When I began writing about Uncharted: Drake’sFortune, I considered it the high-water mark of the PlayStation 3’s library, at that point in the platform’s lifecycle. Having completed its sequel, Among Thieves, I can testify that it unquestionably usurped that role, and deserves recognition as one of the best games of the contemporary cinematic era. Originally released in North America on October 13, 2009, Naughty Dog maintained the excellent blend of third-person, cover-based shooting and wowing traversal that put the series on the map with the first game. What carried my interest however was the engaging narrative. Characters both familiar and fresh intertwined with Nate’s search for Marco Polo’s lost fleet. Danger and drama kept Nate busy across the game’s dozen hour runtime and the numerous set pieces often had me in disbelief and culminated in an experience that played like a greatest hits of the action-adventure genre. Continue reading Uncharted 2: Among Thieves [PlayStation 3] – Review→
Something clicked. With the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End this May, purportedly the final entry in Naughty Dog and Sony’s acclaimed action-adventure series, I knew it was time I checked it out. The first game that is, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Yes, after nearly ten years of opportunities, I finally got around to playing the Uncharted series in typical fashion, by starting at the beginning. Released on November 19, 2007 for the PlayStation 3, a couple days past its one-year anniversary on the market, Drake’s Fortune was arguably the high-water mark of the platform to that point. Continue reading Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune [PlayStation 3] – Review→
Touting itself as one of the most critically polarizing games of recent times, the Director’s Cut release of Deadly Premonition highlights a quirky game with many inspirations. When it was originally released stateside for the Xbox 360 on February 23, 2010, the game was met with critical reception that ran the gamut of the traditional 1-to-10 rating scale. Almost every aspect of the open-world horror game caused a rift that placed players in a love it or hate it camp. Released on April 30, 2013 for the PlayStation 3, the Director’s Cut rectifies nothing and instead doubles down on the cult following it created. Having played it myself, I can safely say I’m in the love it camp but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed every bit of it.
Set in the fictional town of Greenvale, Washington, the game follows FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan as he investigates the grisly murder of a young woman. The case deepens as more young women are murdered by the mysterious Raincoat Killer. At the crime scenes and around town, York encounters a recurring symbol and the presence of red seeds, both of which play an important role and portend an otherworldly quality to the plot. In regards to the general plot, setting, and characters, the developers at Access Games, and likely the game’s director Hidetaka “Swery” Suehiro, seemed to have drawn heavily on another instance of cult entertainment: Twin Peaks.
Besides the similarities listed above, many of the townsfolk that York deals with through his investigation are representative of characters from Twin Peaks. So much so there’s even a Log Lady equivalent! Most everyone has a ludicrous trait that keeps the experience from feeling like a representation of the real world; such as York’s tendency to monologue about famous movies and directors to Zach, another personality of his – the result of his dissociative identity disorder. Or the fact that York finds himself in otherworldly versions of the real world while profiling his suspect. On the other hand, Emily Wyatt, the deputy sheriff, came off surprisingly grounded, in part because of her girl next door portrayal. The relationship between her and York depicted a budding romance that culminated in a wrenching conclusion, one that really made me sympathetic for the two.
The significance of the ritualistic killings, symbology, and red seeds are eventually made apparent and everything relates back to a gruesome night in the town sixty-odd years prior. The pace really picks up around this point and I didn’t want to stop playing the game. I spent about fourteen hours playing in the weekend leading up to its completion; a feat that I haven’t done in a long time. It was also about this point that all semblance of reality began getting stripped away as the game’s true villains were revealed, leading me to find commonalities between the final third of the game and Inuyasha.
The final sections showed off an array of noteworthy boss fights (I had to call Jenny in to see some of them), although the rest of the combat was defiantly rote. Combat sequences took place in closed off areas, usually with the objective of finding clues to aid in York’s criminal profiling. While trying to push the narrative forward, York dealt with innumerable zombielike creatures that populated these otherworldly versions of existing locations. Combat was highly derivative of Resident Evil 4, down to York planting his feet while I aimed. A lock-on feature reduced the ire caused by the troublesome aiming but couldn’t help the combat from growing tiresome after a section or two. The few run-ins York had with the Raincoat Killer did result in tense and stylish escape sequences, with a fair amount of quick-time events for good measure.
