Arguably, video games had their strongest hold on me when I was in high school. It was the middle of the 2000s before the disappearance of practically all video game magazines in the United States. My friends and I were glued to them almost more than the games themselves. For us, it was hard to ignore Advent Rising, even if none of us had an Xbox, nor had the ability or the desire to get one. Particularly, Game Informer’s cover story comes to mind, along with EGM and Play’s coverage. When I finally played it a couple of years ago, I was able to experience the lackluster sci-fi epic myself. The story was undoubtedly the high point, and I did eke some enjoyment out of the combat, but it was a mediocre affair overall. I’m glad to have played it but feel no need to return to it.
Advent Rising was the sole game GlyphX Games developed. It wasn’t their sole output however. Curiously, it appears they also designed many box arts in the late 1990s/early 2000s. When the studio floundered, key personnel went on to form Chair Entertainment and they’ve produced many noteworthy titles since. The game was published by Majesco and is perhaps most infamously known for the million dollar contest that never materialized. It was released on the Xbox and PC in North America on May 31, 2005.
Honestly, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Granted, it was the first game I acquired and played on my PlayStation 4. That maybe had more to do with its budget price though. That, however, was also a factor that colored my interpretation of the game when it launched March 18, 2014. Most of what I remember about the game’s reception was negativity regarding its length and cost. I totally agree with that assessment after playing it, but I also agree with those who praised it for many reasons. It’s an incredibly polished, brief experience that one can easily be seduced into playing for more than the requisite hour.
The “core” mission is very short – I believe I completed it in about an hour. Snake infiltrates an American black site on Cuba with the goal of rescuing two young members of his special unit. The game opened, per usual, with a lengthy, awe-inspiring cinematic cutscene. The focus was a man with a disfigured face and his conversation with one of the hostages, just after he’d (presumably) violently interrogated the other. As I haven’t played any of the games dealing with these characters and this time period, I was a little lost in regards to their importance. Still, Snake had his mission and I obliged.
Upon the completion of the game, a handful of other “Side Ops” could be unlocked. These weren’t cinematic ventures directly related to the impending big show (Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain), but rather, just more missions. Everything took place in the same environment, and after playing for a half-dozen hours, I’m very familiar with this black site! The lack of variety didn’t bog down my impressions of the game though. If anything, it helped me to appreciate it more.
As I went Trophy hunting, I replayed these missions a handful of times, and restarted more than I’d like to admit! After all of this though, I’m very familiar with the depth of my actions in tackling any given scenario – it had a definite open-world vibe to it. The game was difficult to get acclimated to at first, especially as I haven’t played a game in the series in two or three years. But, as I was driven to collect Trophies, I stuck with the game after each mission’s initial completion, and really grew to relish the opportunity in sneaking about and stealthily resolving enemy threats how I wanted.
I won’t dive too deep into the nitty gritty of the gameplay, but there were a couple new mechanics worth mentioning. In my opinion, “Reflex Mode” was the most impactful. If I was spotted, time would slow for about three seconds and I’d have the opportunity to react and potentially prevent a compound-wide alert from taking place. Most usually, I’d land a headshot with a tranquilizer and instantly put my foe to sleep. Maybe I was close enough to grab hold of him, get some information and then knock him out. I probably wouldn’t be careless enough to have a lethal weapon equipped, because after I landed the fatal headshot, another guard would’ve possibly been alerted by the sound. In any instance, I would immediately stash the body.
Another new element to the series seems to have been lifted directly from Far Cry 3. Snake has a great pair of binoculars in his possession, and when an enemy is spotted, they’re permanently marked. A red triangle hovers above that enemy’s head which is visible from any point on the compound. The enemy is also permanently visible on Snake’s iDroid (an all-in-one map utility), which seems out of place considering the time period, if only name wise. Also, when nearby, Snake would occasionally catch a glimpse of the enemy in detail, even through walls; this is described as a “stealth instinct”, or something to that effect, but it’s very reminiscent of the abilities of Batman in the Batman: Arkham series.
The Metal Gear Solid series is one of those series’ that if it wasn’t around, video games would just feel different. Early on the series had an impact that few other games can claim – it inspired other game developers. I don’t know if the series has that same weight behind it today, for whatever reason one can gin up. One thing remains the same: the attention to detail and care that goes into these games’ development is palpable. Despite this game’s length and stated purpose as an introduction to the “true” Metal Gear Solid V, the level of its refinement and depth is kind of crazy. It’s a very challenging game, especially if one’s driven to collect Trophies, but it’s an incredibly well-playing game. It may have been decisive when it released with a $40 price tag, but at its current $20 (or even $7 on PSN!), it’s a no-brainer.
