Tag Archive: raven


Ghostbusting

Even a billion-dollar franchise like Call of Duty feels pressure sometimes, and this year’s entry, Call of Duty: Ghosts, probably had even more than usual. Fans were concerned about Infinity Ward stepping away from the Modern Warfare series and introducing something new—not to mention rival Battlefield 4 raising the stakes on next-gen with 32-on-32 multiplayer.

Infinity Ward also felt competition from fellow Call of Duty developer Treyarch’s huge success with Black Ops II last year. Even with all this pressure, though, Infinity Ward looked to maintain a steady course and reach their customary peak at the top of the FPS food chain. But sometimes, more change is needed to reach familiar goals—and I couldn’t help but feel that Ghosts doesn’t do enough to keep the formula fresh.

Ghosts’ campaign starts when a South American alliance called the Federation hijacks an American space station armed with ODIN, a kinetic bombardment system. Turning their own weapon against them, the Federation thrusts America into a decade-long conflict that instantly flips the global balance of power.

Logan Walker—the son of a former member of a U.S. Special Ops unit designated as “Ghosts”—quickly rises up the ranks along with his brother, Hesh, in a resistance group led by their dad as they help protect the ever-shrinking American border. But the Federation isn’t the only threat Logan and his family needs to deal with; an ex-Ghost named Rorke has allied himself with the Federation for the express purpose of making the lives of his former squadmates a living nightmare.

While Ghosts may tread familiar ground, it’s certainly not a bad experience overall. In fact, its single-player campaign is on par, in many regards, with Black Ops II, and it has the added bonus of not including those broken RTS side missions. Most of the levels impart that big-budget, adrenaline-fueled, action-movie ride players are looking for. It’s just that there are enough blemishes here—and a lack of overall innovation—to make it a good game, not a great one.

The major issue comes with the disconnect between the action and the narrative. Ghosts takes players all over the world and throws them into some insane scenarios that further the parallel between this game and action movies. But, like many action flicks, when the protagonists are placed in cool places like the Antarctic, dense jungles, underwater, or deep space, the narrative starts to come undone. In at least four of the game’s 18 missions, you’ll probably find yourself having flashbacks to college philosophy classes when you ask, “Why am I here?” I don’t know, Plato—but you might as well blow it all to kingdom come while you’re at it!

While the narrative reasoning leaves something to be desired, there’s certainly plenty of gameplay variety this time around. Whether it’s high-speed chases or subterranean subterfuge, Ghosts makes sure there’s never a dull moment. I did take issue with one activity, however—and that was playing as Riley, the German Shepard.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s awesome having Riley as a part of your unit, and it’s a blast issuing him commands. If you’re not good enough in multiplayer to ever earn that new perk, at least you get the satisfaction in single-player of having your pooch bite off a bad guy’s face. It’s nothing short of stupid, though, to have sections where you’re actually playing as the dog himself. Sneaking through the grass and silently taking down enemies isn’t something you need the dog for. Looking through a camera on its back is completely unnecessary, too, and considering that Riley’s only in three of the 18 missions, he’s not all that important, giving his segments a tacked-on feeling. I will say, however, that Riley’s voice actor is probably the second-best in the game after Rorke’s.

Despite these issues, the five-hour campaign still managed to pull me in with some excellent action sequences and enough of a cohesive narrative to make me want to keep going. But even with all its cool moments—unless you miss some Achievements or want to go through on harder difficulty levels—you probably won’t be going back to the campaign again and again. No, it’s the multiplayer that makes Call of Duty stay in our systems for months on end until the next chapter hits store shelves. But while this portion is technically sound—much like the campaign—it does little to make the experience feel fresh again.

Unfortunately, all the “new” multiplayer options in Ghosts are simply mashups of previous game modes, direct ports, or minor rule changes. Most of them are still fun, but I expected more than just a bunch of rehashes. The worst part of the multiplayer, however, is the new UI. The new character customization is a huge bonus this year, but the screen’s a mess, and most players will have to look long and hard at their TVs just to find the simplest of options, such as making the character male or female.