When not in combat, York was free to explore the town of Greenvale and perform a wealth of favors for the townsfolk, totaling fifty sidequests in all. This fact didn’t dawn on me until about halfway through, coincidentally, about the time the plot was striking my fancy. Completing the sidequests not only broadened my understanding of the characters and their relationships, but also served as the open-world “collectible” to obsess over. It doesn’t take much to convince me to collect everything of something (thanks Pokémon!) but the fact that trophies were tied to these meant I was going to collect them all, and “platinum” the game in the process.
For the most part, the sidequests were very simple, although their variety and outcomes were immense. They ranged from block-pushing puzzles and collect-a-thons to the retrieval of specific items strewn about Greenvale. Starting them was simple, just talking to the quest giver but finding them at a given point wasn’t so simple. The town of Greenvale operated no different from ours, with individuals performing tasks and working based on the time of the day and the weather conditions. While I could solicit tasks from the owner of the Milk Barn grocery store during the day as he was working, I wouldn’t be able to at night when he was home resting. The criteria for these were openly displayed and I found the overall structure to be reminiscent of the Bomber’s Notebook from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.
It’s somewhat surprising to think about the quantity of influences that this game draws upon. I’ve made mention of so many at this point, I’d be remiss if I didn’t compare the open world qualities to be evocative of Grand Theft Auto, by way of Shenmue. Overwhelmingly, these influences come together with a surprising degree of competency. Despite this, it’s hard for me to walk away from my time without criticisms. I felt many of the combat sequences dragged on far too long considering how unrewarding the combat itself was. And, not to stigmatize too much but this was a budget game originally, and the quantity of “open-world jank” I encountered is a testament to that; not to mention the near-PS2 quality of the graphics. There are so many other grievances I have with the game, but I still spent forty largely enjoyable hours with it and if that’s a testament to anything, it’s to the redeeming and endearing qualities of Deadly Premonition.
When 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.
This was a memorable purchase for me. While in St. Louis for Sonic Boom 2013, my friend and visited many video game retailers, with a focus on the mom and pop game shops in the various suburbs. However, I acquired this at a Toys ‘R’ Us alongside Eternal Sonata for the Xbox 360. As is usually the case, I haven’t played this yet, but I really do want to! I can recall reading Game Informer’s review of The Sands of Time while riding the backseat of my parent’s car. I thought it looked so cool, and so did they. I was less interested in the sequels, although they were well received too.
The Prince of Persia Trilogy contains the PS2 versions of The Sands of Time, Warrior Within, and The Two Thrones, all originally developed by Ubisoft Montreal. The HD ports were handled by Ubisoft Sofia. This collection was originally released for the PS2, exclusively in Europe on October 27, 2006, but the PS3 version was released in North America on April 19, 2011 – 5 months after its European release. These HD remakes are also available individually on PSN.
Before BioShock released, I knew very little about it. I heard murmurings that it was going to be an “important” game, but I didn’t pay any mind. Until the week it released. At that point, the hype surrounding the game was deafening; it was a literal echo chamber in the video game portion of the internet I frequented. I went from an ambivalent position regarding BioShock, to one where I needed to play it. Almost immediately, I knew I made the right decision. As you might already intuit, I approached The Last of Us in much the same way, and again, I made the right decision.
After the half-hour introduction, it was already apparent to me that The Last of Us would go down as another “important” video game. In that time span, Naughty Dog gave me a view of what day-to-day life might be like for the primary protagonist Joel, his daughter Sarah and his brother Tommy. This normalcy was brief though and within minutes all hell broke loose in their suburban Texas town. The group was soon on the run in order to survive against their mutated, zombie-like neighbors and townsfolk. Just when it appeared that they had escaped the town to safety, Sarah was accidentally murdered by a man following orders above all else. Whatever semblance of a normal life had already ended for the group, but much of Joel died that day.