The Cursed Crusade is a soon to be released action-adventure game that appears to be cashing in on the surprising popularity of the brutally tough Demon’s Souls. Set in the same sort of medieval environment, the demo for The Cursed Crusade gave me a glimpse of its dark setting, plot, and gameplay.
The demo for The Cursed Crusade had me playing as a mercenary in a group of soldiers preparing to storm a castle. The leader of this bunch was giving a speech in the first cutscene and quelling the fears of some of the soldiers. It was hard to take them seriously however as the voice acting was really awful; their tone didn’t match the scene because their lines were given halfheartedly. The commander got them going regardless, thanks to my character and a Spaniard.
The castle we stormed was filled with archers so to approach it the soldiers had to advance behind two-person shields. When a storm of arrows rained from the sky, I had to stop and take cover. Once the Spaniard and I were close enough, we had to throw an explosive to break open the door. Before I could do that, I had to take out some nearby archers with my crossbow. This section was varied, but it wasn’t that entertaining. Maybe the dialogue between the mercenary and the Spaniard was supposed to be a prominent feature here, but the audio mixing made it hard to listen without the aid of subtitles.
Once we breached the castle there were a few open areas and it was very easy to take control… just kidding. These areas were full of foot soldiers and it was time to whip out my trusty blade and cut some fools down. The combat was really sluggish; I’d press an attack button and my character would swing his sword in a drawn out animation cycle. I couldn’t halt the animation once it had started and trying to get multiple swings in a row was tough to do. Couple that with unclear indications on if I should be timing my attacks a certain way and I walked away from the combat less than satisfied.
The demo ended with a boss fight that seemed to indicate there’s much more to The Cursed Crusade than what’s apparent on the surface. As I was duking it out with the head honcho of the castle, he turned into a demon! Then the mercenary and the Spaniard turned into demons! The mercenary seemed to know what was happening, but the Spaniard thought he was having a nightmare, and he was right. The demo ended there and left me wondering how this crusade would link to supernatural and religious matters.
The Cursed Crusade wasn’t a pretty game to look at. The graphics were dated, looking like an early Xbox 360 or PS3 game, and the general design wasn’t my thing, primarily the dark colors and ugly environments. I didn’t enjoy the combat much either. I could pick up the weapons my fallen foes would drop, which was cool, but the actual combat between enemies didn’t seem fine-tuned. Having not played Demon’s Souls I can’t say with certainty, but The Cursed Crusade seems like an attempt to cash in on its surprising popularity, more so considering this game is being published by Atlus, like Demon’s Souls. There wasn’t anything I found appealing about The Cursed Crusade and I won’t be picking it up when it releases October 25, 2011. It was developed by the French developer Kylotonn Games and will be published by Atlus for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Gears of War 3. The final game in the trilogy has been out for a few weeks now and it’s fantastic. It was developed by Epic Games and published by Microsoft Studios on September 20, 2011. The final game in the trilogy brings closure, has an astounding amount of content, and retains the solid gameplay that the series is known for.
Being the third game in a trilogy, Gears of War 3 was scheduled to close the series, and there is closure! I played the co-op campaign with my friend over a few days. We tried to stick to completing one act a day, but after completing the fourth act we decided to go ahead and complete the fifth and final act. They varied in length, but they were all about two hours, which was excellent for the way we played the game.
Set a year or two after Gears of War 2, the campaign revolved around Marcus Fenix finding his father who was previously thought dead. His father probably has a way to destroy the locust and lambent that are plaguing Sera, hopefully saving humanity. But, Marcus and crew have to figure out where he is and how to get there. Their path takes Marcus and his allies through a lot of locales, but as has been the case with the previous games, most are destroyed cities. There were a few memorable environments that broke with tradition however, and for the first time in the series, I felt like there was a broader color palette in the game; rather than a muddle of grays.
Mentioning memorable environments reminds me of a memorable moment in the game. About halfway through the campaign, there was a very serious moment that affects the rest of the game. It was especially serious having played through the entire trilogy and developing a sort of affection for the series. This moment was tonally very different from the usual bro-like mentality of the series and it was handled phenomenally.
So Marcus and crew go through memorable (and sometimes different) environments and there is a special moment about halfway through the game, but what about the ending? Well I found it satisfying. I’ve heard people complain about unanswered questions and I honestly wonder what they’re referring to. That doesn’t mean I can’t gin up some questions because I can, but if I wanted to know the answers to my questions, perhaps they could be answered in the Gears of War books, I don’t know. I do know that the Gears of War trilogy revolved around Marcus Fenix attempting to save humanity, and in that regard, Gears of War 3 brings definitive closure.