The UI problems continue when setting up your perks. While the few limits of Black Ops II’s Pick Ten system have been thrown out the window, so has the ability to quickly and conveniently make changes to your loadouts between matches. Due to tiny icons and a cluttered menu screen, if you really want to change your guns and perks, you should leave your respective lobby, since it’s going to take some time to really figure everything out.

All that said, the maps are more intricate than ever. Many of the larger areas have a multitude of lanes you can use in order to reach your objectives, providing some interesting variety when you spawn on these new killing fields.

The biggest surprise with Ghosts comes in the co-op mode: Extinction. The idea here is that up to four players have been inserted into the remains of a town that was hit by one of ODIN’s orbital strikes. It seems this strike unearthed something that had been long been buried…something alien. Now, you and your teammates have to get to ground zero, plant a nuke, and get the heck out of Dodge, all while trying to fend off this alien horde.

More focused than Zombies and far more creative than anything Infinity Ward has done with a co-op mode before, Extinction may be my new favorite co-op mode for the franchise. My only concern comes from the lack of replayability. Once you beat this section with your buddies, there’s little to make you come back, but hopefully some more maps and other add-ons come down the line.

When compared to the Call of Duty games that have come before it, Ghosts has a few problems, primarily in regards to innovation and moving the franchise forward. There’s no denying this. There’s also no denying, however, that the game’s still really damn fun to play—and even with the issues I’ve outlined, Infinity Ward has proven they can still hold the line, no matter the pressure.

Developer: Infinity Ward/Raven Software/Neversoft • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 11.5.13
7.5
Narrative issues and a lack of ingenuity in multiplayer plague what could’ve been an all-time great Call of Duty game. As is, Ghosts is still an enjoyable experience and shows that Infinity Ward can still hold the line—but the concept falls short of its true potential.
The Good Gorgeous set pieces with tons of action; the new bad guy is excellent; Extinction mode adds something new to multiplayer.
The Bad Some levels feel tacked on for the sole purpose of lengthening the campaign; multiplayer UI is awful.
The Ugly Riley’s whimpering actually had an effect on me.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is available on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, and PC and is a launch title for Xbox One and PS4. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

Lighting the Fuse

It’s hard to believe that the holidays are already upon us and that the calendar year is coming to an end. Usually, this is a great time for people to reflect on the events of the past year that have transpired. This is also a good time, however, to look ahead. And in that vein, EA held their ‘Naughty or Nice’ event in New York and allowed us to play some games slated for the next few months depending on if we’ve been good boys or girls (hence the name of the event). Some lucky few of us have been particularly naughty this year though and were able to go hands-on with Fuse, the upcoming third-person shooter from Insomniac Games.

In Fuse, you play as one of four misfit soldiers in the near future as part of a group called Overstrike 9 who work for the government after they start developing experimental weapons with an alien substance dubbed Fuse (hence the name of the game). Your objective is to then take down a corrupt organization known as ‘Raven’ with your new alien-powered weapons while also working as a cohesive unit.

What looks to separate Fuse from every other third-person shooter out there is not only the Fuse powered weaponry you acquire, but the ability to hop between all four members of the team should you be playing solo. This is critical as each member of the team has a distinct style and special abilities that will allow you to overcome the obstacles in your path. Of course, the game will also feature and encourage co-op, but gives you this option incase you’re like me and prefer to play games by yourself in a dank hole in the ground and the game can still therefore convey that feeling of being in an organized group.

The first character I tried was the fiery redhead Izzy. Her Fuse weapon’s special ability is to fire matter at enemies that freezes them in place, allowing you to focus on other targets or shatter them into tiny pieces with a melee maneuver and conserve your ammo.

Next, was Dalton and his ability was a special energy shield that not only prevents you and your teammates from being hit, but increases your ammo’s strength should you fire back through the shield yourselves.