Fast forward twenty years and the country, and most likely the world, has seen humanity consumed by a viral fungus that transforms the host into a violent zombie-like creature within days. Although it’s never directly explained what happened in that twenty year period between the introduction and the remainder of the game, it was easy enough to piece together information and interpret the rest. Some pockets of Americans live in complacency in government-controlled quarantine zones and others hoof it in the wilderness. Alone, in groups, or within the ranks of the Fireflies – a revolutionary militia squad wanting a break from the government’s status quo – it’s a tooth-and-nail fight for survival.
Joel, and his female cohort Tess, operate somewhere in between. As smugglers living in Boston, they transport goods in and out of the quarantine zone to make a living. Events quickly transpire and they’re confronted with a decision that they don’t get to make. The leader of the Fireflies, Marlene, has something they want, but she needs a favor. She needs them to smuggle a young girl, Ellie, out of the city and into the care of the Fireflies in a safer area. They reluctantly accept and before they make it out, they realize why Marlene wants Ellie to reach a safe haven – she is immune to the fungus. This is unheard of, making Ellie the Holy Grail in a world without hope.
Tess saw that. She bit the dust early on but urges Joel to finish the job and get Ellie where she needs to be. Despite being a hard-ass that wouldn’t take any scruff, Tess seemed idealistic and hopeful for the future. Joel is also a short-tempered hard-ass; however he cares little for anything related to hope. He pisses on the government as much as he does the Fireflies. All he cares about it making it to the next day and it seems the only reason for that was his relationship with Tess. Why else would he slavishly travel halfway across the hellhole that America has become with a girl he doesn’t want to care for? If he is one thing, he’s devoted.
That journey across America comprises the rest of the twenty or so hour campaign. It was a hellish trip for all parties involve; for Joel and Ellie and for me, the player. What made it so for Joel and Ellie were the impossible odds they routinely found themselves up against and the hostility they encountered from the country’s remaining survivors. The highlight of the game for me was probably these survivors they’d run into. The bulk of them were hostile but there were a scant few who allied with Joel and Ellie and aided them on their journey. So many of these characters seemed like real people, with, what I can only imagine were problems I could relate to in the post-apocalypse. That sounds strange – that I feel these video game characters are lifelike – but I guess that’s a testament to the talent at Naughty Dog and the evolution of the medium.
What made the journey hellish for me as the player was the difficulty I encountered. The game’s difficulty could be construed as a continuation of the philosophy present in From Software’s Demon’s Souls, which in turn was a response to criticism of Naughty Dog’s own Uncharted series and other blockbuster video game titles. Regardless of inspiration, the sometimes stressful difficulty is a spot-on match for the always stressful situations Joel and Ellie find themselves in. Through all of their run-ins with enemies, there wasn’t one where I was able to go in guns blazing and succeed. I might get one or two enemies, but their numbers would overtake Joel and Ellie quickly. I had to be smart when approaching a fight because the enemies were. They could hear and see Joel so if I guided him wrong, they’d group up on him and I’d be paying for it.
For the most part, I snuck around as much as possible and tried to quietly take out enemies by killing them with a makeshift shiv. If I was ever spotted, I’d use cover to break line-of-sight with the enemy, flanking them so I could use another shiv or resort to a handgun, rifle, or bow. I say that honestly too. Although I didn’t have any trouble coming across ammo on the normal difficulty, or any supplies for that matter, I was always very cautious. I wouldn’t use a health pack until I was able to craft another, unless I direly needed it. Same for the use of Molotov cocktails and smoke bombs; I avoided using these unless an encounter just called for them.
Although the entirety of the game was astounding, the last two sections in particular I thought were brilliant. The first begins with a role reversal for Joel and Ellie as she becomes the protector for a brief period in a harsh Colorado winter. Here the duo encounters David, the leader of a local pocket of survivors and an absolute madman who’s played by none other than Nolan North. The final section sees Joel finally delivering Ellie to the Fireflies but having a change of heart when the circumstances aren’t to his liking. The game ends in a provocative way that prompted my friend and I have long conversations about the decisions made.