After completing the campaign, my friend and I have focused our attention to horde mode. Originating in Gears of War 2, I didn’t play much of it back then, but I do know things have changed. The basic premise is the same: enemies attack in waves and the players try to survive as long as possible and rack up points for kills. We could also install traps that would damage enemies, decoys to distract them, and many other helpful tools.
Besides just racking up points, money is now an issue in horde mode. Those traps, decoys, and other miscellaneous helpful tools cost money, which is received for fulfilling special tasks, by killing enemies, and at the end of each wave. As my friend and I played we each had our own favorite tools to purchase. I liked spike strips and traps that would damage and slow down our enemies while he loved installing turrets. All of these tools were divided into categories that would level up and allow us access to better tools, cheaper tools, whatever.
Besides the inclusion of money and the tools that brought along, horde mode now features a boss wave every tenth wave. The bosses were randomly picked and they were much tougher than the standard enemies. We saw many different boss waves as we continually died on wave 30. We preferred fighting against the Brumak because he was so large and slow, but we rarely saw him. We went up against a small Corpser often, as well as a few lambent Berserkers, our least favorite. It wasn’t just the bosses we’d have to fight on these waves though; there’d be plenty of small and medium tier enemies too that could prove troublesome if we didn’t manage them.
There is a new mode similar to horde mode called beast mode. We haven’t played this yet, but from the descriptions I’ve heard it sounds like a cross between horde mode and the multiplayer from Left 4 Dead. Instead of playing as the humans, in beast mode players play as the locust and the lambent. There are only 12 waves in beast mode (compared with the 50 in horde mode) so I don’t imagine it’s structured in the exact same way. I assume we get to pick who we play as because there are many types of different enemies.
Now onto the versus mode. While I personally like the series for the campaign (co-op specifically) a lot of people pick the game up just for the multiplayer and this time around it’s sucked me in more than it has in the past. There is a good selection of modes and maps in the multiplayer as well as the ability to play locally with a friend or bots. A lot of the modes are common to third-person and first-person action games; team deathmatch, king of the hill as well as other familiar modes are present so it’s easy to jump in, with practice at least. I feel like there’s a relatively high learning curve in the multiplayer, but playing locally is good practice.
That’s basically versus in a nutshell. I’m really not all that into versus multiplayer myself, but I’ve had a bunch of fun with the game. It’s definitely way better with people you know. My friend and I have played a bunch of the local multiplayer. We stick to team deathmatch and load it full of bots on the highest difficulty, although they’re still really dumb, sometimes allowing the opposite team to heal themselves. But we have found it to be very competitive between the two of us; keeping track of matches, and games, and the overall sets; it’s very entertaining.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, Gears of War 3 is simply more Gears of War. There are minor differences and refinements but it’s more of the same and that’s just want I wanted. The shooting was solid and the weapons feel much more unique than they ever have. The campaign was lengthy and satisfying, and I didn’t even mention competing for scores and playing with mutators in arcade mode or the four-player co-op! The multiplayer modes are plentiful with a variety or competitive and co-operative options, and the number of unlockables and achievements will keep people busy for a very long time. Gears of War 3 is a fantastic action game.
Dead Block is a downloadable action-strategy game for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; I played the demo on the PS3. It is set in the United States during the 1950s. Just as rock ‘n’ roll is coming to prominence, a zombie outbreak has occurred. Controlling three separate characters I had to survive a zombie onslaught while attempting to find all the pieces to guitar set. Once found, I would play a simple rhythm minigame to complete a stage.
The demo began with an introduction reminiscent to that of a TV show, and sure enough, each stage in Dead Block begins that way, as if each stage is a TV episode. I began playing as a construction worker named Jack Foster. I thought the camera was too close behind him, frequently making it hard to see things directly in front of him or on the ground.
He was inside a house and I first had to put wood over windows to prevent zombies from getting inside. I soon ran out of wood and had to break furniture for more lumber; I thought this was a novel idea. I was then tasked with searching the house. As I did so I came across much more furniture to break, windows to board up, and other objects that I could search inside of. Inside these objects I would find nuts (necessary for building traps), keys, and hopefully a complete guitar and amplifier set.
There are three total characters that I could control and switch between on the fly, although only two were present in the demo. Besides Jack Foster, I could play as Mike Bacon, an overweight boy scout. I was able to summon him to any area of a stage and he would proceed to break furniture and search for items. In other words, my ally was able to take care of himself.
