haven’t touched it. I’d like to give it a fair shake sometime down the road, but then again, maybe not.

KISS: Psycho Circus was originally developed by Third Law Interactive – a team of former Ion Storm employees – and released on the PC in North America on July 18, 2000. The Dreamcast port was handled by Tremor Entertainment and it was published on October 29, 2000 by Take-Two Interactive. Both developers seemed to flounder within a few years, neither putting out anything truly notable.

Random Game #7 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution [Xbox 360]

Deus Ex Human RevolutionWhen you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

I completed Deus Ex: Human Revolution about this time last year. Rereading my review, it’s clear that I enjoyed the open-ended nature of the game; especially the ability to play through the game non-lethally. It also offered much variety in a general sense, thanks to the RPG skill tree and the many “features” Adam Jensen had. The questions its story raised weren’t new, but I found them thought-provoking and appreciated the many sides portrayed in the game. It should be remembered as one of the best games of the seventh generation, even if its amalgamated gameplay was becoming commonplace and the boss fights were disappointing.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution was developed by Eidos Montreal and it served as their first project. It was published in North America on August 23, 2011 by Square Enix and released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. A special edition was released too, and you can read my thoughts on it here. A Mac version was later released and finally a Director’s Cut was issued and released for the aforementioned platforms, as well as the Wii U.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Augmented Edition Review

The Augmented Edition features alternate box art.
The Augmented Edition features alternate box art.

When it was released in 2011, Deus Ex: Human Revolution had a collector’s edition of sorts in the Augmented Edition. Available for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC versions, the Augmented Edition contained a fancier game case boasting alternate box art, a slim art book, and a bonus DVD containing some extra features. It’s worth noting that I’m discussing the American version as some of the European versions contained DLC not present in our release. I’ve noticed the package is still available new on sites like Amazon, although for someone who has yet to play the game, I’d recommend the recently released Director’s Cut at this point.

A LIMB Clinic offering assistance to an augmented individual.
A LIMB Clinic offering assistance to an augmented individual.

The bonus DVD is the most worthwhile part of the Augmented Edition in my mind. I say that because of the lengthy making-of documentary included on disc. It follows the studio from its founding (this was their first release) until nearly completing the game. This documentary must’ve been shot before the game’s finalization as it ends in 2010 – the game released in late 2011. Interviews varied from all aspects of the development team so many viewpoints were represented.  I was chagrinned that nothing was mentioned about Square Enix’s takeover of Eidos, but I imagine that’s an indication that development continued on hitch free. There’s an interesting tangent about demoing the game to Warren Spector at Gamescom 2010 towards the end which was cool.

Also included on the bonus DVD is the soundtrack in easily extractable MP3 form. I’ve enjoyed listening to the soundtrack thus far. While playing the game I considered it similar to Mass Effect’s. The ambient instrumental music is something I foresee myself writing to in the future. The twelve tracks don’t make up the entire soundtrack, so that’s less than desirable. A motion graphic novel is also present on the DVD as well as a few trailers and storyboards.

The art book was pitiful. I find it such a cheap tactic to tout an included art book, only to discover that its bindings make up more of the book than actual content. If I’m going to fall prey to consumerism, I’d at least like something worthwhile. The artwork on display is stellar, but the art book is tiny and, unless you’re the type to draw inspiration for hours from this type of bonus, it won’t hold your attention for fifteen minutes.

Although the art book is pitiful, I can't say the same for the art or design itself.
Although the art book is pitiful, I can’t say the same for the art or design itself.

I think the Augmented Edition is a mixed bag. I like displaying the premium box and have or will get much use out of the bonuses included on the DVD. I don’t care for the art book as there just isn’t much to it. At this point, it’s a hard sell if you haven’t played the game. The Director’s Cut includes all of the DLC which will save you extra dough if you purchased the standard or Augmented Edition. But if you’re a super collector, it’s a decent addition to your collection for the right price.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution [Xbox 360] – Review

Lots of goldish hues in this game.
Lots of goldish hues in this game.