Just as I felt after completing BioShock, I’m glad I decided to buy into the hype and experience The Last of Us. Naughty Dog crafted a riveting video game that has perhaps set a new high-water mark for video game narrative. The characters and relationships on display were qualitatively better than 99% of any other game out there. The game’s brutal, but honest, gameplay was nothing to warrant as much praise for, but was immensely tuned and enjoyable enough that it didn’t bring the experience down, but amplified it. This is a game that has to be experienced.
I really like video game boxes. Barring any previous knowledge about a specific game, they can make or break an impression. Having edited a lot of information on Giant Bomb in the past and thanks to my general encyclopedic tendencies to research video games, I enjoy seeking out the different covers that were used for video games in regions other than the United States. The Resistance series has had many variations for the primary trilogy, and even for the two handheld games, that I want to post about.
The series’ initial release was a fairly standard first-person shooter and it’s box art isn’t eye-catching. It’s grayish palette is boring, and then you notice that isn’t a human skull. One thing that I really like about the series’ logos, is the use of landmarks related to the game’s setting. In this incarnation, Big Ben (officially known as Elizabeth Tower) defines the A. With the exception of various rating labels, this box art was used in all regions.
Resistance 2 saw Insomniac Games adopting the “scale and Hale” approach, and it most definitely traded on a larger scale and included more depth to Nathan Hale than Fall of Man. The box art is fairly representative of this although some might say it’s a little generic thanks to the image of Nathan brandishing a gun. The background conveys a lot on the flip side. For this release, the Golden Gate Bridge defines the A.
A few alternate covers were released through the PlayStation Blog for fans to print off and replace the original Resistance 2 cover if they desired. The first one didn’t alter much. It features a zoomed in Nathan, perhaps better conveying his Chimeran traits visible by his eyes.
This is the second alternate cover released through the PlayStation Blog and I really like it! I think it’s more eye-catching than the cover used and foreshadows the duality in Nathan’s half-human, half-Chimeran traits. This is also true for America, before and after the Chimeran invasion.
Finally, Japan received a different box art for their release of the game.This one conveys a little more of the futile nature of the human-Chimeran conflict that I surmised present in the game’s narrative.
And with Resistance 3, Insomniac and Sony went a completely different direction. Without a doubt, it’s more “artsy” than any other Resistance cover. A visit to Olly Moss’ website proves he has a definitive style that harkens back to periods past, and his design was somehow fitting for the final game in the trilogy. Defining the A this time is the Statue of Liberty.
There have been two compilations of the series thus far. A dual pack release that bundled the first and second games together and an actual compilation that featured all three games. The North American box art isn’t really noteworthy. it features the basis of Fall of Man’s box art with some stickers stating what it is. This cover however was utilized for Europe and Australia and is much, much cooler.
The first spin-off for the series was Resistance: Retribution for the PlayStation Portable. From most accounts, it’s a stellar game that isn’t as hindered by the PSP’s lack of a second analog stick. I haven’t played it myself, although I’m looking forward to it. Both covers feature the Eiffel Tower prominently. The left-hand box art was used in America and Japan and is similar to the second game’s while the right-hand one was used in Europe and Australia and reminds me of Japan’s cover for the second game. With this title, the Eiffel Tower defines the A.
The most recent, and likely final, game in the series is Resistance: Burning Skies for the PlayStation Vita. It was generally received negatively, but I’m still moderately interested in it. The North American and European cover implies a violent end for the Chimera in question while also highlighting the occupation of the protagonist. The Japanese box art is oddly colorful and I’m really drawn to it. Defining the A for the final time is Tom Riley, the game’s firefighter star.
The series has had a fair amount of diversity in the various covers but one thing always remained constant: Chimera. Dead or alive, they were always present.
Resistance 2 was epic. Nathan Hale’s final effort to save humanity was a roller coaster ride that took me to interesting places throughout the United States and pitted me against enormous Chimera. I don’t think the boss battles can be compared to anything another first-person shooter has included, before or since the game’s release. At the end of it all though, it was pretty shallow. For all the major fiends that were defeated, for Nathan Hale’s sacrifice, did humanity gain any ground against the Chimera? They didn’t really, and I’d like to think Insomniac Games was presenting players with the reality that it was a hopeless conflict for humanity.