Dead Block didn’t have the most original premise (remember Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel without a Pulse?) and really it didn’t have the most original gameplay. After all, it pretty much is the zombie mode from the Call of Duty series. But at ten dollars it’s not too pricey and I found the demo pleasant, but I don’t have any interest in playing any more of Dead Block.
Advent Rising is kind of an important game. It was supposed to be the first in a sci-fi trilogy, and garnered a lot of prerelease buzz, but flopped critically and commercially. It was developed by GlyphX Games and published by Majesco for the Xbox and PC in 2005. I played the Xbox version and came away mixed about it. I really enjoyed the narrative, but didn’t care for the combat until the final hours of the game. And overall, the game just lacked polish.
I thought Advent Rising began and ended well. The setup and conclusion of the narrative is particularly what drove my interest in these parts. The middle section of Advent Risingreally took a lot out of me. Perhaps it was because of the depression-like funk I was in during that section, but I just wanted the game to be over. A couple hours from the end however, I was absorbed back into the story and the gameplay.
Advent Risingbegan with little introduction, throwing me right into the shoes of Gideon Wyeth as he travelled to a human outpost in space. Soon after arriving he met up with his brother and fiancé. Gideon and his brother were there to escort a group of human ambassadors to a meeting with an alien race called the Aurelians. The Aurelians told them of the threat another alien race, the Seekers, pose to humanity. They want to destroy it.
Soon after, all hell breaks loose. After surviving the destruction of a planet, Gideon is told by the Aurelians that humans contain mystical powers and through the course of the game, Gideon unlocked many deadly powers.
The first power Gideon obtained was Lift. With it I could lift enemies and throw them around. This was quite easy to do, and rewarding to watch. I controlled Gideon from a third-person perspective and could lock on to targets by flicking the right analog stick their way. Once locked on, a bracket would display around the enemy, changing colors depending on their health.
Flicking worked for the most part. I enjoyed the immediacy of switching targets, but found it hard to target a specific enemy when I encountered them in groups. When firing a gun, Gideon would auto-target enemies (although the bracket didn’t appear around them) but to use his powers, I had to manually target an enemy. A lot of the time I would flick the right analog stick compulsively, checking for nearby enemies. I would’ve appreciated some sort of indicator that let me know there was an enemy in range.
Lift was the only power Gideon had for a while. The next he learned was Surge. Using Surge I could shift gravitational energy in a focused direction, or so says the manual. I only used Surge a few in the game but it was effective against large mechanical enemies, especially when I was out of ammo for my guns.
I believe the next power Gideon learned was Aeon Pulse. With it he shot energy pulses from his hands, very effective indeed. With Negate he threw up an energy shield, which I used once or twice. Time Shift was a favorite of mine. Gideon would instantly bolt into an enemy. This was very strong and allowed me to shoot from enemy to enemy very quickly. The last power Gideon learned was Shatter. Shatter was very similar to Aeon Pulse. With Shatter Gideon shot ice particles from his hands, which was also very effective.
By the end of the game, I had all these powers at my disposal, on top of whatever guns I found. The guns and powers each leveled up individually as I used them, unlocking alternate fire options and getting stronger with each level. At the beginning, guns and melee attacks were the only option for Gideon. Then it was Lift and guns, but towards the end, when I was unlocking powers and leveling them more rapidly, I dropped guns altogether. I had become lethal using powers alone.
I was satisfied with the final hours of Advent Rising. I was super powerful and was using my powers very effectively, making short work of groups of enemies. The narrative was coming to end in an interesting way too. In all honesty, it’s made me look back at Advent Risingliking it more than I really did. But honestly, I didn’t really find the combat that enjoyable, at least until the end.
I was very interested in the narrative from early on. I wanted to see how humanity would overcome, and how the Aurelians would assist in defeating the Seekers. I didn’t really care for any of the human characters however because I thought a lot of their dialogue was immature. The visuals weren’t terrible considering it’s a 2005 release, but much of the texturing was very bland and many of the indoor environments were similar. The majority of the cutscenes were poorly directed and by this I mean looked like bad machinima. It’s easy to tell the camera was controlled by human hands as it swooped through small scale battles and environments very poorly.
Advent Rising was a mixed bag for me. Once I had all the powers and had them decently leveled, I was lethal and enjoyed destroying scores of enemies with interesting powers. But the game was a chore for me for a large chunk of my playthrough and the game wasn’t that polished. The narrative is what kept me going and it’s kind of sad to think we’ll most likely never see how it was supposed to be continued. But then again, Advent Rising is a mediocre third-person action-adventure game at best and hardly recommendable.