2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution was the first product of Eidos Montreal. Charged with the task of revitalizing the long-dormant Deus Ex franchise, I consider it an overwhelming success. Taking place in 2027, the game is set amongst the backdrop of contentious debates regarding human augmentation. The gameplay is an amalgamation of first-person shooting, stealth, and role-playing style character progression that offers the player choice in approaching confrontations. Further complimenting player choice is the level design – funneling the player towards objectives while offering multiple paths. These elements, aided by the fantastic art design, combine for a laudable single-player experience.

On the eve of a hearing in Washington D.C. regarding regulation of human augmentations, Sarif Industries – a Detroit, MI based manufacturer of human augmentations – is the victim of sabotage. The lead scientists are abducted and the company’s security officer is left on the brink of death. He is resuscitated and implanted with many augmentations, becoming more than human. Upon his awakening, Adam Jensen thirsts for answers and, along with the company’s founder and CEO David Sarif, wants revenge.

Players could choose a confrontational path...
Players could choose a confrontational path…

Adam’s quest takes him from his home in Detroit to Montreal and Shanghai. Along the way, he encounters every side of the human augmentation debate and the corporations and politicians who have major voices in shaping the future. Conspiracies and betrayals were prevalent in the two dozen hours it took me to complete the game. Every major player and corporation seemed to have ulterior motives, and I could identify with, or at least understand, the positions everyone took. If done correctly, players have the choice of four endings, each of which I could sympathize with partially. After viewing them all, I reflected on the concepts laid before me by the thinkers in this game’s world and on my part, I extracted those philosophies to other areas of human nature. In that aspect, I found the game to be very thought-provoking.

Or a stealthier alternative.
Or a stealthier alternative.

I wouldn’t describe the blend of gameplay styles to be provocative however, as they seem like a combination that is becoming ever more common these days. At the very least, the adaptation of RPG style skill trees is becoming increasingly prevalent in all styles of games. On a side note, that was sort of a trend in the seventh generation of home consoles, wasn’t it? In my mind, what makes this game stand out is the viability of either a lethal or non-lethal approach. I decided from the get-go to complete the game non-lethally and at the same time, attempted to do so without being seen and setting off an alarm. This involved reloading many saves and I wasn’t successful on the second objective, but I never felt like I couldn’t do it. In many games that offer this sort of option, it seems that the odds are stacked against the players who choose the stealthy route. I didn’t have that sentiment at any point.

Like most everything else about this game, the characters were interesting.
Like most everything else about this game, the characters were interesting.

What assisted this viability was the open-ended design of the levels. They were linear in a sense as most usually led to a singular endpoint, but as I compulsively explored I stumbled upon many routes propelling me forward. I’d generally choose the one most suited to my stealthy motives. Outside of these mission-based levels were the cities of Detroit and Shanghai. Both were open-world hubs that offered numerous NPCs and side quests. The cities also showcased the dystopian future that Eidos Montreal envisioned for the game. The art design in general was highly influenced by other works of pop culture but I still found it fascinating and cohesive throughout the game’s entirety.

This concept art of Shanghai perfectly illustrates the actual cityscape in the game.
This concept art of Shanghai perfectly illustrates the actual cityscape in the game.

My exposure to the original games is slight – I played a fair amount of Deus Ex: The Conspiracy on the PS2, of which I remember liking it and not completing it, and although I haven’t played it, I know that Invisible War wasn’t as well received as the original. So while I may not be the definitive source on judging how well Eidos Montreal did in reviving the series, it’s hard to argue that Human Revolution isn’t fantastic. The game dealt with a serious topic in a mature way and was thought-provoking throughout, but the ending in particular summarized each viewpoint well. I also thought highly of the gameplay and level design; especially the ability to play through stealthily and not feel inadequate in any way. Of course, the overall art design was awesome too. All in all, Deus Ex: Human Revolution combined many elements to form a cohesive, worthwhile, adventure.