Then came Jacob and he was one of my favorites. He has a special crossbow that not only allows you to impale enemies into the wall (think the Javelin Gun from Dead Space 2), but if multiple bolts are in the environment, you can link them together via an electric tether and then incinerate anything caught in-between the field. A perfect example of this was at one point in our demo a group of riot shield wielding thugs tried to storm the facility we just captured. In order to get them to drop their guard, I fired a bolt in front of the group, and two behind. I then activated the link and created a giant triangle of fire that killed many of the guards and the few who survived were so panicked that they were easy pickings for the rest of the squad.

Finally came Naya and she was another favorite of mine. Not only does she have an awesome gun that opens up miniature black holes from within enemies and consumes anyone close to it, which in and of itself is amazingly badass, but she also has a cloak that allows you to flank or sneak up on unsuspecting enemies and create havoc from behind enemy lines. I used this to get by many a turret in the demo and it saved me often as it’s easy to lose the invisible person in the midst of a firefight.

Aside from the brilliant gunplay, the game also features a cover system that worked well enough when compared to what is out on the market currently, and a simple free-running mechanic as the various characters could do things any normal soldier would do like hop over chain link fences to get to alternate pathways or to a breachable wall or door.

After infiltrating and wreaking havoc on the Raven facility, the group was met by a bi-pedal mechanized monstrosity reminiscent of something out of early Metal Gear. After taking trash to the group, the robot began pummeling us with lasers, missiles, and melee attacks as it hopped around the enclosed area we were fighting in. But with four people to attack it at once, it had difficulty targeting multiple foes and by literally running circles around it, we were able to turn the robot into scrap.

Although our time with Fuse was short, the game felt immensely satisfying as I played both by myself and with other people. The Insomniac staple of insane weaponry is evident clearly right from the get go and the unique abilities these weapons afford you looks like they’ll hopefully keep the game play fresh throughout. The only question now is if the story can live up to the off-the-wall fun the weapons provided and give us a wholly entertaining experience when the game is released in March 2013.

Teen Titans #94 Review

Originally Published: April 20, 2011, on Comicvine.com

With new team member Solstice in tow, the Teen Titans look to familiarize themselves with a whole new set of demonic forces that for once have nothing to do with Raven and her daddy Trigon. Can they brush up on their Indian mythology enough in time to rescue Wonder Girl and Solstice’s parents though?

The Good

A lot of fast paced action throughout the comic helps set up some ominous undertones revolving around these new foes of the Teen Titans. Couple this with some good internal monologues from Raven and Red Robin and you can get a good feel of what the team’s overall psyche is right now. In flux, uncertain, and uncomfortable for a variety of reasons with one another, the Teen Titans are fighting inner demons as much as those from Indian mythology.

The Bad

It’s another magic based storyline for the Teen Titans. I understand that with Wonder Girl, Raven, and now Solstice on the team with such little being known about her, that magical and mythological creatures make for the most logical and frequent of foes, but it gets tiresome. I don’t want or need a mythology lesson every time I crack open a Teen Titans comic. Maybe instead of trying to introduce a horde of new villains into the Bat-Family comics, DC should look to flesh out and diversify other rogue galleries instead, like those of the Teen Titans.

The Verdict

This issue of Teen Titans gives you exactly what you would expect from the comic if you’ve been reading it to this point or even if you’re just roughly familiar with the series because it’s the same almost all the time. A good balance of character and plot development tempered with some action due to an unknown demonic force rearing its head and requiring the strength of everyone involved to overcome. Therefore, they must put aside the hints of internal team strife that are constantly simmering just below the surface due to a bevy of conflicting personalities. Everyone comes together in the end to save the day. Mix well with new characters occasionally and serve for $2.99.

For the most part, Teen Titans has become predictable and formulaic, aside from the one arc involving the Clock King a while back, which I particularly enjoyed because it broke so far away from the norm. Not to say it doesn’t deliver well on this formula it has come up with, but it would be nice to see something different from them once in a while. Of course, this also makes it easy to jump into if you know anything about the characters involved, but fans that have been reading this consistently deserve something new and exciting from this comic and they’re definitely not getting it this issue.