Four years later humanity is still around, but surviving in small communities around the world. The Chimera are in control and terraforming the planet into a frigid wasteland. After killing Nathan Hale, Joseph Capelli wished to ride out the last days of humanity not sacrificing his in futile battles. After accepting the cure for the Chimeran virus living inside him, he settled down in Haven, Oklahoma with his wife and son. He’s a man that doesn’t want to fight anymore. However, when Fyodor Malikov comes knocking with a plan to prevent the Chimera from terraforming the planet though, he accompanies him to New York City at the behest of his wife.
In their cross-country trip, they bump into other communities of people surviving as best they can. They reach St. Louis by boat and encounter an ingenious group of fighters holding their own. After taking it to the Chimera to gather parts for an aircraft, they fly to Pennsylvania. Here, Joseph and Dr. Malikov meet with a religious community that considers the gargantuan Chimera living inside the nearby coal mines Satan. The last community they come upon before reaching New York City is a nightmarish group of prison inmates that usurped control of Graterford Prison near Philadelphia. The worst of humanity is brought out in this section and Malikov meets a gruesome end.
Despite the loss of Malikov, Joseph’s trip to New York City results in closure for the series. He’s not successful in eliminating the Chimera, but with the blow that’s dealt, it’s possible to imagine a scenario where humanity has a chance, and Insomniac bows out with messages of hope over the credits. I think the underlying message of Resistance 3 is very strong, and it’s that we’ll be just fine as long as we help each other out. It’s a theme that appears multiple times throughout the game and it’s apparent through Joseph’s actions with the people he meets and on the radio programs that play for the ears of the survivors.
Much to his chagrin and my enjoyment, Joseph needed to take up arms once more. At his disposal was the most diverse suite of weapons in the Resistance trilogy. This was the first time where I truly felt Insomniac’s penchant for weapons really showed. Of particular note were the Mutator and Cryogun. The former shot out globs of fluid containing highly infectious strains of the Chimeran virus. When struck by it, targets would succumb to explosive pustules that would form on their body. Secondary fire emitted a gas cloud that would have the same effect. The latter was succinctly described on the Resistance Wiki as a flamethrower that used ice instead of fire. This primary fire was aided by a secondary fire that burst out a shot of air strong enough to break frozen enemies into hundreds of tiny fragments.
Forgoing the two weapon limitation that was present in Resistance 2, this game returned the personal armory that players had in Fall of Man. What this meant was access to every weapon Joseph had come across. This freed me up to fight how I wanted to instead of according to the designers’ placement of weapons, which admittedly, I thought was well done in the previous game. New this go around was the upgradeable nature of the weapons. Each weapon could be upgraded twice and doing so strengthened them or added additional functionality. It was a simple system that leveled up weapons according to their use, but it was something to consider while playing.
Another gameplay mechanic that receded to the way Fall of Man did things was the health system. Joseph was no longer a Sentinel so it made sense that he wouldn’t be able to regenerate Health as Nathan did in the previous game. Instead, he had a finite amount of health that could be replenished with health packs. I’m not as up in arms about this health system as I was when I played Fall of Man though. I did think this game was much tougher than Resistance 2, and towards the end, I did have some difficulty with specific waves of enemies, but thanks in part to the frequent checkpointing, it wasn’t as infuriating as the original game.
Resistance 3 concluded the trilogy with open-ended closure. I was satisfied with the ending and appreciate that much about how humanity continues to deal with the Chimera was up to my interpretation. That a first-person shooter had such a clear, positive underlying message was a good thing I believe. Viewed at any scale – a neighborhood, or a country – we need to help each other out to survive and thrive. Then again, this was a seriously violent shooter with a positive message so take that as you will. Although Resistance 2 will probably go down as the most memorable game in the series, I’d probably say that this was the best. It had the strongest narrative of the three, the most interesting characters, and the best combination of gameplay and systems.